6th grade--elementary or middle? (x-post) - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 13 Old 03-17-2006, 11:26 PM - Thread Starter
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My DD is in fourth grade at our neighborhood elementary school, where she has been academically successful and enjoys a circle of really kind friends.

We have an option for sixth grade: Keep her at the elementary school, where there is one sixth grade class, or send her to the local middle school, which serves some 600 6th-, 7th- and 8th-grade students.

At the middle school, there are honors classes, electives, music every day if they choose, PE every day, art. In sixth grade there, they change classes three times a day. At the elementary school, it's one teacher, one classroom, music and PE twice a week, minimal art. The rumor among parents who've gone before me is that the "less academic kids stay behind" at the elementary school. The other thing every parent has said is, "Our decision was based a lot on where my kid's friends were going."

My DD would be 10 years old when she starts sixth grade. She's a September birthday in an area with a Dec 2 cutoff and lots of fall-birthday kids who started kindergarten at 5 instead of 4, so she's young. She's an A student, but not in the accelerated program. She's naturally reserved, and has gained confidence by being in a familiar setting since first grade. She would be most comfortable staying at the elementary school, but not necessarily most challenged.

In my heart, I want to keep her young and close and protected for as long as possible, and middle school scares me. We are in an upper-middle-income suburban area where already we walk a slightly different path simply because we're a little crunchy and we subscribe to the Hold On To Your Kids approach (book by Gordon Neufeld). My DDs enjoy their friends, but their souls are fed at home and, outside of seeing a few nice friends for playdates maybe once a week, they spend most of their time with each other and DH and I--family time. Most of the children in our community are involved in LOADS of peer-based activities and are encouraged to socialize as much as possible. Being well-liked and loaded with friends is highly valued in this community and kids are stacked up with playdates in a way that seems very socially competitive. For this reason, middle school--with its intensely peer-oriented student body and all that striving to conform--feels like something we're not ready to expose our DDs to any sooner than we must.

However, the academic program at the middle school sounds superior, and parents I know who have sent their sixth graders to middle school have had no complaints. The music program in the middle school is said to be terrific, and my DD is very into violin, so that's enticing as well. Also, there is an argument for sending her in sixth because it's like "middle school lite"--the sixth graders are kept separate from the 7th and 8th graders for most of the day and they switch classes only 3 times instead of 7 (like they do in 7th). Supposedly it gives sixth graders a chance to get used to the middle school experience, the homework, etc.

It's a big topic among big DD's friends' parents right now, too--we all are on the fence about what decision we'll be making this time next year (it's registration time). I need to do more research, but I wondered if any of you have faced a similar situation? I'm eager for any insight you might have. (I'm going to cross post this in Education.)
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#2 of 13 Old 03-18-2006, 12:23 AM
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As a veteran middle school parent, I vote for 6th grade staying in elementary school. I'd prefer to see K-8, but that's another topic.

Let your dd have input to the decision, of course, but I would argue that by staying in elementary she can be a leader and looked up to by the younger kids, instead of at the bottom of the heap in middle school.

Best of luck!
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#3 of 13 Old 03-18-2006, 01:42 PM
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I'm with Free Time. I'd keep her in the elemenary school for 6th. My oldest is in 7th at a K-8 and we love it.
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#4 of 13 Old 03-18-2006, 02:14 PM
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My inclination would be to keep her in the elementary school for the many reasons you listed, but I would also consider the following:

How do kids in the 7th grade feel about their 6th grade year? I went to a Catholic grade school that went K-8. I knew I would not be going to Catholic High school. The local public schools ran K-6, 7-9 and 10-12. I KNEW I did not want to start public school in the 9th grade where everyone would already have their groups of friends.

Also, while it would be more pressure in 6th grade to have the middle school experience, that would, I assume, make 8th and 9th a bit easier. She would already know the music teachers, would already know the layout, etc...

I guess I would *want* to keep my child back, but would probably end up putting him/her in middle school in 6th unless I was willing to do something like homeschool 7th & 8th.

ETA: My oldest is only in 2nd grade, so I am writing this mostly from the perspective of how I would have felt in that position. I would discuss it with DD and see where most of her friends are going and get some further input along those lines as well.



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#5 of 13 Old 03-18-2006, 02:49 PM - Thread Starter
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Part of the reason this has come up now is because one of DD's friends said something ar recess the other day about going to middle school in sixth grade and it caused another of the girls to go home and burst into tears at the dinner table with her parents because she wants to stay at the elementary school for the sixth and had assumed all her best friends would, too. This sparked a lot of conversation among the adults about it, even though it's over a year away before anyone has to make this decision.

When I've mentioned it to my DD, asking how she feels about it, she has said alternately, "Middle school sounds scary." and "Music every day? Cool!" But mostly, she's ambivalent. I think it's still so far away to her--sixth grade--that she's not really ready to think about it. As the time gets closer and we do more research, we'll involve her in that.

I really wish we had K–8.
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#6 of 13 Old 03-18-2006, 03:50 PM
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I taught fifth and sixth grades in a combined class for four years. I would say that the majority of the sixth graders were NOT ready for a middle school setting during their sixth grade year. I did have some that were in fifth grade with me and then went on to middle school elsewhere (I taught at a charter school) and the most frequent comment I heard from parents was that it was a very hard transition. Not only was the work very challenging, but there were additional challenges of managing different classes/different teachers.

The program you described seems very transitional, and I think would be a good idea for kids who are really on the ball, showing great responsibility, and are able to do quite a bit of self-managing. Is there a way you and dd can spend a day or part of a day there to see what it's like? Can you speak to the teachers about some of your concerns? How do the teachers handle teaching management and responsibility? What safety nets are in place for students who would find these things challenging? I would highly recommend visiting the school to get more of a feel of the program.

I think it would greatly depend on the child individually. Like I mentioned, some are ready at sixth grade, and some aren't. If a concern is the extra classes like music and such, is there a way to maybe get those in another way outside of the school day? Maybe a music lesson or art class or book club at the library?

Good luck with your decision!!
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#7 of 13 Old 03-18-2006, 08:56 PM
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I would put her in middle school for sixth.

I think the "middle school lite" you mention would be an easier transition for her than sixth grade in elementary and then jump right into six or seven class/teacher changes a day for seventh grade.

You say she is academically successful. You say the kids who stay at elementary for sixth are generally not. We are not debating whether this is right or not; it just is the way it is where you are. So she would likely be bored academically if she stayed for sixth in elementary.

You say she has a great group of kind friends. Are they going on or staying in elementary? I was one of the youngest in my class but did well academically and socially all the way through. If she is a good student, she'll be a good student whether 6th is in elementary or middle school. I would have been upset to leave my class of friends, just because I was young in the grade. If she was doing poorly in school, that would be a different matter but she isn't.

Sounds like the music program, among other things, is better at the middle school. Of course she may be nervous about the change, but it is over a year away and she will grow to accept it during that time. Lots (most? all?) of her friends will be going and she will be fine. It will be new and exciting and she will be so proud that she made that transition.

For me, having gone K through 6th as elementary (standard where I lived at the time), sixth graders in middle school/jr. high seems odd. But it is standard now. My dd1 is in fourth now, like yours. She does seem young, my baby! But she will grow up a lot in the next year and a half.

I'd go with middle school.
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#8 of 13 Old 03-18-2006, 09:03 PM
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I would go with the middle school, for the most part. I would let her do a large part of the deciding, but I'd lean towards MS myself.

I've taught in a K-5 school and a K-6 school. This year I'm able to see my former 5th graders (who graduated last year and are now in MS 6th grade) on a daily basis and they are all overall happy with the change. It DOES take some getting used to, and the MS transition is usually tough, at any age. It might be hard joining already established groups as a 7th grader.

I was 10 going into MS also, and I couldn't WAIT for that autonomy. I loved changing classes and being repsonsible for my own day.
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#9 of 13 Old 03-19-2006, 09:50 AM
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We have excellent schools here, but my dc finds that there is a lot more acting out in middle school than in elementary. There are a lot more kids who distract the teacher by misbehaving and causing trouble. It's a real problem. My personal theory is that the hormones are wreaking havoc with their minds/impulse control.

My gentle soul ds finds all this overwhelming, and he is the same age as these kids. In my humble opinion it would be even more overwhelming, this rowdy social aspect of middle school, for a younger child.

Take the time to heal from your marriage before you move on with someone else. Make a list of all the qualities you would like in a new partner and then work on growing that way yourself. ~mandib50
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#10 of 13 Old 03-19-2006, 10:37 AM
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Our middle school is 5-8. My sister started middle school when it was 6-8, I started "junior high"...it was only 7-8. I think that no matter when you change schools, it's still an adjustment to the unknown so I don't think I'd lean with that argument.

I would be more concerned with "Are the 6th graders seperated from the 7-8th graders? Or do they intermingle?"

Our 5-6 is on one side of the school, seperated from the 7-8th grades...there's a huge difference between a 10 year old 5th-6th grader and a 14 year old 8th grader. KWIM?
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#11 of 13 Old 03-21-2006, 12:38 PM
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I have taught 6th grade in a 600-kid 6th-8th grade middle school and 3rd/4th multi-age in a 60-kid preK-8 elementary school. After a few years of the middle school, I quickly realized that that model does NOT serve the needs of 6th graders. They need close, personal relationships with their teachers to be able to really thrive. By thrive, I don't mean get good grades and participate in lots of activities, I mean really grow and learn as people. When I taught 100 kids a day, I never got to know any of them very well. At my school now, I know the parents of the kids I'll have NEXT year better than any of the parents I had at the big middle school. I am SO glad I live in a community where all the schools are K-8. I truly think the big 6th-8th grade middle school model is failing our children.
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#12 of 13 Old 03-21-2006, 09:55 PM
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Keep dc in the sixth grade at the current school. I think the worst thing we do to kids at that age is cram them in a building with 600 other kids in junior high. It's crazy. Yes, alot of them make the adjustment ok but there are alot of others that get lost in the woodwork. Doesn't it make more sense to keep them in k-8's and preferably in one with only one or tro classes per a grade? The younger kids really look up to the older ones and they know it. They rise to the occation and help with the younger ones. The older kids seem to develope a prefound sense of growth when they look at the younger grades below them. I know my feelings are quite strong on this but I can't help it. From both personlly experience and research, it is usually better to keep kids in small k-8 schools. And small highschools too
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#13 of 13 Old 03-22-2006, 09:12 AM
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I vote for middle school.

The program you described sounds like a good transition, rather than just being thrown into full-blown seventh grade; also, it would be very hard for your dd to make her way into the established groups that would already have formed -- what is the likelihood that even one kid from her one class will be in any of her classes, kwim?


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