The program from 18months thru 5 years old is solid and by far the best Austin has to offer. You will be amazed at your young child s development; he/she will have the best beginning possible at AMS. The early elementary program (1st-3rd) depends on the campus and the instructor; if you stay closely involved as a parent you will be fine. Be wary of keeping your child at this school past 5th grade if he/she is more mature than same-age children. The upper elementary program (4th-6th) is not currently equipped to meet the needs of an adolescent. Instead of nurturing the development of soon-to-be teenagers in a healthy way, the response instead is to apply more control, more rules, and most unfortunately, using the beloved montessori methods as a deterrent to minimize independent thinking and discourage questioning of processes and rules. I observed a decline in self-esteem in multiple (more mature) 5th and 6th graders. I'm told the adolescent program (7th-9th) is tops and the guides are well equipped to deal with adolescent changes: I wish they would do the same with early adolescent (intellectual, physical, behavioral) development in the 5th/6th grades.
I originally wrote a review on AMS in April 2010. Our older daughter was then two years old in the Youngest Children's Community where we were having a wonderful experience. Fast forward to November 2014 and she is now in Early Elementary, every step of our journey thus far being fruitful. Our younger daughter has been in the AMS Parent-Infant program since she was three months old and is about to enter the YCC. Based on our experiences at the school thus far, and having attended the Silent Journey and Discovery (http://mariamontessori.com/mm/?p=1488) this past weekend, we cannot imagine our children at another school. Its founder, Donna Bryant Goertz, has left Austin Montessori School with a great legacy and we look forward to the new Head of School, Grae Baker, taking it to the next level.
Both my daughters attended AMS through 8th grade. Some of our experience was wonderful. They are both comfortable speaking in front of large groups, they did not have excessive homework in elementary and the camping trips are impowering. Because we wanted to protect our children from popular culture garbage and lousy food, it was wonderful to be surrounded and supported by a like-minded community so my children weren't "weirdos". The down side is the math curriculum is weak and, more importantly, they have problems communicating with parents. My youngest daughter was not doing well and it was not communicated to us at all. We finally had her tested at the end of 6th grade and she has learning disabilities. We stayed with the school for 7th and 8th grades but that was a mistake. They could not seem to meet our daughter's needs and they didn't communicate when she was having difficulties. They just left her to struggle. She was depressed by the end of 8th grade and we decided to remove her from the school.
The only good quality this school has, is that it is aesthetically pleasing. Sadly, more thought is put into that, than any other aspect of a child's education. If your child is disruptive, and might be expelled from elsewhere, or you want to protect your child from grades, this is the school for you. The founder thinks of difficult children as learning material. Idealistic, and sad for the other children to have to put up with this. The teachers we experienced here, were not even competent in basic Math, although the Montessori manipulative material itself is brilliant. Don't confuse the 2 things, as many do. The teachers get away with it, because they're not held accountable. Most teachers here do not send a child's work home. If you ask for it, they make you feel guilty for not trusting them! This is not isolated, but routine here. They play down the end of year standardized test. No one is told a child's grades except parents. If a child does poorly, they blame the test itself. They routinely expertly bash traditional education. And that is how they sell themselves. This school is a severe over-reaction to the problems of public schooling. They misrepresent what they are about.
The Austin Montessori School should not be an accredited Montessori school. My daughter started her schooling at another Montessori in Austin for 3-6 year olds, and then she spent one year at Austin Montessori's Great Northern campus. What a disaster. She left her first school full of joy and confidence and both were dashed summarily by the teacher at the Great Northern campus. While the materials and methods the school employes are consistent with the Montessori approach, the teacher is the anti-thesis of the Montessori philosophy. Hateful, impatient, condescending to children and parents, punitive and clearly challenged personally, this teacher has been allowed to remain at the school for 16 years. I really wanted to keep my daughter in the Montessori program and transfer her to a different classroom at the main campus. The administration completely ignore my request and never responded to me. Basically the teacher tried to hold my child captive. Of course I removed my daughter from the school. If you want to witness the transformation of your spectacular child to one who is scared, timid, and lacking self-esteem and confidence, be sure to send him/her to this school.
Our child attended AMS for 3 years. The reality about this school is that it has very serious issues. First, there is a complete lack of effective administration. Teachers are left to do their own thing with very little supervision or guidance. Second, the environment is completely devoid of emotion. Many of the teachers are robotic. The classrooms are very sterile, very quiet, and very somber. Outside play time is kept to a minimum. Laughing or having fun is frowned upon. Third, the school's academics are questionable at best. After 3 years of AMS, our child was not prepared for public school, much less a private education. Fourth, the administration and teachers treat parents with disdain and egotism. They spend a lot of time lecturing parents (just attend any of their parent nights and you'll see this first-hand). Parent communication is basically non-existent. You cannot visit the school except when invited for two pre-arranged visits each year. I strongly caution anyone considering this school to think twice and to look elsewhere We wish we had.
This school sadly suffers from a severe lack of leadership. Its staff is a bane to parents and teachers alike. Most of the longtime teachers have left. Parents are treated with disdain. The school is full of itself and boasts continually, but it is empty of real value. Academics are an afterthought. Bullies are rarely kicked out or given any consequences, forcing victim after victim to leave the school to get relief. The founders proudly state that conditions like ADD & ADHD are not "real." Therefore, kids with these issues and dyslexia, autism, etc. are not identified and instead languish in the classroom, creating havoc for everyone. At most, they spend their days in the office, where they learn nothing. Parents are rarely informed if their kids have academic or behavioral problems. Most of my friends who have left the school have discovered huge holes in their kids' academics. This is a school where some of the 4th graders can't read. Parents can only visit the classroom for two prearranged half-hours per year. There is no parent community. There is no music program. There are no sports. The academics are awful. There is no reason to send a kid to this school.
We love this school! Our children have attended Austin Montessori for the past six years and we look forward to many more. Our children love learning and have made many wonderful friends. We have found the guides and administration to be very earnest and responsive to our questions and concerns. Though our children are very different in personality, each has thrived and I feel like the school has really nurtured their inquisitive natures while helping them develop their focus and sense of compassion for others. The school has also supported the children's development as members of a community (learning to work with others, resolve differences with respect/empathy, etc.). In addition, the parent education has been phenomenal and has helped us to be better parents in so many ways. I don't think you could find an environment that is more respectful of the child than at Austin Montessori. The school has helped in the development of our children as whole people (not just academically) and that has been an incredible process to watch and participate in.
My two boys have attended Austin Montessori for the past eight years and they are thriving! My only regret is that my older child missed out on the Youngest Children's Community as we moved here from out of state and he was already past that age. One is now in the Adolescent Community and one in Upper Elementary and I would literally spend my last penny to keep them there. They are amazing readers, strong in math, compassionate and work beautifully in a group. They're both self-motivated and pursue interests beyond the school setting (for example, the Early El child did a report on Russia and is now teaching himself Russian at home). I wish I could take credit, but I have to hand it to AMS. Thank you, staff and guides!