Sterling Academy Blog

How to navigate the transition between grade levels

Posted by Sterling Staff on Aug 31, 2015 7:51:00 AM

Transitioning from grade school to middle school or middle school to high school can be a time of tremendous anxiety for your child. Whereas their elementary school was small, their middle school could have hundreds more students. And when it’s time to leave there, they may find themselves in a 2000-student high school.

Officially becoming one of the “bigger kids” is pretty exciting, but it can feel overwhelming, too. Even scary. Sixth graders are very different from 8th graders, just as freshmen are very different from seniors. And the older children get, the more disparate their emotional and physical maturity levels are. That can exacerbate anxiety about making a successful transition.


There is plenty to worry about.

A larger, more spread-out campus creates logistical concerns about where things are and how things work. A new, middle school schedule represents a collection of transitions, class by class, because each teacher is different and has different expectations. There is a lot to assimilate and remember.

Then there are the academic worries. It’s time to get serious, because coursework is getting tougher. That means more pressure. Students have to take more responsibility for completing assignments – will it be too much? Or too hard?

And then there is the social angle, something increasingly important for students entering their middle school years. Girls or boys who had an army of fast friends in 5th grade often find that the moment they switch schools to enter 6th grade, those friends abandon them in search of new relationships. School boundaries can also separate friends as they transition, sending them to different middle schools where they must navigate without their best buddy at their side.  

“Growing up” to a new school brings potentially serious concerns about bullying or myriad other peer-generated pressures beyond finding new friends. Middle school students may be entering puberty and it will certainly be in full swing by the time they move on to high school. Hormonal and other changes associated with puberty can profoundly affect your child’s outlook and ability to grapple with uncertainty.

While logistics may not change all that much from middle to high school, academic and social issues can be bigger than ever. And heading into high school means having to make larger life decisions about the ultimate transition from child to adult -- colleges to attend, potential career fields or post-graduate jobs. 

Easing the stress.

Some parents choose to send their children to private schools to ameliorate transition effects. Private schools are typically smaller regardless of grade, helping alleviate the shock that comes from suddenly having to deal with larger surroundings and the anxiety of feeling lost or friendless. But other major transition challenges still exist and can still have a detrimental impact on learning.

Your child may be more comfortable and more successful taking things at their own speed, both socially and academically. Switching to online school can afford them a more supportive start on becoming their own person without the negative influences or distractions common in traditional schools. And they can still see friends after school and on weekends.

Online students at Sterling Academy can study from home or other comfortable locations with internet access, with 100% flexibility to schedule their own study time. They can also schedule one-on-one meetings with teachers, to get as much help as they need with their coursework. This can be a life-changing benefit for students worried about falling behind as they transition between grade levels.  

Not all tweens and teens are equally prepared or capable of transitioning successfully to middle or high school. If your child will be entering middle or high school this year, this is an ideal time to talk with him or her about how they feel about these big changes. As a parent, you can help them navigate change more smoothly with less stress, whether they choose to stay on the traditional path or switch to an online school.

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Topics: online high school

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