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Honors or Not?

ruthstoopsruthstoops Registered User Posts: 28 Junior Member
Hello there! My son is in grade 8 and we are about to start the high school course selection process. I am a little baffled about what his abilities are. His grades are mostly A or A minus with last term having a first B plus in a few years. Grades seem inflated (to me). State scores show him high for math and average for our (very competitive) town in english. My goal for him is to not be super-stressed, (not an Ivy-bound kid) but I'm told he will socially fit in best in honors classes. I'm also told the teachers are way better. I know of several kids who have been kept out of honors classes and having known these kids a long time, I find this strange. Parents feel the school is trying to keep the numbers lower. I guess my question is .. how do you determine the best level of classes in high school?

Replies to: Honors or Not?

  • blossomblossom Registered User Posts: 9,167 Senior Member
    Trial and error.

    Especially with a boy (speaking from experience) you can either throw him in the deep end of the pool (Honors) and see if he struggles, in which case you'll get him moved, or have him start out in non-honors, and watch to see if he's bored, acting out, not interested in making friends with the kids in his classes.

    Our winning strategy was to ask the kid. I think an 8th grader likely has a good feel for both the social dynamic and the academics.

    The developmental curve for a 13-15 year old boy is huge- our very wise pediatrician told me at one point (when I was pulling out my hair) that it's comparable to the toddler phase.... enormous leaps, followed by regression. So an 8th grader who doesn't like to read books for fun can turn into a 9th grader who is a voracious reader (and the writing skills usually follow). An 8th grader who always hands in his homework late, forgets assignments, and doesn't push himself, can turn into a highly motivated and hard-working 9th grader. You can't predict. But you can support, support, support and follow your son's lead.
  • ruthstoopsruthstoops Registered User Posts: 28 Junior Member
    I should also mention he is already in honors math.
  • lkg4answerslkg4answers Registered User Posts: 963 Member
    edited January 11
    I agree in that there is usually more room to level down than to move up. Plus, once you miss the first few weeks of an honors class, it is difficult to move into it. If you sign up for honors and decide that, after a couple of exams, it is too much, you will be able to move into a regular class and still know the information that was covered.

    In our experience, honors was very different than AP. The honors classes had kids that cared about school and there was less babysitting than in the regular class. AP classes were challenging. Honors tended to prep you for AP but going from a regular class to AP was a more difficult transition.
  • ruthstoopsruthstoops Registered User Posts: 28 Junior Member
    I think I'm more concerned about honors in English and History. This is the real wild card - it seems like a lot but then I hear parents say, "those classes are way more interesting" etc. He doesn't strike me as an all honors kid. He lovvvves his activities and is pretty pressed for time as it is.
  • Kirby's EpicKirby's Epic Registered User Posts: 7 New Member
    I like the above advice to follow the child's overall lead. Boys of this age often have difficulty with organization, time management, prioritization and insight. This can lead to difficulty with the sudden jump in large amounts of homework. They could have been "A" students in middle school, but totally crash and burn with the volume of homework needed in high school to succeed - they got by on their smarts until now, and have a system crash, so to speak, when it becomes evident that even the most talented need to work really hard. And they can't adjust.
    It's a very fluid process. Some kids cannot handle the honors levels upon entry simply because of study skills and organization, it doesn't have to do with ability.
    Honors needs to be in area of strength AND interest, even then be prepared for some bumps.
    It will evolve.
  • mom2andmom2and Registered User Posts: 2,564 Senior Member
    What do the current teachers recommend? Especially, the current english teacher. If he is recommended for honors, 9th grade is the time to try. A kid that is getting all As may be fine in honors, especially in 9th grade. While HS is more demanding, it is not very common for a straight A 8th grader to crash and burn in 9th grade, unless a parent has been micromanaging or having a hand in his work.

    As he progresses through HS, he may decide to focus honors/AP in one area and drop to a different track in others. And, as others have said, what does he want to do? It can be true (but not always) that honors courses while more demanding are also more interesting and have more engaged students.
  • Fish125Fish125 Registered User Posts: 239 Junior Member
    I agree with everyone who said to follow your kid's advice. I'd also recommend researching what type of work is given to the non-Honors/AP students, and whether the teachers who teach them are engaged or absolutely burned out, as well as how much support and guidance these non-Honors/AP programs receive from the administration. The high school my kids attended was mostly very strong for 4.0+ students. For the other kids, there just wasn't much of an emphasis or support. Thankfully, it has greatly improved under new leadership, but at the time, each class started out with 750+ students in their freshman class, and by senior year there were about 500 students left. Most who left seemed to be the non-Honors kids transferring to charters, private schools, or other high schools. They were just languishing in their classes without much support, and their parents were incredibly frustrated with the lack of response and supports from the school. During one of my kids' senior year, some of her friends had so much on their plates, they decided to take a couple of the non-Honors/AP classes. Really sweet and kind and incredibly bright kids. They were stunned by the amount of mistakes in the homework assignments they received, the lack of control in the classrooms, and the lack of engagement by the teachers. (Disclaimer: many of these teachers were very good teachers, but they lacked the support of the then administration and it showed.)
  • suzy100suzy100 Registered User Posts: 5,496 Senior Member
    Yes, I'd ask what his current teachers recommend.
  • ruthstoopsruthstoops Registered User Posts: 28 Junior Member
    My son would probably try most honors, except for one. He is very diligent and organized - he won't let us go near his work. But it just seems like such a low amount of work they are given. I know that he grabs time during the day to do work but..I remember so much more at that age! I don't think that he will be recommended for honors English but we can choose it regardless. We also have a retired teacher who is tutoring him with writing and I'm pretty sure he will be a great resource on whether to choose honors. He doesn't think all honors is a good idea if you are on the fence.
  • NJWrestlingmomNJWrestlingmom Registered User Posts: 798 Member
    It really varies by school. D21 sees friends at our local school in all Honors and APs with their lowest grade being a 97 and they aren't stressed at all. D21 goes out of district to a much more competitive high school and there is nobody with 97+ in all honors/AP courses. It just doesn't happen.

    D21 qualified for all honors this year, but she has her activity that takes about 10-15 hours a week all year long, so she chose her favorites (English and History) and kept math and science at college prep. But kids at her school are motivated regardless of the level. It's really a balance depending on the kid and the school.
  • GloriaVaughnGloriaVaughn Registered User Posts: 474 Member
    Does the school have a trial time period where they can see how they like the honors class and if after a couple of weeks drop down into regulars? Keep in mine that with some schools if you drop to regulars you cannot move back up into honors.
  • wis75wis75 Registered User Posts: 13,489 Senior Member
    edited January 12
    Go for it. Do not rely on the "wisdom" of a middle schooler- he is still evolving/maturing/growing. If honors becomes too much for him he can move down but if he is bored in regular classes it can be too difficult to move up to honors. He already is dealing with honors peers in math and many of those likely will take other honors classes. Most top students in HS honors are NOT Ivy caliber students. Taking the honors classes will teach him more, challenge him more (less boredom) and better prepare him for any college. If freshman year proves he was overreaching then let him change for sophomore year. Improving grades matter for college so a poor start can easily be overcome- plus some school ignore freshman year.

    Do you see your son as settling for average or being an upper tier student? Pushing himself a bit will get him further in the world. Will he be satisfied in later years if he gives up his academic honors possibilities? If you are being told he will fit in with the honors kids he should be with them. Do not assume it will be more stressful for him. Academics trump extracurriculars- ECs are not a substitute for knowledge and skills gained.

    Right now you will be sending a message to your son. Willing to try something potentially hard or settling for no challenges. Any time a school recommends going for the honors take advantage of the opportunity.
  • Groundwork2022Groundwork2022 Registered User Posts: 1,029 Senior Member
    edited January 12
    DD's honors classes move at a much faster pace and have considerably more homework than the regular classes. For that reason, I would start in honors and see how things go. If you try and move from regular math to honors, you could find yourself several weeks behind, and the gap grows as the year goes on. Honors English at DD's school does in one week the work that the non-honors covers in three. She knows this from talking with her non-honors friends and comparing the work.

    For DD, the first two weeks were the most difficult, as she got used to 4-5 hours of homework each night vs. 1-1.5 in 8th grade. She has risen to the challenge, though, and will remain in the same levels next year. She was placed based on grades, teacher recommendations, and PSAT 8/9 test scores. Parents can weigh in (we didn't), and the school will consider their arguments, but in the two or three cases I heard about, the kids whose parents pushed to get them bumped up ended up not doing so well.
  • scubadivescubadive Registered User Posts: 809 Member
    When my son went to hs I had the same questions but my eldest said whatever you do, do not put him in on level. The skillsets between onlevel and honors are enormous especially in english. His writing was terrible in eighth grade and by the end of freshman year it was day and night. And yes he is the kid who loses assignments and disorganized. Kids who are bored and not challenged can struggle more in school and their grades be worse in onlevel versus honors. While his grades were not hot in ms all his teachers believed he should not be in onlevel.
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