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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Accelerating academics for high school graduation


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Okay, a couple posters asked me to start a new thread on this topic. Not quite sure how to do that, but here goes:


My DD was a tall and mature 4 year old. All her friends were older, and she wanted to start school with them. It was a private school, so they let her try. She did fine. After 3rd grade she switched to public school. Now, at almost 15, she is still tall, mature, and about to start her junior year in high school. She is socially secure, part of a big group, and happy. Loves her school and doesn't want to skip this year for a residency. She is in the top ten kids in her class of 400, and still manages to dance 15-20 hours a week all year. She then goes away each summer for one or more SIs. Each summer since 7th grade, she has taken an extra class for a high school credit, or half credit, which has put her considerably ahead of her classmates.


She scored very high in the Johns Hopkins and Duke talent searches in 7th grade (7th graders can take the ACT or SAT to qualify). This allowed her to take high school courses via correpondence through Duke or Johns Hopkins. In fact, though, because other courses were cheaper, she has taken her classes independent study from Indiana University. There is no qualifying score to take these courses, you just buy the course and get on with it. She has taken classes like 9th grade science, health, creative writing, and economics via independent study over the summers. She also takes AP classes through her high school. Because of this, she could graduate early (end of junior year or middle of senior year) if she chooses to do so. The problem with this in Kentucky is that it is hard to get in the required 4 years of English credits. She is not going to run into that problem, because next year, as a senior, she'll be taking English AP. If she left high school after Junior year or at any time during senior year, she can take the AP as an independent study. Her high school will then give her the diploma upon completion of that AP.


It worked fabulously for us. She has enjoyed a fairly "regular" teenage high school experience, and will graduate at 16, young enough to spend a year or two at a residency focusing solely on dance without falling behind her peers, age wise.


Starting a child in school early, or skipping a grade, requires discussion with the school system, often requires private testing to ensure the child is up to speed socially and academically, and can require a petition to the state department of education. The programs in each state set up to help gifted and talented students can help you with this even if your child has not tested as gifted and talented.


If you just want to get extra high school credits, without skipping any grades, you can order them yourself from Indiana University, Keystone, The American School, and some state universities. Usually these courses allow you a year to complete them, so students can work at their own pace. As a general rule, these courses cost about $150-$200 per half credit. They are not hard to complete, and are set up so the student doesn't really need any parental assistance. The companies providing these tests like the child's school to approve the student taking the course. Some high schools balk at this. If yours is unhelpful, just register the child as "homeschooled" with the company providing the courses. Once you actually HAVE the credits completed it will be a lot harder for your high school to complain about them.


Another method for skipping a grade, and thereby getting through school younger, is to pull the child out for a year and homeschool, then return to the public school system two grades ahead. This is best done prior to high school. DD's friend left public school after 5th grade, spent a year homeschooling, went back to school as an 8th grader instead of a seventh grader, and is now a year ahead of her peers.


With my son, not a dancer, he was bright but socially not so adept. Finally, at 3rd grade, we realized that he needed to accelerate. We took his test scores and petitioned the state. After a hearing, and endless discussions with the school, he was permitted to skip to 4th. We continued to work with the school to give him extra classes and let him skip irrelevant ones. With a very bright child this is possible. He's now in 8th grade, doing some 9th and 10th grade classes and should be able to graduate, with at least 3 APs under his belt, at 16. If your plan is to skip grades, and take classes at various grade levels all in one year, it is probably easier to do in a private school setting.


So far so good for us. Any one else out there have ideas on this?

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That is a very interesting approach that you took with your children! I can see that you started planning early and also did lots of research to find out how to best manage the red tape. Sounds like this has worked really well for your daughter and she should be in good shape to attend a residency without worrying about academics. That is a nice situation to be in!


I am curious about why your son is on an accelerated schedule? You mentioned that he was not so socially adept at 3rd grade. Have his social skills caught up to his academics? What will he do at 16, post high school? Will he be ready socially and emotionally for college? Will he stay at home and attend locally or will he go off to live in residence on a college campus?


My more general question is: What is the advantage of finishing highschool early for those without a specific need to accelerate the process? We know many who stay in traditional high school for 4 years and graduate with their entire freshman year of college already completed. But, they are still with their age group and not introduced to a college living and/or academic environment too young and are able to progress through the normal high school phases with their peers, attend the high school events, participate in extra-curricular activities, etc. Some have taken their AP classes completely through their local school, if it happens to be one that offers enough options to them. Others have supplemented with online courses and still others have taken courses at their local community college, by special arrangement with their school. There are lots and lots of ways to finish your required coursework early and still graduate with your child's proper grade/age group.


My daughter attended a private school for the gifted and talented before residency and we also know many who have taken the route of finishing early to move forward in their academic studies. Most were very, very bright kids who simply never found a good fit within the social confines of traditional high school, were bored with the academic offerings and were able to finish high school requirements early and with great ease. Early graduation and moving on to college studies took them out of that rather unpleasant environment (for them) into a new one where they also didn't fit particularly well. They continued to excel in their studies, but many had problems (some minor and some quite major) socially and emotionally with all that comes along with being thrust into a more mature setting that is very challenging for even the most mature and socially adept 18 year old, but often daunting for the 16 year old who is not at all comfortable in the social arena.


I'm not trying to throw rain on your parade, dance1soccer1, nor are these comments directed specifically at you and your situation. I think your plan is indeed impressive. I know that this topic is of particular interest to many here who are looking for ways to ease the issues surrounding residency and academics. I'm simply throwing out some food for thought and consideration. Just as we have discussed the issues surrounding sending young talented kids to residency, I think the same issues apply to those who are academically talented as well.

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Thank you, dance1soccer1, for taking the time to post your family academic experiences. I'm a Montessori teacher and always very open to all the many and varied ways kids can get an education.


I think it's important to remember that academic age groupings are really more about practical logistics than anything else. Kids should progress at their own pace. Even within the Montessori system, due to logistics and staff constraints, it can be hard to allow for that no matter how much we try.


I love how well it's worked out for your daughter, dance1soccer1, it's great that she's done so well. It reminds me of kids learning to read: 1/3 will learn to read no matter what a teacher does or doesn't do (whole language is just fine for this group), 1/3 need direct group teaching or their reading will be impaired, and 1/3 need direct group teaching AND some one-on-one help. Your daughter fits the first third I mention when it comes to schooling in general, doesn't she?


But I have the same questions and concerns as Balletbooster does about your son and I'd love to hear what you're figuring out for him. I'm now an independent private tutor, spending the mornings as a tutor to Montessori kids right at their school. I get the kids who truly need help with strategies for academic learning but I also always have a few kids who see me because of their social problems.


Many of that group are very bright - but truly no more so than other bright kids; it's just that this particular group are bright AND have social issues.) Sometimes they are accelerated but if they already have social problems, it always stands out even more when they're the youngest in a class.


So I too would feel concern about this kind of kid scooting ahead and graduating at 16. I think it's great that they do their academics at their own pace - every kid, whether or not they get the "bright" label - should work at their own pace but institutions don't have the resources so they do the best they can. But, as Balletbooster asked, what happens for your son, who sounds like he's in this category, at 16?


I'd rather see this kind of child continue to learn without going to college till the child is socially and emotionally ready. As I'm sure you know, there's so much to learn besides the core curriculum! In Montessori, for every single lesson we give, there are dozens others that we call "extensions of learning" that kids who move speedily through the curriculum can learn, often on their own. They don't need to move on to the next grade's work; there's plenty of work they can do in tangential areas of interest building on what they've already learned.


Sometimes I work privately with these kids providing them the extensions. That way, they can stay with their regular class for social development reasons, but still get to learn even more in a particular area.


So I'm hoping that you're doing this kind of thing with your son and that he will have much to learn and study before experiencing college. I happen to love the idea of 16 and 17 year olds working in short-term apprentice-like positions in a field of study that interests them. What a gift! I wish all students could have such an experience.

Edited by vagansmom
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My daughter will begin 8th grade this year, but she already has 3 high school credits completed (foriegn language, math, and arts). She is not really a gifted student, but I would say she is an over achiever in that through hard work and discipline has done better in school than early experience would have indicated. She was never a child who people would have suggested needed to skip a grade, however as an 8th grader half her classes will be high school and half junior high. DD has the benefit of attending a 4 - 12 school, so she can easily jump into high school courses.


Dds plan is to get out of school as soon as possible. She has know real reason for this other than not particularly liking school. Because she is at a performing arts school her time scheduling has meant that we have taken her out of specific classes and done them at home. THis year she will take algebra and the first semester of geometry at home. She did the first half of algebra this summer through corespondence (oddly through University of Kentucky, even though we are in Ohio but that is what her school accepts) and will finish this and then start geometry. DD does not like math and does poorly in it in a school setting so doing it at home has improved her confidence and ability.


It seems to me that it is pretty easy to move kids ahead in school, even average but motivated students. There are some issues here around State testing that mess things up - 8th grade test battery has a history component that is only taught in 8th grade. And Ohio has new graduation tests in 10th grade that the schools - well our urban not very high acheiving district- lives in fear of and this makes them less accomodating than in the past.


I think balletboosters question of why is a good one. We see no grand plan for having her finish early. DD would like to do a year aboard so finishing required work a year ahead means she would enter college with her peers after that. I am encouraging her to work ahead because I want to capitalize on her motivation to get done while it lasts, since I see a potential drop off coming.

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I have many of the same concerns as Vagansmom and balletbooster about the academic and social ramifications of acceleration. The schools my dds have attended would never have accepted a 4 year old no mater how tall or mature; they stress enrichment over acceleration, and even in the handbook they state "education is a journey, not a race" (I agree!) In the long run, will it make much diiference if a child graduates from highschool at 16 or 18? Or from college at 20 or 24? I don't think so.


But as this is a ballet discussion board, I am curious as to the benefits of early graduation with regards to ballet training. I wonder if more experienced parents or teachers could state whether being a 16-year-old high school graduate is really an advantage in the ballet world. Don't many residency programs have academic components? If a school has a post-graduate program, would they even accept a 16-year-old? And would there be housing available, or would they expect grads to be capable of living independently? My dds are young, and I may be missing something here, but I seem to think that the ideal situation would be having the child both company and college ready at age 18 - then a choice could be made. If the child needs an extra year (post hghschool) to prepare for company auditions, would they really be at a huge disadvantage?

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Guest sehoy13

My DS graduated at 16. His last year he only had two two classes and worked to make money for the next summer intensive. He spent the following year (he had turned 17) at his ballet school. He was treated pretty much as the other post-grads to the best of my knowledge.


The advantage of this for him was it allowed him to get requirements out of the way so he could focus on what was important to him. And the job was also important.


If I had to do it all over again, things might be different. For the most part, we are all happy with how things developed.

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I remember the kids in high school who graduated in three years were the ones who hated school. They were typically mature and hard working but just hated high school and couldn't wait to leave. One of my sons could have graduated in three years but was no way mature enough to leave high school. Unless there is a pressing reason to leave, I think they should enjoy it while they can (that is if they are enjoying it).

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I will take responsibility for asking dance1soccer1 to explain her dd's approach to school. I did not mean for her choices to be critiqued. Several dancers at our ballet school homeschool in order to have more time for dance. That is not something that we will ever do. My DD loves school!! We have also had several (at least 3) dancers who, in their 17 year old year, were completing just one last course by correspondence and one who had graduated high school in 3 years. These kids had a lot of concentrated time in their 17 year old year for training.


It was my thought, for many kids, a good choice would be to stay in school, and then, if in the later teen years dance was looking likely as a profession, that would be a convenient time to step up the training. This, or course, assumes that the preliminary training is sufficient.


Our kids complete one high school credit of math and one of foreign language by the end of 8th grade. Not because we plan it, but because the school plans it that way. I was surprised when reviewing high school curriculum that by taking a normal course load, the kids are technically done with all the requirements but one by the end of their junior year. Of course, most kids go on to take another year of more advanced math, science, etc. I was just surprised that it was not required by the universities. If you somehow managed to finagle your way out of required P.E., there would be even less required. (Although DD loves PE too, so that won't be for us.)


I am also unclear about the whole AP thing. Do AP courses actually count as college credits?

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It depends on the college. Colleges set their own rules on whether they accept AP courses for credit. Usually, you are required to take the College Board's exam in your chosen subject area and achieve a particular score, most commonly a 3 or above on a 5 point scale, although some schools require a 4 or 5. Our school system also sends most of the students into ninth grade with high school credits in math and foreign language, so that by the end of junior year they may have completed most of their required courses. I've seen kids graduate from public high school with enough AP credits to begin college as a sophomore!

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mom1- I think it depends on the state in regards to AP credits. College in our area only allow AP courses to count as credit if the student scores a 5 (the highest score) on the AP test as well as has an A in the AP class. (much like we called clep (sp?) in the old days) And then it still depends on the course and degree program itself. A major university in our area now doesn't take all 5's into account especially in some sciences since a high school science lab cannot equate to what can be learned in a college science lab.


Our school offers a double up honors program in which you can forego all electives and just take academics. Therefore some students will take two sciences and two maths at one time. There is concentration on types of classes for instance if you're taking calculas, you could double up and take calculus based physics in addition to another sciend. However, most of the students who do "other" things besides school found they could not keep up with the course load required and still do those other things. Those still left in the program are those focused on medicine mostly who choose to do not much but study and in school clubs, not including athletics.


There is also a college in our area and a friend of DD who is enrolled in a program by which you can complete a 2 year college program and high school at the same time. Not sure why the young lady decided to do it but is. She is having some adjustment issues however, due to living on a college campus at 15 during the week and still trying to hold onto high school friends on the weekends. It's been tough for her but with only 1 year left she decided to stick it out. Her mom talks about lots of nightmare situations. I can't imagine.



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Good replies and points guys! The acceleration works well for DD because she loves school and loves her friends, and has, since preschool, had older friends. She was just born a little more mature than most kids, and was super early to talk (6 months), walk, read (3), lose teeth (4) etc., etc. She was just ready and desperate to be with friends. She is excited about school/friends each day, and also excited about graduating early so she can get on with what she perceives as a ballet career. For us, it is an unintended bonus that she can have a year (or two) to try out ballet plans without messing up a traditional college schedule if she doesn't have success at ballet right out of the box. She is the type of person who could easily and happily head off to college at 16 if she chose not to dance. We certainly didn't do this for dance, and in fact, until the last two years or so, never even considered that dance would be something she would carry on with post-high school.


For our son, he got much more socially skilled by seven or eight. He has great social success in middle school, is an elected officer in his class each year, captains academic team, is goalie on the soccer team, etc. He's less than a year younger than most classmates, so it's really no big deal. The accelerated academics for him is because he's ridiculously bright, and just does things really, really fast. He stuns us and his teachers daily. We have been advised to let him finish high school even earlier than projected, by 14 or so, but I just don't see the point. Hopefully, he'll just take college classes locally and graduate with his class. Then, a boy leaving home at 16, yikes! Hopefully he'll choose a college nearby. His other thought is a year abroad, doing some kind of study before beginning college. I know what he wants is to find something wherever his sister lands, so that he can live with her or near her. They are super close!


I agree with some of the other posters - accelerated academics is not for everyone, and has to be child-led. I just feel that for some kids it is a better alternative to what we are seeing A LOT of , kids homeschooled so that they can finish early or dance more. For the child who wants to be in school and wants to be with friends, this can be a workable solution.

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Our DD completed high school at 16 also. She had worked her schedule to be able attend ballet at the University at 15 and the schedule the following year made it prohibitive to attend school and take ballet. She had her taste of high school and then completed her diploma with the American School.


That was a crazy year, she had ballet in the morning, would work on school work for 2 hours and then was preparing for YAGP for 2 hours in the afternoon. She liked being free to concentrate on dance and not worry about school.


There were a few social drawbacks, she had only a few dates but had her friends from school around so she wasn't totally out of it. This was 2 years ago and she has no regrets.

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Guest appjuli

It's working for us, as well. My son began part-time at the community college at 13, and will be full-time there this year, at 14. We will graduate him from high school this year (at 15) and he's headed toward an A.S. degree at 16. This option allows him to live at home until 16 - at which point he'll transfer into the UNC system with most of his general ed behind him. His goal is an Md/PhD in human cytogenetics, so he has years and years of education ahead of him.


His academic life hasn't interfered with his social life - he's active in scouts, church, kung-fu, and neighborhood fun and is in many ways a very normal 14 yr old boy.


Point being, what works for one child may or may not work for another. Finding what works for your child - what makes him or her happy, fulfilled, energized - is key. Had we made our son go to high school he would likely lose his love for learning. YMMV.


(This, btw, is not my dancing child - she's less academically driven, and is on track with grade/age issues. )


One final note - height should be a non-issue!



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Hi Dance1soccer1, thank you for explaining about your non-dancing son! My radar went up when you said in your first post that he was "socially not so adept." That's why I was curious what you were going to do with a "socially not so adept" child who's done with high school at 16 :speechless: I was fearful of a college environment for that kind of kid. But now that you've explained that was just for a short period of time when he was a wee one :D , I understand. I can see that you are taking good care with him.


I think we all have to do what we think is best. Some of us think that academics are so important that they should trump ballet or at least not ever be rushed or sacrificed for them. Others believe that the learning from ballet is equally important and that what works best for the student is to do a lot of schooling on their own through alternative methods or a different time table so that they can spend more of their time doing what they do best or love most - ballet.


Some of what we believe is based on our own experiences with school as young students, our own beliefs about what it offered us. We then look at what's available in schooling in our neck of the woods and that, combined with how we perceive our children's social and academic progress, all mix together. We make our decisions from all of that and it can be different for each child in our family.


I want to say something again on behalf of the kids our school systems don't label bright. (I hate that designation actually.) There are so many different kinds of intelligences and many have nothing to do with the left-brained incremental style of our current educational system. These kids aren't going to get the high grades, they're not going to speedily "get" what's being presented, they'll probably never win awards, but they would benefit just as much, if not more so, from an individualized education plan (NOT the kind the schools do!!!) of the sort that dance1soccer1 put together for her children.


This sort of kid can usually do the work just fine if it were presented in a different way. In fact, I'll warrant that they'd graduate school early too if they weren't in the factory model school system we've got going in our country. B) It's set up to put lots of people through the doors efficiently, but that kind of efficiency isn't really the best way to educate individuals. :(


Anyway, I'm done being :blushing: for now.

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