Homeschooling junior high isn’t for wimps. If you are raising a middle school student, you might have this strange sense of deja vu. You feel like you’ve been through this stage before…but somehow a little different. They were shorter…less smelly (most of the time)…and talked less (or at least less clearly). Ok, maybe not quite. However, there are a lot of physical and mental changes that take place in toddlerhood that occur again at a different level in Jr High.
One of the big things that changes in middle school and toddlerhood is brain pruning. In this process, the brain “cleans out” extra connections that aren’t being used. This can cause some different behaviors to occur during this time. Sometimes kids seem to “not be in control” and make “bad decisions.” Part of this is expressing their ability to make decisions for themselves, and establish independence. Part of this is due to the brain pruning process going on in their brains (not an excuse for bad decisions by any means, but if we understand what is going on, as parents we can be better prepared for it).
What can we do to help our junior high child?
Lend them part of our “decision making brain” meaning give choices, but only ones that are acceptable to you.
Help keep sleep and meals as regular as possible. Just like a toddler needed a schedule, so does your middle schooler.
Pick your battles. If your child does better with school in the afternoon and gets their work done, let them work in the afternoon.
Riding the Emotional Rollercoaster with Your Junior High Homeschooler
Emotions can be very powerful. Naming emotions can be even more difficult, and yet give so much power to us. As a toddler, our children begin to discover they have emotions, and they can choose emotions. As middle schoolers, hormones begin to change how our emotions affect us. Being open to your middle schooler to come and talk to will help with this process. These are the years when your kids will start to build a different relationship with you. Foster that relationship. You still have to “parent,” but work to listen too.
Relationships and Your Junior High Homeschooler
As 3-year-olds, children tend to be all about “me.” MY feelings, MY toys, MY mommy/daddy/sister. They do not see the world outside of “ME.” As they mature into 4-year-olds, they begin to realize there are other people around them. Mommy and Daddy (and eventually siblings) have feelings and wants/needs too. They begin to realize they can do things to “help” others. They start wanting to do things to please others, and to receive praise and possibly rewards.
Middle schoolers go through this process again but on a bigger level. Elementary years are a lot about acceptance and building community (or at least that is what most elementary level schools are trying to do). Middle school changes a lot of that. Suddenly there is a world out there full of other people’s opinions about what you eat, wear, and how you wear your hair! It can be difficult to find your “place” during this phase of life. I’m reminded of my sister who became an “opinion shopper.” She would ask everyone their opinion on a decision she needed to make. Eventually, she would hear the opinion she wanted to hear and go with that one!
What can we do?
Allow for some self-expression.
Give choices that are acceptable to you and allow your child to become more independent.
Be there to listen when needed – without judging.
Still set boundaries and “parent” when necessary.
Make mistakes in front of your kids – and OWN THEM! Our kids need to know no one is perfect. Especially in Jr High, when they are trying so hard to be “grown up” and independent!
Growing and Changing Bodies
I hear a lot about middle school students/high school students and SLEEP. Up all night. Sleep all day. Don’t shower until noon. Eat everything in sight. Sounds a lot like my toddler. As kids enter the Jr High years, they often enter into growth spurts. The body needs sleep for growth, moving information from short-term to long-term memory, and for all the hormone changes. Stress can bring about a lack of sleep. Stress from the changing social relationships and dynamics mentioned above can create a lack of sleep.
At two distinct times in our child’s lives, we feel like we go through clothing sizes like tissues. When they are toddlers and when they are teens (especially boys). For me, personally, I stopped growing when I entered middle school, at least in height. But I grew in other ways that made clothing more challenging. This German/Irish mama has always had curves, and in Jr High, this was a challenge!! (Especially when it seemed most other girls did not yet!) Finding clothes that fit right, and fit in with the crowds can be challenging for middle school students.
Even if you use “second hand” clothes, find a way for your child to be able to pick some key pieces of clothing that are “just theirs.”
Find ways for your child to express themselves through clothing in appropriate ways if this is important to them.
Purchase clothes that fit comfortably (consider body type and sensory issues).
Find a schedule that works for them – and work to stick with it!
Find time to talk and connect – this can help with the stress they are experiencing.
Teach about changing hygiene needs, and be sensitive to when their bodies change. Everyone changes on a different schedule.
Look for “samples” to try out different hygiene products to find the one your child likes best. Different products work better for certain body types, and sensitivities can arise over time.
Homeschooling during the Jr. High years can be tricky, as you child questions your authority and understanding of my materials. Now is a perfect time to outsource some classes, resource your students growing interests and try new things together, be that food, places or experiences. The typical course of study is a great guide to begin with.
Though the Jr High years can be challenging, they too will pass. Your child is transitioning from dependency to mature interdependency, from little to big. As with all transitions, it can be a tricky time to navigate, but take heart! Like toddlerhood, the Jr High years don’t last forever!
Updates and edits by Gina Glenn. Video, audio, and downloads by Lisa Nehring of True North Homeschool Academy.
Original article written by:
Amy Vickrey, MSE is a mother of a seven-year-old and almost three-year-old. Her homeschool journey began over 20 years ago when she saw how homeschooling enabled her sister who had memory issues and fell through the crack at school, to graduate and go to college. Amy knew then she wanted to implement what she saw – the love and individual attention – into her own teaching. She now homeschools her two boys and loves every minute of it! Having completed the second year of their homeschool journey, she is looking forward to many more to come!
Amy holds a Masters of Science in Education, Specializing in Curriculum and Instruction, from the University of Central Missouri and a Bachelors of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies from Texas State University-San Marcos. Also, she spent 2 years of college studying Interpretation for the Deaf and Deaf Studies and knows American Sign Language. Her teaching certifications include Special Education, English as a Second Language and Generalist (early childhood through fourth). She is now part of the Struggling Learners Department of True North Homeschool Academy and loves the discovery approach to learning. Teaching children how to learn will help them reach their goals and dreams.
Amy Vickrey states, “My passion for learning and being a lifelong learner is something I want to pass on to the children I teach, as well as my own children. Making learning fun and engaging is an important part of this process. My goal is to lift others up to help them achieve their own goals and dreams.” Find out more about Amy and the classes she teaches here.
February is often thought about as the month of love, romance and relationships. And while, as parents, none of us want to think that our kids might be involved in porn, if they have access to the world wide web, they are being targeted to view porn. And just because this month is all about love and romance, it’s a great time to talk about teaching our kids the difference between real love, Biblical love, sacrificial love, and poor substitutes that will rob them of their dignity and morality.
Create a Safe Place for Kids Who Struggle with Porn
Why bring up such a touchy and maybe even painful subject? Because love does not exploit others, it is sacrificial and good. And if we are raising our kids to be the kind of people who follow 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8a, we must talk to our kids about pornography and teach them how to hide their hearts, minds, and souls from this devious parasite. We must also create accountability and safe people and places to go if they struggle with porn.
Love suffers long and is kind; itdoes not envy; love does not parade itself, is not [a]puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. ~1 Corinthians 13: 4-8a
Nearly 27% of teens receive sexts and emails and around 15% are sending them.
57% of teens search out porn at least monthly
51% of male students and 32% of female students first viewed porn before their teenage years.
The first exposure to pornography among men is 12 years old, on average.
71% of teens hide online behavior from their parents.
A 2016 study on Canadian adolescents showed that 45.3% admitted to problems in erectile dysfunction.
US youths (ages 14-18) exposed to pornography: 84:4% of males and 57% of females
You might also be shocked at the types of pornography teens are viewing:
83% of boys and 57% of girls have seen group sex online
69% of boys and 55 % of girls have seen same-sex intercourse online
39% of boys and 23% of girls have seen sexual bondage online
32% of boys nad 18% of girls have seen bestiality on line
18% of boys nad 10% of girls have seen rape or sexual violence online
15% of boys and 9% of girls have seen child pornography online
And according to Enough.org, “Extreme content is the new norm. Soft porn has disappeared. In 2010 the journal Violence Against Women reported physical aggression in 88.2% of leading pornography scenes and verbal aggression in 48.7%, with 94.4% of the aggression directed towards women and girls. A February 2018 headline in Esquire Magazine read, “Incest is the Fastest Growing Trend in Porn.”And according to Enough.org, “Extreme content is the new norm. Soft porn has disappeared. In 2010 the journal Violence Against Women reported physical aggression in 88.2% of leading pornography scenes and verbal aggression in 48.7%, with 94.4% of the aggression directed towards women and girls. A February 2018 headline in Esquire Magazine read, “Incest is the Fastest Growing Trend in Porn.”
What are the effects of Pornography?
Studies have shown that kids who viewed pornography for hours each week have less gray matter in their brains than those who did not view it.
Youth that view pornography once a month or more are at a greater risk of developing:
Sexually permissive attitudes
Preoccupation with sex
Inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality
Unrealistic ideas about sexual relationships
Insecurities about body images in females and insecurities about sexual performance in males.
Furthermore, the long-term effects of porn on relationships include abuse and divorce.
Guide Your Children Well
I think we can all agree that porn is a problem. What are we supposed to do about it, short of getting rid of all electronic devices in our home? We need to start by talking to our kids about sex and pornography. Kids under ten targeted for porn is a growing issue, so don’t think that waiting until they’re in high school is a good idea. Expect that by age 12, your kids have been exposed to porn. After you have an initial age-appropriate talk with your kids about porn, develop regular check-in times where you ask open-ended questions. Give your kids time to respond, and create an ongoing conversation with them about sexuality and porn. Look, consider who they’ll talk to about sex, if not you. Again, you are their God-ordained guide.
Talk about sexuality within the context of family and marriage. Define for your kids what healthy, normal, Biblical relationships are and what normal and healthy exchanges of affection are between husband and wife and others.
Straightforwardly talk about sex. Get comfortable with correct terminology and be prepared for awkward questions. Your kids are exposed to global culture, and you are their best guide.
Talk to your kids about what they may encounter online. Let them know that it might be scary or uncomfortable but assure them that they can always come to you and tell you about it. Let them know that others might try to share pornography with them but that they can always come to you and that they should not be embarrassed or ashamed to go and talk to a parent about this.
Trust Your Faith to Direct Your Conversations
Share age-appropriate material with your kids about sex.
Talk with your kids about the difference between porn and real sex. Let them know that porn is fantasy, bodies are altered, staged a certain way, and not private, but carefully curated to market well. Pornography is also ultimately selfish as it is only about satisfying one person -the viewer. Real sex requires good communication, humility and transparency and can be awkward and beautiful as a married couple negotiates their sexual relationship. Marital sex requires thinking about someone besides just yourself.
Talk about consent and personal boundaries. Porn can be violent and can quickly normalize non-consensual behavior. It fuels sex trafficking and enslaves both the people working in the sex industry and viewers. It exploits the weak to feed a billion-dollar “industry.”
Normalize sexual arousal and put it within the context of being created by a loving and creative God, within Christian marriage, and within the context of stewarding one’s heart, mind, and soul for a future spouse. Pornography can easily be likened to having a virtual affair with one’s now or future spouse. This view is not a guilt trip. This is a reality check. Sexuality within marriage is about accountability and covenant.
The Bible is Clear
The Bible is clear about how we are to approach sexuality as followers of a Living God in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
All things are lawful for me, but all things are not [helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power.
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.
Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body [c]and in your spirit, which are God’s.
Prepare for Awkward Conversations with Your Kids About Porn
While talking to our kids about porn might be awkward and uncomfortable, we must let them know that we are willing to have awkward conversations and can handle the awkwardness. It’s a challenging topic to confront but a necessary one for the sake of their hearts and minds.
For many people, it seems like life has two options: achieving goals and enjoying life. Neither one of them seems as if they are one hundred percent fulfilled. There seems to be a broad spectrum on the scale of go-getters and over-achievers to those who slack in all departments.
How many times have you heard your student saying they don’t have enough time or they are overwhelmed with all the things? For so many homeschool families, the demands of work, career, education, family, and homeownership seem overwhelming. All while striving to teach our families how to achieve goals and enjoy life in a balanced manner.
Avoid the Overwhelm
Do you wish you had someone to partner with you in helping your teens learn to achieve goals and enjoy a balanced life?
We are doing that for you with the Life Skills 101 course offered at True North Homeschool Academy! Your students will learn how to prioritize life, learn how to set and achieve goals, and sharpen skills for living life on their own as an adult. In this full-year course, four broad areas are covered in depth. They include:
Setting & Achieving Goals
Managing Life Areas
Throughout the course, students will learn how to navigate these various areas as they prepare for launching into the next phase of life.
If you think about life being balanced, you might envision a seesaw in the position of being directly balanced in the middle with no ups, no downs, and simply managing to stay in the middle ground.
What does it mean to be in balance, if life has its difficulties? When you are in balance, you maintain your equilibrium while life’s ups and downs come to visit. Of course, you go through the various emotions as circumstances both good and not so good work their way through life.
Being in balance means intentionally, no matter how hard it is, choosing how you will show up under any given circumstance.
Do your teens need to learn how to achieve balance? In Life Skills 101, we will discuss ways to:
Take inventory of the various areas of life.
Create and implement a plan for finding and keeping life in balance.
Create action steps to help bring things back into balance when things get challenging.
Sometimes, the unexpected can throw you off. In Life Skills 101 we teach how to hit the reset button when life throws you a curve and knocks you off balance.
Setting & Achieving Goals
Does your student want to author a book, be a young entrepreneur, or simply get to appointments on time and have a clean room? Learning how to break large goals down into manageable tasks is at the core of the Life Skills 1010 curriculum. From identifying a dream or aspiration to making a plan to achieve it, this class allows the student to take the time to dream, research, investigate and plan for the future.
It’s like a snowball effect. We will focus on how to start small and continue rolling that snowball down the hill. Before they know it, your kids will have a boulder of success coming their way!
Managing Life Areas
Teaching teens to manage all the things of life is a full-time job! Letting go and letting them step into managing their own lives, can bring a sense of panic to every homeschool mom. The Life Skills 101 course partners with families to teach teens how to live a whole, full, and complete life. Learning to break your life down into categories and then addressing each. This creates a launch pad into adulthood that your teen can return as they expand the skills and confidence on living life successfully. Throughout the full-year course, students will learn what it takes to become independent and manage these aspects of daily life.
Cleaning & Organizing
Food shopping & meal planning
Budgeting & personal finances
Resume, cover letter, and interview skills
At the end of the day, so many life skills are achieved by learning solid time management. Students learn how to identify the most important tasks and how to say no to time-wasting activities, or behaviors. Students will sharpen their skills in:
Balancing work and play
Throughout the course students will use a variety of technology and digital tools to create projects, turn in assignments and find the best tools to help them successfully navigate life in a digital environment.
Life Skills for a Successful Launch into Adulthood.
There are many challenges each of our kids will have to face. Let’s help them learn how to achieve goals, fulfill dreams, and live a life they love. Find more information about Life Skills 101 here.
A Typical Course of Study can help you develop a strong plan for homeschooling Junior High School. It can define your purpose in what can feel like an academic no-man’s land! Students are no longer children but are definitely not yet the young adults they will be in high school. Their bodies are changing rapidly, and they can’t even keep up with themselves, preferring to sleep and eat over many other options. Some people want to skip the Jr. High years, pretending it’s just all a bad dream. But these years, though challenging, can be rich academically and set the tone for future high school and adult success!
How Do Tests Help?
Jr. High is typically the time when undiagnosed learning disabilities or processing disorders come to the fore, and getting a good standardized test done now, as a benchmark of student’s ability by grade level, can be really helpful. If you suspect a disability or processing disorder, check out resources such as our Advising. Help is available, though you may have to search for tools. SPED Advising (like ours at True North Homeschool Academy) can save you hours, thousands of dollars, and tears of frustration!
If your student is weak in any of the basics, such as English or Maths, you will want to shore those weaknesses up; particularly reading comprehension and speed and Math literacy, including being strong in the four math functions- addition and subtraction multiplication, and division.
What to Focus on in Junior High
a typical course of study for Jr High School will focus on the Core 4 subjects and then add in Electives and Extra-curricular activities.
Jr. High is typically 7th and 8th grade. You’ll want to focus on the Core Four and build from there:
English – make sure your student has the mechanics of writing down. Can they write simple sentences, a paragraph, and a three paragraph paper on an assigned topic? Students should be able to write a clear, well-organized simple essay by the end of the 8th. They should understand basic grammar and spelling and be building their vocabulary through more difficult reading.
Math – Solidify what they know about math functions, particularly multiplication, division, fractions, decimals, and percentages. Students should begin moving into pre-Algebra/Algebra at the end of Jr High.
Science – Students should have a basic foundation in nature studies. Jr. High Science will give them a broad overview of Biology, Chemistry and Physics, Earth & Space, Physical Science, and an introduction to Lab Reports. They should know the Scientific Method.
History- students should have a broad sweeping overview of History, with some details about the Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance, and the Modern World and an understanding of U.S. History. A basic timeline is a great idea. Be certain they have a basic understanding of Geography.
Electives and Extra-curriculars
Foreign Language: Jr. High is a great time to introduce a Foreign language if you haven’t already! Latin is a perfect language to start with. It will solidify English grammar basics, build English vocabulary (15000 English words are Latin derivatives), and give them a fun code to crack. Latin also has many moving parts, so it is a good critical thinking skill as your teen learns executive functioning skills. Spanish, Chinese, German, French, and Hebrew are also great ways to hone skills, and students can earn High School Credit while still in Jr. High!
Logic: Face it, most tweens live to argue, and they are not very good at it. Teach them logic and reveal that they’ll be able to recognize fallacies and form logical arguments. Good writers are good thinkers, and this will hone their English skills And math is symbolic logic, which will hone their math skills. Informal Logic is a perfect study for developing tween brains.
Physical Education: ½ credit each year. Regular exercise will help regulate your teen’s emotions, energy to argue, and food intake. Check out our fun Dance at the Movies course, where students will gain skills, earn PE credits and learn to appreciate the beauty of dance.
Music: A general overview of music, including Music Theory, voice, or instrument lessons, will enrich their homeschool program (and their lives!).
Art/Humanities: Give them a general understanding of Form and Color, Photography, Photoshop, etc.
Bible/Apologetics: Students should have a solid overview of the Old and New Testaments and a foundation of Apologetics; an understanding of how to defend their faith.
Computer: Basic Computer Information Systems, Powerpoint, Video Editing, Internet Safety, and Accountability; I highly recommend parents read Glow Kids and make informed decisions about what their students have access to via phones and the internet!
Health- Should include general hygiene and safety, including managing and handling their phones/ internet usage.
Electivesfor Jr High should be diverse and introduce students to a wide range of opportunities and challenges. In Jr. High students are moving from experience to interest to strategy if their interest is something that they want to pursue and have a clear drive to invest in.
Community Service is a great way to get Tweens to think beyond themselves and understand and support others’ needs.
Books: Of course, make time for reading great literature will expand your student’s horizons, build their vocabulary and help them empathize with others.
Want to know more about credits, transcripts, and standardized tests?
It’s a great time to be homeschooling, and the options for Jr. High School Homeschooling are better than ever! Check out our live online dynamic, interactive classes taught within an international community by world-class teachers! Students interact and work together- we believe excellent education takes place within a community!