Preparing, Enriching, and Equipping a Middle Schooler to Thrive

LauraAll Posts, Sonlight

Worried about a bored tween? Perhaps it’s time for a new challenge!

(I received Sonlight 100 in exchange for a series of blog posts that contain my honest opinion.)

I could tell by looking at her: our 12-year old daughter was languishing.

Maybe it was the 2-week humdinger of a flu that seemed to shut her down.

Maybe it was her new braces that made smiling painful and slowed her down to sloth-like motions.

Whatever it was, I did a double-take.

She wasn’t interested in anything. She seemed discouraged. When I wrapped my arms around her, I could feel that she was tightly wound and closing in. It seemed like – in every way – she was taking up as little space as possible.

I thought of Peter Pan’s lost boys who were “fitted” to their own personal hollowed-out trees in order to enter to their underground home. “Once you fit, great care must be taken to go on fitting…” That’s all fine and good in Neverland, but the miracle of growing from childhood into adulthood includes the freedom to grow out of those little childhood trees.

A pre-teen needs a big space in which to grow…

What was happening?

On the cusp of her teenage years, she should be broadening! unfolding! developing!

Her lungs should be filling with the air of inspiration, creativity, and excitement!

Yet, it felt like my girl was shrinking, striving to squeeze inside the sapling she had known as a child.  

I prayed fervently to God and laid my concerns at His feet.

As we talked, I could see that over the past few months, He had been working in a new and suprising way: He had been opening doors and inviting her to take some giant steps forward into a new, fascinating season.

He had been beckoning her out of her childhood tree… There’s so much more, daughter! It’s time to grow!

But I had been like the sapling holding her in. Stay here where it’s safe, daughter! Let’s keep things as they’ve always been.

A pre-teen’s mother needs a big space in which to grow, too…

For 12 years, I’ve been a mother of babies – called to protect, hold, and nurture, to create a safe and loving home.

For 12 years, I’ve looked to God as my divine example of Protector and as the source of grace to nurture my babies. He has been the roof on our home, the batten to our door, and the love in our midst.

But now, He’s burst the door open for Vivienne and I need to venture out with her, to encourage her along, step by step.

Motherhood suddenly requires more from me: a bigger sense of adventure, a love for challenge, and a faith-filled following after God.

I need to do my own expanding: to open my hands in surrender, to lay a richer feast, to dream bigger dreams. This will be an adventure.

What we want for our daughter…

My husband and I agree: we’d do anything to help Vivienne to be strong, smart, and loving.

We want her to know that she is able – invited – encouraged to:

speak up,

do hard things,

and tackle big problems.

We want her to walk with Jesus, to create art and music, to read deeply, to dance, and to laugh, cry, and pray with her friends.

So, we’ve given her some well-earned privileges and responsibilities at home.

We’ve joined her in saying “yes” to an upcoming grand adventure.

We’ve even uncharacteristically changed her curriculum mid-year. Right here – in the middle of February – I’ve stacked the shelves with fresh new books.

Now that the books are on the shelves and the spines are being cracked open, I can see it so clearly: she’s ready for this!

Food for the mind and heart: she needs this nourishment.

Academically, it’s time to increase the challenge, not the stress.

Most kids shut down when they are too stressed out, but our girl was shutting down because she wasn’t being challenged enough: she needed a bigger world with bigger ideas.

Around our homeschool table, we’ve been working on our second time through Sonlight B – E, including World History, Early American History, and Modern History. We’ve all enjoyed the history and read-alouds together, enjoying the reinforcement of a 2nd time around.

Although Vivienne has continued to progress in her Language Arts, Math, and Science, we haven’t purchased another Sonlight curriculum since she was in 4th grade. Because the books are so marvelous and the discussions so rich, I was oblivious to the possibility that she could benefit from a more challenging course.

Right around the time when I could see that she needed more, Sonlight contacted me and asked if I would exchange some blogging for a new curriculum.

I jumped at the opportunity and ordered Sonlight 100 American Historywhich will complement the Early American History that I’m already teaching to the younger children.

Time for a new season…

The boxes of books arrived while I was tediously unwrapping the Christmas lights from around the porch spindles. The white twinkle lights had beautifully decorated our farmhouse since November. Now, it was early February, and they were looking stale and garish. I was past due in transitioning from one season to another.

The husky UPS guy carried both boxes up at the same time and emphatically sat them down at the bottom of the steps.

I dropped the string of lights to appreciate the poignance: I was past due in transitioning from one homeschooling season to another. It was time for a change.

There are so many benefits!

I didn’t realize that by this level in the Sonlight curriculum, the student receives a very thorough Student Guide that includes the week’s assignments as well as explanations, notes, and questions. We are both thrilled about this because Vivienne is self-motivated, likes to stay on top of her assignments, and have autonomy over her work. It’s a big help to me, too, as I homeschool our 4 other children.

As of today, we have a few weeks under our belts.

To say that Vivienne is thriving is an understatement.

This was precisely what she needed!

Just this week, she has been savoring Joy Hakim’s clever and informative The History of Us, the riveting account of the gospel in Peace Child, an exciting Physical Science curriculum that enriches her weekly science co-op, the Current Events assignments, a book about prayer that the two of us  read together on the couch in the afternoons, music, art, and public speaking…

Her days are full of beauty, truth, and goodness.

A sacrifice worth making…

In exchange for this great treasure, I agreed to write monthly posts to share with you the benefits of using Sonlight. This will be a joy because we have loved Sonlight for many years and it has shaped who we are today.

However, to be honest, this commitment will require significant energy, thought, and time.

I agreed to it – first and foremost – for our daughter’s sake. I will work my tail off to enrich and encourage her. (In fact, when she saw me working diligently at writing this post, she smiled her beautiful braces smile and said, “Thank you so much for doing this for me, Mom! It’s AMAZING!”)

My husband and I see this as a wonderful way for us to invest in our precious pre-teen.

I also agreed to it because I love you – my readers – and I know that this commitment will help me to be more intentional about sharing ideas about raising children, nurturing middle school students, and building our homes for the glory of God.

I’m so grateful that our daughter is back to her bubbly, vibrant self, while growing stronger, smarter, and more loving every day.

Here’s to a bigger world! And to the God who leads us there.


Interested in Sonlight Curriculum? Use the Code LB20280892 to receive $5 off your first order of $50 or more. Connect with Sonlight:

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