I'm new and trying to decide on schooling

Peggy - posted on 12/14/2008 ( 17 moms have responded )

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My son is 3-1/2 and in a Montessori program. He has not been labeled "gifted" but he is reading and his teacher has taught him things she has taught no other 3-year old before. She says there are very few kids who come along like him and he has a "unique" way of thinking. She recommends that he not go to public school. How do we decide what type of school to send him to? Has anyone else made this decision?

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Beth - posted on 01/05/2009

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Great! My youngest self taught looking over his older brothers shoulders at three, he was also socially gifted. We have him in public school, but are hoping to go private for high school. That's where we went wrong with our oldest. It is very important to keep him stimulated academically, if you don't, they will use their talents for evil lol. My 14 year old is quite a handful, he rarely studies. He stays with in his comfort zone. He is highly social and makes every attempt not to be labeled as smart by his friends and sabotages his schooling at every turn. Good luck and be sure to not use words that will label him. Also, encourage him to try things that are not easy for him while he is young, so he doesn't expect everything to always com easy. If he is a puzzler, have him try decoding - If he is an avid reader, have him read fiction and non fiction (age appropriate). If he is great in math, have him mold clay, or paint etc. There is never a dull moment with gifted kids, enjoy every second!

Peggy - posted on 01/04/2009

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I forgot to say that the social aspect so far is not an issue. He plays with kids of all ages and it has been commented that he is a social leader in his class.

Peggy - posted on 01/04/2009

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Thanks for all your comments. There is definitely a lot to think about. My son's teacher has been teaching for over 25 years, both in preschool and elementary school. He taught himself to read the letters of the alphabet but he had to be taught to sound out words. We don't push him so he has learned because of his own interest. I need to look into the public school system more here in our part of California. Thanks again.

Angela - posted on 01/02/2009

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I am so glad I came across your comment! My son went to Montessori for his first two years of schooling (JK/SK). He did extremely well... was reading fluently at 4 years old, and they bumped him in with the higher grade students. When he was entering grade one, I decided that I could not afford Montessori for all of my children, and therefore, would send them all to public school. If I had the resources, I WOULD PUT THEM ALL IN MONTESSORI in a heartbeat. They do not get the attention and free exploration at public school that they do with Montessori schooling. I have watched my son's progress slow over the last 4 years, and I know in my heart it is becuase of being in the public school. Don't get me wrong, he still does great at school.. still brilliant,etc.. but he has in my humble opinion lost some of his creative spark. PLEASE stay with Montessori for your gifted son if you can afford it. You will not regret it. Big P.S. ..... I am a teacher in the elementary public system. :) ... ... ....

Beth - posted on 01/02/2009

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I am curious how many years his teacher has been teaching? Also, what part of the country are you located? It is a tough decision, but at 3 1/2 he is very young. Did you teach him to read, or did he self teach? We have three boys, two (oldest and youngest) are considered gifted. We have both ours in public school, and so far, it has been dismal for my oldest and OK for my youngest, although he (youngest) did accelerate from 1 to 3rd grade which helped - we are considering private high school for our youngest, our oldest is not on board with switching schools - ughh!

Rebekah - posted on 12/31/2008

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I wanted to pass on some words of advice from a parent who has been through more of this than I have: One thing that is important to keep in mind is that although we all want our kids to be able to socialize and have a "normal" experience in school, this may not be possible in the way we expect, especially in the current imperfect system. Junior High *is* all about socialization, but since a lot of highly gifted kids have a thirst for learning, not socialization, they may stagnate in that environment. Kids that tend not to relate to their age mates aren't going to magically become social creatures just because we give them the opportunity. We can't fall prey to the same attitude that the schools have of trying to fit the square peg into the round hole. These kids are different than most, different than their parents even. Our job is to figure out what's going to be the best environment for them for their current development, academically and socially/emotionally, but also with an eye on the big picture of keeping them engaged and interested (and happy!) in school and in life.

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Have to say that I disagree on the comment that Montessori schools have no structure!



Their structure is just totally different to "regular" or mainstream schooling. This doesn't make it bad - it only makes it different. I would think that kids who are gifted would thrive there as the focus is on individualised programs of study as opposed to class-style learning. The kids are given their work for the week and they can get on with it. When they are finished they can either do accelerated learning work, or even help out other students. This is also great for teaching kids understanding, empathy and a desire to accept everyone regardless of ability/age etc.



We would have sent our son to our local montessori school (goes all the way to Grade 7) but the entire school (grade 1- 7) has only 35 kids and we are concerned about the social aspect as we feel that Junior school is all about the fun and sport and making friends rather than total academic focus.

Jeanne - posted on 12/29/2008

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Porschea: Your response is timely because my 9 year old son is not being handled correctly in public school and is in danger of failing 3rd grade due to underachievement despite being mentally advanced. We're considering a Montessori school in town which goes to grade 6 because it might encourage him to be more responsible for his own actions. They tell me many of their students transition to public middle school with no problem, and I'll have to ask more questions and get references. There is a tiny private school (less than 30 students total) which we've dismissed as an option because we felt his socialization would suffer; this thread is causing me to view his social development differently. Of course the private school could have less structure than the Montessori school, since it's so small, and we'd have to ask a lot of questions.

Kate: Thank you for your post. It helps. The sense of justice and the social issues it brings describe my 9yo quite well, and increasingly my 6yo who is reading at least three years ahead.

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First of all Public school is the worst option for children who are more advance than the mainstream. Often times they end up teaching the other kids rather than being taught which holds back there progress. Montessori schools are the worst option because they have no structure and when children are transfered at a later time to another type of schooling they are often held back or not accepted. I have found the best two options are private or charter schools. Private schools offer the most one-on-one education and specific attention can be paid to promote your child's specific abilities as well as the fact that private schools offer extracurricular things that all other types do not offer. Charter schools are the next best option if you cannot afford private school or want your child to be more exposed to varying learning types. However the drawback is that charter schools are very similar to public schools they have a very low achievement level and often times don't have gifted programs or extracurricular programs at all.

Kate - posted on 12/23/2008

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Jeanne, it is often the case that they are seen as socially immature. Sometimes because they find it hard to be accepted by their cohort because they are a little bit different they will either play with children older than them because their mental age is more on par with children older. If children older than them aren't around they will then play with children younger than them and by accepted because they are older and younger children will accept them because they enjoy playing with older children. It is a common misconception that because a gifted child doesn't get along with his cohort is socially immature. The only way I know of getting an emotional age from a child is through IQ but it may not be the only way. In my last post I listed some names of good experts in the field of Gifted education and they would be worthwhile looking at. I myself work with gifted children and as well as having a gifted child. I have found that they have a greater sense of justice than their peers and are more willing to vocalise what is fair and unfair...including to their teachers when they feel their teachers have been unfair. Sometimes this gets them in trouble socially because they seem immature in not understanding when to vocalise and went not to vocalise and when to let things go that in the grand scheme of things doesn't matter. To them it matters a great deal but to teachers and other children their age it seems immature. Because more mature children have a greater understanding of social justice and fairness, gifted children seem to find older children on the same level. It also means when there is a social problem they need to talk things through more and be heard and validated for their feelings. I hope this helps.

Jeanne - posted on 12/23/2008

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Kate, I found your post quite interesting. I have a 9 year old son who is quite bright and who we (and his teachers) have always seen as socially immature. He makes friends more easily with kids younger than him than with kids his own age. I don't know how he would do with older kids because he's not around any. I hesitate to push grade advancement as a result. Do you know how I could find out if he's actually socially more mature?

Kate - posted on 12/20/2008

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Other programs to look at that you might find surrounding pre-schools implementing is Reggio Emelia... it is somewhat similar to Montessori but also looks at children working as a community with each other as they explore and build on their learning. The program recognises the child as bringing their own pre-formed ideas and background to the classroom and looks at the individual needs of each child.
One thing to be careful of is often GT children are labeled as socially immature because they find it hard to socialise with children of their same age. It is in fact the opposite. GT children are more mature than their cohort which is why they find it hard to socialise with them. A GT child will have a chronological age which is what our school systems see. As well as a chronological age they have a mental age which is based on their IQ. The gap between their mental age and chronological age gets bigger and bigger as they grow up. As well as a mental age they have an emotional age. This the mid point between their chronological age and mental age. So if your child is 5 and has a mental age of 7 then their emotional age is 6. This increases as they get older also. So if someone says that your child is socially inept compared to the other children of the same age it may be that they are actually better at relating with older children. So you need to look for schools that understand the differences in gifted children to a normal cohort of children. If the school doesn't understand the mental and emotional differences then you could find it a struggle. Some references to look at would be Karen Rogers, Miraca Gross and J. Van Tassel-Baska, Gagne, Michael Pryt and Lannie Kanevsky and Micheal Sayler. This group of people are specialist in the field of Gifted children and have information that helps parents and Teachers so you might be able to find a school suitable for your child if your equipped with the research to help you make the best judgment.

Sonja - posted on 12/19/2008

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In our metro area, public schools are actually the best option, either in the neighborhood school with GT support or charter or magnet schools. The magnet schools for gifted kids in our area don't start until grade 2 (at the earliest). There are also some public montessori schools which can be a good option without paying extra. You should be able to find a list of schools for the gifted in your area online, I think the Davidson group has one (http://www.gt-cybersource.org/?NavID=0_1).

Rebekah - posted on 12/19/2008

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I'm in the same boat and I think what I've found out so far is that, like a lot of issues with gifted kids, there isn't one right answer. It depends on the child (the extent and areas of asynchronous development) and what options are available to you (public, private, other regulations/programs). My son is almost 3, at a Montessori school and we are also weighing options, including sending him to K at age 4. For what it's worth, I am leaning toward keeping him in Montessori and then transitioning to public. The public schools seem leery of grade skipping here, for elementary anyway, but the public HS has lots of great advanced programs. Right now, the multi-age classrooms of Montessori seem like they might be a good fit, although I'm planning to do more research on the curriculum for older grade-school children as it's something I'm not familiar with.

Deborah - posted on 12/18/2008

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I totally agree with Lucinda's comment. You can't lump all public schools into the bad and on that note keeping the child in the private sector does not guarantee success either. The main thing you need to do is find out what level of gifted he is. If he is in the HG+ range you might come to realize that no school in itself is a perfect fit and what works for 6 mths all of a sudden is the worse thing for him to be in b/c he is dynamic and constantly changing. If he is level 1, 2 and even some of 3 than it is possible that a public school with a GT program will benefit him. Again all children are different and the solution for one might not be the right fit for another.

Lucinda - posted on 12/16/2008

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I think it is very important to explore public school to find out what programs are offered for a GT child. It varies greatly by school district but for example our school district has a GT program from second grade and up. My son skipped kindergarten, I kept him in a normal class for first grade because he had great social issues, insensitivity, sensitivity and social outcast issues to deal with. This year he is in a 2/3 split in a GT program in the public schools. In the state of CO they fall under special needs and our county has done an excellent preparing a program for them. In the language arts they work from the junior great books program and in math they began the year with a 4th grade book. I could not pay for any better program. Explore all your options.

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