Let the Kid Skip a Grade

On a Facebook group I belong to, a mom posted that in her child’s parent/teacher conference, the teacher recommended that her child skip the next grade. The mom was very happy, and proud of her child. Almost all of the comments, however, went something like this:

  • If your daughter skips a grade she will be younger than all of the other kids in her class and she will be miserable.
  • There’s no possible way she could be ready for it socially.
  • Put her in private school, or get the teacher to give her extra work. She’ll be fine.

I have a very different perspective.

I should have skipped a grade. I taught myself to read when I was 4. I could count to 99 in Kindergarten (the highest in the class). In first grade, I changed schools. I went to Christ the King, a private Catholic school. The first day, they said the alphabet first thing in the morning. I refused. I did that in Kindergarten. Only babies said the alphabet. I could do all of the work they assigned with ease. They were teaching kids to read, but I had been reading for two years.

Socially? I was a mess. Everyone hated me because I was the teacher’s pet and a know-it-all. It wasn’t my fault I knew all the answers. I didn’t rub it in the other kids’ faces. But I was a nerd. I preferred reading to recess.

In third grade, my teacher tried the “give Robyn extra work” thing. It failed miserably. At first, I was proud to be doing advanced homework. Then, I realized I had more homework than anyone else. I was being punished for being smart. What’s more, I’m not sure my teacher ever cared about the extra homework. I think it was something she did to get me off her back about wanting to learn more.

Apparently, the adults in my life thought I would be too young if I skipped a grade. I was already the youngest person in my class, because of my September birthday. I started Kindergarten at age 4, 1st grade at 5, and so on. I was 17 when I started college. If I skipped a grade, I would have started college at 16.

Yes, that does seem young. But I can’t say that I thought about it much when I was being teased relentlessly all throughout elementary school and junior high. I had very few friends, and even those I did have pretty much just tolerated me, as opposed to really liking me.

There were other issues, besides just being smart. I was lower middle class in a school full of upper middle class kids. I was fat in a class of the freakishly thin (OK, there were two other fat girls, but one was really funny, so everyone liked her).

In some ways, I was immature, but in others, I was more mature. The kids in my class actually went through an entire year where they refused to say the word “balls” because it’s also a word for “testicles.” I knew what the alternate meaning was. I just didn’t care. And I was teased for that. I was teased for being the first girl to get breasts – something that would not have happened if I skipped a grade. I was teased for calling the boys “Neanderthals” when they behaved like, well, Neanderthals. They said, “You’re such a nerd, you can’t even think of a normal insult.”

I was never bullied for being the youngest in my class. I was bullied for being the smartest. I wish someone had spoken up for me, and gone to bat for me with the adults who decided I’d be fine. I wasn’t fine. Not for a long time.

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4 thoughts on “Let the Kid Skip a Grade

  1. Well-written post! I see both sides of it and have actually seen (in person) both sides, so it’s hard to say what’s best. On a more personal note, my 4th grade teacher wanted me to skip 2 grades–go into 7th the next year. My parents said no. The teacher even tried to get the school board to require it, but they declined. For me it would have been the wrong thing to be moved ahead. I thought I was mature, but I actually was very immature. My teacher was right about the intellectual component, but my parents were right about the rest.

    • I think there’s a big difference between skipping 2 grades – from elementary to middle school – and skipping 1 grade. In this particular case, the mom was talking skipping Kindergarten, which isn’t even compulsory in all states, so some kids never go at all anyway. In my case, we were looking at skipping either second grade or third grade.

  2. I think it really does depend on the kid and how they are doing socially. My parents chose not to let me skip and, even so, I really struggled when I left for college at 17 (like you, also the youngest in my grade without skipping). Not with the work, but with being away and socially. I was always a super shy reserved kid who struggled in groups. I was much more ready for that at 18 or even 19. I am glad I didn’t go to college at 16 because I think that would have been even harder. But for many kids, I think it could be the right decision. If that is the case with any of my kids, I am sure I will really struggle with what to do because there is so much to weigh.

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