The middle school years can be awkward for any child, so it’s good that there are schools like Magnuson Christian School (MCS) to help children through it. MCS has been open since 2004, has an enrollment of approximately 110 students each year and keeps class sizes small to create a more personal learning environment. “We’re focusing on the power of small,” school director Cheri Buelow says. “We ultimately would like our classes to be about 18 to 22. There are benefits to having all the students know each other.”
Middle school is a time of rapid change, says middle school consultant Dr. Dean Erickson, who is working with MCS right now. “It’s an incredible time of physical, social, emotional and intellectual changes,” Erickson says. “There’s a real desire for social acceptance and a peer group is really important. And because of their desire for social acceptance, they’re really self-absorbed. And that sounds negative, but that is really a developmental quality in middle school.”
This is why MCS is so important; they help shape a child’s growth while also helping them through these years as gracefully as possible. “At this age, kids are really trying to figure out who they are. So here, there’s just a very strong sense of love and acceptance,” Buelow says. “In large schools, middle schoolers can kind of fly under the radar and that is not a possibility here. I think parents of middle schoolers oftentimes just hope that their kid survives these years; here we want our kids to thrive.” Faith also plays a big role at MCS. “Our kids attend chapel every week, where we get to pray in school and pray for each other. So there’s a lot of support here.”
With the rise of technology, the way children learn has changed. “All of our middle school students have Chromebooks,” Buelow says. “There’s a portal that they use to do work online. We want all of our students to be highly proficient in technology. It’s a good learning tool, but it doesn’t replace the teacher or the learning environment that they’re in.”
The sense of camaraderie and fellowship brought Buelow on board. “When I met the staff for the first time, I was so impressed with their competence, as well as their beautiful personalities and strong faith. And then meeting some of the families, everyone was just so welcoming,” Buelow says. It’s clear that MCS draws in everyone who visits and takes a hold of their hearts. “When I first walk into this building, I can really feel an energy,” Erickson says. “People who are here are here by choice—the faculty and the families. It’s a place people want to be.”
Erickson and Buelow share a few tips on how to keep your child happy and healthy during the awkward middle school years.
- Limit screen time.
“Make sure when kids go to bed, kids go to bed. If they need to check their phones in at the bedroom door, that’s what you have to do.”
- Love your kids unconditionally.
“Sometimes middle school kids are hard to like. But the parents need to love their kids unconditionally and tell them that they can screw up a lot but you’re going to love them regardless.”
- Take any opportunity to talk to your kids.
“Listen to them more than talk. Sometimes there are times when you don’t want to talk, but they do. So take that opportunity to listen.”
- Take control.
“They may give you the feeling that they couldn’t care less about what you say. But they really do listen to what you say and you need to be really clear on your expectations for their behavior and their learning.”
- Keep your fridge stocked.
“You want to be the house where your teenagers hang out.”