Repeating a Grade Can Give Your Child a Boost: Retention and the 8th Grade Gap Year
Updated: Apr 25
In recent years, many parents have reached out to me concerned that their 8th grade children are not ready to move on or succeed in high school.
“My middle son is very young for his grade. He’s always struggled to hold his own in school and could really use a year to catch up with his peers.”
“My 8th grader is bright but very immature. I’ve gotten several notes from his teacher regarding silly behavior in class and his ‘not working up to his potential.’”
“I’m very concerned that my 8th grade child will not be ready for high school. Although she excels at math, her reading comprehension really needs to be targeted for improvement.”
“I’m interested in having a type of gap year before high school so that my child may focus on interests, build on strengths, and develop the necessary skills to succeed in high school.”
Do these comments sound familiar to you?
Today, many 8th grade students just don’t seem ready for the academic, athletic or social challenges of high school. Often, these students are on the younger end of their cohort and may have demonstrated a lack of maturity in their traditional middle school setting. Their
achievement does not seem to match their innate abilities.
Enter the concept of the 8th Grade Gap Year: an extra year of 8th grade learning pursued outside of the traditional classroom. During the Gap Year, the student may focus on individual goals and target areas of academic need or excellence while benefiting from the physical and mental maturity that this extra year offers.
An 8th Grade Gap Year is an opportunity for the learner to spend an additional year before high school preparing mind, body and spirit for the challenges ahead. While the State requires that you teach the core academic subjects, it does not require that you follow the same courses, topics, or timelines that are taught in your public school. As such, you have the opportunity to direct your child’s focus on areas of interest within the core subjects of math, science, English, social studies, PE, fine arts, foreign languages, and electives.
You may expand on the prior year's learning, review and reinforce concepts that were challenging, preview high school level
material, or create a unique educational course of study focusing on travel, hands-on experiences, arts, coding, cooking, gardening, or whatever sparks your child's imagination and curiosity.
Consider the reflections made by this Gap Year parent as written in "Your Kid's Brain May Benefit from Another Year in Middle School," by Jessica Lahey for the Atlantic:
"Sam is our youngest boy, and the youngest child in his grade. We knew what was coming academically and socially, and that to navigate high school, he needed some time to become a mature learner, to appreciate all that high school was going to offer. Sam had not yet developed strong organizational techniques, study skills, and time management tools. When his teachers weighed in, they stressed that he simply needed more time. We were told to consider a gap year after high school, but decided not to wait and give him that time now."
The 8th Grade Gap Year is an opportunity for your child to explore areas of interest that she never has time for while attending traditional school and to take the needed time to master skills that may be lacking before attempting the rigor and challenges of high school. Each student's program will be unique, blending basic core subject learning with student-directed learning and activities. Today, most communities offer a wealth of resources to support your student's individualized Course of Study.
As Kenneth Danford wrote in, “Eighth Grade Out!”:
“A year’s program might begin with some of the academic courses and local programs already structured for teen homeschoolers, including events such as literature groups, theater projects, and outdoor education. A full year’s routine might include a foreign language intensive, involvement with a local non-profit organization or museum, and other kinds of entrepreneurial work or family involvement. Imagine the possibilities in asking youth ages 12-14 what skills or knowledge they would most like to master and how they might want to pursue these interests.
Our website posts resources to help homeschoolers develop a plan, find local activities, and choose academic opportunities for their children. Whether learning to cook or gaining competitive athletic skills, your children’s educations may focus on their individual interests and help them to see the value in lifelong personal learning.
If you feel the 8th Grade Gap Year is for you, enrollment information, necessary forms, samples of completed forms and complete directions may be found on our website here.
If you would like to schedule a personal consultation regarding your child’s homeschool 8th Grade Gap Year, or any homeschooling guidance, please contact us here.