Increasing Middle School Independence: How much is too much?
A mom chats about balancing freedom with a safety net for her kids
Interview with Shannon Longcore
Middle school is a time when kids start becoming more independent. They might start managing their own homework or picking their own activities to participate in. But how much independence is too much?
For Shannon Longcore, mother of three from Kirkland, WA, while it’s important for children to experience middle school responsibility, it’s also important for parents to provide a safety net. “I like the idea of training our kids and guiding them to be successful. I’d rather have a safety net than watch a crash and burn situation happen.”
Shannon has two daughters in high school and a son entering 6th grade this fall. We talked with Shannon to learn how she is planning to use her middle school parenting experience to guide her son in his transition this fall.
CI: What were some major changes you noticed as your older kids went from elementary to middle school?
SL: It was a rough transition going from elementary to middle school because I felt in elementary school, they were treated like kids who needed support and guidance, but then they got to middle school and the first few days were just full of rules and the punishments if you broke those rules. It was an abrupt expectation shift.
CI: And how did you help your children deal with this abrupt shift?
SL: I actually took them out of the middle and contacted the school a couple of times to take the pressure off my kids. They didn’t need extra stress when starting this new chapter of their life.
CI: What are you most excited about for your 6th grader entering middle school?
SL: I’m excited that he gets to interact with different teachers. I think that will be valuable because it will be refreshing to get away from the elementary school setting where he was stuck in the same classroom with the same teacher all day. I’m also excited for him to take his interests to the next level. For example, instead of the PTA doing an after school drama club, he has the opportunity to participate in a full production.
CI: Do you anticipate your child starting a new activity or hobby as they start middle school? Do you feel like they should be challenged as they start this new chapter of their life?
SL: Middle School is a great time for athletics and a great time to try something new. It’s a good way for them to try on new things without the serious commitment. I can see him trying badminton or track or tennis before it gets serious in high school.
CI: Did you feel like you were able to give your older kids more freedom to do their homework & academics when they started middle school or did you feel they needed guidance?
CI: For my oldest, all we needed to do was make sure when she had projects so we didn’t schedule something on weekends. We just had to make sure she had the time, but otherwise she handled academics completely on her own. She always had a lot of freedom. My middle daughter required a little more checking in, but I didn’t really obsess. I mostly just inquired everyday, “do you have homework today?” and helped her plan her homework around sports commitments.
At 6th grade, I feel that my son is still going to need a lot of guidance, but I hope that by 8th grade he’s doing it all on his own. I like the idea of training our kids and guiding them to be successful. I’d rather have a safety net than watch a crash and burn situation happen.
CI: What would be your best advice for a parent of an incoming middle schooler?
SL: I think because they are still pretty young going into middle school, the parent still needs to be involved, checking on homework and grades. Teachers encourage kids to do their own advocating, but it’s also important for parents to step in. I don’t think 6th grade is the time to cut them loose, it’s a time to nudge them gently with support and encouragement.
CI: What is one thing you want your son to remember as he enters middle school?
SL: Remember that the teachers are on your side. They want you to learn. They’re there to help, teach, and support you and it’s important to build a relationship with that basic understanding.