My daughter completed fifth grade that year. I knew she would like school. I knew it would improve our relationship, which was already feeling the affects of puberty.
She was opposed to it. She is a bit shy and was worried about making friends. I made her go, knowing that after a week or two, she would be okay.
I was wrong. She came home smiling on Day One.
I was right, too. Not being alone together all day, every day improved our interactions.
My husband and I knew it would be a trade off. We’d relieve some tension, but new issues would come home from school. I was a little nervous about the social side. Middle school is not known for being kind and gentle on girls.
Turns out, I have a fantastic daughter, and the years of homeschooling were wonderfully healing ones for her. She stands up for those being bullied. She advocates for herself when needed. She ignores as much of the drama as she can.
So, middle school hasn’t been too bad, right?
If it weren’t for the academics, I’d be thrilled with her middle school experience. However, my daughter has barely learned anything the past three years.
Her skills in several areas had declined by the end of sixth and seventh grades. She no longer wrote in complete sentences and didn’t bother to attempt proper spelling because she was never marked down for it. If the teachers didn’t care, why bother?
At conferences, teachers look at me blankly when I tell them I don’t think she’s learning the material. I think if she’d learned it, she’d pass tests. They’re okay with passing her because she is willing to come to school early for “test corrections.”
Her history teacher assured me that she was doing great, even though he gave her failing marks, telling me what a good work ethic she has. Then he said, “I don’t really expect them to learn history this year. My goal is to produce good citizens.” I was speechless. I gave him a good kid. I want her to be an educated citizen.
He’s not the only teacher who has said that. An English head at a different middle school has told me many times, “Middle school isn’t about learning. It’s about maintaining. At that age, their bodies are changing so much, they really can’t learn.”
A three year break from learning? As a former homeschooler, I can say without a doubt that children in that age group are quite capable of learning new material. I’m pretty sure that schools around the world think so, too. I know there are American schools that do, too. Just not ours?
I could go on and on, but you get the idea.
(She has had a few good teachers, ones who have tried. They haven’t all been so lackadaisical.)
I guess it is the curse of having been a homeschooling parent that I feel educationally negligent sending her to this school. So we do math at home, and we started reading history again in the evenings, because she rarely has homework. We do school all summer, too. Basically, we’re part time homeschooling, and she is hanging out with friends all day.
I’d like more from my public schools.
I’m nervous that she is academically unprepared for high school. If we move somewhere with better schools, will she be handicapped by these middle school years here?
What have your experiences been with middle school academics? The transition to high school?