Giftedness, Montessori, and Workbooks...

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Registered: 08-12-2003
Giftedness, Montessori, and Workbooks...
Thu, 08-18-2011 - 8:53pm

My DD is 7 and going into 2nd grade in a public Montessori school. She is returning to the same class she was in last year which contains first through third grade levels. This school is a startup charter school where teachers are just being trained in Montessori and because of this they use a lot of workbooks to supplement the more traditional Montessori materials. Last year DD was in the fifth grade spelling workbook and the third grade Wordly Wise workbook. The previous year she also did SRA workbooks but I didn't hear so much about that last year. She reads at a sixth grade level and is a pretty sophisticated writer, has been to a writing camp for 3rd-8th graders and writes mini "chapter books" with great ideas, spelling, punctuation, dialog, etc. I think it is safe to say she is quite advanced in the language arts.

I am strongly considering formally requesting that she be allowed to opt out of workbook instruction this year in language areas, particularly the Wordly Wise and Spelling Workout texts. While I have strong opinions of decontextualized language instruction (I'm a special educator and reading professor) and whether or not they legitimately fit in the Montessori curriculum, my main concern for my daughter is that to be the proper level of challenge for her as far as spelling or vocabulary go, they become quite difficult in other, developmentally inappropriate ways. For instance the spelling text teaches twenty new words each week. When she does the spelling book at the first grade level, it is way too easy and a waste of time. When she does it at the fifth grade level, most of the time she knows most of the words, which once again seems a waste of time, but when she doesn't know them, twenty is WAY too many for a 6 or 7 year old to learn. Never mind there is no transfer to her writing...sigh. Last year the third grade Wordly Wise was ridiculous as far as the words learned, they were way too easy, but the workbook itself and the tasks she had to do were very frustrating for her and required my help sitting by her for an hour to do it. As vocabulary instruction, it was worthless and frustrating, and gave her a bad taste for "learning words."

I was curious if anyone here famliar with gifted curriculum issues has a name for what I'm talking about, the idea that the work that is challenging may not be developmentally appropriate, because of our children's gaps between their academic and their developmental abilities. My stance is, she's advanced in these areas, she has become advanced primarly through wide reading, so while I know all sorts of spelling and vocabulary strategies and methods that are WAY more appropriate for ANY child, I am not going to ask them to do anything different for her, but simply leave out the workbooks. If they are concerned about "what she will do for homework" (another problem I have, these books seem primarly done at home with little follow-through or instruction at school using them), they can make suggestions or barring that, I can give her other activities to take their place, since I have to instruct her in these workbooks already! My argument is, she has time enough for fifth grade Wordly Wise books when she's in the fifth grade, if it's determined she needs them then. Does this sound rational?

Thanks for any help!


iVillage Member
Registered: 07-23-2002
Fri, 08-19-2011 - 12:40am

I'm an unschooling parent who has raised some pretty awesomely literate kids with no spelling and no vocabulary lessons at all, so you're preaching to the choir with me. I think your compromise sounds totally rational. I'm also not a believer in homework AT ALL, so if they challenge you on that I would ask them what they see as the point of the homework, and then make it clear that you've already got those bases covered. Involvement of parents in learning? Check. Building a good work ethic? Check. Encouraging independent learning? Check. And so on.

What you're referring to in terms of the developmental suitability of the more advanced curriculum stuff is just the asynchrony typical of gifted kids. My 8-year-old did 6th grade science and math programs last year. She did great on the quizzes, multiple-choice workbooks and short-answer assignments. While she's at least as strong in literacy as in those areas, she would have struggled with a typical 6th grade English program because the executive function skills, workload and physical writing demands at that level are more suited to a 12-year-old than an 8-year-old. A gifted 8-year-old is not a 12-year-old brain in a younger person's body. That's what's so challenging (and wonderful!) about gifted kids. You can't just teach them more stuff, or faster. You have to teach them differently. I would hope that the teachers at your school would appreciate that.


in rural BC, Canada
mom to three great kids and one great grown-up
unschooler, violist, runner, doc 

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-06-2010
Fri, 08-19-2011 - 3:49am
My older DD had this problem, and it was solved by removing WB work for a while. She really disliked the workbooks and often complained they made no sense when she was your DD's age. Now she's thirteen and very advanced in language arts, so it was the right call.
iVillage Member
Registered: 10-23-2009
Fri, 08-19-2011 - 9:11am

Yes, I think your argument is rational.

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Registered: 05-13-1998
Fri, 08-19-2011 - 1:29pm

Sounds rational. Moving

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Registered: 05-18-2005
Mon, 08-22-2011 - 12:34pm

Our DS' kindergarten dealt with his asynchrony with extra enrichment projects, rather than just forging ahead to more advanced grade level work.<A href="http://s218.photobucket