For me, I consider the middle grades to be that stage at which my son will be slowing getting ready for high school and eventually adult life. I see that period as my last chance, or that last straight line, to shape his mind and worldview as well as his work habit.
In classical education, this stage is called the dialectic stage, the age of connection. My son has always been adept at making connections in his mind about things, so this is not a very big change for him, but work habits, now that needs a lot of work.
What I have found on top of that, is that this stage also coincides with entry into puberty and all the body and emotional roller coaster this brings in. In other words, this stage is not an easy one, and not at all predictable.
The way we see it, three things have to be worked on during this stage, among other things:
- Strengthening a biblical worldview and development of good thinking and reasoning habits.
- Development of good work habits, such as diligence and excellence.
- Development of independence, especially in school work and helping around the house
How are we handling it?
First, I have to give thanks to God that somehow, someway, my son has made major improvements about his diligence all of his own. In the past years I had to be on his back for him to get his school going. This year, he has shown lots of initiatives in starting at a reasonable time and a vivid desire to finish at a reasonable time as well. At this point, he needs my encouragement to keep it up and do his best day after day.
Next, is the skill of applying himself in everything he is doing. Whereas in the past I will let go of a lot of sloppy work, I made it clear this year, that this will not be tolerated any longer, and he understands that.
Something we are working on as well is independence. Again, my son has always been independent, but because he was not very diligent, the work was not getting done. Now, along with his desire to be more diligent, I am working on helping him to manage his time and plan out his work. This has been working out very nicely. Our History curriculum (Tapestry of Grace) is helping a lot in that, since there is ton of work to be done on a weekly basis (reading, Bible survey, map work, timeline and discussion time), and he needs to be able to spread it out over the week. We are also encouraging him to cook, bake, and take more responsibilities around the house.
He's made these with little supervision from me. And they were delicious.
This sounds like a lot to tackle, but we are just at the beginning of this journey and we hope and trust that as the years go on he will learn. Another thing I forgot to mention is how I am making sure we stress our availability to him. I want him to know he can tell me anything and that he will always have my hearing. Relationship is very important especially given everything that goes on in the minds of kids at that stage. I find that sensitivity, irritability, shyness are heightened these days, so I want to make sure while being firm, he knows I sympathize and tries to understand him.
Your turn. How did you handle the middle school years?