I have watched my children flourish at CMS - it is a gem of a school! The Montessori method is rooted in whole child development with an emphasis on developing self-direction, self-management, and independence. I can think of no better skills to thrive in today's world. The reading and math curriculum is fantastic. My children are well ahead of their age level in both areas because they fundamentally grasp and understand the basics.
The elementary school respects the needs of each child by allowing the child to work on a "contract" over the course of the week. The contract contains all of the lessons the child needs to complete during the week, and the child is allowed to work independently to complete them (with assistance from a teacher or peer, as needed). This teaches the child to structure his or her work to meet the deadline, and it also allows each child to work on a contract of lessons that is appropriate for their skill level. Each contract is tailored for each child. This allows children who are more advanced to work on more difficult materials, while also allowing a child who is struggling in a particular area to work at the appropriate level until they master the concept. It is the most refreshing and respectful approach!
I should note that the preschool is not for helicopter parents who believe their three year old is still "mama's baby" in need of constant attention and coddling. It is for parents who want to see their children independently learn, grow, and flourish. It is for parents who respect their children as independent human beings.
Overall, not a good experience at this school. Parent-teacher communication was not very good. didn't realize how far behind my daughter was compared to her peers until we enrolled her in another school. My daughter was being bullied, and nothing was done about this. Not worth the tuition....
CMS has continued to provide my children with a true Montessori experience for the last two years and we are excited to have new leadership in place to take the school to the next level. Plans for a Capitol Campaign and all-new facilities is in the works. While the current facilities are not the most beautiful-the tuition is very reasonable, the children have top-notch educational materials and the teachers truly care about their students. It is certainly not traditional-but the method's ability to meet each child's individual needs is brilliant. Its unique method is not one that sends home worksheets every night and constantly "tests" your child's ability to memorize - but it is one that has my 4-year-old understanding math concepts like fractions and multiplication. The outdoor garden (which the children maintain) provides ingredients for their lunch. It makes "work" take on a whole new, refreshing meaning. We always feel like its the best kept secret in Birmingham! (And with a wait list of over 30 for the preschool program-the secret must be getting out!)
My child has always loved school, until this school. He would cry every day that he didn't want to go and that he didn't like the people there. I would pick him up and he would have random scratches on his face, and when I would ask the teacher what happened they would tell me that he must have done it to himself while he was napping, he is 4! I even tried to have a teacher conference where they told me that somehow it was my fault he wasn't doing well there. Bad communication, and bad leadership.
My child has really thrived in this school (upper elementary level). PROS: they teach intellectual curiosity and self-determination. They allow children to progress pretty much at their own pace and work on their own projects but encourage them to help each other at times and have group projects and presentations. They go above and beyond the state curriculum, teaching kids how to learn, study and problem-solve - NOT just facts and figures. I particularly love the goal setting every 2 wks or so. (They set their goals in all areas and then they reflect upon how they met those goals - all this with the guidance and feedback of the teacher.) I feel like it's good preparation for real life! CONS: parent-teacher communication (by phone & email) is really not great, but there are 2 P-T meetings during the year. They tend to over-communicate about events and fundraisers (probably this is coming from parent/community members) and under-communicate when it comes to replying to particular questions or requests. It is not cheap, but it's reasonable as compared to the other area private schools and a far greater value than many.
I have two children in the preschool and couldn't be happier. The teachers are fantastic and unbelievably dedicated to the children. I am amazed at my 5 year old's understanding of math and only wish I could have had this type of education as a child. Most importantly, my children are developing a love of learning in an environment rich in diversity. They love to independently work through the lessons. I highly recommend this school to anyone looking for an excellent Montessori education.
This school has gone downhill over the years. The school is clearly struggling while surrounding schools flourish and expand. Their parent communication is legendarily bad. Their facilities are decapitated with kids walking by dying roaches. They clearly need new leadership.