HomeAcademics & ActivitiesAcademic Skills

Is Your Middle-Schooler Bored?

Page 2 of 3

By GreatSchools Staff

Advanced Options Aren't Just for Gifted Students

While many schools offer special programs for students identified as gifted, there are other programs open to any student who can demonstrate that he can succeed at an advanced level.

In the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District in North Carolina, for example, and in many middle schools across the country, advanced middle school students can take higher level math and foreign language courses at their local high school.

This school district, like many, also offers an International Baccalaureate (IB) program at several of its middle schools beginning in grade 6. Students have the option to enroll starting in grade 6 but can enter the program in later grades as well. The IB curriculum is a rigorous international curriculum. Teachers must take required IB training and write specialized curriculum units that encourage critical thinking, interconnectedness among subjects and an appreciation for international education. The middle school curriculum is cross disciplinary with core classes in language and the arts; there are also community service and physical education components.

What type of student is this curriculum appropriate for? "We want students who have a strong commitment to learning, love to excel, can make connections across areas, are curious and critical thinkers, have skills and interest in foreign languages and technology, and understand community service and what it really means," says Robbie Kale, director of magnet programs for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District. "They have to love to read and write as there are many projects assigned." The IB curriculum is offered at schools throughout the world; one of the added bonuses of the program is that students can transfer anywhere in the world where an IB curriculum is offered and they should be able to fit right in.

Students who continue on and complete the IB diploma curriculum in their high school years may qualify for an IB diploma, which is highly valued in American universities and throughout the world.

The next place to look is beyond the middle-school walls. There may be options at your local high school or community college or through online programs and special summer programs.

Online Programs

Online courses work best for self-disciplined, independent learners. Some have an interactive component where others involve just the student and the printed study materials. There are multiple online options available. Here's a sampling:

Duke University e-Studies (grades 8-12) is an interactive distance learning program. Students connect with instructors, course material and 10-15 classmates from around the world in virtual "classrooms." Courses run in the fall and spring (16-week sessions), as well as in the summer (8-week session). Students are admitted based on SAT or ACT test scores. Courses cost $750, which includes all text materials. There is an additional $20 application fee. Financial aid is available.

The Center for Distance and Independent Study at the University of Missouri-Columbia is mostly for high school students, but there are a few options - courses such as medieval life, applying the math challenge and creative writing - available for middle school students, too. This is a self-directed program where students can sign up at anytime for the course, and receive print materials (a study guide and text) and take up to nine months to complete the course. Each course for middle school students costs $130, plus varying fees for the print materials, depending on the course selected. Students write papers, do projects and take two proctored exams. (Generally they find someone in their community or school to act as an authorized proctor.)

The Education Program for Gifted Youth (EPGY) at Stanford University provides individualized, online instruction for gifted students of all ages, from kindergarten through university level. Students take courses and receive instructional support via telephone, email and a virtual classroom. To qualify for EPGY, students must provide evidence of their intellectual ability, generally a recognized standardized test such as the SAT. Courses range in cost from $495 to $740 and financial aid is available. Students may begin most courses on the first of any month.

Comments from readers

"The article is ok, but the 2/9/09 post is right! Getting kids excited outside of school does nothing to cure the problems within our schools! What are we going to do about this decrepit institution, People?! My generation (boomish) was bored when we went to these schools. Our parents were told it was our/their fault: boomers were children of television and were just too used to being entertained. "Educators" admitted that TV was more effective than teachers were at engaging people and introducing them to new worlds and concepts. But school was school, and our parents were told that the kids just had to learn to sit still and listen to the endless blather of bureau crats. ENOUGH!! I honestly believe the term "teacher" should be replaced with "coach." Why not use TV, ipads, and apps to introduce children to each subject and then use the "coaches" to help them exercise the concepts to the point of mastery. Kids could take charge of their learning and lose the inhibition that comes from the current system which idolizes the supposedly "gifted" kids who are just too unimaginitive to daydream. "
"The articles are great. However, are you able to identify resources and programs geared for 'all students' not just 'gifted students?' I wish someone would create a program that could motivate and excite students who are not excelling. Sadly, these children are often given rote and boring material which further deceases their desire to learn."
"I'm running a summer mathematics program that is not meant to be remedial or advanced: it is an 'out of the box' program that gets kids excited about the possibilities of learning 'math on the streets' using the vibrant urban culture of NYC as a context. My website is if you want to know more."
"do you have a list of programs this summer that have scholorships in the michigan area for a middle-schooler"
"This is a wonderful list of alternatives - some more realistically accessed than others - and a wonderfully well-intentioned article. That said I'd need to also say this - I'd need to see and look carefully at the research of experts that says the most common reason for middle schoolers to be bored is that they are not sufficiently challenged. One - the state of research in the science of education is still in its infancy though many of us don't realize that and most of us aren't comfortable with thinkng that. When it comes to our children and their education, we'd like the experts to really be expert. And - what does it mean to be 'challenged' in school? We use that word often but almost never define it. From my many years of teaching middle school, I'd say middle schoolers are challenged by the very process that is school. It is very challenging for young people to sit still through 35-40 minute long classes and to do that through 7 or 8 class periods a day. If you want an experience that will open your eyes and numb your body - go back to middle school for a day and be a student sitting in those chairs again... And you'll see how little has changed in the curriculum or the manner of teaching despite all the talk about 'multisensory teaching' and 'auditory, visual and kinesthetic classes'. But you'll also see how much middle schoolers have changed - they are Far More knowledgeable that they were at least in my day. And far more restless, uncertain and unhappy with the traditional process that is school - sitting in rows taking closed-book tests (we still have them memorizing the state capitols that can be looked up on google in a nanosecond) and we often have 25-35 of them in a room. I'm not sure that bored says it all - they know something's wrong. They seem to know that if school were really about learning, it wouldn't be like it is - it wouldn't be straight rows of chairs with healthy young people forced to sit still in them for the length of a school day, taking notes from the board and the textbook and then writing that same information down again this time with the notes and book closed. They like good grades but they know that's not really learning. Because learning isn't boring - it's empowering. Your very well-intentioned list says much the same as I just did - most of the suggestions it offers to alleviate boredom seem to lie outside of the boring place that is often school. I'm no expert just an experienced Middle School teacher and I'd say the most common reason for middle schoolers to be bored at school is that in these past few decades they and the world have changed and a lot and school hasn't changed much at all. The summer schools you list are wonderful alternatives - for the summer. Many families can't afford such programs and if they can it leaves their bored middle schoolers to still be bored through the nine months of the school year. On-line programs are more affordable and sometimes free but they can only begin at 3 if you've been in boring school all day. It's a wonderfully well-intentioned article but I'm not sure it really answers the question it raises - if your child is bored in school, what do we do about that in school? Not in the summer or after school but in school? There's no list that I've seen that addresses that. There are only a very few schools that offer alternatives within the school itself. The real question for most parents is - What Do you do when your child is bored in school each day? How do you get them to keep up with the boredom for if they fall out with the routine, they'll start to fail. How do you get them to go back to school each day when it's so boring? And hardest - how do you explain to your child why it's still learning when it's so boring and doesn't feel like they're learning much at all? Most parents shut down around those questions because they don't know the answers to them. Perhaps an article addressing itself to those kind of questions might be helpful to parents - particularly those whose kids go to schools without alternative programs or those for whom the alternative of stimulating summer programs isn't one. "
"Thank you. Your article was thrilling for me as a middle school teacher studying the particular challenges and options that have to do with accelerated learning for public school children. I am concerned about those who are poor or disadvantaged in one or more ways and may not have parental investment to support accelerated options for their education. Assuredly the more information you get the better your chances of helping your children the way you hope you can help."
" this is an excellent least we parents learn where to go. i have one note though.i have a high functioning autistic son whose going high school.he loves geography and the way, he's mainstreamed in school.i don't know what's a good course for him.i don't know where to lead him.all i know is i'm doing my best in providing him good education right now.I'm LOST please help me. famer"
"This site has been very helpful for me. It is sonice to be able to receive all that information that can help me to raise my children."
"This site has been the most infomational and helpful site I have visited. Parent of gifted child Michigan"
"Excellent overview of different options. Your newsletter is very helpful and full of information. I do not usually subscribe to newsletters but have been very surpirsed by the wealth of useful information published by Great Schools. Keep it up >From Parent with children attending Department of Defense School in Belgium "
"I just read your email; my son is 12 years old and we recently moved from San Jose to Stockton California. The schools here are horrible, the teachers even tell us to have him go directly to high school next year, as the middle schools in this area have nothing to offer him. In San Jose he was in high school plays, choir, drama, and they thought he was great! Is there ANYWHERE in Stockton that we can put him that will challenge him and keep him interested in school? He was tested in 5th grade to be at a post 12th grade level. He wanted a job managing Krispy Kreme since he was 6 years old! I am serious! Please help us so he does not just waste his mind. Thank you"
"This is great information! Thank you & send more that is similar!!!"
"Awesome list. I wish I had had this two years ago! Carnegie Mellon and U of P also have summer residential programs for gifted students (high school) interested in the gaming industry."
"Thank you for this great information. My daughters school have a great library, but many of the classes never can use or have access to use what is there or to take out books on a regular basis. I will get with the board meetings at CMS here in Charlotte and ask why not? It'sa like not having the library at all, if the school does not make it available for every student in the school. They also have no recess time and sitting to much time in class per class. Almost every student there will tell them they do not wish to do the repetitive same exercises every morning after just eating breakfast and sweaty or smelling for the rest of their school day. What happen to recess in the middle of the day for children to enjoy also wil be asked why not? Many children would like to participate with other children of their same interest and sports during that time. We have many mass of problems with in this school system and no one is listening to great suggestion. Many of the students will become much more connected of cultural differences if they had time to blend on their own in such a peaceful setting. My own daughter has friends in her school from other international background and they hardly every get to speak to each other during school. This is very sad for her as do the others. The principal isn't listening to any of her parents as PTA takes place or personal meetings of concerns as I watch being a volunteer in my daughters school and both of her parents active in PTA. "