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Ds has always been homeschooled, but for a variety of reasons, we are exploring the option of sending him to the private international school for the remaining 2 years we will be in China. He is currently a 7th grader, but working ahead in a number of his courses. We had a meeting with the school yesterday to discuss ways to keep ds challenged if he enrolls as an 8th grader this fall, and they suggested we consider skipping 8th grade and enrolling him as a 9th grader. Since now all of a sudden we are talking high school, we have concerns about how our decision could affect college admissions in addition to all of the maturity and emotional issues. The details are complex, but here is a quick summary of our options:

 

1. If he enters as an 8th grader, we have been offered a little bit of flexibility in his course load. It would slow him down a little from the current trajectory he is on would we continue to homeschool, but it is a compromise we are okay with should we decide to send him to school. Comparing enrolling him as an 8th grader versus a 9th grade at the private school, his transcript would probably look meatier with this option than if he enters 9th grade this fall because he would essentially have one more year to take higher level courses.

 

2. If he enters as a 9th grader, he would be taking almost all of the same classes I have planned for him next year as a homeschooling 8th grader. So he would be taking the same courses, at exactly the same age and time we currently have planned for him, but he'd be a 9th grader in the private school instead of an 8th grader at home. He would be following the "typical" 9th grade advanced track at this particular school. So he'd still have the opportunity to take some higher level courses, but wouldn't stand out as much from his peers.

 

This is my oldest, who will only be turning 13 in June, so there are a plethora of thoughts going around in my mind as to whether this is a good idea for him or not. The first is how skipping a grade may affect him personally. His thinking level is pretty mature for his age, but his worldly knowledge and street smarts are definitely lacking. We haven't tried to shelter him, but he is emotionally sensitive and tends to shy away from ideas that threaten him (in his mind). One of the reasons we are considering sending him to school is so he can be exposed to some of these ideas while he is still living at home in a safe environment. But high school is a different ball game than 8th grade, and we are a bit worried it could be too much too fast. However, this is a Christian school in an Asian environment, so I think exposure to these issues should be a little more mild than they would be if we were back in the US (although this may be an issue when we return to the US in 2 years). Anyone have any BTDT experience they can share as a result of skipping a grade?

 

In addition to the emotional maturity aspects, we are trying to get a better understanding of how this may affect college admissions when the time comes. He is highly motivated, and is already of the mindset that he wants to set himself up to have a shot at some of the top tier engineering schools (MIT in particular has caught his eye). We are definitely not trying to push him in that direction at this age, but we are trying to be supportive of that goal while intentionally trying to encourage him to have balance in his life. With those thoughts in mind, we are still mindful of how colleges might view the end result of the decision we are currently trying to make. Are colleges going to take into account that he completed high school at a young age (he would turn 17 the June of graduation year), even if that means his transcript might not be as academically jammed packed as other students? Or are selective schools just looking at the number of AP/Honors/SATII that were completed in high school, regardless of how and when they were completed?

 

On a somewhat related note, we have also discussed that if he enrolled as a 9th grader this year, we may encourage him to take a gap year before entering college to allow him to age and mature. This may also give him the opportunity to pursue some of his interests that he may not have as much time for should he enter high school early, particularly pursuing a pilots license. Does anyone have any thoughts on whether this is a good idea or not? Do you typically apply to colleges and then request the gap year? Or is it better to just wait a year after high school before applying? If he grade skipped, would that have any bearing on taking a gap year?

 

Thanks to all who read this far, and especially if you have any advice to give!

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Considering that he aspires to tippy-top schools, I vote for option #1, as long as he can get an appropriate math placement.  I do not think that colleges take younger age into account with regard to fewer accomplishments.  On the other hand, if his schedule for the second half of high school (back in the US? homeschooling?) would allow for an amount of accomplishments that is nonetheless suitable for application to tippy-top schools, I wouldn't personally be concerned about the graduating one year early from a maturity standpoint, as I'd anticipate a lot of growth in the coming years.

 

Eta, I see he is in Saxon Alg 2 for 7th, correct?  If the school is flexible, maybe next year (8th) would be a good time to do something interesting in math outside the standard sequence.

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Not sure I can answer your questions, but I can share our experience. Twin dds skipped 4th and 6th grades at their non-US public school. We didn't have much of an option. The school had run out of ideas, dds were bored and one (by the school's own admission) did absolutely nothing the entire year. Homeschooling was not a legal option. They started 7th grade in a 7th through 12th grade school, in the top track. It was clearly the best thing to do. Ten year olds with 12 year olds was fine, as was 11 year olds with 13 year olds. The year they turned 12 we moved countries and homeschooled them. Right now they are 15 and about to take their final secondary school exams as homeschooled candidates for the national exams.

As for entry to schools like MIT, a few years ago I asked an admissions officer at an HYP school about admissions for younger students. She told me that in such a competitive applicant pool, an applicant that is two years younger is at a distinct disadvantage. Not because they are not as academically capable, but because they have had less time. Looking back with the benefit of experience gained in the last few years, I see her point. My dds have not been able to do as much at the level they would if they were older. Some activities they would like to do are not open to them because of age, such as volunteering. For others, particularly sport, where they are average, they are not going to be performing at the level they would be if they were older, and will therefore not have as strong an extracurricular for their cv. YMMV.

We are now "stuck" with two years of gap. They don't want to go straight to university, and I agree with this decision. It hasn't been particularly easy finding gap year programs as they are not the typical gap year applicant. Quite a few seem to be geared at ages 17 or 18. DDs will be 16 in August, so they are ineligible for quite a few gap year programs. We have finally reached a resolution. One has a music scholarship to a good school where she will do sixth form and A levels. The academics will be very easy I expect, but she will be challenged by the music and the boarding aspect. I'm in negotiations with the school about the course selection and can tell that I'm already becoming one of "those" parents! But hey I'm really good at that and I've learned a lot about this through the years. The other dd will do a school year abroad in China. Both are working hard for their exams and looking forward to next year.

It was not an easy decision to skip two grades but it was the right decision at that time in that set of circumstances. It did set up the challenge of finding something to fill the gap between secondary and university, and at the time I think I underestimated how tricky this could be, but it will work out in the end. I hope this helps somewhat.

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My youngest skipped 8th grade and started 9th at 13, started attending community college almost full time at 15 and entered a liberal arts college as a freshman at 17.  He hit puberty late so on top of not being terrible worldly, he looked young, but it was never really a problem other than some good natured teasing from his friends.  Academically it was the right thing to do -- he remained challenged and consistently has the top grades in his classes.  I could not have planned this educational trajectory when he was 12 or 13. We made decisions as we went along and have no regrets.

 

Age was not a factor during the college admissions process.  I did explain that he skipped 8th in the counselor letter I wrote, but the colleges were only looking at those 4 years of courses listed on his transcript and his extra-curricular activities.  I can't speak to admissions at top tier engineering schools as my ds was more interested in small LACs with good science programs. You ought to look at the admissions sections on some college websites to see what they are looking for.  I can say that an unusual background, such as going to high school while living in China, is worth highlighting on the application.  Is he learning Chinese?  Working in the community in any way?  Think of it from the perspective of the admissions committees who review thousands of transcripts each year, transcripts which all look alike, which are all jam packed with the same APs and high test scores.  The kids that stand out are the kids who did something unusual, who took advantage of their unique situations whether homeschooling or living abroad.  

 

Personally, I would do what is best for the kid I have in front of me at the moment.  He will grow and mature so much in the next 4 years whether you put him in 8th or 9th grade, and he may decide when he is 17 that he would rather go to a small Christian school instead of MIT.  You will make yourself crazy if you try to second guess what your son will be like in 4 years.  Instead think about next fall.  Will he be happier in the fall taking the kinds of classes you had planned or would he be bored and miserable in the 8th grade track?  

 

 

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I moved abroad right around my 14th birthday and went to an international college prep school starting with 9th grade. My warning would be that I remember the international move, plus puberty, had me in a bit of a tailspin. I would leave a little wiggle room for culture shock to do its thing. I was still a top student, and 9th grade biology was a let-down because there was no advanced/honors/AP section, but I had enough on my plate with remedial language classes and social situations to deal with.

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I don't know about gap years - they are not a thing here. But a couple of years half school half internship or an overseas exchange year sound ok. Here exchanges are usually done in the last few years of school so your son would only be a bit younger.

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My son was grade skipped by the charter school we were using some time ago, so he is one year ahead legally. For quite some time he wanted to plow through high school and his dual enrollment AA graduating early at 16 with both. That was just fine when he wanted to travel, get internships, and then attend a local state school for his BA after two gap years. Things dramatically changed however, when he shifted his mind to a top tier school. They could care less how old my son is when he applies. They want the resume. His resume would be not only shorter, but also less fancy. He would have a typical top track transcript, but definitely not the transcript he could have with two extra years. He is also not going to be going to college solo on the East coast at 16.

 

After looking at how limiting the early graduation would be, we have shifted the priorities. He will keep the same pace homeschooling, but instead of two gap years have two full extra high school years which look very flashy on paper. Internships and travel can still happen, but so can a stack of other options which would have been out of reach for a fast tracked 15 year old.

 

Competing at a younger age is very hard. It is a constant fight for legitimacy. If age was a factor which was considered at all, then it wouldn't be a big deal. However, it doesn't matter if the student is 19 or 16. Skipping really does provide a distinct disadvantage when you are looking at super competitive schools.

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Thank you everyone for the replies.  It is very helpful to hear all of the stories from those of you who have walked this road before.  We don't know anyone IRL who has dealt with this situation, so we are kind of alone in making the decision.  Hearing how you have handled the situation and how it is working out for you for dk long term, gives us a good place to start in determining what is best for ds.

 

Thanks!   

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I'd also add that skipping is a disadvantage if your DC is likely to do academic competitions. My DD is also one year ahead of her age-grade due to grade skipping in PS before homeschooling, and she regularly wins at her current grade level, but probably wouldn't be terribly competitive if we put her in with 8th or 9th graders in academic competition (she does well on things like the EXPLORE against the entire 8th grade population, but for the most part, she's in the top  25% to top 10%-the kids who win academic competitions are more like the top 1% or less-which is where she is for 4th grade. My parents are actively involved with JSHS and ISEF and both of them strongly discourage allowing DD to even enter until she's 9th grade officially and by age-because what they see, far too often, is grade-skipped homeschooled kids who start competing with high school kids at 11-13 or so and losing, and who are competitive regionally at 14 or so, but don't make it past state level, at which point they've used up their years of eligibility. If they'd started competing at 14, they'd have been regionally competitive at 14, and probably been nationally or even internationally competitive by 18. 

 

The funny thing is that I've started to discover that access to actual professional adjudication is much less age limited. DD could enter papers in for peer review in SSAR journals now as a student, and they don't care if she's an elementary school student or a doctoral student. I imagine this is the case for other areas as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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