Dip Your Toe into High School with Reach Ahead Courses

The typical Grade 8 student looks ahead to high school with uncertainty, anticipation, or a mixture of both! It can be daunting for them to imagine how different it will be from their elementary experiences, and it can also be frustrating for some students to wait for more advanced learning opportunities when they’ve already mastered their own grade level. They may feel the pull of being ready for higher education. As Grade 8 wraps up and the summer stretches ahead of them, they navigate a unique space between the two worlds. There’s more than one way to approach this transition! Did you know that our sister school, Virtual High School, has many students testing the waters of high school courses before ever setting foot in a secondary school classroom?

Our VHS Reach Ahead program allows students currently in Grade 8 (or entering the summer before Grade 9) to take up to two secondary school credits with approval from the VHS team and each student’s current day school. We’ve surveyed the current VHS Reach Ahead students for answers as to why this option was a good fit for them, and here’s what we found out:

  1. Dip Your Toe into High School with Reach AheadMany students simply aren’t challenged by their current classroom in a particular subject area anymore or they’ve already breezed through the work of the whole grade and are looking for more. When the lessons become too easy, motivation to reach their potential can stall. They need more advanced material to feed their curiosity and motivate themselves to develop new skills and knowledge. A hunger for learning needs consistent enrichment to keep the momentum going!

  2. On the other hand, some students may be worried about having to tackle a subject they struggle with in a busy first year of balancing multiple courses at once. Why not encourage them to take it over the summer when there is lots of free time, potentially more access to support, and they get to design their own schedule or take extra time to focus on some tougher areas? All of the VHS courses are self-paced, so they can choose when to slow down and review any concepts that are more difficult to grasp. With built-in access to certified teachers and Student Academic Support coaches, these courses are designed to help them succeed, even in subjects they might have thought were too hard.

  3. Some students are looking ahead to a tricky schedule or very full Grade 9 year and want the option to spread it out over a greater period of time. This group of students might include high performance athletes or competitors, students travelling with their families, or even those who would just prefer to move more quickly to other electives once the compulsory credits are out of the way. The Reach Ahead route can help to loosen up a tight schedule. However, it’s important to note that full-time, in-person Grade 9 students are not typically permitted a “spare”. We always encourage open communication with the future high school to make sure everyone is on the same page for integrating the Reach Ahead credits into their plans.

  4. The Ministry of Education in Ontario has recently announced that students will need two online credits in order to earn their diploma, beginning with the graduating class of 2024. There will be options offered through public school boards, but there may not always be flexibility when it comes to course selections and schedules. Since all VHS courses meet the criteria for these mandatory online credits, you’ll find greater flexibility in both timing and course selection! Students can earn one (or both) online credit graduation requirements ahead of time during a summer. Alternatively, students could enrol now and stretch out their online courses for a full year to work at a steady pace while still attending their other classroom studies.

Here are some additional reasons to consider a Reach Ahead course:

  • Students transferring to Grade 9 from other countries or provinces can enrol to help familiarize themselves with Ontario secondary school learning before arriving in person in September.

  • Students have the opportunity to take their first exams in a flexible and individual format. They can take the exams whenever and wherever they choose, rather than in a tense auditorium with other students and distractions.

  • Families and students can determine in advance if virtual learning is their preferred model for all of high school before beginning at a bricks-and-mortar school.

Who should reach ahead?

The Reach Ahead option is most beneficial for those who thrive with independent learning, require flexible schedules, and are eager to learn. However, if the student is still building these skills or requires more supervision and encouragement, a good support system at home to keep them organized and engaged will also lead to success.

Reach Ahead Requirements •	Currently in, or have already completed, Grade 8 •	Elementary principal recommendation (if still completing Grade 8) •	Parent recommendation and acknowledgment of responsibility •	Grade 8 report card (or intent to homeschool document with summary of Grade 8 studies)

If you’re ready to dive in, visit our Reach Ahead page to find the enrolment request form.

For more information, please reach out to Guidance2@virtualhighschool.com to chat with the Virtual High School guidance team.

Published On: May 19, 2022