For some children, junior high or middle school may not be appropriate. A child with significant learning disabilities may be too challenged by trying to cope with the differing requirements of six separate teachers. Occasionally, parents simply feel that a child is just not ready to encounter the much larger campus of a middle school and would benefit from greater personal time with a smaller teaching staff.
In the last few years, there has been a dramatic rise in alternatives to middle school, which may help to address parents’ concerns. These programs may be public, with many public elementary schools extending their education from the former K-6 to K-8 grades. Other very small 7-8 grade schools have also sprung up, and either of these options may make for good alternatives to traditional middle school.
Many K-8, or 7-8 alternatives to middle school are charter schools. If the charter has oversight by a public school, it normally must accept all students without discrimination, but may have restrictions on the total number of students it can accept. This type of charter may be the perfect environment for some students who need more personal time, greater supervision or continued access to special education services.
Some charter schools are not associated with a public elementary school campus and are completely private. These alternatives to middle school may not be suited to all children. In fact, some 7-8 charters are actually academically more rigorous than middle schools and would not make a good fit for some children. On the other hand, a very gifted child may find advanced study charter schools as excellent alternatives to middle school. Again, these schools are often much smaller so children have a greater share of teacher time and usually fewer teachers.
Private schools remain popular, but often costly, alternatives to middle schools. They can be harder to gain admission to if they are popular, and if the child has not attended the school in the past, since many of them are K-8 schools. Many parents feel that they allow children to still be kids for a few more years. High school will come soon enough, but a 13 or 14 year old doesn’t necessarily need the social pressure that tends to evolve during middle school.
Some parents may not feel that there are adequate alternatives to middle school in their area, and decide to home school. This may be part of an ongoing homeschooling arrangement with children, or it may merely be the beginning of homeschooling. When choosing this option, it’s best to be very well acquainted with the material you intend to teach the student, and to connect with homeschooling organizations in your area. Reading books about homeschooling can also help inform you if this is the best choice for your child.
Even though many parents are seeking alternatives to middle school, children in the 12-14 age range are still going to experience some “middle school” type problems, no matter where they attend school. These include going through puberty, dealing with a greater level of social criticism from peers, and having most teachers expect a higher level of responsibility from them. Sometimes, in spite of the alternatives to middle school, it remains the best choice for students. It’s also important to consult the child. If a child’s friends are all progressing to a local middle school, they may want to maintain these social relationships, and be more comfortable in the middle school environment than they would in alternate schooling arrangements.