5 Things to Know About Middle School

What you need to know to help your middle-schooler start the school year strong.


1. Supply Crunch

Parents of middle-schoolers can expect to spend big on school supplies. According to a 2015 survey by Huntington Bank, middle school supplies run parents an average of $941 per student, up 2.5 percent from previous years. School supply costs are edging up because cash-strapped schools are leaning on parents to pick up the supply tab. Middle school parents may also foot the bill for extracurricular activities like band and sports.

To minimize supply costs, scour ad circulars for annual supply sales at big-box stores. Then go in with a group of parents and buy bulk supplies. Also hit up garage sales to find calculators and backpacks on the cheap.

2. Schedule Swap

Middle school marks a significant academic transition. Instead of staying in one classroom, most students move from class to class and interact with a number of teachers throughout the day. Prepare students for this transition by purchasing locker-organization supplies. Without a classroom home base, the locker becomes central to staying organized. Also, create a contact list for teacher names, emails and phone numbers. Attending the school’s back-to-school meet-and-greet gives parents and students the chance to meet teachers face-to-face prior to the first day, which can help ease back-to-school nerves for everyone.

3. Building Skills

Academic pressure dials up in middle school, and students bear more responsibility for meeting deadlines and working independently. Students may need some help upgrading their study skills to meet new demands, says Nancy Errichetti, head of school at The Montessori School of Raleigh.

“First year middle school students attend a weekly study skills class that equips students with the tools to be an effective student — how to use a planner efficiently, keep track of important papers, estimate how long an assignment will take, and how to break down large assignments into more manageable pieces,” Errichetti says.

4. Advisor Advice

Middle school’s myriad of teachers can seem daunting to parents, who may not know where to turn with questions or concerns. Generally, start with your student’s advisor or homeroom teacher, who will be central to her academic team.

“Many middle school students will have an advisor or homeroom teacher who can help foster stronger study skills, monitor overall academic progress and promote a sense of community,” Errichetti says.

5. Strong Failings

In middle school, parents should begin allowing students to experience the natural results of their academic and social choices, which nurtures autonomy for high school and beyond.

“We encourage our parents to adopt an autonomy-supportive style of parenting, which allows students to experience the natural consequences of their choices,” Errichetti says.

If a student forgets to study for an exam and receives a low grade, encourage self-reflection: Did he or she study as much as possible, understand the material and reach out to the teacher for help? This way the student “owns the grade,” Errichetti says. “And, most importantly, after this self-reflection, the student can actively change how they prepare in the future.”  

Malia Jacobson is a nationally published journalist and mom of three.

SEE ALSO: 5 Things to Know About Elementary School and 5 Things to Know About High School

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