In most states, the definition of giftedness is fairly broad. A child can be gifted because he or she is exceptionally creative, good at academics, great at athletics, or possesses leadership qualities (I must admit that I have never noticed a 6-year old with exceptional leadership qualities in over five years of working with elementary-aged children directly and observing many classrooms).
It is federally mandated that all children are to receive a “free and appropriate education.” This includes gifted children as well as those who need help catching up. I don’t think counting the dots on the ceiling during class counts as receiving an appropriate education.
But, I believe that you need to follow three key steps before deciding that your child should skip a grade:
1st Step: You need to look at your child as a whole person
Your fourth grader might be able to read at a high school level and understand the concept of pi when finding the area of a circle, but skipping fifth grade might not be the right choice. You need to consider where your child is at socially and developmentally. Attending school is not only about learning how to read, write, and do math. Children also learn how to initiate appropriate social interactions, follow rules, make friends, and find appropriate ways of getting what they need independently. If your child is socially on-par with his or her same-age peers, taking him or her out of his or her circle of friends might make things difficult. Lastly, consider if your child is happy in his or her grade, even if the work is too easy.
Sometimes, a child will be advanced across the board. Not only will he or she have advanced academic abilities, but he or she will also typically have older friends and demonstrate a high level of appropriate self-advocacy. Also, he or she will want to learn how to be more independent than a typical child his or her age. A younger child might want to demonstrate independence by completing homework without being prompted and expressing interest in learning how to cook and clean. A teenager might show more adult interests including organizing his or her own activities, finding employment independently, and making realistic future goals along with plans to achieve them.
2nd Step: Involve your child and his or her teacher or counselor in the decision
A younger child might be less able to have a comprehensive view on skipping a grade, whereas a teenager should be able to come up with a plan. If your teenager wants to skip a grade, he or she should figure out what the process for skipping a grade is from his or her school counselor, gather all necessary materials, give his or her reasons for wanting to skip a grade, and come up with a realistic plan for after high school. If he or she can figure it all out independently and provide sound reasoning, skipping a grade might be a good option.
Whereas a teenager can take on more responsibility for his or her decisions, you need to rely on a younger child’s teacher to make an informed decision. It is not unusual for children to act differently at home and at school. Actually, it is the norm. Your child’s teacher might see things very differently for a good reason: your child might act differently when you are not around. If you suspect that your elementary-aged child does not have the right placement, collaborate with his or her teacher. Be sure to be open to what his or her teacher has to say. Teachers tend to know the kids in their classes well by winter break. Teachers know who is friends with who, what your child is like in a group setting, and can make an informed recommendation.
3rd Step: Reflect and make sure that your child always comes first
Sometimes, it can be easy to get so excited at your child’s accomplishments that you can forget about what is most important. All parents want their kids to grow up to be healthy, happy, and successful. Later in life, no one asks or seems to care at what age another person graduated high school. Do your best to make sure that your child is in the right place to grow socially and emotionally as well as academically.
This contribution comes courtesy of Missy Diaz who writes on behalf of School Tutoring Academy, a site dedicated to finding good tutors for your child.