When you look back on your life, there are certain years that likely stand out: the year you earned your driver’s license (freedom!) … the year you earned the right to vote (responsibility!) … the year you could legally be served a drink.
Our kids have milestone years in school too—those years when expectations and responsibilities leap ahead:
- Going from 2nd to 3rd grade
- Going from elementary school to middle school
- Going from middle school to high school
“These are pivotal academic years,” explains Emily Levitt, Vice President of Education for Sylvan.
“With each of these transitions, there are bigger expectations for student independence, and there’s a jump in the difficulty of work they’re asked to do.
“If students don’t successfully make these transitions, they’ll get left behind quickly. And the older they are, the faster they’ll get left behind.”
Whether your child is starting one of these transition years or you’re planning ahead, the good news is you can make these milestones easier. You just need to know what to expect and how to take the right steps.
3rd grade transition: Going from learning to read, to reading to learn
3rd grade is a big year for reading, writing and math.
In 2nd grade, kids spend a lot of time focusing on “decoding:” sounding out words that are unfamiliar. It takes a lot of brainpower for a child to figure out what a word actually says.
By 3rd grade, children are expected to decode words automatically.
They’re expected to comprehend what’s being read. Reading and writing will become a bigger part of every subject— including math and science.
And in math, there’s a similar jump in expectations to the one in reading.
In 1st and 2nd grade, kids are learning how to add and multiply single-digit numbers. These calculations take a lot of brainpower.
But in 3rd grade, they’re expected to know these sums and products by memory, so they can shift their brainpower to more complex problem solving.
Middle school transition: Organization becomes a priority
Ah, middle school …
One minute your child won’t walk on the same side of the street as you. (“You’re so embarrassing!”)
Two hours later, he or she could be snuggled up next to you watching TV.
Let the roller coaster ride begin!
The move to middle school is one of the most unsettling transitions for kids. Your child is likely moving to a new building, and in a different classroom for each subject.
It’s also a time of tremendous social and emotional growth.
Kids’ hormones are changing, and they don’t know how to channel the feelings they have.
The frontal lobe of their brain is still developing. This under-developed part of their brain is in charge of planning, working memory, decision making, and mood and impulse control.
You’re basically parenting a “work in progress.”
From an academic perspective, there are three critical success factors in middle school:
- Developing organizational skills
- Reading and writing fluently
- Becoming proficient in math
High school/secondary school transition: The stakes get bigger
High school/secondary school is the beginning of adulthood. (Crazy, right?)
During the first year of high school, your teen will face…
- Bigger academic challenges than ever before. This is the foundation period for college/university preparedness.
- New levels of pressure and stress—often thanks to heavier homework loads and academic achievement tests.
- Independent choices about whether to engage in risky behaviors (drinking, drugs, etc.) that could have a lasting impact.
And yes, these decisions will be made with an under-developed teenage brain!
As kids make the transition from middle school to high school, many students come face to face with a larger, more competitive, less personal environment than they’ve ever encountered before.