There’s a big difference between elementary school and middle school. In fact, many moms will tell you that middle school (or junior high) was harder than high school. (Puberty, mean girls, boys…)
So what should you tell your child to be prepared for? What are the biggest differences? Read on for the information you should arm your son or daughter with as they get ready to make the big leap to the bigger school.
Most likely, for the better part of the past six years, your child has been in the same school. He knows his way around. He’s used to the teachers, the classrooms, the procedures. And now, as he prepares to head off to middle school, it’s important to realize he is about to experience some huge changes in his school experience. Dr. Jennifer Powell-Lunder, a clinical psychologist and co-author of the book, Teenage as a Second Language, says the best way to understand the transition from elementary school and middle school, is for parents to first understand the main differences between them.
Classes: One main class, often one main teacher
Supplies: Cubby/hook in classroom
Organization: Teacher assistance with organization
Changing classes: Teacher escorts student to specials in school
Development stage: Steady development and growth toward puberty
Homework: Some homework — parent participation recommended
Size: Smaller school
Classes: Individual classes for each subject, no main teacher
Supplies: One locker somewhere in school
Organization: Student responsible for organization
Changing classes: Student expected to find her own way
Development stage: Pre-puberty/puberty
Homework: Increase in volume and level of difficulty of homework. Independent work with some parent support recommended
Size: Larger school — often several schools combine into one school
The challenge: Staying organized
Experts agree that in middle school, one of the most important things your child will have to learn is organization. Up to this point, your son or daughter has likely had a lot of help from his teachers to stay on top of assignments. But in middle school, the responsibility will start to fall on him more than ever. “If you have a child who is less organized than other kids, the adjustment can be more difficult. Especially because the kids change classes and, as such, tend to have multiple binders and folders,” says Powell.
“This is the time when children must learn to balance their time with school work and the demands and expectations from several teachers, as well as their friends,” says Ali Lorio, former middle school teacher and author of Champion Parenting, Giving Your Child the Competitive Edge.
How you can help: “Work with your child to label each subject folder and create notebook sections for each class. If organization does not come easily to your tween, a color coding system can be quite helpful: one color for each subject including a separate notebook and folder. These visual cues can do the trick for even the most disorganized tween,” recommends Powell.
Former middle school teacher Sheila Kreditor Lobel also offers this advice to help kids avoid getting buried in papers. “Many students get into the habit of stash-and-dash at the end of the class period, which means by the end of the week they’re buried in papers. If you make it an expectation that Friday is paper filing day, your child will be very happy to start each week organized and able to find what she needs. Help her at first, then wean your child as she shows she can be more independent.”