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What worked: Creative learning tips for middle school

GreatSchools parents share their stories about the unique, sometimes unexpected ways they boost their children's learning.

By GreatSchools Staff

There’s a time and place for expert opinion, but sometimes the best practical wisdom springs straight from real life. GreatSchools is proud to introduce “What Worked,” a new series featuring tips and tales tapped directly from the source: fellow moms and dads. From facing down mean girls (and boys) to helping with homework horrors, GreatSchools members recount their child-rearing adventures in the hopes that what worked for them just might work for you. At the very least, we hope these short takes will inspire you to try new, creative tactics tailored to your child’s needs.

For our first edition, we asked parents to share ideas for boosting kids’ learning. Hard work, diligence, and commitment — we all want to teach our kids these elusive strengths, but convincing middle-schoolers to venture outside their comfort zone is easier said than done. These parents reveal their tricks for getting tweens to apply themselves.

Real-world wisdom

I've recently gone back to school and had to complete tons of work. Oftentimes my son would ask me to play, and I would tell him no and explain why. Now he understands what type of commitment school requires from him because I modeled that. — by jafinkley

I am a real estate broker. My son, who is 13, went on showing appointments with me this summer. He learned about business etiquette and social skills by watching how I work with clients. He observed how I greet and introduce people, how I talk about features and benefits of the houses I have for sale, and how I efficiently map out gas-saving routes to my showings. He saw how I use marketing brochures in my presentations and the convenience of having business cards. Importantly, my son learned about what it means to be self-employed and how I make a living.

My son enjoyed the opportunity to experience learning in a very different environment from his traditional classroom. I enjoyed his intelligent questions; his enthusiasm for meeting new people; and his break from the computer, TV, and video games. — by Elizabeth Johnson

Strategies for success

Our son struggles with reading and writing. He wants to give only the shortest answer possible. Last year, for language arts/spelling and history, we had him try using an outline method to help him get his thoughts together and down on paper. It was hard at first, but the process became easier as the school year continued.

For our son to have to start with a blank page and fill it up with information was a daunting task. But having an outline gave him a way to get all his ideas on paper. He then was able to prioritize and add or delete as necessary. Once he had the road map, he was able to expand on the topics he needed to cover. Writing is still a bit of a struggle, but we believe that using the outline method has really helped our son in his understanding of a subject and then being able to explain his understanding. — by MSMomm

Comments from readers

"My child is in middle school, she has always struggled with math - she has afterschool math class but I would like extra assistance on weekends. Does anyone know a tutor in Yonkers, NY that is not very costly. "