To Skip or Not to Skip…

An interesting article from Practical Homeschooling. This is something that I’ve been wondering about.

Many homeschoolers have trouble with the typical grade level system in schools. Maybe you can identify with some of these scenarios:

“So what grade are you in, honey?” the nice grocery store clerk asks your eight-year-old, upon finding out that your family homeschools. Your child looks up at you with a confused look, bewildered at this common question. Turns out your family is one of many that just doesn’t really think about grade levels, and your child never knows what to say in this situation.

“Am I in third grade, Mommy?” she says, tugging at your skirt a bit plaintively.

By now the grocery clerk is confused along with the child. It seems so . . . well, American to immediately know what school grade you are in. Something must be wrong with your child, or with this homeschooling idea, if your child doesn’t even know this.

You answer something noncommittal and continue through the line, irritated at the nosiness of check-out people.

Or maybe your child was a late bloomer, getting off to a nice relaxed start with reading at age nine (that is, a nice, relaxed start in retrospect; you were a nervous wreck until he finally caught on). So you decide to call him a first-grader (or perhaps “non-graded primary”) for longer than usual, and gradually he does fine, until he’s now pushing 15, and only in 7th grade. Now he begins to complain about the lower grade placement – he wants to be up with his age-mates, and you begin to realize just how old he will be when he graduates from high school at home. Will he stick it out? Can you now boost him ahead and skip a grade or two? Did you make a big mistake to hold him back?

Or possibly you have two children close in age and you teach them together, using the older one’s textbooks. The younger one takes part easily in all studies, and seems to be doing fine. Shouldn’t he get “credit” for doing fifth-grade work like his sister? Shouldn’t you call him a fifth-grader also? Maybe his test scores as a fifth-grader aren’t so hot, and his handwriting is pretty atrocious, but, gee, he is doing that fifth-grade level work.

Or this: your child is a very bright student, always has been. Learned to read early and effortlessly, catches on to new ideas readily and quickly, is an eager learner in many fields. But you don’t want to appear to be saying that your kid is better than anyone else, so you have always just kept your child at her age level grade-wise. On top of that, your child’s birthday is in early November, which means that she is actually one of the very oldest at her grade level. She has always aced achievement tests, and has always been above grade level in the actual work being accomplished. Now that she’s hit junior high you are wondering about skipping a grade. Can you? Should you? What about socialization questions, what about future chances of scholarships, what about other possibilities?

And then there is this variation: you’ve read about this family with 10 kids in Practical Homeschooling. These kids accelerated their schooling by several years, completing high school typically by age 12 or so. Why shouldn’t you? You start doing one and a half years in one year, then skip a grade, then jump ahead another year, until you now have a 13-year-old ready to graduate next year. So far, so good. Then perhaps doubts start arising. Your daughter isn’t so eager for this after all. She may not want to be faced at the young age of fourteen with the types of decisions kids need to make after graduation. She certainly doesn’t want to leave home for college that early, and might not really be ready even for college-level correspondence work. She took the PSAT and earned only mediocre scores – are scholarships lost? Maybe this plan just won’t work for you. You and your daughter realize there is still lots more to learn about, and after all she never was that hot in mathematics even though she’d always been a super reader. Can you slow down at this point without making your child feel she has been “failed?” And what will colleges think of a “5th” or “6th” year of high school?

Are there advantages to letting kids be kids and not pushing them beyond what’s typical and reasonable for their actual ages?

Read the rest here:


2 thoughts on “To Skip or Not to Skip…

  1. I always answer that “What grade are you in?” question with:

    “We homeschool, so grade levels don’t matter. BUT, if my son was in public school, he would be in the (put in grade here) grade.”

    But at home? We don’t even talk about grade level stuff. 😉

  2. Interesting post. You illustrate why it is important that educators – be they parents, teachers or administrators – have a vision for the education of a given student or group of students. For example, if one is preparing a student for success in college, it can be useful to have a working understanding of what the research says about reading level attainment; a very high correlation exists between college success and being able to read above the 8th grade average in 8th grade. Same with math. About 50% of students who attend college end up having to take a remedial math course their freshman year – a waste of everyone’s time and money, AND a high correlation exists between these students not being able to perform at a college level when they get to college and drop-out rates – again, a waste of everyone’s time and money.
    Although we are public school teachers, we recognize the many shortcomings of that institution, and strongly support parents who opt for homeschooling. With this caveat: know where you are headed. If the goal is admission to and success at a good four-year college, familiarize yourself with the SAT, familiarize yourself with the level of math, reading and writing expected of a college freshman at a good college, and ensure that your student/child is participating in periodic standardized testing to ensure that she or he is on pace. If the student is a particularly able learner, speed things up OR provide enrichment opportunities in science, music, art or other areas the student shows particular interest in. If the student is struggling, make adjustments as necessary, seek professional evaluation, and, if necessary, adjust goals.
    Final thought. I home-schooled my daughter for a year during what would have been 6th grade. Happy I did it. But what an eye-opener. If anyone has ever experienced how stuck and uncooperative a school can be when your child is enrolled, try to get cooperation – even in compliance with the law – when you’ve opted to homeschool. Some schools are great at outreach. Most are not. Shame on them. Jack

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