Tag Archives: middle school

Helping with the middle school transition

School has been in for about 4 weeks now, and the reality of middle school is finally hitting the fan for my 7th grade son. With 6 classes and homework assigned in each, my organization-challenged son has been fumbling a bit with the amount of work he still has to do once the school bell has rang. Last week was especially hard for him since he was sick on Monday, and then tried to play catch-up all week long.

Friday morning he came to me in tears because his homework wasn’t done for his hardest class. Of course, he’d had plenty of time the day before to use up his videogame time and play with his friends in the evening. And when asked if his work was finished, he swore that it was. Obviously that wasn’t true.

Looks like we’re in for a few changes in our household.

I’ve had to come up with a new plan to hopefully encourage success this 7th grade year, and maybe help him take on a few better habits before the year is up. To help out other parents of struggling middle schoolers, here are a few things I’ve incorporated to help him gain control over his school work.

Get them a daily planner.
Most schools now require these. If not, get one for your child anyway. Have them write down their homework DAILY, and then check it every day to make sure their homework is done. If necessary, ask each teacher to partner with you on this to ensure your child knows their homework assignments. After all, your child’s teachers want your child to succeed.

Write down your expectations.
Your child is 12 or older. They’re not little kids anymore. However, some kids this age are going through such information overload, they can’t keep two thoughts straight. Create a checklist of what you expect them to do so they won’t forget. If it’s an unchanging list, you can even laminate it. Trust me, many kids will actually appreciate this.

No electronics until work is done.
That means no TV, no computer, no videogames, no phone…no nothing. If they need to use the internet for their homework, have them do it in a common room (if possible) and stay close enough that you can check to make sure it’s actually homework and not social media they’re working on.

Enforce appropriate restrictions.
If your child isn’t capable of pulling a B in his class because the work is too hard, don’t punish him. However, if your child’s grade is affected by not turning in homework, by all means, start taking privileges away! And be firm – don’t give them back until progress is made. Nothing works like a little incentive.

Limit after-school activities.
I’m sorry to all you sports families out there (we’re one of them, too), but if your child is struggling to get their homework done, then they may need to take a pass on Fall Ball or soccer. It seems ridiculous to be challenging your kid in sports, dance class, or any other extra activities if their school work is suffering.

Be available.
School is hard. Junior high is hard! I look at my kid’s homework, and I am grateful I don’t have to go to school anymore. But they do – and they need your help. You might not know everything they’re learning (which is a humbling realization), but you can at least be there for moral support, and to guide them in how to figure out the answer. Who knows, you might remember a thing or two from your Jr. High Algrebra class…

What are some ways you help your kid be successful in school?

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Middle School Madness

"Sometimes you put walls up not to keep people out, but to see who cares enough to break them down."

My daughter’s door was closed to me, a barrier that couldn’t possibly have been thicker than the wall that was already wedged between us. It had not been a good morning. Words had been spoken and spilled to the floor without any way to sweep them all up. We were afraid to say anything more should it add to the already hurtful things that lay between us. So we parted ways and avoided each other at all costs. And that door remained closed for the better part of the day.

Raising a 13 year old has proven to be a really hard job. It’s wonderful, don’t get me wrong. But it’s challenging as well. Here’s this brilliant person you’ve raised since the beginning. And over time they are changing because that’s what happens when kids grow up. Soon, they are thrust into the in-between world of Middle School, surrounded by other in-betweeners who are all growing at different rates and reasons. Put them together, and suddenly a world of Awkwardness is created.

And the biggest disease caught from this rampant pool of hormonal teenage-dom is Embarrassment.

There is no cure for Embarrassment except for Time. And even that could take about 10 or 15 years before being tackled. In some cases it never fully goes away, leading to painful years of self-consciousness that stem from these earlier days of being a Middle School teen. In the meantime, this Embarrassment causes mean and rude things to fall out of their mouths, keeps them from hugging you goodbye as they leave for school, causes their eyes to repeatedly roll towards the ceiling, and prevents them from admitting they’re even related to you or the rest of the family – as if they just popped up one day out of the ground. Most of the time they won’t even speak real words, but have resorted to grunting and nodding, or worse – not speaking at all in their efforts to will you out of the room and out of their lives forever.

But inside, there is a multitude of feelings and emotions that, at times, feel bigger than their body. This is why they lock themselves in their room with notebooks of paper to write down their deepest, darkest desires and feelings. And they keep it all secret from us because we couldn’t possibly understand what they are going through. Sure, we parents have been there before. Remember how awful Middle School was? No, you don’t. And that’s because it was SO awful that you’ve likely blocked most of those memories out to distance yourself from a truly horrendous period of time. And I think many of us can agree that we NEVER want to go through those days again.

But my daughter, and other 13 year olds just like her, is going through this horrendous period of time NOW. There are the kids who make fun of every blemish they see, the ones who spread vicious rumors about the picked-on kid of the week, the fair-weather friends, the feelings of never belonging, the Awkwardness, the Embarrassment…. When we drop our kids off at Middle School, we are abandoning them to the pack of teenage wolves that chew them up and spit them out (and repeat) for the duration of the school day. And if they don’t attempt to blend in, they become the one who stands out – and the perfect victim. You see, to a Middle School student, deflection becomes key in keeping all negative attention at bay. What better way to avoid being picked on than to heap negative attention on someone else?

So if a Middle Schooler didn’t already feel awkward enough, they are fighting a daily battle to not be noticed and to be cool all at the same time. Therefore, everything around them they once accepted as a part of their life – their family, their home, the car they’re driven in, and more – becomes a potential for mortification. Thus, they become rude, thoughtless, and fight about the stupidest things. They hold on to their opinion out of sheer will – not just because they believe they’re right, but because they believe YOU’RE WRONG.

My daughter and I eventually did make up, just like usual. But this time, “I’m sorry” just seemed like such a forced thing to say. Instead, she silently apologized by quietly working alongside me as we cleaned up the kitchen. And I silently apologized with careful glances and small smiles. And when it was clear that the worst was over, I reached over and put my arms around her in a hug.

“I love you,” I whispered to her out of anyone else’s earshot.

“I love you too, Mom,” she told me, allowing herself to be hugged.

I’m told that it gets worse before it gets better. Let’s hope I survive this. Let’s hope she does too.

What was the worst part about Middle School for you? And how’s your kid doing with Middle School now?

P.S. I’m entered in the Circle of Moms contest for Top 25 Blogs on Single Parenting. I hope you’ll take a moment and vote for me by CLICKING HERE. You can vote every day until May 23rd, or just once if you want. I’d be honored for your vote, either way. Thank you!

When words are weapons

Sticks and stones might break my bones, but words will never hurt me. The childhood rhyme was one taught to us so that we wouldn’t take too literally what another kid was saying to us. And while we recited it, I think many of us can agree –

It’s a lie.

Words hurt, sometimes even more than sticks and stones ever could. While the wounds from a thrown rock will heal with time, some words penetrate so deeply they tend to leave lasting damage that has the power to strengthen that hurt over time. That is why some of us have eating disorders, why we choose the wrong partner to fall in love with, why we try to seek approval from our parents, or why we watch how we parent our own children so that we aren’t like our mothers or fathers.  Words can be weapons.

And the internet only makes this truer.

It is in this day and age when a big portion of our communication is done online. It’s convenient and instant, and it gets the word across in a much broader way than the old-fashioned method of calling people up on the phone and setting up a meeting time. It’s a great way to seek instant attention, to pretend like we have an audience hanging on our every word. And for those brief moments, there really is an audience. And that is probably what was going on in the mind of one Nevada 12 year old who created a group called “Attack a Teacher Day”, inviting more than 100 students to partake at certain time on a certain day, inspiring 5 other students to list the teachers they would like to attack with words like “die” in front of the specific teacher’s name.

Of course, it is plausible “Attack a Teacher Day” had just as much authenticity as other events that have been spread more worldwide thanks to social networking, events like “Pretend to be a Time Traveler Day” or “Talk like a Pirate Day”. Could it be that these girls created an event to pretend they would attack a teacher just for the amusement of themselves, and not to actually attack a teacher? Sure. But is it even more plausible that a group like this could incite attacks against this teacher, encouraging any student reading it to actually follow through and harm their teacher? I believe so – especially after reading this story of a third grader in Georgia who brought a knife to school, ultimately unfolding into a plot that involved several students who played roles in harming their teacher – complete with handcuffs, electric tape, a paper weight, and more.

“It seems the plan was hatched in retaliation after one of the students was scolded by the teacher for standing on a chair. Authorities were amazed at the sophistication of the plan, which included a division of roles. One of the students was to cover the windows so no one could see into the room. Another was assigned to clean up after the attack.” Saul Relative, AP

All this was done without the internet. So what of the danger in a more widespread plan of attack using the convenience of social networking and the permanency of words placed on the web?

Words have power. They have power when face to face, they have power over the phone, they have power when written in a letter, and they have power when scribed online for anyone to see. Words have the power to bring someone up, and they have power to tear someone down. They also have the power to create a mob mentality, blurring the lines between wrong and right, resulting in something like attacking – even killing – a teacher simply because they are disliked. Who knows what would have happened if authorities hadn’t stepped in….

Cyber bullying and permanent negativity on the internet does not just happen to kids across the state, or in another part of the country. It happens right here, in our own homes, on the computers of our teens. This is why I am Facebook friends with my children, why I consistently check in with them in regards to what they are doing online, and keep an eye on what they are writing. It’s not nosiness. It’s keeping them safe, and ensuring they learn how to use the internet properly. There have been times I’ve had to have conversations regarding things I’m not ok with. And the topic of how permanent words are on the internet has been a regular discussion in our household ever since either of them was allowed on the computer.

It should be a regular topic of discussion in your house too.

Words written with a negative or sarcastic tone could be read as something completely different – even dangerous. And when one writes out that they HATE someone or something, that they wish someone would DIE, or creates a group for fun that dictates harm or hate towards someone else, not only will it further that hate, it could create a potentially dangerous situation – even enticing a mob to react. And all things involved, those words can no longer be seen as harmless. When words are put together to form a HATE group stating the date and time when attacks should take place, those words are weapons.