Our Experience With Skipping An Academic Grade

Skipping an academic grade creating a gap year @harmonyfinearts

I rarely write such long posts anymore but this one is long in coming and one I hope will help another family make a more informed decision. The questions came from a fellow blogger that was contemplating a grade skip in high school…the answers are from our family’s experience with our youngest child.

1. What advice would you give to parents considering skipping an academic grade? I realize we can let our children work at their own pace {we do that often with our younger children where they are working in one subject a grade level ahead}, but when high school credits come into play, how do you balance all of that?

Homeschoolers are at a distinct advantage when it comes to assigning a grade level for their children. We can blur the traditional boundaries between grades and have our children work where ever they are challenged and comfortable. We can move them ahead or slow them down if needed, mixing it up between subjects. One child may be accelerated in math and charge ahead one year but still be working at grade level in all other subjects.

Relationships between our children can also blur the lines between grades. My youngest two children (both boys and two years in age apart) started working together for history, literature, science, and art appreciation as soon as the younger one was officially in school. They worked together and enjoyed the companionship of having a fellow student learning the same things and using the same materials.

Skipping a whole grade ahead happened for my youngest son when he was finished with second grade and we jumped him ahead to fourth grade. He didn’t even really know we did it since we have never been very big into assigning grades or grade distinctions. It wasn’t until 7th or 8th grades that he realized that he was working a year ahead, only because he saw that he was doing what his older brother had been doing the year before.

Moving ahead a grade made sense for my youngest at the time and it worked well into high school. Once high school hit he jumped another grade ahead, working alongside his older brother. This meant he was technically two years ahead academically but still fairly on track physically and emotionally. This was the biggest difficulty we had to face with a child who had skipped grades and was now far younger than anyone else we knew in ninth grade. Academically he did fine but I started to feel increasingly nervous about graduating a barely sixteen year old boy who didn’t even have a driver’s license yet.

We stepped back and reevaluated his options. We decided that he needed to mature physically and emotionally to match up to his academic levels. We made him stay in high school an extra year which meant he would still be a young graduate but we would really stress living skills and responsibility during that last year.

It was the best decision we have made for him. In that extra year I saw him blossom as far as study skills, diligence, independence in learning and thinking, and we could ease him into a few college classes to allow him to adjust to that hurdle as well.

As far as credits and courses, we allowed him to make most of the decisions in the last two years of high school. We created learning opportunities that he could sink his teeth into like courses in baking, astronomy, robotics, and in-depth history of the 20th century. We created a transcript that reflected the work he had done from 8th grade to 12th grade and made it fit the more traditional course titles and assigned credits based on time spent working over that period of time in each subject.

2. What are the pros/cons of kids moving ahead?

We found the single most difficult aspect of skipping a grade for our son was making sure he still received opportunities to be around kids his own age and with the same interests. He needed to be able to just be a kid and not the “smart kid” all the time.  This meant sacrificing some of our family time to allow him to play recreational sports on weekends and participate in Suzuki violin group times.

I also found that my attitude about my son and his abilities put pressure on him even though I didn’t realize it at the time. I knew what he was capable of achieving and that potential wasn’t always shining through in his day to day work. He would be sloppy or forgetful and I had to constantly remind myself that he was in reality two years behind in developing a lot of practical skills that I saw in his older brother. Those habits improved over the high school years and by the end he was doing an awesome job of being more organized in his thinking and work habits. I just needed to be patient.

I also had to remind myself that just because he was capable of accomplishing more advanced learning that he didn’t necessarily have an interest in those types of courses. He had no interest in Physics so we had to create an Advanced Anatomy course for him instead. He was capable of math past Calculus but it wasn’t really fitting in with his overall academic goals so we stopped math after Calculus and I figured he would go on to do more math in college if necessary.

The biggest plus to skipping grades for our family was the chance for our boys to work together on so many fun projects like skits, videos, art projects, and robots. They really urged each other on and supported a level of learning that I could not have provided myself because of lack of experience or interest.

Adding back a bonus year at the end of high school allowed us to create a schedule that allowed him to also have a “gap year” experience. He worked on his academics about half day and then volunteered his time in the community most of the other hours. (We did not have him get a paying job until we actually graduated him…good decision because all his experiences during that gap year made his resume really stand out.)

3. Any additional points to consider?

When we skipped a grade and then sort of unskipped  a grade in high school, we had to sit and pencil out what our goals were for our son. What were his future dreams and aspirations? Would skipping a grade help him meet those goals? This is hard to do with four years looming ahead of you in high school because so much can happen. We only have so many years to help mold our children and letting go of one of those years is not easy. Once they graduate we lose a bit of influence over them, especially if they go away to college. I have learned after graduating four children that accelerating their learning by skipping a grade is not to be taken lightly.

4. Would I do it again?

I think if I had to do it all over again I would have kept him in his official “grade” but just fed him more deeply by enhancing the materials we were using. In the end, it was harder to add that lost year back in high school because in his mind he was finished after four years. He is a very obedient child and we made it through with our relationship intact. The last year was rich and awesome and I’m glad we took back that year we skipped.

Currently Mr. B is in Peru visiting a friend for two months and helping with the Christian ministry there as well as experiencing a new culture. He also spent some time in Nicaragua last fall doing similar work and travel. I think this is a time for him to experience so many new things as a way to hone in on his future adult plans. As much as he hated learning Spanish in high school, he now sees that becoming fluent in Spanish is a key to reaching one of his goals and has jumped in with both feet. I am proud of how he is growing his dreams.
Living and Learning at Home

harmonyfinearts.org

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