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I have a 5 year old boy who is supposed to start Kindergarten in the US this year. He is advanced in many academic areas already, and we are worried he would be bored in Kindergarten. He is reading and doing math on a second grade level. He is not quite on a second grade level in writing and spelling, but definitely well beyond what most starting first-graders are working on.

We can most likely test him into the first grade, but we're wondering what some of the pros and cons might be in doing that.

As a note, he's above average height for his age and acts quite mature.

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8 Answers 8

Kids that skip grades can have difficulties later in their educational careers fitting in to different social circles. This means they'll drive later than their peers, they'll be 18 after their peers, and they'll eventually turn 21 far after their peers. Additionally, if the student is exceptionally gifted academically, then they may be ostracized worse than they would if they were at the head of their own natural class.

None of this is guaranteed, but it's what I saw for kids who skipped a grade who were in my class. Every negative I see is purely centered on social issues. No guarantees this would happen, but it's something to think about.

I was someone with a summer birthday and turned certain ages about 6-9 months after my peers and even that was difficult. 12-15 months could be very difficult.

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I can tell you a bit about my experience, and then let you figure it out.

First of all, I skipped 8th grade. At the time, I moved into a school district which wasn't that great, and I had been far ahead of my mathematics for a long time (I had finished Algebra in 7th grade, meaning 2 classes worth). So, I skipped a grade.

Common wisdom is that the hardest time is age 16, due to the driver's license. For whatever reason, that wasn't that hard for me. I was involved in my church at the time, and I just hung around more of the kids my age, as opposed to my grade. It was a bit weirder when I graduated, 1 month before I turned 17. Oddly enough, the weirdest time was when I was in college. I was far beyond the kids my age level, and it left some interesting circumstances.

The pros are that the child will tend to be less bored in school, productive in life, and it's always nice to be graduated from college a year earlier than everyone else. The cons are that it can be difficult in some social circumstances, but it's not terrible, usually. It just depends, really. Unfortunately, a child in Kindergarten is probably too young to know what kind of an affect something now will have in so many years, but...

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Actually, in my experience and knowledge from books and studies, the hardest time for kids who were skipped in Elementary, is considered to be Middle School - an age you experienced along side your own age group, so perhaps you didn't think of it. When puberty hits all the others LONG before it hits the skipped individual it has an impact on social standing as well as physical development and abilities in sports, (including PE) AND academics (because of brain developments and critical thinking abilities). This has an impact in how they interact socially and in the classroom. –  balanced mama Nov 14 '12 at 23:01

I would say do not skip the grade. While he may be up to the task of academically, there is a lot that factors into him having a good experience at school. For example, the higher the grade, the more the children are expected to sit still and listen. Boys especially have a hard time with this. Also, he may be big for his age, but is he big for a first grader. If he skips ahead, he could end up being that kid that always gets picked last for teams at recess. My son is also a very smart kid who's in the first grade right now. His birthday just misses the cutoff and I thought about pushing to have him start kindergarten a year early. My wife talked me out of it and now I am glad. Also, if he is that bright, he's eventually going to be ahead anyway. Just continue to do stuff on the side at home to keep his mind engaged. Also, when talking to teachers, ask if they "differentiate". It's the current buzzword for giving kids different tasks based on their abilities, rather than giving everybody the same work all the time.

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I'm not certain about my answer because my recent experience of school (as a parent) is in the UK and my childhood experience of school was in Canada. But I would say that here what we call Reception (when they are 4-5) is only tangentially about academic learning (though they do learn to read and write and add and subtract) The purpose of the year is to get kids working comfortably with their peers and with teachers. There's a lot on talking and listening, respecting each other, group dynamics, etc.

If you start with 1st grade the other children will have had a year getting to know each other. So your child (likely to be a bit of an outsider from being gifted (from personal experience)) may feel further outside from jumping into an established peer group who have spent time learning to be with each other.

Its no harm spending some time learning how to cope with people who aren't as bright as you - school is about much more than academic skills

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This is a really good point. A better decision might be to let them go to Kindergaten, acclimate socially, then decide to skip 1-2 years down the line if it makes sense. –  Javid Jamae Jun 9 '11 at 19:59

Pros:

  1. Parents' ego size increases by 10%-25%. ("Our kid's a genius! We must have great genes")

Cons:

  1. Child feels out of age with new kids around him/her.
  2. older kids (all of them) may give him a hard time.
  3. no real gain in gaining a year's advantage once you skip a grade, you're doomed to always be the "youngest" around.
  4. hit college at 16? the 18 year old female students won't give you the time of day.
  5. your 18 year old male peers will always view you as an outsider.
  6. I don't even want to think about the dangers of a 16 year old female student in college surrounded by 18 year old guys...

I'd keep the child with his own age group. The academic world can wait a year or two so that a child can have a normal childhood and normal social life development.

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+1 for taking into account the parents' ego. –  BBM Jun 9 '11 at 18:18
    
+1 for emphasizing the social aspects. Especially during childhood, this should not be sacrificed lightly. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jun 9 '11 at 20:05
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About 6: Don't act as if somehow your "little girl" at 16 will be a hen in a fox hole. More like "it takes two to tango". Generally speaking, women date older men anyway. –  Ernie Jun 9 '11 at 20:46
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The "horror" of the situation is really all mine, the father ;-) –  ron M. Jun 10 '11 at 15:15

From my child's experience plus a 2 day conference on parenting gifted child I attended this year:

If the child is "gifted" then they may well find their natural age group is limiting. It's not just they'll always be at the top of the class, but they'll be bored with what is being taught. An extreme case of this is the kid who reads books while his friends are learning the alphabet. Schools are rarely able to cope with a child like this, especially since the teachers concentrate their efforts on the bottom end of the bell-curve. This can lead them to not learn as much as they could or to be a disruptive student.

Another aspect to consider is the social development. Gifted children tend to want to play more advanced games with their peers. They'll create a complex set of rules whereas their friends just want to run around. They can them find themselves left out socially or playing childish games for which they have little interest.

Many of the social bonds are forged when school starts (prep in Australia, don't know the US system). This is as much to do with the parent who meet each other. Skipping that first year may be difficult.

If the child is that well advanced, I would consider skipping a grade. 12 years of school is a long time to be bored. You'd want to speak to the school about it but I have that schools tend to be against it. Keep in mind, a gifted child is 1 in a 1000 so an average school may only have one or two of them - it is not something teachers deal with often.

In the case of our child, she is well advanced in reading/writing but not so much in maths. She can be overly emotional (common in gifted children). We did not think it would have worked for her to skip a grade but we've had to put in extra effort to ensure school is not boring for her.

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Without knowing much about your son and not being an expert on this, I say push to skip kindergarten. I'll try and summarize our situation and why I feel that way.

I have a 5 year old son in kindergarten right now, but I asked for him to skip into 1st grade at the beginning of the school year. Obviously they said no. I guess we were lucky to even get him into kindergarten at 4, but I felt that he wouldn't be stimulated given their curriculum. It's not that he was doing really advanced things yet, I just knew he was extremely curious and smart. They assured me he would be academically stimulated (without having met him) and social this and social that... So I said fine.

Turns out this school is absolutely amazing, his teacher, the principal, the district executives, everyone just really cares. My son enjoys school (it's only a little over 3 hours long including 2 recesses and lunch though). He does learn some things in school, like facts about plants and animals, telling time, money, etc. But I chose to enroll him in an after school academic program called Kumon to get the 1 hour/day academic stimulation I wanted for him.

He's done extraordinarily well in Kumon as he's literally gone from 1+1 in math to where he'll be doing calculus in several months. He's starting 4th grade reading, so not nearly as advanced as math, but nevertheless we are extremely proud of our boy. However, he still behaves like a kindergartener. So focusing, sitting still and just getting his work done can be very challenging.

So why do I feel you should push for 1st grade when my son has had a great year with an incredible school and astonishing academic achievements while going through kindergarten? First, after having read many studies on brain development, I'm a big believer in stimulating or exercising your mind at an early age. So your son will not get that in kindergarten to any great depth. And if you supplement his education (particularly easy if kindergarten is only 3 hours) like we did, then you just make it more difficult to be stimulated the next year.

I also feel social and behavioral development in kindergarten is overrated. Sure, it's helpful and our son has formed great friendships, but we can get that through playdates and being with older kids as well. Behavioral development is hard to push, it just comes with age (we hope). And kids will behave like the kids around them. I'm not worried about our son being around older kids as he progresses through school. For all this talk about social needs, schools really are mostly about academics. As far as dating and friends your son's own age, nothing precludes that outside of school. High school and then college sports will be an issue, so you have to ask yourself how much that matters.

Our son is still only in kindergarten and we don't have older kids to draw experience from... so I'm open to being completely wrong about all this :). Those are simply my thoughts given where we are today.

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As one who did skip Kindergarten, here are the pros and cons I saw from the experience:

Pros

  1. Graduating sooner. (Less time in school, yay!)
  2. Grade level work potentially better matching developmental level (only for grade school, though; high school offers enough flexibility that this often becomes moot).
  3. He can interact with students that are closer to his own intellectual development level.

Cons

  1. Being an outsider. If the kids of his grade find out that he skipped a grade, and especially if he still outperforms them, then he's very likely going to be ostracized. Regardless of any other differences he has, that alone will very likely make him more of a target for resentment and bullying (there is a chance it won't, but it's a crapshoot).
  2. Always being the youngest (you get used to this after a while, but it is disconcerting when you're not the youngest for once).
  3. Graduating sooner. Yes, it's a pro and a con. Graduating sooner means graduating before you're 18, which can make it difficult to support yourself on your own, so you're still stuck depending on your parents, or trying to make do by dealing with the Minor Labor Laws, assuming you can find work at all (many companies flat-out won't hire minors, so they don't have to deal with the laws).
  4. It may not cure the boredom. I emphasize this one, because all skipping the grade did was basically "re-calibrate" my learning to being taught like someone a year older than me, and I was, therefore, bored all over again. Perhaps it was due to my potential for skipping even farther than what I did, but even that has its own ramifications. Since your son is on a second grade level, he will very likely not get much out of skipping only one grade, and even if you were to skip him two grades, he may still end up bored once he "re-calibrates".

Perhaps something different is in order?

You're pretty much in a catch-22 position. On the one hand, he's going to be bored out of his mind, which will likely result in behavior and probably truancy problems throughout the years. On the other hand, you risk him being bullied and left out for no real gain. It's a pretty crappy choice, let's be honest.

So, how about something completely different? There are a couple of routes that you can take:

  1. Homeschooling - Nowadays, homeschooling doesn't necessarily require that you be the one to sit down and teach your child everything. There are likely a number of public charter cyberschool options available to you (this will vary by state), which often have a number of classes that brick and mortar schools couldn't dream of having, due to the limitations of brick and mortar schools. Paired with homeschool programs provided by your local community center, and working with your district for extracurricular activities (such as sports), you can provide your son with an education that meets his needs from now until the day he graduates.
  2. Gifted Programs/Schools - If homeschooling isn't an option, or a choice you don't want to make, another good option is to find and enroll him in the gifted programs, or if you can, enroll him in a gifted school. These schools/prgrams are designed specifically for children like him, and are, therefore, better able to meet his academic requirements, and will more likely be able to keep him engaged and not bored. (Note - it may be too late now to enroll him for Kindergarten at a gifted school, but if you can get him in for First Grade next year, you may want to look at what you can do in the meantime, including possibly homeschooling him for Kindergarten.)
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this answer is well-stated and absolutely correct. I'm surprised you don't have more positive votes. You answered the question and THEN offered options the questioner hadn't considered that are both GREAT options. Wish I could give you more than one vote. –  balanced mama Nov 14 '12 at 1:02
    
Agreed mama, and I'll vote too. But the third option is a quality school that will offer the child diverse experiences. It may not necessarily be a program for "gifted" kids, but one that is responsive to the individual needs of each child and treats them as the "whole-child" they are. –  Christine Gordon Nov 14 '12 at 1:38
    
I agree. I wish more schools like that existed and were more available to all. There certainly isn't a single one within an hour's drive from where I live. –  balanced mama Nov 14 '12 at 2:21

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