Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Middle School Challenge: Honors Classes?

It’s finally spring and this year, for us, that means lacrosse, soccer, soccer, and yes, one more time, soccer. I realize that I have only 3 children, and that 4 sports means I am going against a personal belief that children should play one sport per season. But that conversation is long and convoluted and we can discuss it another time.

In addition to the sports frenzy, it’s also the time of year when kids heading to middle school take tests for next year’s “challenge” classes, our district’s designation for honors classes during the middle school years. Conveniently, this testing coincides with the time of year when the sun hangs low in the sky well beyond bedtime, tricking children into believing that the school year is already over.

Last spring, SusieJ wrote a convincing post about not taking honors classes. Her son, as I recall, was nominated for honors math but took a look at the additional homework requirements and thought the better of it.

My son, hmmm…I’m waiting to see what decision he’ll make. I worry that he’s overly enticed by the “brand,” by the status, by the elitism, really, that honors classes proffer. It’s not that he thinks he’s too smart for the regular classes, not at all. It’s simply another one of those middle school identifiers: Which soccer team do you play for? Where do you sit at lunch? Which challenge class(es) are you taking?

It’s a quandary, though, because by all means he should take some challenge classes. The past two years have been a bit too enjoyable in the classroom, because it’s come a bit too easily. It’s one thing to skate through upper elementary; it’s an entirely different manner to head off to high school unprepared for the rigors of college prep. He’s ready for some challenge.

The question, though, is which one(s) and how many. My son enjoys learning. He also enjoys soccer, football, basketball, hanging out with friends, reading, and playing with his brothers. He most certainly does not enjoy mounds of homework. I'm fairly certain he's not wired to have 2-3 hours of homework every night. I mean, really, who is?

And so as the flowers push through the ground and the days grow longer, as they alternate between rain and sun, we run from event to event, practice to practice, game to game, and contemplate the year to come. No matter which choice he makes, it will be a year of growth, don’t you think?

photo credits: psmithy and me


Linda said...

It definitely will be a year of growth. I don't think there's ever one "right" answer, and as parents, we'll probably always wonder what would have happened if we'd chosen another path with/for our children, but you have to do what you think is best.

Heather said...

I took honors classes and didn't find that it added that much to my homework load. Maybe there is more now. I never have agreed with piling on the homework, especially not for EVERY kid. I wish they would just assign a few small things to do (a few math problems, a few spelling words, whatever) and then offer more if the child needs additional practice. I think in most cases people either learn it right away so a ton of problems isn't going to do anything but take time, or need more help, and doing a million problems wrong isn't any help either.

So. Nice tangent Heather.

Holly said...

Interesting perspective.

I took some "honours" classes in high school, only English-based ones though, since I was abysmal at maths, and still am.

I didn't elect to go into them though, I was just assigned to them because the regular work was deemed too easy for me, and the extension work was supposed to prepare me better for the I.B. programme I enrolled in in my second last year of high, and, eventually ended up dropping out of (!) having decided it wasn't my thing anyway!

susiej said...

Now that I have a year's perspective of my son's decision behind me, I can say that I feel the same; but I no longer feel the same for the same reasons. There is a time when a child is so bored and so "done" with a topic; then an honors class does a great service to the child, the parent and the school. In that situation, it just feels right, and you feel good about the new challenges this class will open for you and your child. Then, there is that queasy feeling of just not knowing what the right thing to do is -- and then it's better to wait. Sometimes maturity will kick in, and then the child will be ready for a step into honors.

But definitely, look at each subject, because we all have different gifts.