All parents want their kids to be successful students, particularly during the important middle school years. Even as they become more independent and start developing their own interests, there are still life lessons parents can teach that will help them thrive.

Teach them to plan ahead – and backwards

On the first day of middle school, kids often get an agenda or calendar to write down all of their assignments and deadlines. This is a great way to teach them the importance of planning ahead so they don’t hand in their assignments late. But one thing kids have a hard time understanding is that the agenda book isn’t just for planning ahead – it’s also for planning backwards, in the sense of creating a timeline. Teach your kids to take each deadline and work backwards, so they see what they need to do every day to have an assignment ready by its due date. It can help them manage their time more effectively and prevent those last-minute all-night study sessions.

Teach them to study for mastery – not time

An agenda book is great for teaching kids what and when to study. It doesn’t help much in teaching them how to study. You can help them understand that they need to focus on learning the material, not the amount of time they spend studying. Some nights, they may need several hours to prepare for a test; other nights, 30 minutes of homework may be sufficient.

Teach them to use the Internet – but wisely

Everywhere you look, you see warnings about the dangers of letting kids surf the internet when they’re studying. If your kids are constantly checking social media or playing games, they are distracted, and that will negatively affect how well they absorb the material. However, there are ways of using the internet that can actually boost your kids’ learning. For example, a visual learner may benefit from YouTube videos that pertain to the subject being studied. Videos from other educators can demonstrate how to solve problems in different ways.

Teach them real-world applications

An excellent way to support your kids’ learning is to teach them the real-world applications of what they’re studying in school. It makes the material stick so much better than any amount of  homework. For example, improve math skills by asking them for help with everyday tasks that require an understanding of math concepts, like adapting a dinner recipe for more people or measuring for window treatments.

Skills Every Middle School Kid Needs:

The first few weeks of middle school can be daunting. Here’s how parents can help make the transition easier:

  • Practice opening a combination lock.
  • Practice the routes they’ll use as they go between classes.
  • Help them stay organized and clean out backpacks once a week.
  • Monitor homework and assignments – middle school is more academically challenging.
  • Attend parent meetings and stay up to date on school events.
  • Remind them that their group of friends may change as kids’ interests change.
  • Ask them what’s different or challenging about the new school year, and work together to find solutions.

-Tanni Haas

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