For a lot of reasons I'm getting fed up with our Montessori school, and I'm starting to regret keeping my son in the same classroom with the same teacher for three years. At the moment I feel like I've done him a disservice because instead of improving, I feel like he has backtracked on issues. He's in 2nd grade (in a K-2 classroom) and has been attending this school since he turned 4. He's a "young" second grader with a mid-August birthday, but the work is not too difficult. Each of these three years he's been in the classroom we've had the same theme of "go-arounds" with the teacher. DS takes forever to do his worksheets and journal in the morning. DS is talkative during class. DS is too easily distracted. DS does not choose challenging work on the shelves. DS would rather sit and read than do any shelf work activity. DS chooses to stay inside during recess time to finish his worksheets and journal so that he doesn't have to do it at home.
I've expressed to the teacher my utter disdain for the worksheets. I've explained to her (something I shouldn't HAVE to explain, I would think) that we're paying for a Montessori education specifically because we dont' believe in forcing a child to sit and do worksheets all day. I've also talked to DS overandoverandoverandover that even thought the worksheets are not fun, it's part of what he has to do at school... that when he finishes the worksheets he gets to go on the shelves, etc. I do not share with him my disdain for the worksheets because I don't want to give him the impression that I condone not getting his work done.
This teacher has never willingly offered up individualized ways to help him get past these issues. I have come up with several, which she follows for a little while, things start getting better, then she abandons any "different" methods than the standard she uses for the class. She is not helpful in describing what's happening on a day to day basis - in fact, she'll tell us nothing for quite a while (even though we converse with her most days) and then one day suddenly tell us that suchandsuch has been happening for weeks.
The standard classroom day is as follows: Gathering and snack first thing in the morning, where they have a group topic, or story, or Brain Pop, or whatever is on the agenda for that day. Then they split into grade level and do their worksheets (math, reading comprehension, grammar, phonics, etc etc) and journal. This is the beginning of their 3 hour stretch. When they finish their worksheets they are free to go on the shelves and choose works for the remainder of their 3 hours. They are expected to get about 4 works done a day. Each year there are more and more worksheets DS is expected to complete, which matches his increasing levels of difficulty completing them. Then they have recess and lunch, and after that each day is "Specials" - PE, Sign Language, Spanish, Arts & Crafts or Cooking projects, or music, after which they have more time dedicated to shelf work (or, usually in DS's cases, finishing worksheets or journal).
DS is, I think, definitely an alternate learner. He is very bright. He reads at about a 6th grade level. He demonstrates to me daily that he "gets" the concepts of things he reads, he love science. He gobbles up National Geographic he receives every month - the adult version, not the kid version. He loves learning about animals, reptiles, things in nature, but not in a structured way - he loves learning it on his own, without pressure to answer test questions. He very, very obviously has issues staying on task. He loses things easily, he gets distracted all the time when it isn't something he wants to be doing. The worksheets are not too hard for him, he just loathes them and has not developed the ability to just "get it done and over with". He prefers learning things from books and movies - Discovery Channel type movies keep him absolutely mesmerized, and he'll tell me things months later that he learned. He gets frustrated easily with anything labeled "work" - but when the same information is applied to a life situation for him to figure out on his own, he gets it no problem.
Essentially, while I'm certain that this particular teacher has NOT made the proper attempts to figure out how to get DS interested in learning at school, I'm trying to decide what to do from here. Next year he would move to the 3rd to 5th grade classroom, and that teacher seems more M oriented and seems to work more with the children on an individual level. I don't know if I want to continue at this school or not though. There are no other elementary M schools in the area, or any other alternative learning style schools for that matter. I can only imagine he would do worse in a public school where it is structured like that all day long.
I need to help DS make the most of the rest of this year. I need to help his teacher in the sense that it is not ok for him to be talkative or disrupt other children in class - my son is definitely one of the most talkative, but there seem to be quite a few in his class that are chatty and have a hard time settling down - almost all of them boys. I need to be able to address the teacher about all this with a proper idea of how the daily routine of a Montessori school typically goes for elementary. Am I off base in thinking so poorly of the worksheets? I fear I may be more than a bit influenced by the tendency of DS and I to prefer unschooling...but I love the manipulatives over the traditional public school approach. In fact I swear if I had some of the shelf work here at home as games, he would have a blast with them.
Sorry for the looong post. Thoughts?
Wow that just sounds just like my son!! And I'm trying to decide if montessori or waldorf would be any good for him. He is doing fine in a public school, but I'm concerned it will strip off his love of learning and all that beautiful stuff. I'll be waiting for someone to answer you!
My son is 8 1/2 and in the 7-8-9 year old room at his montessori school, so 2nd grade. They do do worksheets at his school, but I don't think it's an every day thing and I think (though I'll have to ask him when he gets home) there is some choice in it -- like, they have to do 4 works and one has to be math and one has to be reading (I think!) but they have a lot of choice in it. I'm not sure if there are so many options that they'd never have to do a worksheet, though. I am sure they don't do worksheets before moving onto other works. They do bring home a packet of spelling worksheets (usually 4 pages that would take him 15 minutes to do if he put his mind to it) and a packet of math worksheets (might take half an hour) each week for homework as well as a couple of non-worksheet assignments. So, it's possible that his at home worksheets are comparable to your son's morning worksheets.
I don't love the worksheets, either. But there are some things they're probably good for, like working math problems, which I didn't realize before watching ds learn how to do them that they just need to do like a million problems before they get good at it. Like, he's good with the theory, but is slow and awkward in practice in a way that he won't be a million problems from now, if that makes sense. I think the montessori materials are so cool for learning the theory, but then there's still a need for something like worksheets to make it second nature to use the theory. I am curious about how unschoolers get there -- I imagine it might not take a million but only 20 problems to get it if you're 12 instead of 8.
I would be thrilled if all my son wanted to do was lie around and read! Do they allow him to do that for one work a day? Or do they have some free reading time?
Jayne, sewing up a storm mama to ds1 9/03, ds2 2/09, and 2 sweet furbabies.