Academic acceleration in its varied forms works for many gifted children—and there is evidence to support that. However, acceleration shouldn’t be entered into without careful deliberation. Often it’s obvious at the outset that this approach is the answer to the myriad challenges presented a particular gifted student—the need for a more demanding curriculum, the longing for like-minded peers, the chance to bypass the slow lane. Other times, it’s not as clear.

At the center of any decision to accelerate is a child—a whole human being whose complete complement of characteristics needs to be considered. Thankfully, there exists an objective tool that helps do that. Acceleration should never be viewed as one size fits all or as a final destination from which there is no return. And, at each deliberative stop, the children involved should be consulted—and their voices heard. After all, if a child is resistant to acceleration, then the acceleration is less likely to be a success.

None of us has a GPS into which we can program the guaranteed best route for the long-term success of our gifted children. All we can do is collect the pertinent information at any particular moment and make the most informed decision possible, keeping our plans open to the reality that sometimes we may need to veer off course or reassess the route.

And realize, too, that after traveling the road of advanced work—subject acceleration, grade skipping, early college—a gifted kid may want a break.

Imagine being sixteen years old—associate degree in one hand, high school diploma in the other. An honors graduate on both counts. And unsure which direction to go. It happens, and it’s okay. A gap year or two can be advantageous. While there will be students who want to go on to universities, pursuing higher level degrees at a nontraditional age, there will also be those who don’t. Acceleration isn’t simply about gifted kids getting somewhere faster; it’s about those kids getting the most out of the journey on the way to their destinations—whenever and wherever they arrive.

Some may find that the academic choices they made when they began their college work (sometimes as early as age 13) no longer hold and that they simply aren’t sure what they want to study or where. 

Some may feel that they’ve waited long enough to pursue their passions and that attending a university right away won’t help them achieve their goals as much as, say, a mentor, a job, or time to fully focus on personal projects.

Still others may long to pay it forward and take on a role within a service initiative, volunteering at local charities or traveling to distant lands for the greater good.

Whatever their motivations, the goals and interests of these gifted young people should be seriously considered and support afforded them as they build their own futures, seeking to become the people they desire to be.

In the end, acceleration is a personal choice. While being a viable alternative for many gifted children, it isn’t necessarily the best option for each of them. Care and planning involving the children and the concerned adults in their lives will lead to the best results. And remembering that the brake is right next to the accelerator will help these young people keep pace on their journeys.

This post is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Blog Hop, “Acceleration: Education at the Speed of Us.”  To read other contributions, please click on the graphic below or copy and paste the following URL into your search bar: http://www.HoagiesGifted.org/blog_hop_acceleration_2.htm
Thanks to Pamela S. Ryan for the great graphic!


10/11/2016 4:08am

Thank you so much. My sons teacher wants him pushed ahead but his friends are in his year. I've struggled with this for a while but your statement about the GPS is so true. I have no idea what is best long term, but I'm making the best choice for now.

10/11/2016 11:34am

I'm glad the post offered some reassurance for you, Heidi. As parents, we seem to continuously question ourselves when, in reality, all we can do is what we feel is right at the moment. If your son is happy in his current placement, that speaks volumes. Best of luck to you both!


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