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Navigating Hingham Middle School: A 101

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Navigating Hingham Middle School: a 101

Let's just start by acknowledging that Middle School is a "challenge". Everything is more difficult: the coursework, the social scene, friendships, the meltdowns about bad hair days- ugh. puberty.  Middle School is a crucible, get them in and out unscathed, that's the goal. If they actually have fun, or learn, or mature? consider it a win. 

That out of the way, here's the scoop. We went to experts to get help; we wish we had this information before we our children started.  Let's start with the basics:

Supplies and Organization:
Your child will be a given an agenda book each year into high school.  Have them learn how to use it; it will keep them {and you} up to speed on homework and long-term assignments.

Stick to the list of materials each teacher gives your child, they have really narrowed the list recently to the things that your kids really need.

Do help your child figure out a good organizational system once school starts.  After the first week, they will begin to understand what they need for every class, and know their lunch schedule and how it breaks up their day.  At that point you can help them consolidate binders and notebooks, and combine them for efficiency.  The fewer notebooks and binders, the better chance they'll get in the backpack when the day is done.

Have them leave their backpack in their locker for safety and ease of movement through the very crowded halls.

As they come back from a class, have them drop their book and homework into the backpack if they need it that night.  it saves last minute rushing when school ends.

Consider buying a copy of the textbooks {amazon.com has a used textbook selection} all you need is the ISBN number to locate the book.  A small expenditure will ensure that the book is always where your child needs it, and his/her backpack will weigh less than a Mount Everest expedition. 

Have them clean out their backpack every day.  Middle School is the time that they begin to "forget" those permission slips with increasing frequency {chalk it up to hormones, growing pains, or just plain sleepiness - that 7:00am bus is a challenge, no?}

Buy a 100 count box of pencils, sharpen them, and stuff them in your child’s locker. Your teachers will thank you.

Structure:
Hingham Middle School is really is 3 schools in one. Grades are physically separated and have different individualized structures:

6th grade:  Children are divided into homeroom "teams" and stay with that homeroom as they move from teacher to teacher, classroom to classroom. They are scheduled with other sixth graders {from other homerooms} for special subjects {like band, chorus, etc.}.

7th grade: In this grade, teams are more fluid. There are about 100 kids on a "team" that share teachers in core subjects, but don't share a homeroom together. In other words, Ellis may be on John's team, but not in the same class, they just share the same roster of teachers. Electives, PE, and language combine kids from across teams.

8th grade: By 8th grade, the Middle School is prepping for the transition to High School {yikes!} and there are no more teams.  The focus is on the individual and their individual schedule. 

The Program of Studies:
We recommend reading the Program of Studies cover to cover, it's online at the Middle School website under HMS important links.  The Hingham Program of Studies guide combines Middle and High School courses.  We never really understood why until we got this excellent advice from an HMS school counselor: "work backwards from senior year" {yes, senior year.}

Look at senior year coursework, understand your child's interests, strengths and weaknesses and understand what classes need to be completed in Middle School to get the classes he/she will want in High School.

There are some disciplines {math and science} that become structured in the 7th grade.  Your child has to be in specific classes to get to the next level. That sounds more serious that it actually is. The point is, pay attention to the course guide for math and science. If you expect that your child will be interested in High School Physics and Calculus, ask your counselor about the path to get there before 7th grade. 

We had our kids go through the course guide and read class descriptions, in part to get them excited and feel involved in their education, and also to understand what they gravitated towards where electives were concerned. 

So grab a course guide for each of your children, mark their names on it, flag the classes you think will engage them and keep it as a reference for Middle School and beyond {ugh, did we just say that?}

The Open House
We can't stress the importance of attending Open House enough. You'll get a feel for the school staff in general, meet your child's teachers in person {if for just a few minutes}, hear the outline for the class, expectations, and maybe most importantly, how to contact them and know how assignments {short and long term} are managed.  Did we mention the Betty Tip? Look around the class for people you know - you may need to call them to get the scoop on homework, field trips, and other high stakes games.  They are your study buddies.

Do keep a file of expectations handed out at Open House- in 6th grade a missed assignment may be allowed to be turned in for full credit- while in 7th grade it may not. Know your teacher's rules. 

Do make an email 'distribution list' of your child's teachers.  That way when your child is ill, or you are going on vacation, or you want to confirm that your child is staying after school for additional help you have all the teachers’ emails in one spot.

At the Open House, you will find out what teachers are online, there are two sources:  School Notes and the HMS Website.  Check each teacher to see if/where they are online.  Once there, you'll find nightly homework assignments, long term assignments and class expectations.

Staying on Top of Things:

1) The HMS monthly newsletter.  It is called SCHOOL NOTES and contains great information on both current and upcoming events.  Find it on the Middle School homepage.

2) The school lunch POS system. Get all the info here> and stay on top of $ in their account. We've been there at zero balance before. Ugh.

3) Every morning there are school announcements over the intercom, if you want to know what has been said, go to the HMS website for a relatively updated version of the announcement.  It's a good way to know what after school activities are occurring, what clubs are meeting, and what's being talked about in general.  Middle School can be the years that your darling elementary school child, so willing to relate the day's happenings, becomes somnambulant, not sharing much more than an "ok" when asked how his/her day was.  It's easier to say "hey, how about that joke on morning announcements today!" to shock them out of their silence and have them thinking that you have a listening device rigged under their homeroom desk!

If will help if your child has a study buddy in each class. Someone he/she can call to make sure they have the homework assignment and due dates correct. 

Get to know your school counselor and the ladies in the front office.  They hold the keys to HMS success. Nuff said. 

Homework:
Ugh.  The advice given us was think of homework in three steps:
1. Knowing what you have to do {blurg, for forgetful children or Ferdinands, this is a real challenge}.  That is where School Notes, teachers online at HMS, and the study buddy come in very handy.

2. Getting the homework in the backpack.  {See "Supplies and Organization" above for a tip on how to get the book, the notes, and the homework sheet in the backpack on the right day}.

3.  Doing the homework.  In Middle School, that can sometimes be the easiest part.  If your child is struggling, see a list of great tutors here.

We would just add one more twist to the above steps {and this comes from experience}.

4. Get the homework turned in. It is heartbreak when they've done it, gotten it into their homework folder, and they forget to turn it in the next day.  Get them in the habit of knowing what needs to be turned in, and in what class.  {Consider buying a clear folio that holds ALL the assignments that they need to turn in the next day}. 

Don't ask if they have homework THEY HAVE HOMEWORK.  Make them get it out and follow an organized, and systematic way to get through it.  Model organization yourself {ha, easy for us to say! at least we try for the first few weeks of every quarter...}

For long term assignments {they get more of these as they progress} make sure they have the THE RUBRIC.  We didn't even know the meaning of this word until they hit 6th grade.  Now we LIVE BY THE RUBRIC.  In fact, we suggest that when you get it, you make a copy of it so it doesn't get lost.  Have your child follow it like a treasure map.  It will break the long-term assignment into segments.  Help your child enter the segment due dates into the agenda so he/she can stay on track.  Often, the segments are the homework, and add up to a finished project when they are all complete.  Keep all the rough drafts, notes, and bibliographies together.   Whew.

Final Notes:
Transportation is separate from school.  If you have transportation issues, call this number: 781-741-1510

Get on every email distribution list you can find. Ask the PTO at Open House for their recommendations.

Final Final Note:

Be good to yourself.  Middle School is a hard time for everyone, kids and parents alike.  There's no right way to do it, Betty just wants to give you advice that helped so many others get through....and perhaps even enjoy the Middle School Madness.

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