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Gifted Children Who Don’t Fit Grade Level Parameters

Gifted Children Who Don't Fit Grade Level Parameters 2

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We’ve homeschooled Caroline from the beginning. Although we’ve wavered a bit here and there due to the challenges of life (my chronic illness, my strong introversion, etc.), we’ve remained committed to homeschooling, believing it is the best option for her for a number of reasons.

The “Right” Age to Start Kindergarten?

Because we homeschool, there have been certain issues we haven’t had to deal with such as when children don’t fit grade level parameters. For example, Caroline has a late September birthday which means she would have made the cutoff for kindergarten, but she would have been one of the youngest kids in her class. An additional five or six months of development can be huge when a child is five or six.

We’ve seen that first-hand with friends who have a daughter who is four months older than Caroline. When the girls were younger, I could definitely see my friend’s daughter was further along developmentally. Caroline was reading before kindergarten, but I’m not sure she would have been ready in other ways. Because we homeschool, we never had to make a decision about when to start kindergarten based on outside expectations. We simply started her when she was five and did what was developmentally appropriate for her.

Asynchronous Development and Multi-Grade Classes

Like many gifted kids, Caroline is asynchronous in her development. She is miles ahead of her age cohort in some areas and what would be termed “below grade level” in other areas (such as her struggle with dysgraphia which naturally impacts other areas). This really doesn’t concern me because I’ve seen firsthand that when the light goes on in a certain area, the mastery is rapid.  This has been true of walking, potty training, reading, etc. When she’s ready, she’s ready. It’s like flipping a switch.

Even in our homeschool co-op, the classes are multi-grades in the early elementary classes so she’s been in classes that were K-2 as youngest through oldest over the course of three years. At church, her different activities were mixed grade so they worked as well.

Single Grade Sunday School Expectations

And then came grade specific Sunday School at the new church. Yikes.

There is a reason they call it Sunday School, I guess. This class was school. Reading, discussion, and writing. Lots of sitting and listening.

So not how Caroline learns best.

And the areas they emphasized were some of the areas where Caroline does not currently excel (such as the writing).

So this was our first experience of bumping up (hard) against the assumption that a third grader must be able to do A, B and C because this is what third graders do. Suffice it to say it was not a pleasant experience.

Everyone Learns at Different Speeds

In trying to process with her what happened, I reminded Caroline of a time a couple of years ago at homeschool co-op when she was taking a class about America. The students made three dimensional Washington Monuments. Caroline was one of the youngest children in the class. She whipped hers together in no time because she is fantastic at that kind of thing. Her teacher was impressed and even spoke with us about it. She also asked Caroline to help some of the other kids who were really struggling, a number of who were older than Caroline. I reminded Caroline of this and the fact that no one is good at everything and everyone learns at different speeds. I reminded her that a few of those older kids might have even been a bit embarrassed that a younger student was helping them. I think our conversation helped her think through the church situation even though it was still very disappointing.

I don’t have any big words of advice or some great summary of how to handle situations like this. I’m simply sharing it as an example of how homeschooling choices seem so natural and make so much sense to us in the world of our homeschool and yet we are reminded at times of how counter-cultural some of those most basic choices really are when compared to traditional schooling.

Gifted Children Who Don't Fit Grade Level Parameters


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  • I appreciate this. My girls’ birthdays are August 22, July 18, and September 1. The past few years I’ve read a lot of articles about late summer birthdays and grade levels, and there doesn’t seem to be a clear “this way is right” (especially for girls) about whether to hold them back or not. We’re homeschooling for kindergarten this year, but still I worry about whether this is the best for her. I’m struggling with homeschooling right now, but this encouraged me.

  • I have run into this problem too. My oldest is basically at grade level just lower in math. But I started my boys later, I’d read a lot about boys being less developmentally ready. For the most part I let them play in our backyard and sporadically did some math and reading skills workbooks. We are still “behind” in the basic subjects(with hindsight, I would have started them a bit sooner than I ended up doing, and would have used more reading readiness activities rather than workbooks, but I’m ok with it). However they are more knowledgeable in other subjects, such as history and life skills, than typical kids their age. And I believe that we will catch up to “grade level” soon and they will still be the richer for having spent time in the sun and the dirt, enhancing their imaginations. But it can be hard because I am afraid of putting them in group situations where they may be made fun of for not being able to perform at the same level as peers. And explaining to relatives/friends who question why your child doesn’t know X fact yet? And think you must be incompetent as a teacher. I have no solution to this either, just offering that I’m going through it too.

  • We stopped going to a church, because they wouldn’t let my daughter be in a level best for her.  It HAD to be age/grade level.  You could not change that.  Unfortunately my daughter didn’t do well with handwriting either.  Also she was a young 11 year old.  They insisted that she could not stay in the 5th grade group again and that she had to go to the middle school/high school group.  This was a major problem for me, because I didn’t think she was ready.  It’s a shame, but we don’t go anymore.


Sallie-Schaaf-Borrink-060313-B-250x250I'm Sallie, teacher by training and now homeschooling mom of Caroline. My passion is to provide products, encouragement, and information that helps others discover and do what works with their children. I also write about living a cozy life as a highly introverted person. Welcome! ♥

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