It’s the most wonderful time of the yearrrrrr! After the February Funk comes March Madness – that time when we start to shake off the slump of winter and start thinking about next year. Curriculum researching, window shopping, and planning. It can be the best time of the year – or the most stressful. Especially if you’re about to start homeschool planning for middle schoolers.
Looking Ahead to Next Year
We’ve had a bit of a strange year so far.
Lots of wibbly-wobbly, changey-wangey stuff going on.
We took a leap at the start of the year, trying out some new curriculum. Those didn’t work so then we took another dive down a rabbit hole.
Thankfully, by mid-year, we got our wheels back on the track and started moving forward again. I am certain that at least once every school day, I let out a big sigh of relief and say a little thank you to the Universe that we finally got things figured out.
You’d think that this would mean I’m all set for ever and always, and know exactly where to go from here. I thought so, too.
The thing is – when you’re doing homeschooling planning for middle schoolers, things are never quite that easy.
Homeschool Planning for Middle Schoolers
While we might be in that amazing time of year where we get to choose and buy resources for next year – there is so much more to middle school homeschool planning than just which products to use and buy.
Middle school kids can be a strange, curious creature. They have the eating habits of Hobbits, the sleep schedule of a vampire, the ear-piercing wails of a Banshee, and the raging temper of the Furies. They also have soft and tender hearts, and easily bruised egos. They are constantly in shift between wanting Mom’s help, and wanting Mom to be as far away as possible.
Just surviving life with our middle school kids can be a delicate balance, so how do we keep all of these things in mind while we’re doing our homeschool planning for middle school?
Middle Schoolers and Independence
I wrote a post last year all about the myth of the independent middle schooler. While all of that still rings very true here – I am keeping independence in mind while I’m doing my planning.
Particularly for my oldest, who will be stepping into 8th grade next year, this has been at the forefront of my planning. With the decision looming to either homeschool high school or go to public school, we have to take real care in our planning next year. We don’t yet know what our decision about high school will be, but if he is to go to public high school, there will be things he needs to know.
Growing Independent Middle Schoolers
I don’t just mean subjects. I know that he will be prepared for high school academically-speaking. He’ll also need to know things like:
- how to just take an assignment from a teacher and do the work
- how to manage his activities and homework responsibilities
- how to work through the initial exhaustion of having to get up early and return home late
So, part of helping him feel confident to take that step is to plan for independent work, and independent time-management. Doing those things now while he’s in a safe place where I can help him work through that.
Even if he homeschools high school, he’ll need to be able to tackle his subjects and learn to manage his time independently. He will need to be able to handle the subjects that are outsourced and to work with his teacher/mentor/tutor.
Letting Your Middle Schoolers Make Choices
The best way to help our kids learn to manage their learning and their time is to allow them to make some of the choices. It’s okay if these choices are limited. You can offer them subjects to learn, and ways to learn them, and allow them to choose from that carefully selected list.
If you definitely want to choose particular subjects and modes of learning, you can give them the choice of when and in which order to do them.
Help them choose a planning system – maybe they love checklists, maybe they love a big whiteboard with the week’s work on it, maybe something totally different! Then let them have at it!
It is very difficult to plan ahead a set schedule for your middle schoolers. Our middle school kids’ days are often ruled by hormonal shifts, hunger, hangriness, and changing sleep cycles. Trying to work against that is going to feel like trying to stop the wind from blowing. Allowing them to make those decisions about their day to day schedule is going to prevent a LOT of stress!
Homeschool Planning – Your Kids Are Individuals
There was a time when I could combine my kids in almost everything. We could learn together, read together, and have very similar schedules.
That time has come and gone. For us, anyway.
My kids are growing into really cool, amazing, bright young people. They are also growing into very, very different people. I can’t anymore try to squish the two of them into the same resources or books. Heck, I can’t even really use the same curriculum with both of them.
I am not sure where next year is going to take us just yet – we have definitely found some resources that we like and that work. We’re also feeling where we might need to make a couple of additions or adjustments.
What I do know is that my planning is taking into account their needs, their strengths, their weaknesses, and their interests.
This is the time when our big kids might want to start deep diving into personal interests, or favourite subjects. When they want to set themselves apart from their siblings and parents. Give them the space to do that.
Helpful Hints for Homeschool Planning for Middle Schoolers
So, what are some things you can keep in mind or hints for staying sane while planning your upcoming year?
- Plan for the child you have in front of you. Put aside thoughts of particular philosophies and curriculum packages, and look at each child specifically and what their needs may be.
- Start observing your family rhythm. You may want to spend some time quietly watching and observing your children. You’ll spot things like their natural sleep/wake cycles, eating habits, and when their energy is high or low.
- Look for ways to allow them independence in their studies. This might be curriculum choices that come pre-scheduled, or all in one curricula with the year’s lessons plans already created. Or, it might mean deciding on 2 or 3 core subjects and then allowing your child to lead their studies in interest-based areas.
- Consider the high school decision, and if they need to focus on specific areas of study beforehand.
- Plan for their strengths – but with supports for areas they are not as strong in
- Look beyond just the curriculum decision – what are your goals and values? What do your kids’ physical and emotional needs require?
- Start testing out planning systems. You might look at bullet journals, spiral notebooks, calendars, whiteboards, etc – to see what works for your child and for you.
- Work with your child. Bring them in on the decision making, allow them ownership of not just the work but also the planning
- Plan to be flexible. Your middle schoolers are changing rapidly, and from one day to the next they are going to need different things. So, keep some margin in your year/month/day as you plan!
- Don’t Overdo it! I know it’s tempting for us to want to plan all.the.things. As our kids get older, we worry about all the ‘gaps’ and all the things we want to do while they’re still little. Don’t feed into that fear, and overplan or try to stuff too much into one year.
How are you planning for next year? Let me know if you’re homeschooling middle schoolers, how are you planning and staying sane? If you have any tips or hints, pop them in the comments below and I’ll add them to my post!