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Junior high is a great time to get your child off to a great start. Don’t stress, the key to this stage is to focus on quality and not quantity. Actually, by focusing on just six easy areas, you can rest assured your child is ready to be successful in high school and beyond.
This method will prepare your student whether you’re coming from a lighter, unstructured approach in elementary school and early childhood or just beginning homeschooling from a brick and mortar classroom background. To create a well rounded middle school core just incorporate: foreign language, five paragraph essays, lab reports, math drills, drama, and social connections.

Foreign Language

Starting foreign language in junior high jump starts high school credits and make your child attractive to universities and open up additional scholarships when applying for colleges. Younger students picks up language vocabulary and structure easier than if they wait till high school. Foreign language credits in college can also be earned by CLEP or test out lightening the college class load and cost.
A fluent foreign language also increases chances of getting a competitive job when older. The experience of interacting in a foreign culture with a separate language is unparalleled. There are also strong health benefits to foreign language, including better cognitive abilities and slowing aging and memory loss.

5 Paragraph Essay

The most valuable principle of writing is the five paragraph essay format. This structure is simple enough to be grasped at a 6th grade level, yet versatile and adaptable to almost all college essay assignments. At a junior high level, all assignments should be simple and concrete. This will keep essays age appropriate and easy to write.
Teach a thesis as a statement related to your child’s interests. For example, ’Penguins are the strangest birds on earth’ or ‘Soccer is a very hard sport’. Once your child can give three reasons he believes this statement is true, he has the basic outline for his writing. Jensen’s Five Paragraph Essay book is an invaluable resource for teaching an excellent essay design. This will teach your student not only writing, but structured, reasoned thinking and communication.

Lab Science

STEM careers are both fashionable and practical, and junior high is not too early to begin encouraging exploration in this field. It’s important to strike a balance with unstructured, interest based study and academic rigor. Lab based science achieves this balance. A hands on curriculum is best, with minimal lectures and no textbooks. A library tour on each topic will suffice.
Activities can stimulate interest in each discipline. Consider introducing physics by building a trebuchet, biology through dissection, chemistry by pouring baking soda into a cup of vinegar. Afterwards, a formatted lab report should be prepared, a skill that will prepare your student for success in both high school and secondary education. For this age level, use structured outlines with pre-formatted purpose, method, results, and conclusion sections. Keep it simple and brief, allowing about 10-15 minutes to complete.

Math Drills

Math Drills. Simple enough. Your student cannot succeed on standardized tests without math, and speed is key on ACT. Junior high students should have mental math to score high on the standardized tests. This will also make more difficult math concepts easier to grasp. Percentages, fractions, and negative integers are much more understandable when mental addition, subtraction, and multiplication and division are fluent. Focusing on drills also gives the appropriate emphasis on this crucial subject. Not too much for the non mathematician but rigorous enough to support a potential STEM career.

Performance

One of the most valuable activities I did in junior high was participation in drama performances. Acting teaches an innumerable number of life skills and is fun at the same time.
Unexpectedly, I pulled from my drama experience more than any other subject. I realized I had learned techniques to control nerves, create presence, and connect with an audience. So much of both education and life presentation based, and the ability to present successfully doesn’t always come naturally. Must learn to control nervous habits, speak clearly, and maintain eye contact.
Acting teaches similar debate and speech in a subtler way.  A child can focus on a dynamic presentation without the stress of having to use their own words. Your child also will learn how to begin to manage pressure and stress as they prepare to perform onstage.

Friends

 A significant amount of time in junior high should be dedicated to setting up a healthy social structure. This is important in order to support your child’s good choices and morals as they mature. Peer pressure should not be underestimated, so it’s crucial that your child form deep relationships with good and trustworthy friends. This is even more challenging with the surging of influence social media has on friendships at this age.
Too much screen time in general can also change the nature of relationships that should be developed in person. The good news is that tech companies are aware of these dangers and struggles (computer developers and silicon valley families often opt for a technology free childhood) and are making child proof screen control apps available. Tools like these to structure and limit screen time will lead to lower social media mental health problems and improve the nature of friendships in real life.
Parents of junior high students are often tempted to stress about curriculum and subjects.  A simpler structure focusing on mainly these important points.  This approach leaves ample time for creativity, friendship, and still provides a strong base for high school and college. Pick a limited number of subjects to do hard core, music, math, and foreign language. If these get done everyday it will set the appropriate structure and learning routines for incredible success.
Are you looking for amazing junior high courses in your homeschool?  Check out our live, online courses at True North Homeschool Academy!
  Sarah Frederes is a homeschool graduate and a Dakota Corps Scholarship recipient, which allowed her to attend and graduate from college debt-free with a Summa Cum Laude and a BSN. She is the oldest of eleven children and has a love and passion for music, parrots, writing, gardening, and photography. You can find more of her writing and lovely photography on her personal blog All That is Gold.
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