In the United States, many eleven and twelve year olds are off to grades sixth through eighth at a separate school from elementary school. This is called middle school, and children in grade six and their parents have told me over and over that this is such a big adjustment for them.
I had dinner with four little sixth grade girls the other night who attend three separate schools in different counties. I asked them what made middle school so different. They responded, “Well, having a locker!” Switching classes from teacher to teacher is also quite different than being with one teacher as is the case in most elementary schools.
Forgetfulness and lack of organization is the main thing parents seem to complain about. That, and the amount of homework their middle schooler has! The first year (sixth grade) seems to be the absolute hardest adjustment for most families.
Some helpful suggestions include helping your child have ONE place to write down all assignment and due dates – a master list or a master calendar. The parent also keeps a calendar at home as well with important dates and when things are due to help along. Having a consistent time and place to do homework is very important as well – rhythm and routine is everything. The hours that a middle schooler has to spend at home may be quite short, considering that in many areas of the United States the middle schoolers go to school later but also come home later, like 4:45 or 5 P.M., and they are likely to be tired, so efficiency with homework is key.
The other thing that parents have shared with me is that they really had to look at the amount of time they were investing in outside activities because homework really needed to come first. The homework only increases throughout the high school years, so this evaluation is a good yearly practice to get into. I know high schoolers in my neighborhood who are routinely spending almost all of their day on Sunday doing homework in order to get ready for the school week, plus doing homework every night during the week, especially if they are in AP classes or in “gifted” classes. Forming good habits in the middle school years is important for the future!
I would love to hear from you if your child has transitioned into middle school. What advice would you have for other parents beginning the sixth grade year to make it a smoother year?