When Steve and I were first married he was working as a youth pastor in Santa Barbara. At that time we came to the conclusion that working with Jr. High kids is a controlled riot. I love this age, the energy, the silliness, and the endless questioning. It’s a transitional period of life, that gap between childhood and teen. Some children breeze through adolescence, and for others it’s a difficult period of self doubt. Academically Jr. High presents a unique opportunity for you and your student.
In elementary school we are giving our children the basic building blocks of education; reading, writing, and arithmetic. We also expose them to basic science concepts and vocabulary, and begin to build an understanding of the flow of history. If we make this framework strong and solid our children have a good base upon which to build advanced knowledge and wisdom.
In high school our children’s studies become more focused and intense. If they have that solid foundation they will be able to move, rather painlessly, into these more focused studies. Students at this age are expected to be able to work independently through material, to read, absorb, and analyze new information. By high school we should be past the ‘hand-feeding’ stage where a teacher is needed at every step. New concepts may well need explanations, but students have come to ‘own’ their education.
So, what about Jr. High? Jr. High is a great opportunity to evaluate our child’s progress up to this point and to take 7th and 8th grade to fill in any gaps and to drill those skills that are going to be necessary in High School. Probably most of you know your child’s weak areas, but here are some thoughts on where you child should be.
1. Reading. By Jr. High your child should be reading fluently and comprehending most of what they read. In elementary school it’s important to give your child adequate practice at ‘easy’ reading so that they develop fluency, but in Jr. High it’s time to challenge them. Think of the reading they will be doing in high school…Shakespeare, Steinbeck, and Fitzgerald…you don’t want them to have to jump from easy reading straight into these authors. In Jr. High they should be easing their way into the classics, reading challenging works that cause them to think critically and learn new vocabulary. I don’t mean you should overwhelm them, but a little struggle now will pay off later. If your child is still having trouble with the basics of reading, it’s time to have them assessed and maybe do an intensive phonics review.
2. Spelling. By Jr. High your child should be spelling most words correctly, if they are not it is time for some review. Many times I find that students this age, who are consistently making spelling errors, are just being lazy. You will have to determine if this is the case with your child. If they are just being lazy you need to crack down. My suggestion would be if a paper or paragraph they have written for you has multiple spelling errors (and you know (more…)