Accelerating or Decelerating Along the High School Freeway
Happy New Year 2009! The dawn of a new year is a wonderful opportunity to start afresh with a blank slate. If 2008 ended on a high note for you and your teen, praise the Lord. On the other hand, if 2008 was a year you would like to forget, we pray that the Lord helped you to grow in endurance, faith and hope. In either case, let's all launch into 2009 with great anticipation of seeing the Lord's hand in all we do.
January may be a good month for you to evaluate your progress for this school year. Adjustments may need to be made to your yearly plan--a course may have already been completed or is not coming along as anticipated. One of the benefits of homeschooling your teen is the opportunity to alter or re-customize not only your high school plan, but also to adjust the rate of speed with which you cover individual course material. Deciding the course of action you should pursue will depend on your teen's abilities and maturity level. Here are some items to keep in mind.
Accelerating: Putting the Pedal to the Metal!
One way to accelerate during the high school years is for students to take high school level courses prior to the 9th grade year (usually during the 7th or 8th grade years.) The key is to be sure you use high school level materials. In addition, adequately document the high school course by keeping good records of the resources used (including textbooks, DVDs, videos, additional reading, etc.), the amount of credit you gave the course, your method of evaluation (tests, quizzes, papers, etc.), work samples from the beginning, middle, and end of the course to show progress, and also the final letter grade that you awarded your child. Most colleges do not have a problem with high school level courses taken in the 8th grade, but some colleges may have strict policies of not counting for high school credit any course taken prior to 8th grade. So please check with colleges your teen is thinking about applying to in order to ask about their policies regarding courses taken prior to 9th grade.
Some teens cover course material very quickly and may be able to finish the material early. If that is your experience, then you have the option to begin another course mid-year. For example, if your teen flew through the Algebra 1 book in one semester (and you are sure he or she has mastered all of the concepts), then go ahead and start the Algebra 2 book. In general, when you put together your transcript, you will want to include the course in the year it was completed. So, if the Algebra 2 course was started in the 9th grade, but finished in the 10th grade, then show the Algebra 2 course in the 10th grade year on the transcript.
Finishing in Three Years
Some teens may want to (and are capable of) finishing up their high school requirements in three years instead of four years. However, here are some questions to think through:
Is my teen ready for the real world in terms of not only academic ability but also spiritual and emotional maturity? Are there any age restrictions that come into play for his or her next step after high school graduation (such as licensing requirements, apprenticeship programs, employment opportunities, and so forth)? Although your teen may have completed the minimum courses necessary for high school graduation, could the traditional 4th year of high school be used to take additional and more advanced courses that will better prepare him or her for adulthood?
After considering these questions, if you are convinced that your student is ready to graduate high school in three years, then carefully plan out your teen's high school program to accomplish this goal.
High School and College Concurrently
Another option for your teen is dual enrollment (receiving college and high school credit simultaneously). Many times students may take community college or college distance learning courses while still completing high school requirements. Because a one semester college level course is equivalent to one year of high school credit, your teen can accrue necessary high school credit quickly. More details on dual enrollment may be found on our website.
Rather than graduating high school early, the student can elect to
continue taking college courses, choosing to transfer these credits to
a four year college or to complete an Associate degree concurrently
with the high school diploma.
Transitioning into college while still living at home and being introduced to a classroom setting in a smaller environment are benefits of this option to your teen. Using the questions above will be a good guide when considering this option.
Decelerating: Whoa, Simba!
Now let's take a look at the reverse of acceleration during the high school years. For some teens, deceleration or slowing down is in their best interests.
Slowing Down to Save Time...Again, one of the benefits of homeschooling is the ability to adjust the rate at which you teach the material. Don't feel bound to the traditional concepts of covering the material in a certain period of time. If your child needs extra time to complete assignments properly or to master concepts that don't come easily, then by all means, slow down. This is especially true in the math and language arts/English areas. Because math concepts build on one another, have your teen persevere to work out difficulties in an area until he understands them to the best of his ability--not necessarily to the point of perfection--before moving ahead. You may find that slowing down at the first indication of a problem will actually allow you to speed up later in the course.
As another example, if your teen drags his feet when writing compositions, you may want to consider backing up a bit. Have your teen write a well-structured paragraph for a period of time. Then begin assigning longer writing projects.
Delaying Certain Courses
Keep in mind that there are correlations between certain subject areas. For example, some science courses tend to incorporate a lot of math, so you'll want to be sure that your teen has the math skills he needs in order to do well in a course. Chemistry should wait until the teen has successfully completed Algebra 1 and is at least concurrently studying Algebra 2. Likewise, Physics may be easier to grasp if the student has already completed Algebra 2
Let's Take Five
In most cases, there is nothing wrong with taking five years to complete high school courses if your child will be helped by not feeling pressured to graduate in four years. Taking five years gives you and your teen additional time to work on weak academic areas. If the American History course takes 18 months to complete due to your teen's slowness in reading, don't become flustered. The more important aspect is that your teen knows he is making progress, understanding the material, and enjoying learning. Adding this extra year to high school may be just what your teen needs to increase both his skills and confidence.
If you do take five years to complete high school, then you may want to format your transcript by noting courses completed by subject area rather than the more traditional approach of listing courses by grade level.
A Final Thought
In the sovereignty of God, He has created each of your children with unique learning capacities. Be careful not to make the mistake of thinking that your teen must be on the same high school timetable as other homeschooled students. Don't succumb to the pressure of comparison and forget that you, being attuned to your teen's aptitude and skill in individual subject areas, have the ability to regulate the speed of teaching. You may find that your customization of the high school program includes accelerating in one subject area while decelerating in another area! See the modifying and fine-tuning of your teen's rate of acceleration or deceleration during the high school years as an advantage and blessing of homeschooling. Accept
their academic abilities and adapt to their rate of learning.
Next month, we'll discuss how you can design a career development elective that will help your teens look forward to investigating the possibilities of future careers.
Until then, keep running your race with endurance and patience,
Becky Cooke and Diane Kummer
HSLDA High School Coordinators
This resource is an article from the Homeschooling Thru Highschool newsletter (1/8/2009), and is provided by the Home School Legal Defense Association as a service to the homeschooling community.