Should our son skip a grade?
February 25, 2010 7:06 PM   Subscribe

How did skipping a grade work out for you or your child, and what were the factors that made the biggest difference?

My son has always been somewhat ahead of his class, but nearing the end of first grade, it's really starting to get to him. We do a lot of reading and learning and exploring at home, but spending six hours a day stultified is beginning to cause anxiety and behavioral problems. We are starting to consider whether he needs to skip a grade, and are pretty sure he has the social skills (and height) to fit in - but we know there are plenty of other cons (and pros).

I'd like to hear from people whose child has skipped or who skipped themselves. Do you think it helped or hindered in the long run - and why? It seems that for some people it's the solution and for others it's not; knowing what landed you in one category or the other might help us see which category our son's likely to be in.

Just to help provide some context, we have ZERO interest in our son's being a prodigy or being advanced. I do think he has a great brain and I want to see him using it to be curious and explore and feel how learning is a constant source of amazement and inspiration, and I think his boredom and frustration could threaten that. It's already starting to affect his focus and effort.

Thank you!
posted by Betsy Vane to Education (88 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Skipping a grade seemed to work really well for two siblings of mine. I think it helped in the long run, because they were both so far ahead of their classes that they were being hindered in the grades they were in. The teachers were spending too much time bringing up the rest of the class, and didn't have time to spare to keep them engaged.

I myself have "skipped a grade" as such in university, and it's been pretty great for me as well.

Sounds to me like it might work for your child. I definitely don't notice any adverse effects for my siblings. Both are extremely well-adjusted socially, and thriving academically.
posted by Devika at 7:10 PM on February 25, 2010

Ah yes, MeMail me if you want more info or wanna talk to my parents and about what influenced them to make the decision.
posted by Devika at 7:11 PM on February 25, 2010

I skipped kindergarten. I was very advanced and bored, like it sounds like your son is. The school recommended to my mom that I should be skipped to the third grade, but she said no, because it would stunt me socially too much.

In the end, I think skipping me (and so early) was the right choice. Being skipped early made it so I never went through a "not fitting in" phase when I got older and peer groups became so important. I stayed "advanced" compared to my peers through middle school, and evened out around high school.

I would strongly cast a vote towards skipping him, and more importantly, skipping him as soon as possible.
posted by srrh at 7:12 PM on February 25, 2010

I tested to skip 3rd grade. It was determined that I wasn't mature enough emotionally to take it but would have had no problem with the coursework.

Later on I skipped 7th grade.

6th to 8th grade is a HUGE jump socially, far more so than 2nd to 4th. I would, in my completely non-professional opinion, have my kid skip a grade as early as possible, in order to have more time to mitigate the social effects.

As for pros and cons... well, I had no problem in 8th grade or any subsequent grade. I did take 5 years to graduate college, but that was more because I switched majors than anything else.

(As for other opportunities outside of skipping a grade, if you're in the southeast consider having your son apply for Duke's TIP program. I can't recommend that place enough.)
posted by squorch at 7:14 PM on February 25, 2010

I was skipped two grades, the fourth and sixth. If I had the power to undo it I would in a heartbeat. Social development was definitely an issue, especially going to college at 16. The retarded social development definitely compounded over time and entered overdrive once my peers entered puberty before I did. What seems like a surmountable difference in social development in first grade can easily turn into an unbridgeable gap by junior high and high school. You can MeMail if you want more information on my experience.

Skipping a single year might not be so bad, especially if your son is old for his grade. In the mean time, however, I would consider some alternatives. Tutoring or similar challenging after school activities could work, for example.

If the problem is boredom at school (rather than just boredom overall), then you could talk to the school about having him spend a few hours a week in a second grade classroom. When I was in the third grade I would go to the fifth grade classrooms when I finished my work early, which helped a lot. In the end it was used to justify skipping grades, but I now think it could've been a fine 'boredom escape valve' on its own.
posted by jedicus at 7:18 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

My mother is a teacher, and when my school suggested I skip a grade or two, she decided against it. My birthday was already at the very end of the school year (so I'd started kindergarten just after turning five), and I was about a year younger than a lot of my classmates to begin with. She had visions of all of my friends having drivers' licenses except for me. (I didn't get mine until I was 22 anyway, so whatever, Mom.)

We actually just talked about it recently, and both of us regret that I hadn't skipped those grades. I have the kind of personality that thrives on being different in some way, and having something to prove makes me that much more successful. I think it would have been great for me, not that I suffered any as it was. I was also the exact opposite of a behavior problem, though.

I ended up just joining a grade ahead for certain subjects, and that seemed like a pretty good compromise even though it made for a headache when I had to go to middle school, and high school after that.
posted by adiabat at 7:21 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Contrary to other people's experiences posted thus far, I had an awful experience skipping a year and am strongly opposed to doing it to any children I might have (assuming it comes up as an issue!). I think the social aspects of primary school are far more important than the academic ones.

I'm just going to end up on my big fat soap box if I write any more, but please feel free to memail me about it if you like.
posted by prettypretty at 7:23 PM on February 25, 2010

I skipped kindegarten, and went into first grade. Like your son, I was ahead of my class, and my boredom lead to me taking books from the bookshelf and reading to myself away from the other kids. The school suggested skipping to 2nd or 3rd, but my parents figured one grade would be enough.

I turned out fine, had no problems adjusting socially, but I was a late bloomer physically. I was the last to hit puberty, last to drive, and last to go to bars (legally) with college friends. However, it was great to graduate college the same week as my 21st birthday.

I have absolutely no regrets on being skipped, and still did very well academically while fitting in just fine. I would definitely skip my child (if I had one), because it turned out to be he right move in the long run for me.
posted by LouMac at 7:27 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't know if it's an option at your child's school, but when I was in first and second grade, I was able to stay with my grade for most subjects but take reading class with the next grade ahead. Then starting in third grade, there was a program that had reading and math that was more creative and challenging but still within the same grade. I feel like this was a great compromise that helped me stay socially within the same age group, but with the challenge I needed.
posted by dayintoday at 7:28 PM on February 25, 2010 [5 favorites]

Well, I skipped a grade in the middle of first grade. It slowed me down socially for a while, but if I didn't do so, I would have almost definitely gone the route of "Brilliant, bored with school, drop out of school" that many of my friends ended up taking.

That being said, I ended up catching up quickly around my sophomore year of high school, so over all I regard it as one of the best things which has happened to me at the time.

Of course, feel free to memail me for more details.
posted by CrystalDave at 7:29 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I skipped 1st grade. If you let him skip 2nd grade and go on to 3rd, it should not have any implications socially. I didn't have trouble at all adjusting after I skipped because like your son, I had height too.

In the long run, I think it's worked out great for me. I'm now a 2nd year at the University of Chicago with decent social skills. I've obviously had no difficulty academically either. Though I find it easier to relate to older people than to other people of my own age though, but that may be a personal issue for me. I really do think your son would benefit from skipping 2nd grade.

My parents have never told me the reason as to why my teacher suggested that I skip a grade (I was in kindergarten having no clue what was going on around me at the time) but I realize now that it was probably because I was being too destructive due to my boredom. I still have that tendency now to take things apart or just fiddle with my hand when I'm bored. But apparently the problem with boredom for me got better since I wasn't suggested to skip anymore grades even though I aced all my classes. If he's still bored, see if you can get him to start reading a lot. That's really what got me all the way through high school too. I read quite a few of the books assigned in high school in middle school.
posted by astapasta24 at 7:29 PM on February 25, 2010

My birthday is right on the dividing line, and when I was little my parents were concerned that I wasn't mature enough for school, so they kept me out for an extra year.

Smartest kid in the class syndrome; you know how it goes. By late grade school I has having no trouble at all with schoolwork but a lot of trouble with my class mates. My parents decided to try to get me into a private school when I was in 7th grade. So I took the entrance exam for 8th grade. (It felt as if it was really easy.)

The headmaster called us in and said they wanted to admit me, but into high school. That was fine with me, and that's what happened. Which made me among the youngest kids in my grade rather than the oldest.

Oddly enough, one of my classmates was born the exact same day I was, only his parents had allowed him to start school a year earlier. My grade skip made me catch up with him.

Anyway, I didn't have any problems with the grade skip. It felt perfectly natural to be in high school, and it was nice to get away from the kids who had been making my life miserable.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:29 PM on February 25, 2010

I skipped 2nd grade. Since it's been part of my identity for the past 20 years, it's difficult for me to predict how different I would have been had I not skipped. I acclimated pretty seamlessly as far as I remember, and things like not getting my license in 10th grade or whatever weren't really an issue. A more important question, here, is whether your son is in an enrichment/gifted program at school. I was in a pull-out gifted program all during elementary school and that challenging atmosphere was important for me. Also, identifying as "gifted" was important to me up until college, and that continues to be part of my identity in a really positive way. I think if he's being considered for skipping a grade, he should qualify for gifted/enrichment services, and you should see how his focus/attitude/behavior change with those services before taking steps to skip him. That being said, I'm happy my parents made the choice that they did and I think it was positive in all directions.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 7:30 PM on February 25, 2010

I'm very surprised at the replies thus far.
My parents were asked to let me be skipped multiple grades, but they declined. The teachers insisted that I at the very least be skipped ONE grade since I was obviously not being challenged. I skipped from 2nd to 4th grade and can't imagine NOT having skipped. I don't see any disadvantages at all, I didn't have any social troubles at all. In fact, I was always the "leader" of my group of friends. People that knew me when I skipped were the only ones to even notice it. By the time I was in middle school, people had forgotten I skipped. In high school, people didn't believe that I was younger. To be honest, all the course work was easy for me, even in high school. I probably should've skipped another grade but then I think the age gap would be more apparent and may have caused a bit of problems. One grade is nothing. Your child will be better off because of it. Let him be challenged at a level consistent with his capabilities. Don't stifle your child. You saying that you have ZERO interest in your child being advanced is heartbreaking. Challenge your son and he will be better of for it.
posted by Germs of Love at 7:32 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I skipped the third grade and the only problem I ever encountered was that Grade 3 is where (in my school system, anyway) students were taught cursive. I struggled with that for years, never developed good penmanship, and reverted to high-speed printing at the first chance. (Not that this might not have happened anyway, but missing that year assured it.)

Otherwise I did fine: slotted into enrichment classes, honour student in high school, early admission to university, etc. The only real legacy was that all the way through school, I was almost always the youngest person in any social group by a year.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:33 PM on February 25, 2010

Oh, and my school did the same as dayintoday. While I was still in second grade, I was taking math and reading classes with the 3rd grade class. You can me-mail me for more detail, also.
posted by Germs of Love at 7:35 PM on February 25, 2010

I skipped a year in a completely bizarre way--I did the first half of second grade and the second half of third grade. I missed multiplication tables, long division, fractions, and cursive handwriting, and never really fit in with any of the peer group I was advanced into. It wasn't really until junior high and high school where I made friends, and they were, pretty much without exception, from the other feeder elementary schools.

Without a doubt, I was happier from an academic standpoint. I caught up on that stuff pretty easily for the most part, though some things didn't really "click" without some extra work. Socially? Not so much. I think I was a little more immature than my peers before I skipped up to the next grade, so to be a seven-year-old amongst kids who were getting ready to turn ten... it was pretty much impossible to keep up and I really didn't have any friends through grade school. It didn't help that I was placed in a special gifted program from third through sixth grades (mixed-grade classroom of about 15 kids), so that may color my experience as well and probably isn't something your child will be exposed to.

Even now I feel like I lack a lot in the social arena but, of course, I can't say that staying with my first peer group would have changed that any, so it may be greatly different if your kid is outgoing, sociable, and less "weird" than I was.

On the positive side, I was happy to have a little bit more time to feel things out in college, and being a little bit younger kept me from falling into some of the more stereotypical freshman behaviors. I also didn't mind being ahead of the pack when I got my BA at 21 because I felt like I still had plenty of time to figure out what to do with myself, whether that be marriage, grad school, whatever. I did get married at 22 and at 25 still feel like I could go back to grad school and not feel out of place. So that is a definite bonus for me.

If it was me and it was my child's academic potential and intellectual curiosity at stake... I would probably go for the skip, especially if I was confident in my child's social skills. If I had to choose between being engaged and interested and possibly being a bit of a loner, and being bored but having a lot of friends, I'd take the former any time.
posted by miratime at 7:37 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I skipped half of 2nd, most of 3rd, and most of 4th. So: I started one year in 2nd and, at the end of the year, graduated 4th.

This was understandable, since my math and reading skills were far in advance of my age. But, it meant that I went from being the largest boy in my class (I started late) to the smallest. While I would not describe this as traumatic, it was strange to be in a class with "adults" (as I thought them), while still a child.

Biggest issues:

1. My handwriting is terrible. I went from 2nd (where block printing was normal) to 4th (where cursive, in pen, was mandatory). Self-taught, my handwriting is miserable.

2. I lost the connection with my peers. I had, if not "friends", kids with whom I shared a common history. I lost these in the transition. It was as if I had moved to a different school in a different town.

3. Was it necessary? Well, yes. In 2nd, I was constantly in trouble for "visiting with my neighbor" (talking in class). I had completed my math and spelling workbooks by Christmas. Why was I in 2nd at all? Boredom led to unacceptable behavior, so promotion probably helped my survival.

Academically, I think rapid promotion helped me. Socially, it was isolating. I would recommend against skipping more than one grade, and I would suggest that, if your child is promoted, you be prepared to offer emotional support.
posted by SPrintF at 7:37 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

My son skipped a grade mid year. He went from 3rd grade to 4th grade in March of that school year. He changed schools as well. He had been the oldest in his 3rd grade at the previous school, and became the youngest in the 4th grade at the new school.
Overall it was a positive outcome. The challenge of a higher grade and more demanding school was good for him. One small disadvantage I can see is that he was already small for his age, and this move up a grade has highlighted that fact. He is the smallest on sports teams, etc. But he is quite athletic so it hasn't been as much of an issue as it could have been.
He did seem to take it a bit hard that he was no longer at the top of the class so to speak. He doesn't always bring home the best scores and breeze through work like he used to. He complains about that.
He is also a bit immature compared to the other kids in his class. He is a full year younger than most of them, so his sense of humor and level of self control aren't quite on the same level. It has caused some issues with his teachers, though his classmates think he's a riot.
I think the positives have outweighed the negatives so far.
posted by Rapunzel1111 at 7:40 PM on February 25, 2010

I was like dayintoday.

It was almost worse socially, as I was out of the loop socially for 1/2 the day in both classes.
posted by k8t at 7:41 PM on February 25, 2010

I skipped 4th grade, along with another student in my year— I remember both my parents and the teachers worrying that I'd have trouble fitting in afterwards, but I don't think either of us did. At least, not trouble attributable to skipping a grade. My sister also skipped a grade, though I don't remember which one, and she has no regret.

I've known numerous people who've skipped later grades, and I agree the social aspect is a bigger deal after maybe 7th grade, but that goes both ways. For some people skipping was awful, but for others, they only really started to fit in and make friends after moving to a cohort a year or more older than them.

OTOH, I tried starting first grade a year early, this didn't work out, and I bumped back to kindergarten. (I don't really remember this.) So one advantage of skipping earlier years might be that it's easier to say, "Huh, this isn't working" and go back.

As for long-term benefits— I'm very glad to have skipped ahead a bit (I skipped more later); other people I know who have done so all seem to feel the same. There are people for whom it wasn't such a great thing, but I think in most cases, people only skip ahead once it's clear they're having trouble fitting in with their cohort, and I think skipping is probably a good thing in that case. I've also known people whose parents decided against skipping them ahead and who wished they had skipped.
posted by hattifattener at 7:42 PM on February 25, 2010

my school did the same as dayintoday. While I was still in second grade, I was taking math and reading classes with the 3rd grade class. You can me-mail me for more detail, also.

Me also. I did a weird skip where I went to second grade for reading/math when I was in first, and likewise when I went to third grade. Once I was in fourth grade I think they just had an accelerated/gifted program and me and a few other kids were in our own math/reading class.

Like miratime, I missed some stuff. I missed subtraction and some division stuff and some grammar stuff. None of it was a big deal at the time, but it's still weird for me getting held up on subtraction when I do it by hand [I have no idea why it never clicked since then].

I was young and small for my grade and so on the one hand skipping was cool because I got to meet more kids [so I knew more people when I went to Jr High and High School] I also never felt like part of the class, kids made fun of me, the whole thing. Once I hit high school and had better things to do with my time than go to school, I relaxed and hit my stride more.

It was probably good that I skipped ahead but my parents weren't particularly helpful helping me adjust to social stuff and that might have been helpful in hindsight.
posted by jessamyn at 7:44 PM on February 25, 2010

I skipped a grade in elementary school. Two thoughts, most important one first:

Before I skipped, I was used to understanding everything without ever having to try, and faster than everyone else, besides. Also, because I couldn't do work as quickly as I was able to, I was spending 6 hours a day stultified like your son, having to do hours of busy work at the plodding pace of the class. Because of this I associated taking a long time to study with wasting time. I developed an aversion to any kind of work that couldn't be done FAST.

This created two problems:

After I skipped, and as I moved on to high school, I started taking subjects like calculus and chemistry that I couldn't just understand instantly, without paying much attention in class, studying or ever doing my homework. I got awful grades in any class where I couldn't just understand the material instantly as I was used to doing.

Even when my mindset finally changed, after years of thinking I was too smart to have to study- I was horrible at it and had no idea how to do it. I had also developed a severe procrastination problem. And because of my aversion to long hours at the books that arose out of all the busy work in elementary school, I was always looking for quick, shortcut study methods. I found out that while I might manage to barely pass by using those shortcut cramming methods, I wasn't ever going to get good grades in classes that required a lot of consistent, diligent studying.

Please get your son now into a situation where he has to work hard to learn the material. A situation where the studying is not busy work and wasted effort- where he actually won't be able to learn the material without studying hard. [That situation might not necessarily happen just because he skips a grade.] If he develops good habits now, it'll be so much better for him than if he doesn't, and ends up struggling with terrible habits like I did.

Second thought:

Skipping a grade was great for me because until that point, I was a nerd with only one friend. That one friend happened to be in the grade I skipped into. Turns out she was part of a nice circle of other likeminded girls. I had friends for the first time in my life after I skipped.

So I think it would really help your son to have at least one good solid friend in the grade he'd be skipping into, before he does it.
posted by anonymousme at 7:45 PM on February 25, 2010 [5 favorites]

I skipped second grade and in retrospect, it was a mistake. I think it was worse for me as a boy, because size and physical ability is important for boys, dare I say it, more so than girls. When it came time to start dating, I was asking girls out in my classes, the ones I had known, but a lot of them knew I was younger than them. I'm sure there were other things that contributed to my late social development, but I think it was a factor, and when I went to college the first time, it was a disaster.
posted by missouri_lawyer at 7:45 PM on February 25, 2010

I should address the second part of your question ("what were the factors that made the biggest difference?").

For me I think the experience didn't work out for a lot of reasons. I'm a middle child in a family with six children, so I don't think there was as much parental support as there might optimally have been. When I went from the third grade to the fifth it meant changing schools. The same thing happened when I went from the fifth to the seventh. Then we moved a year later. So no doubt a lot of the social development issues stemmed from those circumstances.

Academically I did pretty well, except that the main hoped-for effect of skipping grades (that I would feel challenged to excel) never materialized. I never really developed the self-discipline to do more than the minimum necessary to skate by with a mix of As and Bs. For me I think the lesson is that increased academic difficulty is no substitute for good, active parenting when it comes to instilling a good work ethic. Hardly a shocking conclusion, I know.
posted by jedicus at 7:45 PM on February 25, 2010

I skipped grade 3. Well, I did some of grade 3, my teacher noticed I was finishing my work too quickly, and suggested to my mom that I go into grade 4. I was already in a split 3/4 class so I didn't have to change classes. I got used to being a year younger than everyone else; my birthday is in November so I was already one of the younger ones anyway. People made fun of me when I got to junior high (grade 7 and 8) but I think I was an easy target anyway. It definitely wasn't fun when it was happening, but I didn't bear any scars from it. When I got to high school, people didn't make fun of me anymore. I was 12 going on 13 when I started grade 9! When I got to university it didn't make a difference because there were people my age and some younger as well. After I skipped, sometimes I would think about what things would be like if I hadn't skipped, and it was hard to answer that question because I didn't know anything else. I was totally used to it and felt it almost didn't make a difference (so maybe it did, compared to if I had not skipped!). And: I wasn't especially good in school. :D My mom wanted me to be in the gifted program in high school and I had to take an IQ test and my IQ wasn't high enough to get in. :D I think it's better that I didn't get into gifted because I knew a lot of gifted people and saw what they had to do and that made me glad I didn't have to do the same. I got ok marks in high school. I got B's in university.

Based only my experience, I don't think skipping a grade is a big deal. But things might be different in this day and age? I see others here who are adamantly against it, so everyone's experience will be different.
posted by foxjacket at 7:47 PM on February 25, 2010

It's funny that you mention height. I was a candidate to skip two grades, but my parents "held me back" (so to speak) and kept me in my rightful year. I'm glad they did. I am really, really short, and I honestly think that would have made my life much harder as a super short 1st grader in the 3rd or 2nd grade. Your son might not have this problem.

As a compromise, I sat in on the 2nd grade class for half the day (like some others did here). This was annoying, because then I had to essentially re-take the class the next year. I did this for a year or two until we moved and switched districts, where I was put back in my rightful year for full school days.

I turned out fine. I think that skipping grades might have made my life more difficult than it already was, to be honest, for social reasons.
posted by k8lin at 7:47 PM on February 25, 2010

I started school a year early, and it's worked out great for me. Throughout elementary school, the school wanted me to skip another grade, but my parents always asked my opinion and I always said no. By 2nd grade, I had already fell in among a close group of friends (who I'm still friends with now as we graduate from college), and I didn't want to be separated from them.

My main gripe is a recent one; starting school early meant that I turned 21 a year later than all my friends, causing trouble when making plans in cities where the bar age is 21.
posted by bassooner at 7:50 PM on February 25, 2010

I was recommended to skip 2 grades in elementary school but due to various factors never skipped the grades. I think what I have to say could still be of some help though.

I tested as an 8th grade level reader in the middle of 1st grade. By the middle of third grade, I was at a post high school reading grade level. I was MISERABLE. I started getting in a lot of disciplinary trouble because I would get so bored in class I would just start goofing off. I made up my own math problems when we were doing worksheets because I would inevitably finish before the rest of the class. I got in trouble for reading when I wasn't supposed to a lot under the table. When I was in 4th grade, my teacher realized that I wasn't being challenged and I was sent to a 5th grade classroom for every subject but writing, I think. All well and good except the next year, they put me into that same 5th grade classroom, where I'd done all the work the year before. I spent most of that 5th grade year sitting in the library reading books for AR points and watching movies.

It was miserable, and I fell into the mindset (much like anonymousme says) of feeling like I never had to study anything because it came so easily. This really screwed me over in chemistry and physics. I would skip your son, and as soon as possible to minimize any social differences. Staying in classes that aren't challenging him could make him start to hate school- I had always loved going to school and learning, but I was amazed when I got into high school and actually found the classes INTERESTING because it was the first time in my life I'd ever had to work for it.
posted by kro at 7:58 PM on February 25, 2010

I 'skipped' and it worked out great. A couple of years after the first 'skip' I was offered the opportunity to skip again, and protested: all my friends are in this grade, I'm already the littlest, etc. And I did not skip again, and that was probably the right call. Mr Kmennie skipped twice and has a lot of stories about social bothers in high school.

Ask your son what he wants to do; he will have better insight than anybody here. Even now he will have a bit of a handle on what his own social skills and wants for school are. I got a lot of input and the final word on my skipping/not-skipping and remain grateful for that.
posted by kmennie at 7:59 PM on February 25, 2010

It's going to depend on the child, but for the right kid it's great, especially if done early. Our son skipped first grade, and it was probably the best thing that could have happened -- academically he probably could have skipped two grades, but I think I would concur with those who express doubts about that. He is a high school senior this year, so we have seen the whole school progression at this point, and there was another kid who skipped with him who my son still knows who has also thrived so I have more than a single data point to compare.

The social aspects are where those who disapprove tend to raise objections. Depending on the child and the class, skipping early on seems to have not too much impact in the early grades -- being relatively mature behavior-wise helps, but there's usually quite a range naturally, so unless the kid is very immature (in which case skipping probably wouldn't be recommended) they will probably fall within the range of normal for the class. The the real social objections start kicking in around middle school when the hormones kick in -- if your kid is a late bloomer then the extra year will make things that much worse. Our feeling was that it was weird to worry too much about what might possibly happen at puberty when the kid has seven or so years before it might perhaps become an issue.

On the other hand skipping isn't a panacea -- the kid may still find that things go too slow academically and that boredom is a problem, but it helps a bit without too much downside. The other suggestion people make instead is outside enrichment, but the problem there is that the kid still has to spend the seven hours a day being bored and having done more advanced work somewhere else still has to come back and plod along at the same pace as eveyone else which can be soul destroying.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 8:02 PM on February 25, 2010

I skipped second grade, and it was definitely the right thing to do. The social aspect of it is the most difficult, but I think at that young an age, it's not that big a deal. And the negative consequences of being bored in school are not negligible.

As somebody said upthread, it was a bit difficult later on when my friends were all getting their driver's licenses a year before I could, or going to the bar a year before I could, etc. But I think that overall, it was worth it.
posted by number9dream at 8:04 PM on February 25, 2010

I skipped first grade and I don't think it worked well for me. I've now got a very bright first grader myself and last year we were trying to figure out how to keep her challenged. Fortunately, we have a fabulous magnet school for gifted and talented kids in our area that has completely solved the problem for us (so far). So, while I realize G/T programs vary widely, there might be a school near you that can keep your son challenged while keeping him his grade level. If we hadn't found our school, we were putting homeschooling slightly ahead of skipping a grade in our options, because what our daughter needed wasn't really more advanced work across the board, so much as the opportunity to move ahead in some areas and explore further in others.

The problem I have with skipping is that when you skip a bright child ahead, the child has some catching up to do, but is still brighter than the other kids in class. So apart from a brief period of second grade, I don't know that I was any more challenged than I would have been if I had stayed with my age group. I still learned the material faster than most kids and was still bored to tears through most of my school years. Plus, I was at a disadvantage physically (gym class sucked - I was still taller than most of my classmates, but my coordination was way behind) and socially (I got along okay, but it was embarrassing to be younger than everyone I knew - and puberty was weird).

I think if a child is generally mature and has just gotten an early start, or if the child is really a prodigy, skipping might be a good fit. But for a kid who is just a fast learner, it doesn't really solve the problem that most schools are just not well equipped to provide challenges for smart kids.
posted by Dojie at 8:07 PM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

i skipped first grade and academically it was a great move, according to my parents, and i have always excelled in school up through my phd. however, junior high and high school were a nightmare for my parents. i am the oldest child and have always gravitated towards friends a little older than me. i was younger than my classmates and also hung out with kids who were 1-3 grades ahead of me, which proved very problematic. i felt that i should be able to have the same freedoms my "peers" had, late curfews, boyfriends, makeup, friends picking me up, etc before i had my drivers permit even, much to my parent's dismay. especially being a girl. i don't know how much this issue would differ for a boy, but i know emotional maturity often comes later for boys and according to my parents, the socialization issue (even for only skipping one year) was a big detriment and a major source of contention while growing up. my mom has said that she would not do it again because of the socialization.

that being said, i am in my late 30s now. very happy, normal, fairly well adjusted, and i don't believe that there are any long term effects from having skipped a grade.
posted by dublin at 8:10 PM on February 25, 2010

I skipped 8th grade, going from 7th directly to High School (with the TIP program referenced earlier during that summer). I don't really recommend it, but maybe for a more robust sort it would be better.

Skipping the 1st or 2nd grade would have been much much better.
posted by amtho at 8:11 PM on February 25, 2010

I skipped 3rd. I am also a 40 year educator and elementary principal. Doesn't give me any more credibility than anyone else.

It was a bad thing for me (in the 50's, mind you). I was reading adult books voraciously. But, I ended up always being behind in math. I "missed" some important stuff that was assumed I knew in my class of 35.

I was fine socially until high school. But, everyone got their driver's license before me. I couldn't compete there. I went away to college barely 17 and commenced to majoring in "the 60's." I was in no way mature enough to handle that.

As a principal, I've always advised against it. I'd rather keep the child with his/her peers and find ways to accelerate instruction. I let the parents decide with teacher's input.

Child development is a matter of multiple intelligences. Some are academic, some are social.

No one knows your child like you do. No one knows the school and what they can offer like you do. It is a delicate balance. I have seen many a "gifted" child crash and burn in high school however, due to lack of social intelligence.

On a playground, who does your child tend to associate with? What does he do? What is he attracted to? Athletics?

Have you approached him with the idea? If so, how does he react and why? Being a "prodigy" has its downside. Studies have shown that many Ivy League students encounter problems. They are so used to winning all the awards, etc. All of a sudden they are with thousands of 99 percentile kids. They are suddenly just another student.

Look at all the factors and then do what feels right. Kids are resilient when they have support. If you are comfortable, they will tend to thrive. If they detect that you are worried, either by your body language, tone of voice, etc, they will pick up on that.

A lot of my students complain of being "bored." I tell them that boring people tend to have boring lives. It's not meant as an insult. All learning can be extended. Take a concept and run with it as far as you can. It's not up to the teacher to "entertain," it is up to the student to apply.

My undergraduate years were spent "learning how to learn." I learned to read the newspaper. Learned how to have an opinion on what I saw on TV. In college I was introduced to stuff I was unfamiliar with. I took it and ran with the stuff that interested me. My approach to life has taught me far more than any school did.

Relax, there is no "wrong" decision. Only the "best" decision.
posted by private_idaho at 8:14 PM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

You saying that you have ZERO interest in your child being advanced is heartbreaking. Challenge your son and he will be better of for it.

Not necessarily.

I started school a year early and skipped first grade—partly because of my own facilities but also because my parents had an intense investment in having a smart child. To all outward appearances, I did very well both socially and academically but I always felt like a freak and a fraud. The "I AM SMRT" badge was nice but it also marked me out as different and (in my small town) kinda weird. I was intensely aware of my parents' expectations, terrified of the consequences of not meeting them. My brother, who's six years younger, always thought he was stupid because he wasn't skipped up. My parents and I have talked about it since and we all realize it would have been better to find some other way of dealing with the lack of challenges presented to me in first grade.

Betsy, I wish I could give you a guaranteed solution for you and your son. Of course there is no such thing. But the way you've framed your question, the way you're paying attention to him, leads me to believe that you'll make the best decision possible.
posted by dogrose at 8:17 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Two experiences:

-In kindergarten, I started in a pretty crappy school and totally didn't get anything out of it. I moved to a private school halfway through which was a lot more challenging (they actually taught us stuff) and was ecstatic with the change; it was what first motivated me to be interested in school. The difference in the class content was probably like skipping a grade or two.

-I skipped a grade WAY later on, from 10th to 12th grade in high school. My parents had talked about skipping me ahead in grade school, but since I started school just after hitting five, they felt like it would be too much. I was lucky enough to have some really good teachers along the way to keep me from getting too bored through elementary school and middle school. When I hit high school, there was a lot of intermixing between grades in elective classes, so I could still hang out with my friends during part of the day.

Some stuff that the family found to be an issue:
-Some 'skip a grade' recommendations to my parents were really 'I don't want to deal with your kid anymore' recommendations. May or may not apply to your case.
-A lot of schools offer special programs that allow you to stay in the same grade while taking more advanced classes. These might be helpful.
-Starting college at 16 (as someone noted above) is really awkward.

What does your kid seem to want? I was really into school and wanted to progress as quickly as possible from the time I went to my second kindergarten onwards. I know your kid is young, but does he like going to class and being with his current peer group? Is he indifferent to the kids that are in his grade? If he's ambivalent or doesn't want to make the change, you can always decide to do this later.
posted by _cave at 8:25 PM on February 25, 2010

I skipped first grade. I don't think it was the right thing to do. I think there were ways to have challenged me in addition to just going to school along with kids of my year.

Conversely, my folks didn't allow me to attend the gifted child program (I forget what it was called).

If your child is smart and weird, being in an advanced academic /gifted child track could actually make school a pleasant experience by giving them a refuge. My parents refused to let me attend the gifted child track when i got to a school that had it (6th grade) and I honestly - at my advanced years - STILL resent them for it.

I know they wanted me to be 'normal' and not get a big head, but I feel like I missed out on opportunities for the rest of my academic career. The kids that were tracked that way got singled out for things that I was perfectly qualified and capable of and should have had the chance to experience. It would certainly also have made a large part of my academic years more bearable because I would have been in with the other weirdos.
posted by micawber at 8:28 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just another point of anecdata: my elementary school generally didn't skip kids, as a rule, but instead fed them into G&T classes once a week. I was bored academically in my regular classes, and tested into G&T classes in first grade (I also got some advanced reading instruction in kindergarten, if I recall correctly). Ironically, I don't remember really learning anything much in G&T, but we did have a lot of unstructured free time to play with computer games, read about Greek mythology, or work on creative projects with the other G&T students. This was a tremendous "release valve" for me (and I would imagine would be for most students, gifted or not!) and I wonder how I would have done in some sort of unschooling or general g&t education. G&T classes weren't without their problems (my mainstream classmates and teachers seemed to resent it at times), but they essentially made a boring situation bearable for me. It might be worth looking into.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:32 PM on February 25, 2010

I was skipped ahead in math, but took all the other subjects with my grade. Another student in my grade did so with reading. Kept us grounded with our peers while offering challenges in areas that would have otherwise bored us. Best of both worlds I guess.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 8:44 PM on February 25, 2010

My daughter skipped from 1st grade to 2nd after the first grading period. She learned to read at three and a half years old. Since she had an early September birthday, we considered sending her to school a year early but it would have to be a private school and we just couldn't afford it. So she went to kindergarten when she was five, almost six. She was bored academically but enjoyed "center time" and so on. However, when she went to first grade, she was so frustrated that she cried everyday after school. At the first parent conference, her teacher recommended we try skipping her up for a few half days to see how she would adjust. After two days, the second grade teacher said that she needed to just stay up. They were especially careful to watch for learning gaps in math such as telling time and counting money. She was also in the GT program and graduated with honors from high school.

There were a few minor negative aspects. The first night they moved her up to stay, she had a weird episode of double vision that the doctor attributed to stress. It was gone the next day and never happened again. All through elementary school, she was known as "the girl that skipped a grade". She was a junior before she got her drivers license, almost a full year behind some of her peers. And it was hard to send a 17 year old off to college by herself. But other than that, it was a positive experience.

Speaking as an educator, GT Programs should and can fulfill the needs of an advanced child. But the age should also be considered in making this decision. In my daughter's case, had she been born 11 days earlier, she would have been in the higher grade. Many schools will allow a child to go to reading or math in the next grade if they are ready for the work but not necessarily emotionally mature enough to skip completely.
posted by tamitang at 8:47 PM on February 25, 2010

The two people I know that skipped grades are middle-aged now and regretted it once they were further along in school, but not so much earlier. One of them said going to college when you're hardly mature enough to leave high school sucked, and that the college students were not inclined to approach him because of his age.
posted by Nattie at 8:47 PM on February 25, 2010

I got moved up in other classrooms for reading/ moved into separate special reading classes from K through... fourth or fifth grade. (I had been reading since age 2, read the newspaper and the encyclopedia for fun, etc. All the usual nerdy-kid reading habits.)

In retrospect, I really think I would''ve been better off having been skipped-- my parents were offered the opportunity and declined it because they thought I'd be socially awkward. As it turned out, I was perfectly capable of being socially awkward around kids my own age, too, and I received bonus interpersonal torment for having to go to the "retard room" for reading. (I was already getting shit for having glasses, being Protestant in a Catholic school, etc. etc., this was just some added shit.)

I participated in the "take the SAT in 7th grade" testing that was part of getting into programs like TIP at Duke and CTY at Johns Hopkins, too, but when the time came to actually go to those programs, my parents decided I was, gee, too socially awkward to leave home. This had more to do with my mother's issues than with me-- so if you put your kid through taking the SAT at age 12 or 13, for God's sake let them do the associated special programs. I really, really resented being put through all that and sent the catalogs and then being told that I was a special snowflake who needed to stay home for her own good.

And, last of all, I was offered the chance to skip senior year of HS and go straight to university, too, but that time it was, uh, late 1992 and the university in question was USC, right here in South Central. My parents declined out of (misguided) fear for my life.

In short, I guess I'm saying that if you have an exceptional kid, you ought to really go with it and let them explore that exceptional nature as far as possible. Weird compromises and holding the kid back from opportunities out of fear or any issues you might have that you haven't dealt with fully won't help them grow.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 8:50 PM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

One more vote here for: ask your son what he wants to do and honor that choice, at least for now. He's a little kid, but he knows a lot more about the experience of being in that school than you do, and I think he can make a pretty well-informed choice. You may have zero interest in his being a prodigy -- but maybe his interest in this is greater!

I was advanced (early reading, college math by middle school) and my parents asked me if I wanted to skip several times, and I didn't, because I liked school. I've never regretted that. On the other hand, I have colleagues who skipped massively and liked that experience. I think if he does what he wants to do, he'll be happy with the results of that choice, whatever it is.
posted by escabeche at 8:56 PM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

My younger sister skipped kindergarten, but then repeated grade 2 as my parents felt that social differences were starting to become an issue. This was made slightly easier because her school had mixed-age classes, as in 'Mrs Betson's yr1 and 2', and 'Mr Thomas' yr 2 and 3', so you didn't shift whole social groups by changing grade.
She was still academically fairly ahead, but with the cross-age classes, and by grade 3 they had some Gifted and Talented programs, so she could be challenged a bit more than average with those.
posted by jacalata at 9:00 PM on February 25, 2010

I skipped grade one and I think it was a good move for me academically. I did a whole bunch of tests after being very bored and starting to be a pain in the ass to my grade one teacher. I think they must have been IQ tests or academic readiness tests or something; I just remember being thrilled that I didn't have to sit in my boring class and listen as the teacher taught the rest of my classmates to read (I had learned to read three years prior). I was then asked if I wanted to skip a grade and I said yes. I am glad that I was given a choice; I think that's very important.

Dojie: The problem I have with skipping is that when you skip a bright child ahead, the child has some catching up to do, but is still brighter than the other kids in class.... I still learned the material faster than most kids and was still bored to tears through most of my school years.

I agree that this could be a problem. I think it helped that I also placed into enrichment and honours programs along the way and so I had more challenging schoolwork in general. These programs also provided me with very, very bright peers (more than a few of whom had ALSO skipped grades) with whom I was competitive. I couldn't just slack and rely on "being smart" because I didn't want to fall behind my overachieving classmates.

One area where I do think skipping a grade might have affected me negatively is gym class. In the early years, I was behind my classmates in terms of physical development, so gym class was excruciating. I was not able to meet the benchmarks for PE class in elementary school and it was pretty demoralizing.

Overall, though, I think with the proper support, skipping a child in an early grade could be OK. It's just one (possible) step in keeping your son challenged in school, though.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:02 PM on February 25, 2010

I attended elementary school in the 1960s and skipped from kindergarten to grade 2. Very successful and it was recommended that I skip grade 5 and go from 4 to 6. My folks said no on social/emotional grounds. If there had been a gifted program my parents would have sent me to that, but where I was living then, there was no such animal. I felt like I was just putting in time until grade 12 when I was able to take all accelerated classes. I went to university when I was 17 -- no big deal in terms of keeping up with my peers.
posted by angiep at 9:13 PM on February 25, 2010

I skipped, and I think it was for the best. My case was a little odd, as I moved interstate just beforehand, and the systems were different, so I didn't miss much content.

It was made easier by the school. I went from a 3/4 class to a 4/5 class, and there were two of us that did it. I was still one of the smartest all the way through school, I did all the enrichment classes that they had. I did feel young, but in reality I was only a few days off the cut off.

This is an important decision, but you can't predict whether you'll regret it. Make the best decision you can with the information you have. Don't worry about the college thing. I took a gap year and went on exchange to Germany, and it was one of the best things I ever did.
posted by kjs4 at 9:36 PM on February 25, 2010

My Dad skipped two grades, and it is an experience he has always regretted. He said that it socially disabled him and the social alienation has followed him through his life.
posted by arnicae at 10:06 PM on February 25, 2010

I was admitted to kindergarten early, and also skipped 4th grade. I was around two years younger than everybody from 5th grade forward.

Despite my young age, I was also pushed into advanced courses through high school, which resulted in the uncommon experience of my school not being able to offer enough coursework for my senior year. (You might be asking yourself "What happens when you run out of courses your senior year in high school?" Study halls. Lots and lots of study halls.)

Whether or not being skipped ended up being a good thing or a bad thing for me is the biggest mystery of my life. I'm deeply resentful about having been skipped, and I consider it to have been a generally negative experience. On the other hand, I think it's entirely possible that I'd be much more resentful had I stayed in the appropriate grades for my age.

There were two main problems.

While I did well in grade school, I felt like I had been promoted just beyond my abilities in middle school and high school. It felt as though the treadmill had been turned up to a point beyond a healthy pace -- beyond a challenging pace -- to an uncomfortable pace where I was technically able to hold my position, but where I felt like I was having a heart attack.

As an adult, if you find yourself out of your league or drowning in stress, it's often possible to step back from one's work to ramp things down a bit, or change direction, or elegantly ask for a reassignment. But a sharp kid shoehorned into the role of a child genius doesn't have the opportunity to adjust the amount of pressure they face in school. I was often in the weirdly uncomfortable place of not excelling in my studies to the level one would expect of someone privileged enough to be put ahead in school, but still was able to do decent enough work that it wouldn't make sense for me to jump back down a grade, either.

Now, I understand lots of folks have to struggle to keep up in school. Like anonymousme stated, it can be a rude awakening to start to have to really buckle down and study when you're used to having the answer without a lot of effort. But it goes deeper than that. When you're the guy who has a reputation of being so smart that he's two years ahead in advanced courses, and people see you sweating to pull Bs or give boneheaded answers, they start to look at you like you're a phony. You start to think of yourself as a phony. I know you stated that you don't expect your son to be a prodigy, but I don't really think my parents expected that I'd be one, and yet there was a tremendous amount of disappointment from them when I didn't excel. The anxiety and pressure become overwhelming.

So it was actually good that I ran out of coursework my senior year. I was still taking advanced material -- English at a local community college, a couple of AP classes, and I was in an internship program that was invaluable -- but fewer courses meant that the continual pressure I had felt in prior years was no longer there. I started to excel again, and I started to get my confidence back.

Alas, it was back to the grind in college. I hated every minute of it, and I burnt out hard.

People always express surprise when I discuss how much I disliked school. because I've done reasonably well for myself professionally and can come across as curious and intelligent. They seem to think school would be like a playground for me. I think of it as a prison.

But if I hadn't skipped, it probably would have been a different kind of prison. There can be just as much of a feeling of being trapped in a boring situation as in a stressful one. I know just how bored, frustrated, or even angry I can get if things don't run at a decent clip. I know how anxious I can get when I feel like I'm not moving forward. As much as I'd like to think that had I not skipped, the treadmill would have run at pace where I would have been challenged but not exhausted -- but really, it's pretty likely that the treadmill would have run too slow, instead.

As a parent, I would recommend that you give it some time before making a decision. A few months of behavioral problems, in my opinion, wouldn't be enough to justify a skip -- your son may not be challenged now, but may find that with a different teacher, or different material, they might be in the right place. Wait until you're absolutely confident that something has to change. I suspect that if you act hastily, both you and your son will always wonder if skipping was the right thing. As the very different responses here tell you, skipping can be either a good thing or a bad thing. If you hold off for a year or so, however, it'll likely become much more clear, both you and your son, as to whether skipping would be the right thing.

Finally, a few words on the social thing. I actually don't think skipping grades hurt me in terms of making friends or having a peer group. With the kids my age, I was always in a different place -- different interests, a different attitude, a different sense of humor. With the older kids, I was able to make a number of truly great, lasting friends. It seems likely that I would have had fewer friends and would have been even more awkward socially had I not skipped.

But you know those discussions where you talk about what you wish you had been told as a kid by an older version of you? If I could go back in time, I'd tell my younger self, in high school or college, that I really shouldn't take my failures with women at the time so personally. I'd tell myself that there really wasn't going to be any way I was going to get a date with a gal in the same grade as me. That it would be years, until my twenties, that my age wouldn't matter anymore. Man, was it painful at the time.
posted by eschatfische at 10:13 PM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

I skipped second grade, my brother skipped fifth. Everything has worked out just dandy for us! We were both in different school systems and nothing was ever problematic. I got my license later than everyone else in high school (so did he) and we started drinking (legally) a little later in college, but honestly those were about the only issues.
posted by barnacles at 10:15 PM on February 25, 2010

My perspective is somewhat different, mostly because I ended up not skipping a grade. Also, I luckily grew up in a school district with an enrichment program that the vast majority of families chose over grade skipping.

I was in a pull-out enrichment program in Grades 1-3 while my family and teachers were figuring out what to do with me. I had the options of (a) skipping from Grade 2 to Grade 4, (b) entering a single-grade full-day gifted program for Grade 3, or (c) entering a split-grade full-day gifted program. My family eventually went with the split-grade program starting in Grade 4, which allowed me to work a few grade levels ahead, but have an age-appropriate social environment. In retrospect, they made the right decision; I was an only child and very academically keen, but I wasn't preternaturally mature.

Even despite having an early birthday and being an early bloomer, it was at times rough developmentally being a "little girl" at 9 years old and sharing a classroom with preteens. I can only imagine this experience would have been more uncomfortable had I not had the camaraderie of similarly-aged classmates. I know a couple people who grew up in nearby places without good gifted programs and ended up skipping grades around the time I would have. FWIW, both felt the social hinderences weren't worth the opportunities for intellectual stimulation they could have gotten through other means.

If at all possible, try to have your son's academic needs accommodated while keeping him with his peer group.
posted by thisjax at 10:18 PM on February 25, 2010

Another perspective here: does he have any siblings?

In elementary school, it was suggested I skip up two grades. However, it would've meant by-passing my older brother, so I (the younger sibling) would've been a grade ahead... As sibling rivalry was already an issue in our household, my parents declined the offer.

To this day, I wish they would've skipped me, but I absolutely understand their reasoning.
posted by polyester.lumberjack at 10:48 PM on February 25, 2010

I skipped from 3rd grade to 5th grade in an elementary school that went from K-6. My brother was a 6th grader when I entered 5th grade.

So in addition to being notoriously uncool for being so smart as to have skipped a grade, my older brother was there to provide my peers with any and all of the chinks in my armor.

I was very popular in 3rd grade; one of the reasons they skipped me was because I was bored and enterprising with my popularity. I had a 'club' that paid 'dues' to sit together at lunch and wear homemade 'Misfits of Science' T-shirts (I was obsessed with the TV show at the time).

I went from queen bee to social pariah. I have been a lone wolf ever since.

I would have preferred changing to a more difficult school altogether after 6th grade (which I did, anyway) than having that experience.
posted by Seppaku at 11:19 PM on February 25, 2010

He's still going to be the smartest kid in the class.

increased academic difficulty is no substitute for good, active parenting when it comes to instilling a good work ethic

I agree with this 100%. I am sure you are already involved with your child's education and enriching his life with things that need practice and effort, like music, chess, poker, and sports. Don't let him get away with minimum effort, even if his school does.

If you can swing it, set up some play time with kids who will be in the same grade as him so he will know some faces.

The one great thing that skipping (most of kindergarten and Grade 1 into Grade 2) did for me is that when I was sixteen and hating my high school and everything in it more than I have hated anything before or since, I got to graduate and never go back in there. It was like a time traveler went back and gave me the best gift in the universe.

Of course, if the time traveler had gone back and put me in a challenging environment with other kids like me that let me work at my own pace at things that interested me, I would be commenting other comments, probably none of which would be about how much I hated my school.
posted by Sallyfur at 12:13 AM on February 26, 2010

I skipped fourth grade. Mentally it was definitely the right thing. Socially it wasn't. I was still ahead of all the people come 6th grade. It made me cocky.

Middle school was a bad time for me. I figured it out in high school though.
posted by lakerk at 12:35 AM on February 26, 2010

I skipped grade 3. I was in a mixed 2-3 class with mostly 3rd grade kids, and I did 3rd grade work most of the year. Skipping for me was fine socially - at first - because all of my friends were in the 3rd grade. So we all went to 4th together.

Things were much more difficult for me in middle and high school, however. I stand at six feet today, but I grew late...when I was 14 I barely stood over five. It wasn't much fun being the 3rd shortest boy in ninth grade (yes, I made sure I knew my ranking). I was already pretty socially awkward, and being a year younger than everyone only aggravated the situation.

Things didn't really go smoothly at all for me in high school. I was miserable and my grades suffered. Contrast this with my brother, who was smart but never skipped a grade, and thrived both socially and academically in high school.

When I hit college everything was fine again. I went to an out-of-province university, and, since Ontario was one of the few places left with 5 years of high schooling at the time, I was back with people mostly my own age. Things change when people go into college, anyway.

So, yeah, there are social issues to consider. It was especially tough in the middle years of high school when everyone was getting part-time jobs and driver's licences and I still felt like a kid. But that doesn't mean that what happened to me will happen to everyone, which is probably pretty obvious by this point in this thread.

And of course there are the tangential issues for in, there's a good chance I wouldn't have met my wife, and had a whole lot of other great experiences, if I didn't skip. But you can't predict the future on stuff like that.
posted by hiteleven at 12:40 AM on February 26, 2010

I should also add that skipping never really took away that bored feeling I got in school. Some kids just don't like school...the learning environment is quite restrictive (not that that's a wholly bad thing, but that's the way it is). When I hit 4th grade it wasn't like I suddenly felt thrilled to be learning stuff that was only slightly more challenging then what I would have learned in 3rd.

As others have said, I think finding outside activities is the key. I think you're either one of those people who likes school or you're not...I don't think skipping will fix that much.
posted by hiteleven at 12:43 AM on February 26, 2010

Again, this falls in the 'you may not have this option' category, but...

After kindergarten, I switched to an accelerated program that was one year above grade level, and then after second grade (after having gotten into this program twice) switched into a two-years above grade level program.

To go to the second program (and the first), I switched schools. The school I switched into for the more advanced program got about 30 kids coming in at every grade level, going form 1 first grade class to 5 fifth grade classes, so they were well equipped for newcomers and there was never a hitch. I kept up with old friends fine until those friendships petered out and I was in an amazing environment that had really good teachers and resources, peers who were on my level, but was socially appropriate.

It was also a fantastic school just because that type of school tended to attract the really involved parents, so all the programs and stuff were well funded (often by the PTA), volunteers were everywhere, there were efforts made to organize all sorts of things that would be difficult to do in a more apathetic school, etc. Never having gone to private school, I kind of feel like I got the 'private school experience' within the public school system. I stayed with the same classmates in our separate school (elementary) and then separate classes (middle) until high school, when we assimilated into the best high school in the city (primarily the best because such student feed into it).

I know how it sounds - we were separated, accelerated, treated to the best - but it was really a 'normal' school experience in every sense of the word, just with somewhat accelerated academics (not terribly accelerated. We ended up two years above grade level in math and begun AP sophomore year, but this isn't so different from how normal, more motivated students ended up). I assure you, my classmates were normal people, got into trouble the same ways, treated others the same ways, etc. as other classmates. We just got on the fast track at a point where we were either going to be challenged or become unmotivated, so it really helped us during those years. I LOVED my school, had fantastic teachers (as did both my brothers who went/go there), and turned out pretty OK I think.
posted by R a c h e l at 12:50 AM on February 26, 2010

A close relative of mine skipped 2 grades because he was very bored in school. That was 30 years ago. It didn't negatively affect his social relations - he's still close friends with some of the people from his "new" class. He must have been quite tall back then (he's 6'6 now).
He's a tenured professor, married with 2 kids, and is quite happy with his life, I think. His parents definitely didn't "push" him (they're really not the type). He pushes himself, and is a big perfectionist.

I, on the other hand, was "fast" in school but never skipped grades, because I was already the youngest in my class. I remember school as being extremely, even traumatically boring. Anxiety and behavioral problems rings very true. I think that being boredboredbored for five days a week during a crucial time in my developent contributed to the depressive tendencies that I still have as an adult. If you have a very active mind, and that mind is kept from exercising and doing stuff, it will eventually turn on itself!
Back then, I thought that something was wrong with me because I hated school so much. I wish skipping would have been an option for me!
posted by The Toad at 1:06 AM on February 26, 2010

Started 3rd grade and finished the year in 4th.

In the short run, it has the potential to be extraordinarily shitty -- there were multiple kids in 4th grade who did nothing but make my life hard until 6th grade, including such dramatic incidents as removing my pants in the middle of recess. Ugh.

But, should your son have the emotional constitution to make it through without any lasting damage, I think that in the long run it will definitely pay off to ensure that he is intellectually challenged. Few things are worse for the mind than the ennui that comes with never having to actually work in school.
posted by the NATURAL at 2:41 AM on February 26, 2010

I skipped second grade. From an academic viewpoint, there was no point in having me do second grade--I was already doing all my reading assignments with the third graders. In terms of emotional development, yeah, it posed a problem around junior high school: I was still a "kid" when my peers were starting to hit puberty. No regrets, however.
posted by thomas j wise at 3:01 AM on February 26, 2010

One of my brothers skipped 3rd grade. The academic transition was easy for him. The social transition was harder. We had just changed school districts and he had to make new friends in second grade and then again then next year. It took some time for that to sort itself out. It did, as many things do. He ended up being valedictorian and with a good set of friends.
posted by plinth at 3:24 AM on February 26, 2010

I was skipped in a way. When in first grade, my teachers went to my mom, also a teacher at the same school, and said that I had read all of the books up to a third grade level and were wondering what they should do with me. I am very thankful that my mom just said to let him be and just keep on giving him books to read and he will be fine. Instead of having to suffer through reading classes with the rest of the students I instead was sent off to the library where I learned how the library worked, how to use the card catalog, and even helped the librarian put the books back on the shelf. When it came time to head back to class I would go and then start on whatever class activity there was.

In math class i was sent to a computer lab (with apple IIgs) and was able to self-teach myself programming using lego logo as part of an enrichment portion in math while the rest of the class reviewed material. This continued all throughout school so I was able to stay in the same class as my peers but was given the freedom to go off and learn interesting things. I doubt it could happen now because of the "time on task" monitoring that the teachers have to do now, but for an inquisitive kid to be given free reign of the library was a lot of fun.

I also went to the enrichment department and was able to study my favorite thing at the time, dinosaurs. In the end I eventually gave a presentation to the rest of the class on dinosaurs so I always joke that I gave my first lecture at age 6. Still going strong at various universities since then.

If your kid is advanced just keep of feeding their brain with classical literature and classic science problems that are appropriate. I know it takes time, but it is helpful in pub quizzes when I can break out the answer because I had read some old greek myth that no one else had read. It also gives someone a much better and thorough education rather than just relying on what the school board deems appropriate for children.
posted by koolkat at 3:38 AM on February 26, 2010

I skipped a year due to moving schools a whole lot, and so was a nearly a year younger than all my classmates. It actually worked for me, stopped me getting really bored, and i never had any particular problems. I developed late in comparison, and that kind of sucked, but im definately glad i did it. It worked out really well for me.
posted by stillnocturnal at 4:09 AM on February 26, 2010

My mother started kindergarten at 4, because her older sister had started kindergarten at 5 and had been bored. My grandmother, looking to do the right thing for her second daughter, enrolled my Mom early. Turned out to be the wrong thing for my Mom - she felt behind, all the way through college.

So when my school suggested that I skip two years in elementary school, my mom declined, wishing to protect me from the feelings of inadequacy she experienced. Of course, you can see where this story goes - in my case it WOULD have been the right thing. I ended up terrifically bored, and had several Very Unpleasant experiences, such as being told in second grade that I had to stop writing in cursive in my journal because I "hadn't learned it yet" (wha???) and being told, after finishing the second grade math work by November, that I should just do it over again until the end of the year. I spent a lot of time doing "independent study" in the library by myself, and felt ostracized by my class anyway. It doesn't help that I did things like request a class meeting when I was being teased for having a male friend and I wanted everybody to be educated about gender bias - that really doesn't go over well in third grade.

In the end, I skipped 2 years of math and science in middle school and began taking high school classes early. This means that I ran out of math classes to take, including electives, by the end of 11th grade. I was ready to graduate, but the district was unwilling to let me take the required half-year "Government" class (during which we memorized the towns in our county and learned how awful jail is) before my senior year, so I ended up stalling for a very long time, taking college classes by correspondence and cursing the few hours each day I went in to school. There were a few benefits, like 4 years with a really fantastic Spanish teacher and a great junior year English teacher I wouldn't otherwise have had... but I REALLY wish I'd been allowed to skip. Would have made things so, so, so much easier.

I'm not saying that because of my experience, you should clearly let your son skip a grade. I don't know what's best for him. I think it depends more on his personality than anything else.
posted by Cygnet at 4:13 AM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

I had a slightly different experience - I did Year 4 and Year 5 in a single year, along with nearly thirty other kids. The government had just started a new program where kids who tested high at the end of Year 3 could skip Year 4 - my school decided to run things a little differently, ran their own test, and had a whole group of us do a compressed version of both years. We stayed in a group for that year and Year 6 - possibly because we hadn't completed the last month of Year 5 work yet, I don't actually remember, now that I think about it. In Year 7 we were split up and re-integrated back with our new peer group.

It worked out well overall, I think. Because we did it young enough, there wasn't much of a disparity in social development in general... that it was a school with a very high emphasis on academic achievement helped too. In fact, the best student upon graduation was one who skipped a year.

I do think it would have been different had I been the only one skipping a grade, though. We definitely benefited from being in a group. I'm not sure if I would've wanted to go it alone.

... so, er, YMMV.
posted by Xany at 5:52 AM on February 26, 2010

"Stultified" is not good. A change of some sort is needed, and soon, whether it's to the next grade, or to a different school, if that's an option.

In my case, my mom was resolutely against grade-skipping, and there were a handful of private schools in the area that were reputedly good with precocious kids, so I spent a day at a number of different schools and found one that I loved.

This was the best move possible for 9-year-old me. In the public school I had been doing independent work 2-3 grades ahead in math and reading, and I was so bored and isolated and unhappy that I would make myself sick at school several times a week just so that I could go home. To then go to a school where I was no longer the one who stood out, where it was the normal thing for kids to read big books and learn real science and write & perform our own plays, was fantastic. Math and logic were taught in small groups that the teachers must have assembled very carefully so that the pace would be right. (I remember thinking that "contrapositive" was just about the coolest concept I had ever come across. Yes, they were teaching the basics of formal logic to 9- and 10-year-olds, and we ate it up.)

We also had a lot of age-appropriate autonomy: at age 9 I got to choose what books I wanted to read, whether I wanted my science class in a given term to be (for instance) astronomy or anthropology, whether I wanted to do pottery or painting for my art class. This was so close to my ideal life it seemed almost magical at the time.

Private school tuition can be frightening (I now realize), but if there are good ones in your area, you might want to check them out even if they seem out of reach, since many will offer grants/scholarships to cover at least part of the cost. It's one alternative to the complications of grade-skipping, and for me, a school where I was no longer limited by what my "grade" was supposed to be doing was by far the best solution.
posted by philokalia at 6:22 AM on February 26, 2010

I skipped from 3rd grade to 5th. I was already almost a year younger than everyone, so I essentially ended up being two years younger than everyone in my class - I graduated high school when I was 16. The school didn't want to do it, but my mom was very invested in having a gifted child, and she pushed until they agreed. Unlike some of the posters above, I did the 4th grade curriculum over the summer so I didn't miss anything.

I was a bit socially awkward and a something of a loner before skipping, and I still was after skipping. I was always 'mature' for my age though, and it was actually easier for me socially once I was with older kids. I'm 24 now, and I'm still incredibly close to my friends from high school - the two year age difference is even more meaningless now. At work, people were shocked to find out my age; apparently I'm still very 'mature.'

The one thing I really regret is that I did go off to college at 16. I wanted to take a year off and get a crappy job and live with roommates for a year just to take a break; I didn't feel like I was ready for college. Unfortunately, my parents gave me the options of going to college or taking a year off and living at home. I didn't want to live at home, so I went to school. I wasn't ready for it, and I ended up dropping out. Now I'm trying to figure out how to get my degree while working full time. I know it can be done, but it would have been a lot easier if I could've gotten it right the first time.

Anecdata aside, please talk to your son about this, and really listen to him. It could be great for him to be skipped or it could be awful - it will all come down to his individual situation.
posted by (Over) Thinking at 6:32 AM on February 26, 2010

My experience was similar to jadicus'. I skipped from 3rd to 4th in January. There was no immediate problem. When puberty hit some of my classmates in 7th grade and it didn't hit me until 11th my social life became nonexistent and virtual hell. I didn't fully recover from that experience until my late 20's.
posted by bukvich at 6:34 AM on February 26, 2010

I skipped Kindergarten. I was an Army kid, and in one area the age cut-off for Kindergarten was 5 by September 1st and our new area was 5 by October 15th. My birthday is October 14th, so I was given the choice to go to First Grade or Kindergarten. Of course I chose First.

Later, after a move to a district with the September deadline, I was tested to make sure that I could keep up with the older fourth graders. Turns out I was way ahead of them. They wanted to skip me into Fifth Grade, but my Mom said no. In our religion you can't date until you're sixteen, and of course I wouldn't be able to drive at all in High School either. My mom was worried that I would miss out on all the fun. She was also worried that I would have a hard time with the older kids.

Looking back I'm glad she didn't skip me. One grade is good, two is just too much. I was able to take more advanced classes in Junior High and High School, so it was just Elementary that was the problem. I was occasionally bored in class, but that also taught me things. Patience and tolerance for example. I was usually allowed to read after I finished my work, and that made me perfectly happy.

We're going through the same thing with my middle child. Luckily for us, the district has an "Advanced Learning Academy". They put all the advanced kids in the district in one class. He's in a First Grade class, but they are doing First and Second Grade curriculum. Next year he'll still be in Second grade, but doing Third grade work. There are also lots of bonus stuff like language classes and extra science work that he gets to do. The only problem with this system is if we move out of the district. Does your son's school have a Gifted and Talented program? They may be better able to help you out with your decisions.
posted by TooFewShoes at 6:41 AM on February 26, 2010

After behavioral problems called me to the school's attention, I skipped 3rd-to-4th midyear and was (finally!) happy, through fifth grade. Then we moved and I started at a much better private school that made me do fifth grade again to keep me with my peers. So I can't offer anecdotes about what might happen when he's older, but skipping is a *great* solution for now and I'm really glad I did it. I didn't really mind repeating 5th at the better school, either.
posted by xueexueg at 6:53 AM on February 26, 2010

I skipped a grade early on (1/2) and while I was always a social outcast, I'm pretty sure that didn't have anything to do with me having skipped a grade. I was going to be a fat, know-it-all nerd in any grade. Mind you, I went to a school with multi-graded classrooms, so I skipped a grade without even leaving the classroom I was in.

Here are the two biggest impacts it had on my life:

I basically lost my best friend. While I skipped a grade, she failed a grade, which meant that I started high school 2 years ahead of her. Because high school and grade school were very different experiences in our town -- grade school was local, high school meant taking a bus for an hour to get there -- we completely lost touch, and by the time she was also in high school, I had different friends and interests, and we never did really become friends again. Maybe that would have happened anyway and more painfully, since we ended up with very different crowds in high school anyway.

I wasn't able to go on student exchange until after I graduated, which significantly limited my options for host countries. Because I skipped a grade, I would have been too young to go during my senior year. Waiting until after I finished school here meant most countries wouldn't accept me. I did go on exchange, and it was a fabulously wonderful experience, but I'd have simply had more options if I had fit more into the typical age/grade structure.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:27 AM on February 26, 2010

Halfway through 2nd grade, they moved me into 3rd grade and I then continued on with that class from that point forward. I was a precocious little devil, so I remained one of the eggheads in the new grade. Academically it was no problem whatsoever -- I probably could have skipped again once or twice. I was in a group of three kids that essentially finished the reading and math programs that were intended to go through 7th grade by the midpoint of the 5th grade. The effects on my attitudes were mixed, but I'm not sure that skipping or not skipping would have changed them much. I was definitely a part of the "brainy" group and as such was not profoundly popular with the jocks, but that would have been the same had I stayed with my age peers, I'm sure. I was less capable at most of the physical activities, but again I suspect that would have been the case anyhow. I perceived that I was hampered in my efforts to be surrounded by beautiful girls when my classmates drove cars and I wasn't yet old enough, but once I was able to drive I discovered that there was a bit more to my issues than driving. I honestly think on balance it would not have really changed much, although perhaps some of my current attitude that most people are idiots was formed in those days. I prefer to believe that most people ARE idiots and I would have figured it in good time anyhow.

Much like several others in this thread, I missed the portion of school where you learned cursive handwriting and my ability in that area suffered for the rest of my life. To this day, I am far more comfortable with block printing and I use it pretty much exclusively. I seem to remember that everyone else already knew the multiplication tables off the tops of their heads and I had to spend a short while memorizing them, but that was a brief distraction at most. I had plenty of friends and I don't think that anyone really perceived me to be younger so much as smarter. I didn't have the problem of being the shortest kid in school because I was fairly tall even as a kid and always was mid-pack at least. By high school I was very tall and gangly, so it wasn't really an issue in my case.

I really never think about it, but I suppose on balance I think it was a good thing. At a minimum, I got through school faster! I do think that being promoted multiple grades would have created too many differences in age and experience between my classmates and even though I'm sure I'd have been fine academically, I'm glad it didn't happen.
posted by Lame_username at 8:07 AM on February 26, 2010

Also, I'm sort of amazed at how many of us there are. Are the numbers of MeFis so vast or does it especially appeal to some overlapping demographic?
posted by Lame_username at 8:09 AM on February 26, 2010

Luckily my elementary school had a gifted program, as did my middle and high schools. I was tracked into the gifted program in 2nd grade, because I had become a pretty bad behavior problem. However, I was still a "nerd", still had a horrible middle school experience, and still felt socially inept, even though I was in my appropriate grade.

You're getting a lot of conflicting answers in this thread, which is tough. Anecdotally, among the people I know those that have had the most trouble with college and/or life paths are the very smart people that were never challenged. They coasted through and ignored most of middle and high school, and then had a tough time handling challenges in later life.
posted by lillygog at 8:50 AM on February 26, 2010

There are many factors to consider here. Is your son among the oldest in the grade or the youngest? How are his social skills? Boys tend to be more immature at younger ages and sometimes the gain in academics isn't worth the loss in social skills/friends. Has his teacher recommended the change? If he/she isn't behind this, you may have a fight on your hands with the administration. Has he been tested to see if he could do the work in the next grade up? Sometimes they're bored with what they're doing not because of the material but because of the way it's presented, or because of their particular learning style.

Also, first graders are a remarkably diverse group. Some of them are prodigious readers, some of them are just making those first steps toward reading. Some of them readily grasp difficult math concepts while others are grappling with 2 +2 = 4. Having seen one child through elementary school (he's a 7th grader now) and one almost through (she's a 4th grader now), I can say with conviction that the really early grades are a time of vast learning differences. If your son's teacher is willing (and if he/she is not, you've got bigger problems on your hands), see if you can get him/her to give your kid some more challenging work during the day. See if you can get him into a leadership position. Maybe your district offers the chance to branch out into the next grade's reading class or math class. Does your district offer gifted services? If so, has he been tested and do they offer pull-out classes or an entirely different program?

Your first step, if you haven't already done it, is to talk to your kid's teacher. If you don't get answers, go to the principal. Keep pushing until you get the information you need.
posted by cooker girl at 8:55 AM on February 26, 2010

My husband essentially skipped a grade by starting school a year early, and he thinks it was the wrong decision for him. He was always the youngest boy in the class (by a lot) and he feels he was less mature. His experience is that he was academically ready but socially not, and that the social aspect is way more important that people give it credit for. Also, he thinks that girls tend to mature faster and that a girl might be better equipped to skip a grade than a boy. YMMV
posted by Knowyournuts at 9:52 AM on February 26, 2010

I skipped third grade. Since first grade, I would come home from school crying because I was BORED OUT OF MY MIND and the school couldn't help me, even in the high potential classes. (This was an era where all ability levels were often grouped, anyway, so I ended up with the numb-nuts, too).

SOCIALLY: I didn't really have the social skills for it, but who are we kidding? I would've been the nerdy one whether I was a year younger or not, and frankly, I think a lot of people in my position end up in the same place. By the time I was about 14, this was worked out more or less.

ACADEMICALLY: I was still at the top of my class all through high school, but skipping a year of busy-work put me that much closer to the limited freedom offered in high school and the full freedom of taking college courses instead of going to high school (11th, 12th grades). I am CONVINCED that if we had NOT done this, I would have taken this extra energy in the wrong direction and ended up skipping school and enjoying a lot more delinquency (the kind that makes good stories and bad reputations/records).

- fighting with the school system (they made me see a therapist!)
- studying multiplication tables over summer vacation
- couldn't drive myself to school when everyone else did

- learned how to fight the school system (started taking on my own battles sooner)
- slightly more challenging work, somewhat less need for busy-work
- put me one year closer to doing things I wanted to do, including university classes during high school years


- get a teacher on your side: we had some teachers who were willing to step up for me, and it really helped our case with the administrators involved
- let your son have his say: another thing that helped the school in the end was hearing ME say I wanted to skip. Not my parents, ME. There ARE parents who want to push push push, and if your son wants this, HE needs to say so to the people to the people who can approve it.
- consider the school environment: we were in a relatively well-funded, open-minded district in a top-ranked education state and STILL had to fight, fight, fight. You might have to consider if a neighboring district, private school, or alternative education would help.

Good luck, feel free to MeMail me.
posted by whatzit at 11:21 AM on February 26, 2010

(for your demographic survey of the responses: I am a girl, I also entered kindergarten early so I have been 2 years or more younger than my cohorts for most of my academic career)
posted by whatzit at 11:25 AM on February 26, 2010

Here's my comment from a previous thread.
posted by bendy at 11:29 AM on February 26, 2010

I would echo posters above to look into gifted/enrichment programs as an additional option, and to talk to him and see how he feels about it.

I have a fall birthday. I started K4 a year ahead, when I was three, at a private school. I already knew how to read and was horribly bored; the teacher suggested to my parents that I be put into K5, which they did (it was a shared-classroom arrangement.)

The next year, I was getting ready to go into first grade, but I was only 4. My parents actually kept me out of school for a year, figuring that socially I could be OK with being one year younger than my peers but not two.

Later in elementary the school suggested skipping me but my parents refused, for the same reason. I could have handled the work but I was already socially awkward.

I ended up going to university at 17.

My brother, also with a fall birthday and entered early, was unhappy about it, because he played football in high school and an extra year of growth would have helped him out a lot.

Here's the thing- I had social issues as a kid, not because I was a year younger, but because I wanted to read a book during recess and talk about stuff my peers were not at all interested in. I would get mocked for "using big words like I thought I was so smart." I could not WAIT to get out of high school and go to college. I went to a small school with no "gifted" program, especially for younger kids.

When I went to college and met other geeky kids who liked to talk about books and science, it was a REVELATION. I had my share of "OMG why am I special if EVERYONE here was also the valedictorian" angst but got over it relatively fast in the face of my delight at meeting people who had similar interests.

I think that if I could have been put in an academic environment sooner that could have given me that, I would have had an easier time as a kid. The issue with skipping is, even though you're doing more advanced work, you are not doing it with students at similar levels of ability/aptitude, which can lead to a lot of the smart-kid syndrome mentioned above.
posted by oblique red at 12:13 PM on February 26, 2010

If you think competitive athletics will be an important part of your child's life, or want to leave that option open, I'd say no, don't skip the grade.

Otherwise, go for it.
posted by thisperon at 12:59 PM on February 26, 2010

I started Kindergarten a year early, at 4, because I had a really late birthday and because I'd been reading for two years. I don't know whether it's attributable to that age difference or general personality factors (or the burgeoning social anxiety disorder) or what, but I was definitely always behind my peers socially and physically. Uncoordinated in gym class, no idea how to make friends: elementary school was not a good time. By high school, it mattered less (I'd eventually learned passable social skills), but it was really hard, still, being the 'last one' to get my license (17, in NJ, so I didn't learn until almost the end of senior year), etc. I couldn't vote etc. when I started college, and I got exceedingly tired of explaining that kind of thing to people.

For some kids, it would be fine. For me, it was probably not a great idea socially. My mom refused any suggestions later of more advancement on that ground. However, I was still very bored in most classes -- including the g/t 'enrichment' the school did one day a week -- and would've loved to have been allowed out of English/social studies/etc. to do more advanced work. (I did not like math or science, and math is where "being ahead" is usually noticed; the "college-level" reading in 6th grade? They don't care so much as if you can do calculus.) I had a lot of teachers in junior high and high school who were kind enough to let me not attend class and do interesting projects/self-paced learning instead, as when the "honors" 8th grade English class was reading books I'd read in 4th grade, and so on. The librarians and I were good friends. There really wasn't a good solution other than that, so I am still very, very grateful to all of those teachers! I realize, looking back, that they gave up prep periods and so on to work with me one-on-one on different material, and that's a pretty amazing thing they did. Plus, it gave me a chance to *not* have to sit in class with all those people I didn't get on with, in addition to the boredom factor.

If I had a social, outgoing child, I might consider grade skipping, but otherwise? I'd look for something more individualized, if at all possible.
posted by lysimache at 1:48 PM on February 26, 2010

I always resented my parents for not letting me skip a grade when the school offered it. I'm in a strange position - I started nursery school at age 2, and actually repeated it the next year, because the school they wanted me to go to said I was just too young for kindergarten. I always resented them for that, too.

I was bored out of my mind, convinced that if things didn't come easy for me they just weren't worth bothering with at all, and generally a mess. I confused teachers for many years because I was a terrible student, but my test scores always showed that I absolutely understood the material and was much smarter than they expected given the rest. It took me a very long time to start to get over that and pull myself together.

Sure, I have many friends who I wouldn't have had if they'd let me move ahead a bit faster. But I'm confident that I would have made friends in whatever grade I was in. I was always the youngest and shortest in my grade even considering all this, and that didn't interfere too much.
posted by Eshkol at 8:19 AM on February 27, 2010

I skipped from kindergarten to first grade a few weeks into the school year, at my teacher's recommendation.

I think it was a good move. Some factors that may have helped make it work for me -
  • Had already mastered the majority of the material the class I skipped was going to cover.
  • Already a proficient independent reader.
  • Switched early in my school career.
  • Was a stubborn kid who was eager to learn.
Details and anecdotes:

This was at a very small (generally between 10 and 25 students per grade), geographically isolated, K-12 school in the early 1980s. There was no gifted and talented program, and only one other school within 20 miles, which also do not have a gifted and talented program.

One of the few things I recall from those weeks in kindergarten is getting in trouble for trading books with my neighbor during nap time, because I was bored. That "discipline problem" would only have gotten worse, and could have turned me off from school completely.

As it was, I was at the top of my class for the rest of my elementary and high school years. Still a bit of a discipline problem for items like reading in class due to boredom, challenging my teachers in class, and general smart-assedness.

I was "socially challenged" throughout school, but staying back a year wouldn't have done anything to fix that - no matter what age group I was with, I was still a weird kid.

I started college at 17 and it was terrific, the only disadvantage was that until I was 18, anything that needed a legally-binding signature had to be mailed home for my parents to sign.

By that time in the mid 90s, college students under 18 were not uncommon in MN, due to the PSEO program, where students could attend college classes (free!) during their junior and senior years instead of putting in time at their high school. Kind of wish I'd done that too, but living 50 miles from the nearest college and having a p.o.s. car made the logistics a bit tricky [I was not mature enough to live in dorm at 15/16].
posted by superna at 1:12 PM on February 27, 2010

Response by poster: I so, so appreciate everyone's taking the time to share your stories, and also for the understanding that most of you brought to our situation. I have to admit I felt quite a stab of horror at the person who wrote that our not wanting him to be advanced was "heartbreaking" and that we should not stifle our child. Just to clarify, we have no interest in his being advanced just for the sake of being advanced - rather than being wherever he can best stimulate his curiosity and develop what I think is his amazing brain. I know too many parents who will wear their child's advanced or gifted status as a little accessory for their ego, at the cost of a LOT of pressure on their kid to always live up to that concept of who they are. I don't want to label him or show everyone how smart he is. I just want him to continue to love learning and get to do a lot of it.

It's true that there has been quite a bit of contrast in these answers, but because so many of you shared the reasons that skipping did or didn't work (or was decided against - and these were instructive stories as well), it doesn't end up being as confusing as it might. The discussion of what happens when you never have to work - and then suddenly you find yourself in the middle of some subject that you DO have to work to master - hits the nail on the head. I breezed along for years on the strength of early reading, etc., and the sense of panic and shame and phoniness that hit when I finally got to trigonometry or whatever it was, along with a sense of what do I do when I don't already know it? defined my feelings about school and learning for years. I do NOT want this to happen to my son. Also the discussion of how boredom can produce attentiveness problems was helpful - we're seeing this as well.

I loved that so many of you wanted to know what HE wanted! Actually it was a conversation with him that led to my posting this question. We went through the pros and cons and he ended up in favor of it. I promised to look into it and thought, I really wish I knew someone who'd skipped so I could ask them about it...and here you all were. You've been an enormous help and those who offered memails may hear from me yet. Thanks again.

posted by Betsy Vane at 7:16 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

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