Middle school often challenges parents more than any other stage of educational development, and with good reason – not only will the curriculum demands increase, but puberty begins in earnest and children become independent agents who want to rebel against parental demands. What can a parent reasonably expect of a middle school child? When should a parent take steps to improve performance?
In many ways, middle school sets the table for the rigors of high school. Middle school represents a transition from the more tactile, in-class learning of basics to a tiered system of tracked learning based more on individual ability with a greater emphasis on out-of-class learning. Middle school introduces the foundations of advanced learning – logical and analytical reasoning, critical thinking and problem solving. It also introduces the more competitive grading system. In middle school students tend to find academic labels attached to them or they begin attaching academic labels to themselves, both very critical moments in development. Poor organizational and study skills in middle school can impose a heavy burden once in high school, as can a false sense of competence. Parents need to help their children with structure and routine that fosters success and creativity and independence.
We have found that every middle school student needs some sort of help with transitioning to high school and laying a solid foundation, but how proactive must a parent be? Each child is different, but certain trends appear. Does your child do well in middle school but spend less than thirty minutes a day on homework or independent reading? Does your child struggle in middle school despite working very hard in and out of the classroom? Does your child do homework in a consistent setting conducive to learning and retention? Does your child have any anxiety about school performance? Does your child repeatedly express highly negative feelings about school? If you answer yes to any of these questions, you have cause for serious concern.
Remember: the longer an educational performance issue remains unaddressed into the high school years, the more likely your child will limit his or her opportunities for college, or worse, embed long-term impediments to learning that will limit his or her ability to succeed on a chosen career path.