The day my daughter started fifth grade was the day I started worrying about how she and I both would make the transition to middle school.
The transition certainly brings all kinds of changes for our children, but it impacts parents in funny ways too. I‘d been uber-involved at the elementary school. Could I still stay connected to what was happening with her education? Fortunately for me, I was able to navigate the system with my network of “mom-friends,” and the transition was relatively seamless. I found ways to stay involved, and now as my son has started fifth grade this summer, I’m finding myself much more at ease the second time around.
Here are my top five tips for transitioning to middle school while staying connected and involved with your child’s education:
1. Get e-connected! Your child won’t be bringing home that Friday Folder so be sure to tune in online. Visit the websites for your school, PTA/parent group, teachers’ sites, and the school system. Sign up for related e-news and find out what social media tools and other online resources are used by the school and parent groups. In Wake County, the Student Parent Access Network, or SPAN, allows parents to review their child’s homework and exam scores. I visit SPAN a minimum of once a week with my daughter and talk with her about the grades.
2. Attend events at school! After the beginning of the year, attendance by parents at middle school events drops off dramatically. If your school holds a coffee with the principal or a parent education workshop, go to it! Even if the topic du jour isn’t of tremendous interest to you, it gives you an opportunity to interact with other parents and with school personnel. Your PTA and parent meetings give you a chance to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening at school. Make time to get to some athletic events where you can meet your child’s friends and get a sense of the school spirit.
3. Actively seek ways to help! Middle schools have difficulty filling volunteer slots. They are often at a loss when they need parents to speak on career days or to help proctor tests. Also, all public schools are required by the state to have parent representation on their School Improvement Teams. If you aren’t hearing about these opportunities, contact your PTA president or even the school guidance counselor.
4. Know what your child is studying! Asking your child about their classes may not yield answers with enough information to truly understand what your child is studying. Check out the NC Standard Course of Study by clicking here. North Carolina is aligning its curriculum with the Common Core Standards, which can be viewed by clicking here. If you know what your child is studying, you can hold meaningful conversations with them about their studies, and that will enrich your child’s knowledge as well as your own.
5. Make nutrition, sleep and exercise a daily priority! You’ll be amazed at the difference healthy choices make in your child’s ability to perform academically and their personal outlook on life. Try eating together as a family at least five or six times a week. Yes, your child is busy. Yes, your family is working out crazy schedules. But you’ve got to take care of yourselves. Aim for a healthy diet, a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise a day, and plenty of rest at night for the whole family.
Good luck with the transitions you have ahead. It’s an exciting time. Embrace it with gusto. And if you have other tips to share, let me know.
Sarah Martin is a mother of two children in Wake County schools – an eighth grade daughter and a fifth grade son. She served two terms as president of the PTA at the elementary school both of her children attended, as well as two terms as president of the Wake County PTA Council. Sarah has served on School Improvement Teams at both the elementary and middle school level, and she is continuing this year as a member of the Superintendent’s Parent Advisory Committee for Wake County.