Montessori and Gifted Children

A commenter on  Montessori in all but Name: Scientific American, from last month, had this to say:

Unfortunately, if you go and look at many of the Gifted forums..you will find that Montessori schools are in fact failing gifted children.

I was curious, so I did some quick Googling.  It’s far from an exhaustive treatment of the subject, but here’s what I found:

  • A long-running discussion on the topic at DavidsonGifted.org, with a range of opinions represented. It seems like there were more saying Montessori didn’t work for their child than not, but with some important qualifications.
  • This at TheExaminer.com — a fairly positive article.
  • This at familyeducation.com, which is mostly positive.
  • This from CircleOfMoms.com and this from Mothering.com, which are both fairly positive.

The main points seem to be these:

  • First, with any evaluation of Montessori, it’s important to remember that anyone can use the name, and “Montessori” in the school’s name is no guarantee of the practices within.  Visit, observe, ask about training, see if it’s the right fit for your family.
  • Many  parents appreciated Montessori’s open-endedness, respect for child development, self-guided learning, and general philosophy.
  • Some parents experienced rigidity and a blind adherence to particular ‘steps’ a child must go through in a curriculum area.  Montessori teachers will understand what this is about, but good Montessori teachers who really understand what it means to ‘follow the child’ will know when to move more quickly.  Repetition isn’t, or shouldn’t be, a requirement of children.  It’s a behavior they exhibit when the work is meeting their developmental needs.  If you’re not seeing repetition, there’s a reason, and it’s the teacher’s work to find activities which do inspire the concentration, engagement, and repetition we know is possible.

What has your experience been?  Please, share your stories in the comments.

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28 responses to “Montessori and Gifted Children

  1. I found myself thinking of just this topic a few weeks ago, while exploring Montessori Words. Linked below is an essay from a student about this subject that caught my attention. We sometimes think of Montessori as helping children who struggle in traditional environments, but I had never thought about how we might be helping children who are ‘gifted’.

    Zach’s essay is worth looking at, but the gist is as the younger brother of a ‘gifted’ child who suffered from pressure to be gifted, Zach thrived in a Montessori community where his gifts where just part of the classroom, not cause for special treatment and pressure. Perhaps we do have something to offer these children after all.

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  2. Unfortunately, our experience was one of the bad ones. Our child had been in montessori school since nearly 3, and although it had not ever occurred to us that our was “gifted”, we knew our child was a bright and happy child. Soon into our child’s third year of primary, our child’s progress in the more “academic” areas was slowing (math/language) and our child was refusing to choose these works in class. I began to work with my child and the teachers to try to figure out what was going wrong. Eventually, through trial and error and many conversations with my child, I finally discovered that my child was bored with the work that was on offer, and needed to move on to more challenging work to be re-engaged in learning. When I presented this to the teachers and the administration, I met with strong resistance. I was told that my child needed to COMPLETE the work before being given a new lesson, and that if my child was unable to complete a work, my child could not prove mastery. In one case, this meant doing nearly 100 single unit addition problems, when my child was already able to do addition without manipulatives or paper. The teachers and school were completely unwilling to allow my child to “skip” any work to get the work to a challenging level. This is a fully accredited school, with accredited teachers. I have since spoken with a Psychologist that specializes in Gifted children (who tested and confirmed that my child is in fact highly gifted), and she said that she frequently encounters parents who have run into similar problems in Montessori schools.

    It seems that there is a systematic inflexibility in the method. I was told that I simply do not understand the Montessori methodology, and that my child was not ready to do more difficult work. I was also told that Montessori does not use words like “gifted” and that they believe “all children are gifted”.

    If you do any research at all into the problems that parents of gifted children have…you will see that “all children are gifted” is a common and frustrating phrase we hear. And…it is frighteningly erroneous. All children may be gifts, all children may have gifts…..but all children are not gifted, and anyone who says this is showing their own ignorance in the differences learning.

    I am now homeschooling, using montessori methods, and my child is able to master works that would not have been offered in that school for years.

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  3. And, here are more stories I found in a google search:

    http://www.dcurbanmom.com/jforum/posts/list/255976.page
    Both of my kids are very gifted and are creative. We started Montessori because we heard how great it is for gifted kids. Montessori was not a good fit for them. They attended from age 2.5 years to 1st, and age 5 to 9. (Preschool and lower elementary). Despite the hype about a “learn at your own pace” curriculum, the Montessori school they attended could not differentiate the curriculum enough for them. They blew through the classroom materials in about a year and the teachers had no idea how to find more material for them to learn. The curriculum is MUCH more rigid than you would think. Kids can’t touch materials until they have been given a 1-to-1 lesson in them (which takes time in a class of 20-25) and they must use the materials as shown. It’s not the best environment for really creative kids.

    The youngest also loves math and refused to learn to read. He would do a lot of math and science, but refused to do any reading. It wasn’t for lack of smarts. He just didn’t want to read. The school refused to push the issue, saying he would read in his own time. I’m sorry, but a first grader who doesn’t read at all is NOT acceptable to me. We switched to a public school and he learned to read very quickly. He went from not reading at all to reading “The Hunger Games” by the end of the year.

    Another parent makes this point:

    -The Montessori method dictates the exact way in which the “work” is to be done. This is very regimented and exact. Despite the fact that the classroom allows a lot of choice on the type of work that is to be done, the way it is done, is not a choice. This is actually great for some kids and definitely not great for others. (Hence, this is on the pro and con list)
    -The “work” often requires a lot of manual dexterity so children need to have good fine motor skills to progress with the work intellectually. (This was a big issue for our non-so-coordinated DS)

    ——————(the dexterity issue is a big one, since gifted development is often asynchronous, so lack of maturity, or physical dexterity can hold an intellectually advanced child back)

    Here is another thread on Davidson….the big gifted forum.
    http://giftedissues.davidsongifted.org/BB/ubbthreads.php/topics/95503/1.html

    “My DS was very unhappy his first year of casa (3-6 year old). The teacher was very rigid, had one style for everybody, and didn’t allow “skipping steps”. My DS wanted to do more advanced work, but she tried to force him to do all the preliminary steps (like learning to count to 10 and recognize the numbers when he was well beyond that).”

    ETC.

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    • Montessori Observer

      cdc,

      I’m sorry your experience was bad. It doesn’t sound like the school was very understanding, or handled the situation well.

      I would just like to say that, especially given the diversity of Montessori implementations out there, it’s always going to be a leap from “My child’s Montessori classroom didn’t work well” to “Montessori doesn’t work for (a particular kind of) children.”

      The rigidity you and others experienced is out there, however, even thought it’s mostly a misunderstanding of the Montessori approach on the part of teachers. The Montessori world would do well to acknowledge the issue and address it.

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  4. Such a shame that the school your son was enrolled in did not really understand how to follow the child. If we truly love the child and observe the child we should know if they are ready to move on in the work without repetition (or completion).

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  5. I understand the my single experience does not make a trend…however, if you do a thorough review of the gifted forums, you will find that nearly HALF of those who comment when asked have similar experiences. This is a very disappointing number for a curriculum that claims to be child-led and often advertised as “ideal” for gifted children. Many of the articles out there recommending Montessori for gifted children are not written by the parents of gifted children, but rather by people looking at the “should-be’s” rather than the “are’s”. I do think the montessori world needs to be aware of this disturbing experience that far too many parents of gifted children are encountering in ACCREDITED montessori schools. It is very easy to simply say “oh, that is just the bad schools” but, when a school has multiple accreditation’s, how else is a parent to know what is good? I think it is simply a lack of education about the needs of gifted children, and a misunderstanding of the rigors of the need for completion of the work…but somehow this is being repeated across the country, so it must be an easy misunderstanding. We are out of the Montessori system for good, but I do wish that someone inside the organization would lead a change.

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  6. There are many factors here. First, it is a fact that many parents believe their children are “gifted”…a small percent of those who believe this actually have “gifted” children. The second factor is the accreditation. Because a school is fully “accredited”…the next question becomes “by whom”? Third, because a parent of a gifted child had an experience with an inflexible teacher, does not mean that all Montessori teachers are inflexible and incapable of responding to the needs of a “gifted” child. Fourth, there are many “gifted” children who may be academically strong, but sensorially delayed thereby preventing them from extracting the most out of the Montessori materials. In this case, working with the child that may be “gifted” academically but delayed in terms of coordination seems the appropriate course of action. I continue to believe that “authentic” Montessori (which has at its foundation “following the child”) is for all children, but not necessarily for all parents!
    It is tragic that this particular teacher believed that repetition at all costs, with what seems to have been a child who had a delay in terms of fine motor skill development, more important than following the child.
    Good Montessori training would never have let this type of belief slip through the cracks.
    It is encumbent upon the Montessori community to protect it’s own value and perception by demanding a standard high quality Montessori training for ALL teachers!

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    • My child has been tested, and is in the “highly gifted” range, and many of the parents on the forums I am looking at are also parents who have had their children professionally tested, so we are not just talking about clever children. My school was IMC accredited. My child, while being tested by a professional Psychologist, who is trained in working with children, in particular gifted children, noted no sensorial delays. (as this IS in fact, part of the testing) And, we were working with two teachers, the director of education at this school, and head of school, who is also a teacher. SO.

      I see over an over again, in other parent’s experiences, replies such as yours…belittling the experiences of parents such as mine. YOU may think that this would not happen in your school, but it is happening to far too many of us to be a freakish mistake. Our psychologist said that she has seen this many times from montessori children….that the structure of the curriculum can be used inflexibly. If you use a little bit of imagination, you should be able to see how that can happen, and see that if in teacher training, if the teachers are not told HOW to avoid this, it may be happening.

      Do not discount the real experiences of many parents like me who were real believers in montessori. I was a montessori child, I know how it should work, and I understand the method. I also see where it can fail, and those of you working inside the system should be willing to take a hard look at the failure points and look at simple training that could help catch the kids who are falling through the cracks now.

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    • The opposite is true, it has been shown that the majority of parents who think their child is gifted are correct and that it is the schools who ignore the parents. You blatantly blame the parents for the failures of the school.

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  7. I had a very bad experience at a Montessori school with my son. My son is high functioning autistic, possibly savant (he taught himself to read, in a week, when he was four). The director told us “This program is ideal for children like him”. It quickly became apparent that it was not. At one point we got a call from the director claiming that my son had attacked his teacher. His mom rushed down to the school to find the director standing over him yelling “you attacked Ms. D didn’t you” and “you hit her, didn’t you” my son was absolutely distraught and crying and could only say over and over “i didn’t mean to hit her, i didn’t” His mom took him to the teacher to apologize and the teacher told her that he didn’t hit her but he had tried. After some questioning she figured out that he got worked up and was waving his arms up and down. This is called flapping and it’s a very common trait for Autistic kids. When they get excited they wave their arms up and down like a bird flapping it’s wings. My son does it, i’ve seen every autistic kid i know do it, and i know alot of kids on the spectrum. Nobody knows why they do it, they just do. It’s generally considered harmless and most kids outgrow it. It’s extremely common, anyone that is familiar with autism knows about flapping. This teacher and this director apparently didn’t know about flapping, which tells me that they didn’t have the experience they claimed to have and because of their ignorance they treated my son like a violent criminal for doing something he couldn’t control.
    I understand full well that all montessori schools are different, they are independently owned and operated and there is no regulation or authority to maintain cohesion from one school to the next. We went to this school because we had a great experience with our daughter at another Montessori school (other than ending up way behind in reading, she did fine at this school to) but I would not recommend Montessori for children on the spectrum, gifted or not.

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    • Montessori Observer

      wadehuntley,

      I’m very sorry to hear of your experience with your son. It must have been very frustrating to have people you trusted to care for your son misunderstand him in this way.

      I have to say, I don’t think it’s quite fair to dismiss Montessori entirely based on one school. If it had been a public school, a religious school, Waldorf school, or whatever else, would you be able to say that kind of school was not right for children with experiencing an autism spectrum disorder? What happened doesn’t sound like it was connected to the Montessori aspect of the school, but rather to a general misunderstanding and lack of education about the disorder itself. That’s pretty inexcusable in any kind of educator.

      It’s true that the name Montessori is available for anyone to use, but it’s not quite the case that there is no regulation or authority. Schools in most states must comply with varying degrees of government regulation, and many Montessori schools are affiliated with AMI (the international organization founded by Dr. Montessori) or AMS (the American Montessori Society).

      For another perspective on Montessori and special needs children, you might check out , a blog by a Montessori inspired parent of two children with learning differences.

      I hope you find more positive educational experiences for your son.

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  8. Thank you for your sympathy. I wouldn’t dismiss Montessori based solely on this school except that the director of the school is, according to the schools website “the President of the Utah Montessori Council” and “Co-founder of the Utah Montessori Teaching Institute”. This too heavily suggests that i would likely encounter similar problems in any Montessori school, at least here in Utah. That’s unfortunate considering Utah has such a high rate of Autism. So if I left the state maybe i would give them another chance, but unfortunately for as long as I’m here i won’t be going back to Montessori and wouldn’t recommend them.

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    • I need to post an update to this comment. The directors claim to be “Co-founder of the Utah Montessori Teaching Institute” which she claims to be “a MACTE accredited teacher training center” has turned out to be completely false. I contacted MACTE to verify this claim. They informed me there is not, and never has been a MACTE accredited institute by that name. They contacted the director who told them that the program was “never developed” and promised to remove the claim. This director claimed to have founded a nationally accredited teacher training center, when in reality she just thought about it but never got around to it.
      I have to concede that my experience at this school probably (hopefully) would not have happened at any other school. I cannot imagine that any other director out there would try to make a claim as wild as she has and try to get away with it.
      MACTE has contacted her several times to request that she remove the claim but it is still, as of right now, on their site.

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  9. Hi, I feel compelled to reply to your post.
    I was also a Montessori child, and am now both a certified Montessori teacher and Montessori mom. My mother is also a Montessori teacher, trainer and administrator, so even in my “off” years, I was very much aware of and involved in Montessori. In all of these years, I have seen a great many families, teachers, and administrators come and go, for many reasons. I’ve seen great classrooms, and awful classrooms, sometimes even in the same school. The latest travesty I’ve been involved with is an AMI school that deemed it proper to send a child home for improper behaviour – I was appalled. Tnere is a HUGE range of Montessori practice, and I am very sorry that your experience with your gifted child was such a negative one.

    I would like to share what I have seen in the last 7 years at the school with which I am currently involved, and I hope nobody will take this personally. Please understand I am simply sharing my experience.

    We’ve had several gifted children. Most came with testing, reports, recommendations and so forth. In each case, the teachers spent more time with their parents than with most. The teachers made plenty of accommodations. Some parents saw that their children were mostly happy and came to trust the school. They also came to trust their children. Others did not, and went on to question everything -every lesson, every piece of follow-up, and every social interaction (which as you also know is also often an issue for gifted children). Some of these learned from these interactions with the teachers, and learned to trust. The ones who could not learn to trust either us or their children invariably pulled their children out of the school, because Montessori “could not accommodate them”. Most of these children were already in Elementary. Now, this is not a pattern limited to parents of gifted children – it is just more common with parents of children who need any kind of accommodation.

    I am not saying this reflects or contradicts your experience or that of your friends – I know nothing about your specific situation or approach to parenting. I do know, because I knew them personally, that these parents really were trying their best, wanted the very best for their children, and really really wanted this to work. So did we. We all tried. However, because these particular parents needed more control, and their family dynamic was not based on trust and respect, Montessori was definitely not a good fit for them, and our school even less so – that does not mean it wasn’t good for the children – just not good for the family as a whole.

    On the other hand, the parents who actually formed relationships with the teachers based on mutual trust and respect, and who allowed their children to experience the classroom without interfering… They stayed, and their children are happy, working at ridiculously advanced levels in areas where they’re ready, getting the social support they need, and the encouragement to work on the areas they are not naturally drawn to. One of these is my son’s best friend. Another was one of my students in the Middle School.

    So what I’m trying to say is that in my personal experience, I have seen it work, and not work, all in the same place; the same classroom with the same teacher. So our school neither works nor doesn’t work for gifted children. We work very well with many families thereof.

    As to your other point, I could not agree more – there is a real tendency for schools to go one way or the other: completely rigid or completely slack. This affects all the children, not just those who are gifted. Quite often this has less to do with the training or accreditation body as it does with the atmosphere created by the administrators of any given school, and with the personality of the teacher. The large organizations, and the various accreditation bodies are wonderful and do a lot of good. They also miss a lot, and because of their size, are limited in what they can do classroom to classroom. The amount of Montessori training centers, both accredited and not accredited is staggering, and the quality therein is obviously quite varied – not all of them cover working with gifted or developmentally delayed children to the same extent. It is a problem within our community, which the powers that be are actively trying to address. It is also a common problem for just about every profession – not all med schools are created equally, and same goes for MBA’s, film schools, engineering programs and traditional teachers’ colleges. As for dealing with fixes in the moment, at just about every education conference, be it Montessori or not, there are workshops about supporting children who learn differently. This is an issue everywhere you look, and traditional schooling is not faring any better on average. I’d love to say that Montessori is the perfect fix, but there is no one-size-fits all solution, to this, or any issue we face in education.

    Montessori Philosophy at its purest works amazingly well for every child. The reality, however, is that the implementation of Montessori, just like every method of education, rests solely on the shoulders of each individual teacher. And we are all very imperfectly human, and we will all make mistakes, and we will all do really amazing things. It seems unfair, IMHO, to say that Montessori as a whole does not work, based on the experiences of families for whom one particular school was not a good fit. That same school may have been a great fit for someone else, and that family may have found a better fit in another Montessori school.

    What I tell EVERY parent, is to visit several schools, observe, and really take in the atmosphere. Ask to meet the teachers. Sit in as many classrooms as they’ll let you (and a good school that wants to build a relationship with you will let you), and ask a gazillion questions. Then consider (and ask your gut!) whether it is a place where you want your child to spend the majority of their waking hours.

    Once again, I am truly sorry that your experience was not a positive one, and I am glad that you found a way to bring Montessori home in a way that does work for you and your child, rather than giving up on it altogether.

    Best regards, from one determined Montessori child to another :)

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  10. I feel so sad reading these comments where schools have clearly not followed the child. I have just completed my training for 6-12 year olds here in the uk. At every point during the training it was emphasised that the goal of the materials is to allow the child to follow the path from concrete experience and then understanding, to abstraction, that is working without materials. We often questioned our guide on situations we had come across in our own schools and the answer was always a variation of this: had the child shown understanding and readiness for the next step? If yes then move them on. Don’t flog a dead horse! She told us about children she had taught who had completed months of work in a week, skipping out masses of exercises until they found where he was. The sequence of work is there to make sure there are no gaps in understanding and experience. If they are already beyond certain stages they are no longer relevant to that child.

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  11. After reading this thread, I wonder if we see such a high response rate from unhappy parents because parents with positive experiences don’t feel the same drive to air our experiences. It is in this spirit that I offer a comment, when ordinarily I would not.

    My daughter is a gifted learner who experienced at age five the same level of “boredom” or perhaps exhausted interest in Children’s House materials mentioned in many comments. Her teacher, similar to the previous threads, was unsure how to meet her needs. Rather than that being the end of the story, however, the school came together as a community to solve the problem. Several teachers, the school director, and several parents met to hear parent concerns, share classroom strategies, and develop a school-wide plan for meeting the needs of learners on the gifted end of the spectrum. More than a year later, her Montessori experience is rich and challenging, and the freedom of a Montessori classroom offers far more opportunity for her to develop her critical thinking skills and creativity. I am myself a classroom teacher in a highly acclaimed non-Montessori elementary school with a comprehnsive gifted program. I would not move my daughter from her Montessori program to my school precisely because Montessori is so well suited to the development of her academic gifts.

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  12. I am raising three montessori children. My oldest is in upper elementary now. I don’t know if she’s gifted or not (we’ve had to reason to test her…she’s definitely a smart kid), but she’s enjoying the upper elementary environment and is doing very well. She’s always loved montessori; it’s the only academic environment she’s ever known. My concern about the program is that the kids in class are given a set # of work they are to complete each week. She demonstrated an ability to do this with ease, so she was given 20% more work to do each week than the rest of the kids. This was exciting to her. But to me….it makes me wonder what is the benefit of doing *more* work? Shouldn’t she be doing different work or deeper work rather than just more work? At some point, there won’t be more work to give her. I don’t see that depth in the method, rather I see the sequential nature of the materials. I’m concerned about what she’s missing out on by not going deeper into certain areas. Any thoughts?

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    • Montessori Observer

      “The kids in class are given a set # of work they are to complete each week” is a red flag. This certainly goes against what’s in the AMI Elementary training as I understand it, and more broadly against the philosophical basis of Montessori education. Children in the Elementary should be presented with inspiring, engaging lessons which spark interest and deep, fulfilling, independently chosen follow-up work. If the teacher is doing her (or his) job and the child is developing normally, the rest should take care of itself.

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  13. As a parent who was once a gifted child, and considering Montessori for my own daughter, I can attest to “more work” being a common strategy for ungifted teachers (of all stripes) to deal with bright children. I experienced it in the context of a specifically “gifted” conventional classroom. And from this context I learned that efficiency at all costs was the way to do it and more work was for suckers. My elementary school boasted “individual work” and being based on the montessori method (It was NOT a montessori school), and I quickly learned to keep pace with the bottom of the class – as long as I kept one work ahead of them I wouldn’t fail.
    The more I learn about montessori methods, the more I attempt to practice them in my home, because I do truly believe that they can work for any child, and that my daughter is much more “balanced” (mind/body/emotions) than I ever was as a result of being given every opportunity to be self sufficient along the way.
    That being said, finding a school environment for her kind of terrifies me, even though I know I’m a much better engineer than I ever will be a teacher and home-schooling her isn’t really a viable option for us.

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  14. I think it is true that parents of gifted children who have had a positive experience with Montessori are less compelled to comment about it as those with negative experiences. My experience started out negative but has turned into a very positive experience and my son (tested as highly gifted) is now thriving.
    My son started montessori at 3 – loved the first week and then we had a very difficult term where he started resisting school, becoming disruptive in the classroom and refusing to mix with any of the children. He kept saying that school was boring. His teacher, unsure of how to react, kept insisting he repeat simple practical life activities to “help build concentration” but my son refused – he hates to repeat tasks he has easily mastered. Bored and disengaged he rebelled in the classroom which lead to the teacher deciding he must have ADD (a common misdiagnosis for gifted children whose needs are not being met). The teacher expressed that he was remarkably intelligent but could not concentrate on tasks (the problem was the tasks he was being offered weren’t challenging enough). Very concerned and ready to pull him out- out of desperation I took him to a psychologist qualified in testing gifted children. He was found to be highly gifted. I took this information to the school and although his teacher had no training in gifted education she was open to learning more and most importantly deeply cared about meeting the needs of my son (as with all the children in the class). Instead of seeing my son as a problem that made life as a teacher difficult she saw this as an opportunity to learn how to meet his needs and any other gifted children she encountered (she read books and articles the psychologist who tested my son recommended and she passed the info on to other teachers at the school). I must add that even while my sons behavior was challenging he was always treated firmly with dignity and respect. No shouting or humiliating time outs. To cut a long story short the school created an individual education plan for him (as they would with any other student who has special needs) which took into account academic but also social and emotional needs. He is now engaged and interested in school and provided with appropriately challenging work. Socially he is also thriving and has become popular in the classroom.

    In our case Montessori worked because:
    - The school and teacher do not adhere to the “multiple intelligence theory” that every child is gifted (recognized that gifted children learn more quickly – pace needed to progress through materials needs to be much faster than usual).
    - Flexible to presenting material out of sequence
    - Provided differentiated learning (looked at ability rather than age)
    - Stopped using forced repetition to “build concentration”. Concentration comes with appropriately challenging and engaging work.
    - The multiage classroom means my son can and does make friends with children older than him
    - no rote memorization (it’s hands on learning)
    - meeting not only academic needs but social, emotional and physical needs of the child
    - positive discipline in the classroom: providing children with a sense of belonging and significance in the classroom. Being kind and firm at the same time. Teaching/modeling empathy and acceptance of those who are different. Logical consequences for any misbehaviors.

    We were lucky to find such a great school and teacher who were flexible and willing to learn. The AMI really needs to provide better training for its teachers in educating gifted children. Gifted children have special needs and are entitled to an education that meets those needs just as any child with a special need.

    I hope this helps provide another viewpoint.

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    • Montessori Observer

      Thanks for the comment.

      I’m glad things worked out for you and your family. Sounds like the school was really committed to “following the child.”

      I too would love to see AMI address gifted children, perhaps in a conference or Refresher Course.

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    • I am glad to hear that your situation was handled well. THIS is the way it should be for all of us, as I do believe that the Montessori materials are good for many gifted kids. If only all teachers/schools had the education, time, training and caring to work with “special needs” kids of all abilities. We use Montessori materials at home now while homeschooling our child, and I do wish things would have worked out differently at our school. Of course, these individuals stories are only individuals…but in my small area, there are two schools. Both of these schools fail to address the needs of gifted children, as I have come to learn over the past year, running into many parents who have had problems in the school. They also, as it turns out, have problems with children who are on any end of the special needs spectrum…so if your child is not right smack dab in the middle of “normal”, in my area, you are out of luck. These are not bad kids, just kids who do not fit the average mold. Gifted, learning challenged, all kids who should be served by the flexibility built into Montessori. Unfortunately, many schools, including the ones in my area, have become exclusive, and that is quite a shame.

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  15. We are currently experiencing issues with my 4 year old son at his accredited Montessori school. He has been in the program since he was 4 months old and arrived at the 3-6 campus last year and transitioned pretty well given the teachers at the “big kid school” seemed to lack the warmth and sweetness of the teachers at the toddler campus. We have had wonderful experiences up to arriving at the big kid school. One question I have for you all is – what is the premium your child’s teacher/montessori school placed on nap for 3-4 year olds? As my son approached 4 and now as he approaches 4.5 nap is a hit or miss thing that we don’t make too big a deal about but at school it is the #1 thing that drives a good or bad report. Not that the teachers at the school ever say anything that resembles positive affirmation – the best you can hope for is a “Soandso, you worked hard today.” But at pick up if I ask how his day was the first thing that comes out of their mouth is “Well, he was not successful with nap today.” accompanied by a look of total irritation. No mention of anything he did well or lessons he is working on or heaven forbid insight into his academic development. My son has had a few outbursts and a few tantrums that led to a teacher getting hit (not cool, I get that) but it was all because they were trying to enforce nap or at the least staying quiet on his mat for an hour – in a room with 25 other kids. That’s not an easy task for anyone much less a 4 year old boy. What are your experiences at your child’s school with this? It has been such an issue at my son’s school that we were called in to meet with administrators office to review strategies on how to help my kid ben successful at nap. All of this landed us in a psychologists office to see if my son has a sleep disorder or behavior issue and after a two hour assessment they basically came back with “your child appears to be incredibly intelligent, advanced in his verbal communication and yearning for more structure. Perhaps montessori is not the right fit.”

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    • Montessori Observer

      I’m sorry you had such a negative experience. There’s not a Montessori “position” on napping (except, laying down on a mat with a comfy blanket I suppose). “Follow the child” would be the guideline, giving children the opportunity to be in touch with their physical and psychological needs and to meet them independently, say by taking a resting mat off the shelf and laying down in a quiet area. I’ve seen plenty of classrooms where this is how it’s handled, with perhaps a bit more structure for younger, regular nappers who need it.

      Your experience sounds more like school issues associated with control and institutional needs than with the Montessori itself. I hope you can find a good experience for your child and a good fit for your family.

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  16. Any suggestions on approaching the teacher when I think my son isn’t being challenged in her classroom? He’s 4, but in his first year of primary montessori. She is very much about the repetition of work before moving on.

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    • Montessori Observer

      Thanks for the comment.

      Good Montessori should follow the child and not insist on repetition for its own sake. Repetition is a spontaneous behavior emerging from concentration and engagement.

      That said, it’s always hard to second-guess the guide at this distance. He may think he’s ready for the next step but really be a year out. Or not, to be sure, but it’s hard to assess the situation from here. Have you had the opprtunity to observe in the classroom? Your own child might not be representative, but you should get a good sense of how the other children choose and stay with work, and what the adult’s interactions are like. In a “normalized” (Montessori jargon for, sort of, “settled”), you should see children choosing freely and joyfully in an uninterrupted 3 hour work period.

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