Why are your Year levels out, and only go up to 10th?

As you go through here, you’ll notice I have primary school working a grade ahead, and by Year 10 I am approaching Year 12 texts, meanwhile my plans don’t actually go beyond Year 10. I thought I’d briefly explain this.

The way homeschooling works in my state and country, my children cannot easily get an OP (our state ranking for university entry)  at home. And University is not necessarily a default plan for our children. In Australia we don’t have ‘liberal arts’ universities, you go to study a subject and, perhaps aside from a few electives or a different minor, you study that subject alone. So just going to university ‘for the university experience’ without planning to work in your major field isn’t so much a thing here. It exists, but mostly among richer families with kids who have very little direction.  TAFE, or technical college, is also a well respected option in many fields, definitely not the ‘dumb kids option’.  In fact some fields are preferred TAFE entry, as it’s more practical than theoretical, and TAFE certificates count for credit at many universities. Given that, there are a LOT of different options for our children in the senior grades. (In Australia there’s no ‘high school transcript’ and only the last two grades count for anything in uni entry, not the last four). The most likely pathways are

  • Going to TAFE at 16 instead of doing grade 11/12, either to do a diploma and then find employment, or to do a diploma (likely a 2 year path) and receive 1 years credit at university by the time they are 18.
  • If they want to get into a highly competitive university field, like medicine or science, their best option is to finish 11 and 12 at a private high school with a full OP.
  • Open University is a correspondence uni which allows enrolment from age 16, with no pre-requisites. Doing part or full time study through them from home is a great option for many homeschooled students, provided they are not, again, going into specialized fields like medicine or science.
  • An apprenticeship after Year 10 is also a reasonable option for us. I feel like I have to defend this stance, but, the fact is that tradesmen are earning as much, if not more, than white collar workers these days. Not everyone wants to, or should,  go onto higher education, and we’re ok with that provided our child has some sort of path and goal.
  • Other possibilities include 11/12 at home with the SAT for an equivalent OP score, 11/12 at home through an accredited distance school, or 11/12 at home counting for nothing, entering university for a Bachelors of Arts degree (which no one gets rejected from), then transferring into a full degree after the first year.

As you can see, the four most likely options all result in ‘home’ schooling with my own curriculum ending after Year 10. But in all cases, the ideal would be to pack as much into the time before that as possible, hopefully getting them to a Year 12 equivalent before they move onto their chosen path. This will hopefully help them through further studies, or give them a good foundation in life if they do not continue with academic education. So the goal is to ‘finish’ Year 12 at the end of their official Year 10 year.

Ambitious goal? Not really. At least, I don’t think so.

In the classroom, the teacher does not move on to the next topic until 80% of the class have mastered it. But, obviously, many kids master it much earlier than that. The first 50% are sitting there bored waiting for the rest to catch up. Often, those first 50% are the kids who have a parent helping one-on-one at home. In the completely one-on-one, at your own pace environment of homeschooling, it’s quite reasonable to expect a child to keep up, if not move ahead. Most homeschoolers use this extra time to go into more depth, more meaning, more theoretical understanding, more hands-on activities, etc. And so do we, with two exceptions.

The first is, we believe in an early start on academics for many reasons I’ll outline in another post, and I believe most neurotypical kids are capable of completing Prep level (Kindergarten) work a year before they would do so in school, and in fact many do, entering Prep with all the skills already learned at home (with an exception for reading, which requires certain brain developments that can’t be forced). What a child can learn in a big group setting is very different to what they can learn with an hour a day of one-on-one attention with their parent. The parent is FAR more effective. And then, in turn, those kids who did Prep a year early should be able to do Year 1 level work, again with perhaps a delay on reading, during their Prep year. Year 2 work in Year 1, and so on. It isn’t at all uncommon to see children a year ahead in homeschooling for exactly this reason, they started a year early or started Year 1 work in Prep/Kindergarten. So we start ‘proper’ school, with Prep level work, in the year the child turns 4 before June 30th (With our Jan-Dec school year, this means the year they are, for the majority of it, 4). This starts them out one year ahead to begin with. Each year after that, they are simply completing the next years work like every other child, same workload, just perhaps a little more challenging due to their one year younger age. But that’s ok, because of the extra time/space to learn explained above.

The second exception to the ‘breadth, not acceleration’ rule is ‘middle school’. Most homeschooling curriculum is American. And if you take the time to look you’ll notice a serious lack of resources for middle school, elementary programs end in 5th and high school programs don’t begin until 9th. There’s a big gap with not much to fill it. This is because there is very little to actually cover. Middle school teachers themselves state that the primary aim of middle school is to direct and manage the large group of hormone fuelled teens during the years that they are least able to learn because their hormones are going crazy. There just isn’t that much to cover in pre-algebra, high school study skills, and a few broad overview subjects that get done again from scratch in high school anyway. Middle school is not much more than babysitting. We don’t have middle school in Australia, obviously, but Years 7 and 8 here are similarly useless, their stated aim being ‘to help you explore subjects and figure out what you want to do’ before you actually get to select your own subjects in Year 9.  But homeschoolers, while they do still have hormones, don’t have the crowds of equally clueless pre-teens to deal with, they generally focus quite well through these Years, in fact it’s my  opinion that my Year 7 and 8 years were two of my best educationally. Most homeschoolers fill this time with electives, ‘unschooling’ activities, and extras that the schools don’t teach so that their children remain on track to graduate with their same age peers.. So my plan is to skip a year here, condensing the 3 years of american ‘middle school’ down to 2, again, this doesn’t seem like an unreasonable goal at all when you look at the content, 1.5 already light years in the space of 1 isn’t asking too much.

This schedule has the children doing Prep (Kindergarten) at age 4. They would finish Elementary level work at the end of their official Year 4, and would finish middle school work at the end of their Year 6, therefor starting them on high school subjects in Year 7, giving them a full 4 years of high school, ending in Year 10. The scope and sequence ends up being similar to my own country, since we begin hitting things like Algebra 1 and scientific reports around Year 7 here anyway (we add more scope which stretches it out, for example everyone covers statistics and probability in high school, it’s not an elective) and they’ll have the freedom to do the same scope due to the nature of the homeschooling environment. The aim, by the end of it, being to have a Year 12 equivalent education by the end of Year 10 to have them prepared for the many paths open to them for higher education that do not involve Years 11/12 for homeschoolers, without missing out on the extra academics.

Outside of these two exceptions, I would rather aim for breadth and depth of subjects, rather than acceleration, for a student who is doing well at something. Of course this won’t apply to every student. A child with a learning disability wont keep this pace. And the kids will likely have some areas they are stronger, or weaker, like any other kid. But this is our average standard, our goal, to be ahead or behind of as needed.

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