Collegebound? What to Do in 8th Grade, Part 2
Part 2 (You can find Part 1 here.)
In Part 1, I made the case for math as the most important decision you will make with your collegebound 8th grader. If your child might be heading into a science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) field, then completing one year of calculus by the end of high school is important. To get that far, Algebra 1 should be completed in 8th grade. Kids more likely to choose a field in the humanities or social sciences will be fine if they only complete Algebra 2 and some trigonometry, which can be covered in a geometry course (though, more math is always advantageous—and statistics for non-STEM minded kids is ideal).
There is another decision to make in 8th grade that will pay huge benefits down the road: What foreign language your child will study in high school. Most colleges expect to see two years of the same foreign language on the high school transcript as an admissions requirement, and many states require this for high school graduation (Homeschool laws from state to state vary. Even if foreign language is not required where you live, it may be required by the college your child hopes to attend.) My kids all went to different schools, obtained different degrees, and all had a foreign language requirement.
Most colleges now make a foreign language part of their degree requirements. Students can often place out of this requirement if they have four years of the same foreign language in high school or they score high enough on a placement test. Your child will never regret any college credits or requirements he or she can knock off during high school. This is an essential strategy for graduating from college on time and controlling college costs. (My son Mike completed his final credits in French by hiring a tutor while studying abroad in Thailand by special permission from his university. It made for an interesting story but was stressful to figure out. Word to the wise: get those credits completed early.)
Fulfilling the foreign language requirement in high school is an easy place to save on college costs and time. The goal is to score high on that placement test, and that’s why starting the four-year sequence of a foreign language in 8th grade is smart—there are so many other things to fit into the high school schedule. Completing the first year of the same foreign language by the end of 8th grade relieves pressure down the line.
At Aim Academy, our teaching strategy is to give students a longer and slower approach to mastering essential skills and content—an excellent place to see this strategy is in our foreign language department. We have both Spanish and French classes starting in elementary. French 1 and Spanish 1 can both be completed in middle school, and students can take two years to complete the course material if they like. Just like with Algebra 1, taking time to master the introductory material for a foreign language makes all the higher-level courses so much easier!
We’ve also added American Sign Language recently and now offer ASL 1 and ASL 2. In the past, American Sign Language was not always accepted as fulfillment of the language requirement, but most schools have changed their policy. Here is a list of schools that accept American Sign Language.
One language that may not be accepted is Latin. Check the website of the schools your child might be interested in attending. The rationale is that Latin is not a modern language–no one is speaking it these days. The rise in foreign language requirements is because our kids are entering a global marketplace–the ability to speak a second (or even third) modern language adds versatility to your child’s resume. While Latin has many benefits, it doesn’t help in this regard. That’s why we chose a romance language–French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Romanian–these all have Latin as their base but have the added benefit of being living languages, which my kids used then in their world travels and to differentiate themselves in the job market.