Collegebound? What to Do in 8th Grade
The best way to avoid a pile-up senior year is to start planning your child’s high school course of study in 8th grade. You can start earlier, but I found I really didn’t have a good bead on my kids until they were finishing up middle school.
They’ll be fine if you start later—I only know now what is mission-critical in 8th grade because my four kids are grown. I have enough distance to have some perspective and to pass those insights onto you. We missed the boat in multiple ways, and everyone at my end still turned out to be employable. So, kids do recover from our mess-ups. It’s good for their souls—helps them develop grit.
However, for those of you who don’t want to intentionally make mistakes, here’s an essential tip for that 8th grade year:
- Academically, the most important question to answer at the beginning of 8th grade is How far do I think this child should get in math by the end of high school? The more advanced math courses your child completes, the more doors will open. Kids interested in engineering, science, medicine, or tech all should push to complete introductory calculus, (AP Calculus, ideally). Kids likely to head into the humanities or social sciences; English, pre-law, political science, history, teaching, etc. don’t have to get as far in math. Anything beyond Algebra 2 will work, though having advanced math on the transcript doesn’t hurt. It shows admissions offices that your kid is willing to challenge him or herself—colleges like that. (Try Statistics with the humanities loving kid instead.)
- To fit calculus into the high school schedule, Algebra 1 should be completed and mastered then by the end of 8th grade. Find a solid course and make time for your child to prioritize doing well, as Algebra 1 is the foundation of all other math classes. We took two years (7th and 8th) to finish Algebra 1 at our house. Nothing wrong with that. I’d put math first thing in the morning (if that is when your child is most alert) and make sure the time is protected. Have a plan ready for getting help when it is needed. If nothing else goes well in 8th grade other than Algebra 1, I’d consider that a big win.
- Choose a math program you can stick with throughout. While the topics covered in an algebra, geometry, or calculus course are reasonably similar from program to program, the approach to teaching math varies widely and most kids are confused by this. We use University of Chicago Math at Aim Academy because it has so many real-world problems embedded into the program. This can take some getting used to for students coming from math curricula that take a more traditional approach. Aim Academy math teachers, who are also homeschool parents, did a thorough review of popular math programs for homeschoolers and Chicago Math just makes the most sense for collegebound students. Kids are expected to complete a lot more math now in college than you probably did. And, it is taught more in line with the Chicago approach than a traditional one.