I have two boys, one in 7th grade and one in 5th grade. Next year I will have two middle schoolers. I have found that homeschooling the younger grades is somewhat easier that the older grades. Teaching your kids to read, count, reading books on the couch, doing science experiments, exploring nature through nature walks, baking cookies together, playing games, make the whole experience exciting, rewarding and fun. As the kids gets older, they become more independent and develop their own interests, which may or may not be the same as your own, and definitely vary from child to child.
I have found that as the kids get older, it becomes harder to steer them in the same way as you did in the younger years, where they were more impressionable and malleable. Can you tell I miss this stage of learning? However, as much as I miss it, I do love the stage that my kids are in right now. They are owning their studying and their learning, and it is beautiful to see and rewarding in its own way.
The middle school years are the years in which you need to teach and train your kids to think for themselves and take responsibility for their learning, and their actions. This is a process that starts in the elementary years, but that needs to be fully developed in the middle school years, so that once they reach high school, they sort of can make decisions for themselves and fully work independently on their goals for life.
I have to admit, it is not easy. Every child is different. Some are naturally inclined to be independent and achievers, some not so much. I have one of each. With my achiever, go-getter son, all he requires from me is a list of what he needs to do each day. Just recently, because he likes to schedule his work himself, I started to give him a list for his weekly load. Then, on Monday he parses it out throughout the week in a planner. My role with him is to check from time to time how the learning is going and where he is at.
With my other son, it is another story. He is highly dis-tractable, his mind is full of projects and creations, so I have to minimize the distractions around him and constantly checking that he is doing what he is supposed to be doing. The goal though is for him to control his impulses to take too many breaks or let himself be distracted. So, to that end, some days I am less directive than others. When his work is not completed, or if he is caught doing something else than his work, he gets a consequence. This is really a matter of self-control and discipline.
There is a lot of talking that goes into this process of training our middle schoolers to be independent and owning their learning. I talk a lot to them about their future goals, what they would like to be when they grow up, what they like doing and what it would take to succeed in that particular activity or interest. I explained to them the need and value of hard work and perseverance, the danger of self-gratification, the value of sacrifice and self-denial, the christian virtue of doing all things for God's glory not for our own sake. These principles are vital for them to understand if you want them to join you on this venture. They have to be on board for this to work and stick. My oldest, who struggles with staying on track when doing school, understands these and it motivates him to work at it and not fight me as he discipline him. He actually welcomes the consequences because he wants to beat it, and become more self-disciplined.
To be honest, really the ground work is set in the elementary years. At a young age there are some elements that need to be firmly planted:
- A love of learning
- A love for books
- A respect for authority
- A love for God and His demands on our lives
- A value of hard work
- A proper understanding of pleasure and entertainment and its place in our lives
These will go a long way in helping you to train them to be independent learners when they reach the middle school years and beyond.
There is still a lot to talk about on this topic, but I will stop here for today. Hopefully I will write more in the coming weeks. Meanwhile here is a book worth mentioning when parenting teenagers as parenting and homeschooling are closely intertwined: Age of Opportunities by Paul Tripp.