What is Montessori?

Maria Montessori was an Italian philosopher and educator, as well as Italy’s first woman physician. In her research, Dr. Montessori noted specific characteristics associated with a child’s interests and abilities at each level of development. Rather than fight the laws of nature in order to educate a child, Montessori suggested that we “follow the child,” allowing him to show us how best to foster the development of his human potential. Visit our What is Montessori? page or our Resources page full of articles and book suggestions more information. As quoted from The Whole School Montessori Handbook,

”Montessori is about life – about development and human evolution…the essence of Montessori is a vision of the child in society – an understanding of human development that demands a new view of education.”

Is Montessori right for my child?

Every child can benefit from Montessori methods at some level, whether in the home alongside parents or other siblings, or in a classroom with trained teachers or guides. The best way to determine whether or not a Montessori program is right for your child is to do the in-depth research and on-site school visitations needed to make a good determination that will meet your child’s needs.

What age children do you serve?

Our campus serves children ages 3-12 years, Primary through Upper Elementary. Montessori classrooms encompass an age span of three years, allowing younger students to learn from older role models and older students to test and reinforce their knowledge by helping younger classmates.

When does the school year begin and end?

Parkside’s school year generally runs from the middle of August through the end of May. We try to follow the Austin Independent School District calendar. Please refer to our calendar for more information.

Do Montessori children transfer harmoniously into schools with other methods of educating?

Over the years we have witnessed many smooth transitions of Montessori children into all other kinds of learning environments from public to independent and private educational school systems. We recommend making this transition after your child has had the opportunity to complete the third year of the three-year Montessori classroom cycle, giving them closure within the academic curriculum, as well as the confidence gained from having been a leader and mentor in their classroom.

Why does Montessori encourage a three-year cycle in one classroom?

Montessori teaches us that the human personality comes into full engagement and self-realization in successive stages and sub-stages of life – 0-3, 3-6, 6-9, 9-12, and beyond. Along the way, different things are introduced to these children within prepared environments, such as math, language, art and music. The design at each level of a Montessori class, which includes Primary, Lower Elementary and, for some schools, Upper Elementary, has the child’s individual and physiological development in mind. The three-year cycle allows the guide to follow the natural transitions occurring within each child over a period of development, enabling the guide to meet the child’s individual needs and/or interests when those sensitive periods arise.

What can I do at home to set up a “prepared Montessori environment?”

  • A simple and immediate thing you can do to set up your home representing some of Montessori’s ideas is to create “Practical Life” areas within your home where your child can participate in day to day adult-like activities such as helping you with cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc.
  • The use of step-stools and small-sized “real-life” objects can help your child foster a sense of usefulness and independent confidence.
  • Build on the child’s request to “help me help myself.” There are many helpful books available on setting up a Montessori environment in your home.

What are some recommended books about Montessori?

  • “The Science Behind the Genius” by Angeline Lillard
  • “The Discovery of the Child” by Maria Montessori
  • “The Secret of Childhood” by Maria Montessori
  • “From Childhood to Adolescence” by Maria Montessori
  • “Montessori Today” by Paula Polk Lillard

Click here to view our full list of recommended books.

Why do three-year old children go home earlier than older children?

In our observations, children at this tender age are such sponges of information, they can become over-stimulated by a long day of work in the classroom. Maria Montessori called this period of development “the absorbent mind” because these children are literally absorbing everything they see, hear, touch, and feel. The time needed to assimilate what they have been exposed to is essential for most three year-olds, allowing them to pause for reflection and integration, even time to question the new information. You can read more about our Primary program our here.

How do you track each child’s academic progress throughout the three-year cycle in a Montessori classroom?

Since most lessons are given to individuals or small groups in a Montessori classroom, we can observe how a child is receiving the lesson and, through ongoing observation of the child’s work, note if a concept or skill is being practiced and ultimately, mastered. Academic progress is discussed in parent-teacher conferences twice a year. We begin standardized testing in the fourth grade.

How do Montessori’s academic goals compare to that of public school programs?

While we do not follow the public school curriculum, we do stay abreast of the stated goals (TEKS – Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) set by the Texas Education Agency. Our goals are generally in line with or exceed the TEKS. In math for example, we generally exceed the TEKS due to the wealth of concrete materials available to the children from a young age.

Are all Montessori schools alike?

Montessori schools tend to vary greatly. Just as with any group of entities that exist within a larger organization, there are notable differences on many levels from classroom to administration. What we have come to call Montessori education is a complex of philosophy, psychology, educational theory and instructional materials. How one individual who is trained in Montessori education processes, interprets, and later manifests their own understanding of the principles can vary greatly. The best thing one can do when searching for the right Montessori environment for your child is to begin a process of gathering information which should include:

  1. Trained AMI or AMS classroom Guides.
  2. An on-site visit to the school which should include a complete tour of the grounds.
  3. Checking the school’s reputation in the community via other parents or schools.
  4. Your gut feeling when you enter the environment is very critical. Are the children smiling and happy, or do they look bored or stressed?

How are you educating children about self-awareness and global responsibility?

The education of self-awareness comes through the variety of choices a child makes throughout the day. One definition of virtue is the ability to responsibly choose the directions of your desire, rather than be chosen by them. Montessori classrooms can give the child a chance to make choices driven by their interests. When concentration is linked with interest it is deep and profound.

Global responsibility starts with each person’s relationship to their immediate environment and expands out concentrically as they mature. Global awareness comes through a rich geography program based on respect of cultural diversity as well as understanding the integrity of environmental systems. Recycling and conservation of resources is an integral part of the curriculum.

Does Parkside offer any financial assistance?

We have a limited amount of financial assistance available for qualifying families. If you are interested in applying for assistance, please contact our Director of Finance, Cathy David.

“At Parkside, the respectful way teachers treat and talk to the kids not only shapes their expectations for other relationships in their lives, it also sets them up for a positive experience of learning. There’s a balance of understanding and support, and the benefit of being known by caring, responsive people. We may live in a big city, but Parkside creates a loving, small town feel for every member of the community.
Amy Lowrey