As I stand here on the cusp of homeschooling my second child through high school, I find myself once again contemplating the purpose of 8th grade. A lot of people see 8th grade as no different than the seven (plus Kindergarten) that came before it. I, however, have always seen 8th grade as a transition year – for me and for my kids.
I consider 8th grade a prep year for high school – and, again, I include myself in that.
There are a variety of ways to go about using 8th grade as a high school prep year. Many of them come naturally (think: pre-algebra, which prepares a student for high school level math), while others may require a little more thought. I want to share with you some of the things I like to do in 8th grade. (I shared some of these briefly in a guest post at Homeschool Creations on Homeschooling High School.)
Start Planning for High School
Eighth grade is a good year for you and your teen to start planning out his high school years. If your teen already has certain colleges in mind, finding out their admission requirements can help you start to craft a plan for high school. If he hasn’t even begun to consider college, I like to find out what my state’s graduation requirements are. This gives me an idea of what local colleges are going to be expecting.
That being said, I am very excited about reviewing Lee Binz’s new book, The HomeScholar Guide to College Admission and Scholarships: Homeschool Secrets to Getting Ready, Getting In and Getting Paid. There are some things I wish I’d done differently with Brianna (that I intend to change with Josh and Megan). One of the chapters in Lee’s book that I can’t wait to read is the one on delight directed learning and college.
I really wish that I had tailored Brianna’s high school classes more to her interests instead of getting so boxed in with what would be expected from a traditional school setting. I lost sight of not following a broken model, which caused more frustration than there had to be for her high school years.
It helps to attend seminars or read up on homeschooling high school before embarking on those years. I’ve previously shared some of my favorite resources on how to homeschool high school.
Some things to consider when planning for high school are:
- Your child’s interests
- College admissions requirements
- Your child’s gifts and natural aptitudes
- Life skills your child will need (for example, cooking, managing his finances, driving, or filling out job applications)
I also like to use 8th grade to explore curriculum choices. This goes back to my guinea pig first child again. We lost some precious high school time on curriculum that was not a good fit for her. (Though, looking back, I think it could have been with the right tweaks.) That’s a big reason why we’re using Apologia’s general science this year – I want to see if Apologia will fit the bill for high school science now while there is still time to explore other options if it’s not a good fit.
I also bought Biology 101 and Chemistry 101, which came highly recommended from a friend whose child doesn’t do well with traditional textbooks. Brianna has been watching them to shore up some weak areas in both subjects and I’m getting her feedback as I consider using them along with (or in place of) Apologia or whatever we decide on for high school science.
Get a Head Start
It is my understanding that most colleges allow credit for some work completed in 8th grade to be counted on a high school transcript. That means that 8th grade can be a fantastic time for a motivated learner to get a head start on high school. I know of many students who have successfully completed courses such as Algebra I or biology in 8th grade.
Conversely, 8th grade can also be a good time for a struggling learner, who may need more than a typical school year to complete certain subjects, to get started early. This will allow him or her to progress through the course at a more manageable pace, without feeling rushed or behind.
Practice Keeping Transcripts
Eighth grade is when I like to start keeping transcripts for my kids. This allows me to get into practice keeping more meticulous records than I did for elementary and middle school. It also ensures that we don’t forget about any coursework that we may want to include on the student’s official high school transcript.
Shore up Weak Areas
Finally, 8th grade is a great time to shore up any weak areas before high school. Clearly this varies from student to student, but I’ve met very few people who aren’t weak in one area or another. Whether it’s lots of practice writing clear, concise paragraphs, drilling multiplication facts, or improving spelling, the eighth grade year, being something of “the calm before the storm,” is a great time to invest in areas that will help a teen to work more quickly and efficiently in high school.
Are you homeschooling a high school student? What tips would you add for those just embarking on the high school years?