How to Prepare a Child for High School

By the time your child reaches middle school, they have long left their elementary ways at the playground. Homework has increased; there are clubs and sports practices, band and choir concerts, and their first school dance. Friends mean more now, and hormones begin to rage like a California fire. Middle school serves as the stepping stone from elementary to high school, from child to young adult. But as elementary school prepares you for middle school, middle school prepares you for high school.

One of the most notable differences between middle school and high school is the level of schoolwork and homework loads. Middle school is a great time to learn to get organized, because organization is one of the keys to doing well. Make sure your child has a desk with adequate lighting. It’s good that it be in a quiet place of their own, so that they can feel they have a work place. Sitting at the kitchen table while the television is on and you are trying to cook dinner may not be the best environment for doing certain assignments (especially if it involves reading).

Another thing to do is to set up certain times for studying. Once your child gets home from school, it’s a good idea to let them relax a little bit: go outside, play video games, watch TV, read magazines, get a snack. Once that is out of the way, it’s a whole lot easier to get them to sit down and do their work when they are relaxed. If they have sports practice or other organized event after school, then it might be somewhat unjustified to give them more time when they get home. The main thing to remember is to have a balance between work time and play time, but make the times definite and consistent. Consistency is still pertinent for kids at this age as it was when they were in elementary school.

At the end of the night, go through a check list to make sure everything needed got put back in their bag. Then put the bag in the same place every night, so that way in the morning, nothing is forgotten at home. Be involved in this process. It may take some time for them to do it on their own. Some people are still learning this when they reach college. Turning everything in on time doesn’t guarantee you an A, but not turning it in will guarantee you to fail.

The most important thing I think to get into a habit of doing when you get to middle school is to keep an agenda book. This can be anything as simple as a 3 x 5 inch notepad to a fancy one with weekly and monthly calendars and address books. As long as you are able to write down your homework for each class and when it’s due, it’ll work. Most schools nowadays will often issue one at the beginning of the year and require students to use it. It’s unreasonable to expect them to remember all of their homework. Most adults can’t remember that many things and get it right. Carrying a planner or agenda book is one of the best tools for your child to be successful, but only if they use it correctly.

Your child should also get rid of any fear about talking to the teacher when they need help. They shouldn’t feel afraid to ask something to be repeated or to stay after class for a question. At the beginning of the school year or semester, it’s a good idea to establish a good rapport with your teachers. This is advantageous so that when a problem does arise, the teacher will be more willing to work with the student to solve the problem. Let your child understand that sometimes they may not understand something the first time around, and it doesn’t reflect on their intelligence. (I had to take algebra twice, and my dad is a math teacher.)

The last suggestion towards getting your child ready for high school is to make sure they read, read, read. Get a list of the current high school reading list, or a list of classics from the library. Starting them early on classic literature is one of the best ways to ensure their success in high school. Not only will it help them in their reading skills, but it will also broaden their minds and their writing abilities. High school teachers like when students use analogies in essays, especially from literature and history. There is much to be learned from the great literature of the world.

Middle school is the perfect age to get them started on these practices. This way, they have at least 2-3 years of practice before they get to high school. Most importantly, be involved. Don’t make learning a passive activity: make it active. Take your child to a museum to see a certain exhibit, or to see a play, or to an Amish settlement. Watch old movies together. Visit Civil War battlefields. Point out a local Indian burial mound. Be active in your child’s learning. Engage your child in thinking deeply about the things they learn and experience. Through personal organization, open communication with teachers and a learning-to-succeed attitude, they can be sure to have a successful high school career that prepares them for college and beyond.