Help kid bored at new school that’s far behind her old one academically?
August 27, 2018 7:49 PM   Subscribe

How can we keep our fifth grade daughter interested and happy in a new school that is teaching things she learned 2 years ago?

We moved about 3 hours north in May. She told us that the class she was in for the last month of the school year was doing review. Turns out it was review for her, but not for them. She was in an accelerated, all-day program at her old school. Although we’ve been told that the schools were good here, they don’t have a similar program. Our daughter is an incredibly curious and an insatiable learner. She was learning the quadratic equation in 4th grade. She was preparing to go into an early middle school program whose curriculum was two grades ahead. She says that, for example, the new class is just now learning the place value of decimals, which she learned two years ago.
She’s always loved school and been energized by learning. Now, she’s coming home with new complaints every day, and I can hear her frustration. What can we do?
posted by percor to Education (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Depending on how the school system is structured and your resources, I would suggest:

1. Tutoring or an after school program, to give her something more challenging to work on. If there is a college or university nearby then you might reach out to, e.g., the math department to advertise part-time work to an interested student.

2. Work with her teachers to suggest some more challenging assignments for her when possible. For example, in English she could do longer, more involved writing assignments on the same subjects as the rest of the class.

3. Similarly, work with her teachers to allow her to do more advanced work in class, as long as she continues to do well on the normal tests.

4. Look into summer, winter, and spring break programs that could give her something to look forward to.

5. As a last resort, you could discuss skipping a grade or two, if the school system allows it. But, speaking as someone who skipped the 4th and 6th grades, I don't advise it. There's a lot of lost social development, and going into junior high indelibly marked as different from your classmates is an added difficulty no adolescent needs. And if she plays any sports, then being 1-2 years younger than everyone else is a tremendous disadvantage.
posted by jedicus at 8:38 PM on August 27, 2018 [3 favorites]

I skipped first grade, and when my mom thought I was too young for the tumult of middle school, I repeated fifth grade. (We had moved and it was a new school.) The new school used the same texts that I had completed for Math and Spelling, so I did independent study for those subjects.)
posted by puddledork at 8:40 PM on August 27, 2018

If she loves math, I strongly recommend the courses at Art Of Problem Solving. They cost money. But if it's money you can afford to spend, I think it's money very well used. Their approach isn't to rush through the standard courses at a high speed, but rather to spend a year on algebra just like school does but do much more and much deeper algebra in that time. Based on what you've told us, the pre-algebra course would probably be right for her. And I think the easiness of school will be less annoying to her if she's getting the intellectual challenge she needs elsewhere.

As for the rest of school -- you will find people who liked skipping and people who didn't like skipping. The research I'm aware of suggests that it's a boon more often than not for kids who choose to do it (which may just mean that kids are pretty good judges of whether they want to skip or not -- for sure there are plenty of kids who are offered the option and decide not to.)
posted by escabeche at 9:27 PM on August 27, 2018 [4 favorites]

"Being x grade levels ahead" happened to me because my parents didn't know what USA grade level expectations were and were also fearful that I was going to fall behind, so were teaching me things way "ahead of schedule." (later on this became "in lieu of discussing tougher things, like feelings or friends" but I digress)

Here's what my parents / teachers did for me in elementary school, along with how I felt about them. I think my mom wrought this by telling the principal to "give me the toughest teacher or I'd cause trouble", and some combination of that and perhaps an Individualized Education Plan (? it was a sticker on my second grade report card from a previous school district) got the ball rolling.

This was in the state of CT in a reasonably well-funded school in the late 1990s -- it was quite normal for teachers to have 25+ years of experience.

1. In the day-to-day, I got to do assignments from a grade+2 textbook during math time. It was still boring but I felt special; on the other hand I probably did not learn as much compassion / tutoring skills as I could have (ironic, as now I am usually the one slowest to grok everything). On the other other hand, I was completely relieved of the option of from pretending to be worse at / less interested in math for social acceptance as a girl!

2. We had LEAP (learning enrichment activities program), and the teacher was a very well-meaning young woman probably with a very good liberal arts degree. In addition to the regular LEAP class, she tried to teach me factoring quadratics as an application of the distributive property during recess. I mean, yes, it is. But that method has never been practical for me, and I imagine it was frustrating for her.

3. My school was always enrolled in casual regional math leagues; I suspect the teacher just threw more practice exams at me when that season came, and let me take the 6th grade exam as a 5th grader, etc. This was nice! Maybe your daughter would like The Art of Problem Solving materials, or old AMC 8 / 10 / 12 exams. I also remember my mother desperately trying to entertain me with SAT problem sets as a second grader; maybe she would like those, or LSAT practice tests.

4. My mother signed me up for distance learning courses through the Center for Talented Youth (CTY). I wrote a lot of essays; I made some internet friends that I never interacted with again.

5. Probably as part of a community outreach program, a statistician from Bayer came in every few weeks to 'work with me.' I actually don't remember what the material was, but again, boredom relief + feeling special. We're still friends on LinkedIn!
posted by batter_my_heart at 9:29 PM on August 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

My kid was like this--not explicitly grade levels ahead, but coming home miserable because they spent all day bored at school.

I pulled them out.

Have you looked into alternative schools in your area? Your profile says Illinois--there are several online schools in Illinois, for example, and one of those might be a better option for your daughter. Sometimes online schools are more flexible about letting kids take classes that aren't standard for their grade level, in my experience, and others have you just do the work and turn it in, meaning that even if it's standard fifth-grade work, she can go through it as a review, then spend her time doing more advanced work, or working on other projects.

You're effectively asking how you can keep a child happy and engaged in school when they're not being presented with anything new, and I think the answer is that you can't. Your real options are to fight with the district until they make accommodations for her or change schools. One if these things is, in my experience, likely to be a much quicker fix than the other.
posted by mishafletch at 10:12 PM on August 27, 2018 [8 favorites]

I spent two years mostly in the hospital as a kid - during third and fourth grades - and when I came out, I was more than a year ahead of my grade-level peers. I know it was a tough decision for my parents, but their decision not to move me up a grade hindered me from that time forward. I was bored from then on until I hit college, and I was content getting B's and skating by without having to work. It allowed me to learn bad study habits, and I was mature and bright enough that I became pretty unmotivated academically. Given the same situation with my kids, I would skip them a grade.
posted by summerstorm at 10:19 PM on August 27, 2018 [8 favorites]

Skip a grade, or two. Especially for a girl, the objections to skipping a grade are almost entirely bogus, and if there's some virtue in having literally-same-age friends, most sports are age-group and not grade-group and there's all variety of other multi-grade extracurriculars.
posted by MattD at 11:10 PM on August 27, 2018 [6 favorites]

Oh gosh please don’t give the kid extra work to do during non-school time. They did this to me as a kid - special projects outside of class and during recess - because I was bored and ahead of the other students. All it did was make me bored *and* angry/resentful. Harder/more challenging classes are the answer, not “be bored all day and then don’t get to do anything fun in your downtime because you’re smart and get more work to do!”
posted by okayokayigive at 4:03 AM on August 28, 2018 [16 favorites]

If it helps, you can skip grades in some subjects and not others. I skipped two grades of math and one of english. That involved different things at different ages -- going back and forth between 4th and 6th grade classrooms, which was weird because of mismatched schedules but they rolled with it; having a high school student come down to tutor in 6th grade; a 5-person math class with kids one year older in 7th grade.

This obviously took a lot of advocacy from my parents and support from various schools, and I think it started with my parents insisting on some standardized tests in 3rd or 4th grade to make the case.

My parents hoped that the mixed approach would be best for keeping me engaged and also allowing for social development. Which, I dunno! It's hard. If you're quick and curious and not in a school with a bunch of other kids like you, you're always going to be weird in one way or another -- maybe having an overtly weird schedule helps in some ways.

Alongside logistics, one thing to think about is how to help your daughter with things she's learning right now. Like, sometimes people with power don't seem to value you. Sometimes when you have more or different experience than the people around you, you have to figure out what they do know and how to fit in. The big, intense, miserable things that we learn and unlearn and relearn as we grow up. Fix them if you can, but also help her think them through.
posted by john hadron collider at 6:31 AM on August 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

I was in your daughter's position, and I skipped two grades and it was worth it, honestly. I would have liked maybe more social support, but there's no reason that can't be provided in place of extra tutoring.
posted by dame at 7:29 AM on August 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

When I was in 5th grade I had special lessons, during X period the class would work out of Grade5 book and I would work independently out of Grade7 book. This was fine and dandy, aside from the fact that I wasn't very well supervised, wasn't honestly ready to do independent study and didn't turn in homework, resulting in low letter-grades. And then I hit 7th grade and we had the same textbook, but a less flexible school/teacher. My point being, if you start an accelerated program, you don't just need to plan for educating her this year, but how you're going to continue this track and when she's going to taper off it.

I'm actually pro-skipping a grade; it's a way of guarding against needing to reinvent the wheel to get her personalized lessons every year. Whatever you decide, think about what it might be like a few years in the future - 4 years from now, she might be a 9th grader taking pre-calc with the 11th graders, or would she rather be in 10th grade all around? What about her senior year, will she have finished all the math classes on offer? Does the high school have an agreement with the local community college?
posted by aimedwander at 11:06 AM on August 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm also pro-skipping a grade. If she finds later in life that she's struggling she can always go back. Plus, 1-2 years is really not that much of a difference, especially as she gets older. To my peers the fact that I skipped a grade was always just a fun fact, though if your daughter is very peer approval-centered you might want to keep an eye on her and see how she socializes. At least three other friends have skipped grades, with little to no social consequences.

Also, as an adult (I'm twenty-two now) the fact that I skipped a grade has always been a comforting thing to me, in that I could take a year off to travel/de-stress/whatever without feeling "behind" the rest of my peers. I never had to, and of course I could've done that even if I hadn't skipped a grade, but in high school I would reassure myself that if the stress got too bad I'd just take a year off or go back down a grade and then I'd just be where I was "supposed" to be.
posted by storytam at 7:08 PM on August 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

Skipping grades is fine, these systems are rather arbitrary sometimes and your kid has a need. I also think it's stupid to connect age to an academic level anyway, since it needs to be based on assessment. My mom skipped grades and was much happier for it.
posted by yueliang at 9:54 AM on August 29, 2018

« Older Digital recorder to use with a separate microphone...   |   What do these gloves say? They have kanji... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.