Written by contributor Heather Bruggeman of Beauty That Moves
In the spring I shared a post with you about Middle School Resources and Materials. In that article I referenced Maria Montessori’s thoughts on the middle school years; how she viewed that fleeting time is best spent.
It generated quite a bit of interest – for many of you there was a very real modern day understanding of Ms. Montessori’s century old words.
For today, I thought we could dig a little deeper in that direction. Let’s bring the spirit of those Montessori ideas home, and think about the benefits and gifts an adolescent might experience when homeschooled.
For the purpose of this article, when referring to “middle school,” I am writing about seventh and eighth grade. There is a particular explosion of development during these years, and some people, like Maria Montessori, feel this age group is better off with an alternative experience to the status quo.
Perhaps a good way to start would be to consider the three areas that form the whole child.
1. The Body
Photo by bo.peep.baby
Aside from the years of infancy and early childhood, there is no other point in human development where greater physiological transformation takes place than during adolescence. Pair that with the added pressures from media, social expectations, and just plain trying to figure it all out; and you have a very challenging period to be human.
The body needs peace and breathing room during this time.
It certainly isn’t all bad, goodness no. Being a young teen is fun! With a fairly modest level of obligation in their lives, this age group is still eager and free to play, explore, read for hours, discover new music and interests, try out hobbies, meet new people, so many wonderful things.
But they need time and space. They need the gentle yet firm patience of a good, constant support system to find their way through it all. Who better to provide this than family?
Also, they need to move! Whether it be a fifteen minute dance break, a bike ride after lunch, or shooting hoops between science and math – the desire to engage the physical body does not end at age twelve. At home, there is plenty of time for such activity.
Let’s not forget about sleep. Boy do they need a lot of sleep! With no early school bus to catch, homeschoolers can sleep for a full and proper night’s rest.
It’s easier to keep kids well fed at home too. Growing homeschool teens can eat freely and often more nutritiously throughout the day.
Good rest, good food, physical activity, and breathing room; rather nice foundation to build the day on.
2. The Mind
I have yet to meet a person who’s innate graces surfaced while sitting at a hard desk taking a standardized test, or during three hours of homework following the completion of a six plus hour school day.
The goal should be to foster the mind and its natural love for learning, not extinguish it.
As homeschoolers, we have a 24/7 (so to speak) opportunity to notice the intellectual ques and clues our children give us. We have a heightened awareness of their mind’s direction. Throughout the day we look for and create moments that spark new terrain for them to explore.
Learning at home (or in the wide open world) affords us the freedom to tap into our children’s interests at most any given time of the day. We expose them to new ideas and experiences in order to help cultivate their minds and help them discover their passion.
And we follow their lead, a lot.
A teenager who has identified their passion, and has the opportunity to live out that passion, has far better chance at “succeeding,” or more importantly, feeling successful, than one who does not. It is rare to find a person who cares more about discovering a child’s interest than their own parents. Outside influences may care; parents usually care more.
3. The Spirit
Self-esteem, confidence, behavior, body image, new social territory, fitting in, gossip, peer pressure… the list goes on, doesn’t it? A person’s spirit, their true essence, is affected (perhaps permanently) by these things.
Homeschooling parents have greater awareness around what their children are exposed to, as well as more time in the day to discuss situations as they come up and reinforce your family’s beliefs and values in a safe, non-judgmental atmosphere.
The middle school years are a particularly vulnerable time for our kids. The adolescent brain is not the same as a fully developed adult brain. Teens make decisions differently, they feel things differently, and they are influenced differently. PBS ran a very interesting program called Inside the Teenage Brain that you can view online.
In many ways, these years are the turning of the tide. Homeschooling can be a wonderful way to keep the family close and our children feeling secure, well-nurtured, and healthy.
What do you feel are some of the benefits to homeschooling a middle schooler?