Course placement for homeschoolers is often a huge and scary task- “what course should my child be taking?”. So if you have stressed this question you should not feel bad- it’s a stressful question! Of course most of the time you follow a normal progression to your child’s development i.e. 6th grade, 7th grade, etc.
However if your child starts to fall behind in math or is extremely gifted and accelerated you may very well need to re-access what course they should be taking. Now I will say up front that there is always a risk from deviating from the normal progression of study however if your child really needs to be at another level the benefits can be extremely positive. One last word before I give you my guidelines on how to figure out placement- this is important so please focus on my point: if your child has math anxiety never do anything that makes their anxiety worse. You maybe be saying “well of course I would not intentionally stress my child” but I’m a parent myself and I know that sometimes we need to think about our actions from our kids point- just don’t push a bad situation is what I’m saying. All right let’s get into my suggestions on how you determine course placement.
* Indicator 1- Prior History
How has your child done in math? If each year they a growing and learning successfully than your right on track. Unless they are having major problems or they are bored because they fly through a lessons I would not remove them from a standard progression. However if you and your child find a need for change then start the process of evaluation. Like any major change there will be pros/cons so don’t make a big move impulsively.
* Indicator 2- Age
I think age is a major consideration for course level. Let me give you a few examples to make my point. Let’s say your child is 10 years old and you think they just don’t have algebra 1 mastered. Should you push it and place your 10 year old into geometry? No way! You have plenty of time because you child is 3-4 years ahead of schedule and it’s more important for them to really master core skills. Now let’s look at another situation- this one is more pressured. Let’s say you have a 17 year old and they are still working on algebra 1. In this case you need to push them to finish the course so they have completed geometry by 18. Of course they may very well not master the material in fact they may struggle but in my opinion you need to go for completion of milestones. When a child is so far behind you need to get them caught up the best you can because their ego will suffer- which into turns leads to math anxiety and no real learning. Maybe what I’m saying is a little controversial but that’s how I feel. Listen math is not the end all be all- many people are highly successful that never even finished high school! So always place your child’s entire life situation into consideration when dealing with older children that are very far behind.
* Indicator 3- Goals
This indicator is kind of a follow up to what I was saying about age. What is you child’s goals? If they are in middle school and want to be an engineer than you want to push them hard into the next course. However if your child is 17 and wants to enlist in the Marines (which I did) then don’t push course levels if the child is not ready. So many people leave high school with a basic math education only to come back later in life to get a college degree and make a million dollars. You are the parent so be a leader and try your best to give your child the best education you can that fits into their goals. One last thing: if your 10 year old son says he doesn’t need to do his math worksheets because he is joining the Navy Seals make sure to give him extra math homework and completely ignore everything he says- LOL.
* Indicator 4- Curriculum
This is not such an obvious consideration for placement but you need to think about what curriculum you use for a course level. Case in point my TabletClass Pre-Algebra course is equivalent to many very popular (I’m not naming names) Algebra 1 homeschool math programs. Do your research and see what other homeschoolers are saying about a course- is it easy or hard? Also a child could do very well in a more advance course if they have a curriculum that fits them perfect. Likewise a child could do poorly in a curriculum that’s not right- remember the material you use for instruction has great influence on what your child can handle.
* Indicator 5- It Feels Right
Trust your intuition it’s usually right. If you don’t feel comfortable with a decision for your child don’t be afraid to reevaluate and change. You don’t have to stick with a decision forever. Example lets say you advanced your child into a very difficult algebra 1 course and things are not going well. As long as you still have a good amount of time in the academic year consider moving to pre-algebra. Listen the name of this website if “Homeschool Math Online” the key word is HOMESCHOOL! You homeschool for reason so you can do whatever you think is best for your child without first getting the permission of the district superintendent!
Course placement is extremely important and the consequences of your decisions will have a huge impact on your child- so really think things through. My goal of this article was to get you focused on core indicators that you should consider. Also never ever let an outside expert (even me) tell you what’s best for your child. Remember you as the parent have to use your best judgment in making these critical decisions. I will say that I like my indicator 5 the best- if it feels like your making the right decision more than likely it’s the best way to go.