DS3 has been attending a local Montessori school for a little over a month. He has adjusted very well and seems to like the environment. He is a happy, introverted three year old, who happens to be a precocious reader (about 1st grade level with pretty good comprehension) and is obsessed with numbers.
I have requested a parent-teacher conference to ask more questions about his typical day. I'm wondering how he's doing socially, what works he's gravitating toward, etc. I am a little concerned that he doesn't seem to be getting introduced to new works very often. Of course I'm hearing this from a 3 year old, but when I ask him, "Did you do any new works today?" his response has been "no" for the last couple of weeks. Sometimes he'll tell me about a work he wanted to do (e.g., the pink tower), but will say that he couldn't because he has not had that lesson yet.
He has been introduced to 5 sandpaper letters, which he supposedly "mastered 3 weeks ago". No more have been introduced. Although he's been able to ID all letters and their sounds for 2 years, I still see value in this because he is not writing yet. I'm just surprised that he isn't progressing a little faster.
I guess my questions would be this... How often are new lessons generally introduced in a primary classroom? Would it be out of line for me to request that he skip lessons - i.e., move onto sandpaper blends, which I think he might find more interesting? I do believe in the Montessori method, and I don't want him to be pushed, but I do want him to have access to works that will interest him. His teacher seems to be loving, gentle, and experienced. I'm scared of offending her, or coming across as a tiger mom. Any advice?
I thought I'd comment, but I don't really know what the best thing to do in your case would be.
My son is 4 and has been attending a Montessori preschool since he was a little over 2.5. He is also advanced for his age, but not at the level of your son. When he started school he knew all his upper case letters, all but 5 of his lower case letters, and most of the letter sounds. Now at 4 he's "reading", but that mostly just means sounding out individual words. He's quick at 3 or 4 letter, 1-syllable words, but isn't really reading books, and struggles with 2 syllable words. He can "read" any number between 1 and 99 and I'm sure he could count to 1000 if he wanted to, though he's only had the stamina to get to 124. :) He's pretty good at basic math, but then his dad and I are too, so that kind of makes sense.
Anyway, the reason why I don't have advice is because, even though I feel like I was in a similar situation as you a year ago, there's really no reason why my experience would be the same as yours, and while everything turned out okay for me, I have no idea why.
Last year my son knew a lot relative to the kids his age and had a large vocabulary and very good enunciation, but he had trouble focusing. The "work" he was choosing involved things like tracing, pouring, stringing beads, and washing his hands. The work his teacher thought he should be choosing involved things like the wooden staircase and the pink tower, but he showed no interest in those. However, he didn't show much interest in what he chose for himself either, so basically he was frequently a disruption and his teacher was not overly fond of having him in her class in my opinion. He's not violent or mean at all, but he would rather play with the other kids than be a stereotypical absorbed Montessori student. Anyway, at the parent teacher conferences, I know I'm biased, but last year they felt very negative. I'm sure she said good things too, but of course the bad is what sticks with you and I sort of felt like she thought my son had a lot of issues and that fundamentally, I was the problem. As in, that I was a tiger mom and because of that, he had already lost his love of learning, was afraid of making mistakes, and was unimpressed by the world.
Now, I try to be critical of myself, but I honestly don't believe I ever pressured him about anything he knew. He learned all his letters at a young age from the interest he showed in street signs when we went for walks and he learned counting mainly because I frequently counted (for example when I pushed him on the swing). While I was a little concerned about the rate at which she was introducing new material to him, and thought maybe his disruptiveness stemmed somewhat from boredom, I did not specifically mention this during our conferences. I am however, an overly involved parent, and a little extra possessive/defensive of my son, since he's my first, so I can in some way see why she was critical of my parenting and thought I was maybe too controlling.
Anyway, nothing really changed between last year and this year, but this year she seems to think pretty highly of both of us. At the last parent teacher conference she told me she had nothing negative to say about him, that he was "head and shoulders" above the rest of the kids in the preschool, that he had a lot of self-confidence and showed leadership qualities like sticking up for the youngest kids, and that everyone liked him. He's doing well enough that she wants to move him into the upper school (K-3) now despite the fact that he shouldn't be in kindergarten until fall 2015 based on his age. I declined, since that would mean him staying 5 or 6 hours a day instead of 3, which as his mother, I'm not ready for.
Basically I think all that happened is that he matured enough not to cause problems, so his teacher likes and enjoys him more, which means my parenting skills are now off the hook. Anyway, based on my experience, you should just let it go and see how things turn out, but that's just what worked out for me. She's now the one who is pressuring him to learn more sooner and I'm the one holding back. On the plus side, whatever you do, your son is so far ahead that it's really impossible for him to fall behind, even if he spends all day learning to tie his shoes.
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I don't have advice really (my son has a great vocabulary but was not an early reader) but I'll share my experience. DS seemed to not get very many lessons last year (he was 3 & it was his first year in a Montessori setting). At 3, his teachers were really focused on practical life lessons. The "academics" were not at all the focus of his first year, though he did work on the more "hands on" activities (it took a good while for him to get a lesson the pink tower that first year & it was definitely something he was excited to do!).
This year has been even more interesting. I was worried that he was working on number rods for what seemed like forever & his counting wasn't that high. But during the fall PTC I learned that he was going through some serious social learning. He was a bit disruptive but nothing concerning to his teachers. It also seemed to me that he wasn't getting many lessons. He was, however, picking up Spanish like crazy (it's a dual language school) & was taking on leadership roles in the classroom (cleaning up after lunch, etc).
I let my obsession with academics go as I trust his teacher to be a good gauge of his needs in the classroom. Socially he turned a corner & recently has had so many lessons he doesn't know what to work on (he literally told me this tonight). So my limited experience tells me that the pace may just ebb & flow in an organic way that is uncomfortable for those of us more used to clear progressions.
All that to say, I don't pretend to understand all the ins & outs of the Montessori method. But it does seem that there are so many angles that a teacher might be working on with a child, and "academics" is just one of those angles. By all means, it seems like a PTC is a good idea in your situation, but if you can, go in with your mind open to what your son might be working on that isn't academic or doesn't require overt lessons. Even though he is advanced, he may still need the time to work on the social or practical life aspects.
Sorry this is a bit rambling & disjointed. But good luck!
Mama to my little busy bee.
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