Preparing for Middle School

Essential skills for success in middle school

Middle school can be a big adjustment for many students and both students and parents can be left feeling overwhelmed by the changes – increased homework time, multiple teachers and classes, and higher expectations.

It can be difficult for parents to know what skills their children will need to successfully navigate middle school. Here is a list of essential skills that can really make a difference for your child’s success in middle school and beyond.

Goal Setting

  • Help your child practice goal setting by choosing a goal (school-related or otherwise) and mapping out the steps to accomplish that goal. Help your child buy into the goal by having them identify why that particular goal is beneficial to them and discuss with them how they will feel once they have reached their goal.  Check in with them at regular intervals to discuss progress, and set up natural rewards for making progress towards and completing the goal.  It’s also a great idea to model goal-setting by setting your own goal and doing the steps above along with your child.

Time management

  • Use weekly and monthly calendars to help your child visualize how their time is spent. Using a whiteboard can be helpful – you child can be in charge of writing in their time commitments (e.g. homework, extracurriculars, family time, personal fun time) and crossing off what they have accomplished throughout the week or month.  A good natural reward for consistently using the calendars and accomplishing all necessary tasks can be extra time on the weekend to play and have fun.
  • Help your child get a sense of how long things will take. Start off by playing an estimating game with your child – set a timer or stopwatch and have your child tell you to stop when they think a minute has gone by.  Chances are your child’s sense of time may be less than accurate.  This is an important thing to know when estimating how long a task should take.  Once your child understands how long a minute feels, have them estimate how long certain tasks will take (e.g. chores, homework, etc.) and then let them time themselves.  Having an accurate sense of time is essential to making sure everything gets done.


  • Before starting the new year or the new term, get your child’s binder in order. Buy a binder with pockets on the inside covers so your child can make and keep to-do lists in a place they are not likely to miss.  Make sure that not only are there dividers for each class, but that each divider has at least one pocket for your child to store the papers that his or her teacher forgot to 3-hole punch.  Consider putting a pocket divider at the front of the binder as a sort of in- and out-box, which your child can put homework to be turned in that day on one side and homework to be done that night on the other.  Make sure your child has a planner and that the planner is at or near the front of the binder for easy use.  All of these small but helpful tips will set your child up for organized success, but it will be up to you and your child to do period binder checks to make sure everything is in its proper place.
  • Help your child to keep an organized planner by showing them effective ways to use it. Like the time management calendars mentioned previously, make sure your child puts EVERYTHING that will take more than 15 minutes of time in his or her planner – homework, family time, time with friends, extracurriculars, etc.  Always have your child write assignments on the day they are due, not the day they are assigned.  In anticipation of a test or project, make sure your child writes in nightly work or study time to be prepared. When homework is complete, put a check next to the assignment; when its turned in, cross out the assignment so you and your child know that the loop has been closed.
  • Set up an archiving system for your child’s work. Take a filing crate and hanging file folders and create a folder for each subject.  Periodically sit down with your child to go through their binder and archive any work that they may not immediately need.

Using these strategies can sometimes take a bit of front-loaded time and may not always be the most fun, but in the long run they will go far in helping you and your child feel confident and prepared to head into middle school.

Pacific Learning Academy is here to help you and your child prepare for middle school.  Keep an eye out on our website or through your school’s PTSA website on dates for Pacific Learning Academy’s “Middle School Success” workshops. They’re a great way to get all of this information and more to help set your child up for success.

Pacific Learning Academy is a one-on-one school offering single courses and dual enrollment, as well as full-time middle and high school. We also offer tutoring in all subjects from 6th to 12th grade, including test prep, either in-home or local libraries across the Eastside (Issaquah, Sammamish, etc…). See more at www.PacificLearningAcademy.com.

August 18, 2016
Pacific Learning Academy