Welcome to Build Your Library’s Homeschool Tidbits: Episode 41 – Homeschooling the Middle School Years. In this weekly video series, I will delve briefly into a topic related to homeschooling and will share some of my knowledge and expertise as a long-time homeschooling mother of 4 children. Three of whom have graduated high school and one who is a college graduate!
Homeschooling in the elementary years can be a time of exploration and excitement. You are learning not only how to homeschool in general, but how to homeschool your particular children. How do they learn? What activities work best? There is SO MUCH great information available when it comes to homeschooling younger children. Social Media is loaded with beautiful pictures and reels of crafts, activities, book stacks… it’s a wonderland of fun and sunshine. Ok, maybe not really, but it sure can appear that way. I loved homeschooling in the early years specifically because you can spend so much time just doing fun things like reading picture books, making elaborate playscapes with toys, and spending weeks going down fun rabbit trails.
But there seems to be a distinct lack of information when it comes to homeschooling during the middle school and high school years. A lot of homeschoolers don’t stick it out that long. They send their children to middle and high school, maybe because it feels too overwhelming or perhaps because so few homeschoolers stick it out that long. To be fair, it is harder to make homeschooling tweens and teens Instagram-worthy. They are less likely to want to be in front of a camera, and their lessons don’t equate to elaborate and pretty pictures. But I’m here to tell you that the middle school years are when things start to get interesting! My youngest is finishing up her last year in the middle grades – she’ll be starting 9th grade in the fall. This is my last go around homeschooling the middle school years, so allow me to reminisce for a minute and talk about why I think homeschooling the middle school years is my favorite.
Yes, this is the time when hormones are surging, and tweens can be moody and exhausting. They are learning about boundaries and how to push against them. They might start questioning you at every turn. Arguing about things they seemed perfectly happy with just one short year ago. Knowing that this is perfectly normal can go a long way to easing some of the emotional tidal waves that come crashing over you now. But at the same time, you are finally going to get to sleep in! My kids all seemed to hit a point around the age of 11/12 when they stopped being early risers. FINALLY. So get ready for your homeschooling routine to kick off a bit later in the morning.
When they aren’t trying your patience, they are asking big questions. These not-quite teens are trying to figure out how the world works. The subjects you are teaching won’t be changing that much, but the way you approach them will! Where you focused on big picture events in elementary school, just aiming for exposure of big ideas, now you get to dig deeper and really sink your teeth into things. It’s time to slow down and focus on topics in history and science that they are really drawn to. Where you used to add fun crafts to extend a topic in the elementary years, now you can read more books, watch movies and documentaries, and explore related fields of interest. You are still guiding them in learning how to learn, but now it will start to look more like what you do when you want to study a topic further.
This is also the time when you will start instilling a sense of independence in their learning. Slowly over the next few years, you will begin to hand them the reigns to their learning. You used to have to sit by their side for all of their lessons, leading them through their day. Now you can begin to assign them work, and send them on their way so they can do it on their own. This is why I love using checklists. I can specify which things we need to do together and what they can do by themselves. This makes it really easy to transition to high school when they will be doing the majority of their lessons on their own. You will no longer be a teacher but a mentor. You will answer their questions and give them help when needed. Think of all the free time you will have…eventually!
And the books! This is when you get to read really great books together. I love picture books and middle-grade, don’t get me wrong. But this is when I get to introduce my children to my favorite, more grown-up authors and works. We can read Tolkien and Pratchett, Watership Down, and The Hunger Games. We get to have so many exciting and deep discussions. This is my favorite part of homeschooling in general, I love reading with my kids, but the switch from just enjoying a fun story to delving deeply into rich discussions about important topics like propaganda or the differences between dystopia and utopia…nothing beats that.
Your tween will begin discovering their passions – this is when you really start to explore electives and hobbies. You can have them take some fun art or music classes, start studying a foreign language, or learn computer coding or even botany. There is a whole world of amazing and exciting things for them to discover. You don’t have to worry about transcripts yet, so they can try new things without too much pressure.
If they take a class and realize that maybe coding isn’t for them, no big deal. Been there, done that. Move on to the next thing. Watching them figure out who they are going to become is such a fun and exciting time. But just remember that this is all it is, trying all the new things. Just because they asked to take an art class doesn’t mean you are raising the next Frida Kahlo. Just let them explore and figure out how far their interests will go, without making it into a big thing.
I know this may be a reoccurring theme but breathe. Relax. I must sound like a yoga instructor, but you got this. If you are planning to homeschool in the middle school years, buckle up your seatbelts and get ready for a time of exciting highs and dramatic lows. Remember that most bad days can be turned around with a nap or a snack. Probably both. The pressure might feel like it’s building, you are getting closer and closer to high school after all.
Remember, your tween is still a kid, even if they are nearly as tall as you. You might have more on your homeschool plate, but you can still take a break to snuggle on the couch and play video games or watch a movie together. They might not ever admit it, but tweens (and teens) still need a cuddle once in a while. Revel in it while you can! I promise, the tween years are short and you CAN homeschool through them! It may feel chaotic some days, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
I hope you found this Tidbit helpful! Come back next week for more homeschooling inspiration!
Until then, happy reading!
Emily Cook is the author and creator of the secular homeschool curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-12 program infused with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. She writes full-year lesson plans as well as shorter topical unit studies. Emily has been homeschooling her four children in Southern NH for 18 years. She is passionate about reading aloud to children of all ages and loves to share her love of literature with others. She and her family also make incredibly dorky videos about homeschooling, books, and more on Youtube at ARRRGH! Schooling. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. You can also check out her author page on Amazon.