Transition to Adolescence: What to do when your child wants to go to high school
© Beverley Paine July 2001
The following question came up on the Learning Naturally online support group:
"I'm really struggling with the idea of getting my eleven year old ready for high school. She has made the decision to start year 7 with her school friends the year after next. Her Dad says she should go for the last year of Primary school to get back into the swing of things..."
It's not unusual for children starting to go through puberty to have transition issues. Transition issues beset us throughout life and can cause a great deal of anxiety, especially if they go unrecognised. You might recognise them as that unsettled feeling you get as one project winds up and you are keen to get started on the next. The old project often sits around unfinished because you have lost enthusiasm, having learned the major lessons. You might berate yourself for not getting on with it, and curse it for holding you back.
There's a good chance this eleven year old is experiencing similar emotions as her body sends her clear signals she's moving on and needs to leave old ways of being behind.
After five decades of living I've discovered I'm safer sitting still and not making any decisions while I'm in a transition state. The answers will come in their own time. It's like waiting for the baby's new teeth to erupt. Waiting is unpleasant and uncomfortable but all will be well eventually. We can't hurry the process. The best we can do is accept that this is a transition stage - somewhere between two places in our lives - and that when the time comes we'll know what it is we're supposed to do. In this way we are the ones that find our answers - they aren't centred elsewhere.
In this cae, it's my experience, gleaned both personally and from the stories of other homeschoolers that have combined school and homeschooling, or who have had children go back to school, that it is unnecessary to prepare for high school by sending a child to year 7. I can't see any benefit at all deriving from this - except perhaps to put the child off from her intended course of action!
The mother would be better off encouraging the child to concentrate on her writing and any other areas she feels she is 'behind' in at home. Natural learning experience has convinced me that many children really start to put the 'academics' together during their early teens - often not until age 14. This is when they begin to focus on whatever it is they want to do in early adult life and have developed sufficient self-motivation to knuckle under and do things they don't necessarily want to do but feel the need to do...
If the child is already a competent writer (or in any other subject area), there is a good chance the year of preparation in year 7 will only hamper her natural progress, or worse still, set her back as she dumbs herself down to be acceptable socially with her peers. The freedom to explore her natural talents could well disappear. Freedom is essential to creativity! And creativity is essential to writers... and mathematicians, scientists, artists. Our children need the freedom we can provide in the home to fully explore their talents and abilities.
To appease the child's worries (and those of others) it may be a good idea to put together some strategies for concentrating on areas of academic need. A few hours a week studying something like spelling or grammar or maths, or oral presentation, report writing, etc will soon see her advance beyond her same aged peers. In fact, intensive study in any one area like this will put her ahead of most high school students, if she really wants and needs to accomplish these skills...
If she's still keen on going to school in ay year or two, help her to research what subjects year 8 students cover. This might involve trekking off to a high school book supplier. Having a look at what she will be doing is a great way to build confidence, or identify areas that need work. It's silly worrying about things you don't need to...
Once again I urge the practice of record keeping (see the article index for a host of articles on record keeping). It's the only way to 'see' the learning that is occuring in every day life without resorting to overt teaching. Translating everyday life into subject headings, concepts, skills, etc may alleviate the need to go to school at all.
My eldest went to high school and in hindsight wrote that it would have been better had she become involved more in the community - in any way at all - to satisfy her social needs. School was a huge disappointment in that regard. It is best to find more natural solutions for a child's social life during adolescence.
I think it would help both the child and the parents if they stopped comparing school and home school. Just forget about what is going to happen in the future and focus more on what they each want to get out of each day as it happens now!
As home educators we often fall into the trap of worrying what others will think of us - we're frightened we'll be judged as failures or negligent. I constantly seek reassurance from my now adult homeschoolers on this issue. We need to be aware of our need but not let it drive us when making important decisions.
Our children are the only ones we need to be answerable to, now and in the future. Our job is to identify and meet their needs as they arise, not their perceived future ones because the future isn't written yet!
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