Junior High is looming and you are 1 part excited and 2 parts scared. Your delightful little is now a lanky, gawky and possibly awkward teen. But, never fear, this is a wonderfully, exciting time in a young person’s life to homeschool as they move from child to young adulthood! Today we have gathered 12 tips to focus on during those junior high years.
Junior High Tip #1 – Stress Management
The first tip is to teach your almost junior high kiddos some simple stress & anxiety management skills. These skills can include mindfulness, deep breathing and working out regularly. Working out can reduce normal tween drama and tension. Physically tired tweens are usually happier and more agreeable tweens!
Study skills are an important part of junior high life. Skills like how to memorize, take notes, take a test, read a map and organize will yield results throughout your kiddos life. Reading independently and out loud together is a wonderful way to engage with each other and academic material.
Junior High Tip #4 – Strengthen Weaknesses
During junior high, it is important to strengthen weaknesses in any academic areas like reading, writing, spelling or math computation. Don’t overlook strengthening soft skills /executive functioning skills like manners, communication, teamwork, time and distraction management skills. Now is the time to identify processing disorders or learning disabilities and really hone in on strengthening overall academic skills and abilities.
Junior High Tip #5 – Successful Communication Skills
Students should have basic writing skills like how to write a solid sentence, paragraph and 3-paragraph report so that they can successfully move into a 5-paragraph essay. Students should be able to give short 2-3-minute presentations with the goal to move into longer speech or dramatic presentations and performances.
Junior High Tip #6 Foreign Languages and Travel
Junior High is the perfect time to learn about different cultures and people groups through foreign language studies and travel, which broadens one’s perspective on many levels. You can also check out the great live, online foreign language classes from True North Homeschool Academy.
Junior High Tip #7 – Extracurriculars
One great idea for junior high is to seek out extracurriculars that are of interest and also challenging. Many students by this age have developed interests in areas such as art, music or sports. Junior high is the perfect time to dive a bit deeper, enter contests and find mentors that will push them to the next level of engagement.
Junior High Tip #8 – Choose Challenging Courses
Jr. High kids should be engaged in areas of study that push them beyond their abilities, cause them to experience new things, grow and develop. Angela Duckworth, author of “Grit” suggests that kids should commit to Grit Goals regularly.
Junior High Tip #9 – Self Directed
Begin thinking ahead to what you want to do and focus on in high school and beyond, begin career exploration and even development. Kids should begin taking initiative and responsibility in Jr High – some will do so more naturally than others.
Junior High Tip #10 – Career Exploration
It’s never too early to start exploring career options. Find professionals for your junior high student to interview and shadow as they go about their workday. Offer career exploration classes that allow one’s scope to be broadened about the plethora of jobs available.
(Did you know that we offer self-paced career exploration courses at True North Homeschool Academy? Check them out here!)
Junior High Tip #11 – Service Hours
Now is the time for your junior high student to get involved in Community Service. This gives kids a great perspective, develops gratitude, and might even open up internships and job or career opportunities and possibilities.
Junior High Tip #12 – Navigating Technology
When you give your kid a cell phone make time to sit down and talk about the responsibilities, dangers, and opportunities that come with it. Put controls on the cell phone and make sure that you can track where your kids go for accountability. Talk to your kids about integrity and how they should be the same person online as they are in real life. It’s also a good time to teach your child how effective communication in the digital age.
Last and not least, have fun! Junior high can be serious business, but it’s a delightful time as you watch your kiddo move from dependent child to burgeoning adult. If you are looking for an amazing program for your Junior High student check out our courses at True North Homeschool Academy!
Regardless of how over or underprepared you might feel for a standardized test, bring it up amongst homeschoolers, and you are sure to elicit strong opinions! I would propose that standardized testing, while not the only standard of measure, can provide some excellent benefits to students and parents, not the least of which is scholarship money for colleges and universities! So what are some benefits of standardized testing?
Identify Strengths and Weaknesses
First, early test taking can identify strengths and shore up areas of weakness by giving parents the information they need to adequately resource their kids. Early intervention can save both parents and kids years of heart-ache, as resources abound for learning disabilities, processing disorders, and gifted students.
A standardized test teaches student’s prioritization, not only in learning material but in test-taking strategies. While every standardized test is different, there are specific test-taking strategies that will benefit test takers across the board. Students who can triage and prioritize test information well will score better – not only on the test but in so many other situations as well!
As students practice tests that they are initially unfamiliar with, they will gain an understanding of what the test is asking for and the strategies required for it. They will also build fluency, speed, and accuracy if the test is approached with intention. Most tests have a test-taking strategy and learning to understand the particular strategy of the test will allow students to successfully take the test. For instance, memorizing instructions on the sub-sections of the ACT/ SAT will enable students to save time when they get to those sections. Test-taking wisdom decrees a limit of three times for the test taker to understand the test.
Reduce Test Anxiety
Practicing the skill of test-taking reduces test anxiety, allowing the student to score better. What exactly is test anxiety? It is a feeling of agitation or distress that negatively impacts a student’s ability to perform well on tests. While some stress may be normal, when approaching a standardized test, keeping the test taker alert. Too much test anxiety can cause physical or emotional distress and perhaps even concentration difficulties, negatively affecting the test takers ability to perform well.
Students with test anxiety will do better if they don’t go into the test cold. Familiarity and test strategies will ease the test takers anxiety, allowing them to score better overall. Not only that but mastering one’s fear in one area will resource students with the information they need to master anxiety in other situations as well.
Test results can result in Opportunities & Scholarship Money
Even 1 point higher on the ACT can result in up to $5,000 more per year in awarded tuition from the awarding school. Some schools will take the highest composite score of all tests taken, which can result in thousands of additional dollars granted. Mark Skoskiewica, founder of MyGuru explains how just 1 or 2 points higher in an individual area can result in thousands of dollars more in scholarship money. However, students should begin testing earlier than their spring of 11th grade or fall of 12th grade to have plenty of time to increase their test scores.
Did you know that True North Homeschool Academy offers a standardized testing program?
What’s so great about our program? First, it is a reliable, valid test that will meet state testing requirement guidelines. It will allow your student to take the test in the privacy of their own home. The test is also private and secure (no data mining- your student will not be tracked!) and allows them to take the test more than once during the testing cycle. Check out the Performance Series test today!
The Map to Everywhere series (four books), by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis; Two children along with their magical friends go on adventures together to find the pieces to the Map to Everywhere so they can save people they love. Fantasy. Four stars (the third book has a less than satisfying ending in my opinion).
The Wingfeather Saga, by Andrew Peterson; Chronicles of Narnia/Lord of the Rings genre. Five Stars. It is a wonderfully whimsical adventure with spectacular characters and some deep underlying themes.
“The Moffats.”, by Eleanor Estes; Four stars. An older book, this hilarious story is a laugh a minute, following the lives of the unforgettable Moffat family. I would recommend this for a younger audience (ages 7-12).
All the wrong questions Lemony Snicket, five stars,
The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm, by Christopher Paolini; Fantasy. 4.5 stars. A wonderful addition to the Inheritance Cycle! It follows the further adventures of a dragon rider named Eragon, as he and Saphira work to establish a new home for dragons and riders alike.
Story Thieves, by James Riley, five stars
The Wings of Fire series, by Tui T. Sutherland. You will laugh and cry! Five stars.
Fiction Book Recommendations
Middle School: The Worst Years of my Life, by James Patterson. Five stars.
Peanut Butter Friends in a Chop Suey World. A look at the world of mission work and cross-cultural experiences.
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins; Not great fiction, Three stars. I have often wondered why people liked this movie/book series, especially after my brother praised it rather highly (he has since repented of his blunders) and so in a quest to become educated in the world of literature, I began my quest by reading The first hunger games. I was rather disappointed, and half way through the second book, I was forced to put the book down. The main reason was it was rather gruesome, and gory, (not to mention multiple nude references) not only that but I felt rather ‘bummed’ after reading it because there doesn’t seem to be any authoritative hope, or redemption at the end. (plus it was just plain SAD!) The first book was tolerable, but I did not like the second one at all.
Beauty, by Robin McKinley, five stars. This is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Excellent vocabulary and unique storytelling.The Outlaws of Sherwood, by Robin McKinley, five stars. This is a retelling of Robin Hood. Good character development and suspense.
Pictures of Hollis Woods, by Patricia Reilly Giff. This is a relatively short book about a girl in foster care, trying to find a family. It’s very picturesque and descriptive, and Giff has a unique way of getting into her character’s personalities. Fictional. Five stars.
Winnie the Horse Gentler, by Dandi Daley Mackall A fun story about horses and a young girl who must learn to live without her Mom. 5 Stars
The Imagination Station Series by Focus on the Family. For fans of FoF Imagination station and want more than just the radio drama. 5 Stars
Mystery Book Recommendations
Mr. Lemoncello’s Library series (three books in the series), by Chris Grabenstein; Kids get placed in a library and have to solve riddles and puzzles to escape. Five stars.
Chasing Vermeer, by Blue Balliett; Fun and thought-provoking. Two kids go on an adventure to save a missing painting. In the illustrations, there is a puzzle that’s really fun to solve.
The Prisoner of the Pyrenees by C. R. Hegecock in her amazing Baker Family Adventures series. This book is part of my very favorite series. This series is a wonderful group of books, full of excitement, wonderful truths, and awesome mystery. Not to mention the great characters, settings, and plots. You could tear up on this one!
The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart; Mystery/fiction. 5 stars.
Historical Fiction Book Recommendations
Listen to the Moon, by Michael Morpurgo; A boy and his father find a young girl who cannot speak on an island near their home. They try to figure out where she came from and what happened to her. Historical fiction (set in 1915). Four stars (it’s kinda sad).
Projekt 1065, by Alan Gratz; Historical Fiction. 5+ stars. This is a fantastic book! It follows the story of an Irish teen who joins the Hitler Youth- as a spy.
The Chronicles of Alice and Ivy, Self-published. Five stars. If you’re looking for a good historical fiction series, this series is the place to go to. The characters are amazing, and the plots keep you wanting to read on.
Amos Fortune Free Man, by Elin Yates, five stars
Little Britches, by Ralph Moody. Autobiography. 5 stars! We read this one out loud, and everyone was next to, (if not in the midst of) tears at the end! It’s a biography about a boy, (Ralph Moody himself) as he grows from a boy, into a young man. It also portrays, in a very, very beautiful, realistic, touching, and even humorous aspects of family, and everything that goes with it; including love, joy, sorrow, and pain. One of the best books I have ever read! (it is actually apart of a series, but I haven’t read any of the other ones.) It also portrays the times very well, and is a great family read aloud!
The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak; historical fiction. Will make you cry (a LOT!) and laugh . . but not as much as you will cry. 5 stars! Another one of the greats! A very, very creative, thoughtful, and interesting perspective on not only WWII, but also on regular life. It is for sure one of the best books I have ever read. Though, just a heads up, I wouldn’t allow anyone below the age of 12, maybe even 13 to read it, due to some swearing, and rather complicated concepts. Told from a unique perspective you follow the interesting life of Liesel Meminger. WARNING! You will probably cry at the end . . . HARD!
Miracles on Maple Hill, by Virginia Sorensen; 4 stars. Simple, and sweet. A story about family, and the beautiful countryside, plus all of the awesome miracles that come with both! (though, I gotta disagree with the author that winter is a nice time of year. Where I live, it’s the blue-fingered time of year).
Operation morning star by Dorothy LIlja Harrison. A brother and sister must travel across war-torn Germany to reach their father before he sails for America. 5 stars.
Gothic Fiction Book Recommendations
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë; Gothic Fiction. An excellent read- grab your tissues! 4 stars. Made her cry.
Thriller Book Recommendations
The Cooper Kids Adventure series, by Frank E. Peretti. Mystery/adventure/action. Five stars. A great book series for children and teens alike who are looking for thrilling reads that are clean.
Non-Fiction Book Recommendations
He’s Making Diamonds, by S. G. Willoughby. Non-fiction. Five stars. A non-fiction that is applicable to many in their life. It’s super encouraging with very very good truths and illustrations.
The Elements of Style, by William Strunk; Four stars. Writing\grammar. A great start to the confusing world of writing style. It covers everything from punctuation to format.
Romance Book Recommendations
The Thief, the Damsel and the Dragon by Angela R Watts; Self-published. Romance/contemporary fiction. five stars. A unique romance with a very intriguing plot.
This booklist was compiled by our Writing Club for AWesome People! We meet bi-monthly and have a blast talking good books and great writing! Next year we’ll also be offering Jr. High Writing Club!
(The following post is a review written by Gabriella Micheel, a student in True North Homeschool Academy’s Writing Club.)
“Iron sharpens iron, and so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17.
This bible verse clearly identifies that we can benefit from working with others to improve our skills. In Writing Club, hosted by Lisa Nehring and True North Academy, I have found a group of friends all interested in writing, and we help one another grow in skill.
Everyone agrees that to improve one’s writing, one must write. Some people believe they need accountability and support to grow as a writer, some people do not believe they need accountability and support to grow as a writer. Aspiring writers should join writing club is because Writing Club provides writing prompts, it is an opportunity to share book recommendations, and is a forum to share writing.
Twice a month, on Friday mornings, a group of middle and high school students join together in a ninety-minute online video (Zoom) conference, led by Mrs. Nehring. We are able to talk back and forth, read and listen, and even break out into small groups. It is like we are in the same room, but we get the fun of meeting other kids from all over the country.
At the beginning of the semester, Mrs. Nehring had us set writing goals for our year, and we share our goals and progress with one another. We have each other’s email addresses, so we can share work outside of club time, and get feedback on whatever we are working on, whenever we need it.
The first reason aspiring writers should join Writing Club is that we are provided writing prompts.
The writing prompts we are given are words, phrases, or a place. These simple prompts are helpful to getting the creative juices flowing. Often it is surprising, even to yourself, how much you can write in the short amount of time you have for this activity. Since these prompts are usually things not typically thought of as a subject to write about, they help to push people out of their comfort zone. For most people, writing on the spot is a new experience, which means that it can produce new growth and fun results.
The second reason aspiring writers should join Writing Club is the opportunity to share book recommendations.
Good writers are good readers, and finding good books to read is a gift. Knowing how to summarize the basic story of a book without spoiling the ending is a worthy skill not often taught. Sharing books you’ve enjoyed is fun so that you can have people to discuss them with.
The third reason aspiring writers should join Writing Club is to have a forum to share writing.
Good writers write. The gentle accountability Writing Club provides to write on a frequent basis makes all the difference in how much writing one produces. Getting critiques and feedback from other writers is very helpful to improve your writing. Sharing your own work can be intimidating, but everyone in writing club is encouraging to their fellow writers and has great feedback. Kindly giving valuable critiques is a good skill to learn too, so that you can help people to improve without making them feel bad. Hearing others writing can spark inspiration and its always fun to hear others creativity.
Some people might not think they need accountability, they argue that they can write whenever they feel like it, or can only write when they feel creative. However, writing simply whenever they feel like it probably isn’t often enough to improve, and it is tough to improve on something you don’t do on a regular basis. Accountability doesn’t have to be scary, it can be gentle as well.
Another reason people may not join Writing Club is that they prefer to work alone, and don’t want someone else to critique their work. Learning to take constructive criticism and share one’s work are important steps in growing as a writer and as a person. This experience will certainly make one a better writer.
Aspiring writers should join Writing Club for three reasons: Writing Club provides writing prompts, an opportunity to share book recommendations, and a forum to share writing. Young writers should care about joining writing club because it will help to encourage them in their talent, make them more confident in sharing their work with others, and help them to write more from seeing everyone else’s work.
Gabriella (Gabi) Micheel is a thirteen-year-old writer, artist, singer, Hufflepuff, Christian, bookworm, and learner. She lives in South Dakota with her parents, younger brother, and dog. In addition to Writing Club, Gabi enjoys book club, handbell and vocal choir, painting, drawing, softball, and hanging out with her friends. Historical fiction is her favorite book genre, since you can learn about historical events from a personal perspective, while still reading fiction. If you want to see her art, you can follow her Instagram account (@Kira_Rose142).
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
I was asked this week what my favorite books on homeschooling were. Hard to pick, but my top favs are probably Jesse and Susan Wise Bauer’s The Well Trained Mind, Marva Collins, The Marva Collins Way, Rafe Esquith’s Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire but there are so many more.
So I did y’all the favor of making my comprehensive list of Books that every Homeschooler should read.
Most of the authors listed also have websites, resources, podcasts, and online stores. They all have something to add to your life as an educator. Dig in. Enjoy!
Sonlight Curriculum– Literature and Bible-based teaching are a powerful combination.
Above Rubies– Establish a legacy. Gentle Spirit– What do you have in your hand? Understand, establish and work with the seasons of life.
Sally Clarkson- Sympathize with the heart of your child.
Montessori– Kids are not mini-adults. Ages and stages, uninterrupted blocks of time to focus, discovery model Mary Pride– The hand that rocks the cradle, rocks the world. Hugh Ross– Science and Theology are beautiful bed-fellows. Intellect and faith go hand in hand. Usborne books– The power of graphics; thinking skills made fun. Marilyn Howshall– Lifestyle of learning. Get one. Classical Conversations– Train the brain to retain; grammar, dialectic and rhetoric stages. Logos Academy/ Doug Wilson– The power of doctrine; living according to a clarion call; cclassical ed. TeenPact– Age doesn’t matter in your ability to do great things for God. There is something unique about where you live right now. What/how does God want you to know/do about it? Greg Harris– Establish your kids vocationally; do hard things; live out-loud. Diana Waring– Joy in the journey, laugh out loud. Greenleaf Press Press– 4 year history cycle, academic excellence. Jim Weiss- The power of story-telling Andrew Pudewa– Power of language; find the expert; give the kids as much help as they need; distill the difficult into simple. Master teachers and excellent curriculum rock. Robinson Curriculum– Different seasons demand different methodologies; stick with the vision and make the curriculum work for you. The basics ware gonna get you through the night, baby. Timberdoodle– Toys with a purpose; imaginative, active play; the discovery of the world through art, building, creation. Cindy Rushon– Notebooking; journaling with an academic purpose. Apologia– Textbook as lecture.
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