DS has been in Montessori since 18 months and left at 4y8m to start in a regular school. We live in Hong Kong and he is going to a school that follows the British system where they start elementary at 5 years old. Unfortunately, he was born in December, so he is the youngest in class and started before he even turned 5. Although they call it Year 1, everything is adjusted accordingly to their level (since there are 13 years in the British elementary/secondary curriculum vs. 12 years in the U.S.).
Here is my problem: ds did great in Montessori (or perhaps it's also his teacher) and I was hoping to let him finish his elementary years in a Montessori school. Unfortunately, Montessori options are few in Hong Kong, so we had to make a decision and pull him out of Casa so that he can join the "regular" system.
DS was very focused while doing his work in his Montessori school. The teacher was also quite surprised that he could sit at a task for 1.5 hours at a stretch, so I never expected any problems. However, when my husband went to "dad's date" yesterday to work with ds in class, he noticed that ds' attention wandered away very often. I talked to his teacher and she said that there are a few kids in class just like ds and she is observing and working on it. She noted that many Montessori children take longer to adjust in a normal class setting.
I asked ds later (who just turned 5 last month) about it, and he admitted that he finds some of the things in class boring. Coming from a Montessori background, I can understand his point of view. Although ds' Montessori teacher would ask the children to do certain tasks (e.g. math) everyday whether they like it or not, ds, while not exhibiting great interest in math, doesn't have an aversion either. Other than math, he was free to choose whatever he wanted to do - which is obviously not the case in a normal school.
It just perplexes me that a child who has great focus should display the exact opposite in a new school. Is it a normal transition with Montessori children to a regular school?
Appreciate any advice.
Although your son's transition to a traditional Kindergarten may be seen as difficult, there are a few ways you might try to improve the situation.
First, continue to build a strong relationship with your new Kindergarten teacher. Although it sounds like you and your son both had a marvelous experience in Montessori, if you are constantly comparing the two environments and teachers, either consciously or unconsciously, this might create a rift between your family and the teacher as well as the school.
Try to see the positives in his new environment. Is there something that the new classroom does really well for your son? If so, make sure you make that a part of your conversation with your son when he comes home from school. Eg. "What kinds of books did you read today at group time?" and follow up with some positive points to your son, so he is aware that you are supportive of his school and classroom.
Also, you should find out how he is actually doing in the classroom both academically and socially. I'm assuming he has been in the class since September. So most likely he has had some assessments done (either formal or informal) in reading, math, social-emotional, etc. Be sure to ask about the assessments. Sometimes if a child says they are bored, it could mean that the curriculum that is taught in the class is too easy for him. But it also might mean that it is too difficult for him. This is why it is essential to find out how he is doing. If you have already had a parent-teacher conference, you might ask the teacher for another one to touch base.
You might also ask the teacher, as well as your son, if he has made any close friendships. Often a new student might struggle or say they are bored because they no longer have the companionship of their "old" friends, and don't have new ones yet. You might want to think about scheduling some playdates with classmates as well.
It is certainly expected for children coming from Montessori into a very different type of school with different expectations, to have a transition period. During this time your son will learn what is expected of him; what is and is not acceptable in that setting (like doing math all together v. independently in the Montessori class). The ability to focus is also a different expectation in traditional schools. Being able to focus in traditional schools may mean being able to sit for 30 minutes and watch/listen to the teacher give a whole group lesson in reading or language arts. Focus in Montessori schools often means the ability to concentrate on an hands-on activity of the child's choosing, by himself or with a friend. These are quite different abilities. However, most children settle into a new routine shortly after this transition.
Best of luck with your new school,
an experienced Montessori teacher and Ph.D. student in Education
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