Study Skills for Middle School Students - How to Overcome Overwhelm

Dr. Purushothaman
December 10, 2013

A few days ago, I was sitting in the waiting room of a local gym, watching my daughter’s gymnastics class through the viewing window. Another mom was seated next to me, watching her son’s class, bouncing a baby on her lap, and cradling a cell phone in her neck as she talked to someone at work.

I instantly recognized that “mom dance!” I’ve done it many times; juggling work, a baby, and another child…all at the same moment.

When she hung up, I struck up a conversation about the balancing act of career and family. We chatted for quite a while, sharing stories and a lot empathy! Naturally, I mentioned that I teach study skills.

Suddenly, another mom slid over next to us. She turned to me, apologized for eavesdropping (we were packed in the waiting area like sardines, so that was inevitable), and explained…

“My son just started sixth grade. It’s his first year in middle school, and he is totally overwhelmed!” She described his greatest challenges were getting organized and managing intense subjects, such as math, English, German, and Science.

“And… homework is killing us!” she continued. “We spend more than two hours a night on homework! It’s brutal!”

Like so many families, his homework has become *her* homework. He simply is not equipped to manage it on his own. It’s only been a few weeks since the school year began, but this routine will quickly pin both of them against each other. They are going to burn out quick!

She was concerned about her endurance. “I thought of taking him to a tutoring center for help, but,” she sighed, “they really can’t help him with German and Science. I never thought about it before, but maybe he needs study skills to get through middle school!”

She’s Right. And, She Is NOT Alone!

She was surprised to learn that their experience was so common. She doesn’t hear other parents complain. She simply assumes the teachers would be tuned in to these challenges if they stretched beyond her and her son.

The problem, however, is that all of the other parents are thinking the same thing… “I’m doing something wrong!” Therefore, they all suffer in silence instead of communicating with teachers.

I also explained that *subject area* tutoring would not solve the problem. At least, not yet.

No Study Skills = Middle School Overwhelm!

For one, he is drowning is transitions! Middle school is a common time for many students to “fall apart,” based on the overwhelming amount of transitions, alone. This young man, like most students, is not used to multiple teachers, bells, and multiple classrooms. He now has to manage expectations, assignments, books, and supplies of several different teachers across several different locations.

He is probably in a mild panic for most of the day. When the bell rings, he darts from class, to his locker, and on to his next class. He’s rushing to get everywhere he needs to be with everything he needs to have. This rushed state of mind, however, actually causes him to lose track of books and assignments. It’s a catch-22.

Secondly, he does not have a system to effectively organize his materials. He has a separate folder and notebook for each class, as his teachers requested. But, that is where the problem originates; too many things to manage across all of those transitions! It’s no wonder why he is overwhelmed.

Finally, he lacks any sort of *strategy* for learning. He does not know how to prime his brain so he can pay attention in class effectively. He does not know how to read textbooks quickly so that he can understand what he reads. He does not know how to shift his brain into high gear learning so he can get through homework faster.

He Needs A Study Skills Plan!

When I explained all of the specific factors contributing to her son’s challenges, she nodded in eager agreement with each one; she recognized every scenario I described!

Her son needs:

A plan that will quickly identify his greatest challenges and provide simple solutions.

Solutions that will not only help him, but take his homework off of his mother’s shoulders. He must be enabled to manage it himself!

Simple supplies to streamline his organization process.

This mother was so relieved to learn that these plans and solutions exist…in the form of study skills! She was relieved to know that she - and her son- were not alone!

Most of all, she finally had hope; knowing that study skills would help him navigate his way through middle school, and propel him successfully into high school and college, too!
About the Author

Study skills are the perfect solution for middle school students dealing with the burden of managing many teachers, supplies, transitions, and more complex classes. Get a FREE guide, “Conquer the Chaos: How to Motivate and Organize Students for Success,” at Susan Kruger, M.Ed. is a former struggling student, founder of, and the author of the best-selling study skills book in the world, SOAR Study Skills.

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