Homeschooling Tips During Covid-19 for Middle School Age Kids
Development & Learning
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Advice From a Veteran Homeschool Mom
Middle School… at Home?
Welcome to middle school at home! There are a group of people who have chosen to purposefully have their middle schoolers stay home and work on school every day. If you are reading this, I am guessing you are not those people. Homeschooling and forced quarantine school are two different things. Fortunately since homeschooling has been around a long time, there is much to learn from that model while you are in this unique school–from–home situation. This pandemic has its challenges, but it also may have some benefits. If middle schoolers take seriously their responsibility for learning and find ways to learn material on their own, they will be miles ahead for the rest of their school years.
In order to maintain some sanity for both parent and student, start by helping your son or daughter devise a schedule for a wake-up time, bedtime, and school hours you can both live with. Make sure they put all their assignments on their schedule and break them down into manageable items. For example “book report” is what most tweens want to write on their to-do list. However, there are many steps to writing a book report and they will be better off to learn to pace themselves and check off each part en route to the whole. Dividing the number of pages in the book by the number of days available for reading is a good start. Allow time to make an outline, write a rough draft, and edit and polish the paper before the due date. Having a list you can both refer to in order to measure progress will eliminate some (not all) of the potential “but I am finished for today” arguments.
Agree with your student what is to be accomplished each day (learning assignments, chores, exercise, cooking, creative pursuits, sports, instrument skills or practice to stay fresh). Help them make a checklist and then when the checklist is done, let them have free time. You can decide in advance how much screen time will be allowed after school is done and what the other activities are, but when they have checked the boxes of what is required, congratulate them and let them have that coveted free time.
Work Before Play
This model reflects the workday of most adults, and training your son or daughter to work before play will provide lifelong benefits. The time you may find you recover from traffic and sporting events may allow you to teach your son or daughter how to grocery shop and cook a meal. They may find a few minutes to learn a new song on an instrument they play or a new dance routine; try to make space and encourage these pursuits without demanding they spend all their free time productively.
Find a place for your son or daughter to work where they can spread out and not be easily distracted. Have them set a timer to work for 40-50 minutes and plan to take a break when that time is up. This will coincide with the school subject schedule they are used to. Your student may need some supervision and/or some help with their work, so help them know when teachers will be available to answer questions so they can keep moving forward.
As your student adjusts to this new freedom, you may want to keep tabs on how well they check off their to-do list and turn in their assignments. The more freedom you can give them, the more they can take ownership of their work. However, you want to know if they don’t understand something or if they get distracted and don’t turn something in. Teachers want to partner with parents and students in making this a productive time for learning.
Challenges of a Middle Schooler
The point of the work sent home is to sustain learning over the time away from school and add to concepts already taught. This is a great chance to catch up if there is something they don’t understand. And remember, your excellent Southwestern Advantage learning resources are right at your fingertips. This is an opportunity to read and respond in language arts and history without having to push these subjects into the time between sports practice, dinner, and bedtime. Encourage your student to stay on top of daily assignments and chip away at long-term ones. If they finish the work assigned, they can go back and review in any subject to brush up on any forthcoming exams. This would be a great time for them to create study card sets to work on with friends online or to make actual flash cards for concepts they will need to study for the next test.
Check in with your son or daughter about how they are feeling and how they are staying connected with friends. We all know how tough middle school is for kids socially. Gaming and social media are not simply idle pleasures during this time away from friends, but vital connections for them. It is certainly appropriate to limit their time on these, but do so while taking into account their lack of connection with those with whom they used to be in constant contact.
Help guide your student to ensure they get some daily exercise, have some time to rest or relax, engage with the family, and stay up to date on their “job” of school. At this age, variety is key. If tension gets too high or words fly, remember this time is tough for everyone. Give grace. Seek reconciliation, and remember tomorrow is a new day.