Looking back on sixth grade

My son finished sixth grade in May. Summer is half over, and I wanted to take a few minutes to reflect on our sixth grade experience.

I knew that sixth grade would be a time of big changes for my son – and for us. He would be testing his independence and challenging us even more. It’s a year earlier than when I went to school, when sixth grade was still considered elementary school.

Here are some thoughts about our sixth grade experience:

More complicated schedules. My son’s schedule was different every day, with six different schedules A-F. At first, he didn’t like it and had a hard time adjusting. About five weeks into the school year, the schedule started to click. Ultimately, the six-day schedule let him participate in more classes than in a regular Monday to Friday week.

Earlier wake-up time. Since we had to drive farther to get to school and had to deal with more traffic, we both had to get up earlier than when he was in elementary school. Sometimes he used the time to go over vocabulary words. Sometimes he took naps on the way to school in the morning and on the way home in the afternoon. The earlier wake-up time really conflicted with his…

Changing sleeping habits. He stayed up later to do homework, study, and relax, and he had a harder time waking up in the morning. I read recently that if we want to improve educational results for teenagers, we should start the school day later. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “later sleep and wake patterns among adolescents are biologically determined; the natural tendency for teenagers is to stay up late at night and wake up later in the morning.”

More homework, less sleep. It seemed that he had a lot more homework than in fifth grade. Other students told him that his teacher was one of the stricter teachers in sixth grade (which should make seventh grade less stressful). He spent less time using his planner, which meant more last-minute work. He spent more time with his humanities and social studies work, which made his performance in math and science falter a little. We asked him to write a plan for improving next year.

First time away from home, alone. I’m sure it was more traumatic for us, than for him. The house was so quiet when he was gone. Even our yellow lab was more subdued. He wasn’t excited to go to camp, but he came back full of enthusiasm. He had a great group of camp counselors who made him feel welcome.

Chapel. He attended chapel every two weeks, but the focus was more on building character and promoting understanding. The highlight was a skit that each class had to perform. The class had only a limited time to learn songs and choreography, and then they performed in front of the rest of the sixth graders (and some curious parents).

In his words. “There were a lot [of] downsides to this year as I experienced inappropriate, enraging, and intriguing behavior and students. I have also been more exposed to kids’ nature and their games, such as Fortnite, learning about drama between both teenagers and other students such as ‘shipping’ [real people or fictional characters in a romantic relationship] … There were some awesome experiences I had! Camp was probably the best thing I can think of for this year, since I got to meet so many new people and make new friends.”

What do you remember about your sixth grade? If you have middle school children, how are expectations about student learning different from when you were in middle school?

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