I spent 34 years teaching middle school kids, and I developed a pretty clear idea of what I think middle school language arts is all about and what the middle school learner is capable of and needs to do. Let me share with you about the homeschool supplies you’ll need to nourish these children, which is I fondly call as my Middle School tool belt.
I want you to visualize your middle schooler wearing an empty tool belt. That tool belt is strapped on securely, due to a good elementary foundation, but there’s nothing in any of the handy little slots. Your job now is to fill that tool belt with the “tools” necessary for your learner to do high school level English work.
High school level English should consist of literature and writing. In other words, the student reads and then reacts to what he or she has read through writing. It should NOT consist of daily grammar instruction or spelling or handwriting.
Understanding the Middle School Homeschool Supplies Requirement
So middle school language arts needs to be where the tools to do high school work are acquired. Grammar should be completely covered, in my opinion, by the end of 8th grade. When I say grammar, I mean grammar, usage, punctuation, and capitalization.
Another crucial tool in that tool belt is the essay. A middle school student should be able to sit down and write a good five-paragraph essay within about half an hour. There is more than one kind of essay, and the student needs to know how to write a literary essay, a personal essay, and what I call an “issue” essay, which is one about a current event or life concern.
The final tools or homeschool supplies needed are the fully-annotated research paper. That means that the student has learned how to research a topic and write a paper in which he or she documents where all the information came from in the form of parenthetical citations. He needs to know how to do that and keep all the information and documentation organized.
Now I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t think any literature or spelling or vocabulary is to be taught in middle school. Far from it! Literature and vocabulary are normal offshoots of each other and are part and parcel of teaching the types of academic writing I’ve mentioned. Spelling is always important but is a curricular choice which must be tailored to the specific kind of speller you have.
I do not believe that any substantive grammar can be taught mixed in with writing, literature, spelling, vocabulary, etc. I believe grammar, because of the very linear, sequential nature of the subject, must be taught by itself. Teach you grammar in a series of “seasons” away from other things.
I recommend that you talk to folks who know, like, and understand the middle school learner. Keep that tool belt in mind as you set your goals for those middle school years, and then you’ll have a confident, well-equipped high school student, ready to build the edifice of his own education with his own hands – because he’s got the right tools and homeschool supplies!