Should Your Tween Take Advanced Classes?

Close-up of boy (12-13) doing homework at desk
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Middle school gives your child a chance to grow, develop independence and maybe even get a head start on high school courses. Many middle schools offer gifted or high achieving students the option of taking high school courses before high school even begins. Courses may be offered in math, foreign language, science, English, or in other subjects.

Taking an advanced class or two can give your child a running start on high school courses, and the experience might also nudge your child to develop better study skills, and time management skills. Taking advanced courses may also get your tween thinking a little about high school and how to make the most of those four years. But not every child is ready for advanced courses in middle school. If your child's school recommends that your child signs up for advanced courses, be sure to ask yourself the following questions.

How to Know If Your Child Is Ready

Some students just don't have the discipline or study skills to tackle high school courses in middle school. You might want to meet with your child's school counselor or one of his teachers to ask for opinions on whether your child is up for the challenge.

Advanced courses do require that your child masters (at least somewhat) certain study skills, such as the ability to prioritize assignments, tackle homework without being asked, and work through difficult problems without getting angry or throwing a temper tantrum.

If you're not sure if your child is ready, consider asking a teacher for an opinion.

Does Your Child Want to Take Advanced Courses?

If your child is enthusiastic about taking a high school course or two while still in middle school, you should give the opportunity some serious thought. Your child's enthusiasm is a good sign that he's maturing and that he takes school somewhat seriously, and that is something that you want to encourage and reward. Enthusiasm will prompt your child to start the class off on the right foot and with a good attitude, and that could be enough to see him through the coursework.

Does Your Child Have the Time to Devote to an Advanced Course?

Many tweens are overscheduled and barely have time to do their homework, under normal circumstances. If your child spends his hours after school running from one activity to another, taking an advanced course might not be in his best interests. If he doesn't have the time to devote to his class or to the homework, he may not excel, and that could damage his self-esteem and possibly also his GPA.

Ask yourself (and be honest) if your child has the time in his day to give an advanced course the attention it deserves. If not, you might consider dropping a few activities or postponing advanced classes another year. Also, consider whether or not you have the time to help your tween with any additional homework assignments or responsibilities that might come with the advanced courses.

You also want to make sure that your child's other courses don't suffer due to the time he'll need to invest in his advanced class. In other words, you want your child to excel in his high school course, but not at the expense of his other classes.

What If He Doesn't Do Well?

Before signing your child up for any advanced class, be sure you understand how his grade will impact his high school GPA and his class rank. If your child does well, no worries. But what happens if your child brings home a final grade of a C or D? Will he have the opportunity to remove that grade from his GPA if he takes the course over again in high school? Get specifics ahead of time, in order to prevent any regrets on the backend.

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