School has started, and as a parent of a gifted child, so has that nagging in the back of your mind. It can start in a few ways.
It could be hearing your child’s daily complaint about boredom in their current classroom. It may be that you’re concerned that your kid isn’t being challenged. You don’t think they are even close to meeting their academic potential. Perhaps, your child has been acting out, and you’re tired of getting calls about their, “disruptive behavior.” Or it may happen because you want to prevent future meltdowns and mislabeling of your child.
You know that something needs to be done.
Parent, it’s time to address that nagging voice in the back of your mind. You should consider advocating for your child’s grade acceleration.
When it comes to parenting, my style’s somewhere between helicopter and free-range. I’m not a micro-manager of details. Neither am I a let-them-figure-it-all-out-on-their-own, it will all be okay type. It was uncomfortable for me to speak up,but being a parent has challenged me to do things that make me feel uncomfortable to meet the needs of my children. I pushed through my discomfort, and I’m glad that I did.
As a result of both my advocacy and Pumpkin Boy’s abilities, PB skipped Kindergarten, and started first grade this year. It was the best thing for him, and our family. He is thriving in his classroom, and loves school.
There are some things that I would recommend before advocating for your child’s acceleration.
Find out what your state laws are about grade acceleration.
PB isn’t 6 yet, so it was a monumental accomplishment for him to start first grade on the first day of school.
Like 18 other US states, Kindergarten isn’t mandatory where I live. There are no early school enrollment exceptions for gifted children. (You can check the acceleration policy for your state here.) Where I live, children must be 5 by September 1st for Kindergarten. Additionally, they must be 6 by September 1st for first grade. The only exception is if they transfer from an out of state public or private Kindergarten to first grade.
It’s also important to know any school district policy about grade acceleration that is in place as well.
Does your child have to be evaluated with specific criteria? Does the evaluation need to be done by the school district, or can third party testing be used? Do you need teacher recommendations? The more information you have, the better equipped you’ll be to advocate for your child’s needs.
Beware though, you might not like what you find out.
I was very frustrated. PB isn’t the typical kid. I knew that the typical plan of “Let’s just have him start Kindergarten, and wait and see what happens”. Would not work for him.
In public, strangers would comment about his articulate observations, and that I must be working with him a lot at home, but I wasn’t. Unlike my older triplet boys, PB didn’t want to sit still for me to read him books. When I finally took out the Fry sight word flash cards, I had left over from his older brothers, at 3 1/2, He somehow already knew all the words he needed to master by the end of Kindergarten, and half of the words for first grade. He read scriptures aloud with the family every morning, and could rattle off multi-syllabic words most adults struggled to articulate.
He could also comprehend most of what he read.
I knew that this child who had struggled with sensory issues, would not be content to wait until someone deemed he was ready to attend first grade instead of Kindergarten. I took a proactive approach, and I think you should too.
Talk to other parents who have successfully advocated for their child’s grade acceleration.
What worked? What didn’t? While anecdotal, this could be valuable information to help you with your child. If there are similarities, it could help prevent future frustration for both you and your child.
Be prepared to defend your position.
Please note that I did not say, go in with guns blazing, and accuse the school district/ principal/ teacher/ governing scholastic person of failing to meet the needs of your child.
Seriously, you don’t want to be that parent.
Not only does it make it harder to get what you ultimately want for your kid, it makes it harder for every parent trying to get a result after you. I’ve found that logically explaining why it is in the best interest not only of my child, but of the school or other kids, it helps a lot.
For example, I was able to talk to our superintendent who I know wants what’s best for the kids in our district. I explained how much easier a transition would be for PB in first grade if he was able to start with the other kids on the first day of school, rather than waiting until part way through Kindergarten to accelerate him. I pointed out that PB would be there to hear the rules, would meet other new students, and be able to form friendships without drawing attention to him by being “the new kid” in class who was a lot younger. As a result, my superintendent got prior authorization from the state superintendent of public schools to have PB skip Kindergarten if he was able to meet the necessary criteria to prove mastery of the Kindergarten curriculum.
Let go of expectations about your child’s future.
When I hear about a child skipping a grade, I think of Doogie Howser, MD. Yes, I know that he’s a fictional character, but that’s what first comes to mind for me, and I’m sure that I’m not the only one. I think most of the time a child is accelerated a grade, it’s because they are a kid like PB. They have already mastered the material, and need more of a challenge.
When a child skips a grade, it’s usually not because they’re the kid that’s going to graduate from medical school before getting a driver’s license. I think that would be amazing, and I am so impressed that there are real life examples of that type of prodigious ability. Right now, we’re just focused on surviving elementary school.
The biggest argument that I’ve heard for not accelerating a child has nothing to do with a kid’s academic ability. It’s the other stuff.
I don’t want my child to miss out.
What about sports? Your kid is going to be at a disadvantage because they are smaller than everyone else.
Your kid is going to be the last one to ______ (drive, go through puberty, etc)
I don’t want my kid to miss out on ________ (insert magical high school memory experience like prom.)
I understand these well meaning observations that people make. They come from the desire to have the child included. They want them to fit in, and have a sense of belonging.
Retaining a child to be with their chronological peers is not a guarantee of inclusion or belonging. If your child already struggles with that, forcing them to remain with people based on an arbitrary date on the calendar they had no control over, is not going to automatically foster inclusion. I would argue that it may do the opposite.
Instead of worrying about what a child might miss out on by skipping a grade, or being the youngest kid in the grade, why not focus on the positive?
By advocating for your child’s grade skip, you could be skipping frustration your child feels about going to school.
You could be skipping a year of social discomfort.
You could be skipping a year of non-challenging work to develop more grit and determination to succeed.
I am glad that I advocated for PB’s grade skip. Otherwise, he could have missed out on an amazing experience at school this year.
This post is part of Hoagie’s Gifted Education monthly blog hop series about grade acceleration. You can read more about this topic by clicking this link or the graphic below.