First, I have to pause and come to terms with having an 8th grader. A teenager. As we prepare for our last year of middle school, my son and I had a very serious heart-to-heart. Seventh grade was rough. Extremely rough. It was an eye-opener and one that he needed to have. I typically get special looks when I share that last part.
My oldest son is extremely smart – learning has always come easy for him. There was very little challenge prior to middle school. Sixth and, especially, seventh grade challenged him incredibly and he didn’t fare well at all. He became frustrated and distracted (darn hormones and girls!) and was endanger of failing this past year. Honestly, when he got his report card on the last day of school he didn’t even look at it – he waited for me to break the news to him.
Some blamed the special program he was in that had a more advanced curriculum, some blamed me for not pushing him enough and not doing the work with him on a regular basis, and some just shrugged it off as boys being boys. All of that frustrated me. I believe in allowing my children the opportunity to make decisions and facing the consequences from them.
My son made the choice to not do his work, to not take his ADHD medication (that I was not aware of until later in the school year), and to focus more on the social aspects and “fitting in”. As a result of those choices, he received a serious scare and has been removed from the program he enjoyed so much. The coordinator for the program invited him back after seeing he really began to focus the last term of school and he was so excited. My request was that he write a paper detailing why he wanted to return to the program and what specific steps he would take to stay on track and improve his study habits. He chose not to write that paper. He will not be in the program.
Every year seems to be the year that’s preparing them for something else. However, our focus this year will be on 8th grade – the present and not the looming high school years.
Developing and reinforcing study skills. From note-taking to setting aside dedicated study time in the evenings – we are taking things back to basics and focusing on the strategies that work for him.
- Re-writing his notes
- Pay attention in class and eliminate the distractions he can
- Pre-reading when possible so he can focus on what his teachers are teaching and not what is in his notes or books
- Doing (and turning in) homework and assignments
- Keeping a calendar and daily to-do list
- Taking a mental break when necessary
Problem-solving. Not just with his school work but among his peers, too.
- Making wise choices and thinking about the long and short-term impact of his decisions
- Knowing when to talk things out and ask for a second opinion from a trusted adult
- Not just going with the crowd to appear “cool”
- Accepting the consequences of his choices, knowing when to apologize and being able to accept an apology and moving forward
Have a social life but remember your main goal. It’s great to see my son find himself, make different friends and enjoy life. We all created vision boards and they are displayed in high traffic locations to remind us all what we want to accomplish. We celebrate successes and reward ourselves when appropriate.
- Knowing not to get caught up in “foolishness”, as I refer to it. The challenges we see on social media, bullying, drugs, toxic friendships – all of that falls into the foolishness category
- Having an open dialogue with a trusted adult. I understand that he may not always want to come to me or his dad and I am okay with that. He has numerous other role models in his life that he can talk to and I trust to guide him in the right direction.
It sounds like a lot and appears a tad bit overwhelming at times (especially since we’re, also, tackling first grade, too!) but we are excited to start a new year – a fresh start with tons of possibilities for success and growth.
What tips for success do you have for your middle school son this upcoming school year?
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