High School Curriculum: the 411 on Courses
In approaching the construction of a high school curriculum, both the new student and the parent may feel overwhelmed, both with the options available to them and at the task of constructing the curriculum in the first place. Fortunately, there are several things that both parties can do to ensure the best possible curriculum, and consequently the best possible high school experience, for the student.
One of the first things that the new high-schooler may want to do is take a variety of elective courses. These are courses like criminal justice, or a foreign language – subjects that are not necessarily part of the baseline high school curriculum, but which the student can choose to take or not. Taking these electives can help the student find what he or she likes to do, as well as what he or she is good at. To take the previous example again, a girl may find that she enjoys the criminal justice courses, and thereby be motivated to investigate the field more. Similarly, the young man may find that he enjoys German so much that he begins to read things in German, to widen his appreciation for the language. This is a good thing, as it gives the student and the parent an idea of where the talents of the student lie, which will be helpful for further academic planning.
A typical high school curriculum will also contain the normal, core courses, such as mathematics, language arts, history, and so on. As a new high-schooler, a student may be tempted to allow her focus to shift from the required subjects to the elective ones that she may be more interested in. This, while understandable, is not a good idea. Only doing things that one likes, however enjoyable, generally does not build towards a future very well. The core courses are at the core for a reason – they provide the foundation upon which the rest of the student’s secondary and higher education will be built. Thus, neglecting these fundamentals while focusing on other, more immediately enjoyable things in a high school curriculum may have undesirable results down the road.
Towards the junior and senior years, the student will likely want to begin to reflect upon what course, if any, he or she wishes to pursue with regards to higher education. Whatever decision that they come up with will likely shape how he or she constructs his or her high school curriculum. For instance, a young woman who wants to pursue an education in engineering will likely want to construct her high school curriculum around that goal. She will likely want to begin to take AP courses in mathematics and physics, in order to better prepare her for engineering courses she will begin to take. Similarly, a young man who wants to pursue an educational track in the performing arts will want to construct his curriculum around that. He can play in the school band, for instance. Maybe he can even take courses at locations outside the school that will count towards his transcript and education.
Finally, the student and parent alike must be careful to avoid burnout. Many a family has been thrown into a tailspin because one or the other part was over-ambitious. The student, for instance, may have thought that he could take on a certain amount of educational tasks, only to discover that he could not keep up with all of them, and subsequently failed them. Similarly, the parents, in their desire to see their child succeed and have the best possible education, may push them to try for too much, thus burning them out. Remember, the best high school curriculum will be the one that maintains that balance between rest and business, between excellence and leisure