Middle school is tough on multiple levels. I don’t think many people would argue with that statement.
It’s a world of many transitions (in addition to) the hormonal changes during those awkward tween years.
Why then would families consider adding another change and start homeschooling in middle school? As it turns out, there are several reasons why families make this transition during the middle school years. Making the transition to homeschool is a decision that each family has to make when the time and circumstances are right.
While every family has unique dynamics and reasoning for educational choices, below are 7 common reasons and perhaps one that your family is considering as well. You are definitely not alone if you are considering the transition to start homeschooling in the middle school years.
One of the most essential needs, our kids’ physical safety, is something we prioritize from day one. We all want our children to be safe and feel loved. While I strongly believe that schools prioritize safety measures, there are some terrible tragedies that happen in schools despite the efforts to prevent them. Those are the worst case scenarios.
Even in the best case scenarios, there are multiple levels of safety issues that contribute to the decision of homeschooling in middle school. Sometimes parents had a bad experience during their past middle school years with bullies or peer pressure and they don’t want to risk their children being exposed to the same experience.
Sometimes the only middle school option for families is one with a poor academic or safety reputation. If this is a case, other families in the same area may have already formed an active homeschool co-op group that will help you with questions and making the same transition.
If you have a child who is overly anxious or more emotionally immature, they may not be ready for the traditional middle school setting. Homeschool provides a way to continue education in an environment that doesn’t create as many emotional risks as a new school with a different setting, people and academic structure.
Some families send younger children with compromised health issues to elementary school but not middle school. This is dependent on the issue, but it could be something like a severe allergy. They may also have a chronic illness such as asthma or diabetes and a personal healthcare plan.
It’s easier to prioritize a health need in elementary school with one main teacher, one group of students and a smaller setting to access the nurse or office. In the case of a food allergy, the classroom door usually has a caution sign or an alert on newsletters for other parents.
The setting and dynamics change in middle school. There are more people and a larger campus. A child may not have as easy access as before to a clinic or health services where you live. They may not receive the same level of care with diet, nutrition and exercise that’s available in a home environment.
Another health consideration is kids who have extreme anxiety and/or may become physically sick with issues in school such as testing. While the homeschool setting is not typically exempt from standardized testing, the home environment is much more comfortable and not as stressful as the rigid testing schedules and protocols in the traditional brick and mortar schools.
If a mother, father, or sibling in a family has an immune compromised illness, it may be that homeschooling is a temporary or urgent need to protect someone in the immediate family where the usual shared school illnesses- stomach bug, flu, cough/cold, etc- would be detrimental.
It’s unfortunate, but traditional public schools are often graded on attendance without any room for exceptions. Their policies and procedures may create undue stress on families where a student’s health issues require ongoing medical treatment throughout the school year. A homeschool schedule provides the flexibility to make appointments whenever they are most convenient.
For students who need acceleration-
Parents may consider homeschool in middle school for students who exceed at academics and have the potential to become disengaged or bored with the established curriculum. In middle school, teachers specialize in a content area and students typically have 1-2 hour in each class. Some schools may offer alternative courses, but others may not.
If your child already excels in that subject area and the school doesn’t offer or have an alternative, then a customized curriculum with the homeschool setting may be more appropriate to meeting their academic needs.
The homeschool pacing can go as fast or slow as needed, totally dependent on the child’s rate of learning. This type of pacing just isn’t a reality in a traditional classroom of 25 students or more. A student who has already learned the subject matter and doesn’t have another course choice, may find the homeschool setting to be a better fit.
For students who need intervention-
If your child is struggling academically and you know there are issues with pacing or the need for a certain teaching style, you can adjust both of those areas with a homeschool setting. It’s much easier to move slower where needed and present material in different ways. It’s easier to cover a topic more in depth over a longer period of time than in the traditional school setting where there are set schedules and grading deadlines.
Some parents choose to homeschool because they discover gaps where their children may have technically passed the grade, but didn’t learn the material. This causes a break in scaffolding, or where one skill is needed to appropriately master the next. Homeschool would allow an opportunity to re-teach material where a student was not previously successful.
For students who need a custom pace-
You could have a homeschooler who excels in one subject area and has a deficit in another area. This is common for a lot of students. Curriculum and pacing are not as customizable in the public school setting. There’s not an option, for example, to complete a subject area well ahead or far behind the other students. Homeschool is an optimal environment for pacing that is totally customizable to your child’s learning needs.
4- Special Needs
Some families choose to homeschool in middle school to provide an environment that better accommodates a child with a learning disability.
Students with learning disabilities in a traditional school setting may have an IEP, an Individualized Education Plan. The plan is ideally built with a team and summarizes the class setting and accommodations needed to support a student with a disability.
If an IEP is not followed in a middle school setting and a parent does not feel they are getting support from the school, they may choose to homeschool where a student with dysgraphia (for example) can use a word processor or other technology that they may not have at school to complete assignments.
A student with ADHD can easily get frustrated in middle school with the class changes and keeping up with different course work. It could be that they need more time to mature and a chance to handle the increased workload in a comfortable environment and then can consider the transition back to traditional school.
Sadly, a student may have a school year with an adult who should not be in the field of teaching. In most states, it is (unfortunate but true) terminating an ineffective teacher is a long and difficult process. If this is the case and your child is regressing without any resolve in sight, most choose to homeschool without any hesitation.
Some families have a work situation where one or both parents have to travel, often for extended periods of time. In this case, homeschooling allows the family to be able to move and travel together. Military families may also depend on the homeschool environment for this reason.
Maybe you have an early bird or a night owl kiddo, or both. Either way, you can adjust the schedule so that they get enough sleep and still get their work done at optimal times. This is compared to a strict school schedule where there are consequences for not being in class and ready at 8:00 a.m., which requires a much earlier start to the day.
Maybe you have a student athlete or performer and need the flexibility of homeschool to accommodate a daily training schedule. In states where Tim Tebow laws are passed, your athlete may have an opportunity to also participate on sports teams with the school system while completing homeschool classes and training.
Other flexibility in scheduling could be a scenario such as a family business that’s closed during one or two of the winter months and has long hours during the summer. A homeschool schedule allows the family to arrange a schedule where the family can take a vacation or rest while the business is closed and continue to homeschool through the summer. A traditional school setting is not as accommodating with vacations for business owners that have peak and off peak times.
The homeschool environment provides a lot of freedom and choices. This is often one of the biggest reasons that parents decide to make the transition to homeschool. For some families, the traditional school environment creates a sense of restriction and conformity. The homeschool environment, even with each state’s requirements, provides more freedom and creativity.
Freedom with curriculum-
One of the biggest problems with homeschool is also one of the best problems… too many curriculum choices! If you want to be able to choose what your child learns and in what format, homeschool will provide that opportunity. Curriculum choices come in formats with emphasis on religion or not, they come in diverse formats such as workbooks or online courses. Families can choose and build curriculum to fit their child instead of the other way around.
Freedom with learning structure-
Homeschool students can go on more frequent field trips and also participate in lessons that speak more to their learning preference, such as nature-based or hands-on learning. This freedom of learning structure also allows a student to pursue other training or interests outside of a traditional curriculum. Students can take breaks when needed or as often as needed, which is not possible in the traditional school setting.
Freedom with graduation path-
There are some kids who are very mature and ready to finish school early and explore other areas of interest. Public schools have work study programs, but they are more restrictive than a homeschooler who decides to earn graduation credits early and perhaps work an internship in their post-high school field of study.
7- Personalized Learning
I believe their are some exceptional public school teachers who give it their best to meet each child where he or she is at and move them forward. But middle and high school teachers face that task in a classroom of 25 (or more) students with a range of diverse academic levels and interests for multiple blocks during the day. That doesn’t include the responsibilities they have outside of teaching the content. Personalized learning is minimal, and that’s with a teacher who puts for the effort to do so.
Homeschool makes personalized learning possible and achievable. Parents are able to make decisions with their kids and determine a path that is an appropriate fit for their current and future academic needs. Middle school homeschoolers, with their parents’ support, are able to take more control of their learning and work at a pace that allows them to be most successful.
I’m sure there are other reasons that parents choose to make the transition to homeschool in middle school but these are some of the most common.
Some parents struggle with the decision because there’s also all of the questions about what a student may miss by learning in the homeschool environment.
It really comes down to the best fit for the family and the student that provides the best environment to meet their needs. If this is homeschool for your middle schooler, rest assured that there are many more families who decide to take the same path.