Friday, September 6, 2013

Should My Child Skip A Grade? The 'Pros'

As I've mentioned before, I was born in Guam. My dad was stationed there when he was in the Navy, and my sister started school there. At that time, the school system in Guam operated markedly different from that of 'stateside' public schools; rather than grouping kids by age, they were grouped by maturity level. When we came to the mainland, my sister found herself a grade ahead of other students her age and in a school with a completely different philosophy on education. She's incredibly intelligent and could have easily made the honor rolls every term, but she fell in with the wrong crowd and became completely unmotivated to achieve in school. On the other hand, I knew several other people who started school early or skipped a grade and did extremely well. For these children, advancement was truly the best option. It truly depends on the student.
There are pros and cons to every decision we make regarding our kids. In this post, I will look at the 'pros' of skipping a grade. I'm mostly talking at the elementary level because junior high and high-school students tend to have more options available to them, but this could apply at any age.

It could help your child make friends. Sometimes kids who are ahead of their peers academically are picked on for being the 'teachers' pet' or otherwise being 'different'. Some children (particularly girls) may even be tempted to downplay their intelligence so as not to make themselves a target and/or to feel more appealing to other students. Being placed in a situation where s/he is around others of similar ability can drastically cut down on this, particularly at the elementary level.

Your child will be challenged. We've all heard the story. There's a kid in the class who finishes her work early because she already knows the stuff everyone else is learning. She's bored out of her skull and starts talking to the kid next to her, throwing paper airplanes at the teacher and/or otherwise misbehaving because she has nothing else to do. She's lost all interest in school and is completely unmotivated. That child is thought of as a 'troublemaker' when what is really going on is that she needs a challenge, something to keep her occupied and make her want to push forward. For some students, skipping a grade can provide this by not only giving them more difficult material but putting them in an environment where they have to work harder and be more driven to succeed than they would otherwise.

If you're nervous about your child skipping a grade, though, there may be another option. Ask about AP or college-level courses. If your child is in middle school, ask about the possibility of taking one or two particular classes at the high school. We had a couple of students who would ride their bikes from the middle school to the high school (just across the street) so they could take geometry because they had already passed through all the math classes at their school. There may be other in-class enrichment programs or extra-credit work. It's worth looking into.

These are the most compelling 'pros' to skipping a grade, although there may be others depending on your child. In the next post, I'll explore the 'cons'.

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