Challenging and Stimulating a Potentially Gifted Preschooler
By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D
My son is 5 and has been reading since he was 3 years old.
He currently reads at a 3rd grade level, can add double
digits and is starting his multiplication tables. The
Montessori school that he is attending ignores his academic
needs in the classroom. He is not challenged with the work
and spends time doing the simpler things. The teacher claims
that the reason why he is not driven to do the work,
especially the reading section, is because he is not
"developmentally mature" to engage in the material.
Therefore, the teacher is not offering anything challenging
assignments because she thinks that he won't be able to
finish or focus on the assignment on his own. As a result,
he is being kept in the kinder class again with incoming 3
year olds who may not know their letters.
What do you think I should do to prevent him from getting
bored next year? I don't want him to lose interest in school
and the possible challenges it has to offer. There is a
horrible phenomenon occurring in the United States regarding
delaying a child's entry into school regardless of his or
A: Being able to read at 3
would have certainly put him at an advantage compared to
others. He is indeed an early reader and at 5, reading at
3rd grade level would expose him to a new world of
information, much ahead of his peers.
His school certainly looks into his development, but most
preschools (especially the Montessori's) are concerned about
whole development rather than academic achievement alone.
However, your concerns are genuine and it appears as if the
teachers have quite different views about his development.
You really need to speak to the principal to make sure that
the reason for holding him back is practical. You may
request for an exception for your son and perhaps suggest a
probation period for him at a higher level to see if he is
able to cope. It is also true that he needs to be
developmentally matured to be able to perform at a higher
level; otherwise, there is a possibility for him to lose
interest and eventually get even more bored.
The reason some States delay a child's entry into school is
mainly because there have been many cases of acceleration
that led to socio-emotional and behavioral issues which is
rather difficult to deal with. Therefore, requests for early
entrance into schools must be backed up with professional
testing results, and the child must be matured enough.
Somehow, I feel that there is no need to rush a child into
formal schooling and to allow a child to enjoy his/her
preschool. In your son's case, he needs a preschool that
allows him to read at his own pace (even if it's above
everyone else's), that encourages word-play and writing-play
for learning (instead of only unstructured free play as
probably practiced in his school). Fine motor skills should
also be encouraged (e.g., crayon and pencil fun, mazes,
dot-to-dot books, scissor activities, etc) as it often found
that early readers tend to neglect writing which would be
hard to catch on once they are in formal schooling.
On the home front, he should be provided with lots of books.
In fact, rather than at school, the majority of his actual
reading fluency will progress at home under your guidance.
Therefore, you need to make sure that his school is not
discouraging his efforts to move on. If you find that his
school is impeding his efforts, you may seriously need to
locate a better school that understands and is able to cater
for his needs. Best of luck!