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DS isn't doing his work at school

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

My DS has been at his Montessori school since he was 4.  He's now 6, in the first grade, in a K-2 classroom.  He's always been more of a dawdler, but lately it's gotten out of control.  He's extremely bright, reading far abaove grade level, knows his stuff when he actually does it, has a great memory for facts when he's interested in something... but since Christmas break ended he basically does nothing at school all day.  Now this school does spend time on worksheets and journals in the morning before they are allowed shelf time - it's an issue I've brought up many times with the teachers but I get nowhere because this is the only M school in the area and they really have no incentive to change that fact - they think the kids need the worksheets in order to be prepared to transition to public school... anyway.. He's always had an issue with the worksheets beecause he finds them boring - and I don't blame him!  I worked with his teacher on ways to help him finish faster (he would sit and dawdle all day and never get shelf time) and he did really great and was getting on the shelves every day.  Now, half the time he brings his work home and still sits around staring at the walls for the rest of the day unless someone is sitting with him guiding him to continue.  His teacher said lately when he does get shelf time he isn't even doing anything then.  He's been kind of a disruption in class, goofing off to avoid doing work, etc... She's mentioned that he's falling behind in that aspect because his peers have all grown out of the short attention span they all had last year.  She actually suggested getting him tested although he's definitely not hyperactive.  I am more inclined to believe it's situational, especially because I just started nursing school after Christmas break ended so our whole family dynamic has changed ( I was around day in/day out prior to that because I took online classes).    I would really love to get a M perspective on ways to help him through this.  All suggestions welcomed...

post #2 of 19

I suggest you tell the teacher that you chose a Montessori school for a reason and if they are not willing to provide a Montessori education you will be removing your child and your money from the school. (Be less blunt, of course.)


Then, I'd offer to bring him to school late, after the official "worksheet" time, if that'd make it easier on her not to have to explain to the other kids why your ds is getting a real Montessori education while they are caught up in nonsense.


If she tries to argue "but he'll be in public school next year and NEEDS to know about worksheets, blah blah blah" tell her that 1. next year is next year and 6 years old is different than 7 and 2. you'll have the summer to work with him on any skills that you feel are still needed by the end of this year.



Now, if you don't want to/can't be that forceful about things, my next question would be what is boring about the worksheets? Are they too easy and maybe what needs to happen is that the teacher just needs to recognize that he gets those concepts already? Or are they too hard and he needs more time on concept building works before he's asked to tackle the concepts in written form?


(Don't know if this is at play at all, but your post brought this article to mind: http://www.stephanietolan.com/is_it_a_cheetah.htm 


It's a pretty common pattern for advanced boys to end up bored in school and end up acting out and getting labeled as hyperactive and such. In a suitable Montessori environment the self-paced learning would alleviate that.)

post #3 of 19

Hugs to say I'm right there with you.  We sound like we are in similar situations, and it's overwhelmingly frustrating.  Sapphire_chan has some good advice.


More ideas off the top of my head:  Maybe you can come to a compromise on the kind of worksheets offered.  I'm not a fan of worksheets, but there are some types I find more merit in than others.  Like, ds got an "activity book" with addition math problems in them.  I know he's moving toward abstraction in addition.  But the problems aren't 4+5 = ___, which get boring to ds.  They are 4+___= 9 type problems, which takes it to a new, challenging level (pre-algebraic), even if it's not Montessori.  The added incentive is that the answer for each problem leads around a map/grid above by moving that many spaces N,S,E, or W (so they are learning some map skills at the same time).  At the end, where he ends up answers a question regarding the map, so he has to be attentive to follow carefully or he will not arrive at the correct location.  This kind of worksheet is okay with me on a sometimes basis because it works on several skills.  Anyway, my point is, maybe there is a way to talk with your ds and his teachers about worksheets that are less mundane to him and still working on their "worksheet skills".  Win-win.


Another thing they could try is to have him complete X number of worksheet questions, then get a work from the shelf, then X number more on the worksheet after a certain amount of time...  It steps him up to the "skill" of doing boring work. 


Thirdly, visual timers (TimeTimer.com) are great for helping kids (young and old) learn to manage their time.  Setting a regular timer really doesn't provide the big picture of how to manage time - these help them "see" how much time they've used and how much time they have left to complete their work.  This has worked beautifully for us with piano practicing, eating breakfast/getting dressed, spelling homework, etc...  It would work very well for ds at school too, if his teacher were willing enough to use it.


Sapphire_chan, I was thinking of that article too!  I just posted it a couple of weeks ago in another forum.  It reminded me of my ds.

post #4 of 19
Thread Starter 

Whooo sorry it took me so long to make it back to this thread! I started nursing school this semester and things are crazy busy - which is definitely one reason why i can't take him in late or anything - plus since he's in first grade that would count against him as an absence every time and he'd be automatically held back based on state rules I believe.  I'd totally be tempted to do that otherwise - although the reality is, if I didn't have to be in school I'd be homeschooling so it wouldn't be an issue!  As far as the preparation for public school, the sad thing is that the school goes up to 8th grade.  This "preparation" is leading parents (I'm not the only one) to consider dealing with public school much sooner because what is the point of paying tuition to NOT get Montessori? 


I tried to check that article out but it wouldn't pull up.  :/ 


I wish I could figure out if the worksheets are either too easy or too hard.  The teacher insists that the work is NEITHER too easy OR too hard, that he just doesn't want to work.  ::rolleyes::  This from the teacher who admitted that her 2nd grade students were easily doing 3rd grade concepts and wanted harder material but she wouldn't let them because "you can only go so far ahead!" I think I'm going to ask for some of the worksheets they use for me to do at  home with him.  Seeing him do it will give me a much better idea. It sounds to me like it's really easy though, because she's said that when he's timed and wants to get it done he flies through it and gets them all right. 


That timer looks really neat.  She is using a standard timer with him but I really like the idea of this one.  Maybe I'll purchase it and bring it in for her to use for him.  We did the "finish one worksheet and you get some time on the shelves" deal back in October and it worked wonders.  Within two weeks he was finishing everything and getting shelf work every day.  Everything reverted back in January though.  :(


I could try suggesting different worksheets, although she seems to be a "I say one thing but do another" kind of teacher.  Her welcome speech every year includes how they allow the kids to develop at their own pace so she might have 30 different lesson plans to draw up... but the reality is that she's very hesitant to do anything different from the other kids and their group work.  It was like pulling teeth just to get her to try the "one worksheet, five minutes on shelves" deal last semester. 


As my own schoolwork has gotten busier my husband is the one dropping off/picking up from school so my knowledge has been a lot more second hand info... it's frustrating.  :/

post #5 of 19
Thread Starter 

I almost forgot... it seems one of his major roadblocks is journal time.  When he comes home with work to do it's almost always because they had a journal asignment (they get topics like "talk about your favorite movie"  or "describe something fun you did")  and he just stares blankly at it the whole time.  The movie topic, he spent ridiculous amounts of time just trying to come up with a movie to write about - this from the kid who adores movies and at any other time would tell you in great detail how much he loves, say, Star Wars. 


I'm just curious if there's a way to help him through that "writer's block" he seems to get.  It's like his thought processes just freeze up if he's supposed to write about something.

post #6 of 19

Wow - do our kids have the same teacher? 


I sent a Time Timer to school with ds, but the teacher wouldn't use it.  She's now using a basic timer, which works some, but it's not really teaching him time management skills.  The one I bought has a fussy battery, and I have to sometimes check to make sure it's well-placed.  Evidently, that was too much for our teacher to do.  They are really nice, though!


For the writer's block - he's only 6, right?  Six year olds don't write prolifically, especially boys.  Does he have a hard time with fine motor?  Maybe you could ask that his journal come home with him instead of other work he didn't complete because he didn't get direct teaching about how to write it.  Graphic organizers are helpful, or even a basic strategy of  answering a couple of wh question - what your favorite food is, when you eat it.  I know my son has a hard time with the "favorites" thing (and so do I, actually).  He gets stuck on that stuff and overanalyzes.  If she's going to give them a topic, maybe it could be more of a "starter" rather than a favorites question.  There are a million "story starter" books out there.  I realize that journaling is for the process not the result, but it's my personal belief that she should SEE that this is a hard area for him and help give him some strategies to make it easier.  If I come up with more specific suggestions, I'll let you know. 


Oh yeah, I know this is moot since you don't have time anyway, but many states allow part-time homeschooling, so if you were able to keep him home in the mornings, then you could possibly look at doing a pt homeschool situation.  I know it's not possible right now, but I thought I'd mention it.  Also, is there a better teacher in this school?  If your son has to be with the teacher for the next 2 years, then it would be worth it to find someone to work with him and you.  Good luck!

post #7 of 19
Thread Starter 

Excellent idea!  It could feasibly be a win win situation if I could make it a fun Mommy bonding time while we work on his journal.  And I think I have the right especially at a M school to tweak the topic if necessary, as long as he's writing about the same general idea.  ;)  I think I'm going to try and squeeze in a visit with her this week and  have another talk... oh she hates when I do that. 


Ugh I wish there was more than one teacher but nope.  It's a shame, the preschool side of things is wonderful - great teachers, my daughter loves it and is totally thriving. 

post #8 of 19

I agree with the point sapphire made.  Why ARE you paying for a Montessori education if the teachers simply have no faith in the method itself?

post #9 of 19

When DS was bored in ps last year, and wanted less boring worksheets for "challenge time," I found it much more effective to simply bring in work that was at the right level (challenging, but something he could do with zero help, and fun--interesting kinds of problems, word problems about his beloved Yankees, etc.), and say, "Please give him this." It took a lot of effort to convince his teacher to give him something different, but even when she did give him something different it was not what he or I wanted. Much easier all around for me to produce what I thought was good. There are some really interesting workbooks out there--my DS really liked Code Breakers, and MindWare looks like it makes other interesting things--there's a Venn diagram workbook that comes in different levels that looks good to me. Not that this is at all Montessori, but it sounds like short-term it would help, and maybe seeing him do harder work well would help in other domains.



post #10 of 19

From a Lower Elementary Guide's position, I have found that Montessori children (I have no experience with non-Montessori children.) below the age of nine often have difficulties coming up with good journaling with these types of topics as they are too abstract.  Often I provide children with a small passage to read and a series of four of five questions to answer in complete sentences. I usually base these in either history or science. It is basically factually based and this is often a helpful way to work on sentence construction, paragraph construction, and reading comprehension without the need to imagine in their heads.

post #11 of 19

I have to agree with Matt on this one.  A private Montessori school that you pay tuition for should absolutely work with you to figure out what works best for your child.  Well, ANY school/teacher should do that!  


I completely feel your pain, Mama!!  I have a 6 year old DD who dawdles, too.  It's SO frustrating because when it comes to something she is interested in, she puts her heart and soul into it.  She spent 2 years in a private Montessori school, but now attends a Montessori charter school (free/public).  One problem we are/were having is with tardy slips in the a.m.  We had been fighting every single morning with getting dressed (even when she picked out clothes the night before), eating breakfast (when it was something she requested), getting shoes on, and getting in the car.  I finally decided to just stop getting upset.  I told DD that if she didn't get to school on time that the truancy department (I said "police", so I am totally taking 100% of the blame for this!!!) was going to come take Mommy to jail.  God, I feel awful just typing that.  I can't believe I would tell my sensitive 6 year old that. :(  We have had 2 instances where she sat outside the classroom (door was closed) and wouldn't go in.  We live in CA and all the classrooms lead directly to the outside.  There are no "inside hallways" like schools have back east.  So, it became a safety issue.  To make a long story short, she told me she was afraid to go in because she would get a tardy slip and Mommy would go to jail.  Yep, MAJOR, MAJOR parent guilt there.  We had a chat and I told her that Mommy was sorry for scaring her like that and that we should still get to school on time, but I won't go to jail.  Man, I'm just awful.  ::insert the sound of beating myself up here::  The fighting in the morning was really affecting her ability to focus and work.  We have done a complete 180 and there is no more fighting in the morning, I wake them up peacefully, do not raise my voice, and the biggest change is that they get no more TV time before school.....EVER!  We play little games now, like, "Awake? check. Dressed? check. Breakfast? check. In the car? check." and they think it's hilarious.  I keep a real positive vibe in the morning and it really has made a total difference.


The other thing we just did was called a RTI meeting (tier 1) with her teacher.  It's basically a plan on how to solve the issue of DD not wanting to work. One thing they do is ask DD to number the three jobs she wants to do on her workplan (if she completes those she can do more, but they are not trying to overwhelm her).  They do like the kids to do word building and math every day, but it's their choice.  If they want to start with practical life, that's fine.  If they don't get around to a math job that day, it's ok. The teacher checks in with me every day and says "she had a good day" or "she had a rough day" and then we come home and spend about 2 minutes talking about what happened.  9 out of 10 times I get it out of her and then I send a note to the teacher the next morning.  The smallest things seem to trigger her moods, i.e. somebody might have said something mean to her that day and it sent her into a downward spiral.  One day she was doing word building and needed more than four "w"'s in the moveable alphabet.  She got up to get more from another tray and one of the assistant teachers asked her to return to her rug.  She immediately stopped working for the rest of the day (basically holding a grudge!) and the teacher said she even threw cards across the rug and sat pouting for the rest of work period. What I suspect is that from the rug to the tray there was a little goofing off, TA saw it, and asked her to return to her job.  Both the teacher and I stress the importance of speaking up and telling the teacher what is wrong.  She has a great teacher, so I am confident she is being treated fairly.  In this instance, nobody knew what she needed.  I'm assuming they just saw her wandering or goofing off.


One recommendation was to send her into the K/1 room where her sister is (she is 5 and in K).  They thought that maybe if she shadowed her sister for a work period that it might motivate her a little.  My 5 year old will do 7 jobs in a work period and ask for more.  She is incredibly motivated. Plus, when they send kids to a different class to work, something really seems to kick them in gear.  It's not presented to the child as a punishment, but more of a "lets remove you from the distraction".  When I mentioned that we could do this, DD got really upset and said she didn't want to go to her sister's class to work.  Since that day I have not heard one bad report.


DW also works very long hours, so I know that is also affecting her.  She spends all her time with Mommy and misses her Mama.  We just have to make sure to give them very individual attention/alone time with us on the weekends. We eat dinner together and talk about our day.  And we really encourage open communication about anything - happy moments, frustrating moments, sad moments, etc.  All of this combined seems to be really helping her.


I hope some of that info. helped.  :)  Good luck!!!

post #12 of 19

Odd, the link doesn't work for me either, even though I can still access it through a Google search so I know the actual page still exists.


Here's another place it's been published





OMG that teacher is HORRIBLE.


Can you get together with the other parents and the school director and see about getting the teacher fired? Or at least sent back for more training? Is she even certified?


Ugh. "Preparation for public school" and the school goes to grade 8? S.t.u.p.i.d.  (Note, I'm criticizing a concept not a person.)

post #13 of 19
Thread Starter 

Yep.  Sadly the reason we continue to use this school is because of the complete lack of any other options.  There's public school, a couple Catholic schools within a 30 mile radius, and a Baptist school - all of which use the "standard" methods of teaching.  I figure at least getting the multi-age classroom and use of the manipulatives is better than nothing.  :/  I know of one other mother who feels the way I do and she's probably going to pull her son after this year - which takes away my only ally.  It seems to me that most people are content with the general idea that their kids are in a private school.  The directress, who is wonderful with the 2-5 group, doesn't seem willing to make any changes - I imagine because it's just not easy to find anyone else to take the place of this teacher. Plus, this teacher's husband teaches the 6th-8th grade room.  She loses one, she loses both.  The final reason, the one that ultimately made the decision for me at least until nursing school is done, is that my 2 year old is absolutely thriving at this school - she went from home with me all the time to full time school and didn't even miss a beat.  DS loves the school as well - so they are both happy and at the same place for now. 


I made it from clinicals yesterday just in time to get to the school as it ended for the day so I had a chat with his teacher.  She's going to send me home a bunch of worksheets that they do so I can get a feel for it.  Out of her own mouth though, he gets them done really fast when he wants to.  She did say, which made me proud of HIM, that he's been choosing on his own whether he needs the timer or not.  He hasn't used it for worksheets the past few days but he asked for it for journal time.  I also said I'd like to do journal at home with him so that's what we're going to do, making sure to express to her that the purpose is for him to get more shelf time and get some Mommy help figuring out what to write since that's where he's struggling.  The other night he told me that the reason he didn't finish his work that day was a word search.  They didn't have to find all the words but he wanted to, but he's "just not good at word searches" he said. 


BCFD - your daughter sounds VERY similar to my son.  He's a MAJOR dawdler around the house!!  He's also really sensitive.  If something happens like someone sits on the rug he was using, or someone messes up whatever manipulative he was using, it ruins his whole day and he doesn't get work done.  He's ALSO the type to not explain what was going on to the teacher that is involved with it - so if he gets in trouble because someone else took his rug and he wants to sit there, and the teacher thinks he's just trying to take the rug that belongs to someone else, he doesn't explain, mostly I think because he's too angry to explain properly.  Thanks for your post, it's nice to know that we're not a complete anomaly over here lol. 


I'll have to come back to check out that link, I'm out of time this morning.  :)

post #14 of 19

I'm new here, but just thought I would add my 2 cents--based on my own experience having my daughter in a public school Montessori for the last 3 1/2 years. It's just not right for every child. My daughter is doing fine academically, but socially--she is intimidated, especially by the older students and she is also totally bored and uninspired! Reading and writing is pretty much all she does along with some math computations. She is sensitve, creative and seems to live on her own time schedule. And there is nothing wrong with a 6 year old "dawdling"--he just may be thinking about other things. If your child is not fitting in with montessori, you might want to research info on learning styles. I have come to realize that my child is a total Visual/Spatial learner! The description of these types of learners fits her to a "T". Your children might be the same. No concept of time, reflective, day dreaming all the time, likes to build things and do puzzles etc.


I admit that her public school may not be up to par with private schools. That said, IMHO, if you've got a really creative child, try waldorf or homeschooling  -- otherwise, make sure they are getting their creative needs filled outside the classroom.


I give a thumbs up to the math materials, though--great for visual spatial or any type of learner.

post #15 of 19
Originally Posted by maddiewalker View Post

I admit that her public school may not be up to par with private schools. That said, IMHO, if you've got a really creative child, try waldorf or homeschooling  -- otherwise, make sure they are getting their creative needs filled outside the classroom.


I give a thumbs up to the math materials, though--great for visual spatial or any type of learner.



Yes, it would be really nice if educators really took different learning styles into consideration. Unfortunately, even the best of them can't do it fully because they have 20-something individual styles to adapt to.  A Montessori environment seems like it would be a good fit for a v/s learner, at least compared to traditional, imo.  And a well-structured Montessori should have an easier time adjusting to the individual needs of the students.

post #16 of 19

Probably because I've only really looked at the primary works, but Montessori and v/s learning seem like they should go hand in hand.


And really, even if that weren't the case, the OP's son has no problems with the Montessori work.

post #17 of 19

I saw this in new posts and thought it was interesting. I don't do the Montessori stuff, but my friend's son is in one that a lot of students go to when they are training for the Montessori training place and they do a lot of worksheets, it is a really shocking amount and there are many other options in our city for a Montessori education or another kind of education but this program is always full with a waiting list so I think this may be the norm (or people just jump all over anything with the title Montessori).  I know that they are also held to the same testing standards as the public schools are because that is a state requirement and I wonder if they also have a hard time finding ways to teach kids the testing materials in hands on ways as some public school teachers do.  I can see how that would add a lot to their already full plate if they have to teach the material that will be on the test in order to stay accredited while also teaching the curriculum that the parents are paying for.


I am not sure what the reason behind the high volume of worksheets is, but you may find that even if you had another choice for Montessori education that he would still need to do the worksheets and you and his teacher would still need to find a way to convey to him that at school he is expected to do his work even if he doesn't like the work he has to do, he is expected to behave and follow directions, and he is expected to allow the other students to do their work by not disturbing them. This is a difficult thing for many kids to learn no matter where they go to school. My dd homeschooled for half of last year and that combined with her determination to do her own thing made the transition to school very hard this year. We had to talk a lot about why the teacher might have certain rules, why certain behaviors are a distraction, why we shouldn't distract others at school, how quickly work can be done if she stayed out of what she called "imagination land" until it was done, and why sometimes we have to do work that may not make sense when we are in school. I also found a big difference in how quickly her work was done and how well she behaved in school once I started making it seem like her teacher and I were 100% on the same page with no doubts or questions about it (this was a huge change for me). It made an amazing difference and she is now having a wonderful year. I haven't seen homework coming home because of not doing it in class for months now and she is so happy and proud of herself. I have been amazed by how much she wants to learn now because she got into the habit of learning even when she didn't feel like doing the activity and I see that the way the teacher chose to teach did make sense. I am truly amazed by the things my dd is learning now. Sometimes what needs to change is really not the schooling method, it is our children's behavior at school and the way we reinforce the expectations of the school to them.

post #18 of 19
Thread Starter 

One girl, I certainly don't let him think it's "ok" to disrupt others at school.  We have plenty of talks about that, and yes he knows perfectly well that I'm on par with his teacher when it comes to doing his work and being considerate of others.  I'm glad that simply having that talk with your daughter made everything different but it doesn't sound like your situation is very similar to mine.  (As others have mentioned) I am PAYING for my child to be in a school where he doesn't have to just follow the one set lesson plan for the class - that is one major point of having him in Montessori.  So no, I 'm not going to make my son think that he just has to do that work in that way because "that's the way it is".  That's not the way it is here, and I'm paying good money for it not to be that way.


I am pretty sure that we're dealing with two warring issues - the worksheets he's given are too easy for him (leading to the disruptive and dawdling behavior in class), but he doesn't yet have a drive to do harder work either because the challenge scares him.  He's always had a cautious attitude toward new things in general and gets frustrated easily if he doesn't "get" something right away, so he'd rather revert to easier work even if it bores him.  I'm curious if anyone from a Montessori perspective knows of a way to work on that. 


Also I just wanted to mention that A - my guy is a very social dude, he's not socially intimidated at all.  He's just sensitive to "minor" disruptions of emotion.  And B - he's got nooo troubles with Montessori stuff, it's the NON Montessori stuff he has to do first that's giving him the problems.  This awesome kid of mine knows more stuff about the planets and solar system or about random types of animals than I do, because that's what he's been gravitating towards when he does his shelf work.  And finally C - I discussed the dawdling as a part of the big picture, not because I'm saying it's inappropriate at his age or any nonsense like that. 

post #19 of 19

It was actually a lot of talks and a whole shift in the way I responded to her stories about school and talked about being annoyed with the stupid stuff she had to do at school, she was very close to being booted from a wonderful program that had many other people waiting to get in and she had the choice of doing work I knew was too easy and boring or going back to public school because her teacher wasn't willing to give her any accommodations and the principal backed her up completely.  It seemed like some of the stuff you talked about was possibly more about him not doing the work and not wanting a challenge and that being work being what he has to do because the teacher and director aren't willing to make a change (the things he is struggling with sound like things many kids struggle with at that age and his behavior sounds really well within the normal range) rather than just a Montessori thing and I am sorry you found my suggestions offensive.  Good luck with getting a change!


I realize you want Montessori points of view, but I would like to gently suggest that you also post about some aspects of this in the Gifted and Talented area because kids who are academically gifted often do daydream and dawdle when given work that is too easy and teachers are often very resistant to doing work they have no interest in even if the work is challenging.  There may be some people in that forum who have found effective ways to get teachers (private or public) accommodate their kids and bring the behavior problems stemming from boredom down.

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