Public School to Montessori in 4Th Grade?

Updated on February 04, 2014
C.T. asks from Red River, NM
16 answers

I love this site for hearing everyone's opinions and thoughts on things. We have a 9 year old son who has a rollercoaster of a personality. He's a great, smart kid with lots of friends and does well in school. But he is very stubborn, emotional, high strung, and quick to get upset at home. He is a very difficult child. He sees a therapist to talk about his very strong feelings. He holds it in all day at school and at home he often gets super upset about things. 4th grade has been so tough this year. He has a teacher who gives a lot of homework. She expects a lot out of the kids. If they do not get it done at home she keeps them in during recess or lunch to work on it. Weekly...almost daily...our son is freaking out about this at home. He does not want to do so much homework yet he does not want to stay in at recess. He wails. He gets angry. He argues. He cries. Sometimes twice a day (evening and morning). It has been trying to say the least. I have tried many, many things. Usually something works for a while (a week or so) and then it does not work anymore. Our son is deeply unhappy. He is disliking school most days. Yes, we have talked to the teacher a lot about this. It has not really helped. Here is my question: My husband thinks we should move our son to a local Montessori school that goes up to 6th grade that is more project based learning and does not give a lot of homework. He thinks our son will thrive there and will mature more in time for middle school where he will be able to handle things better. I think it will just mean once he hits middle school all the homework will be a total shock once he goes back to public school. I think he needs to buckle down and get through this year and do his best on all this homework. So, what do you think? Do any of you have a child you pulled out of public school and put into a Montessori school and how did it go? How did it go if your child went from Montessori back to public school in middle school? We are so tired of all the fighting, crying, and drama daily around here. It's true our child is very, very unhappy this year. But I don't know if this is really a good solution.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Deep sigh. At your situation and some of these responses.

Been there. My son is 13 now, 8th grade, public middle school. I'll spare you my "what's wrong with public middle school speech" and the "one size fits all educational model does not benefit every child" speech.

Yes, move him. Move him right now.

I know that Montessori is a system that is taught at an early age, but trust me, he'll catch on. He NEEDs a change of scenery. The current one hasn't worked for (let me guess) many years. And it's only gotten progressively worse. He's NINE. Get off the train now. Take a break. Give him Montessori. Montessori is phenomenal and if we had one that we could afford, my kids would be there.

You are very blessed to have a husband who is open minded enough to try something different.

I'll come back and post some resources later.

Edited to add: The Montessori classroom works in a very different manner. Give it a few weeks. If you and the teachers agree it's not working, then consider another option. But try first.

6th grade: Year round, very expensive tutor (which he hated, you should look up that post of mine) and he went from a D to an A in math. Other classes, so-so. The 36 kids per 1 teacher environment is NOT ideal for him.

7th grade: hired a college student (nice young man) to do homework alongside him to keep him on task. DS hated it (liked the guy) grades plummet because DS was absent (illnesses) and fell behind on late assignments. D in 2 classes. He lost his cell phone for many months. THAT really motivated him to do better in school. I've seen improvement.

8th grade: Finally, more self-motivated to sit and do homework without prompting (arguments/drama/meltdowns), but totally coasting academically. Not pushing himself. He's getting the bare minimum of a lame public school experience. He begged not to have a tutor. We are giving that a whirl this year. He's keeping up.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Erie on

Our children attended a local Montessori school from pre-k to 6th grade. So far three of them have gone on to public school (my last one is still in Montessori), and there was a bit of a transition but nothing horrible. They had to get used to changing classes for each class and not having the same classmates every year, but socially they did well. My oldest always had trouble finishing his work, and in fact that carried its way all through high school, but that was just his personality, he learns by doing not by reading and rote memorization. He's very smart, but saw all the tedious work useless and his grades reflected that. He was the kid that got straight As on his tests, but didn't finish the other work so his grades were no great. He's going to school for welding.

As to whether you should change schools, from what you wrote here, I have to agree with your husband. It's time for a change and Montessori will offer him a different environment in which he may very well thrive. I know my oldest did well at Montessori because he was given a quieter atmosphere to work and was with the same teacher for three years at a time. Fourth grade is a good grade to transition your son into because that is the first grade in their 9-12 classroom (4th-6th grades) so, in a way, all of the other children are transitioning too.

All of that said, make sure you do an Observation at the school first. Make sure they give you a checklist to fill out while you are doing the Observation. Ask lots of questions and make sure the school is properly accredited. Let me know if you have an specific questions about Montessori schools, I'd be happy to answer them. And read up a bit on Maria Montessori and why she developed this method, it's a fascinating story.

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answers from New York on

Your son sounds like my 7 year old at times. I have to disagree with Sherry. Your husband is "not" rewarding him by wanting to move him to another school. Every child has a different learning style and you have to find the school that is best for him.

I have heard great things about Montessori. I read a book written by a Montessori teacher recently. Kids are allowed to work at their own pace and it sounded wonderful. School is very stressful nowadays. There are more tests, less physical activity. Kids are expected to sit for longer periods of time. Some kids respond by zoning out in class (because they are so bored or not challenged), acting out or being disruptive, etc. I have considered Montessori for my kids, but we can't afford it and there are no public Montessori charters in our area.

Good luck! I would love to hear what you decide for your son.

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answers from Washington DC on

his reactions really do sound way over the top.
however, that amount of homework is pretty draconian.
i'm a huge fan of montessori/child-led learning, but i think putting him at this point, when he's going to get yoinked back out in a year, is not going to be particularly helpful.
geez, i wish montessori and waldorf-styled schools would freakin' man up and start being offered all the way through.
i dunno. it's alarming that the entire educational process is becoming so tainted for him. that's the reason i started homeschooling (although for my boys it was ennui, not acting out, that prompted it.)
if there's no other option, i guess a temporary montessori stint is better than doing nothing. i don't agree with you that simply forcing a 'deeply unhappy' child to 'buckle down' is going to work. i'm sure he'll survive, but it will also probably cement his growing conviction that learning sucks. middle school is rarely the place where kids fall in love with the educational process.
i hope you can find a different and more lasting solution.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Fourth grade is where the big transition happens. It is the prep for middle school. Pulling him out will not help. Work closely with the therapist and teacher. Unfortunately, it is what it is. If he does not do the work, he will suffer the consequences. Can't just pull him because the going gets rough.
What happens next time when he is unhappy about something. Sorry but fourth grade is tough. If he does not do homework, don't fight with him. He will have to face the music at school. That might be what it takes. Worth a shot IMO. Tell him you will not fight. He has the choice, do it or do not. His decision. End of discussion.

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answers from New York on

What % of the class finds itself regularly in during recess/ lunch? Are the other kids struggling this much? Maybe it isn't the assignment, or the amount of work, but it might be that your kid needs some study/ work tactics to help him work more effectively.

My brother was a champion procrastinator, agonizer, rail against the machiner. I can still remember, he in first or second grade and had to write 5 sentences with the word blue. 15 minutes b1tching about his teacher. 10 complaining that life is not fair. another 10 saying that his teacher hates him. 5 more saying this assignment is stupid. 7 asking me and mom for help. then some time trying to outwit the assignment, if I write "the blue car was near the blue house" does that count as one sentence or two? His one (not terribly onerous assignment) would take him from snack through after dinner. My h.w. was done in minutes and I was off playing.

Maybe your kid needs some help re: how to study.

F. B.

PS- my brother did eventually crack this, not sure how, and is an engineer. I wish someone could have helped him embrace the tools, strategy, mindset to have made homework easier earlier.

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answers from Los Angeles on

My experience with the Montessori is limited. I sent my daughter to a Montessori preschool for four months, and she hated it. When I switched her to a more traditional preschool with lots of structure, she thrived. And she made lots of friends. She is now in second grade at a public school, and she is doing great.

My BIL was raised going to Montessori schools. I don't remember at what age he made the transition to a traditional school (although I think it was still a private school), but I think he stayed in Montessori for many years. He seemed to thrive in the Montessori program, but I tend to think that it crippled him in real life.

All I can tell you is that my BIL cannot complete any tasks, and he cannot manage his time. He thinks he is highly intelligent, but he really doesn't have any original ideas and only knows how to regurgitate interesting factoids that he has read. He actually got a degree from an ivy league university, but it was quite useless. He is now 38 years old, and the only jobs he has held for an extended period of time have been working as a sales clerk for an outdoor store and answering phones for a credit union. And he is barely holding onto his credit union job because he loses track of time and is always late to work. I don't blame Montessori for my BIL's inability to reach his full potential, but I think being in a Montessori school for so many years robbed my BIL of the opportunity to function in a structured environment.

I wonder if you can get your son extra help for his homework by hiring a tutor or sending him to Kumon. My daughter has a horrible time getting help from me with her homework, but she works so much better when she gets help from other people. Eventually, your son will need to learn how to work within the confines of mainstream society. Maybe if he can get outside help with his school work, he will be less frustrated when he is actually in school.

Does he have friends in school? Friendship is a very important component in school too. Maybe he could use more play dates with his classmates too. I know I looked forward to going to school even if it was just to see my friends.

Do you know anything about the teachers he might have next year? I wonder if the next academic year holds any promise for a reprieve. Then you can encourage your son to just gut it out for the next five months until he can get a teacher he likes better.

Good luck to you. This is a really tough situation to be in, and it must be so hard to watch your son struggle.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

We all do what we feel are best for our children.
It is good... that you have a Therapist for your son.
Because, at the root of things, he needs to be helped. But if the Therapist is not helping him... then I would suggest finding another one. And have him evaluated etc.

Eventually, no matter what type of school we send our kids to, and no matter what type of teacher our kids have, and no matter what kind of homework load our kids have and no matter what type of school curriculum our kids have.... they will ALL one day, be out there in the real world, working, for an Employer, and have a Boss etc., going to College, and have co-workers... and at that juncture in life, the individual will need to.. adapt and cope and deal with it. All. By that time, no one will be adjusting their company or Boss-style, "for" the employee.
So everything we teach our kids now... and as long as they are children... are to prepare them for the eventuality... of being on their own. And dealing with things, that do not adjust, to them.

From about 4th and 5th grade, school work and demands, just changes. And the expectations upon the student. And it does get more... as one progresses in grade/age. It just is.
But again, being your son needs outside help via a Therapist for whatever ails him... then keep doing that, and/or get another Therapist that gets results. In him.

It is not always the school... that will "change" a kid. Or their studying capability etc.

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answers from Rochester on

I'm going to preface this by saying that I did work in a Montessori pre-school so I am familiar with Montessori schools.

I am a reading specialist in a public school. I have a 2nd grade student who transferred to our building from a private Montessori school. She has really struggled. The Montessori school she came from does not have the same rigor that the public schools have. I think partly because they do not use the Common Core Standards. She was reading almost a year below grade level in the public school. She is catching up and I believe she will be reading on grade level by the end of the year. But, it has been a difficult year for her.

Our district does have a Montessori school that is a part of our district. Students there are expected to have the same rigor that other schools in the district have. The Common Core is integrated into their Montessori curriculum. I think most students stay there once they start, but students who transfer to other schools seem to do well.

The key to your decision is going to be a lot of research. Does the Montessori school follow the Common Core? Does the rigor of the Montessori school complement the rigor he will experience in middle school? If not, you could be setting him up to struggle even more in middle school. How do students who move from Montessori to middle school do once they reach middle school? How well does your son adjust to change? How easily does he make friends? How independent is your son when it comes to school work and projects? How good is your son at time management? Is he a self-directed learner? Can he stay focused on a single task for a long period of time? Is the homework your son is bringing home true homework, or is it work that he should have been able to get done during class time? When I taught 4th grade math a couple of years ago my students were usually given quite a long time to work on assignments in class. If they didn't manage their time well and finish it is class then it was homework. But it was rare when I actually sent homework home.

Ultimately you and your husband are the only ones who are going to be able to make this decision. And it is going to take a lot of research on your behalf. Visit the Montessori school, talk with your son, talk with his therapist, interview parents who have kids at the Montessori. Moving him to a new school might be the perfect thing for him. Or it could be the entirely wrong thing for him to do. Don't jump into a decision without doing that research.

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answers from Washington DC on

I have not been in your situation yet as my kids are younger, but if your child is deeply unhappy I think its great that you are looking into options to see what you can do to help support him. I know its hard but try to ignore the mean spirited answer below; she must have read a different post than I did becasue this does not seem AT ALL to me like you are trying to find some sort of way to reward him for not working hard. Good grief.
Anyway, How was he doing before this year? Did he like school in the 3rd grade? Did he struggle with homework then? His personality traits are probably not brand new, so I wonder if perhaps this is just not a good fit with this particular teacher? Also, How much homework exactly is he getting? Is he working on it for hours but just has so much he cant finish it all, or is it a reasonable amount but he just cant stay on task? That would be pretty telling of how you need to respond to this. I can recall in the 5th grade having so much homework that after working for 3+ hours at night my parents would actually send me to bed and would not "let" me do more because they could see that 1) I was trying really hard to do it all, 2) the amount of work I was being assigned was unreasonable for my age and 3) not being able to do it all no matter how hard I tried was taking a toll on my self esteem and causing me to dislike school even though I had always previously been one of those kids that loved school. So, they said enough is enough and called the school and let them know that they were not "allowing" me to spend more than 3 hours per day on homework. I think that is the only time I can recall them ever interviening with a school on my behalf, that was NOT their typical style, but I guess my point is that teachers are not always right, sometimes there is too much homework and sometimes parents have to do what is right for the overall well being of the child. Perhaps if you meet with the teacher you can come together on a time limit for your sons homework, and he can avoid missing recess. Its important for a 9 year old boy to get to have the physical and mental break that recess provides!! It sounds like that is what is causing most of his anxiety. So, of course its not OK to simply not complete assignments and then ask to not receive a consequence, but if he is working hard and trying to get all the homework completed but its just too overwhelming, its not fair to ask him to continue on like that, so either you need to meet with the current school and get somethings straighted out there, or give the Montessori a try for a while.

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answers from Chicago on

So what your saying here is that your son doesn't get his homework done so the teacher gives a consequence... your son doesn't like the consequence of not doing his homework so your husband wants to reward him by moving him to a school with no or not so much homework? and how will your husband handle it when your son is 25 and still lives at home because he can't hold a job at even the local mcdonalds because they expect him to work like all the other employees and shut up about it? I say take away all electonic toys and and set up a new daily schedule where no playing happens until the homework is done.

Many people complain that kids should not get "homework" in kindergarten and first grade etc. This is why it is important that homework that gets sent home in kindergarten gets done. it sets them in the right mind set of doing homework til its done each and every day. I agree with you it will just set him up for the shock of having way more homework than a 4th grader has and he will start out in shock and go downhill from there. and it also sets the precedent for mom and dad to jump in and fix it for him if he doesn't like the public school in jr high. what will you do then?

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answers from Washington DC on

I work in a montessori school that goes up to 6th grade. I transfered my daughter over to my school for 3rd grade (this year). Before she was in public school. Not for any reason other that I love the how they teach in montessori schools. She was doing great in public school, but it's also easier to take my kids to work with me :) She has done great with the adjustment. Their teacher says it's like they were meant for montessori school and she wouldn't even be able to tell they were from a public school.
But, every kid is different. It is a totally different way of learning and they do get homework, mostly to prepare for when they get older and go back to public school. Not every kid can make a big adjustment like that. There is a lot of foundational work that they need to know that they learn back in the primary classrooms. They also need to be able to self lead. Be able to get their work done with out the teacher telling them to do it and learn to time manage themselves.
I would go and check it out. My kids had to come and do a trial day last year just for their teacher to observe how they would fit in. They usually don't accept public school kids at this age. Just go and see what the teacher says

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answers from San Francisco on

You're not saying how long it is taking your son to do the homework. Most teachers give some homework. IMHO, you should expect your son to work on homework for no more than 1 hour, as long as he's really WORKING on it. At the end of an hour, that's enough.

I would talk to the teacher and tell her this is what's going to happen and she is NOT ALLOWED to take his recess or lunch away. I also would not tell your son that you have made this arrangement with his teacher so he doesn't get the idea that you are going to step in each year and do this. But there is a huge difference between the lower grades (k - 3) and the upper grades (4 - 6) in terms of homework.

I don't think moving him to Montessori is a good idea - but then again I am not a fan of Montessori schools. My GD went to one for Pre K - 2nd grade and her transition to public school was extremely hard for her.

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answers from Boston on

My daughter is in 4th grade this year. We just moved to a new area and this is her first time in public school. She was in a catholic school prior. She adjusted well but has tons of homework. Up to 2 hours a night if you include reading. I always heard 4th grade was the toughest yr. Its the first year where things get tough and the homework load is huge. I never remember having this much work when I was in grade school. My friends who have boys struggle much more than I do. My friend literally fights her son every night to do his work. My thought is if you take him out now you are fixing the problem for him. And like you said he will be shocked in middle school. I would tough it out. When my daughter complains and whines I just tell her if she continues I will just have her stay after school with a teacher to do her homework. She does not want to do that. Lol

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answers from Cleveland on


sorry. here is the deal,

the reason Montessori works and is so wonderful is that the kids are TRAINED to be that way starting at 3 you or younger. EVERYTHING builds on the basics that they learn as preschoolers. How to do the work, The actual materials for doing the work, how to interact w the teachr and other classmates while working, ALL of it builds and takes extensive extensive extensive practice.

you are setting your kiddo up if you think you can plunk him down and he will just "get it" especially if he is a difficult kid.

I know Montessori does vary widely and Charters really water it all down. so it might be worth checking into, but I personally would be very very leary of a school that was willing to accept a child that didnt' have the early experience. If they are trying to build enrollment they might take him, but that would be a question I would ask about.

Would you consider a cyberschool?

and I'm guessing you have tried this but doing homework before school or before bed might give him a little down time at least for a typical kid, it sounds like you might have already tried that?

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answers from Oklahoma City on

There is so much research out there that shows homework in elementary school deters learning and does nothing to help the kids learn anything at all.

My kiddo's 4th grade teacher does not send homework home at all. She goes to one of the highest scoring schools in the state. She routinely tests in the 97 percentile for reading and everything but math. It's lower but not below normal.

This school overall doesn't do a lot of homework. They have decided kids in elementary school need to love school and learning. They think homework makes school less. Since they stopped doing homework like other schools their test scores have continuously gone higher and higher.

I think it's time to talk to the teacher. Remind her that your child is a child and they need time to play, to be a kid, do sports, ride their bikes, rollerskate, and have fun. They do NOT need to be coming home after 7-8 hours of school and sitting for hours more doing more school work. If the child labor laws applied to school "work" kids would only be allowed to do a few hours per day total. They don't need 8-10 hours of school per day.

Tell her that you'll support her in him having 30 minutes of homework twice per week and that he'll read every single day for at least 30 minutes. That is plenty of work outside of school for any child not matter what age.

In this case, and I despise Montessouri schools, I think perhaps hubby might have the right idea.

BUT first. Talk to the teacher. Tell her what you'll support and see how she feels. It truly sounds like she can't teach what she needs to teach anymore. Find out what the other 4th grade teachers policy is on homework. If they all do the same thing kiddo needs out of this school.

I feel sorry for any kid in this sort of environment. It's so destructive to them mentally, they just need to be kids but they get bombarded with way too much work.

Either get the teacher to change, change teachers, or change schools.

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