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Gifted Children/Would Montessori be better?


QUESTION: We have a 2-year old boy and he is (likely) advanced or gifted. My husband is exceptionally gifted (SATs done in 6th grade with an 80+ percentile score) and so is his grandfather. This is not exactly a "Is he gifted question" but I'm just wondering if a Montessori vs a traditional pre-K or kindergarten school would be better for him. It's the way he learns and some behavioral characteristics that led me to ask this question. So here are some notes on him (I didn't keep a log but these are what I could recall):

3-4 months - already flipping board book pages on cue. We would tell him "turn the page" and he would.
14 months - knows all primary colors plus pink, purple, orange or subtle shades
         - started to recognize a few numbers
15 months - started to recognize uppercase alphabets
16 -17 months - recognizes 1-10 and uppercase alphabets, 9-10 basic shapes
18 months - he figured out the lower case and knew all the phonics
19 months - can read a few Chinese characters (I am bilingual and speak to him in Chinese)
20 months - recognized and count 1-20 in Chinese and English
20-24 months - forming 4-6 word sentences (this should be normal and he is more conversant in English that Chinese now though I would speak to him only in Chinese)
25 months - 2D and 3D shapes.

But more importantly, the way he learned was I think different. He was not drilled but rather showed very intense interest in a subject. Alphabets and phonics were an obsession for 2 months or so until he had complete mastery. He was pointing and sounding out any letter he can see on signs and even the SALE sign at department stores. Next obsession was numbers in Chinese and English. He would ask for number books at meal times and won't eat until we read some numerical book to him. Then it was trains. Now it's shapes. When I say obsessed, I mean a 100% focus on the subject every waking moment. He does not deviate. His teachers told me that he has been playing with shape blocks the entire week every day.

He doesn't seem unhappy at his current daycare but clearly bored. I could see him participating actively in circle time for music but he often wanders off to get a shape puzzle or something. SO I am wondering if a Montessori setting may be better for him as it focuses more on the child and perhaps allow him to develop his interests further.

Thank you.

ANSWER: Hi. You have not been overlooked. I'm searching my archives in which there is material addressing this that I want to share with you. I'll get back to you with that.

Can you tell me more about your son's behavior, how he acts, when insisting on a numerical book before he'll eat?

What are the behaviors that lead you to believe he is bored?

Dr. Coleman

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi Dr Coleman,

He would refuse to eat, whine, there will be tears, until a numerical book is read to him. He would say "Numbers! Numbers please!" I wouldn't classify it as a meltdown but we give in eventually to make mealtimes easier. Of course, we shouldn't let him manipulate us but it does get tiresome. We also figured that books are far better than digital devices as a compromise.

We can tell he's disinterested when he wanders off and plays on his own with shapes (this is the current obsession) when it's circle time at his daycare class. No tantrums or anything but it's a little challenging to redirect him to the group activity.

Thank you for your patience. The questions go through Allexperts to be routed to me. Your responses got hung up in their system. I received it just yesterday.

There are 3 previous answers that may be helpful to you:
4/1/2014 My 2 year old is clearly gifted, now what?
1/22/2014  A 3 year old boy gifted......
9/14/2013  7 year old doing math

You'll notice a theme throughout my answers - Your son will never lack for intellectual stimulation. What he needs most from his parents is the shaping of his behavior and people skills.

You're seeing how what you do at home is affecting his behavior outside the home. Not participating in the group activities is similar to what happens at home with the book before meals. He want what he wants when he wants it, and is getting the message that's ok, he gets his own way, eventually. He isn't required to conform with what the needs and circumstances at the moment call for. At this time in his life that involves mealtimes and other activities that seem to be of little importance, but the time will come when the stakes are higher, when his behavior adversely affects the moment and his future.

Gifted kids need tighter boundaries and consistency even more than kids of average intelligence. You'll find resources listed in the other answers to which I referred you. "Free Spirit Publishing" may become your best friend,, with its resources about gifted kids.

One day, one moment at a time, you can do what's necessary to change his behavior, even when you're worn out. We'll use the book before meals as an example - you tell him no, and he defies you. Tell him again, one more time, no. If he persists, put the books out of his reach, tell him that when he can manage his behavior, and its time for books, he'll get them back. Tell him "I'm done talking about this" and you absolutely must not say one more word about the subject. Sit down, let him get furious and more out-of-control, stay relaxed, don't talk to him until he's got himself under control. You and your husband may sit down to dinner without him. He won't starve. All the time that's going on, you and your husband can encourage each other, and say to yourselves "I'm doing what's best for him." - because you are. You may tell him he can join you when his behavior is under control. Remember YOU ARE THE ADULTS. YOU RUN THE HOUSEHOLD. That technique can be used in almost any situation. Good changes will happen quickly.

There is nothing inherently superior to Montessori, or other private educational options. Not all public education is inferior. You have to consider each school individually, looking for those which have similar values and beliefs to yours. At this stage the higher priority is teaching appropriate behavior.

I hope this was helpful. Please contact me with any additional questions.

Gifted Children

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Faith A. Coleman MD


No questions are off-limits. My strengths are understanding what questioners are really trying to ask, knowing the right questions to get to useful answers, and putting complicated, subject-specific words and concepts into language accessible to lay-persons. The topic is fascinating and can be surprising, the opposite of what might logically seem expected of giftedness. I am skilled in identifying giftedness at any age, including very early in life.


Children constitute about one-third of the patients in a Family Medicine practice. I was Director of Children's and Women's Public Health Education Programs with the Northeast Texas Public Health District. I have two highly gifted children, one of whom attended Roeper School, listed first in this site's Sponsored Links. I was the health expert for Roeper's board of directors; I maintain contacts there. I'm on the board of directors of several organizations of which I'm a member. I spent a summer as the Medical Director of a camp for kids with ADD, ADHD, and psychiatric disorders. Editor, Medical Economics Publishing Co. licensure to teach K-12 in Oklahoma, with added qualification in Journalism

Champions for Children: Advocacy, resources, quality assessment, for early childhood daycare (Board of Directors). American Academy of Family Physicians. Michigan Academy of Family Physicians Society of Teachers of Family Medicine. READ: Advocacy, education, resources for teaching and encouraging literacy in adults. East Texas Network for Children (Planning Board).

Journals: Medical Economics, Contemporary OB/Gyn, Diagnostic Medicine. Albuquerque Journal Daily, Tyler Daily News, New Mexico Daily Lobo, New Citizen Weekly, Alpena News, daily.

BA, Journalism MD University of New Mexico School of Medicine. Internship, Detroit Medical Center. Family Practice Residency, Top-100 Hospital - Beaumont. Clinical Faculty appointments to three medical schools. Faculty, Family Practice Residency, Detroit area.

Awards and Honors
Two official commendations awarded by United States Army for service and contributions to young soldiers and families. Publishing Internship, Medical Economics Publishing Company. Research Internship, Hastings Institute of Society, Ethics, and the Life Sciences. Woman Medical Student of the Year. Numerous others.

Past/Present Clients
As above in experiences, publications and awards. Many thousands of patient/family encounters.

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