Alex O’Neill was recognized during Education Week 2017 for the incredible progress he has made in the Montessori Program. His parents, Rhonda and Glen O’Neill, share his story and describe the role the Montessori School of Sudbury, the program and his teachers, have had on his success.
“When we adopted our son at 19 months old from China, he had never heard anyone speak English. Expecting delays, we brought him to WordPlay at 23 months where they confirmed he was delayed for language. We were assured he would catch up. Six months later, at two and a half, we brought him back to WordPlay and they told us he had surpassed all language milestones for a 3 year old. We strutted out of their office proud as peacocks.
Less than half way through junior kindergarten, he already knew all 220 Dolch words, the most common words in the English Language. He would delight in telling us when they did not follow the rules of phonics. He was already adding and subtracting with ease.
We were running into issues though. He was getting bored at school. Due to class size, the school was not interested in any individualized curriculum planning until at least grade 3. They told us not to worry that “by grade 3 they had most kids leveled out”. This obviously was something we did not want to hear.
We looked into trying to find a school in Sudbury dedicated to helping early learners. We could not find one in the public or separate system that would even identify him as an early learner at that young an age. We started to investigate private schools.
Montessori School of Sudbury has been incredible. They take an individualized approach to education so that he can learn and grow at his own pace. Due to the smaller class size he has more one on one contact with his teachers which allows him the freedom to quickly advance in his academics and still be able to get the help he needs when he needs it.
By senior kindergarten he was reading and retelling chapter book stories. Now in Grade 3 he has read more books than I can count. Rick Riordan is his favorite author. His reading level and comprehension is that of a high school student. He loves math and knows all his multiplication tables, can do division with carryover and is currently working on order of operations.
Kids who are fast academic learners often have issues with social and emotional traits such as heightened sensitivity, emotional intensity, perfectionism and uneven development of intellect and emotion. Because he acquires and retains information quickly, he can be impatient with others and dislike basic routines. Because he has intrinsic motivation, he is strong-willed and resists direction. Because he enjoys problem solving and is able to conceptualize, he resists routine. With these challenges, the teachers and principal at Montessori have been wonderful with coming up with an individualized plan for Alex which includes us, his parents, as part of this team approach. I have no doubt that he is doing so well in his education and social skills because of their caring and compassion that encourages self-motivation and self-discipline. This has been key to allowing him to develop a positive self-image.
The best time of my day is spending time with my son. He has the most interesting stories and theories about anything from time travel, to replication, to parallel universes and many other abstract topics. He loves supposition such as what happens to us when we die? He has some hilarious puns for all occasions that have me both laughing and shaking my head. And he loves to throw out random trivia like, “Did you know the distance from the earth to the sun is 150 million kilometers?” or “Did you know that ants don’t dream?” And best of all, after reading his family a bed time story, he gives the greatest hugs. We love our smart young man to Googolplex and beyond.” – Rhonda and Glen O’Neill