Parent Blog: How The Sycamore School is Helping us Navigate the Middle School Years

Parents Blog: How The Sycamore School is Helping us Navigate the Middle School Years

This blog is a part of a series where parents of The Sycamore School’s students share their experiences on what it’s like to be a part of the TSS community and the impact TSS has made on their children. Through these blogs, we hope you’ll gain inside knowledge and understanding of what to expect when you enroll your student in our small, independent school using the mastery-based learning approach.  

The early childhood years are filled with physical, social, and emotional milestones. Endless parenting books, articles, and playground conversations are devoted to analyzing each phase. Then comes a big one: the first day of Kindergarten. We grow as our children grow – we accumulate cupcake caddies, they get bigger backpacks; we chit-chat with other elementary parents at pick-up, at the bus stop, and as we facilitate playdates.

Then…Middle School. Cupcake caddies gather dust; parents don’t get out of the car at school, volunteer in classrooms, or chaperone field trips. Kids text each other to organize their hangouts, and the opportunities to chat with other parents of similar-aged children seem to evaporate. Kids get less chatty as well – we don’t hear about their days or see their schoolwork in the way we used to.

Starting middle school can be unnerving – and I mean that it is unnerving for parents. We know how fraught the middle school years can be for children; just look at most books and movies aimed at the 10-to-15-year-old set. But we don’t talk much about how challenging these years are for parents, not the way the early years are talked about.

What a genuine relief it has been for us to have our middle school-age children at The Sycamore School (TSS), a place that knows this age and celebrates it. A place that understands the challenges middle school presents and supports the journey. And I mean that for both the students and their parents. For our children, this is the oldest they have ever been. Everything carries weight; it is all-important. And that deserves respect. And for us, well, we have never parented children this age before. We know our children best. But the teachers and staff at TSS know this age best, and they know who our children are when they aren’t with us. At TSS, teachers work with parents to support the whole child, and each child can then grow into their best self in a safe space, where learning from mistakes is accepted and expected. 

It’s not always easy – remember that part about the middle school years being fraught? For us parents, I mean! We take deep breaths; we understand our children need to become their own people, take their own risks, learn their own lessons. But at the same time, we worry. Just like in the early years, we are anxious about academic, social, and emotional milestones. We can’t help but look ahead, whether to high school, college, or the working world beyond. Underpinning everything is the silent question, “Will my child be okay?”.

And at TSS, the answer is a resounding yes. YES. The teachers work so hard that they make me weep with gratitude – they work to move students along their own path, meeting them where they are and supporting them as they push further. They sometimes deliver hard news – to us as parents and to our children when they need to hear it, to support everyone and work to develop the scaffolding necessary to ensure success. Being at TSS means we know our children are in capable and compassionate hands.

It’s fun (and often funny) to dish about the early years with other parents and teachers, but as our children get older, the issues, challenges, and concerns feel harder and more personal. They also start to carry the weight of the future. Having our children at TSS means we are not alone in navigating the uncharted waters of supporting our children as they grow up. And ultimately, that’s the goal. 

These kids with big feelings they can’t always handle, who are sometimes disorganized, sometimes shockingly brilliant, sometimes startlingly confused—with the support of the incredible teachers at TSS—will gain the skills they need to enter the world with confidence and kindness. They’ll be able to ask and answer questions, pursue inquiry, plan and complete a project, work in a group, and know themselves as individuals and as a part of a greater community. The Sycamore School is not only helping our children grow their wings; it is teaching them to use them.

Written by TSS parent Jenny

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