A week or two ago I attended BigGuy’s Gavel Club end-of-year presentation. BigGuy is 12 and by public school standards–he would’ve been in 6th grade this year. The local Gavel Club had a junior high “section” or “division” or whatever you want to call it.
A friend’s daughter was graduating out of Gavel Club that day (there is a curriculum to complete and she was finished with it). She told me that she had not put her son (a year older than BigGuy) in Gavel Club because she wanted to be able to use it for high school credit…
For a second, I was kind of puzzled. Why did he need to wait until he was biologically the age the public schools would deem him a 9th grader to be doing high school level work??? We are homeschoolers. This is a HUGE part of why: freedom for our kids to work at their own pace. I felt like she was pointing out that I had somehow wasted a high school credit opportunity for my son by putting him in Gavel Club so young, but I’m not really sure.
In reality, my kid was already doing high school credit work–if only in math. And when we went to the local school district to get them to teach him Algebra 1, we found out that they had several gifted 7th graders doing Algebra 1 (they assured me there were always 1-2 6th graders that did it, too, so my son wouldn’t be alone in this). So even the public schools don’t always hold off on high school level work simply because a child is not yet in 9th grade. The gifted program my son has attended offers a Saturday program throughout the school year that will award 1 year of credit for high school lab science if they complete all three seasons. That course is open to 7-8th graders.
Age clearly doesn’t dictate ability, and often it does not dictate eligibility.
There are some parents that will hold their kids back with the idea that they don’t want their children to head off to college at the age of 16. I don’t imagine my kid to be mature enough for that, either; but I know he can belt out two years of college liberal arts here at home with me rather than run off to college at 16. I think feeding their development where it is and finding ways to accommodate where that lands them is going to be better for their development as a whole person–operating at their intellect rather than where they’re biological age dictates.
To that end, we discovered this week that BigGuy could be entering 9th grade instead of 7th grade this fall. He is already doing high school math, is slated to take a year of high school level lab science for credit, and his writing teacher said he is absolutely ready to take her high school level essay writing course. As core subjects go, that left history. He loosely followed the online co-op for history and literature this year using Tapestry of Grace at the Dialectic level. But a lot of the feedback we’re getting about BigGuy says that he is still not being challenged… so we were looking at the Rhetoric (high school) level. I had a lot of hesitation with this, but thought “We’ll try it and if it doesn’t work–so be it”. When my friend (the writing teacher) heard me say that I was considering this change, she immediately and firmly said “Well that’s where he SHOULD be” and I instantly challenged her: “WHY??” She went on to explain the differences and cleared up some of my misconceptions. She noted that Rhetoric level will do exactly what BigGuy needs. And voila… the last core subject slipped into high school level. His foreign language (at least his French) would be high school level, too. Add Gavel Club for public speaking and it kind of cements it.
This invited a whole new conversation to the table. First and foremost: does BigGuy WANT to be a 9th grader? Or does he just want to continue learning stuff as he sees fit here and there–which may not really match a traditional school model. We had a good chat about what that meant, the pros and cons of it all, etc. For instance: we decided to ditch history because it was boring and he could totally do that, but he wouldn’t wind up with the same kind of “record” (transcript) and it’s possible that some of the things he wants to do could be a little harder to get into. I’m not sure of that (and I told him that) but I didn’t know.
BigGuy was so enamored with being “in high school” that he was all over learning history.
So… we officially have a high schooler… in addition to puberty.