To Skip, or Not to Skip (First Grade)?

Updated on September 26, 2010
S.L. asks from Meridian, ID
24 answers

Our son is 6 1/2 and just started first grade. He's quite a bit ahead of his age peers. His teacher last year was frustrated because, while she considered having him visit 1st grade for a few subjects, she said he'd still be ahead of them, and "no one will let me send him to 3rd grade!"

We've basically been waiting until 2nd grade, until the gifted program kicks in. But so many studies say that it's too late by then, most gifted kids have learned to hide their abilities or learned that they don't have to try in school to get good grades (which was my personal experience).

Yesterday, we were offered the opportunity to have him tested for giftedness early. This is exactly what I was hoping for! But because the program doesn't start until 2nd grade, he'd have to skip a grade to be able to participate in it.

So the early testing would consist of testing him for readiness to skip to 2nd grade AND for the gifted program. That also means that he has to qualify for the gifted program as if he were a year older than he is.

I really don't see him not qualifying. I won't go on and on about his acheivements, but he's doing 3rd grade math and 6th grade reading.

I also feel quite comfortable with the idea of having him skip a grade. My husband is not, and is worried about his social and athletic development. He has valid concerns, but on the other hand, I think it's stupid to hold him back academically just so he won't be the small one on the swim team in high school. Who knows if he''ll even want to BE on the swim team in high school!

Please, does anyone have experience with this? It feels like an answer to prayers, but at the same time, it's a huge decision for us to make that will affect our son for the rest of his life. I do not take it lightly, and will do a lot of internet research, but I'd love to hear from real-life experience if you have any to share!

P.S. I am 2 months older than my husband. My birthday is at the end of summer, his at the beginning of the school year. So I started school when I'd just turned 5, and he started when he was about to turn 6. I graduated when I was 17. He liked being the "old" one in his class, especially because of the athletic advantage it gave him. However, he claims to have no athletic ability, and says our son inherited his lack of coordination from him. I, on the other hand, never noticed that I was the youngest in my class. It was never an issue. Our son would be 6 months younger than I was my entire school career if he were to skip a grade.

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So What Happened?

We just met with DS's school about his test scores. He tested in 5th grade for most subjects, and in one he nearly maxed out the test entirely. I was so shocked to see "11th grade" that I can't even remember the subject it was. He's 99th percentile or higher for almost everything, and his weakest subjects were still 90th or higher.

His school already had everything in place for him to move up, and probably would have tried to talk us into it if we were against it. They consider him an excellent candidate for skipping. After much thought and prayer, we all feel really good about the move. he starts next Monday and is excited!

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answers from Anchorage on

My question would be is he ready emotionally and developmentally to be with the older kids. It is good he is smart, but how happy would he be being that much younger and smaller than his classmates?

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answers from San Francisco on

Responding to your response. Yes I would know if it was happening in my classroom because I would know that the child could read 'viciously'. I work with all of my students one on one, have individually evaluated their progress so please don't tell me I don't know what I am talking about. Just because you have encountered a teacher who refused to differentiate the curriculum for your child does not mean there are not teachers who do.

Also if you have not reached your potential, its your own doing and not anyone else's. Dig deep inside and do it.

You are obviously questioning your decisions or you would not post this question. I would rather have a well rounded child than one that does not fit into the world well because I was so interested in pushing him forward. But this of course is your decision, so make it, but don't be critical of opinions when you asked for them.

My concern would be for his emotional/social development. My 7 year old son is now in second grade, he is reading way above grade level, can solve complex puzzles, etc... and his math skills are even more impressive. At the same time, I would not have him skip a grade. Instead, I have him in a school where the academics are challenging, the teachers differenciate the curriculum, and I add to his education at home.

Your son could potentally be two years younger than the rest of the class because many families are doing the exact opposite of what you are proposing. Many families wait until their child is 6 to attend Kindergarten. Even if you have an emotionally or socially mature child, think about the way future. In high school, everyone will be driving way before he is. He will be 14 when everyone else is 16. Do you really want the social pressures of those grades placed on your child earlier?

I don't think your child will 'hide' his abilities. Besides having my own bright children (I also have a ten year old above grade level) I have taught first grade for 12 years. I have never seen children do this. As a good teacher, I know it is my job to provide assignments that are stimulating and appropriate for all.

How is his writing? Is it also above grade level? In second grade they are building upon what was taught in first grade and then in Third the children are expected to do some pretty serious writing. Will your child be ready to write several paragraphs while doing research about the topic?

You know your child best. But this potentially has huge ramifications for your and your son. Girls tend to mature quicker so the fact that he will be only six months younger than you were is not a good comparison. Plus school is now much more challenging than when you and I went to school.

Good luck. I know that having a child way above grade level can be as hard as having one way below. Finding what is best for them will be a journey. If in 2nd grade there is a gifted program, I would wait for that. Take care!

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answers from Provo on

The only thing that really came to mind when reading your post, and I see it over and over again in the comments, is that boys have a much harder time socially being the youngest in their class, and girls are the other way around. If moving him ahead ends up having a negative effect on him, I'm sure that would end up having a negative effect on his learning too. Like someone else said, I would see what other options you have in the school district, or if there are things you can do at home to challenge him. Could you volunteer in his classroom and work with him one on one at the higher levels where he is at. I would definitely check into picking his teachers, and find one that will not only work with him, but will work with you and let you know how you can help as well. Some teachers might not feel like they can do everything they can to push gifted students because they do have ~30 other students in the class that they also need to worry about. If you are willing to help them, they might be more willing to help find what he needs.

Have you talked to your son about it? Maybe he feels strongly one way or another about it too. Weigh it out with him as well, so whatever decision is made, he knows that it was also his and can't be angry at you down the road if it doesn't work out. He might also have some insight on what he would like to do.

That is a tough decision. I wish you the best of luck!!!

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answers from San Francisco on

When we had this issue, I put my son in a charter school that was more geared toward the individual. They grow up fast enough, you don't need to push him out the door any earlier, and you need to respect your husband's wishes too.

The studies you quoted in your second paragraph are questionable. I don't know where you heard that. Nothing is that cut and dried.

Males tend to be more emotionally immature, so I don't think it's good to skip them. By the way, my son gets straight A's in all honors classes, so his early lack of being in the gifted program didn't harm him at all.

Note: I changed a couple of words in my post, it was a little strongly worded and offensive. Didn't mean to cast aspersions, I was just doubting the validity of the studies, not S. L's perspective.

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answers from San Francisco on

My Nephew has a very high IQ grew up in a small town in Northern CA 30+ years ago. What impressed me most about his situation is my sister was respectfully persistant about getting my Nephew the education he needed. I don't have any specific advice but just want to encourage you and applaud you for sticking with it as it seems you are the same and realize what you need to do for your son. My sister also ran into the same attitude when telling people about her son until they saw it first hand. Human nature and the number of people who do overstate their children's abilities, cause the doubt you encounter.
As for my nephew, there wasn't anything in place at that time for gifted children of any age. To my recollection, she found a teacher who became an advocate for my Nephew and put in extra work and time to help figure out what to do for him. This included going over to the High School, taking classes there, going to MIT and CAL Tech for summer programs and he graduated at age 13 and went to Stanford through a special program for younger college students. As far as socially, it is tough, I remember this was always a concern because he could have graduated high school earlier. The high school kids really liked him though. It wasn't a typical peer experience but he was able to "catch up" in that area later and I've never gotten the impression he felt like he missed anything socially.
Back to your son - I also think his Kindergarten teacher was lacking, My daughters teacher knew exactly what level all the children were reading at, high or low. I'm sure you already know this but you are going to have to choose his teachers, just as parents with special needs children do. You want the right teachers who will do the most for him and will partner with you on what he needs whether or not there is a "program" already in place. I know that is difficult in this day and age of cutbacks but what an awesome opportunity for a teacher! Take care, and all the best!

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answers from Houston on

My parents had this option with me and chose not to do it - and I am very glad they did. Staying with my peers helped my confidence level. Since then I have excelled in school and my professional career. School is not all about the academics, it is about social development as well. My best friend in high school was the youngest in the class and she truly struggled academically (forcing her out of many extracurricular activities because of the no pass-no play rule) and she did not do well socially either (she was sexually promiscuous at a very young age). I agree with Page - I have never heard those stats before either. Kids are kids for such a short period - let them have fun in school and play "Star Wars" with their age group - he will have plenty of time to be serious with his studies later.

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answers from Austin on

I do not understand why your childs school cannot work out a special learning plan for him. At our daughters public elementary school, we had quite a few highly gifted students.

In kindergarten one young boy was reading on a 7th grade level. They had a special shelf of books, selected just for him. He and his parents were even invited to the middle school to work with the librarian selecting appropriate books.
He was still only 5 and needed to be with his peers, but they worked with him.

We also had a couple of children that while in 4th and 5th grade attended math classes at the local high school. Their mothers would drive them there attend the classes and then drive them back to elementary school.

One of these young men, began attending a few college classes while only 13.
It is a juggling act. They are still children, they may be mature in a few ways, but in others they still have the same emotional fears, insecurities and confusions of their true ages.

At some point these parents decided to place their children in private school where the campus had all 12 grades on one campus.

Do have the testing and do advocate for your son, but keep in mind he is still a little boy. He will never lose his IQ or love of learning. But he still will needs to experience being a child so he can meet his social milestones also,

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answers from Denver on

I was a gifted child. Let him go - academically let him be with his inltellectual peers. My family decided that I should not be in the gifted program because they didn't want me to be a social outcast. I wasn't really a social outcast, but I didn't have many firends ANYWAY... the mind works very differently when you are gifted. You may or may not be a social outcast and that has nothing to do with your intellect...
I was bored and therefore in trouble all the time. I did receive straight A's in all my classes except in high school gym (I refused to do things that I thought were "stupid" like take a shower when I didn't sweat.)

This is just one vote for letting him go ahead. Don't pressure your child, and by the same token, encourage the things he loves and excels at.
Good luck

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answers from Colorado Springs on

Can you homeschool him? You would be able to offer him exactly what he needs academically, without any hindrance or consideration of "grade." You could just continue to give him more of what he needs, and keep going! I don't know if you work outside the home or not, so this might not seem like an option to you, but in your situation, it seems like the logical answer. Why hold him back academically, even if he is not ready emotionally of being with the older kids. I think one of my concerns with putting him up in the higher grades is that they will be exposed to things before he would ever be ready for them. He also might struggle with being the shortest, youngest, not being able to drive when all his peers are, etc. And, if he is on this track now, don't you think that perhaps he will continue to progress faster than the others? He will continue to excel, he probably won't just be "one year ahead" as he matures and grows. I assume he will not be satisfied with just one grade level ahead, at least eventually. Lots to think about. I hope you can find a good solution that works for your family.

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answers from Salt Lake City on

Don't underestimate social maturity and growth. 2 families I know of that skipped, ended up regretting b/c their kids struggled with friends later on and socially. It seems that more than half the game in life is social. You will make the best choice for your child I am sure. It seems you are considering so many things.

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answers from Denver on

All of my experiences of moving a kid forward a grade or two has been negative on the social side and positive on the academic side. You are absolutely right, your son will quickly learn to slack off if you don't do something. There are a few things I would suggest to you:

- first check to see if your district has a magnet school. In our district we have an IB Gifted School that you can send your kids to (if accepted). Kids in 3rd grade are doing high school Trig. and things like that.

- Check to see if there is another school that accommodates potentially gifted kids earlier and choice in. At the public school my son was in for a while, they started putting kids with the GT teacher in kindergarten and they had programs where the kids would stay in their same grade but the teachers would do the math and reading at the level they were performing.

- Another thing to look at is private education or home schooling. We put our son in private school after 3rd grade. We learned right away that the academic agenda at this school was a full year ahead of where the public school he came from was. It was pretty sad really that all that time he could have at least been doing school work a year ahead of his grade level. Another thing they do is move the kids around for different subjects, so in my son's 5th grade class there is one kid that goes to the 7th grade class for math and a group of kids go to the 8th grade class for reading. In short they spend very little time outside of their age group but get the benefit of advanced education.

As far as your husband's concerns about sports, you do not have to put him in the school's sports program, he can enroll in city or state programs and stick with his skill level or age group. The biggest thing to remember is if you guys are stressed then you will pass the stress to your kid. Whatever age he is, just let it be, your goal is to help him be successful not worry about how old he is, how smart he is, or what level of math he does, just how hard he works to get there, make sense?

Hope this helps.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I grew up in at a time and in a state where there was not any sort of gifted programs until high school, and even there the only "advanced" track was doubling up on geometry and algebra in tenth grade to allow for calculus in twelfth grade. If your child is gifted, I'd say take every advantage possible towards allowing that academic talent to blossom. If your child has a talent in sports, club teams or after school programs are amply available. But a chance to be amongst gifted and talented academic peers is, sadly, far more limited. And, at least in Los Angeles where I now live, the window of opportunity for the best GATE programs and magnet schools is a small one.



answers from New York on

I wish I would have had the opportunity to have my daughter skip 1st grade. She was so bored and learned absolutely nothing. It taught her that she didn't need to her best, just what was required. Now a sophmore, she still only does what is required to get a A or a B (she's taking honors classes), and rarely challenges herself.

And about the teachers not noticing. I was lucky and with 2 exceptions had good teachers. They noticed, but really couldn't/wouldn't do much because they needed to consider what worked for the entire class.

The T&G program in our school system was a joke. For 2nd & 4th grade there were some special after school classes they could take. In 5th grade, they were pulled out of class one afternoon a week to work on special science experiments, the kids loved it, but it just wasn't enough. T&G doesn't exist for middle school. I hope your school district has a good program.

Good luck.

I will add that my other daughter who is also extremely bright and is an excellent student is one of the youngest in her class. She has classmates that are a full 2 years older than her. Something to consider as he gets older when his friends are doing activities that you feel he's just not ready for yet.



answers from Provo on

I have a child that skipped through K after being there for two weeks because the school required a "trial". Thank goodness her K teacher was aware and helped us fight to get her where she needed to be. She actually tested into 3rd grade at that point, but with two older siblings just above her, and her being younger anyway, we were not comfortable with her skipping more than one grade. After her hear in first grade she was STILL bored and the teacher was commenting that she was actually dumbing herself down to fit in more with those around her.
We ended up homeschooling her for a bit and it was wonderful, especially for her. She is back in public school now, is by far the youngest in her grade, but doing just fine. She is still working at a level above the majority of the kids in her grade, but we have been blessed with teachers who are willing to work with that, and enlist our help in doing so. If we didn't have that I would absolutely homeschool her again.
The irony of that of course being that the big argument against both skipping grades and homeschooling is socialization......

We got a lot of flack about the age difference thing, but honestly it irritated me that the school counselors and psychologists were so short sighted; they were all focused on jr high and high school and kept telling me I had to look at the long term (referring to older grades and teen years), when I actually WAS looking at long term-college, adulthood, real life!

I have absolutely no regret in her skipping a grade, and would have pushed for her to skip two if it wouldn't have put her in the same grade our child just older than her. With the options of finishing high school early and online schooling now as well, I love that there are so many possibilities for her to finish school in the way that will work best when that time does roll around.



answers from Seattle on

We had our son skip first grade. We really had very few options for gifted in our district. He was very advanced in all academic areas, socially and emotionally mature and tall for his age. Still, he was always referred to as the "smart kid who skipped first grade." Even through High School his classmates would point it out which surprised me. Socially size is really important to boys and can affect their perception of their self, social status, ability and participation in sports. If your son is smaller and younger it probably will be an issue and could affect his self esteem among other things. For our son I think the biggest impact was social in high school when the other kids were dating and driving and he was a year behind. That said, he was always on the tall side and very successful in sports and made varsity in football, soccer and the swim team. He says he is glad we did it, he is 19 now. I think it really depends on the child. It does affect them all through school, even more than I had thought it would. I would only have skipped him knowing he was emotionally and socially mature, regardless of his academic ability. Best of luck to you and your family.



answers from Chicago on

I just took a Gifted Education seminar this summer, and you are absolutely correct that he needs the academic challenge. In the class, they said that many parents do worry about the social ramifications of advancing a child, but that in most cases, it is not a problem. Let the school test him and then find out what all of your options are. They will most likely have a school psychologist evaluate him to see if he's ready for that move. If he's not going to be challenged in his current placement, I would move him... in a gifted program, he will be with other children who are more like himself. Your hubby may be disappointed to learn that not every boy has to be an athlete! Good luck!



answers from Denver on

Sorry if this is repetitive, but can you check with a different school or school district? I'm not sure how things are where you live, but I know in my particular school distirct there is 1 (yes 1) elementary school that offers the GT program, and it starts in Kindergarten,l so if our kids were to qualify for gifted we'd have to send them to that school. Is it possible to take him to a different school that may start thier gifted program earlier than the 2nd grade?



answers from Phoenix on

Have you considered homeschooling him? If that's not an option, I'd move him up a grade. I guess it would depend on what will stress him out more... being bored to tears academically or being behind socially and physically. I homeschool my kids and I have one that I skipped a grade because she taught herself to read before I had a chance to officially start school with her. So at church she's younger and smaller than all the other kids, but she isn't bothered by it. I was also younger than all the kids at school and graduated from HS 7 months before I turned 18. I had no problem being younger and smaller than everyone. (I was a late bloomer too!) Good luck!!



answers from Seattle on

If you can't send him to a gifted school or homeschool him DEFINITELY skip him. ASAP.

My son went into K knowing everything that was taught in *that* school district's 3rd grade curriculum. I can't even begin to tell you how much *damage* was done that year, and he had a phenom teacher who really worked with him and the other boy who was yards ahead to try and give them at least ONE thing interesting to do each day (and she was disciplined for that, as well). He went from a kid who loved learning beyond all things, and was sooooo excited to go to "big school", to a kid who would smile and wave at his friends on the bus, hop out, climb into the car and BAWL for over an hour. He was sooooo miserable, and so bored... but he's also super extroverted and big hearted... so he didn't want his friends to feel bad. It just broke my heart, over and over and over. And to top it all off... he CHANGED. Instead of getting excited about something, he'd pretend (so obvious, kiddo is a terrible liar) until at least halfway in, because he was used to adult talking up something that turned out to be boring, a.g.a.i.n., he stopped asking questions, he stopped making connections, he stopped doing things he'd found fun, he stopped listening... he just ground to a halt. The excited, curious, vivacious little boy I had grown to know just *stopped*. Plodding was what was expected of him, so he plodded. And kept his mouth shut. And turned off his mind.

That year took 6 months of constant and daily coaxing to get him back to half the boy he had been. It's been 3 years now and we're *almost* back to how he had been before.

The school's solution was to move him to the 3rd grade and put him in the gifted program (only 1-2 hours a week... it's important to realize a lot of G/T programs have limited to no funding at all... so some are every day, and some are just a token to keep those kids in the district instead of transferring out). That would have meant social suicide, as in our area people don't usually start k UNTIL SIX OR 7... so 3rd didn't even mean 8/9 yos, but 9/10ys with a few 11 year olds. And these aren't "multi-age-classroom kids like you find in montessori or homeschool classrooms... these are kids who are used to *only* being with their same age peers and who look down on younger kids and stand in awe of older kids. A FIVE year old in with kids twice his age? Huh-uh. Not gonna happen. We chose not to accept their solution, and looked into the local (killer/awesome/amazing) gifted school (imagine... running between classes is ENCOURAGED... kids are grouped by age groups of 3 years, but work on the level of work they test into... so they just get used to "S.'s a science chick, Max is a music guy, Jessie's a numbers girl, Bobby is a language guy, aka some people are passionate about x, while others are passionate about y, etc), and looked into homeschooling... and decided to homeschool.

I think your school's solution is soooo much more reasonable than ours was, and if their G/T program is even halfway decent JUMP on it.

PS... Yeah the whole "they'll catch up" thing would be ludicrous if it wasn't so very sad. The idea that keeping one group of kids from learning anything for 3-4 years so that everyone the same age is at the same level as being okay is just completely unacceptable in my book. People are good at different things, and develop at different rates. If a baby is walking you don't bind their arms and legs to keep them from walking until every other child learns to walk.



answers from Great Falls on

I see you got a lot of posts, but I wanted to let you know I totally understand! My daughter was advanced in Kindergarten and we chose (after lots of research, prayer and advice) to skip her to second. I think it's a highly personal decision - depending on the child, the parents, and the school. It is the best decision we made for our daughter - she is in 7th now and is still at the top of her class. She does fine socially - makes friends easily and adapts well. The boredom factor was huge for me - I didn't want her bored and checking out (which she has done and continues to do if we don't watch!) Besides grade-skipping, we offer a lot of "extra learning" at home to help her continue to be challenged. I so understand where you are and the agony of this decision. If you want to talk more or need support/friendship, let me know! Having a gifted child is a huge blessing, but also challenging for parents - make sure you have plenty of support around you. Good luck on your decision!




answers from Topeka on

My son is 7 in the 1st grade he is older than the rest taller and more mature than the rest.He has an after enrollment birthday so they wouldn't allow me to send him to school after his birthday so he will always be the oldest i'm sure he's not the only one.I would do what ever you want to you want to send him to 2nd grade send him my husband always tell me your going to do whatever you want to do regardless of what I have to say & yup sure enough it is so true..



answers from Boise on

What does your son want? There are definitely emotional concerns. Does his teacher think he is mature enough to skip? On the other hand if they are bored in school that can be even worse. What is the harm of having him tested and then making the decision?



answers from Denver on

My son is a year ahead and has an IEP type thing for being gifted, and gets lots of services even though he is not in the gifted program. It's worth getting him evaluated, but they should be able to do something at his age level, not only at a certain grade level.

I think it depends a lot on the kid. My nephew is going to graduate high school at 16, and loves where he is in school -- he's a 14 yo JR right now. My son just turned 7 and is in 3rd. My next son -- not a chance! We actually hold him back as one of the older ones in his class and just get additional services, and even then, he wishes he were in class with younger kids. Last year at church he was in the 2 and 3s class and was disappointed that he has to go in with 5 yo now that he is 4. Most the 3yo are also in this class. I'm schooling him for kindergarten now, but he will be enrolled in kindergarten with an IEP next year. We'll see how that goes, but he really likes being with kids his age or younger. The school is very excited at our plan for him, as well as being supportive of our other son being so far ahead. Like your husband, most of our older son's friends are in first grade now.

I really think this is a decision that has to be made for each child. Your son sounds a lot like our older one. We're just a few weeks into school, and the teacher has already commented that we may need to actually enroll in the gifted program for next year. The work just isn't challenging enough, and he's getting into trouble at school. GL!



answers from Detroit on

Wow. My twin family! Except we have a girl. We almost moved my daughter into first grade last year from kindergarten. Ultimately, we did not because my husband wasn't completely comfortable with it. We lucked out, though, because her school has a multi-age program where a couple of classes are 1st and 2nd grade mixed together, which works for this year. I think part of the reason my husband didn't want to move her up is that for some reason, a lot of parents in our district decided to have their kids wait to start k'garten (i.e. October birthdays start at 5 years old instead of four) so instead of being one of the older kids, my daughter is one of the younger ones. If gifted starts in second in your district, I would definately consider moving him up. I was like you; I have an October birthday so I started kindergarten when I was four and I never had to work hard for good grades (which messed me up for awhile in college - "Study? How do you do that?")

My personal opinion is that you don't know if they are even going to like or be good at sports anyway; why hold them back academically for that? especially if your son wants to move up. Aren't acedemics supposed to be more important anyway? Plus, who says he can't go back to first grade if it doesn't work out?

Good luck - it's a tough decision.

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