help! left Montessori for public school - FamilyEducation
help! left Montessori for public school
08/30/2007 at 15:27 PM

My ds has just started 4th grade in our local public school, after 4 yrs in a Montessori program. We knew we were in for a roller coaster ride, but now we're rolling and turning green!

Has anyone had experience with this kind of transition? DS is bright, but not genius, good at the conceptual but not "the details" (hence we left Montessori b/c he was not being motivated to spell, write, or compute proficiently) His reading is strong. 

He's got a really well-regarded teacher, and I'm sure we'll be great friends ; ) but I just don't know what to expect!

DS is worried that he's working slower than the other kids, and feels he's not up to snuff!. (He's in a gifted grouping) Their review is his new material. He handwriting and spelling are horrendous, and now he realizes it. Even math, which he was strong in, is presented differently.

I have told everyone that we are committed to making this a successful transition. And ds has been reassured that grades are not the issue this year.

Any advice for this well-intentioned parent?





Hey chicagomom,


It sounds like to me that you are taking all the right steps to have a good transition.  Changing to a school of a totally different style can be a hard adjustment.  Some good friends of ours have done that with their kids--they went from a Quaker school environment to a Catholic school environment.  The Quaker school was much smaller and they gave no grades at all---at much more free thinking sort of school.  The catholic school is a high achiever school and a tough school academically.  They had some growing and changing pains just like you are having.


I think you should stay involved and hopefully that will help the transition.  Also, you can help your son at home with his homework to help get him and keep him up to speed.  I am sure once he has figured it all out he will not be behind at all.


Keep us posted!




Thanks for the support. ds is getting the feel of things, but there are lots of ups and downs. I have to say I am very impressed with the classmates I have met so far -- they are a kind and gentle bunch for 4th grade.

Yes Marti, this sounds similar to your friend's situation. From no grades to a grading scale where a 70 is a D-.

You know, I like aspects of the free-thinking Montessori approach, and I like parts of traditional approach with structure and homework sheets. It just seems like there should be some middle ground (and could it cost less than college tuition!? lol)




DS got his first report card -- All A's and B's except for spelling and language where he is really weak (C's)

Also got interim report for 2nd quarter. Seems like language is the weak link. DS is starting to go through a phase of really missing his old school -- recess is different -- no snow play, often indoors...and then more pressure/challenges in class and I think its an overwhelming time for him.

 I am so puzzled by his ability to read really well, but not write at a corresponding ability level! Does anyone else experience this?



Remember C doesn't mean weak, it means average.  He may have a memory issue.  My own boy can only hold 4 items of data in his brain at a time, average is 7, I can do 10.  I would get him involved in the etiology of words--Latin roots, sources from other languages.  Make sure you have a collegiate dictionary in your home.  Fourth grade in our district and state includes emphasis on root words and prefixes and suffixes.  If he figures these things out he will show real progress. 

As for method, I would be the one who shows a sudden, intense interest in these things.  Do lots of word puzzles, read books that challenge MY vocabulary so I am using the dictionary every day.  Reader's Digest WORD POWER column.  Get Dad on board, so he is modeling the behavior, too.

The handwriting thing, Jed is still almost illegible, but he does write (compose) at grade level -- 10. 


You're right to remind me that "C" is supposed to be average. But his teacher and I are concerned about where he is in this area. 

Truthfully he's having issues with everyday words like "tomorrow" and 'because" and "where", which just astounds me. I looked back at some of his old work and saw less errors than I do now. I can't figure out if its because he's producing so much more, or because he's in a new type of school and its hard for him to recall/apply what he learned in a different environment, or if he's having hearing problems or what!

We do have dictionaries and other reference material -- I've started proofreading his work and selecting a couple everyday words for him to look up and correct when he does his journal writing. (If I did them all at once he'd be there all night)

I appreciate all your suggestions and will continue trying to find that magic combination that works for him. 


When I was working at a very small private school, one of the spelling strategies was cool.  When the child mis-spells a word, you circle it in the work.  Then, on a regular piece of theme paper,  the child gets 3 chances to spell it correctly (instead of looking it up).  If 3 tries doesn't work, then the child looks it up.  After a while, the child learns what looks right and what doesn't, and corrects the spelling in the original work.  Which is what we want them to do!


Thanks for the tip. I'll give it a try!


Also, be sure he writes his drafts in pencil.  It is more emotionally satisfying to rub away what looks wrong, not just cross it out.


Thanks again.

We're still in pencil anyway. I'm sure that's why.

Talked to the teacher a little more. She reassured me that DS is not a complete train wreck - just needs a lot of work/help with his spelling and neatness. Always feels better when you get the straight dope. 



Another 2 things I just thought of.   The space before and after words is part of spelling them correctly.  It needs to be as wide as an n or u.  That will help some with neatness.  And strength/control of finger muscles makes a difference in neatness.  Play with modelling clay, the stiff stuff.


We are experiencing the same w/ our First grade girl, who just started in a Progressive school after being in Montessori for five years.  Some kids are very adaptable, but for my daughter it is a huge change that may take the entire year.  We have the exact same issues w/ difficulty in reading comprehension, "details," writing and math differences.  The school felt initially, that we should have a, "language evaluation," which we felt best to hold off on initially, to simply allow her more time to adjust before getting into testing.  Although she seems to be gradually getting the hang of things, she needs much more time and one on one instruction for new concepts.  We are trying to support her at home with organization techniques that she never had in the, "prepared environment," of the Montessori classroom, and in talking about literature, which also was not done at all.  It is my feeling that the right side, (3-d, conceptual, tactile,) of her brain was well developed through her Montessori experience, and the left side of her brain, (verbal, language, organization,) now has to catch up.  Her teacher relied on the Montessori materials very much and was less of a "guide," in challenging her and helping with areas that needed work.  She said that my daugher was very much a "Montessori kid," and worked very well in that environment.  Of course she misses her old school where she could do whatever she chose all day, but she was not challenged where she needed to be and was left without some basic grade level skills.  Two websites that I found helpful with ideas to support areas of difficulty were:, and  If I could, I would try to draw the parallels to how things like Math were done differently, and maybe it will help his confidence in learning a new system.  Good Luck!!!