Determining Course Placement for Your Homeschooler: 5 Indicators to Consider

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course placement

Determining the right course placement for homeschoolers can often feel like a daunting task, leaving parents with the pressing question of, “What course should my child be taking?” Rest assured, you are not alone in facing this concern.

While following the standard progression based on grade level is typically the recommended approach, there are circumstances where reassessing course placement becomes necessary. This may occur when a child falls behind in math or exhibits exceptional aptitude, advancing beyond their peers.
It’s important to acknowledge that deviating from the usual progression comes with its share of risks. However, if it is genuinely in the best interest of your child, the potential benefits can be significant.
Before we delve into determining course placement, there’s an important point to consider: if your child experiences math anxiety, it’s crucial not to exacerbate their stress.
While it may seem obvious, as parents, we sometimes need to put ourselves in our children’s shoes and avoid pushing them into distressing situations.
Now, let’s explore some practical guidelines to help you navigate the course placement decision-making process.


Indicator 1: Prior History

Start by evaluating your child’s performance in math. If each year they have consistently shown growth and made progress, you’re on the right track. I would not remove them from a standard progression.
However, if you observe signs of struggle with their progress or notice they are becoming bored because they’re not challenged by the material—flying through lessons and assignments effortlessly—it may be time to consider a change.
Keep in mind that any significant change carries both advantages and disadvantages, so it’s very important not to make impulsive decisions. Instead, take the time to thoroughly evaluate the situation and weigh the pros and cons for the best possible outcome.


Indicator 2: Age

Age plays a significant role in determining the appropriate course level. Allow me to illustrate this point with a couple of examples.
Imagine your child is 10 years old, taking algebra 1 and you notice they haven’t fully mastered it. Should you push it and place them into geometry? Absolutely not! At that age, there’s plenty of time because your child is already 3-4 years ahead of schedule. It’s more important for them to master core skills before advancing.

Now, let’s consider a more time-sensitive scenario. Suppose you have a 17-year-old who is still working on algebra 1. In this case, it becomes crucial to motivate them to complete the course and progress to geometry before turning 18.
While it’s possible that they may struggle or not completely grasp the material, my belief is that striving for the completion of milestones is essential.
When a child falls significantly behind, it’s important to help them catch up as much as possible, as their self-esteem may suffer, leading to math anxiety and hindered learning.
Admittedly, my perspective may be somewhat controversial, but I genuinely believe that mathematics is not the sole determinant of success.
It’s worth noting that many individuals achieve great success even without finishing high school. Therefore, always consider your child’s overall life situation when dealing with older children who are considerably behind in their studies.


Indicator 3: Goals

This indicator builds upon my previous point about age. Consider your child’s goals. If they aspire to become an engineer while in middle school, it’s advisable to push them towards more advanced courses.
However, if your 17-year-old plans to enlist in the Marines (which I did), don’t push them into higher course levels if they aren’t ready.
Many individuals complete their high school education with basic math knowledge and return later in life to pursue a college degree, ultimately achieving remarkable success.
As a parent, it’s essential to be a leader and provide the best education that aligns with your child’s goals.
And, if your 10-year-old son claims he doesn’t need to do his math worksheets because he is joining the Navy Seals, make sure to give him extra math homework while playfully disregarding his statement, LOL.


Indicator 4: Curriculum

While not immediately apparent, the curriculum you choose for a specific course level should be a factor in placement decisions. For instance, my TabletClass Pre-Algebra course is equivalent to many very popular (I’m not naming names) Algebra 1 homeschool math programs.
Consider researching what other homeschoolers say about different curricula. Are they known to be challenging or easy?
Additionally, a child can excel in an advanced course if the curriculum aligns well with their learning style. Conversely, a mismatched curriculum may lead to poor performance.
Remember, the instructional materials you select have a significant impact on what your child can handle.


Indicator 5: It Feels Right

Lastly, trust your intuition. It often guides us in making the right decisions for our children. If something doesn’t feel right regarding your child’s course placement, don’t be afraid to reevaluate and make changes.
You are not bound to a decision forever. For example, if you advanced your child into a challenging algebra 1 course, but they are struggling, consider moving them back to pre-algebra, as long as there is enough time in the academic year.
Keep in mind that homeschooling allows you the freedom to do what you think is best for your child, without having to ask for permission from anyone, not even the district superintendent!


Final Thoughts

Finding the appropriate course placement for your homeschooler requires thoughtful consideration of various indicators. Reflect on your child’s prior history, age, goals, curriculum suitability, and trust your intuition.
Bear in mind that while academic achievement holds significance, it is not the only factor that determines future success.
Consider your child’s holistic development, interests, and long-term aspirations when making course placement decisions.
By doing so, you can provide your child with an education that aligns with their needs and sets them on a path towards a fulfilling future.

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