My son came home with a list of words. The goal is for all first graders to read that list by the end of the year. He read the list out loud while he ate his after-school snack.

I was so upset that I offered him another bowl of ice cream so we didn’t have to talk.

I thought I would have fear that I wasn’t teaching my homeschooled son well enough. But all my worries are for the boy who’s in school.

27 replies
  1. Victoria
    Victoria says:

    If he is ahead of his classmates, why not see if he can skip a grade?

    This just shows that you are doing a great job in educating your children at home. If you are going to keep your son in school, you will have to continue advocating for him. It looks like you are doing a terrific job.

  2. Jana Miller
    Jana Miller says:

    oh my goodness…I wouldn’t skip him a grade. That’s really hard on kids but it’s also hard sitting around bored out of your mind.

    Do you have a homeschool support group where he could take classes a couple days a week or at least go to a couple of park days? that might make him rethink homeschooling.

    Jana

  3. Lori
    Lori says:

    what’s wrong with skipping a grade? my school wanted to skip me two grades and my parents said no way. i was the tallest girl and i was bored out of my mind until .. college. skipping would have been the best solution.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I think it’s pretty well established that skipping a grade is not good for a kid. Just because a kid is really bright doesn’t mean their social and emotional skills are a year ahead.

      My son’s dad skipped a grade and hated it.

      I’m hoping the idea of differentiated instruction has made it to our school. I think you can have a kid learning different math but similar social skills more easily than learning different social skills and similar math.

      Penelope

      • Jana Miller
        Jana Miller says:

        Yes, I agree. Especially for boys…they seem to be further behind girls socially and skipping a grade really puts them at a disadvantage. And it’s a lot to manage work wise even for a bright child.

      • karelys
        karelys says:

        i seriously thought that everywhere you could be doing classes at different levels if need be. For example, 5th grade math if you’re in 4th and 3th English if need be. Maybe that’s just something where I come from??

        • Penelope Trunk
          Penelope Trunk says:

          Our school tells me that this is the first year they are doing differentiated instruction. So hopefully that will work for us.

          I think the differentiated instruction will be the key factor to determining if I keep my son in the school or not. If there is no differentiated instruction, I can’t see how he can stay.

          Penelope

      • Lori
        Lori says:

        maybe this is generally true. it wouldn’t have been true for me. my best friend was already in the class they wanted to skip me to. being far beyond my classmates academically was no social picnic; at least skipping grades would have made the work less boring and i could have graduated sooner.

        my son skipped one grade and is planning to start college at 16. he’s mature beyond his years, to grab a handy cliché. he’s 14 but he looks 20. he has friends his own age and older.

        we have friends that skipped their son a grade and he suffered socially. we have other friends who artificially held their son back *two* years — über-redshirting — and he is suffering socially because he’s *too* mature for his classmates. but anecdotal evidence aside, this has to be something that is taken on a case by case basis. i don’t care if it doesn’t work for 99% of kids as long as it works for mine. once you go full customization, you never go back.

        • Lori
          Lori says:

          it occurs to me that, in this era of rampant redshirting, simply by enrolling your child at the traditional age (e.g., starting K at age 5) you are essentially skipping him a grade.

  4. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    Well, I guess if he’s going to show how smart he is, then he’s going to have to get more words! Keep challenging him!

  5. Claire
    Claire says:

    Hi Penelope: I’m having a similar experience with my oldest who is in 1st grade. When school started we were given a list of sight words the class was going to learn and he already knows all the words on that list. Our school does do differentiated learning and I can see why it’s challenging for the teacher. At the same time, I told her I didn’t want my son to be bored. I don’t think he is b/c he gets to be with his friends and is learning how to help others in his class with their learning. In other words, I think he’s learning about empathy and also how to be a good leader.

    • Lori
      Lori says:

      i *hated* being the teacher’s little helper who was always assigned to help my classmates figure out their work. talk about instigating social problems.

      • Claire
        Claire says:

        @Lori: I appreciate your perspective, but that’s not my perception with my child’s teacher. Since the class is already divided into small groups, there will be designated *leaders* w/in each group.

        FWIW, in my other son’s preschool class they rotate having *leaders* and think it’s a valuable social experience, even when it’s not a child’s tendency to act as a leader.

        • Lori
          Lori says:

          rotation is the key .. if the teacher is promoting *all* the kids to share their individual abilities, that would certainly be nice.

          a multiage classroom allows kids to rotate through and take turns being the youngest, the oldest, the n00b, the mentor, etc. — another way to keep from pigeonholing a child as one thing or the other.

  6. Zellie
    Zellie says:

    At this point, all he needs to do is read and be read to. He should be exempt from busy work that’s below his level, but I wouldn’t worry that he’s missing some special advanced reading instruction. It just takes practice, and the school isn’t needed for that.

  7. Harriet May
    Harriet May says:

    I was at my parents’ yesterday and my brother, who is in 11th grade, was doing his homework. He had to memorize where all the states are on a map. Really? In 11th grade? Shouldn’t they a) already know that or b) know how to Google it if they don’t? What about discussing political models or the implications of randomly drawing up borders in Africa during colonization or world belief systems?

    • LJM
      LJM says:

      It’s hard to know what 11th graders should be learning. It’s hard to know what any kid should be learning after they’ve learned how to read with comprehension, write with clarity, and do math with precision.

      Once those are out of the way, I think the only things kids should be learning are the things that interest them.

  8. MichaelG
    MichaelG says:

    FWIW, just keep your kids doing projects at home. Projects are how you integrate all the loose facts and techniques you’ve been taught. Projects produce something tangible. Projects are what you remember. School work is almost universally forgotten.

  9. Maggie
    Maggie says:

    Isn’t it a contradiction to say that he shouldn’t skip a grade because he needs to develop social skills, but if they don’t have differentiated instruction then you’ll homeschool him where he will have much less (if any) interaction with kids his own age.

    • LJM
      LJM says:

      Very, very few homeschooled kids have little to no interaction with kids their own age.

      At the same time, homeschooled kids are more likely to have social relationships with kids who are older or younger than they are.

      This is a good thing.

    • Lori
      Lori says:

      why would you think homeschooled kids have *less* opportunity for socialization? they have much *more* opportunity — more time, more variety in participation, greater diversity in friends, etc. etc. etc.

      • Maggie
        Maggie says:

        I would think that Penelope’s children would have less opportunity for interaction because she lives on a farm with two children. There is less opportunity for interaction doing that than attending school with 30 kids in your class room. The logic that she (and you) are giving is circular. A term that I hope you are familiar with if you are homeschooling your children. I don’t want him to move up a grade because it’s not good for him to interact socially, and then you’re saying, but if you homeschool him he’ll be able to interact with kids his own age. I’d feel much better about homeschooling if the parents advocate for it were better and creating a logical construct.

  10. Kate
    Kate says:

    The Templeton Foundation issued a report called “A Nation Deceived” which shows conclusive evidence that grade skipping can be a healthy choice for some children. http://www.accelerationinstitute.org/nation_deceived/ND_v1.pdf

    Many schools, both public and private, claim that they differentiate instruction. The reality is that it is exceedingly difficult for even the best teachers to do so in an effective manner. I found that the books by Susan Winebrenner on clustering and differentiation allowed me to cut through the educational jargon and really understand what was and was not going on in the classroom. Maybe because the books were primarily written for teachers!
    Some schools will allow for subject specific advancement. My older son is a couple grade levels ahead in math. He loves going up to the high school, and more importantly, has found that his intellectual peers are also his social peers.
    I decided to begin homeschooling my younger son last spring when the work coming home in 4th grade was a duplicate of work he had done in another school in 1st grade. (Our district is purportedly in the top 10 in MA!) He recently told me the only thing that he learned last year was that everyone knew which table was the “cool” table in the cafeteria, and he didn’t sit there because he couldn’t stand any of the boys – that most of them were bullies. He’ll retain that memory for a long time. What a waste.

    • Lori
      Lori says:

      i think the prejudice against skipping is embedded in the wrong idea that school is about socialization. school is about education — it’s rare for kids in school to get much chance for healthy, collaborative, useful, enjoyable socializing with their same-age peers. if we eliminated homework, kids could have afternoons, evenings, and weekends for free play, relaxing, friends, family.

    • Lori
      Lori says:

      kate, sorry, i should have said thank you for the link & the study to back up my anecdotal experience.

      i’m sorry about your younger son’s experience. your older son sounds similar to mine — he has no problem socially mixing with older teens and adults. he relishes the chance to be around other people who shares his interests and who care about ideas. denying him that — forcing him to *only* have his same-age friends — would be ridiculous.

  11. Paul
    Paul says:

    I can tell you from my childhood experience in school, a few weeks of that kind of crap and he will be begging you to take him out of school.

  12. CL
    CL says:

    It’s easier for girls to skip grades than guys. I know, because I skipped a grade. You’ll always be smaller and younger than everybody else.

    I’ve taught, though, and the youngest kids in my class were competing against kids three years older. The younger ones were much smarter. Intelligence has to do with flexibility (a great takeaway from AJ Jacobs’ The Know It All) and the children who were younger than everyone else excelled in the classroom.

    That said, it’s harder for guys. They have to be good a sports and if they are a year behind in development, that places a strain on them.

    Also, I’m wondering if your kid is in the process of learning prepositions. I detested the Shurley Method when I was in school, but my grammar lessons have stuck with me. I think I can’t forget them. One example of the songs that you have to sing when you use the method is here: http://pantalons.tumblr.com/post/10125218083/with-on-for-after-at-by-in-against.

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