How Online Learning Can Help Your Middle Schooler Navigate Change

Middle School Student in Online Virtual School

The transition from elementary to middle school brings about great change. Students transform seemingly overnight—showing differences in behavior, independence, and attitude. Is it wanting to fit in or just a result of maturing? The answer to that question isn’t simple because each child is different. What each child does have in common, though, is needing to adapt to changes.  

From academic expectations to social interaction, middle school can mean navigating new territory. The good news is, online schools like Connections Academy can help your child adjust easily and overcome obstacles.  

If your child is starting middle school soon, take a look at some ways you can support their journey to young adulthood. 

Academic Expectations

In middle school, coursework gets more intense and the time spent on it will likely be longer than during elementary years. For example, in the past your child may have only been assigned three homework tasks in one night; however, in junior high, it could double to as many as six assignments from different teachers.  

Middle schoolers are also expected to be independent learners. This is typically the time when students start receiving long-term projects that require them to think on their own and form opinions. Whether a research paper or a group presentation, your child is expected to gather information from reliable sources and put it into their own words. This learning process can feel intimidating for any new middle schooler, but with the right tools to help, they can navigate this transition smoothly.

How Online Learning Can Help

Online learning has a number of benefits, but one of the key advantages is the varied curriculum and flexible timing. In virtual middle school, students have the ability to decide what subject they want to learn at their own pace, helping them develop skills that are vital to their educational journey, like self-awareness. In Connections Academy’s curriculum, lesson plans prioritize social-emotional learning to help students take ownership of their middle school experience and explore the endless possibilities of an online education. 
A typical lesson goes beyond the screen—motivating your child to explore the world around them and find their passions. Check out this lesson plan sample for middle school students.

Another benefit of online learning is a wide range of middle school electives and activities. By allowing students to select elective courses, they are able to explore new subjects and discover new interests. At Connections Academy, middle school students have dozens to choose from. If they’re showing strong performance, gifted students also have the option to ‘skip ahead’ to more challenging classes, including high school level courses and credits, with support and guidance from highly-skilled teachers.  

Ways to Support Your Student

As your online student’s Learning Coach, you can play an important role in assisting with their education. During middle school, students are learning to be independent, but that doesn’t mean they are ready to do it all on their own. You are there to provide guidance and help them through this journey. One easy way to assist is by helping them organize their workload without doing it for them. You could assist with reviewing their middle school classes list and homework assignments to help them stay on track day to day.  

To provide extra support, Learning Coaches can also lend an extra hand with some lessons. That could look like checking to make sure your student understands concepts during instruction or logging into Learning Coach central to explore useful resources that help in their transition. Studies found that parental involvement, like logins, have a positive impact on student success. Similar to bricks-and-mortar schools, the most successful students have parents who are involved in their education. And, with your guidance, they can feel more confident in this new chapter. 

Emotional Development

In middle school, students’ perception of themselves begins to change. While your child might have once been confident, studies show that middle schoolers may experience a severe drop in self-esteem during this time. Struggles with self-confidence can be tied to a number of causes, including a fluctuation in emotional wellbeing, peer pressure and stress. Students might also be feeling anxiety about their new responsibilities or self-conscious about their changing bodies and feelings. Whatever the reason may be, there are effective ways to understand your child and assist them with managing their emotions

How Online Learning Can Help

It’s a common misconception that online learning produces a less supportive environment. We believe it “takes a village” to encourage middle schoolers as they navigate this changing life stage. In our curriculum, middle school students remain under the guidance of a counselor or advisory teacher for added support. Going beyond traditional expectations, counselors use an individualized approach to help with each student’s academic, social, and emotional needs. They are caring, trained professionals who help students manage stress, resolve conflicts, and work through tough situations in their personal lives.  

Meaningful relationships with teachers are also important. When students are engaged in learning, they feel like they belong and perform better in school. For instance, It was found that Connections Academy students are more academically successful when they believe adults at school care about them. Studies also show that when teachers focus on fostering noncognitive skills, like creativity, it produces more confident, active learners. As a result, we offer support like LiveTutor sessions where online students receive help and build positive student-teacher relationships.

A middle schooler is waving at her online school teacher during an online class
Ways to Support Your Student

The best part about your job as a parent and Learning Coach is that you can help your child build confidence while at home. There are many ways you could approach this, but one practical step is cultivating a safe, positive home environment. This can be done through positive reinforcement which is as simple as recognizing your child’s efforts and applauding them when they do well.  

Open communication is critical to creating a positive home environment and raising your child’s self-esteem. Ask them about their activities and interests throughout the day and at dinnertime. The more you communicate with them, the more you can empower them. A little encouragement goes a long way! 

New Territory

For incoming sixth graders, middle school is a completely different world. All of a sudden, they have different coursework, teachers, and classmates. And, the rapid changes around them can be overwhelming. While they might want to retreat, there’s an opportunity for them to dive in head-first (with you as their anchor and life jacket, of course).

How Online Learning Can Help

Getting acclimated to new territory is more simple than you’d think. With online learning, it starts through building comfortability in the classroom. The most effective way is by encouraging students to voice their opinions and thoughts. During virtual instruction, teachers reinforce concepts and motivate students to be active learners—encouraging them to participate in activities, ask questions, and collaborate with their peers. Through this practice, middle schoolers are able to settle into a routine and establish roots in a new environment.

Ways to Support Your Student

As a Learning Coach, you can best support your child by staying involved. Studies show that parent involvement significantly impacts student progress, yielding positive results. If your middle schooler is more introverted, you can prompt them to communicate with their teacher to maintain an open dialogue. You might also encourage them to seek out a study buddy. Having another student to bounce questions off of and brainstorm with is a sure way to make them feel at home, even while online. 

A middle school student working on a science experiment in a classroom and taking notes on a laptop

Social Interaction

The social scene in middle school can be seen as a hurdle. But, being a part of a group makes it easier for students to feel included. If your child isn’t a part of a group, they may worry about dealing with cliques. However, attending online school gives your student ample opportunities to form positive connections and flourish socially.

How Online Learning Can Help

After-school activities are a great way for middle schoolers to explore their passions and meet like-minded peers. From Mathematical Olympiads to writing for the school newspaper, Connections Academy offers a variety of academic clubs that allows students to broaden their skills and pursue their passions. Teens who participate in activities together are 2-3 times more likely to form new friendships, so if you’re looking for a way for your child to build relationships while attending virtual school, extracurricular clubs might be the answer. 

Ways to Support Your Student

Collaborative learning can be an effective method when assisting your child with socialization. Under your supervision, you could form a learning pod so that students can communicate outside of school. This could occur for 30 minutes once a week and focus on a certain topic. For instance, creative parents might host a learning pod dedicated to art. Through learning pods, middle schoolers are gaining valuable social skills and connecting with one another, even through the screen. 

It may take your child some time to get adjusted to middle school, but with proper resources and continued support, they’ll have all the help they need. If you’re looking for a place where your student can flourish, Connections Academy might be the solution. Check out our enrollment page and these tips on getting started with virtual learning

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