John started reading when he was just 3 years old. As he entered kindergarten, his reading level tested out at the second grade level. After meeting with the school psychologist, his parents opted to move him right into first grade and skip kindergarten altogether.
Sarah, John's kindergarten classmate, showed a special ability for math. At kindergarten orientation, she demonstrated that she could already do addition and subtraction, and had a clear grasp of the concept of multiplication. But her parents decided not to push Sarah a grade ahead. Instead, the school arranged for her to take math class with second graders and remain with her kindergarten peers for the majority of the school day.
If your child shows exceptional abilities in a particular subject or an overall advanced intellectual capability, you may want to consider the possibility of moving ahead a grade. While it's nice that teachers are taking note of your child's gifts, you need to take careful consideration of what's best for your child in terms of both short-term progress and long-term plans.
Moving ahead a grade was once thought to be the only way to challenge intellectually gifted children. But today's educators have a different outlook. Many are take a more holistic approach to child development and point to both emotional and social maturity as important factors to consider when children skip grades. It is better to keep kids curious and creative, and not push them too fast. Find a way for them to pursue their interests, but keep them with their age mates and peers.
Developmental classrooms that combine multiple grades into one class are an excellent way to give the intellectually gifted child a way to deal with advanced material while remaining with children of the same age. Many teachers accommodate gifted children by grouping them into skill levels or by providing them with special projects. Some schools offer students who need more challenging work an opportunity to sit with a more advanced class when the subject matter in which the child excels is taught.
Sometimes, in spite of the school's best efforts, you may still feel that the best option is acceleration. After your child moves up, be prepared to visit the classroom for a couple of hours. Objectively watch how your child behaves with other students and teachers. If you notice problems, but they don't seem severe, your child may just need a little coaching.
When children move into a more advanced grade, they have to face the reality that they are no longer the best in the class and may need your help in understanding and accepting this. They also need to understand that if the move doesn't work out for any reason, a move back is not a failure.
You are your children's best advocate and the most important support system for helping them get the best out of their school experience.
It's important to think through all the available options and exactly what you want your child to learn. If the school isn't providing the challenges you feel your child needs, try to pose some creative solutions that could benefit other kids besides your own. Maybe a group of available parents can organize an after-school program that has a particular theme. Try involving your child in programs at local science museums, clubs, or arts and craft studios.
Skipping grades is not right for every child. Talk to your child's teacher about whether grade skipping or an alternative education program is right for your child.
National Association for Gifted Children
Association for Bright Children of Ontario
NAGC position statement: acceleration. National Association for Gifted Children website. Available at: http://www.nagc.org/sites/default/files/Position%20Statement/Acceleration%20Position%20Statement.pdf. Accessed September 25, 2017.
Pros and cons of skipping a grade. Great Kids website. Available at: http://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/skipping-a-grade-pros-and-cons. Published March 15, 2016. Accessed September 25, 2017.
Last reviewed September 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FACP Last Updated: 8/31/2015