Just for the record, I was in 1986. My son is currently in the 6th grade. This is purely from a mother's prospective after hearing her child come home and tell her about his day.
In sixth grade, children ask each other out. When I was in sixth grade, girls had crushes on boys, but few boys would admit to liking the girls back. If a boy did like a girl, he got made fun of.
In sixth grade, children start admitting they are attracted to the same gender. When I was in sixth grade, I didn't know there was such a thing as same gender attraction. In sixth grade, I had to have a talk with my son that there are gay people, he even knows gay people, and he is NOT to ever say a derogatory comment about someone being gay.
In sixth grade, children are learning about sex education. In sixth grade, I had just learned that I would get my period soon. That was shocking enough for me!
In sixth grade, children are learning math problems that I didn't learn until I was at least in 8th grade, and some things were in High School.
In all, children are more advanced than I was in 6th grade. They are learning things faster, developing sexually, and have more knowledge than I had when I was in sixth grade. To me, 11 and 12 year olds are still youngsters, merely babies. I still don't allow my son to stay home unless the errand will take less than 5 minutes. He is still my baby, although I know that he is growing up. I want to protect him from the outside world as long as I can, but I don't want him to be as naive as I was.
I didn't know there were people that actually did drugs until I was 23. I didn't know people cheated on their wives until that same year. I am glad that I didn't realize all the bad things in the world because I wasn't scared. I thought the minority of the world made bad choices. I am honest to a fault with my son. If he asks me a question, I first ask him exactly what he wants to know, but then I answer him. It has led to me being embarrassed answering him sometimes and him really wishing he wouldn't have asked. However, I believe I am one of the few moms that get to hear about crushes, who is gay in school and what other children say. I am proud that my son asks me about things that I use to ask my friends. I am glad that I can direct him how to react to certain situations. The most important thing in life is to treat everyone you meet like they are just as important of a person as you believe you are.
I look forward to seeing what 7th grade will be like and I hope I can handle all the changes. More importantly, I hope that my son can handle what is being handed to him.