Fiona has reached the end of the first term of the first semester of her first year fully enrolled in school. She has a part-time course load, with just three out of four time-slots filled. She is taking Art 11, Chemistry 11 and Honours Physics 11. By age she in an eighth-grader, by enrolment she’s in 10th. (I have no idea why she’s in Art 11; she asked for an Art or Ceramics 10 class; I suppose this is the only course that would fit into her schedule.)

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Detail, ripped paper trompe l’oueil (pencil and pencil crayon), Fiona 2016

Anyway, the spare block was intentional as a transition strategy. She has hours and hours a week of extra-curriculars so it made sense to set a schedule with a little wiggle room during the first few months. It has worked out well, because Honours Physics is definitely the most challenging course she’ll have this year. Next semester she’ll have three Grade 10 level humanities courses and PreCalc 11. The content will be easier, even if the schedule is fuller. She thinks she’ll be able to handle it.

If/when she applies to university, it is possible that the science courses she is taking now will be among the small handful of ‘declared’ courses she’ll submit with her application. (Declared courses are the Grade 11 & 12 high school courses that the university programs care particularly about, a sort of portfolio of high school achievement. How many courses need to be declared in what subjects and at what levels varies depending on the university and the program, but there is a chance that one or more of Fiona’s grade 11 science courses might end up being on that list.) It’s a fairly high-stakes way to start your school career, especially at age 13.

But so far things are looking good. Her grades are mid-to-high 90s in both academic courses. She’s madly resolving multiple cosine law equations and vector diagrams to solve complex multi-step projectile and tension problems. She’s done some pretty cool art projects. The chem and physics labs are decent. I’m really impressed with how much she is learning, and with the level of challenge she’s being provided.

More importantly, she loves her teachers. Her science teachers are both female and the school is very encouraging of girls in science. There has already been a women-in-science trip facilitated to a nearby college, and there is an upcoming three-day physics trip to a couple of university campuses (among other things) with an optional women-in-engineering luncheon she’ll be attending. I can see now how Sophie was swept up in the engineering track once she began attending this school.

First school term

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