Posted 13 June 2011 - 07:31 AM
So much depends on the kid. I am speaking from my own experience and my cousin's as well.
I graduated high school at 16. I went to a private school that did not offer any maths beyond trigonometry, only one year of physics, and the advanced English classes just weren't challenging for me. I had been bored in high school and I was ALL about the piano. I had no life from 6th grade on. I did nothing but practice, practice, practice, practice, and do homework. It was my goal, not my parents, and having been "born 21" as my mother likes to put it, I was fine. But, not having more advanced classes was a non-issue as long as my ACT score was good because I was going to be majoring in music. My musical pursuits, abilities, and achievements were the big selling point to my top tier LAC, not my lack of AP physics or calculus. For a STEM oriented student, I think this would be unwise.
My cousin skipped two grades in PS. She was headed into biology/bio-chem. She still went to high school four years and graduated with lots of advanced classes, but went off to the dorms at 16 1/2. She was an excellent college student. She was a POOR adult. I don't know any other way to say it. She did not do well having what was left of her childhood cut short. She didn't relate to anyone, felt completely left out, retreated deeper and deeper into the lab, didn't eat enough, had health problems from pushing herself too hard and forgetting to eat/stay hydrated, etc. It was a disaster. My aunt and uncle will tell you that the worst decision they ever made was to allow her to be that accelerated. If they could take that back, they would. She is now 45 and just beginning to really be a secure human being despite all of her achievements.
I am facing this decision with our rising 6th grader. He is absolutely desperate to begin algebra 1 and biology; frankly, he can handle the academic material. The issue for us is that we do not have a college of any sort nearby that is worth attending so if he's done with say calculus and AP physics at 16, what will we do then? He is also a home-body, needs lots of support from mom and dad to feel successful despite his brilliance and IQ, etc. So, leaving the nest early for adult life in a STEM school could be a catastrophic failure for him. I laughingly told dh that at his current rate, he'd be ready for his math or engineering major by the time he's 15 so one of us will have to go live in the dorm with him! Unfortunately, this is partially true. What he can handle in academic ability at a young age does not match with his emotional/social maturity.
Therefore, our current plan for him is another round of pre-algebra for 6th grade but with math project learning to keep him busy. He's currently designing a LTA helium blimp which will fly over our town taking aerial photos of local farms. Dh is guiding him through the process and he will have other similar projects throughout the year with the hope that if he is feeling held back or unchallenged in math and science curriculum, he won't mind it too much while he uses his math skills to do these physics projects. I'll also require research writing out of him and a properly detailed tri-fold display board for each one which will hopefully help fill up his time.
7th grade- algebra 1 and physical science, 8th - geometry and biology, 9th - algebra 2 and chemistry, 10th - trigonometry and advanced chemistry, 11th - calculus 1 and physics, 12th - some sort of advanced geometry that dh knows all about and is GREEK to me, along with advanced physics/AP physics testing and a bunch of MIT opencourseware sciences.
After that, for this child, we are seriously considering a gap year to include an international travel trip with us, plus an internship with DOW Chemical or other science industry within commuting distance. Unless this child really matures and gains a lot of ground in the self-confidence department during high school, we think that entering college at 19 is a much better choice for him.
So, I guess it truly depends on the maturity of the child. I was just fine and our dd, had she chosen this route, would have been dandy too! My cousin...total disaster. She even delayed college graduation by taking FAR more classes than she needed (ended up with 175 credits)...just keep filling a schedule with anything she could find because she was not ready emotionally to leave the sanctity of her dorm room and lab for grad school and adult life. She did this all through her twenties...found excuses to NOT graduate with her master's even though she'd fufilled her requirements; this stymied her professors who had never met a 25 year old they couldn't kick out of the academic master's nest! Deliberately botched her PH.D. dissertation, much to the complete shock of her mentor, in order to put off graduating with her PH.D. and taking the research job offered her. She was seriously messed up and today will tell you it all began with skipping grades in middle school.
Evaluate your child carefully and go with your gut.