There’s this thing that homeschool moms never talk about. It’s called the middle school monster, and if you aren’t prepared for it – like I wasn’t – you may beat yourself up thinking it’s your fault.
I LOVE my children! Truly I do! And I’m not on board the bus full of moms who are ready to trash-talk the new generation of kids, or lump all teenagers together in a mass heap of disrespect, hatefulness, and technolo-zombies. Character traits, maturity, morality, and behavior are taught in my home with intentionality and zeal.
But my kids turned into monsters in middle school.
I swear – it was no fault of my own! (Well, no mom is perfect, so maybe it was somewhere along the way…?) They just grew to the point that they didn’t want to hear what Mom said, and decided that they were big enough that they could solve things without input from their parents, and were insulted that no one seemed to think them capable of those things.
My own children, who had been clingy and lovey as elementary students, who had loved to learn and loved anything that allowed them to get in more “Mommy Time” even if it meant housework, suddenly were resentful if they were asked to lift a finger or turn around twice. I had no idea what I’d done wrong.
Do you know what my big sin was? It was this – I wasn’t prepared for the middle school monster. Lack of preparation isn’t something I normally would be guilty of, but this caught me by complete surprise. I just didn’t know it was coming. I figured that raising them correctly up to that point would be enough. I believed it would be enough.
Mom of Middle School Monsters
I have five kids and have been homeschooling for 13 years. My oldest is 20 years old, high functioning autistic, graduated from homeschooling. My next student is 16; he’s always been obstinate, but he’s quiet and unemotional. My third kiddo is 14, with a birthday just before Labor Day; he’s dyslexic but highly engaged and everyone’s friend.
Those three are all boys. (I also have 8-year-old twins, one boy, and one girl.) For a while, I thought that this middle school monster was my fault. I’d taken a part-time job outside the home for a little while. Then my health started to decline, and I became more absentee.
For a little while, I thought it was just that boys need more time with their dad. That’s certainly true, and I’m not sure what would be enough; I think we can all be more intentional with our relationships, and I did come to the conclusion that we weren’t going to make it through this time personally without a little more accountability TO Dad. But it definitely wasn’t the cause.
Boys are SO different. I had no idea. I literally had no idea. (And, a nod to Lemony Snicket, I know the difference between “literally” and “figuratively.”) Some of it was “just” boy-ness and boy puberty. Some of it was my naivety about boy-ness and boy puberty. (I absolutely plan to teach my own daughter better!)
But I started watching. I’m a networker by nature, and I am or have been a part of every homeschooling, parenting, faith, work from home, or scrapbooking forum on the internet. (That might be exaggerating a little bit. But I tell you, I get around!)
Do you know what I saw? Every parent wants to know how to help their 11, 12, 13, or 14-year-old kid do better. Kids this age have a tendency to not do as they’re told, even the “good kids” with no previous problems. Moms feel estranged from children who’ve been attached to their hip from birth. Suddenly, kids pull away. They need their own identity and they are ready to fight for it.
It’s right. It’s the way it should be. But it’s hard on a momma’s heart. We are certain that we’ve messed up somewhere, and now that said child is headed into the scary-ness of puberty, we may never see that sweet person they used to be again!
OH, dear mommas! Hear me!
You’ve not done anything wrong! Your child is right where they should be!
You haven’t lost them – they are finding themselves, and it is right and good and God-ordained!
They will return to you as sweet and loving as they were before, and maybe more, because you ARE a good parent!
Remember that Bible verse about training up a child in the way he should go, and the promise that if you do then when that child grows up he won’t abandon it? That’s for YOU! That’s a promise specifically for us, moms. This time of life is one of its intended uses. God knows your heart, and He has provided for it in His Word.
What to do about it?
Well, I’ll tell you this – with my younger twins, I’m going to stuff them so full of knowledge while they’re young and hungry, that I can slow my school-roll when they hit this middle school monster phase of life. I’m going to get in all the learning I can, as often as I can, in every avenue, I can possibly imagine doing so, every time I think about it. Not that they’ll realize it. That’s what lifeschooling is all about, isn’t it?
In the middle school years – that’s just an approximation, of course – I plan to focus on their interests. Unit studies sound like a good idea to me for this age. I’ve had some really relaxed school years, almost to the point of radical unschooling, simply because my health was awful and I wasn’t prepared. And it’s been fine, y’all. My kids are fine!!
Somewhere around high school, when kids regain their senses and suddenly have life goals and purpose, we’ll pick right back up with stuffing them with knowledge as quickly and fully as their brains and attention spans will allow. I know this happens, y’all because I’ve lived it. Three times now. It’s real, I promise! (I hear you, in the back over there. 15ish!! Hang in there!)
Even without this plan in mind, even without my being prepared for it to happen, my three oldest sons have grown and are growing up just fine. They are fine men, respectful, responsible, and dependable. Of course not always and every time – they aren’t done growing, and I’ve got one who’s about ready to sprout wings and fly. But they’re all fine. This world is not going to eat them alive, after all.
God is good, He can be trusted, and He knows what’s best for my kids even better than I do. He loves them more than I do. I need to remember that more often, and I’m betting you do, too. God’s got this, Momma. He’s bigger than your middle school monster.