Ask the grumpies: Skipping K?

The frugal ecologist asks:

Our LO is in Montessori but started early so she will do the 3 years before she’d be eligible for K. (3rd year Montessori is K). I’m intrigued about having her skip a grade and start in 1st at 5. What are factors to look for about being ready to skip, any particular grade better to skip or not, etc etc?

You may want to find the Iowa Acceleration Scale.  Here’s Hoagie’s gifted talking about it.  It basically provides questions that will help you think about what’s important in terms of skipping vs. not skipping.  For example, if your family is really really into sports, then skipping isn’t as good an idea as if you’re ok with your kid not being the star athlete at school.  It’s a bit pricey and may not be useful without having taken concurrent IQ tests, so it might be worthwhile just to read up about the general ideas it covers online without actually getting a number.  (But if you want to do testing, that works too!)

It sounds like in your LO’s case, that your child will not actually be skipping K– she will be getting K at Montessori, which is pretty common (something my sister did back in the day!).  So basically you’re asking if she should do K a second time in public school after having done it at Montessori.

I would look into what K is in  your state.  If you’re on the core, then they’re going to expect more than if you’re in a state that doesn’t require K, doesn’t have full-time K, or is in one of the states that refused to go on the core.  For schools on the core, you’ll want to make sure that your LO has mastered the K skillset, which may include reading and simple arithmetic.

IIRC, you’re in a state in which K is mainly for all the kids who didn’t go to preschool to learn how to play nicely with others and reading isn’t really tackled until 1st grade.  (Though your individual school district may vary.  Definitely check the K learning objectives for your district for the year.)  Given that your child went to preschool, I would be very tempted to skip out.  Unless, of course, you’re in a situation like ours in which you want to do the dual-language option and you have to start at K.

This website discusses details and research about acceleration.  One of the things it mentions is that they recommend not skipping the year before starting at a new school.  So if your elementary school is K-4, they recommend not skipping 4th grade.  I’m not sure how big a deal this is in practice, since kids get moved around from schools because of their parents’ jobs all the time.  But maybe it matters in marginal cases.

We chose acceleration for DC1 because zie was bored and starting to act out and hir preschool had run out of materials and was suggesting that the entire next year DC1 would act as a teacher’s aide.  Zie had already mastered all the K skills (except cutting, but zie mastered cutting in the summer before K).  Our private school tested hir and suggested to us doing K and 1st concurrently.  That worked out quite well, though in retrospect, zie probably didn’t need the K at all.

So, I guess I would think about the following:

  • Was the LO in preschool?  If yes, then that aspect of K is unnecessary.  Zie knows how to line up and listen to the teacher etc.
  • Has the LO mastered the skillset that will be taught in K?  This will vary by your LO, the preschool, and the school district.  If not, then there’s less value to skipping K because there’s less chance the LO will be bored in K.
  • All that other stuff on the Iowa Acceleration scale like sports and siblings and so on.

There are a lot of misconceptions people have about grade skipping– there are plenty of reasons not to skip for most kids, but for kids who can skip, the things random “helpful” people will suggest to you are just not real concerns.  So… I would not worry about your LO’s size.  DC1 has skipped two grades and has still not been the smallest kid in hir grade in public school even though zie is of exactly average height.  People also have been pretty nice to hir– hir social experience has been very different than mine was and has been much more like my experience in my single-subject skipped math classes.  I would also not worry about drivers licenses etc.  The trend right now is for kids to put off driving until they’re much older than 16.

In general, it’s easier to start out in 1st and say you’re trying it out and then drop back to K midyear than it is to start out in K and do a mid-year skip up to 1st.

In general, I’m very pro-skipping for kids who have mastered the material prior to the year starting.  For kids who have mastered most, but not all, of the material, it is going to depend on more stuff, like how much they act out when they get bored, how quickly they can pick up what they’ve missed, and so on.

For our kids, we’re still taking it a year at a time.

Update:  Before another person posts about grade skipping being bad based on one anecdote for which they do not know the counterfactual (note:  research suggests that on average, the counterfactual would have been worse!), please read this post here.

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27 Responses to “Ask the grumpies: Skipping K?”

  1. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    I skipped first grade and I think it sucked for my social development, and took me until my mid-twenties to recover.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I didn’t skip any grades and was bullied socially until I got to GT boarding school. I still have middle school trauma. The only places I wasn’t bullied were when I was with older students, like in my math classes or in extracurriculars. You do not know the counterfactual.

      In any case the research evidence is that gifted kids do far better socially if they skip than if they don’t skip.

      • CG Says:

        My best friend skipped third grade when she moved to our city (as an aside, I entered K early so I was also young for my grade). She says socially it was a mixed bag. As it turned out, by the time we got to high school, our class was a particularly strong one with lots of terrific smart people to be friends with. The class she would have been in if she hadn’t skipped wouldn’t have been nearly as good a fit. But the elementary school we attended was not a good place to be a small, young, smart girl, and she said she went from being socially at the top in second grade at her old school to pretty close to the bottom in our school. Obviously, being the new kid could have been a big part of that. However, I think it’s worthwhile thinking about the social culture of the school–some places are a lot kinder than others to those who are outside the mainstream in any way–talent, age, race/ethnicity, sexuality, etc.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Note that places with more bullying are probably going to be bad whether you skip or not because a gifted kid is different in either situation.

      • Leah Says:

        Yes, I’d concur that bullying is likely more school specific than whether or not one skips a grade. I was red-shirted for K (started just before I turned 6) for a variety of factors. I had no issues being a gifted kid in K-5 with the multiple different schools I went to. I moved across the country for 6th grade in an elementary school that had an awful culture for gifted kids. I was mocked and called some terrible names, and I didn’t even understand it. Why would someone make fun of you for school? It didn’t even compute. I also got the mean girl treatment there. The bullying and such continued, tho to a lesser extent each year, until I got to the high school building in 10th grade. There, we had a big enough honors cohort that I didn’t even really interact with any kids outside of honors unless I’d known them from middle school.

        I sincerely wish that I had skipped 6th grade, even if I wouldn’t have been in honors classes anymore. Tho I still think I would have ended up in honors. For some reason, they put me in standard history in 7th grade. Lots of bullying in there (tho the teacher was great and worked to shut most of it down) and 98-100% on every test and ended up in full honors the rest of my schooling.

        Anyway, long story to say that you should check the school culture, but it’s really hard to check the school culture because I imagine much of this is stuff adults don’t see, so they think the culture is fine.

  2. Anonymous15 Says:

    There’s some great research available on the effects of grade skipping/acceleration in the field of gifted ed. Look for articles by Assouline and by Steenbergen-Hu among others. Generally the findings are positive in all areas, including social development.

  3. Chelsea Says:

    How does skipping early grades differ for public vs. private schools? Or does that totally depend on the public vs private school? We’ve flirted with the idea of grade skipping for our son (birthday very early in the academic year, in “school” basically his entire life, possibly likely to act out if bored, loves playing with kids a little older than himself) but there is an age requirement for both K and 1st grade in our local public school district. I’ve been told – though I haven’t done my own research – that it’s because the school won’t receive funding (federal? state? this wasn’t specified) for a student who isn’t old enough. Does this ring true for other parents of grade-skipped public school children?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      It totally depends on the school. It is much easier with schools that are supportive of it. Our public school has gone from not allowing it to having a published formal procedure on how to do it. We still can’t start K early in public school, only private, but we can skip K entirely. (When we were living in another state, the publics allowed early K but none of the local privates did– this also will vary!)

      Part of the reason we did private with K was because DC1 couldn’t start early in public. But zie would have been able to transfer at 1st if we had wanted to.

  4. Mary Says:

    Skipping a grade was a disaster for me. But I was very shy and very small. My birthday was late in the year, so I ended up being with kids who were almost two years older than me. Skipping was not the norm back then, so I was teased and bullied constantly for being “so smart.” And, because I was freakishly advanced in reading and writing, skipping did nothing to alleviate my boredom. (It did work pretty well for math, which was not my strength).

    I’m sure that it would have been different if I had been more socially confident and closer to average size.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      You probably would have been teased and bullied if you had stayed as well. Research suggests that socially it is better for kids who skipped than those who didn’t. It sounds like maybe you didn’t skip enough.

      • Mary Says:

        You may well be right. As you point out, we can’t explore the counterfactual. But of course, even if the majority of kids do better when they skip grades, there will likely always be a few kids who do worse.

        And, honestly, it was really bad for me. After the skip, I developed severe anxiety and selective mutism (neither of which had been an issue before). I became essentially unable to speak in a school setting — a problem that continued for years.

        However, I’m sure that many kids benefit from skipping a grade or two.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        It seems like at that point there should have been further intervention, either undoing the skip, stopping the bullying, or something else at that point.

        The best we can do is to take it one day at a time.

  5. gasstationwithoutpumps Says:

    I skipped partway through the year from 2nd to 3rd grade. I was already the youngest in the class in 2nd grade, and I was small for my age, so I was always the smallest and smartest in my class through high school. Skipping neither helped nor hurt me socially—I would have been a misfit no matter what. Skipping did get me into college sooner, and taking my BS in 3 years got me into grad school sooner, where I finally felt more at home.

    We wrestled with the idea of accelerating our son each year (he is probably brighter than I was), but always found other ways to keep him challenged. We’ll never know whether our decisions were the right ones, but they seem to have worked out ok.

  6. chacha1 Says:

    I didn’t have the option of skipping any grades but I sure wish I could have. 2nd grade in particular was painful. It was right after we moved from Wisconsin to south Georgia, and I was the only one in the class who could read and write complete sentences. … Early admission to college felt like early release from jail.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      My entire 4th grade class (well, the GT half, anyway) could have skipped 5th grade. They decided that year to stop accelerating so we had to redo the 5th grade curriculum that we’d already done as 4th graders. SO AWFUL.

  7. jjiraffe Says:

    This is really interesting. One of my children definitely shows signs of being gifted (and has been evaluated as such) and we’re currently managing by having them enrolled in an academically challenging bilingual school, and they are at their grade level. We have them engaged in many activities (piano, chess, coding, robotics) to help prevent boredom and challenge them more (and teach grit). I think we would have them skip a grade if they were in the local public school. For now, we’re taking it day-by-day. Thanks for the link – helpful advice.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Day-by-day (or year-by-year) is definitely a good way to go. Sometimes things work for a while and then stop working or situations change etc. DC1 and DC2 are equally smart, but they’re ending up going different paths mainly because their birthdays are 6 months offset (technically 5 years 6 mo) and because DC2’s preschool has more academically challenging stuff than DC1’s did and so hasn’t run out yet. I suspect zie will need a gradeskip around 2nd or 3rd grade from what I’ve heard from other GT parents with kids in dual-language both here and online. But we will play it by ear. It’s nice that our public school has a formal process for whole grade skips.

  8. Crone Says:

    Check your state and school expectations and requirements. My youngest is just finishing K. CA cut off is Sept 1; birthday Aug 25; youngest in class by 3 months, eldest in class will turn 7 one week after first grade starts. Ending K speaking, reading, and writing in English and Mandarin; also doing adding and subtraction in single digits with exposure to fractions and their meaning. What would your school expect of a first grader?

  9. Leah Says:

    Maybe a future ask the grumpies — when did you first recognize that DC1 was gifted? Do you think DC2 is also gifted?

    Curious because our daughter doesn’t sleep much, has trouble falling asleep, was an earlier talker and loves reading books. She also shows quite the streak of perfectionism. Trying not to read too much into it, as she’s not quite three, but I am curious. Both my husband and I were “gifted” kids in school. Just wanting to figure out our decisions with pre-k and what to do. She’s in a pre-k class at daycare already, and I don’t plan to start her in K until age 5, so she’ll do two years at her daycare pre-k. Wondering if I should find a more challenging pre-K for her second year. The local Catholic school does a pre-k that I’ve heard amazing things about.

    • Leah Says:

      I should mention that she also seems bright, but I don’t know if that is parent bias or not. Lots of people in town tell me she is bright, but we live in a really blue color town. She doesn’t seem particularly brighter than similar friends and their kids. But, again, hard to say.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Sure, we can add that to the queue, though tbh, we just assumed our kids will be since that’s the norm in our families.

      Btw, some research study showed that most parents who think their kids are gifted turn out to be right.

  10. J Liedl Says:

    Another factor to consider is your child’s social skills and comfort level. Some children mingle into new groups easily or your child might be one of several to move from the Montessori to the 1st grade, bringing friends with her/him. Others would find the transitions stressful.

    FWIW, we opted to put Eldest into a French Immersion school at the appropriate age level instead of non-immersion at a year advanced. This was in recognition of the unique opportunities in immersion coupled with her already visible social stressors. During her years in immersion, she was occasionally in mixed classes with the grade ahead and did well, but she heavily relied upon her age-mates for social connections and never made those with kids in the year ahead.

  11. The frugal ecologist Says:

    Thank you so much for the resources. I will check into the standards for our state. The 3 year old can sound put several words, can write her name and can do some simple addition/subtraction. I will bookmark this for when we get a bit closer to needing to make a decision.


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