First and foremost, I just want to start by saying that I am not anyone special. I don’t have a long list of credentials or anything in particular that qualifies me in any of this. However, I do know that I was called by God; and when God calls us to something that is so much bigger than ourselves, He is always faithful to lead us and equip us. We just have to be willing to submit to Him and be obedient to His leading.
The first thing the Lord has laid upon my heart for this season, and I believe the most important thing, is our relationship with God and our willingness to surrender to Him. Matthew 6 tells us to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all things will be added to us. By ourselves we are not enough, and we do not know enough, but if we seek Him, He will teach us and lead us. In Proverbs, James, and many other places in Scripture we are told that if we will ask for wisdom, He will freely give it to us. We need to remember that we are His, these children are His, and our homeschools are His. There is no better person to seek direction from than the one who holds it all. Proverbs 3 tells us to trust in the Lord with all of our hearts, and not to lean on our own understanding. We need to let God lead.
Trusting in God and letting Him lead doesn’t mean that we go into each school year without a plan and hoping God will pull something together for us. Proverbs 16 tells us to commit our work to the Lord and our plans will be established. This means we make a plan, but we pray and let HIm lead us in each step of our planning. This also means that each day throughout the school year we are sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, and willing to make adjustments along the way; we have goals and plans, but we are willing to be flexible.
How do we practically grow our relationship with the Lord? It’s just like any relationship; we spend time with God getting to know Him. We do this by spending time in the Word, worship, and prayer. The more time we invest in Him, the better we will learn to recognize His voice. We will glean wisdom from His word and build a solid foundation, but we will also find the refreshment and refilling that we need to keep pouring from.
The second area I feel led to share about is academics. One of the biggest changes in academics in the middle school years is teaching independence. Middle schoolers need to learn to work independently and to work through struggles on their own. This doesn’t mean we send them out on their own to sink or swim! We just give them space to work through things on their own a bit, remaining available to help when truly needed. We also need to make sure to look over all work completed independently to make sure our children are understanding the concepts as well as actually completing the assignments. We need to be cautious of our mindsets in this season as well. It is very easy to assume that we are going to have extra time to get caught up on chores or projects since our kids are working independently, but we need to remember that they will still need help, and when they do, it will be more intense and time consuming than it was in the elementary years. If we are mentally prepared for this intensity, we will respond in much more loving and approachable ways to our children. This will eliminate a lot of unnecessary frustration on both ends.
Middle school is also a season for our children to start taking ownership of their education and building responsibility. We are no longer spoon-feeding them, but allowing them to make their education their own. We had a very solid foundation through our elementary years including a chronology of history. This has allowed us to really embrace interest-led learning. Middle schoolers have the freedom to delve into their interests. Because students are working more independently, there is freedom for each child to customize their areas of learning. We are also looking at identifying strengths and interests, and growing those areas. We should also watch for the areas that may be a little deficient and work on building those areas up. We can also begin adding in an elective or two. The freedom to choose and have a voice heard is a big deal for middle schoolers, and this is a great way to give them a voice.
We need to help our kids to develop organizational skills; both physical organization, as well as time management. We need to teach them to keep their books and supplies organized. This teaches them to respect their belongings, and also saves on time otherwise spent looking for things. Having an organized space also lowers stress for both our children and us as well. Learning to manage their time gives them ownership and also prepares them for their futures whether it’s college, a job, or managing their homes.
The middle school years can also be a bit like the preschool years, and do require some retraining. We mustn’t forget the basics! We need to lay out clear expectations for our children, as well as clearly defining what the consequences are for not meeting those expectations. We need to be consistent and follow through with consequences, but in a very loving way. When we see areas of improvement or good choices being made, we need to be sure to point those things out and give our children praise.
This naturally leads us to the third area of focus- their hearts. Sometimes doing heart work will be more important than doing the academic work. Our relationships with our children are key in this season. Middle schoolers are struggling with identity and feelings of belonging. We need to remind them of who they are in Christ and speak Truth over them. They need to know that they are valued. We can help them with this by involving them in decisions and embracing their ideas. We need to truly listen to them when they are speaking and not auto-pilot or brush them off. We need to remember to affirm them often. We also need to be willing to pursue them and meet them where they are at. This may mean we have to grow and take interest in the things they are interested in.
We need to make sure our relationships with our kids are strong in this season because we are going to have tough conversations come up. These conversations are often awkward and uncomfortable for all involved, but we need to be prepared to have them. This is not the season to act like certain things in our world don’t exist. We need to discuss these topics with our children and teach them not only what is right and wrong, but also the reasons why, and how to navigate making right choices. Our job is not to shelter our kids, but to walk through the hard things alongside them teaching and guiding them along the way. They need to learn to walk through all of the things of the world while they are home with us and under our guidance and protection.
While there are new freedoms that come with the middle school years, there are new challenges as well. We need to build strong foundations in our homes by investing in our relationship with the Lord. We need to submit it all to Him and let Him lead. We should help our middle schoolers learn to organize their belongings as well as their time. Let’s listen to their voices and allow them to make as many choices as possible in regards to what they are studying (interest-led learning). We can give them independence and ownership of their learning. As we focus on the hearts of our children, we can come alongside them and walk them through the hard things they face. We should be pouring out truth over them and doing our best to let them know they are loved and valued. Let us put on hearts of compassion and embrace the middle school years with our children.