Subject acceleration: math

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-23-2002
Subject acceleration: math
31
Tue, 01-29-2013 - 1:35pm

So my homeschooled just-turned-10-year-old would love to do math at school next year. She loves group-based learning, at least when it's at her level. Our local K-12 public school has been very good about including homeschooled kids in their program part-time.

She finished ~7th grade math about a year and a half ago (using Singapore Primary Math). For a year or so afterwards I just let her drift with her math being non-curricular, interest driven and unstructured. She didn't do much. She occasionally made use of a book called Challenge Math, intended as enrichment for gifted middle-schoolers, but just in small spurts. Then about two months ago she started talking about wanting to try school for math next year. She wanted to try out the math program they use at this school at home first, and see if she liked it, so our homeschool liaison teacher got her a bunch of different levels to look over and she decided on the level that matched what she had been doing, the 8th grade program. Despite a 3-week break over Christmas she's now about half-way through the course. It seems to me to be at almost the right level: quite easy, but the demands and format are a little more high-school-ish than she was used to in Singapore and Challenge Math, so she's having to get used to that. So far she's not using the textbook at all. Everything is either completely intuitive, or review, or so simple for her that the very brief example problem given before each set of workbook problems is sufficient for her to get it. I have no doubt that she could handle the 9th grade course without needing to do the 8th, but it would be more of a challenge, and at this point she's enjoying the ease.

The question is, if I do approach the local K-12 school about including her in a math class next fall, what level do I ask for? I think the options are primarily 7th grade and 9th grade. (I should say that we're in Canada, where math continues to be math throughout high school, rather than being divided into separate algebra, trig and geometry courses. Every year in the curriculum contains a progression through a variety of mathematical topics. So there's no issue of her meeting up with a mono-diet of quadratic equations next fall or anything.)

7th grade would be a two-year skip, though she's "old for grade," having a January birthday in a place with a Dec. 31st cutoff, so she'd only be 13-14 months younger than the next-youngest couple of kids. She already has one good friend in this grade and a number of casual friends. Of course the curriculum would be an easy repeat of stuff she's already been managing handily for a couple of years. At least it would be a different workbook, though it would be one level back.  

8th and 9th grade math would likely be combined in a split class next year. She doesn't have any close friends in that class, though one of her good friends, a homeschooled 12-year-old, may be doing 8th grade math there, but she is acquaintances with most of the other kids, and has casual friendships with a couple of them. Since she will have completed exactly the curriculum the 8th graders will be doing, I can't see asking her to fill in the same workbook all over again. It would make sense for her to do 9th grade. She'd be in with the same group of kids either way. It would mean three consistently-scheduled hours of class a week, plus homework. The combined class would have about 18 kids.

Her social affinities run old. She gets along well with kids her own age and younger in small groups or one-on-one, but has little tolerance for the catty and/or chaotic group behaviour of tweens. Her siblings are all teens, and she much prefers to hang out with groups of teenagers rather than the 10-12 set. Unlike my older kids who were fiercely autonomous and perfectionistic, this kid deals well with structure, challenge, and failure. She's resilient as heck, cheerful and socially gracious.

All logic tells me to push for her in the 9th grade math course next year. How hard a sell do you think this will be? It's a full four years ahead of where she "should" be by age, and she's never been in school before. Her current math work is being overseen and marked by the school's high school math teacher, because he just happens to also be our homeschool liaison teacher. He knows her abilities and understands her social preferences and maturity. But he's a junior teacher in this district, and the principal, although willing to allow subject acceleration in compelling cases, has made it clear that she is fairly wedded to the idea of age-levelled education. 

Have any of your kids been accommodated for radical subject acceleration? How tough a sell was it? Assuming I can get the school to agree, are there potential pitfalls I'm missing here?

Miranda

Miranda
in rural BC, Canada
mom to three great kids and one great grown-up
unschooler, violist, runner, doc 

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-09-2006
Thu, 01-31-2013 - 12:47pm
I grew up in a small town (pop. about 15,000 + state university) that had an extraordinarily gifted violinist who was the strings teacher in the schools (there had been some nastiness about that: apparently the old strings teacher was forced out) and the concertmaster of the symphony and was married to the conductor, who was violin teacher and head of the music department at the college. The politics were...amazing. No one there now remembers how it was, which is good. One of her former students runs a fabulous chamber music program in his capacity as high school orchestra teacher...the whole town is bristling with excellent string players. I know this is partly her legacy. But at a cost...
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-09-2006
Thu, 01-31-2013 - 12:49pm

I don't understand how the replies work...I wrote a response to me that went to Miranda, and one to Miranda that went to me!

Deborah

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-06-2010
Thu, 01-31-2013 - 1:28pm
Weedosmom, I guess I'm going to have to make sure DD is tough enough to handle what you're describing. Now I know why teachers say ODD is "too soft" to consider music as a career and why it is seen as a good thing that YDD is stubborn and very strong-willed. Eventually DD will play chamber music with others in the program, but not yet. I agree it would be ideal if she could do more. This was one nice thing about Suzuki- the whole "making music together" thing.
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-06-2010
Thu, 01-31-2013 - 1:33pm
Deborah, I think that if you hit "quick reply" the reply is automatically attributed to the OP. Just happened to me too. ;p As for your comment about music and politics, it is really a shame that music folks have to fight over the right to perform their art. The price is too high.
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-16-2001
Fri, 02-01-2013 - 12:28pm

As for the boards, it appears Ivillage is still having major problems and clearly launched too soon.  According to the "help" board there were also some internal management changes in December.  Hopefully, things will improve before the frustration overflows!

There is no easy answer here. The pitfall of 9th grade math next year may well be the future.  Does that mean the following year she would be in a 10th-11th grade class at  age 11 with kids turning 17?  Is that a concern?  At what point would she start going to the high school for other subjects and how would being so far ahead in math impact her overall grade placement?  What happens when she is done with math offered by the school by age 14? 

Those are the potential "pitfalls" as I see them.  OTOH, going to 7th grade math may well be too easy and not meet her need for challenging math.  But it might be a fun, social part of the day and doing the math in a more "school" way may be differnt enough to keep her at least a little challenged.  Any consideration to putting her in school for a class that she is not as advanced in and continuing to do math at home?

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-23-2002
Fri, 02-01-2013 - 3:55pm

As I said, she enjoys learning within a group. She's got a bit of an extraverted streak and enjoys being surrounded by others who are engaged in similar work. And she loves the accountability of a schedule and course-like structure, as well as the support, feedback and encouragement she gets from the teachers and mentors in her life, including from the guy who would be her Math 9 teacher. In many ways she's a kid who is made for school: she is energized and encouraged by being around teachers and other students. For a while last year my teenagers were having a homework club type thing at our house one day a week. Youngest dd just loved being at the table with them, working away as they worked, occasionally chatting quietly, feeling a part of something bigger than herself. So she loves the "scholastic environment" that school could provide for her. The challenge is just finding an appropriate fit academically. 

I guess I don't see math as being a fixed linear path like a expressway. I see it as a countryside, and while you might choose to follow an expressway through it for a while, you are free to take an exit and meander through the countryside, stop for a picnic, backtrack and then pick up a secondary road that follows a river. Fiona spent most of the last 18 months wandering that countryside and then returned to standard curricular math with strong skills and just a bit of review needed -- and with a richer understanding of many of the things she explored in the meantime. 

And if she's wanting to take Calculus when she's 14, she could do so. If she wanted to do university Calculus or Combinatorics at 16, I'm pretty sure we'd find ways to make that happen too. I'd be surprised if she continued on that linear path for the next 7 years, but I'm sure it's possible to do so. Generally I find that the future is a moving target, and it's best not to deny your child an opportunity they want now just because you can't see, or aren't comfortable with, what that will lead to in five years. I've usually found it best to feed a passion now and not second-guess the future.

Miranda

Miranda
in rural BC, Canada
mom to three great kids and one great grown-up
unschooler, violist, runner, doc 

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-23-2002
Fri, 02-01-2013 - 4:18pm

She is going to be doing beginning Spanish with the 7th/8th/9th graders starting ... today! concidentally enough. They're all starting from scratch, including dd. Because Spanish is an elective rather than a core academic, and because it's a beginner course, the school has no problem accommodating her. For this semester we'll continue doing math at home. If she decides that all she really wants is a bit of social exposure, and Spanish is sufficient for that, we won't pursue math in the fall.

Last semester she had a homeschoolers' art class once a week that was held in the school's Facilitated Learning Centre. The homeschool liaison teacher (who is also the high school math teacher) would be there, and sometimes students would drift in during their study blocks looking for help with math. There was a math study group happening in a corner of the room for a couple of weeks prior to last week's exams. Dd has watched wistfully the tutoring these kids have been getting, and asking when she'll be able to learn math in a similar environment. From my perspective, well, I really value the non-curricular, thematic, free-ranging unschooled approach she uses to learn about most other subject areas. I think her education would be much poorer in the arts, humanities and sciences if they got boxed into a school-subject curricular courses at this point. Math is already somewhat boxed in since she's chosen a curricular approach, so it doesn't seem like such a loss. 

Not sure if I'm explaining this very well. 

I wrote it my reply to muddymessalonske my thoughts about the future with respect to math if we pursue this. I'm really not sure what the age-mix would be if/when she decides to take Math 10. It varies from year to year how the classes are blended. The 11's and 12's are almost always together. Next year the 10's will be blended with them because the numbers are quite small in those two older classes. The year after (when dd might want to do Math 10), I don't know. The blend could be 8/9/10, or 9/10, or 10/11/12. If it was 10/11/12, her sister and two of her other good friends would be in that class as 11's and 12's -- which would be quite lovely. Is it a "concern"? A consideration, maybe, but there are so many unknowns. Maybe she'll decide school math isn't all it's cracked up to be. Maybe she'll want to do her course-work in the Independent Learning Lab, or at home. Maybe she'll want to take a hiatus, an enrichment year, away from curricular math.

Miranda

Miranda
in rural BC, Canada
mom to three great kids and one great grown-up
unschooler, violist, runner, doc 

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-23-2002
Fri, 02-01-2013 - 6:54pm

Thanks, I think she could easily do the 8th grade final with the 8th graders, or proctored by her homeschool liaison guy, this spring. I think an written letter of recommendation by the high school math teacher would be looked upon rather oddly in that it would be strangely formal: this is a K-12 school with nine teachers, including the principal. They all know all the kids, and they talk with each other about various kids all the time. But yes, a suggestion to "please speak with Scott about her math work: he's very familiar with what she's been doing" might be worth making to the principal. Miranda

Miranda
in rural BC, Canada
mom to three great kids and one great grown-up
unschooler, violist, runner, doc 

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-09-2006
Fri, 02-01-2013 - 9:30pm

"Now I know why teachers say ODD is "too soft" to consider music as a career and why it is seen as a good thing that YDD is stubborn and very strong-willed"

Well, I think the teachers are making preposterous claims.  I know you're not in the US, but music is a "universal" language and I've played with people from all over, and I don't notice that they differ from US musicians much...or at all.  Not every musican starts out as a hard boiled prodigy destined for a solo career or a major symphony.  There are many many routes to being successful: teaching, selling instruments, publishing, staffing musical organizations, and on and on and on.  I have friends who make a decent living by playing in several small orchestras; some of these also teach.  A college friend conducts several third rate symphonies, with an occasional job as substitute conductor at something bigger.  Another friend is in several ensembles in the Boston area and makes a good living by playing for weddings and other celebrations and as backup on popular music recordings.  One of the boys from my high school orchestra is in a quartet in residence at a college; another teaches at a small college and performs as a soloist, including works he commissioned on his programs.  A couple have "day jobs" but play jazz in clubs several nights a week.   Only a couple of the people I know ever got to "the top" or near...but none of them would trade their lives as musicians for anything else.  I made the mistake of listening to people who told me that as a person who started lessons two months before my 14th birthday, I would not be able to be a professional musician.  So I didn't focus when it mattered...it turns out that I play as well as some of my friends who did "go pro", and I make part of my income from music now.  I don't reget having taken a different path, but music was my chief passion and it would have been better to ignore the naysayers and do what I really wanted to do. Reasonably good musicans are not usually compensated as well as engineers or insurance salesmen, but the world has great need of them nevertheless.

Deborah

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-09-2006
Fri, 02-01-2013 - 10:48pm

I think I understand what you're saying, but (perhaps because I don't know your daughter in person, but from what you have presented, she has off the charts aptitude, is a "natural" learner, and has thrived with an atypical approach) I am bothered by an inconsistency: the things that make her so capable are the very things that will be in short supply once she is in a more formal environment where everyone is expected accept the classroom pace for learning, regardless of its other social benefits.  And to make it work, she will require accommodations that would not even be considered for the kids who are enrolled in the school full time, regardless of ability: witness the trouble your third child had getting a "grade skip"...she did get accommodations but it wasn't called a grade skip.   I've experienced my own daughter "dumbing down" her violin ability for social reasons, and that was in a class of just two!   (She didn't confess this until years later, when she was feeling remorseful at having not having studied violin more seriously when it would have been in her better interest to do so.)  

I described your situation to dh, in a neutral way without injectiong my opinion, and asked what he would do?  "Get her a tutor".  

I do "get" your daughter's wish to be involved in "the action"...but it seems that your assertion that she is "made for school" is belied by the kind of work she has engaged in outside of a school setting.  I'd guess she is "made for" a rich set of productive interactions with others, and school is the closest she can find.

Deborah