Do you have any idea how hard it is to help your tween do homework or study for tests when you’ve been out of middle school for decades? My son is in 6th grade now, a grade that I haven’t seen since the mid-80s. Think about that for a minute. When I was in middle school, Pluto was still a planet, the USSR was still a place on the map and the Berlin Wall was still standing. As far as classes went, we were just learning fractions and developing mnemonic devices for the whole Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species thing. I believe it involved King George eating some spaghetti.

How do you help your tween study when you've forgotten everything you learned in middle school? Check out these tips, then brush up with Big Fat Notebooks!

Flash forward to about 30 years later. My son is learning quadratic equations (I’m not even sure if I just made that up or if it’s a real thing!), diagraming sentences like a pro and delving into physics. He’s not even in advanced classes! This is what our children now learn at age 11! I never even stepped foot into a physics class and math was far, far, far from my strong point. I’m SO lost when it comes to helping him with his homework. So what are we parents to do when our kids come to us for help and we can barely remember who King George had spaghetti with? Check out 5 tips for helping your tween study when you’ve pretty much forgotten everything you learned in middle school.

Tips to Help You Help Your Tween Study for Middle School

*I am working with Workman Pub to share their Big Fat Notebooks. All opinions are my own.

Give your kids a clean environment conducive to studying

This is probably one of the most important- yet easiest- things you can do. It’s also something that Jake and I are still struggling with. I don’t exactly have space for a “homework station” or anything that fancy. Jake does his homework and studying right at the dining room table. Unfortunately, half that table is also my “office” and it gets crazy cluttered. One thing that I’m really focusing on is keeping it from getting so out of control. I think all the mess makes it really hard for Jake to focus.

You don’t have to go all Pinterest-crazy and create a fancy “office space” for your tweens. Just choose a relatively clean and quiet area for them to do their homework. You want to make sure that the lighting is good and the clutter is minimal. Some people do really well with clutter around them (I don’t mind it), but a lot of kids just can’t focus when they’re surrounded by papers, boxes, etc. We’ve also lost some of Jake’s homework because I mistook it for recycling. Setting up a clean and relatively serene environment for studying will go a long way to getting your tween (and you!) in the right mindset.

While you’re working on their overall study environment, take a few moments to encourage your kids to take great notes during class so they have an easier time when it comes to studying! Check out this awesome handout from Big Fat Notebooks with tips to do just that!

Must-read tips on how to take great notes, courtesy of Big Fat Notebooks (the best middle school study guides ever!)

Know what’s coming next!

If you want to help your tween study for upcoming tests, you have to prepare for them yourself. Knowing what your kids are learning in school is half of that battle. Jake’s school keeps parents updated on everything they’re doing through a special parent portal online. Through that, I can view worksheets, keep up with his homework assignments and even view his current grades. If your school doesn’t offer something like this, ask the teachers for some sort of syllabus. Even if they just jot down a timeline of the basic material that they’ll be covering, it gives you a chance to work on the next tip!

Brush up on your subjects

Even if you remember most of what you learned in middle school, chances are you’ll need to brush up a bit. Remember, our kids are learning far more advanced concepts at a younger age than we ever were. Jake’s 6th grade curriculum consists of things I learned in 8th or 9th grade. Some of the things he’s learning I never even touched on in school (like most of his math now!).

How do you help your tween study when you've forgotten everything you learned in middle school? Check out these tips, then brush up with Big Fat Notebooks!

Back in  August, I told you all about the Big Fat Notebooks Middle School Study Guides. I suggest checking out that post for more details about the series. Jake absolutely loves these books because they give him the perfect breakdown of every single core subject in a bright, fun way. He’s been reading them every day, trying to get ahead a bit in school. They’ve given him such an edge and really help him absorb the material.

How do you help your tween study when you've forgotten everything you learned in middle school? Check out these tips, then brush up with Big Fat Notebooks!

He’s not the only one that benefits from reading the Big Fat Notebooks series, though. I’ve been pouring through them myself to brush up on all the things that I forgot from my middle school days (or things I never even learned!). The Math book, in particular, has been so incredibly helpful to me because it explains concepts in a way that actually gets through to my relatively inactive left brain.

Enlist help

No matter how much I study math and certain types of science, I’m never going to be incredibly good at either. I do pretty well with life sciences, like bio, but chem and anything that involves numbers just goes right over my head. I know that my son needs someone who actually gets it, so I enlist help. Whether it’s another family member who happens to excel at a subject or an outside source (we haven’t needed a tutor yet, but I won’t hesitate to get one should the need arise), I’m not ashamed to admit when I just don’t get it.

Along the lines of enlisting help, it’s SO important that you admit to your kids when you just plain don’t know the answer. Pretending that you do will only mess them up when it comes time to take the test. We often want to be seen as these all-powerful, all-knowing beings as parents. We’re not, though! Admitting when you don’t know the answer is also really great for your child’s self-esteem. If mom and dad don’t know, then they don’t have to feel so bad about being unsure themselves.

Make it FUN!

Learning should be fun! Kids should actually look forward to absorbing new information and expanding their horizons. While I can’t honestly say that I loved middle school or even high school, I became a career college student because I just loved learning so much.

More about Big Fat Notebooks


I said this before and I’ll say it again: the Big Fat Notebooks Middle School Study guides are by far the coolest, most engaging study guides you’ll ever see. They’re also pretty much the only study guides your kids will need during their middle-grade years. Every single book is filled with vivid color-coded notes, highlighted passages to show you the most important key concepts and cool drawings that really speak to your tween.


The series covers five core subjects, including American History, World History, Science, Math, and English. While I’ve been reading the Math book to get caught up, the World History book is actually my favorite. I’ve always loved ancient history, so I’m looking forward to helping Jake study for that! If you’re feeling a little lost and need a refresher on Ancient Egypt, check out this great timeline that really breaks it down for you!
Brush up on your ancient Egypt timeline! This is one of the many benefits of Big Fat Notebooks!

Visit Workman Pub to learn more about Big Fat Notebooks and how they can help you help your tween study! Follow the Workman Blog to keep up to discover more fabulous tips! Ready to grab the books now? Purchase Big Fat Notebooks at the following retailers:

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Do you have any other tips for helping your tween study when you’ve been out of school yourself for many years? Share in the comments!