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 their 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 they're maturing and that they take 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 them through the coursework.

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

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

Ask yourself (and be honest) if your child has the time in their 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 they will need to invest in their advanced class. In other words, you want your child to excel in their high school course, but not at the expense of their other classes.

What If They Don't Do Well?

Before signing your child up for any advanced class, be sure you understand how their grade will impact their high school GPA and their 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 they have the opportunity to remove that grade from their GPA if they take the course over again in high school? Get specifics ahead of time, in order to prevent any regrets on the backend.

By Jennifer O'Donnell
Jennifer O'Donnell holds a BA in English and has training in specific areas regarding tweens, covering parenting for over 8 years.