9th Grade

Common Problems with College Prep

The holidays are past (well, except Valentine’s Day!) and your family is back into the swing of homeschool. As you come to the middle of this semester some of the novelty may have worn off those shiny curriculum books. You might be juggling a kindergartener, third grader, AND your high school student – right when your ninth grader starts to struggle with his college preparatory studies. What do you do? Below are three common problem areas for high school students and some ways to address them.

Critical Thinking and Argumentation

You might be thinking, “My child has no problem being critical or argumentative!” Fortunately (or unfortunately!) we’re not talking about a bad attitude here. Critical thinking is the ability to sift through information and come to an objective conclusion about it. Logic and argumentation are part of critical thinking; they are the practical applications of a critical mind.

Want to know the big secret of standardized testing? They are all about critical thinking! Standardized tests are really testing a student’s ability to discern the correct answer from four incorrect ones. This means a student needs to know how to eliminate what is invalid and in some situations, make a case for the right one.

Unfortunately, many students get hung up on “getting the right answer”. They try to memorize facts rather than learn how to see the big picture in their studies. If your student struggles to understand the “Why” behind his studies, or can’t explain how he comes to certain conclusions, consider incorporating some logic into his summer studies. The Fallacy Detective is an easy read and a great start for light summer curriculum.

Reading Comprehension and Retention

Closely tied to critical thinking is reading comprehension. This concept is tested on both the ACT and SAT. While both male and female students can struggle in this area, it is particularly common among boys. Students who have difficulty with reading comprehension tend to read very slowly in order to grasp the concepts on the page. In order to answer any questions about the text after reading it, they rarely can jump right back into the relevant paragraph – they have to start completely over, searching the text for the answer. This causes the student to take much longer to answer questions than a standardized test would allow.

To improve reading comprehension, the student needs to learn to “skim” the text. He can start by looking for the opening line, concluding sentence, and the conclusions of each paragraph. Each of these will give a summary of what the text is about. If he struggles with speed reading, the app Acceleread provides word games to improve sight and speed reading ability.


Math: some kids love it; some hate it! I didn’t really care for math until I got to college, where I learned to love the real-life applications, and have tutored students in high-school math ever since. My wife, on the other hand (who was also homeschooled), struggled her way through three different algebra curriculums before she found one that worked for the way she learns.

If your current math curriculum is working, great! If your student is struggling with math, consider looking into another curriculum that fits his or her mode of learning. You could also hire, borrow, or barter for a tutor; sometimes hearing the concepts from another perspective helps the subject “click”. But remember: the math on standardized tests is as much about critical thinking as it is about the equations themselves. A good test prep book will help equip your student in all areas.

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