If your kids haven’t mastered everything you or your curriculum set out for the year, should you have them repeat the grade?
If they scored as well as a much older child would on an end-of-year achievement test, can you have them skip a grade homeschooling? Should you?
Experienced homeschoolers and statewide homeschool groups and social media accounts are getting lots of questions about grade levels from newer homeschoolers. School closures brought in lots of folks who never expected to homeschool, and you may be one of them! This might mean you have more of a “school mindset” than necessary around grades.
Homeschooling is flexible
Here’s the deal: grade level is almost always more flexible with homeschooling than it is with public school. There may be some exceptions because of particular states’ laws or because you are choosing to homeschool through a charter school. Regular old homeschoolers typically don’t need to consider their kids repeating and skipping grades, especially before high school.
Here’s what to do instead: if you need to, call your child in a certain grade for social reasons, such as to move up with a group of acquaintances and friends in Scouts, Sunday School, or dance. Then, help them learn what is next for them academically, regardless of what “grade” you’re saying they’re in.
Homeschooling contains a wide range of "normal"
Homeschoolers do not have to fit into the "standard" student norm found in schools. Homeschoolers understand and embrace that there is a wide range of "normal" when it comes to learning.
Some families might have a child who is considered in third grade who is a beginning reader (first grade), more advanced in math (fourth grade), obsessive about learning history and science (sixth grade), and apparently gifted in art, music, or movement.
That child can still go into “fourth grade” for social reasons the next year, and as parents, you can still help them with reading, math, and other areas at the “level” where they are learning.
The same thing is true for skipping a grade: it’s not necessary to start calling a third grader from last year a fifth grader during this next year just because they are academically advanced.
Meet them where they are academically, so they’ll learn with less boredom. Seek out resources and strategies used for gifted students if you need to make more adjustments for your child who is advanced and showing signs of giftedness. Seek out alternative educational experiences and provide a rich learning environment if you decide to delay academics in some areas.
Some considerations to keep in mind
- Remember that socially, your kiddo may not be as advanced as they are academically. Also, some advanced or gifted kids struggle socially no matter what age they are grouped with and tend to do better in clusters of families with children of many ages and kind adults who treat each person respectfully regardless of age.
- Curricula from different companies may be different from each other (and different from what is offered in school) in terms of skill level and content they expect to be mastered in different grades. The whole “grade level” sensibility is pretty arbitrary!
- If achievement tests seem to show your young child performing at a higher grade level, make sure you understand what that test result indicates. Many parents misunderstand and think this means their child is ready for high school level work. Instead, depending on the test, it might mean that your child did as well as the average 10th grader would on this test, which may not actually have any tenth grade content on it at all. See the difference?
- A final caveat about this is that many kids do plateau later, and you may find that middle school or high school is a stage when you might wish to “take back” that more advanced grade. Easier to deal with if you just keep meeting needs instead of making announcements about skipped grades.
Ask questions of your test provider and of experienced homeschoolers before you jump to a big announcement about skipping a grade.
And yes, there certainly could be exceptions for specific scenarios. You know your family best!