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?
I am in the throes of watching another “drop-off” in Waldorf homeschooling. This time around it is the eighth/ninth grade drop-off where many families chose not to homeschool anymore or choose more traditional academic routes. It can be a lonely place to be, but yet in many ways this is reminiscent of the “drop-off” between fourth and fifth grade for many families (and in preparing for first grade before that!) So, if you are sort of struggling to prepare for fifth grade, I would say you are in good company and that it could possibly even be a natural part of the Waldorf homeschooling cycle for parents with children this age. I sometimes wonder if on a soul level we as parents are mirroring the “fractioning” off the fourth graders themselves are doing (remember fourth grade fractions and what that reflects in a class?!)
The reasons families have struggled is varied but seems to boil down into these categories:
Parenting: Differing expectations of “protecting childhood” (much murkier than in the early years!) now that the child has gone through the nine year change. How much should the world really be opening up?
My caution: Make sure the world is opening up in a nine/ten year old way, not a sixteen/seventeen year change way. Ask parents who have teenagers if you are unsure!
The curriculum content: Yup, I am going to say it out loud. Many parents are uncomfortable regarding the amount of anthroposophy underlying the fifth grade curriculum. Whether it is likening different plants to childhood development ( remember, anthroposophy relates to knowing the human being and how the world is a reflection within the human being) or the progression of Ancient Civilizations to reflect epochs and soul development, to the story of Manu and the Flood placing Manu in Atlantis, the content and the underlying pinnings can be challenging.
- Decide what is really authentic for you to bring as a homeschooling parent. I personally do not use the story of Manu and the Flood beginning in Atlantis, for example, because it is not authentic and living for me. I have had some conversations with friends from India regarding these subjects and I want to feel comfortable presenting Ancient India in light of these conversations and thoughts.
- Read some more and see with time and “settling” how things feel for you – which leads back to authenticity, but this time in a more objective and clarifying way then just dismissing things out of hand. I don’t want to bury my head in the sand, and I do want to know what Steiner said about these things. However, many of the things about Ancient Civilizations seem to be more in Steiner’s general writings, not the educational lectures. The educational lectures talk a lot about Greece, for example. It takes time to digest and to decide how deep one wants to read into these subjects.
- Listen to veteran homeschooling mothers and what they discovered going through things. Here is veteran Waldorf homeschooling mother Lauri Bolland’s take on botany. Well-worth reading!
- Understand what Steiner said about the evolution of human consciousness. Whether or not you agree with this is up to you, but again, food for thought.
- Hang in there and breathe. Sometimes the more you can be steady and bring things on a level you are comfortable with for your family, the next time around different things will click in different ways. Hold true to who you are and what your family culture is, and see how you can work with the curriculum as well. To me, sixth and seventh grade are much more straightforward in a sense…
The academic side of the curriculum. Some parents really leave Waldorf homeschooling behind because fifth grade is a big jump in content and in academic content. If you feel pressured about where your child is and not feeling as if the curriculum is working for you in this arena, it is easy to think about abandoning it for another method of homeschooling that is either more traditionally academic or less academic.
My suggestion: Remember, you are homeschooling this way for a reason. What drew you to it, how does it fit your child, be the teacher and get creative!
Tell me your stories about preparing for fifth grade. Did you struggle? How did it resolve?
One often hears the horror stories about parents trying to give “the talk” to their children, complete with mumbling, inaccurate terminology and a look of relief when their child has no questions for them and both parties can flee from the room.
In the United States, 13 percent of teens have had sexual intercourse before the age of 15. Seventy percent have had sexual intercourse by age 19. We live in a country founded by people who thought sex was rather evil, and we as a nation are obsessed with sexuality and sex in our media. It is an odd paradox to say the least. Our children are bombarded with messages about body image daily. The freedom of the Internet and media in many families has led the average age of children to see their first pornographic act on the Internet at age 11.
These are serious facts, and the discussions about healthy sexuality and healthy relationships to counteract the messages our children receive every day can only begin with YOU by layering in talks about these subjects from an early age in a healthy, developmentally appropriate way.
First of all, like all things in parenting. these discussion have to start with YOU. How do you feel about Continue reading
With two girls in our house, I have spent a bit of time thinking about girls on the cusp of puberty. It also is a pretty hot topic amongst my parent friends who have girls this age, and is getting quite a bit of attention in even the mainstream media. Here is one article from the NY Times called, Puberty Before Age 10: A New Normal? I believe the study of over 1200 girls mentioned in this article is this one in the medical journal “Pediatrics”.
We can argue all day long about the causation of early puberty. Is it the estrogens, phytoestrogens, and other hormone disrupters in our food, water and environment? Is it the levels of different things within our own bodies at the time we got pregnant with the children who are now growing up to be girls on the cusp of puberty? Is it something we just haven’t figured out yet?
WebMD details a few of the possible medical causes and signs of puberty and notes that the difference between early puberty and “regular” puberty is not in the signs , but in the timing. I find it interesting that in this article the signs of puberty for girls is detailed solely as breast development and the onset of menstruation, but when I talk to parents about the signs of puberty they are worried about it can be about breast budding as well, but many times it is more about the moodiness/fluctuating emotions, talking back to parents that may be presumed due to hormonal change, pubic hair developing or body odor or even just their daughter wanting to wear a bra.
Here is what I am finding most of my parents friends and readers to be doing: Continue reading
Often on Waldorf lists and groups, I see threads regarding puberty. These threads typically concern the outward signs of puberty, or perhaps issues not of puberty but of sexuality, such as a discussion on what to tell a six-year old or a nine-year old about sexual relationships.
I have already discussed in an earlier post how the development of the child during something such as the nine year change is viewed from a spiritual place that looks at the development of the soul, and how the curriculum and parenting in a Waldorf way meets the child during this point whether outward, physical signs of puberty are taking place or not.
This is one of the best articles I have read regarding puberty Continue reading
After the very balanced and harmonious age of ten(see here for a quick view of that age: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/09/25/the-terrific-ten-year-old-a-developmental-view/) , eleven year olds are in a decided stage of disequilibrium. They are often highly contrary and behave like a beginning adolescent. Here are a few characteristics of age eleven, taken from my favorite series on child development by the Gesell Institute: Continue reading