What Your Eighth Grader Doesn’t Need to Know Before High School
Are you looking at your eighth grader and wondering if they’ll make the grade to be ready for high school level work next year?
I know for those approaching high school, the question carries a huge weight! What if they don’t know algebra yet? What if they have never written a research paper? Or, what if they don’t keep their own planner or…gasp!…don’t even get up in the morning by themselves yet?
When eighth grade rolled around the first time in our family, I thought I was falling short of the things that my teen had to know before they began high school and they still succeeded.
In fact, both our students went on to excel in undergraduate studies and beyond.
What had I done right when I had thought I was doing it wrong?
The other day, I read a post about why students struggle in high school homeschool, and it made me realize that I had done many of those things. Why had our teens succeeded anyway?
In this post, I’ll tell you three things I thought I did wrong preparing our teens for high school at home, and then I’ll go over how that they ended up working in our teen’s favor.
Algebra is one of those subjects that not only strikes fear in most homeschool parent’s hearts, it is a subject that many think that their child should master before they enter high school. That’s what the so called experts say. Let me assure you from my own experience, that is not true. My son had his first (successful) year of algebra I in ninth grade, and that later track didn’t slow him down one bit! He has gone on to get a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and to further study it in grad school.
You see, I thought I was doing it wrong by backtracking into Algebra 1 in ninth grade when so many homeschool gurus were telling me that would put him behind the typical high school track. Not true at all!
In fact, the mastery of Algebra 1 is in and of itself the key to a college prep foundation.
So, although mastery is important in algebra in order to prepare for the sciences of chemistry and physics, higher level math studies, and to achieve high scores on college entrance tests, it not need to happen before high school if your student is not ready or needs to repeat the subject freshman year. Rushing through and past Algebra 1 will do more harm than good.
Make sure your eighth grader takes and excels in a solid pre-algebra program. Math is a key subject that we were always willing to invest in. Sometimes, one visit with a tutor and hearing a concept explained a different way is enough to get the student over any struggles.
So, sure you can have your student do algebra in eighth grade if you are certain they are ready, but be on the lookout midyear to slow down and spill the class over into freshman year if need be. That solid algebra foundation is key to college entrance tests, as well as higher maths and sciences.
I was convinced we were behind in writing. My eighth grader hadn’t written a full-fledged research paper, he had barely written a 5 paragraph essay. Well…he actually had not written more than a paragraph for an assignment up until then.
Writing a research paper before high school was something I had heard was necessary in order to handle high school level subjects. So, I forced it. Other than saying it didn’t go well, there just isn’t much to say. Half way through eighth grade year, when I realized that our formerly writing happy little boy had turned into a teen with nothing to say (on paper and sometimes in real life), I decided to dive into writing with a vengeance.
We slowed down to match exactly where our son was in his writing skills instead of forcing it.
I purchased the best writing program out there in my opinion, IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing). He actually thanked me! Armed with vivid examples to dissect and step by step instruction on outlining and preparing drafts, he not only got up to speed quickly, he flourished! He is an excellent writer and presenter, and I really do attribute it to working with our son at exactly his writing level, providing practice, and letting the maturity catch up to the learned skills. We had the same experience with all of our teens.
What is important in eighth grade writing is that the student learns the process of making outlines, patiently working out sloppy first drafts, and learning to turn in neatly written final drafts as free of errors as they know how. That is the clincher. The student needs lots of practice and encouragement, not criticism and lecture.
Teach them the process, no matter how short the writing they are capable of, and praise their efforts.
Taking note of errors each time will provide you with what to discuss before the next attempt and, like us, slowly and surely, your students will mature into writing you are both proud of. It needn’t be long form writing, lots of short assignments give plenty of practice for high school level work.
I bought our children planners when they each turned 13. It seemed reasonable to begin to keep a calendar and assignment planner when that age hit. They gathered dust. First, their just wasn’t much to put on the calendar after we filled it together with family birthday dates. I kept the family calendar, so no one saw the point of that being duplicated.
When it came to planning assignments, I tried going to a weekly goal instead of the daily assignment planner I had previously provided all filled in. Quickly discovering that that led to no work being done or work being paced poorly, I went back to providing the filled out daily planner.
The accomplishment of the work was more important to me than figuring out how to teach planning the work, so I let the whole idea slide.
This was a concern that didn’t ease up once high school began the way writing or algebra had. It haunted me the entire four years of our eldest’s high school education at home.
I think this comes down to two things: interest and necessity. Our son was just not interested in keeping his own calendar, nor did he have necessity. Each time I tried to give a goal of ‘read x number of pages before x date’ the date would come and go without the work accomplished. Again, favoring the completion of the work over so-called ‘natural consequences’ I couldn’t figure out how to create, I let it slide and set out daily plans. Now, our children did have outsourced classes, so those were kept up very well by them, so I knew they were capable. (There’s that necessity in action)
What about when they went to college? Would they be able to keep a planner to manage that whole course load of ‘outsourced’ classes and events?
So, even though I didn’t teach our children to keep their own planners in high school, they did great in college. They kept up with studies, followed the syllabus and made it to events on time. I’ll admit that I was thrilled, though, when I found that they each had begun to use calendars to track things in college!
What I did do right in teaching time management was modeling correct behavior. Does that mean we were always on time for piano? No! (sorry, Natalie=) But, we always followed a daily written (by me) plan, and they were accountable to that.
Another key to our success was starting early and finishing early
Not everyone is a morning person, I get that. We are mixed in that department, but I did teach ‘work first, play later’ and I have seen remarkable fruits from that! Knowing exactly what work needs to be done, checking the work off as you go and knowing free time is going to be yours at the end is really motivating.
This is a time of great change for your teen, for your relationship, for your homeschool.
It is okay for your eighth grader to still be gaining the skill set that will see them through high school and beyond. While this change is taking place, be easy on yourself and your child. All this growing takes a lot of energy, so they may not always be at the top of their game. They very well may not realize why this is themselves, so give them lots of hugs, laugh with them often and give your eighth grader lots of grace.
By slowing down, you’ll actually end up ahead.