View Full Version : Early learning options for bright/maybe gifted child!
Hi there - have been thinking about this issue a bit lately (mainly due to the conversations in our house since DS was born 4 months ago about schooling options) in relation to my 2 3/4 year old. Although I know she is intelligent (what mother doesn't know that!!) I had not really considered the issue of whether or not she is gifted until I started reading some of the threads in this section today. In fact, had you asked me just yesterday, I would have honestly said that I didn't think it was that important and that I intend to just let my kids be kids and enjoy their childhood without adding complicating factors or 'labels'...but within the context of selecting schools for them I have also started thinking about pre-school/early learning options and I now wonder whether my previous decision to send DD (she is the 2 3/4 year old) to our local state kindy was pre-emptive?
I am still not overly interested in whether she is gifted - although I think she definately shows many signs that she is gifted in at least some area's if not all (which is probably completely normal) but I am really keen to provide educational and learning opportunities beyond what we do at home, that are appropriate for her. I had previously discounted Montessori and similar programs because I truly thought that the best learning options for young children is to be at home with a parent or family member - and as such I have given up work for now to ensure this. I guess I still do believe that this is true, but wonder whether it would be wise to consider supplementing this with an early learning program that offers more than our local state run kindy. My daughter does seems well in advance of most kids her age in several area's and although I do want her to be able to socialise with kids from all walks of life, I want to make sure she has access to an environment that will foster and nuture her talents/gifts. So I guess my question is this: how are early learning programs (as distinct from a state kindy) placed to recognise and foster gifts and talents in young children and how will this benefit DD? My main concern is that I don't want either of my children to ever feel pressured and I definately want them to lead/drive their learning and have the freedom to explore things that are of interest to them. Not necessarily looking for answers - just an interesting discussion that will help inform my decisions!
Can you please provide some examples of where she is advanced. I'm really interested in this subject :)
She seems advanced (definately not suggesting she is gifted but just ahead of where I see others her age) in the following ways in particular:
language - very conversational and uses complete sentences including pretty good grammar in all instances and has a very broad vocab and was an early talker; had an excellent grasp of 'abstract' concepts pretty early on eg one of her early words was 'hot' which she used in context before most other kids her age could say 'dog'; very interested in and seems to have an aptitude for music and movement (dance in particular but was doing complex actions early); very well developed imagination - has 2 imaginary friends, 1 of them appeared before she was 2 and almost all of her playing (when she is not singing and dancing) is imaginary play as opposed to playing with 'games', puzzles etc in which she is not very interested at all (an example of where she shows next to no aptitude); asks quite complex questions for her age eg asked me yesterday what 'married' means - which incidentally was difficult to answer!
In a nutshell, she is not at all advanced in many 'tangible' area's like colour identification, puzzles, shape sorting etc but from what I can tell, this is mainly because she will not concentrate on any of those activities for longer than about 10 seconds and generally any attempt by us to get her to fails - she will usually start making up songs about the puzzle/game or start talking to her imaginary friend and forget about what we were trying to do. But she does many other things that I have never seen any other kids her age do - like make up songs, transpose words that sometimes rhyme into the tune of songs she already knows, show interest in language (notices when someone is not speaking English and asks what language they are speaking), makes up quite complex imaginary games (a favourite is a game she calls 'The 5 dollar shop game' which is essentially shops and she plays in anywhere and everywhere and has done, including an imaginary calculate/cash register, since before she was 2) including acting out the story and characters in Alice in Wonderland.
So while I don't want to pressure her into following a particular course, I do want to ensure she has access to learning opportunities that will inspire her and I am just after some discussion on alternatives to the state kindy system - if, in fact, that is the right course of action!?
With the right mix of teacher & your child the state run kindergarten can be great. A good teacher will recognise your child's strengths & weaknesses and work with both. Many state run kindergartens (at least here in Victoria) have access to music programs, some have pets/mini farms and most will do plenty of art, games, etc and work on beginning reading (mostly by stories being read & songs/poems).
For me with my ds I decided to change our plans for state run kindergarten & go to a kindergarten in a Private School. My ds (3.5) can read (probably at start of grade 1 level), he's super interested in complex things (inc puzzles/games) and he loves to create elaborate art. But besides all that he's a 3.5yo boy who loves to run around & play. So, this kindergarten has the advantage of the school library, art class & sport (all once a week) on top of the normal kindergarten program. Also because of the money paid by the parents (which freaks me out, but hey!) they have access to lots of resources in terms of puzzles, games, books, etc. On top of this it is a nice work environment for the staff so centres like this one (2 4 year old groups & 1 3 year old group) attract some of the better teachers (not that great teachers aren't in the state run system - my mum was one of them).
Honestly if I'd been happy with our local state run centre I probably would have sent him there, but the teacher at the centre he would have gone to isn't great with children with special needs (either children with delays or gifts). So that made the decision easier. I also don't want him to be academically pushed so I ruled out another private school kinder that basically ran like a school & did very structured learning and then had 'breaks for play time with supervision by staff', instead of play being an essential part of learning.
I hope this makes it clearer.
It's a huge question, and I am going to answer as if your daughter was gifted. Because that's where its going to make all the difference.
My girls attend a Montessori school - one is gifted and one is not. They both love school and benefit hugely from it, but the difference is that DD2 would be just as happy in 3yo kinder, all 5 hours a week of it. DD2 loves being at school, but she loves being at home too, and I can keep her happy with painting, and colouring, and playdoh, and stories.
DD1, in her 3yo kinder year, was already a fluent reader and asking about death and doing fractions etc. She wasn't identified as gifted when we started her at Montessori, but we certainly knew she needed more than two mornings of kinder a week. Socially, she needed to be with other children, and her thirst for learning was utterly insatiable. (Even now, 2 years on, she does schoolwork for fun.)
So, for us, 5 mornings of Montessori a week, extending to full days through her 4yo kinder year (actually this year) was brilliant.
Most importantly, it meant that come prep/year one, my daughter was a known player at school. Her teacher (age 3-5) knew by the middle of her second year that she needed to be advanced; she had done all the prep work by the first term of the year. So we (her teacher and I) presented a case to the principal, and because she has a portfolio of work, because the principal can sit down with DD1 and have a chat, because he trusts her teachers knowledge of DD1, it was a relatively easy thing to have her start Year 1 next year.
Montessori, specifically, has a lot of other advantages; the option,NOT to be endlessly agegrouped is important for advanced kids (gifted or otherwise); and the way Montessori enlists different types of learning opportunities (learning letters by touch as well as sight and sound; learning maths by playing with cubes etc) services those who are differently gifted (visuo-spatial learners etc.)
Another thing, not to be taken lightly for parents of gifted kids, is the emphasis on the development of the whole child, ie equal value given to their emotional and social as to their academic development. As I say about DD1 all the time ... she needs to learn to use her brain for good and not evil!
So I guess that a 'private' early learning option (Montessori or otherwise) has benefits for all children but these may be more marked for the 'gifted' child as their needs may not be recognised in the state system and even if they are, the teachers may not have the expertise or the infrastructure to deal with this. Even if my daughter is not gifted, she certainly has gifts or talents as all children do, and as such I definately want her to have all the opportunities that may present at private early learning centres - I think I came to this decision over the weekend and actually even typing out my situation helped clarify things for me.
Jaq, can I ask what distinguishes Montessori from the other options available for you? I have only a layman's understanding of it and although we did consider Montessori early on, once I decided not to go back to work it was discounted cos I wasn't sure we would see the benefits. The school that our kids may end up going to (names down, not sure if they will be accepted yet) offers a private early learning option which bases it's approach on the Regia Emilia philosophies - I believe their may be some parallels.
Thanks so much for your responses.
Hi sarahlou, now that you have given me the go-ahead I feel justified to rave about Montessori :laughing:
OK. What distinguishes it from the other options for us ...
1. the goals of Montessori education ... ie the desired outcomes ... are different. Maria Montessori saw reforming education as a key route to world peace, and Montessori still foreground "education for peace" as a key platform. Teaching your child to be self-reliant, self-motivated, self-guiding their learning etc is part of teaching them to be moral individuals who take a personal responsibility for making the world a better place. The 3Rs are simply a part of the bigger picture of holistic character development.
2. Individual focus. This is trumpeted a lot at other schools, but at Montessori is the very START of the programme. A Montessori child chooses what they want to do in the classroom, guided by the room director. The director learns what your child needs by OBSERVING them; their passions, their problems, their learning preferences and styles. They don't interfere with what the child is doing unless they are not learning productively or settling to a task ... instead, directors will sit and watch, or suggest a different facet of inquiry, or help the child that is struggling. Especially in Cycle One (3-5yo), the children work individually, in pairs or small groups ... group lessons are not obligatory or common. When a "lesson" does occur, children are invited to participate, (regardless of age), and they can be carefully planned "blackboard" lessons, or spontaneous lessons that arise from a child's enquiry.
An absolutely sacrosanct rule in Montessori is never interrupt a working child ... a child's concentration and immersion in the task (whether it is cleaning their fingernails or building the thousand chain) is respected at all times.
3. Montessori method and materials. Montessori is not standard teaching with different goals, it is COMPLETELY different to mainstream schooling in its tools, methods, and approach to the children. Montessori insisted children needed to use the hand as a conduit to the brain; all concepts (mathematical, language, music etc) have a concrete stage where the children can feel what an 'a' looks like, feel what a sphere is, feel what 1000 is like compared to 100. Obviously, to provide this concrete base, there is a lot of specialist equipment that you will see in Montessori classrooms around the world ... the pink tower, the cylinder blocks, the binomial and trinomial cubes etc. If a school (daycare or kinder) doesn't have this material (or use it properly) it should not call itself Montessori. The teaching method is based on stages of development every child passes through. A director observes to child to see which stage of development they are at, and offers tasks to suit. Regardless of age ... three year olds interested in letters are encouraged to learn to read; children with a mathematical aptitude will be shown how to do addition and subtraction into the thousands if they are ready.
4. Mixed age teaching. Not exclusive to Montessori, but absolutely critical when you have an advanced child, who is looking for older mentors. A proper school combining kinder and primary will allow the youngest children to integrate properly with older children, and find their intellectual peers.
I could go on and on, but those are the most definitive things for us. If you want to better understand the theoretical framework, there is a brilliant book called "Montessori Madness" by Trevor Eissler (http://montessorimadness.com) that is really worth reading.
nice thread, thank you JAQ for such an informative summary of the Montessori method. i am researching the different options for my 19mth-old at the moment and are considering Montessori. your comment really helps!
now i am only hoping that they have places for my 19mo to start soon.:)
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