Plugging in when your middle-schooler wants to cut the cord

I’m always looking for opportunities to stay involved in my son’s educational experience, which has gotten a little trickier since he moved up to middle school.  In elementary school, there were more ways for me to feel plugged in to his experience, as well as to engage with teachers and staff.   Now there are no more apple picking trips, family dance nights or in-class birthday/ Halloween/ Valentine’s Day/Thanksgiving  celebrations (that I’m allowed to attend, anyway).  The elementary school felt like an extension of home – my son would run up to me and give me a hug if he saw me in the hallway while dropping off books for the book fair or volunteering in the cafeteria on pizza Fridays.  Although I have a wonderful relationship with his teacher and staff at the middle school, sometimes I feel like an  interloper; kids I’ve known since they were in kindergarten look at me like an alien life form if they see me anywhere in the vicinity of the middle school.  I feel as though they think that the anti-bacterial dispensers stationed in the hallways should contain parent repellent instead of Purell.  And (sniffle) I’ve seen my son do a double-take if I show up unexpectedly in the hallway, like “uh, what’s she doing here?”

I found some great suggestions for staying actively involved in your child’s school while he or she is trying mightily to pretend that you don’t exist in  10 Tips for Middle School Parents via SchoolFamily.com:

  1. Get to know the teachers. It’s a good idea to meet each of your child’s teachers.  Ask about their expectations. Find out how much time your child should spend on homework each night. Find out whether there will be regularly scheduled tests and if so, when. Ask about the best way to get in touch if you have questions. If the teachers use email, be sure to get their addresses.
  2. Find a niche for yourself at your child’s school. Unlike in the lower grades, middle school classrooms don’t need extra adults on hand. But you can volunteer in other ways.  Serve as an adviser for an extracurricular activity such as the school paper, chess club, or science fair. Help out in the computer lab. Being in the school is a great way to get a feel for what goes on there.
  3. Do behind-the-scenes work. If you can’t be in school during the day, ask teachers and other school personnel to pass along some work that you can do on your own. Photocopy homework assignments; collect recyclables for a science or art project; serve on a parent-school advisory council; join your middle school PTO or PTA.
  4. Volunteer to chaperone school dances and drive kids to school sports competitions. You’ll meet other parents, school staff, and your child’s classmates.
  5. Go to school meetings and events. Attending concerts, plays, assemblies, meetings, and other activities is a good way to become familiar with your child’s school community.
  6. Find out about homework assignments and school tests. If your school has a website where teachers list homework assignments, get in the habit of checking it regularly. If not, contact your child’s teachers and ask them to alert you when there’s an important project or test coming up.
  7. Talk to your child about school. Ask specific questions to draw out your child. Ask “How do you think you did on the math test?” “Did Mr. Phipps say anything funny today?” “What games did you play in PE?”
  8. Give your child a quiet place to study and do homework. Find an area in your home that is free of distraction where your middle schooler can concentrate on homework. Be available to help if your child has a question.
  9. Check your child’s homework, but don’t do it for her. Offer to check math problems, proofread written papers, and look over spelling words. If you find a mistake, point it out to your child and help her figure out the correct answer.
  10. Post a family calendar in a central place. Write down important school dates, including parent meetings, due dates for projects, and tests. Encourage your middle schooler to add to the calendar and to check it daily. 
Middle school can be a confusing time for everyone, so  I’m all in favor of anything that keeps me in the loop in the most unobtrusive way possible.  I know it’s healthy and inevitable for our middle-schoolers to start asserting some independence but, whether they realize it or not, they need us now more than ever, right?  Someone validate me, please (I don’t think my middle-schooler is going to)!

plug in!

How do you check in with your middle-schooler and stay involved in the school scene?  All suggestions are welcome!

time for mom button

Photo courtesy of Mom Meets Blog

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12 thoughts on “Plugging in when your middle-schooler wants to cut the cord

  1. As a 7th & 8th grade teacher for many years, and the mother of two grown children, my advice is to continue to be involved in your child’s life in any way that you can. Yes, you will get the “Look” of why is she here? But, deep down, they really are glad that you are there. They do like the support you give when you show up as lunch mom, volunteer for field trips, and supervise the mixer. They will never let you know that they like the security of having you at their activities, because that is just not cool. Try not to hover, and allow your child some independence. But, be around when and where you can. It will be appreciated in later years. :)

  2. This is a great post, I felt like this when my oldest went to high school for the very first time. Once your child gets to middle and high school, you definitely need a calendar to keep up with all of their activities. During the fall, I feel like a taxi driver but it is worth every moment and I know that in a few years I will miss doing things for her. I have two younger kids so it will be a while until all of my kids are grown and gone.

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