Choosing a Middle-School Curriculum

An expert suggests which curriculum might be best for an eighth-grader with particular learning issues.
My eighth-grader's middle school is adopting four new programs and I want to choose the one that will best prepare him for college. He reads at a 12th-grade level, has good analytical thinking skills (he does well in science, is an excellent creative writer, and is very athletic). He took the first half of Algebra I this year and didn't do well. He also lacks structure in his formal writing. He is highly intelligent, competitive, and motivated. Yet it seems that because he is not structured in his presentation, he is only performing at a low B or high C this year.

The four programs he must choose from are humanities, international studies, middle school IB (focus on study skills), and performing arts. I am leaning towards either the IB program or the humanities program. I'm concerned that the rigor of the IB program might be too stressful, and that the humanities program might not prepare him for the structure needed in high school.


I think the humanities curriculum would be helpful for him. You might want to also get him some tutoring help in algebra. He might never be a straight-A math student, but he may be able to work through his math difficulties, really grasp the material, and get Bs. That would be very positive.

Remember that the most important thing you can give your son is to support him through any of these courses. His academic education is only part of the success equation. He also needs to develop his ability to be with others and develop his own sense of what his true passions and interests are. With a mother as interested as you, he is very fortunate.

My book, Majoring in High School , might be good for him to read this summer. It's all about how eighth-graders and freshmen can prepare for high school so that they can make the most out of the opportunity.

Carol Carter is the author of many books on college and career planning. She is the cofounder of Lifeskills, Inc., a nonprofit organization that encourages high-school students to explore their goals, career options, and the real world through part-time work and internships. She also gives workshops around the country on career exploration and other issues directly related to helping students succeed in college, career, and life.

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