It is spring. Outdoor sports are ramping up, gardeners are in full stretch, and homeschooling parents are stressed about choosing high school classes for the coming year. It is all part of this season.
When deciding on a class schedule, numbers don’t help us much. There are no exact answers. What works for one child will not work for the next. The fuzzy greyness of these choices is not comfortable and is more art than science. We want our kids to be healthy, happy, and get plenty of sleep. We also want to challenge them to see what they are made of. A heavy enough load forces kids to learn to manage their time and balance all the things they want to accomplish in a day. While we want them to perform well, we want just that tipping point where failure is possible. Our goal is not comfortable straight A’s, but an increasingly educated mind that grows in its ability with each passing year.
Most students will ease into the AP load, maybe one the freshman year, two in the sophomore year, and possibly two or three each year in the final years. Some kids can handle that, some can’t. Sometimes there are students with an overwhelming commitment that will not allow such a structured school environment such as athletes competing on a national level, musicians headed to prestigious conservatories, or any other activity that consumes five or more hours a day. Some kids will choose to load up heavy classes in a particular year knowing that the following year has some time-consuming activities that won’t lend themselves to more structured classes. Some kids will take a mixture of AP and local college classes, depending on where they will get the best instruction. When you have the option, it is usually preferable to cherry pick the best classes available giving your student a mix of college classes, online AP classes, tutoring, a local group class, etc.
And then there is the gifted student who can handle a lot and handle it early. If you have an accelerated student, my good friend Sharon Lee has written a little gem to help you navigate early classes and corresponding tests: Finding Your Way Through the Maze of College Prep Tests with Tips for Homeschoolers and Accelerated Learners.
At the end of the day, we must understand that our child is unique. We have to juggle their aptitudes, their ability to handle stress, their work ethic, their interests, and their potential career field. We should evaluate educational or character weakness that need to be addressed via their class load as well as their passions and strengths that need to be nurtured with the same choices.
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