Lisa Catanyag thought maybe she ought to do something when, at the beginning of the school year, she noticed her son was more interested in his sister's sixth-grade homework than his own.
Matthew Catanyag, an 8-year-old third-grader, wasn't challenged enough by his own school assignments. So halfway through the school year, Matthew became a fourth-grader.
Skipping a grade – or part of one – can benefit some children intellectually, parents and educators say. But academic acceleration is about more than harder math problems and bigger reading books.
"If a parent is considering skipping a kid and they know he's academically ready, they need to consider the breadth of development of that child," said Brian Leung, professor and director of the School Psychology Program at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
Skipping a grade works out well for some students, including some very high-profile students.
New York Times Magazine blogger Lisa Belkin speculated recently that Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan skipped a grade.
"I know this because she is 18 days younger than I am, and yet she was a year ahead of me at our shared alma mater (she was also much smarter, for the record)," Belkin wrote.
And the Washington Post has reported that Supreme Court nominee Kagan graduated from high school early.
Not all children, though, are ready emotionally, physically or verbally to move ahead of their peers, educators say.
George Olive, an education programs consultant for the California Department of Education, said grade skipping generally happens during the primary years, usually somewhere between second and seventh grade.
"Usually the district is not going to be real supportive of it," he said. "The parents may push for it, not fully realizing what they're asking for. ... More often than not that parent request is going to be denied."
There are less-drastic ways to challenge a student academically, such as having the student take math or reading in a higher grade level or enrolling in Gifted and Talented Education classes.
The younger a child, the more egocentric they are, meaning they may want to get their own way and not share or take turns – the kind of behavior that can get a child pummeled on a playground full of older children.
Being a year younger also usually means the child is smaller, and if he or she can't participate in the games and sports because of that, there could be social impacts.
"It comes down to looking at the big picture and determining what's in the best interest of the student," said Heidi Dettwiler, an assistant superintendent in the Eureka Union School District, which serves K-8 students in Granite Bay and a portion of Roseville.
Constantly being a year younger can also be wearing when it comes to milestones in a kid's life, said Leung, from Loyola Marymount. They'll go through puberty later than their peers, be one of the last to get their driver's license.
"I think parents need to be honest and ask themselves, 'Am I skipping this kid for myself or my kid?' "he said. "Parents get a lot of mileage out of saying that their kid skipped a grade."
Matthew's grade skip at H. Allen Hight Elementary in Natomas started slowly.
In the fall, he began taking math in a fourth-grade class.
"After a while, I noticed he was frustrated," his mom said.
Matthew didn't want to miss out on the reading or other assignment his own class would do while he was in math class.
In January, after several tests and meetings with teachers and administrators, the Catanyags decided to push him ahead to the fourth grade.
"He's doing well," Lisa Catanyag said. "He's regularly getting A's. ... And he's made friends well with the fourth- graders."
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Skipping a grade: Is your child really ready for it?
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