Why Are We Considering a Grade Skip?
Smarty has always been ahead academically, but she was overall content in the classroom. The main reason of her contentment was the fact that she was part of a a sizeable "challenge group", aka "gifted cluster". These kids were getting their own assignments and were able to bounce their ideas off each other and grow together.
Sadly, next year this group is disappearing. So we had to think how to keep Smarty challenged in this new situation. As a minimum, we wanted a full grade acceleration in math, but that would entail for Smarty to be in two schools at once, going to a neighboring middle school for math and coming back for other subjects. She was horrified by the idea and argued convincingly that this approach will make her really different and that she is unlikely to make new friends while being torn between two schools and having to manage transitions. She was a lot more interested in a full grade acceleration.
How Do I Feel About That?Part of me is proud. Smarty has strong academic gifts and she is a confident test taker that is able to demonstrate her mastery of subjects. As part of this quest to acceleration, she took a test designed for an entry to an accelerated math program of 6th grade and passed it with flying colors. The teacher who graded the test has written that not only she knows the material but she is also able to logically explain her thinking - something that we had certain doubts about. Her current teacher praised her cheerful attitude and her ability to focus on tasks at hand.
Part of me is scared. Smarty is already young, since she started kindergarten before she turned 5. She is also tiny - only 5% in height for her age. She does not have the same interests as most of her grade mates, especially girls. How will she fare with kids who will now be 2 years her seniors, especially when she enters high school before she even turns 13?
Part of me is sad. Smarty will miss a lot of things by skipping a grade - a special overnight camp all 5th graders of our school go to every year, her elementary school graduation, her chance to be in a district cadet band next year. I am also sad about possibly giving up an entire year with my only child at home if she chooses to leave for college right after high school graduation at 16.
Part of me is angry. I wish we did not have to do this. I wish our district had more options for gifted learners. I wish we had self-contained classrooms and curriculums designed for kids like Smarty. Well, we do not have any meaningful gifted program. We keep hearing for 5 years that the teachers can differentiate in the classroom, and most of our teachers did their best. I think Smarty was challenged enough in writing, she needs no real challenge from anyone in reading, but science and math subjects were source of frustration for our little fountain head who desperately wants to work at her own pace and not to do what her class is doing.
Part of me is self-conscious. I think that some of our friends will think that we are "pushing Smarty too hard" and that we are helicopter parents who want to direct her destiny. Luckily, our own family is fully supportive of this move.
Part of me is grateful. We have a good school. Smarty was thriving here. She found her intellectual peers and she formed her first friendships. She became much better working in groups. Our administration supported us in our request to consider a grade skip even though nobody was accelerated in our district in quite some time. Our former principal came to the meetings to support this request even without us asking for it. We are very lucky to have teachers and administrators willing to respond to our child's individual needs..
Part of me is hopeful. Yes, Smarty is going to be the youngest and the smallest, but she is already that way in her own grade anyway. We hope that she will start her 6th grade in a small brand-new STEAM school where all her friends are going for the fifth grade, so she can still hang out with them. She also has older friends in the 6th grade who are also going to this new school, so she will not be entering completely uncharted waters. The principal of this new school used to be our principal, and she cares deeply about her students in general and about Smarty in particular. I also hope that project-based approach of this new school will help our daughter to apply her academic talents to more complex problems and to become a more hands-on learner. In other words, I hope that my intuition is right and that we are making the right decision here.
We are still waiting for the decision on Smarty's acceptance into the 6th grade of this new STEAM school. If this falls through, we will be facing another difficult choice - whether to keep her in 5th grade or send her to a big neighborhood middle school. So far the opinions are split on this one - I want to keep Smarty in the 5th grade, my husband and Smarty want to skip. Hopefully we will have the answer by the end of this week.
What are your thoughts on whole grade acceleration?
More on Gifted Children
From my blog:
- Gifted Advocacy for Beginners
- 10 Resources for Parents of Gifted Children
- Online Math Options for Gifted Students
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