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#1 of 17 Old 02-07-2012, 11:13 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi there Moms and Dads,

 

My son is 2 1/2 and is an early reader.  He can read almost anything.  If he doesn't know a word, he tries it phonetically.  If he's off, we pronounce it for him and then he knows that word.  So anyway, he may be "gifted."  He has an advanced vocabulary and excellent memory.  He still calls himself "you," though.  :-)

 

We are planning to enroll him in preschool this fall, and I am wondering about your experiences with preschool styles.  We are looking at Montessori schools now.  It seems like a good idea, but when I tell the teachers that he is already reading, none of them seem to have had that experience before.  So I just wonder if there is some secret place where the early readers go!  ;-)

 

Thanks!

 

Kathy


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#2 of 17 Old 02-07-2012, 12:14 PM
 
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I think a lot of them go to a play-based preschool. 

 

Miranda

 

(whose kids didn't go to preschool at all, but would have certainly opted for play-based if she'd gone the preschool route)


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#3 of 17 Old 02-07-2012, 12:34 PM
 
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Does he need to be in preschool this fall? As a former preschool teacher, I tend to feel kids are over-preschooled these days. A little can be nice for most kids. More can be really helpful for an ESL child or a child coming from an impoverished environment. 2 years for a child who comes from an engaged home and is very advanced can be difficult. They may be better off with another year home exploring and learning in their own way, going to interesting places like museums and nature parks, ect.

 

If childcare is an issue or you feel your child needs more social stimuli than you can provide (which can happen... my youngest is insanely extroverted and putting him in 2 years a couple mornings a week helped all of us keep our sanity) I'd look into a play-based preschool. Certainly check-out Montessori options but remember that they can vary tremendously from one another. Very few seem to follow the program exactly as it was intended to be. Montessori is fantastic for some kids and not for others. You'll have to make that judgement based on who you know your DS to be. Look into some developmental schools too... programs that de-emphasize letters, numbers, shapes, colors and instead focus on music, nature, science, art, imaginative play, sensory experiences, ect. My own kids went to programs like this and did great despite being very advanced.

 

Good luck with your choice!


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#4 of 17 Old 02-07-2012, 01:34 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for your responses.  Yes, I feel that he needs it.  I am boring him here at home.  I work from home and I'm able to work mostly during his nap, but I do have to be at home most days to be available to the phone and computer.  So we aren't as free to go out and visit museums, etc., as I'd like to be.  He doesn't have any playmates his own age, and I believe that he would benefit from being around other children.  I like what I've read about the Montessori philosophy as far as how the children are taught to respect each other, and how the teachers are supposed to treat the children.  So that is one reason that I lean toward Montessori.

 

We have visited or are about to visit every Montessori school within 35 minutes of our home.  I think it will total 10 schools when we are done.  We are only going to schools with certified teachers.  So far, we have liked all the teachers we've seen except for at one school.  Some of the facilities were not up to par, and that is important to us.  So we have a favorite school now and are going to see three more this week.  We are taking our son to every school with us to get his take on it and to see how the teachers and staff treat him.  It's been very interesting. 

 

I really don't know how to tell what kind of a school any other preschool is.  Do I assume that a preschool is play-based unless it says otherwise?  My concern with these others is that they are just day care.  I'd rather not send him to daycare.  What is a developmental preschool?  And how do you find preschools other than driving by or an internet search?  Finding the Montessori schools has been very easy because there is a Montessori Association in our town with a list of schools.

 

Thanks again for your time in reading and responding.

 

Kathy


-Kathy First time Mom to Son F, born April 30, 2009.
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#5 of 17 Old 02-07-2012, 01:41 PM
 
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#6 of 17 Old 02-07-2012, 01:59 PM
 
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My two did play-based preschool and they were early readers.

 

 

We did do Montessori for a bit, but the all day/everyday was too much for one DD. The staff/program was great- she is an introvert and just was too little to do all day(and she would not nap there). 

 

We, too, had some "Hmmmmm...thats interesting." from teachers in preschool--- but really they all supported my girls from where they were at once they knew that they could read. Though the preschools we went to were really really play-oriented with little paper/pen. There was no phonics or anything else that would have been already known to them. Lots of science, lots of free play, lots of art!!!  They knew some of the science already-- but the hands on stuff made it exploratory and fun.

 

The big difference was during 'quiet' reading (kids sat and relaxed with books for 5-10 min as a quiet time) they were reading (silently) and other kiddos were looking at pics.

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#7 of 17 Old 02-07-2012, 02:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks, this is giving me a lot to think about.  The school I like best so far is also my son's favorite.  But not for the same reasons!  He is just dying to play with some cars that he saw in their extended care room.  We aren't seriously considering the extended care program right now, just morning Montessori.  But I have been thinking about how he would probably like to have that play time.  He is a very big napper, though - 3 hours a day, so it's hard to justify leaving him there for the afternoon.  Plus he has food allergies so it will be easier if we're together for lunch.  So lots to still think about.  After seeing some pictures of a regular preschool around here, I'm a little afraid to take him to see one.  They do look a lot more exciting than Montessori!

 

One thing that is drawing me to the school that I like best is that they have Montessori through 8th grade.  It would be wonderful to be able to choose a school now where he can stay until he is older.  They've assured me that he would not be held back by age/grade limits on what he is allowed to learn about.


-Kathy First time Mom to Son F, born April 30, 2009.
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#8 of 17 Old 02-07-2012, 02:48 PM
 
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DD did 2.5 years in a Montessori followed by half a year in a play-based developmental preschool. 

 

She started Montessori at 2.75 and was reading by age 3.  By the start of the 2nd year she was reading chapter books and by the time she was 4 had finished the curriculum for kindergarteners.  That year she had an excellent teacher who really managed her well and she never ran out of things to do in school in either reading (where she was reading better than any of the older kids) or math (where only 1 other likely-gifted kid was at the same level). 

 

The next year (year 3) they got a new teacher who was just plain awful and who had no interest/ability to handle DD's behavior issues (she was recently diagnosed as ADHD but her hyperactive behavior really began to cause her problems around age 4).  She learned nothing at all and was constantly in trouble with the teacher, who told us that if we just paid more attention to her she'd be better behaved.  (Ummmm.. no.)  So we pulled her out.

 

Which is all my long way to saying I think Montessori can be great, but it's really important to find a decent school with good teachers.  It's not so important that they have had kids who could read early before. The Montessori method mostly means your child will start out doing work that is really easy for her--what's more important is that the school really lets her progress at her pace.  I would also want to ensure the classroom is well-managed--a good Montessori classroom will seem purposeful and not chaotic during work time, kids will have some choices but not be allowed to do just anything they want, and the program should emphasize (IMO) respect for the community and peers. 


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#9 of 17 Old 02-07-2012, 03:11 PM
 
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I would also recommend a play based preschool for any child, gifted or not. You said that he was drawn to the free play aspects of the school you looked at. And you also said that he is lacking in social interactions with peers. There is a lot of evidence out there ( just google and research for yourself) that most children benefit from play based schools where kids can....be kids! Being in a play based school will not stop him from reading or stunt his advancement or giftedness either. And I'm sure if you look around this forum, you will find a lot of parents complain that their gifted children sometimes lack social skills with peers and have difficulties interacting with others not gifted like themselves. Play based preschools will help your child with this. 

 

You said you were worried about him being in daycare, but the Montessori school you mentioned, provides daycare ( extended care) too. A good play based school will provide plenty of time to explore different centers of play set up in the room from dress up, to blocks, books, to art. Many will set up play centers that help them learn a skill through the play. For example, my daughter's school would have a cutting station where the kids could cut magazines up into tiny tiny pieces. She became great at using sissors because of this activity. Or use chopsticks to pick up objects to work on their fine motor skills. They also got outside time. My child's school had centers set up outside too that changed weekly like pouring sand and water tables, bubbles, chalk, and the usual trikes, and play structures. And then, of course, they had some structured time as well where they sat and listened to stories ( hard for most preschoolers gifted or not) and circle time with songs and fingerplays. They would also do one directed art lesson or activity a day. The school time was mornings, but they also offered an extended care for kids whose parents worked. 

 

I would suggest you take a look at some recommended play based schools in your area, and not rule them out because you think your child would be bored because he is so smart. You might be pleasantly surprised. 


Heather , momma to ' Parker- 10, Carlee- 7 and our baby Genevieve Faith - 8-27-10

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#10 of 17 Old 02-07-2012, 05:39 PM
 
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We used play-based.  Emphasis away from reading, alphabet, all of that.  My son would have hated Montessori, although DD would probably have liked it.  

 

Montessori schools can be very different from one another, so it's good that you're exploring.  We visited a number of them and elected to stay with play-based.


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#11 of 17 Old 02-07-2012, 05:59 PM
 
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We also did play based (though my kids didn't learn to read that early -- dd was reading by 4 or 4 1/2).  Developmentally, play-based is appropriate for young children and it gives them the rich experiences that they need to be able to make sense of the world. Development in reading is much more than being able to recognize or sound out the word -- they have to be able to link that with meaning and understand the word in context. The experiences a child  has in playing and using language, exploring the world, and talking about their experiences are foundational to a child's future academic progress.

 

Since your son already has the academic skills, any program that can get him a rich variety of experiences would be good. I might look for a mixed age classroom (so, Montessori might work because the 3-6 year olds are grouped together). I don't know enough about how a Montessori program is organized to know how good a fit it might be with your son. (You also have to be careful because there isn't a national accrediting agency for Montessori. Anyone can call them that, but they may or may not be true to the approach.) My kids thrived in a daycare that was Reggio Emilia in philosophy. I really like how they focused on children as creators and contributors to understanding.


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#12 of 17 Old 02-08-2012, 12:11 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LynnS6 View Post

 

Since your son already has the academic skills, any program that can get him a rich variety of experiences would be good. I might look for a mixed age classroom (so, Montessori might work because the 3-6 year olds are grouped together). I don't know enough about how a Montessori program is organized to know how good a fit it might be with your son. (You also have to be careful because there isn't a national accrediting agency for Montessori. Anyone can call them that, but they may or may not be true to the approach.) My kids thrived in a daycare that was Reggio Emilia in philosophy. I really like how they focused on children as creators and contributors to understanding.


Ditto this.

A mixed age group is essential for very advanced kids, because the spread in development (particularly language abilities) is so much wider, making it easier for an unusual child to fit in and find play partners, and making it easier to act advanced in some contexts (eg take part in a project that is really geared towards the older kids), but have age appropriate needs in others (ie naptimes). I'd stay away from any program, developmental or otherwise, that groups kids strictly into age segregated classrooms because chances are he will not fit in well anywhere, even if "grade-skipped" as it were. You might also ask whether children are encouraged to play (or maybe work, in Montessori...) across age lines. (For instance: my DS, who is 5 and in a 3-6 developmental program, loves taking part in the K pull-out he was entered early for, doing structured activities or builidng  with construction toys with the other kindergartners who are mostly 6 yo already, but for actual "play", being socially a little delayed, he prefers playing cars and blocks with the 4 yo kids. The one year group he hardly ever does stuff with is his own!). Mixed age groups also make it more likely to find really flexible teachers who are ready to look at the child as an individual and let go of preconceived notions of what a 3 yo is supposed to be doing or not doing. As you will find it hard to find a teacher who has experience with 2 yo readers, this flexibility and open-mindedness is really what you should look for. i am sure you can find open-minded teachers vs rigid teachers anywhere (Montessori isn't a guarantee for flexibility, we've found).


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#13 of 17 Old 02-08-2012, 11:11 AM
 
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My 2 dc were both early readers and they attended Montessori programs, but we didn't choose Montessori for the reading. I think there is a misconception that Montessori is supposed to focus on academics. I realize that misconception is promoted by many so-called "Montessori" schools. In fact, many days my dc spent their time on drawing and painting and playing with blocks (okay, yes, they were cylinders in graduated sizes and they have an underlying mathematical educational purpose) and social play with their classmates and practical life activities and music and outdoor play and caring for class pets and many other activities that provided a wide range of experiences. We liked the atmosphere: the respect for the individual child's interests and abilities, the recognition that each child develops at their own pace and not according to some theoretical pre-determined timeline, the appreciation that children are capable and working toward independence, and the broad range of activities including practical life activities, play, and yes, academics as well. We especially liked the discovery-based aspect of much of the learning. Montessori materials have been developed to allow a child to discover insights on their own. The teachers allowed children to learn at their own pace and the multi-age classrooms made it easier to accommodate children who wanted to move ahead or who were taking more time. We also liked the atmosphere of mutual respect, caring and collaboration between classmates promoted in the Montessori classroom. 

 

We observed other pre-schools and daycares (and yes, many "pre-schools" are simply daycares, you are correct about that) but didn't find any others that demonstrated the same willingness to accommodate individual development. Some of the so-called play-based "developmental"  pre-schools didn't actually seem to recognize or understand children's normal development. The teachers directed a lot of the activities and I didn't see much individual accommodation. In the guise of "caring" and "helping" the children as excuses for teacher-interference, I detected a belittling of the children as incapable and a reinforcement of their dependence. They also didn't seem to provide the same broad range of activities as the Montessori programs. 

 

Finding pre-schools is often a matter of talking to other parents and reading parent resources in your community. Private pre-schools advertise. Look for a local parenting magazine or newsletter. You may find it at community centres, libraries, drop-in centres, community health offices or on-line. It is important to visit different programs and consider which ones will provide the most suitable environment for your little one - the best fit. That may or may not be a program that incorporates a lot of reading and other academics.  

 

 

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#14 of 17 Old 02-08-2012, 11:43 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you, ollyoxenfree, I appreciate hearing about your experience.   I think you may be right about Montessori being thought of as academic or non-play.  That wasn't my impression at all as I've visited the classrooms.  It seems like the children have plenty of time for play along with doing their works.  And many of the works are very simple or play-like, so it definitely doesn't appear to be strenuously academic to me.  Today, I spoke to a director at another local preschool that is not Montessori.  She said that their school groups by 1-year age groups, and that my son would either stay with his age group or jump ahead.  I definitely would prefer a multi-age classroom since he is probably only ahead in language at this point. 

 

I admit, though, a part of me is interested in having something with a mix of heavy academics and heavy play.  It was so easy to teach my son to read when he was a baby, and I feel that part of it was his age and ability to soak up everything we show him.  If these truly are the best years for learning large amounts of information, it would be great if there were a way to mix the best of everything together.  But I think that is probably best done on an individual basis, so we'll just continue to respond to his interests here at home while allowing him to socialize and play at school. 

 

We have 3 more school visits this week, and then we'll see if we have a clear favorite.  I'll tell you what, every school is so different.  No matter your choice, it really pays to visit a lot of schools!

 

Thanks again, everyone, for your time in responding to me.  It helps a lot.


-Kathy First time Mom to Son F, born April 30, 2009.
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#15 of 17 Old 02-09-2012, 07:29 AM
 
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I admit, though, a part of me is interested in having something with a mix of heavy academics and heavy play.  It was so easy to teach my son to read when he was a baby, and I feel that part of it was his age and ability to soak up everything we show him.  If these truly are the best years for learning large amounts of information, it would be great if there were a way to mix the best of everything together.  But I think that is probably best done on an individual basis, so we'll just continue to respond to his interests here at home while allowing him to socialize and play at school. 

 



 

It is amazing how children soak up what they see and experience everyday. I felt the same way watching my own children. I realized though, that I didn't need to worry that they will miss the boat (to mix metaphors) if I didn't teach them everything when they were very young. If you've been researching Montessori, you know that child-led and individually-paced learning is a crucial aspect for early education. Children are constantly learning from all sorts of experiences.  It's important to provide a rich, varied environment with lots of learning opportunities, but some children may not be ready to learn certain information or skills at an early age. The "best years" for learning extend right through childhood and beyond. I think it is important to nurture a love of learning - perhaps learning how to learn is a way to phrase it - at a very early age, but I wouldn't be too concerned about specific skills and information. 

 

On a different note, I thought I would mention something about play. My children responded to one other aspect of Montessori - the purposeful nature of the activities. For example, they liked pretend play such as playing tea party or teddy bear's picnic with doll's dishes and imaginary "tea" or "lemonade".  At Montessori, however, they were thrilled to prepare snack, serve real fruit and cracker on plates, and pour juice for themselves and their classmates, and clean up after. It gave them a sense of real accomplishment, a feeling of pride and independence and maturity. Actual accomplishment was as much fun for them as any imaginary activity. 

 

Good luck visiting those schools!

 

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#16 of 17 Old 03-13-2012, 02:18 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks again to those who replied to my questions.  We chose a very nice Montessori school for the fall.  We also started him in a "transitional preschool" Montessori class for now that is for kids who were 2 1/2 by last September 30th.  So he is just a little younger than the average kids in the class.  There is a low teacher to student ratio, and it is traditional Montessori.  I've been observing for his first two days, and it's going well.  He's a bit nervous with the unfamiliar environment, but the children and teachers are all great.  I'm very pleased with the school that we chose.  They have a nice playground and indoor gym for rainy days, so he's getting to play plenty too.  This will give him a great foundation to build on when he enters preschool in the fall.


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#17 of 17 Old 03-13-2012, 04:54 PM
 
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If I were in your shoes I'd be looking for either a play-based preschool like Reggio or Montessori. His language acquisition is great but only a small part of his development. I'd find a place that addresses the whole person.

 

One of the kids at our Reggio schools was a very early self-taught reader. The only thing that made her distinct is that some of the kids would ask her to read stories or help them with spelling. She enrolled in K this year at a very good private school and is still grouped with the K-1 cluster because she is still lacking a lot of formal concepts. And she enjoys it.

 

Obviously a Headstart or heavily academic program isn't going to be a good fit.

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