Friday, September 6, 2013

Should My Child Skip A Grade? The 'Cons'

In an earlier post, I explored the 'pros' to allowing your child to skip a grade in school. Most of the issues could go either way, but here are some of the 'cons'.

Being out-of-sync with their classmates. Students who skip grades may find themselves significantly younger than their classmates. They may be at the same level academically, but not physically or emotionally. A lot depends on how many grades are skipped and when, but this can lead to things 'grownup things' your child may not be ready for. For instance, take my sister. While she was just one year younger than her classmates rather than two or three, she found herself having to fit in with people who were into things (drinking, dating, sex etc) that she wasn't quite ready for. There could be other factors at work here, but being 'different' certainly doesn't help and can make a child more susceptible to peer pressure than she may be otherwise.
On the 'different' tip, a child who is not at the same level physically may find themselves the target of bullies who enjoy picking on The Boy Who Is Shorter And Less-Developed Than Everyone Else. Every school has them.
A child who is thrust into college early may not be emotionally prepared to be away from home for that amount of time. They could be more likely to be homesick or fall into what I call 'freshman party syndrome'-they don't know how to handle their new-found freedom and go buck-wild, sometimes to the point of being withdrawn and/or expelled from school. This can happen to anyone, but a younger age could put someone at a greater risk.

A child's 'readiness' might be temporary. Sometimes a child who is 'way ahead' at one level won't be at another. For instance, I was put in advanced English and math classes in sixth grade based on my test scores at the end of fifth grade. I was really good at math then, but that 'acceleration' did not last. In seventh grade, I started to have major problems understanding some of the concepts in algebra to the point that the stress affected my grades in other classes. I did much better in high school and continued to be a year ahead of my classmates in math, but that middle period could have easily broken me. Now, imagine what it might have been like had I not been ready for a particular subject, but an entire grade. Many students 'even out' like this as they get older, especially when things such as puberty and social pressure start kicking in.
Like I mentioned in the 'pro' post, there might be ways of enhancing your child's experience in a particular subject without having to skip the entire grade-AP classes in high school, after-school enrichment programs, possibly taking a single class elsewhere, etc.

Sometimes schools won't allow it. I don't really see why a school wouldn't want to help a child who is ahead of his peers excel, but some schools look poorly on the idea because they want to keep everyone on a specific 'track' or think they know better than the parents what is best for the child. This seems especially true in public schools that are pressured to conform to some sort of 'code', . To their credit, school administrators have probably seen the downsides happen. On the other hand, they don't know your particular child; she may be the exception. The answer may be putting the child in another school that focuses more on high-performing students rather than skipping a grade.

Ultimately, how your child's schooling is handled is up to you. Every child is different, so there is no 'one-size-fits-all' approach. Even so, I hope I've given you some things to think about.

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