#006 Is Montessori a good match for giftedness?
Is Montessori a good match for giftedness? – Selena’s Story
Today I’m speaking with Selena about uncovering her child’s giftedness and her experience of Montessori in the early years.
In this episode you’ll hear about:
- Accepting her son is gifted and trying not to be that parent
- Her son hiding himself when his needs were not met in early years learning
- Re-learning how to learn at school when he did find the right place
- Why the assessment was so helpful
- One child and different Montessori experiences in the early years
Hit play and let’s get started!
“School became about play and social stuff – it wasn’t about learning it was about hanging out with your mates… it’s kind of sad because they are hungry for something and they aren’t getting that at school.” – Selena
“He hid…. He was very quiet, he was very introverted. He learnt that when you’re in the classroom you shut up, you don’t ask questions, you don’t get involved and then play time is when you come alive… and that did a lot of damage.” – Selena
“Now he’s at the right school, now he’s at Dara where they actually understand his brain and how it works and can meet his needs [but] it’s taken a couple of terms to re-learn that school was where we learnt.” – Selena
“I think he just wasn’t able to be himself and he was managing that by shutting down at school and then getting vivaciously hungry for whatever he could get outside of it.” – Selena
“It’s not about the label… but it’s about the information that that report gives… and it helped me so much to understand my son.” – Selena
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00:00:00 I’m delighted today to talk to Selena Woodward, CEO of edgy folios, and host of the reflective teacher podcast about the journey of discovering that her son was gifted. Hi, I’m Sophia Elliot as a parent of three gifted kids. I’m here to talk about all things gifted because I’ve been isolated and uncertain. And I felt like that parent, then I found peace of mind support and my community.
00:00:31 This podcast is about sharing that journey, actually parenting gifted kids and connecting with advice and support. So we have everything we need for every member of our family to thrive. This is the, our gifted kid podcast. Salina. Welcome. Thank you for coming in today and having a chat with us. Thank you for having me. It’s awesome to be here.
00:00:52 Lovely. And we’re here today to talk about your son. You are, you definitely are. Yes. And our experiences together discovering this whole gifted business. Yes. And in the name of full disclosure, Selena and I are friends and there was a friendship by fire that’s. We went, we went through this journey at the same time and, and yeah,
00:01:13 it sort of, it has bonded us in a special way. I think our kids found each other and then their United situation created a situation that United everybody together. Yeah, that’s right. So the background is of course, that Selena’s son and my son went to school together and yeah. Found each other in that mix. Selena is the friend who kind of first said to us that,
00:01:37 you know, your kids probably gifted. Right. And we were like, Oh, what does that mean? And so your background is, of course you’re the CEO and founder of EDU folios. And your background is you’re an English teacher and trained in the UK. So you were kind of in that education zone, but let’s go back a little bit first.
00:02:01 Let’s talk about your son and the early days, even given your training to spot these little kids, you know, did you see things in your son as he was growing up or that you think about my training? I’m a high school English and drama teacher. And I have had the pleasure of working with gifted kids in that high school setting. But it’s very different in the early years.
00:02:24 And also being a parent and a teacher, you become very conscious of the fact that you don’t want to railroad another teacher based on what you believe should be happening. And you get really conscious of not being that parent that you’ve experienced yourself. So in some ways, although I’m totally trained to identify a gifted child in the context of my English or drama classroom,
00:02:48 having a baby and only one baby. So there were no other babies to compare the baby to that. This was my experience. I live on the other side of the planet to my family. So even my nieces and nephews, I wasn’t hanging around with them. So I didn’t have that reference either. Absolutely. So many of us these days that don’t have that broader family.
00:03:08 And I was the same, like I had no point of reference. I didn’t know any other kids, babies, little people. Yeah. So it’s tricky, isn’t it Totally junkie. And thinking back in hindsight, there were heaps of clues, but I guess I, and I had a gut feeling about it for a long time that I ignored, which I totally regret,
00:03:26 by the way we can talk about that later. But I, I think I always knew that he was really with it. Like he’s always been a really old soul. Like he was born a wrinkly 80 year old Man, what he’s doing As the soul of a, of an older gentleman. And it’s hard to just TRIBE that thing is, you know,
00:03:46 like my youngest, I mean, all my kids, but particularly my youngest sit at the moment he, he just gets stuff. Yeah. And he’s always just got it. And it’s sort of a very intangible thing, but I think that’s kind of it, isn’t it. Yeah. Even when he was born, he got full marks on that first test.
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00:04:02 They do too. Like, are you awake? Are you alert? He was smiling within like 30 minutes. And of course everyone’s going, Oh no, they can’t smile at this age. That’s just wind. And you’re like, no, that’s a smile. He’s like looking at the camera. He’s alert. He’s like not supposed to be doing that stuff.
00:04:16 Yeah. He was born being curious and asking questions in a baby way, which involved a lot of screaming. Yeah. Justin was never a good sleeper, always needed to be with me, always needed constant stimulation. And he taught, he spoke really early. So he did lots of things really early, but I didn’t know that that wasn’t normal. If that makes sense.
00:04:41 Until he got to know, you go to play groups, even when he was a tiny baby, like he would be trying to Nick the sandwiches at the mother’s group when he was like four or five and everyone else’s baby, wouldn’t be doing that, but he’d be reaching for sandwiches. So he was like, he always wanted to be like the grownups.
00:04:58 He didn’t really, he wasn’t really interested in this babyhood business. He was not ready to do the grownup stuff really early on. As soon as he could speak, then yeah. He, it was easier for him to communicate obviously. So it was less frustrated and that made a massive difference before that, before he could speak, he would just point at things until we got it.
00:05:16 And he’d just look at us. Like we were stupid. Like I pointed at that now that I’ve got lots of photographs of him dramatically pointing at things, that’s mother, it’s just really strange. That’s what I mean, like he’s an old soul. Like he, it was like inside. He knew what he wanted to communicate. He knew what he was trying to say,
00:05:33 but he just hadn’t. My husband makes me laugh because when he was born, bless him. He said, I didn’t realize they came formatted. Now I should, I should let you know that my husband’s a developer. So he didn’t realize that you had to build the operating system. And it’s kind of like that just in had, I think all the code in his head,
00:05:49 but he didn’t have the user interface to respond to us. Isn’t to make it sound like a proper nerd. I wonder where he gets it from, you know, like, so it was like, it was all in there and it was very frustrating for him. And the more skills he got around communication, the better, the easier it became for him when he started preschool.
00:06:06 And I chose Montessori for him very early on, because I knew there was something a bit different about him. And the Montessori philosophy was obviously about meeting your child where they were at. And we had varying degrees of success with that at different places, because obviously Montessori is a philosophy how our school material fits that philosophy is open to interpretation. Yeah. And I had similar experience.
00:06:28 We went to a few different Montessori places and it is really interesting because they do all interpret it differently. And so we had varying degrees of success somewhere like a amazing and some, Oh yeah. Very not amazing. And we will, but what you’re saying though, is reminding me a lot of my middle child and when she was born, it was,
00:06:52 there was no crying. She just had these giant Ganti blue eyes. And she was just awake here for like three hours with these eyes, Lord. Well like, Oh, I’m here, like taking it all in, in everything. It was amazing. I’m like, and she was my second. So I’m like, I think he should be like crying and sleeping,
00:07:10 but she was just looking at everything and she was slow in developing her speech. But she communicated it expertly. Like you, there was never any wondering about what she was trying to communicate because it was front and center. There was no, we used to joke. She didn’t need to talk because she, you know, yeah, that’s right. And they do.
00:07:34 I mean, Justin wasn’t earlier, everything like, he really couldn’t be bothered to move. Like he worked out very early on that there were ways to get other people to do your bidding. So like A lot of people say, Oh, my kid was walking at 10 months just, and didn’t bother walking until well, after he was one, he didn’t ever crawl either.
00:07:50 He just missed that out. He just got up and walked. He was like, all right, actually I quite fancy that over there. And you’re not understanding me. I better get up and get that. It was a bit like that. I used to take him to baby gym or anything to get him to move. We’d be like, nah,
00:08:02 that, that I want that. Yeah. But no, say it wasn’t Some of those typical signs that you hear a lot in the forums, he didn’t have everything like that, but there was just something about him and knowing a knowledge, this what? Old wisdom. I don’t know. Something that’s really weird. There’s something going on behind those eyes.
00:08:20 Yeah. He going back to the Montessori thing, I think The very first Montessori we took him to, we had to take him out of, because he got this’ll make you laugh. Cause this is very interested. He got very fascinated with the one child who bit with obviously doing some experiments in, why does she bite? What do I do to get her to buy?
00:08:38 This is very interesting. So, and there was nothing they could do because he would just be lying for this child. And then basically annoy her until she bit him. I know. Sorry Did take him out of that one. It wasn’t the best experience. I was really more defied because nobody wants their child to come home with bite marks, but he just wouldn’t stop.
00:08:57 He just kept going. Yeah. I’m just intrigued by why she’s going on. She’s been me. Why interesting. Let’s do another experiment. So, And after that, we went to this really beautiful Montessori school and there were lots of different kinds of kids there as well. And I guess very early on one of the key things that made me go,
00:09:14 Hmm. Apart from all of that behavior is the speaking because they thought he was brilliant at that Montessori. And they were really open to seeing what he could do next. They just thought it was great fun. And they would be like, he really freaks me out. And we’re like, and I’ll be like, why? It’s like, he talks like a 24 year old.
00:09:29 He’s like two. So then what are we going to do today? Have you thought about this? I’ve got a great idea. All the phrases that I still hear now, I don’t know about anyone else listening. But when my son says mom, I’ve got a great idea. A small sense of dread builds up like, Oh God, what now what’s happening now?
00:09:47 And they were really good with him. And at that age, it was really hard for him because the other children couldn’t speak the same way. I used to spend a lot of time with adults. So I’m really with the kids, which caused problems with him later, in terms of understanding how to enter into play and things. He didn’t really know how to play with the kids cause he wanted to do different things.
00:10:07 He wanted to talk and experiment, not play the way they played. He’d kind of moved past that and it created this sort of social, but weirdness. So he would used to joke cause we used to go to play dates and he’d just walk up the kids and just smile at them with this really broad smile. And that was his hello. I’m just a,
00:10:23 do you want to play? And some of them would be okay with that. And some of them would just look at him like it was weird and carry on, you know? And it took some time to teach him how to, how to get involved in their games. So if they’re playing an imaginative, play their moms and dads or whatever, he didn’t really know how to enter into that narrative because he didn’t really work that way.
00:10:43 But to teach him how to find out what the story was and how to create a character in that story and join the play and that kind of thing, which was really interesting because he did have really high functioning skills in speaking and communicating, but it was almost like he was communicating on a different plane or level. Not that it was better. It was just different to what his peers were doing.
00:11:04 Yeah. And it’s hard, I think for them to find that connection. So my oldest was similar. You would watch him wandering around the playground at that sort of five age And you Could see him and you know, he’s a great communicator is he’s always had lots of friends, very sociable. But by then he had all this stuff in his head and he was desperate to talk to people.
00:11:28 Yeah. Have a conversation about, you could see him go up to a child and he’d be like, Oh, I don’t know, black holes. Yeah. But it’d be Amber. And they’d just be like, what? And he would, there’d be no connection there. And they would run off and play and he’d be like, Oh, who else can I talk to about absolutely it’s finder the gifted kid here because when they find someone who’s conversation an old person,
00:11:54 Then they’re like, Oh great, awesome. Let’s just sit under this tree and chat or not. Let’s come up with some elaborate game, which is completely different to it’s always rules that we changed how we’re feeling about that. Yeah. So I guess there was that the talking was a big thing. And then because I’m an English teacher, reading and writing is always big in our house.
00:12:15 I actually went on a course to learn jolly phonics. And there’ll be teachers out there now who will be going, I know jolly phonics, but it was good. I needed to learn something because I’d never taught the early stages of reading. I don’t need the high school stuff. And he was really interested in the words in books. I’d always read to him.
00:12:34 I played games with him. I’d play it with your, your middle one. Now I say, right, you find a word and read it to me. And you have to read that word the whole way through every time it comes up, that kind of thing. And he liked those games. And he just got really curious about this pattern, that this language.
00:12:49 So I taught him to read, we went through jolly phonics together. And I just learned from that lime tree literacy was the place I learned that from, if anyone wants to go, there’s an online course you can do. If anyone’s interested, great resources. And I just went through that. And then I, I basically taught that to him. And everyone was like,
00:13:06 I felt like everyone was sort of saying to me, well, you’re pushing him. He’s not interested, but it wasn’t coming from me. It was totally coming from him. He was super keen to do that. He wanted to learn this new way of communicating. And so at the second Montessori where he was at, they were really good with this.
00:13:22 So when he was two, he was coming home with sight words. He had little books, the very early readers and he was learning to read them. You’re like the cats on the mat, those cat are really basic ones. And he was really into it. Yeah. And the great thing about that Montessori was it was set up in the way that I understand Montessori to be,
00:13:39 and that it was a big hall with different zones in it. So it had the reading literacy corner, it had the maths bit, it had the home bit, you know, and, and he basically got to choose how he spent his time in his day. And that really suits him because he likes to dive deep. It doesn’t want to be interrupted every hour to do something else.
00:13:59 And he doesn’t necessarily even want to go outside unless he’s exploring something all the time. And obviously we had to work on that because those social skills needed to happen and they do, he’s fine now we’ve worked that out. But you know, like he would quite happily spend the day in the corner in the reading room or he would spend a few days playing with the numbers and the sound finger numbers and things like that.
00:14:20 He was, and they encourage that and they let him just go and they would just be like, Oh, what else can this child do? And I, and he used to freak them out as well. Cause he used to do this really odd thing, but don’t know if anyone else has experienced this, where he would tell us all stories about old mom and dad.
00:14:36 So he had this whole narrative for the first three, three and a half, four years of his life, about a previous mom and dad and a previous life. It was really odd. Oh wow. That’s interesting. It was really, really interesting. And I was never sure if this was a figment of his imagination or something, but that was all part of this maturity.
00:14:55 It was really weird. He was always really mature. Like he wasn’t behaving like a toddler should I don’t think, not that I would know, but he was very different in that way. And yet, because I’m a teacher, I think I was really hard on myself and I wouldn’t accept it. And people had said to me, Oh, you know,
00:15:13 he’s gifted. And I’d be like, Oh, I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know about that. I don’t know. He’s he’s bright, but you know, he’s fine. Fine. And it wasn’t until he wasn’t fine. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Because obviously you have to go start kindie and you have to go to school when you’re not at like a little preschool anymore.
00:15:29 Yeah. So he had a great experience at preschool. He really was. And I think that’s a challenging thing as well as a parent. Like we, we don’t<inaudible> period or pushy, but we can see where our child or children getting interest. And we’d like to support them in that interest. And I think sometimes people will look at you and go,
00:15:50 Oh, Your, you know, taking Your child to lectures or, or DSG and them to read a, you must be a pushy parent, but it’s actually, it’s like, no, this is where they’re going. This is, this is what they’re after. And we’re just nurturing that and feeding that interest. I’m just curious to see what happened.
00:16:08 Can you cope? Like Jason could go to the theater really early on. A lot of people got it when type market. Now you quite happily sit in a theater and watch a little play or whatever. So I just went with it and just see what happens. That’s right. Yeah. You do. You just kind of go and because, You know,
00:16:22 I didn’t know any better. Well, you know, other kids, it was all very normal for us. So we would just kind of exactly see where they go or you’re interested in the human body. Well, he’s our relative many relatives were nurses. So we had all sorts of, you know, equipment and things to feed that knowledge and curiosity.
00:16:41 And, but, but I certainly felt myself that I think particularly with Some teachers, not all of them, there was that real kind of feeling that all you’re, you’re being pushy or you’re pushing something that’s not there. Or I don’t know. I just felt that it was back on us sometimes. And I know, and it really wasn’t. And I think So you’ve had this experience with Triston.
00:17:06 He’s been at this great Montessori. They’ve really just kind of what helps being Oh Dude. Yeah, absolutely. And often Say, you know, I don’t want my kids to be limited by that lack of imagination of the grownups around them. So in some people have that imagination and they’re happy to go with it. And other people just can’t quite except,
00:17:24 you know, outside the mold. So he had this great experience at preschool and then he moved, and this is where we met at different Montessori schools. Yeah. Yeah. So how did that go? I should have known, I should never have enrolled in there. Cause even in the interview with the principal, I actually said, and this was a big leap for me.
00:17:46 I think he might be gifted. And the said, Oh, we don’t use labels here. And that was his response. And I thought, Oh, okay, well maybe that’s a Montessori thing. And maybe they’ve got different ways of describing it. They meet children where they’re at. And I felt like a little Pang of woo warning alarms. And I was like,
00:18:02 no, you’re being that person again. You’re being Parent. Cause no one wants to be that parent. Right. It’s just this fear. It’s huge. It’s huge to BU and fierce like, Oh, we don’t want to be that parent. And sometimes I think that stops us from following our intuition and going, you know what I’m, I need to be that parent right now.
00:18:18 And eventually I had to learn that lesson and I ended up, it was really awkward for me cause I also lecture at the local uni and him and his teacher eventually was actually one of my ex students as well, which added an extra dimension. So unless you’re in teacher education As well, that added an extra dimension of complexity. But before I even got to that class,
00:18:37 he was in the Gindi class and I handed to them because part of the Montessori philosophy is a portfolio. And so Tristan took a portfolio with him with examples of what he was reading. I lovely all sorts of stuff. And that basically never got read or if it did get red, it got dismissed because they wouldn’t give him readers. I had to fight for six months because that’s what you do in reception,
00:19:00 not in kindie, which is doesn’t line up with the Montessori philosophy of that cycle. I went there thinking cycle one, which is what they described those first few years would be cycle one. So thinking if he’s in kindie and he’s probably a year or two ahead cycle one will be a great place for him because he’ll get to integrate with the kids who are at that level.
00:19:18 But they separate them. The kin, they were in the same room, but there was a bookshelf between them and they weren’t playing together in the yard or there was a definite line cycle. One was split. And that was a problem for him. He was also writing beginning to write at home. And at the time I thought that his teachers had been helping him with that.
00:19:40 And I’ll never forget going into a parent interview thing and saying, Oh thank you so much. Tristan’s been writing on his whiteboard at home. He wrote a whole sentence the other day. It’s really impressive. Thank you so much for helping him with that. And she said, what do you mean he’s writing? I’ve never seen him write his name. Oh no.
00:19:56 And I was like, Oh, so it turns out that my child had basically been teaching himself and obviously observing me at home and I’ve been helping him cause I would, but it was nothing to do with what was happening at school. And at school, he was basically not allowed to be who he was at the last school he was at on the upside.
00:20:17 That place did a lot of work with him on his social skills. That’s what they picked up. That was their thing. And they taught him all those skills about how to get involved in the play. And that was really valuable. And I was okay with that, taking a forefront for a while because that is a really essential skill, but it started to become,
00:20:34 it started to become a really negative experience for him. And it was clear that Tristan was choosing not to show them what he knew, which means for me that he was obviously being told the message that we’re not in that or feeling shamed about being able to do those things. Yeah. Why do you think that was, Do you, did you ever get the more of a,
00:20:56 It’s interesting just learnt that at that place. That’s not where we learn. We do that when we get home and our weekends would we fall of STEM clubs and after school and, and obviously it was only a couple of days a week then, so you’d go to the STEM club at the library and you’d have this four or five-year-old rock up. And the guy would like,
00:21:11 this is for seven year olds. You’re like, yeah, yeah. Just give it a go. And then you’d be like, and then obviously your son would be with them and they’d just be answering all the questions. Okay then. Sure. And that was great because I found those people outside of the school who would be like, fair enough. You can stay,
00:21:26 you clearly can cope with this. Let’s see what else we could do. We had that curiosity coming out of outside people working with them, but he just wasn’t getting that at school. So, because I think they’d focus so much on that social aspect, school became about play and social stuff. It wasn’t about learning. It was about hanging out with your mates and then learning how to play.
00:21:45 Yeah. My oldest, obviously Tristan’s friend exactly the same school became somewhere he played. And then when he got home, he learns, he would spend four hours. Kids are home right now and I’m a teacher. So part of me is like, yeah, but also like it’s kind of sad because they’re hungry for something and they’re not getting it at school.
00:22:07 Well, yeah, In the end for us, it became unsustainable. It became a point of depression for him. And it resulted in some really unhealthy behavior because he, he wasn’t getting what he needed. And so how did that, it’s going to manifest itself with Tristan. Did you see that sort of stuff or, or did he just hide? Heidi went really quiet.
00:22:32 So by the time he’d been there, we’d been there for two to bit years. Cause he did kindie and then he’d started, he left halfway through reception at that point I’d had enough. Yeah. And look, I think in some ways they, there are things they did with him. There was one teacher, particularly who, who worked quite well with him on maths and things were doing a lot of gold bead work.
00:22:51 If you’re familiar with Montessori, that’s not something we normally do at those lower levels. Look it up. It’s very interesting, but it felt like Tristan could never tell me what he was learning. And when I went to school to visit, you know, they’d be doing the little plays or something. And my son is out there. Like he’s like me,
00:23:09 he’s very, he’s an extrovert. Like he does not care. He will dance. He was saying, he will have some fun, but at school that’s not who he was. He was very quiet. He was very introverted. He learned that when you’re in the classroom, you shut up, you don’t ask questions, you don’t get involved. And then playtime is when he came alive,
00:23:27 I’d got it wrong. I got it all backwards. And that did a lot of damage because now he’s at the right school. Cause he’s now, he’s now at Darra where they actually understand his brain and how it works and can meet his needs. It’s taken, it took him a couple of terms to relearn that school was where we learned. And we are Nina.
00:23:46 We got our weekends back and our evenings back and we’ll have a normal kid in inverted commas. You know, if there is such a thing after school now, while he wants to play games or soccer or go skateboarding, that’s his thing. You know, like he’s got things now that are not academic because he’s getting that met at his school. So I don’t think he was depressed,
00:24:04 but I think he just went, he wasn’t able to be himself. And he was managing that by shutting down at school and then getting vivaciously hungry for whatever he needed outside of it. So at what point did, did it sort of all hit the wall so to speak? At what point did you go, okay, we need to get an assessment done,
00:24:24 see what we’re dealing with, you know, how did that sort of pan out? Yeah. Well I knew about your experience and Yeah, cause we were just really a couple of months ahead Because I said, you know, your kid is because yeah, that totally ticks every box. He’s ridiculous. He’s like he is a walking example, poster child.
00:24:42 And from my training in the UK, I could see all of that. Just the way he spoke, the way articulated himself, the rate at which he devoured information, the hunger for that, there was just lots about him that ticked every box. There’s an in your face gift. He totally CTS all the boxes, but they all are really, I can tell them my life.
00:25:00 Now I tell you I can go.<inaudible> Youngest just started a new sort of preschool. And, and the teacher there is totally out for just kind of like, let’s see where this kid can go. And I was sitting in and transition day for a an hour or so with him. And there was this other child they’re just focused on making these patterns and counting.
00:25:27 And he had this thing in mind that you could see he was trying to work through it, but he kept clashing with the other kids. Cause he wanted those bits to finish. It was very important that he, he made this pattern and the, the teachers were a bit like, Oh, you’ve got to share. And, and we’re kind of seeing it as a bad behavior,
00:25:44 but I was like, Oh no, this is interesting. Yeah. What’s he up to game play for someone that age. Yeah. And I think the kids, they do find each other. A lot of Tristan’s friends have turned out to be gifted and different parents respond to that in different ways, you know? But yeah. A lot of the people that he’s connected with and remained connected with are gifted.
00:26:06 So he has found other kids who think like him and act like him. Yeah. And that’s the thing, isn’t it. We all want connection. We all, we’re a species who is all about community and connection. And it’s only natural that we gravitate towards people who think like us have our values and all of those things. So, and when you don’t have that,
00:26:29 it’s really isolated. Of course. And that’s what was happening to him at that school. I mean his, his mental health was suffering not to the extent. I think obviously Finn had been there a lot longer and had started reception the six months before it or something.<inaudible> toddlers, toddlers, and then preschool Kindi. And he had Started reception. Yeah.
00:26:53 Six months early, but just purely because of age, not because anyone had recognized developmental need, but just purely the fluke of age. So yeah, he was just that one step ahead of where you guys were. So yeah, you’d said to us or you, you know, Oh, you think your son is gifted and we, everything was hitting the proverbial fan for us.
00:27:14 And we were in a crisis mode. So we really had to, there was a lot happening and you guys were just kind of, I think a step behind us in terms of where you were going, but you had that assessment not long after we Yeah. Cause you had yours. And I’d seen the journey that, because I think having that rapport means not only do you,
00:27:35 it’s not about the label, cause I’m not about labels, but it’s about the information that, that report gives Rich information blew my mind. We got out of that and it helped me so much to understand my son. So some other behaviors that we saw that were causing problems. So I think one of the major reasons that we got really alarmed was the way that Tristan’s behavior was manifesting in a manner that the teachers were not able to cope with.
00:28:01 And it wasn’t bad behavior is not throwing things, but things like problem solving. So, and we worked out later and I’ll explain why he was doing this. Cause I didn’t know until the psych did the report and this is one of those reasons to have that report done. I think for me, anyway, there was an incident where my husband had dropped him off at school.
00:28:17 It was the day where we swap our library. Books, Tristin really loves rules. Like he will stick to the rules. He gets really upset, but he really doesn’t like it. If he doesn’t stick to the rules, he’s a very deep, not even a diplomat. I don’t know what the word is. Dictator possibly the military police watch out guy.
00:28:38 So he had not remembered his books. He left them in the car, but he’d said goodbye to daddy. Daddy had made eye contact with the teacher. Handover, officially has occurred. Right? We can now leave. And, and my husband had gone off to the car and had done the usual parents thing, like right. Or I’ll just deregulate from that moment of millions of small children.
00:28:57 I’ll just flick through Facebook for a minute and then turn the car around to drive back home. And this would have been like five minutes, something like that. And a woman flagged the car down. Luckily our car is fairly easily recognizable. It’s covered in stickers, flag the car down and went, is this your child? And Tristan had actually left the classroom cross the oval,
00:29:17 left the school site and was standing on the side of a busy main road in floods of tears, which is not where he should be. So Matt’s like, what are you doing mate? And he’s like, well from all my books, I come to get my books address and it basically decided he could solve the problem. He hadn’t got his books.
00:29:34 He knew where they were. So he just got up and left the classroom and the site didn’t have Gates that were locked. The teacher was obviously distracted by other kids. Apparently had assumed that he’d gone off with dad, which is interesting. Cause dad had waved and said goodbye, whatever the reason she didn’t know he’d even left. We brought him back and she just assumed that because he’d come back with dad.
00:29:55 He was with dad the whole time. She hadn’t realized he’d left the classroom. He was able to leave the school site stand next to a main road. And the school did not respond to that in a way that I needed them to. Instead of asking, you know, I wanted to know why the Gates were open. Why did the teacher not know he’d left?
00:30:12 No. What is the policy around duty of care? At what time does that kick in? I know the answers to all of that, but they weren’t able to answer those questions for me. They then labeled my son. A runner is how they call him. And they started putting measures in place to manage my son, not the situation. And that was when it became really hurtful to Tristin because in a Montessori school,
00:30:36 it’s all about independence and kids maintaining their own environment. Tristan was no longer allowed to leave the classroom to water the plants. He was not trusted to do those things. He was told that he needed to earn trust back and he actually hadn’t done anything wrong, really? That the problem, I mean, obviously he shouldn’t have left the site don’t get me wrong,
00:30:56 but there was a reason why he did that and they didn’t have the expertise to understand what was happening, dig deeper and to dig deeper. Yeah. And to understand that and to label a child or runner, without asking now that I run that business, edgy folios, I’ve taken trust into so many massive conferences in Sydney and in Melbourne. And I have absolutely no problem with him coming with me.
00:31:21 He does not run off. He’s like he backed, he turns into mini 40 year old businessman. He’s in his element. Cause he’s representing the brand. Don’t, you know, you know, like he is not a runner and that was really unfair and really hurtful because Tristan’s relationships with other people are really important to him. And he responds really well to people who take the time to connect with him.
00:31:44 He doesn’t really have any time for people who don’t do that. It’s really interesting. Like he has to build a relationship with someone before he’ll trust them. And that may be part of the experience he’d had at this site. I don’t know. He takes him a while to warm up and trust someone. But when we, when we eventually got the report,
00:32:00 cause it was, it was that. And then there was the fact that they did, you didn’t know, he could write that they wouldn’t give him a reading book that he was stuck on the same readers for ages that when he’d read the readers, there were no other books that he could go to the library, but not really only on this one day.
00:32:15 So he was stuck that book and then there would be no more books. And I was being told that he wasn’t focusing in class, that he was being not disruptive, but just distracted that and that the problem was his writing, which was really interesting because two years ago he was writing sentences. So I don’t know now, you know, like there was also things that were not just adding.
00:32:36 Yep. And so it, as I said at this, his teacher was an ex student of mine and I was trying desperately because I’ve had experiences as a teacher where I’ve taught one of my ex mentor’s sons and it was awful. She was awful. And I did not want to do that to this teacher. I wanted to be supportive and helpful and try and work out together.
00:32:54 Can we work out together? What’s going on? And it all came down to what we call pedagogies, which is how we choose to deliver the learning. So in an average classroom of that age, you might repeat something two or three times in lots of different ways so that the kid gets it. So they were doing, for example, parts of a flower and they’d gone outside and they’d looked at the parts of the flower and they’d name the parts of the flower at which point,
00:33:17 trusted now knows the parts of a flower. So then he comes back into the classroom and on the whiteboard, they’ve got a picture of a flower and they’re moving the words to the picture of the flower to name. And he’s like, all right, I’ve done it twice. Okay, cool. Now I’m going to sit down in groups and I want you to do the same thing again,
00:33:33 is that that’s the third time I’ve done this and now fourth, can you write it down in your book? And he’s like, I remember An article a few years back. It may have been around this time, which suggested that in the course of teaching, you might convey that information in different ways, like up to 20 or 30 times I for primary school teachers.
00:33:53 Yeah. Which makes sense because you, you know, you do it as many times as it takes to, to stick. But this is where, And this is where it was causing problems because he was refusing to write because in his head, this was just annoying. Like it did this 20 minutes ago, you’ve made me do it three times. Why do I need to write it down?
00:34:11 And so there were all these lots of head banging problems coming up between him and the staff. And it was clear that there was a piece of the puzzle missing. And I didn’t clearly know what it was. I had a hint that it might be giftedness. And so I just decided I needed the information and that they couldn’t provide that for me, they’re not qualified to provide that.
00:34:31 They didn’t know. None of us knew where at one of those impasses, we both had different versions of the story. So let’s get a third party to do an assessment and see what that tells us an expert. If you will, an expert and actual human. First of all, you got the assessment. Firstly, how did you feel? And secondly,
00:34:52 how did the school respond? Okay. Well I think for me the assessment, the label didn’t mean much to me, but that’s just who I am. I’m not, I’ve never really gone for labels. I think labels labels are limiting. In fact, I think, but I think what’s really important for me was understanding what that meant for him. And I think that’s different for everyone because reading fins is very different to reading trust and the way they,
00:35:17 so one of the things that have been really bothering me about Tristan as he’d been lying to me a lot, the way I saw it was he would lie to me. He would cover his tracks are no, no that hasn’t happened. Blah, blah, blah. And, and that was kind of what was going on with this, you know, leaving the school site.
00:35:30 But I can’t, I know, you know, he didn’t want to upset me. There were things like that. And that was hurting me because I didn’t know why he would lie to me. And the best bit about that process was having the psychologist explained to me the way he was seeing the world, like his map of the world is different to mine.
00:35:47 So he’s not lying. He is solving a problem. Like mom’s going to get upset. So rather than do that, if I just tell her this version of events, see if I get away with it, no one’s going to get upset. Life’s going to be easier. And so we then had to work on, you know, it’s okay if you haven’t done something,
00:36:05 right. Cause that’s the other thing he’s broken a rule or something’s not gone to plan, which is soul destroying. So the idea of admitting that to someone he really cares about was huge. Which to me, I wouldn’t have really understood what what’s no big, it would be nothing. It’d be nothing that at all, tiny little things you’re like who ate that lolly or you know,
00:36:23 little things that really are not life or death. He couldn’t cope with that. The reason that he left the school became really clear in terms of why he walked off. And it was because the test showed that Justin had something called cognitive dissonance, which means that he has a chronological age. And then he has a cognitive age, which is a couple of years ahead of his developmental age.
00:36:44 So although at that time he was five in his head, he was seven, eight years old and he thought he could solve the problem. Whereas a five-year-old wouldn’t normally do that. They’d just go, Oh, I need some help or, Oh, well, nevermind. This was really important to him. He thought he knew how to solve the problem.
00:37:00 It got the steps in his head, but when he got to the main road and dad, wasn’t where he expected him to be. He instantly turned back into a five-year-old because the plan hadn’t gone to plan and he didn’t have the emotional skills to deal with that emotion of disappointment. And Oh my God, I seem to be outside. You know? And without having had that psych report,
00:37:20 we wouldn’t have known about that cognitive dissonance. So we wouldn’t have understood that was what was happening. And it’s not the teacher’s fault either. They’re not trained in that. So they wouldn’t have known that. I wouldn’t know that as a teacher, I didn’t know about cognitive dissonance at that point, I knew about gifted ed, but not in that much detail.
00:37:37 So things like that, getting to understand why he does that, because that’s really important. That explains why, you know, he’s a, five-year-old with a 40 year olds mind. Yeah. That’s a bit, you know what I mean? Like that’s the old soul, but yeah. It’s always been a couple of years, cognitively ahead, of where he’s been developmentally,
00:37:54 which must’ve been super frustrating as a baby because he would have had all this stuff and he wouldn’t have been able to communicate it. No wonder he didn’t sleep. And he screamed all the time and wouldn’t leave my side. So for me, I felt enabled, I think is the word I would use by the, by the diagnosis. If you want to know what you call it,
00:38:10 the label, whatever you want to call It, it’s almost like knowledge really is power. Yeah. You know, what’s going on, Paul? It’s like, Okay, this makes sense. Get it so much makes sense. There’s so much rich information in there and understanding. And at that point, I mean, we didn’t have our third at that point.
00:38:27 And our second we’re still quite young, but I’m like, we’re doing this for our children because I just like, I don’t care where they’re, I just want this insight until they brain. Yeah. It’s just amazing, fascinating. And so enlightening and empowering. It really helps doesn’t it. And if we needed it, we needed it at that point because I’d exhausted my,
00:38:48 that sunshine and lollipops mentoring styles. I had exhausted my come on. Did the school respond well? You know, I was kind of hoping they would respond as I did. Oh, thank goodness. This solves some problems. Now it’s interesting. This is really interesting. Let’s put X, Y and Zed measures in place. Unfortunately, that isn’t how that school responded,
00:39:07 which was a real shame because I think there’s a real growth opportunity for that site there that they just keep dismissing. And I know there’s lots of children. I know Finn was in the same boat. There’s a fair few children who left that site for the same reason. And I think parents of gifted kids will be attracted to Montessori for those reasons. I said at the beginning and Look,
00:39:24 I think be low, find a great Montessori, like awesome. Cause I think the building blocks are all there for it. Absolutely. But it it’s that interpretation of the philosophy. Isn’t it. It’s just finding that. Right. Try to have a conversation with the person who founded the school because Montessori philosophy is very built on developmental stages. It’s not built on academic or cognitive function.
00:39:46 So you have to move from one house to the next based on your developmental stages. And I tried to have a conversation with them. Well, what happens if, you know, developmentally you’re here, but cognitively you’re over there and that just wouldn’t compute it just, yeah, but that doesn’t mean that all Montessori, I mean the previous Montessori was that was just like,
00:40:05 cool. Let’s just see where we can go because the way their facility was set up meant that they could do that. They could just let him go and just see where he went and just follow him and support him on that journey. And I think this other site had it set up very differently that they couldn’t do that. They didn’t have the room to do that.
00:40:20 And I think they had educators there, particularly in the early years who were very set in their ways, who always did it this way. They followed this path with these tools, with these resources. And that was that. It didn’t matter really. That’s what we did. I mean, I can remember Tristin wasn’t allowed to book because she’d asked him what rhyme was and he couldn’t tell her.
00:40:40 So rather than just telling him and teaching him what Ryan was, that was the reason he wasn’t allowed to book to read. And I was like, that’s ridiculous. Just in rhyme. Is this tell her what Romans, this is. Give her an example. Okay, there you go. Is that your problem solved? It was really weird. They didn’t respond the way they should have.
00:40:56 I think genuinely, they just weren’t equipped to deal with it. I think they probably know that they need to be, but they got very armored and defensive about it. And I wasn’t trying, I was desperately trying not to be that parents always very gentle. I thought with it, I was trying to be very supportive. I did my usual thing of,
00:41:17 I did what I would call a, a book review. I’d got out all his portfolios and I laid them side by side and I made a spreadsheet because I’m a teacher and I analyzed the data to see what his progress was because I wasn’t getting that feedback. I could show them that he was doing the same things and they’re like, he’s not doing the same thing.
00:41:33 So I can tell you now I’m like, well, where’s the evidence. So It doesn’t look that way. What, they weren’t able to communicate with me about his progress. They weren’t able to hear what I was saying. And they dismissed the psychologist’s report. You know, they, they didn’t feel like they had a responsibility to understand the content of that.
00:41:53 It was almost like they didn’t have the resources to do that. Or there’s only so much resource for that. But I actually feel as an educator myself, that’s I would love it if every child had that rope. Oh my God, it’d be so much easier. Yeah. Because I would understand so much more about how their brain works. There were some really key pieces of information there and the principal at the time,
00:42:15 wasn’t helping. Cause you know, at one point I kind of really wanted him to leave the conversation because I would say, or, you know, I got out all this data and I said, Oh, this is Chris. And he would, Oh, you know, but he was doing that at eight months old, you know, making jokes like,
00:42:27 Oh yeah, you’re all. Cause he was doing that when he was, before he was walking, you know? And like, that’s not helpful. That’s actually, That’s really, Oh, what’s the word. It’s just, it’s almost making you out to be a liar. Isn’t it. It’s sort of tearing down Kristen and you what you’ve had to say.
00:42:44 And I’ve spoken to a lot of parents and regrettably, the theme is so common. It it’s this theme of the children not being able to learn and the way that they need to learn. And unfortunately just this rigidity within the system. And I don’t know, I’m making assumptions here, but is it a way, you know, the way that teachers are trained and a lot of teachers,
00:43:12 I’m not going to say all because there’s obviously great teachers out there who are responsive and getting this, but the ones that I’ve talked to with other parents, they’ve not been able to see outside of this rigidity, outside of this box for what these students need. It’s just, they end up being the naughty child or the child with behavior issues or you end up being that parent and,
00:43:35 and somehow labels. Yeah. You know, you, what you, what you’re trying to communicate in the issues around your child, just get diminished because you’ve been labeled, you know, as troublemakers, you have the parent and the child. And it’s really, I mean, it’s, it’s obviously incredibly sad and, and a real deficit. And I,
00:43:56 and I find it fascinating because I kind of went into this with the expectation that will you guys see a lot of kids of this age, like for years and years you would have seen, I dunno, hundreds of kids at this age. And I, my expectation as a parent, not an educator and with very little experience of any kids was that,
00:44:19 Whoa, surely they would know what to look for. They would know the kids that don’t fit in the box and be able to recognize certain things that I wouldn’t have recognized, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. I just wonder, I think we trust him. He just, by the time he got to reception, he’d already learnt not to be himself at school.
00:44:39 Yeah. He was hiding. So he wasn’t, he still does it now a little bit at Darra. Like I’ll never forget the first term I looked at his books and one of the SSOs had done all the writing and they were like, Oh yeah, Justin says he needs some help. I was like, aha. So I took in some of his writing,
00:44:52 they’d done at home and they’re like, ah, exhibit a Hunter knows how to play the system. Right. It’s how to get out of doing stuff he doesn’t really want to do because he’s learned that he learned that from the education system. Like if I don’t want to write, then I can do this and someone will help me to do it. So it’s,
00:45:15 I wonder partly whether it’s about, there comes a point where, and I think it’s really hard because I know those tests as gifted ed tests are not meant to be done when they’re really little. But I think by the time we’re doing them, we’ve already done so much damage that the way they think of school. Yeah. And that they’ve learnt not to learn almost.
00:45:34 And then there’s, this is not at school trauma. You know, so many parents I’ve spoken to, there’s already trauma and their kids are only like four or five or six and they’re damaged from this process. And of course, you know, an assessment is just this snapshot in time. It’s not the be all and end all, it just gives you a bit of information in a window,
00:45:54 into the brain on that particular day or that particular moment. I mean, you can’t hold it up to be everything, but it certainly is an incredibly valuable tool to use. And so thank you very much for coming along and sharing your story or the motherhood story. And I like to finish with one of your favorite aha moments or just one of those moments where your child has just done something like,
00:46:23 and you’ve kind of gone, Oh my God, what the, you know, just one of those classic gifted moments, does anything come to mind? There have been so many ridiculous call and ridiculous moments. Yeah. I think, I guess even just walking in and finding that sentence on the white board, but not trying to have to check that Matt didn’t write it.
00:46:41 My husband, what did you do? You know that little thing at that point, he would’ve been about three and he’s written like, it’s impressive. So I’m like, okay. They nap. That was that. I mean, and also just the, the way he likes to explain everything to everyone, I would like to call it a gifted explaining.
00:47:00 Cause you couldn’t possibly understand. So he needs to tell you, but he’s being helpful and he’s trying to help you. You know? I think Justin is just, he’s just him. It’s really funny. I don’t think there is one huge moment. Aha. He’s just always been deceased. Lots of little moments, little moments, lots of like, okay,
00:47:18 that’s just who you are. It doesn’t really stand out. Like he doesn’t. Yeah. I don’t know. And you think of what I’m just trying to think. Oh, you know, what I love about tea is Because, you know, tea thrown into the mix of my three and he he’s still about the rules. If you say this old structure,
00:47:37 it’s not just enough for him to follow that rule, which he will do religiously, but he also will try and enforce that rule in others. Yes. And so my youngest two is three, two will be like, so, you know, we can’t go there. No, you can’t do that. And I tried to explain that it’s going to be challenged,
00:47:52 you know, even for a gifted three-year-old you, you kind of good luck T and it’s just that commitment to the rules, which I love about him. Yeah, definitely. Oh yes. And I love, I love it when your own words come out of their mouth. Oh my God. That can also be scary. Yeah. Yeah. Well,
00:48:09 thank you so much for your time today. It’s been a delight to have this chat and I look forward to get you back and talking about other stuff, which I’m sure we will. And I’m happy to talk very much. Thank you. You enjoyed this episode and it inspired you in some way. I’d love to hear about your biggest takeaway in the comments for more episodes,
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