Living with a first year middle school student is like living with a newborn; all over again. Contrary to what the teachers and counselors tell you about this year being the year of independence, the year of the planner, the year of organization; the students seem to need you constantly.
When my kindergartner heard all this talk about his big brother going off to middle school, and all this, “you’re on your own kid stuff,” he said, “Will he still come home with us at night? Or will he be sleeping at middle school?”
No, he will be sleeping here, but very little. I would not say this is because the middle school students are “needy”; more that these same teachers are giving them more parent-child homework than they had in 3rd grade. As in, “quiz your kid on this”, “have your parents read this over with you and answer some questions.” It is nice, having this unexpected reunion with a child I had expected to be distant and disconnected from me; but it is an adjustment to not have that alone time” in the evening when all the kids are asleep. You know, to be able to get all that “grown-up” stuff done, and having that peace and quiet so you can think. Instead, the little ones are in bed, and here is your middle schooler, following you around as you mop the floor, asking you to quiz him on his Spanish vocabulary. Like I said. Having a middle school student is like having a newborn all over again.
Middle school is isolating. He does have his organized sports, with gruelling schedules; but when he is not at practice, his head is buried in a book. The volume of homework has left very little time for friends. The homework is not hard; there is just a lot of it; and we’re all unsure about how long it will take him to get it done, and we’re always surprised that is is longer than we anticipated.
I do think he’s having a blast at school. It’s not the dark gloomy
place I remember from my childhood. My son brings home funny stories about who got in trouble in class, and why, the class clown, and the stretchy erasers that drive the teachers crazy. Last week, their teachers took them on a two day camping trip. I kid you not — a camping trip; overnight, lots of fun and no homework.
I received an e-mail form one of his teachers, again reminding me to help quiz him on an upcoming test.
So, I looked at all this isolation that study brings, and then I remembered that TV show The Paperchase. Actually, I don’t really remember anything about the show, except they were friends, helping each other out, and the camaraderie they had built. And, I thought, maybe it’s time to teach them how to build a network of support, and find a way to stay connected to their friends, despite all the homework.
So, we had a study session for the big boys. A paperchase. We found some worksheets based on the test, and they took turns reading the questions, and doing them as a group. They worked pretty hard and intently, with mild interruptions from my two smallest boys who kept doing strip teases and costume changes, and yelled, “look at this thing I built”, while the big guys tried to work. After about an hour of work, they turned on the I-dog, ate brownies and fruit. There was even time for a light-saber fight in the backyard when they were done.