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Old 10-02-2012, 03:44 PM
 
53 posts, read 151,020 times
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Our eldest child is only in 4th grade, but nevertheless dear husband and I frequently discuss options for middle school education.

We started our kids in public school for elementary, but then a bad experience with a first grade teacher changed our course so that now we are homeschooling all of our kids. Though we never planned on homeschooling, it has been phenomenal academically for elementary. Our kids also have friends and participate in sports, so the social aspect is fine as well.

However, middle school seems to be harder decision. Academically, I think we could homeschool at least as well or likely better than our local public middle school. This seems especially true in that our middle school is one of the three in Loudoun which has "blended" honors classes. From what I can tell by reading the local paper and talking to an assistant principal, "blended honors" classes consist of a mix of honors students and grade level students. After the school year starts, the teacher in each "honors" class assesses the level of the students and "differentiates" the assignments (i.e. adjusts the difficulty downward as far as I can tell) to make them appropriate to the abilities of the kids in the class. It sounds like the main focus of the middle school is to try to help the lower achieving kids since they will be pushed to perform at a higher level (and perhaps behave better) if they are around honors level kids. Though the school system claims that the honors students are not disadvantaged by this practice, the only result I foresee is that they are unfairly held back.

To me, that sounds like my middle school doesn't have any real honors classes. What they offer are just general student body classes, though some have the names "honors" attached to them. Perhaps the curriculum in the "honors" class begins at a higher level, but evidently it becomes "differentiated" to an easier level once the school year begins.

So now I am leaning toward homeschooling middle school from an academic perspective, especially since I think my kids would generally take the honors level classes. Certainly I wouldn't mind my kids skipping some of the unpleasant middle school social experiences.

One big concern, though, is how it affects admission to high school programs, such as Thomas Jefferson High School. I know that TJ has an application for homeschooled kids, but I wonder if they accept any in real life. How do these types of schools (i.e. magnet-type of high schools) view homeschooled kids? Does anyone have experience with this?

Sorry this is so long. Thanks for reading this far. Any thoughts are appreciated.
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Old 10-02-2012, 05:02 PM
 
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I can't answer a lot of your questions, but I do have some thoughts:

1. Being located in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County, a commute to TJ would be rather daunting from Loudoun County...that is assuming, of course, that your children would be admitted what is often hailed as the "best" high school in America.

2. Have you considered looking into the Loudoun Academy of Science? While not having the (inter)national reputation of TJ, it does have the same core focus on talented math and science high schoolers. The competition may also not be as steep since (I presume) students from Arlington, Fairfax and Prince William Counties are not eligible for admission.

3. Please make sure that your children really, really, love math and science. Although non-STEM types have been known to go to TJ and succeed, you may not want to put, say, an artistic "square peg" into that technical "round hole".
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Old 10-02-2012, 06:02 PM
 
53 posts, read 151,020 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tone509 View Post
I can't answer a lot of your questions, but I do have some thoughts:

1. Being located in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County, a commute to TJ would be rather daunting from Loudoun County...that is assuming, of course, that your children would be admitted what is often hailed as the "best" high school in America.

2. Have you considered looking into the Loudoun Academy of Science? While not having the (inter)national reputation of TJ, it does have the same core focus on talented math and science high schoolers. The competition may also not be as steep since (I presume) students from Arlington, Fairfax and Prince William Counties are not eligible for admission.

3. Please make sure that your children really, really, love math and science. Although non-STEM types have been known to go to TJ and succeed, you may not want to put, say, an artistic "square peg" into that technical "round hole".
Of course I am not assuming my kids would get into TJ High School, but they are very good at math and science. One of my kids wants to be an engineer. Also, my husband went to TJ High School, so it is our plan to at least help prepare our kids as well as we can in case they want to apply and try to get in.

Yes, it is a long commute from Loudoun to TJ, though we might move to Fairfax if one of our kids got in. And yes, the Loudoun Academy of Science is also a big consideration, which is why I wonder how TJ and Loudoun's AOS and other schools such as those view middle school homeschooled kids.

I also wonder how those schools view Loudoun public schools in general. Even though I often hear people say that Loudoun schools are good, I have not experienced anything good in Loudoun as compared to Fairfax County public schools.
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Old 10-02-2012, 06:24 PM
 
7,968 posts, read 18,078,632 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cav fan View Post
Of course I am not assuming my kids would get into TJ High School, but they are very good at math and science. One of my kids wants to be an engineer. Also, my husband went to TJ High School, so it is our plan to at least help prepare our kids as well as we can in case they want to apply and try to get in.

Yes, it is a long commute from Loudoun to TJ, though we might move to Fairfax if one of our kids got in. And yes, the Loudoun Academy of Science is also a big consideration, which is why I wonder how TJ and Loudoun's AOS and other schools such as those view middle school homeschooled kids.
I understand. I apologize if I came off a little strong; it's hard to tell sometimes from initial details whether a new member is already aware of certain information.

Quote:
I also wonder how those schools view Loudoun public schools in general. Even though I often hear people say that Loudoun schools are good, I have not experienced anything good in Loudoun as compared to Fairfax County public schools.
I am not the expert on this subject since I am childless in the City of Alexandria. The general impression I have observed on this forum is that LCPS holds its own against FCPS. However, I haven't seen much discussion about how high-achieving students are nurtured. I'm sure there are others here who can elaborate.
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Old 10-02-2012, 11:04 PM
 
2,688 posts, read 5,960,659 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cav fan View Post
From what I can tell by reading the local paper and talking to an assistant principal, "blended honors" classes consist of a mix of honors students and grade level students. After the school year starts, the teacher in each "honors" class assesses the level of the students and "differentiates" the assignments (i.e. adjusts the difficulty downward as far as I can tell) to make them appropriate to the abilities of the kids in the class. It sounds like the main focus of the middle school is to try to help the lower achieving kids since they will be pushed to perform at a higher level (and perhaps behave better) if they are around honors level kids. Though the school system claims that the honors students are not disadvantaged by this practice, the only result I foresee is that they are unfairly held back.

To me, that sounds like my middle school doesn't have any real honors classes. What they offer are just general student body classes, though some have the names "honors" attached to them. Perhaps the curriculum in the "honors" class begins at a higher level, but evidently it becomes "differentiated" to an easier level once the school year begins.
That is just bizarre. Or it should be, but not much surprises me regarding schools today.

Apparently others have the same feeling about this that you do:

‘Honors’ Class Debate Reaches Compromise - Leesburg Today Online—Daily News Coverage of Loudoun County, Leesburg, Ashburn: News: western_loudoun_schools, brion bell, blue ridge middle school, barbara p. nichols, teri domanski

Where do school administrators come up with this stuff?
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Old 10-03-2012, 12:22 AM
 
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My suggestion would be to continue to homeschool. I don't think you should gear the education of your children for a specific high school no matter how good you think is. Much can change between now and when your kids are that age. Education is a long-term proposition.

I graduated from Stuyvesant High School in NYC (a science and tech magnet like TJ), double majored at an Ivy League university, went to a top-ten graduate school and married another person with a doctorate (also Ivy League graduate). I homeschool my own children, but not with a goal toward sending them to TJ or any of my highly rated and desired almae matres or, indeed, any specific school.

I homeschool my kids because 1) my wife and I as well as our other parenting/homeschooling partners can assure a sound moral and ethical inculcation for our children that is not possible through public or even private schooling, 2) we can tailor the learning to the specific needs and talents of our children and provide them with substantial one-on-one attention and 3) we can impart knowledge to our children at least as well as, and possibly better than, school teachers can.

All *I* learned from my middle school was how to gamble and win street fights, but that's another story from another country.
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Old 10-03-2012, 09:20 AM
 
617 posts, read 1,156,404 times
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Originally Posted by IndiaLimaDelta View Post
All *I* learned from my middle school was how to gamble and win street fights, but that's another story from another country.
These are both great skills to have...what is one wants to be an undercover agent tasked with breaking up gambling rings and cracking skulls? Sounds to me like your middle school was top notch for this sort of career.
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Old 10-03-2012, 09:31 AM
 
53 posts, read 151,020 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yankeesfan View Post
That is just bizarre. Or it should be, but not much surprises me regarding schools today.

Apparently others have the same feeling about this that you do:

‘Honors’ Class Debate Reaches Compromise - Leesburg Today Online—Daily News Coverage of Loudoun County, Leesburg, Ashburn: News: western_loudoun_schools, brion bell, blue ridge middle school, barbara p. nichols, teri domanski

Where do school administrators come up with this stuff?
Thank you for the article. The concerns of the parents that are mentioned are the same ones I have.

It sounds to me like the schools only use the SOL tests to assess performance of their students. The schools claim that the honors students are still doing well on standardized tests (i.e. on the SOL's I suppose), and that the lower acheiving students are doing better (on the SOL's). However, using SOL's does not seem to me to be the best assessment. The SOL's generally test at the lower end of grade level standards. The fact that honors students continue to do well on the SOL's doesn't tell the whole story of how they are being held back by the blended classes.
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Old 10-03-2012, 09:39 AM
 
53 posts, read 151,020 times
Reputation: 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by IndiaLimaDelta View Post
My suggestion would be to continue to homeschool. I don't think you should gear the education of your children for a specific high school no matter how good you think is. Much can change between now and when your kids are that age. Education is a long-term proposition.

I graduated from Stuyvesant High School in NYC (a science and tech magnet like TJ), double majored at an Ivy League university, went to a top-ten graduate school and married another person with a doctorate (also Ivy League graduate). I homeschool my own children, but not with a goal toward sending them to TJ or any of my highly rated and desired almae matres or, indeed, any specific school.

I homeschool my kids because 1) my wife and I as well as our other parenting/homeschooling partners can assure a sound moral and ethical inculcation for our children that is not possible through public or even private schooling, 2) we can tailor the learning to the specific needs and talents of our children and provide them with substantial one-on-one attention and 3) we can impart knowledge to our children at least as well as, and possibly better than, school teachers can.

All *I* learned from my middle school was how to gamble and win street fights, but that's another story from another country.
Now I am wondering which country you alluded to...

We homeschool for many of the same reasons that you do.

We are leaning toward homeschool for middle school. One big question I have, though, is what happens when my kids reach a high school level course in middle school (i.e. Algebra I, foreign language, etc.). I have heard that though colleges are very accomodating regarding accepting homeschool credits, the high schools are generally not accomodating at all.

For example, if my child completes Algebra I in seventh or eighth grade in our homeschool, even though he may have completed a very high quality program, the local high schools will usually not accept it. If he goes to public high school in 9th grade, he may have to retake all of the high school level courses he took in middle school. I am not sure what to do regarding this...
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Old 10-03-2012, 11:10 AM
 
Location: Northern Virginia
4,489 posts, read 9,578,064 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cav fan View Post
For example, if my child completes Algebra I in seventh or eighth grade in our homeschool, even though he may have completed a very high quality program, the local high schools will usually not accept it. If he goes to public high school in 9th grade, he may have to retake all of the high school level courses he took in middle school. I am not sure what to do regarding this...
Can your child take the CLEP test to prove proficiency in the subject?

CLEP Exams | CLEP

Bonus, they'd earn college credits for the exams passed. I glanced at the overview of questions, and it looks pretty similar to the standards I teach in 8th grade algebra 1 (except we don't cover logarithms or matrices, but it'd be easy enough to add those in).

I CLEPd out of algebra at some point during grad school (because I was never required to take algebra during undergrad...and proof of taking advanced calculus didn't get me out of the algebra requirement!) and it was pretty painless. I honestly can't remember how much of the exam was actually significantly more challenging than algebra 1 was, though.
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