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Handling advanced skills in Montessori preschool

post #1 of 36
Thread Starter 
DD will be 3 in January, and she's been enrolled in a Montessori preschool (mixed ages class, traditional Montessori works) since fall. Her abilities are all over the place, but she's well ahead of the curve in vocabulary, is a precocious whole-word reader (though that's not really her main interest), and mathematics. Mathematics IS her thing, she loves numbers and enjoys playing around with math concepts.

In October, at parent-teacher conference, the teacher was aware that DD could identify numbers up to 10, but that's all they've done with her age group and math (because some of the practical life works have numbers on 'em). She said they would point the kids toward sensory next and then math after that, and when I asked about the progression in the Montessori area here on MDC, the answers I got suggested math works "usually" started in the middle of the 2nd year.

So she's not doing math works at school. On "Mother's visit day" in November, right at the end, I saw her take a math work to her teacher and ask to use it. Her teacher had her identify number 1 through 10, which clearly wasn't the point of that math work at all, and had her put it away since it was time to leave.

In October, her regular teacher expressed that DD would need to finish more sensory works to build pre-math skills before starting math works. I think if she wants to do sensory, fine, but she doesn't really "need" the build more pre-math skills because she already has a good grasp of math concepts.

Her head teacher has been out for 3 weeks after a car accident, but I set up a checkin meeting with the directress on Friday. I'd like to talk about the math stuff -- if she asks to play with math works, shouldn't they at least give her real lessons on them?

I'm looking for experiences with how other gifted kids worked through the montessori curriculum, and how any accelleration took place. How did your school handle uneven talents? Did you have to push? I'm not sure exactly how to approach this. Its is my first experience trying to talk to her teachers about it, really...
post #2 of 36
The idea that all kids of the same age must work on the same subject doesn't sound very montessori to me. A main point in the montessori philosophy is that children develop different skills and are ready for different works at different ages. In my 4 yr old's class, the children are 3-6 yr olds and all are working with materials that are appropriate for where they're at, regardless of age. Same with my 6 yr old in the 6-9 class. I really like that the emphasis is on meeting the child where she's at, not on providing a standardized curriculum for all 3 year olds.

As for acceleration, it hasn't been an issue. I actually love that there is no 'gifted' or 'remedial' identification, my kids can just be who they are. They don't need to compete for a top grade or deal with standardized tests or pull-out gifted programs. When a child has more advanced skills or catches on quickly to a concept, it's not a big deal -- the lessons are always individualized and are always appropriate for where they're at. When a child's skills are high, they sometimes help out other kids, materials are pulled in from older classrooms, they reach a little deeper into the materials, they work with older children... it's just not a problem. When their skills are less developed in another area, it's no problem either -- other kids help them out, materials are pulled in that are appropriate for them, they deal with the work in a less deep way - just getting familiar with it and getting ready for a time when they can understand it...

As for whether or not you should 'push'... I probably would give it time. I find that it's okay to step back and just watch your kids grow... it's not a race, she has a lifetime to experience mathematics and there's no way for her to be bored with all of the materials that are available to her. If she's happy and thriving, then I'd just leave it alone.
post #3 of 36
Unfortunately, Montessori doesn't seem to work that way. Dd reads chapter books at home and has taught herself multiplication. She writes stories, looking up the spelling for words she doesn't know. (She can spell words like available w/o any trouble). What does she do at school? Cut little paper strips. Dh and I just smiled this fall when one of her teachers at conference said, "you know she can read?" Um, yeah, she's been doing that for a year and a half. We don't mind that they don't push them there, but it's odd to me that they don't get a better feel for these abilities. At home dd reads everything in sight, asking questions about weird concepts, and is constantly figuring out new math facts ("you know mom that 3 fives are fifteen and five threes are fifteen. If you take fifteen and divide it into five groups, each one would have three...). It's just odd to me with her chatter that they don't have a better grasp of what she knows. She won't be going there next year, and they save geography works for the third year, so the only thing I've really mentioned is that we would love it if they would allow her to do them, since geography is an absolute love of hers. They have allowed her to do some, but I personally don't feel they give her work at her level. Nevertheless, that isn't why we sent her there, so as long as she's happy and learning positive social skills, great. We are on the lookout (for the future) for her purposely holding herself back to be with her peers.

I don't know if I answered your questions...
post #4 of 36
We have had the same trouble with Montessori. Ours is not mixed age, and we pushed to get my son in the 3 YO class right before his 3rd birthday (when he started throwing tantrums in his old class whenever a new child would touch a new activity because, according to his old teacher, he was so bored!). He was right at the end of potty training, and the director was REALLY averse to moving him. When we went to parent teacher night in the 3 YO class this fall a few weeks before my son joined the class, they went over what they would be covering. With the exception of knowing his continents, he already was proficient in what they would be doing (several times during the presentation the teacher said "of course, DS already knows how to do X!").
We're at a loss, too. My son can count to 100 with a little help, and over 30 without. THey are still counting objects to 10, which he's been doing for a year.
One of the teachers was showing him the 4 and 5 YO stuff at the end of the day right before we picked him up, and the director told me she thought that the teacher showing him these things was "a problem" because "what were they going to do with DS later?" Yikes!
Our one issue is that the teachers LOVE my son, and we think that's critically important at his age, even if he's doing a lot less intellectually than he could be. He has lots of little "friends" and has fun at preschool. We have been struggling with what to do longer-term, though.
post #5 of 36
These "Montessori" schools are not like ours. In ours, there is no work that is assigned to a certain age group. The children all work independently and individually in the 3-6 room. Geography is for all ages and for anyone interested. Are these schools certified by a Montessori association (most aren't)or are they Montessori-inspired? I've never heard of Montessori without mixed-age classrooms! That seems so important to the method. Our primary room has children learning letters and reading chapter books, children counting and doing division/mulitiplication. In additon, the elementary room is connected and there are kids going back and forth for individual lessons in either room. Some kids completely move up to the elementary room at 5, as well.
post #6 of 36
In ours, they all worked individually at their own levels, but it was only a preschool - not part of an elementary school - so the end point wasn't very advanced and she finished the available lessons pretty early. They didn't do any actual reading, for instance. It was largely counting and letter identification. I might send #2 to a play-based preschool.
post #7 of 36
DS's Montessori is happy to work with him at his level. He can also just spend his day pouring water from container to container if he wants to.
post #8 of 36
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lingmom View Post
The idea that all kids of the same age must work on the same subject doesn't sound very montessori to me. A main point in the montessori philosophy is that children develop different skills and are ready for different works at different ages.
I acutally asked about how kids typically progress from one area to another here on MDC in the Montessori area and despite the 'everyone does their own thing' stuff, the teachers who hang out there did seem to have ages in mine when kids progressed to various materials (My thread was here.)

Quote:
As for whether or not you should 'push'... I probably would give it time. I find that it's okay to step back and just watch your kids grow... it's not a race, she has a lifetime to experience mathematics and there's no way for her to be bored with all of the materials that are available to her. If she's happy and thriving, then I'd just leave it alone.
It's hard to tell if she's happy and thriving or not, since she claims she does "nothing" at school. She's not a good self reporter yet and lately she makes up the most elaborate real-life-inspired stories.

But what stuck out to me was that I DID see her ask about a math work and her teacher sort of put her off. That was earlier in the year and I figured she just hadn't discovered yet that DD can do math stuff...

Quote:
Originally Posted by expecting-joy View Post
Unfortunately, Montessori doesn't seem to work that way. Dd reads chapter books at home and has taught herself multiplication. She writes stories, looking up the spelling for words she doesn't know. (She can spell words like avilable w/o any trouble). What does she do at school? Cut little paper strips. Dh and I just smiled this fall when one of her teachers at conference said, "you know she can read?" Um, yeah, she's been doing that for a year and a half. We don't mind that they don't push them there, but it's odd to me that they don't get a better feel for these abilities.

I don't know if I answered your questions...
No, but I think what you're experiencing sounds like what I'm bothered by. At "parent-teacher conference" her teacher was pleased to talk about how DD could identify number 1 through 10 without trouble... but yeah, she could do that a year ago... at what point will her teacher notice that she can add and subtract, tell odds from evens, enumerate until she gets bored with the activity, or read a digital clock, or any of the other math stuff she likes?

I would be quite happy if she was getting her math jollies at school so that I don't have to face getting home from work and being asked to count by 17s in Chinese...

DD's teacher is in her first year as a lead teacher, FWIW, so I kinda wonder if her lack of solid experience might be a factor in her not noticing ? Though I did flat-out tell her at conferences that DD could read some words, and she expressed the belief that whole-word reading is "not really reading" and that you weren't really reading until you learned the phonics method.
post #9 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aufilia View Post
DD's teacher is in her first year as a lead teacher, FWIW, so I kinda wonder if her lack of solid experience might be a factor in her not noticing ? Though I did flat-out tell her at conferences that DD could read some words, and she expressed the belief that whole-word reading is "not really reading" and that you weren't really reading until you learned the phonics method.
While for some people this is true (DS had a few sight words when he was younger, but then moved onto phonics and has abandoned sight reading) for others it is their preffered reading style. My dad has spent his whole life as a sight reader, and still struggles with phonics when reading books like Dr Suess that require sounding out. It never was a problem for dad, he was a magazine editor and wrote 3 books (four if you count one he hasn't gotten around to submitting to be published.)
post #10 of 36
I read the other post. One person who was not a teacher said she has observed that it generally starts 2nd year, the other teacher said generally formal lessons start 2nd year but that there is overlap and can be different for different children, and the third teacher didn't give a time but (I thought) he seemed to be saying that the progression starts when they enter, but parents might not recognize the work as math. A child who is mastering lessons should be moving on. There isn't a Montessori timetable, though there is a general progression you expect to see. Many schools are just doing some Montessori work but they aren't fully implementing the method. Are your teachers Montessori trained and certified? Montessori should not be holding a child back. They should be able to progress as far as they'd like/can, but MANY Montessori schools are not doing what they should be doing. Anyone can use the name; it isn't trademarked.
post #11 of 36
I have had challenges with the Monttessori school DS1 is at because his teacher wants him to get the sensory aspect of all the work correct before he moves on to the next work, but he gets the concept way before he has got the motor sensory aspect down and he gets bored as soon as he understands the concept.

After meeting with me about the behaviour issue DS1 has when he is bored, the teacher has "shown" him ALL the reading work in the classroom and he reads a lot and she is moving him through the math work faster than she is entirely comfortable with. He is misbehaving less, so I think it is working. But, it is very clear that this school is not a long term option for DS because she feels like she is not "doing Montessori properly" by accommodating him.
post #12 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aufilia View Post

But what stuck out to me was that I DID see her ask about a math work and her teacher sort of put her off. That was earlier in the year and I figured she just hadn't discovered yet that DD can do math stuff...
That would have really bothered me, too. I actually chose this school because it was the only pre-school I visited where the teachers didn't talk down to my daughter. I understand they want children to progress through a series of works in a certain order, and I'm o.k. with review and practice to make sure there are no holes in learning, but I would definitely be bothered that they are not discovering what your dd knows already.

Quote:
No, but I think what you're experiencing sounds like what I'm bothered by. At "parent-teacher conference" her teacher was pleased to talk about how DD could identify number 1 through 10 without trouble... but yeah, she could do that a year ago... at what point will her teacher notice that she can add and subtract, tell odds from evens, enumerate until she gets bored with the activity, or read a digital clock, or any of the other math stuff she likes?
Yes, I hear you. I wish I had an answer for you. Have you considered asking her teacher directly?

Quote:
I would be quite happy if she was getting her math jollies at school so that I don't have to face getting home from work and being asked to count by 17s in Chinese...
That made me laugh! I really think there needs to be some training for all teachers on recognizing gifted or accelerated students and how to assess where they are and what their needs are. Dd begged to finish her second series of geography workbooks today. They're designed for the fifth grade, and she raced through them, writing out all the answers in complete sentences. I feel no need to bring in samples to her teachers of all she can do, but I felt for dd when she told me last year the teachers didn't let "3s" do map work. She was really sad about it and I don't think they got that she was super interested and knowledgeable. Goodness, she was there with them over a year before they realized she could read.

Quote:
DD's teacher is in her first year as a lead teacher, FWIW, so I kinda wonder if her lack of solid experience might be a factor in her not noticing ? Though I did flat-out tell her at conferences that DD could read some words, and she expressed the belief that whole-word reading is "not really reading" and that you weren't really reading until you learned the phonics method.
Oh that really irritates me. I went to an open house for a prospective kindergarten earlier this year and the teacher was spewing some nonsense about how no five-year-old can read for meaning. They're not really reading. PUH-lease. Not all people need phonics instruction.
post #13 of 36
A little insight into some of these thoughts.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aufilia View Post
I acutally asked about how kids typically progress from one area to another here on MDC in the Montessori area and despite the 'everyone does their own thing' stuff, the teachers who hang out there did seem to have ages in mine when kids progressed to various materials (My thread was here.)
Montessori does have ages in mind, but they're not set. I didn't look back on that thread, but may have replied in it. I will look later (somewhat pressed for time and want to reply to thoughts on this thread first).

With ages, they should be more of a guideline than a rule. Many training centers teach it as a rule, from what I have seen. For me, I use it more in the beginning of the year than anything. I want to make sure I have materials out for 3, 4, and 5 year olds that would naturally interest them. If a 5 year old chooses a "3 year old work," that is fine. It usually means one of two things:
1) The child needs to learn something from that work
2) The child wants to do that work much like I like to do Montessori materials I already know how to do. Just for fun.

Often times, the "younger" work actually helps students in the beginning of the year to feel more at home.

As far as younger students choosing work that is designed for older students, this is where creativity comes in on the teacher's part. I have a 3 year old girl that has not yet mastered 1-9. She went to the bead cabinet. She wasn't ready to count out the beads, but she was ready to fold the 10 chain up and make it 10 squared then compare it to the square of 100 beads that comes with the cabinet. She might not be able to count them to 100 and put the markers down, but she can still get a sense of what the material is like. When it comes time for her to have a full presentation on that material, it will make much more sense because she has seen it 100 times before.

The only time I have stepped in on a student's choice is when I think it's going to be "too much" and become overwhelming, then I simply have to limit the choice or provide another way to help the child. If a 3 year old takes the Africa map (which is hard), I'll look for the first 6 year old that is available to help him with it.


Quote:
It's hard to tell if she's happy and thriving or not, since she claims she does "nothing" at school. She's not a good self reporter yet and lately she makes up the most elaborate real-life-inspired stories.
This is what most students would say. They don't think of their work as work in the sense that we do. They don't think of learning as learning like we do. Montessori meets their needs developmentally - not through rote drilling. When a child's needs are met and the child is in an environment that is comfortable, they tend to want to become masters of that environment.

The best person to ask if you want to know what the student works on is the teacher, not usually the student.

Quote:
But what stuck out to me was that I DID see her ask about a math work and her teacher sort of put her off. That was earlier in the year and I figured she just hadn't discovered yet that DD can do math stuff...
It's hard to say. I know I'd never do that, but every teacher is different.

Quote:
At "parent-teacher conference" her teacher was pleased to talk about how DD could identify number 1 through 10 without trouble... but yeah, she could do that a year ago... at what point will her teacher notice that she can add and subtract, tell odds from evens, enumerate until she gets bored with the activity, or read a digital clock, or any of the other math stuff she likes?
Moving from 1-10, she should have then moved into the decimal system and began working with 4 digit numbers. If she's not going into that work, I would be really specific in your question. "What do you see with 1-10 and 0-9 that my daughter is not making the connection and preventing her from moving on into the larger numbers?"

Quote:
I would be quite happy if she was getting her math jollies at school so that I don't have to face getting home from work and being asked to count by 17s in Chinese...
Don't look at it as a chore, but a great opportunity. But I see your point.

Quote:
DD's teacher is in her first year as a lead teacher, FWIW, so I kinda wonder if her lack of solid experience might be a factor in her not noticing ? Though I did flat-out tell her at conferences that DD could read some words, and she expressed the belief that whole-word reading is "not really reading" and that you weren't really reading until you learned the phonics method.
What do you mean by "read some words?" Does she just recognize the words or is she able to decode them?

As a side note that may actually shed some light on this phonetic aspect: I noticed you mentioned counting in Chinese. Are you Asian by chance? The reason I ask is because I work in Taiwan and the writing system here is obviously different than it is in America. I've noticed students here pick up reading more in terms of sight words (they recognize the word and have it memorized) than they do phonics, even on words that are not typically sight words. This has led to big problems teaching English here because there is no way to really memorize all the words the same way people can memorize thousands of Chinese characters.

In Chinese, combine a lot of words also. So train is really 火車, or "fire car." So there are a lot less characters to memorize than there are words to memorize how to spell. I agree with the teacher on this point at least ~ it's great that she can read some words, but without the phonetic system, the progress will be stilted eventually.

Reading methods being used are much more phonics based than they were years ago.
post #14 of 36
So there's a part of me that wants to pipe in and be defensive for Montessori here. I'm a Montessori mom, and a true believer in the method. That said, we've been in two different schools and observed in at least a half dozen others, and I just don't think Montessori is always (or maybe even *often*) well-implemented. And I even live in an area that has abundant Montessori resources, including a very reputable training program. As a result, I've had to accept the fact that, as much as I want it, Montessori in a Montessori classroom might not be right for my daughter.

For me, the long and the short of it is that we haven't been able to find a situation in which the teachers can connect to my daughter in the way she needs. She's not a typical child. She hasn't been tested yet, and besides some precocious verbal skills, she's not doing anything that puts her so far ahead of the pack that giftedness is a foregone conclusion, but she's obviously bright. Nonetheless, sast year she spent the entire year hanging out in practical life. This was frustrating to me because I knew she was capable of doing other work, and that if more attention had been paid to helping her develop interest and motivation, more would have been accomplished. But whatever. She suffered no harm.

This year, on the other hand, her directress has picked up on the fact that she's bright, so she's pushing her to choose "challenging work." If DD resists this challenging work, DD actually gets punished -- the directress stops allowing DD to select her own work and requires DD to follow the directress around during the day. My DD is really averse to failure, and she hates to fail while others are watching. She spends a lot of time working at perfecting certain skills before she's ready to move on. For good or bad, she thrives on praise, which this directress doles out in heaps and bounds, but only when she thinks it's appropriate based on the challenge level of the chosen work. It ends up being a horrible mix because DD can't figure out how to be comfortable in the classroom. It's a lose-lose situation for her. She's pretty miserable, and I think rightfully so.

So yeah, as committed as I am to Montessori, we've realized this school just doesn't fit the bill either. As soon as we can figure out a way to make it work financially and logistically, we're pulling our little ones out to start Montessori homeschooling. (FWIW, my YDD is thriving in the Montessori Toddler program at the same school.)

It's like the pendulum swung as far as it possibly could between last year and this one. But nothing about either of the schools would have given me any insight into these developments until my daughter was in the thick of it.

My point is that, at some point, you have to realize that it's not the method or the work that has failed your child. The method and the work are sound. It is the implementation, and implementation is intensely personal to the director: the way the director was trained; the personal prejudices the director carries; the director's experience, tolerance, intelligence, abilities, sensivity, empathy, creativity, flexibility, and even personality.

Sorry, some of this was undoutedly my own venting over my personal frustrations with our school at the moment. I hope you get some resolution to your situation. It sounds frustrating.
post #15 of 36
I haven't read any replies but I have a 3 1/2 yo in Montessori. I am not even sure he is gifted but I was reading this so thought I would reply. I am pretty sure the point of Montessori is to meet each child where they are at the given time. My ds is definitely interested in math and is well beyond recognizing 1 through 10. His teacher has no problem allowing him to do math works. He has been doing some simple addition for a couple weeks and seems to love it. She lets him do pretty much any work he is interested in and shows him how to use it and encourages him to use it properly. She doesn't seem to care that he is 3 1/2 only that he is interested and wants to do the work and can. She seems to see how eager he is to progress with things and just helps him succeed. I think we got really lucky with this program and teacher. She always seems excited that he is interested in things beyond his age level and wants to meet him at his abilities.

I hope you can discuss this with the teacher/directress and get some resolution so they can help her to progress with her interest.

Wendi
post #16 of 36
Quote:
My point is that, at some point, you have to realize that it's not the method or the work that has failed your child. The method and the work are sound. It is the implementation, and implementation is intensely personal to the director: the way the director was trained; the personal prejudices the director carries; the director's experience, tolerance, intelligence, abilities, sensivity, empathy, creativity, flexibility, and even personality.
post #17 of 36
My DD1 goes to a traditional Montessori preschool (mixed age 3-6). She is not progressing very well. And she's getting bored with it. I love love love the Montessori philosophy, and it's really killing me that it may not be the right match for her.

Her school is quite traditional, and they definitely do have ages in mind there. DD is reading and writing at home, and her school (for the THIRD year in a row!) is working on the same 6 letters with her!! I told the director that she was particularly loves writing at home, and she responded, "4yos are very attune to writing, but aren't really ready to read until age 5." I'm like, what? She IS reading!! Grrr...

Also, DD knows the ages of every child in the school and if she sees only 5yos working on something, she assumes that she cannot because she is 4, and won't even ask for fear of being turned down.

Now, a lot of our "problems" are due also to DD and her particular hang-ups. She is a perfectionist and adores her teachers. She would be devastated if she did anything "wrong" in front of them. She does not let them know that she, for instance, knows those 6 letters, because then she would be moved onto something new and she is scared of failure. Additionally, the Montessori classroom offers a lot of escape from boring work. Yes, she knows those 6 letters (all of them!) and doesn't want to sit there and go over them again and again, so she occupies herself with practical life and painting. Just to pass the time and avoid the boredom of reading and math. She literally goes WEEKS without doing ANY reading or math of any kind in school. Luckily, I have a good stock of homemade Montessori materials at home, and she likes doing the work at home without prompting.

She will not be going to this school for her Kindergarten year. I love the school, I love her teachers, and I love Montessori. It's just not a good match for DD. It's sad. That and the school is 30 min away and I can't take another year of two hours in the car every day to get her there and back!
post #18 of 36
With Montessori there are certain "work" they have to learn to be able to correctly do the next. It sounds like this might be the case. My children have both been in M school for awhile now (my son has been in since he was 3 and is now in 2nd grade) and I know that alot of materials work that way. I would be more concerned about them trying to teach certain things at certain ages and not when the child has made that step on to the next level. One thing with M school is anyone can tag that name to their school without any training. Personally if the school does not have AMI trained teachers (it does not have to be an AMI certified school) I would not have my children attending.

It is very typical for a M child to be more developed in one subject than another. One thing I have learned is that you just allow the process to happen naturally and not try to push your child in the direction of doing certain work because that is not very Montessori. Just my 2 cents. I would just make sure your child is happy where he/she is and that they are learning and progressing not just what they are learning.
post #19 of 36
I was just going to come ask a similar question...dd has been telling me that she can not do certain things because they are fo rthe "older kids". she is in a 3-6 room, and I know the teacher thinks of the kids in ages, not as just a member of the preschool room, and I wondered if that was typical or not....
post #20 of 36
Thread Starter 
I'm just going to post a quick reply since it's Christmas and I don't have time to reply in detail... but I really appreciate all the comments. We're near Seattle and as it turns out, the last 3 days of school were cancelled due to snow so we didn't ever make it to the meeting I'd set up for last week. I'm crossing my fingers that DD's regular head teacher will be back after the holiday break, though she won't have seen DD do anything since early December....
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