Middle school are those years when homeschooling is challenging. If you’ve been homeschooling since kindergarten (or before!), middle school is when it suddenly feels serious. If you’re just pulling out of public school, the idea of homeschool middle school can feel nerve-wracking and anxious. Many parents wonder if they’re “doing enough”. But middle school can be some of the most fun of all the homeschooling years.
Middle school – from Grades 4-8, or about age 9 thru age 13 — is when you want to get crazy. The goal of the middle school years is to expose these preteens to as many experiences and interests as possible.
So where do you start with homeschool middle school?
If you registered your child for Grade 4 thru 8, call the school and make sure they know you aren’t sending them. You will need to follow the procedure for withdrawing your child from public school.
Yup. Let them go.
Let them go crazy, binging cartoons, video games, and lots of sleeping. Take them to the park, and let them go wander the woods, playgrounds, and lay in the grass. Let them go down the street to the neighbourhood store, to friends, or to Grandma’s house. Take them to the mall, and let them go explore. Let them go online, and watch them learn.
Let them go.
Let them get bored.
Let them get curious again.
Then watch them thrive.
Pre-teens are some of the most confident creatures ever. They have mastered the basics of childhood, and they are ready to take on the world. But they haven’t yet had the hormones and chemical mayhem of puberty mess with their brains, so they don’t know the insecurity of self-consciousness. They are ready, willing and eager for challenges.
And it’s our job to give them the tools, support and boundaries they need to explore those challenges safely.
This is the age where there are a ton of extracurriculars and opportunities available. Even small communities tend to offer after-school programs, lessons, classes, and events for this age group.
And this is the age where they want to try everything!
So sign them up, as much as your wallet and time allow.
Keep in mind the perks of homeschooling. For example, you no longer have to be afraid of later nights. Because you homeschool, your preteens can stay up a little later, and sleep in a little more. You can follow their natural circadian rhythms, so evening activities and travel don’t impact their health as much.
And you also don’t have to stress about overscheduling as much either. Again, because your kids aren’t away from the family unit 6-8 hours a day, you can help them manage their mental and emotional health better. They aren’t jumping from overstimulation into more stimulation, but instead, they’ll enjoy the added activity level more.
What kinds of activities should you try?
Try recreational leagues for team sports. There’s softball, baseball, hockey, football, and more. Or get lessons in the individual sports, such as golf, tennis, swimming, skating, skiing or others. What about martial arts? There are multiple styles to choose from. You could try archery, marksmanship, or a running club. And don’t forget about the water sports, such as canoeing or kayaking.
You could see if there’s a kids’ bowling league around you. Or maybe a junior Olympics in your community? Gymnastics and tumbling may appeal, or look outside the box as parkour and circus training.
Sign them up for 4H, Guides or Scouts, Cadets programs, and other nature-based group activities. Depending on where you live, you can even get them into “junior” leadership roles with camps, city landscaping or conservation groups.
Your local library might offer a community garden — or work with you to start one! Or check with your local horticultural society (the people who maintain street flowers or offer garden competitions) for youth workshops. These are often run by older folk, who’d love to take on a passionate young learner under their wing, so if your preteen is keen, this might be right what they need.
Ask about trial music lessons and commit to 6 weeks for an instrument. Try a casual band. Maybe there’s a junior choir or glee club? Musical theatre or children’s drama might be a lot of fun and your child may be ready to shine. There are improv clubs, junior toastmasters, and karaoke too.
And dance isn’t just for girls! Some of the strongest athletes are dancers, so encourage your boys to try it. There isn’t just ballet or jazz either. Irish dancing and tap dancing, hip hop and break dancing, line dancing or ballroom dancing all offer alternatives — and room to grow.
Yes, your middle schooler might be too young to volunteer, but there are other ways they can participate. Start a newspaper or ezine. Look for debate clubs, speech meets, mock trials or a mock UN group. Or start one!
Some of the biggest charities have been started by young kids, so support your child if they find a cause they want to champion. You never know where it might go, and they’ll learn a lot on the way.
This is the perfect age for drawing, writing, and video contests. Create posters for veteran’s causes or environmental groups. Writing poetry, essays, short stories and articles can win them money. And it might be a lot of fun to start a TikTok or YouTube channel.
If you live near a rural area, find out when and how to submit for the fall fairs. Community clubs such as the Rotary Club or Lions’ Club often sponsor competitions as well, in music, speech, art, and other interests. Just because you homeschool middle school doesn’t mean your child has to miss out on public speaking!
Hardware stores, sewing stores, and community gardens often offer classes for kids. Build a birdhouse, sew a pillow, knit a scarf, and grow tomatoes. Try a soap box derby or a pottery class. Maybe do cake decorating for a holiday or a kids’ cooking class.
Not sure what’s available in your area? YouTube has tons of free tutorials on many different things, from crochet to canning. You can make it a family project to learn how to make candles or carve whistles out of wood. As a bonus, the handcrafts make great gifts, or if your child is particularly productive, you can sell at a craft sale, swap meet, or farmers’ market locally.
Watch the news with them and talk about current events. Get them newspaper and magazine subscriptions, and encourage them to write & ask questions. Challenge them to criticize films, advertising, books and other media, without resorting to personal attacks.
Find the emails or mailing addresses of your local political representatives, from municipal to national. Let your kids write these representatives, asking questions from the mundane (what’s your favorite color) to the pointed (why did you vote for that?).
This is when family road trips are fun, and the kids are still small enough to not be crowded in the car. So pack up and go places. Trip to the coast? Mountains? Theme park? Challenge them to help plan it on a budget, and get them engaged and excited. This is the best memory-making age!
Don’t forget the cameras and journals. Collect the souvenirs and take those pictures. You may even want to consider a camera with film instead of just digital, and getting the pictures printed. You can ask your kids to create scrapbooks or albums (or ezines?) of your trips, which then double as “proof of learning” if you need to keep records.
Focus on developing their curiosity and exposing your kids to as many different interests as possible. Try foraging for wild foods, geocaching, and urban exploration. Set up a lemonade stand and hold bake sales and yard sales. Teach them to mow lawns, shovel driveways and weed gardens. Visit art museums with sketchbooks, join the astronomy club with a telescope, and go birdwatching. Try chess club, robot battles, and dance-offs. And attend as many festivals as you can!
The goal here is to help your kids learn what they like and what they don’t like, so they can figure out their own passions.
By the end of middle school, they should:
》Have a clear idea of what they DON’T like and have no interest in pursuing. Even if they can’t decide yet what they DO want
》Be able to confidently & respectfully ask for help, share what they know, & invite adults into conversation about their interests.
》Be able to form opinions & defend those opinions clearly and respectfully, even if not yet completely.
》Have a basic understanding of money, able to make purchases without being taken advantage of, & being able to sell & make change easily. They may not yet be able to be trusted with large sums.
》Be open to learning from all ages, genders & cultural backgrounds, without judgment.
》Be able to contribute to household chores, keeping their own spaces tidy & following directions responsibly. They may not yet be able to handle really big jobs, but they could surprise you.
》Be able to read fluently & comprehensively, both for pleasure & for information.
》Be able to take care of their basic needs, with an appreciation for the impact sleep, nutrition & hydration have on health. They may need reminders still.
》Be able to handle themselves in an emergency, knowing who to call & where to go to stay safe.
》Be curious about the world around them with the skills they need to find out more, including who to ask.
》Be able to make logistical plans, for themselves and others, including where, when, how much and how long.
》Be able to collaboratively solve problems, including brainstorming, organizing & testing, with a growth mindset towards failure.
》Be able to tell the difference between opinion & fact, determining biased messages, while developing their own values.
There are a few more skills and concepts to consider, but this should get you started.
No curriculum necessary.