Continuity is the hallmark of the Montessori experience, as students stay in the same classroom for at least two or three years.
This stability provides for both security and growth, as the child’s role within the group changes over time from being one of the youngest in the class to one of the oldest. In a Montessori classroom, every child has the opportunity to be first a youngest child, then a middle child, and finally an oldest child in their classroom family. This experience contributes to the child’s personal growth in ways that conventional, single-age groupings cannot.
Throughout their time at Post Oak, children do make multiple transitions as they move through the school’s different programs. Dr. Montessori observed that each child passes through planes of development, each lasting six years, and each with distinct developmental characteristics and needs. She created learning environments to respond to each new plane of development.
Young Children’s Community
The first transition occurs when a child leaves home and enters the Young Children’s Community. Children enter the Young Children’s Community at ages as young as 14 months and no later than 24 months, with the ideal entry age by 18 months. A child must be a confident walker to be ready for the Young Children’s Community. Children who can spend at least a year in the Young Children’s Community benefit greatly from the program.
For some children, entrance to the Primary class is their first school experience. Others move up to Primary from the Young Children’s Community. In either event, this transition occurs sometime between 33 and 36 months. Students transitioning from Half-Day YCC to Primary during the school year will not be eligible to move to a full-day program.
Independent care of self is one sign of readiness for Primary: this includes toileting and dressing. We also look at a child’s sense of order and independence. The sense of order can be seen in careful handling of classroom materials and in following a daily routine. Independence is shown by the child’s successful separation from the parents and in the ability to choose her own work in the classroom.
Read more about the transition from Young Children’s Community to Primary (PDF).
During a child’s time in Primary, a transition usually occurs from the half-day program into the extended-day program. This change typically takes place between 4½ and 5 years of age. To be ready for extended-day, a child should be able to communicate social/emotional needs, exercise self-control, and identify feelings with minimum outbursts. The classroom teacher considers each child’s social, emotional, and cognitive development when determining readiness to stay for the full school day. Typically a child will be invited to visit the extended-day class for lunch before making a permanent change, at the discretion of the teacher.
Some children benefit from spending an additional year in Primary to gain greater social-emotional maturity or to hone academic skills. The decision to remain an additional year in Primary is considered by a joint committee of Primary and Elementary teachers, in conjunction with the division directors, and in consultation with the parents.
Visitation at the Next Level
For children in the Young Children’s Community, transition is a more extended, personalized process. Young Children’s Community is the only level in the school where we plan for mid-year move-ups. A child may begin by simply walking past the new classroom and looking in the door. The next step is to go in and to do some work. When both the Young Children’s Community teacher and the Primary teacher believe the child to be ready, then the change is made. The whole process may take two weeks or more. Parents are informed about their child’s new Primary class in advance of the child’s first visit.
Every spring, older children prepare to move into the next level at the start of the new school year. They have the opportunity to visit and to work in their new classrooms for one or more days. Children visit their new classrooms in May, after placement decisions have been announced. A student in the new class often serves as a host or buddy for the new class member.
The transition from Primary into Lower Elementary marks the end of the first plane of development and the onset of the second plane. The minimum age for entry into the Lower Elementary is six years by September 1.
In determining a child’s readiness for moving up into Elementary, faculty first consider social and emotional maturity. We also look closely at the child’s academic skills; their reading and writing fluency. They also need to have a strong sense of self-direction and independence, and the ability to work with concentration—alone or in cooperation with a group.
The transition into Upper Elementary occurs when a child enters the second half of the second plane of development, at approximately nine years of age. To make this transition successfully, the child must demonstrate increased independence as a student, in terms of both academic skills and personal responsibility. Some children benefit from spending an additional year in the Lower Elementary. Each student’s transition is considered by a joint committee of Lower and Upper Elementary faculty, with the Elementary director, and in consultation with the parents.
Students enter Middle School as childhood ends and adolescence begins, at about twelve years of age. This is the beginning of the third plane of development. Students must have successfully completed the Upper Elementary program to enter Middle School. They will demonstrate a high degree of personal responsibility, respectful engagement with the group, and well-developed academic skills.
The final transition within The Post Oak School is the transition to the High School. The Middle School program prepares young people well for a successful transition to the High School program. Students entering the High School are self-directed, work independently, and are active participants in the school community.
The Parent Role
When your child is about to move into a different level, we recommend that you come and observe a classroom at the next level so that you will have a better understanding about the transition your child will be making. For specific information about observing the classrooms, refer to the Parent Education and Support section of this portal. Please contact the Admissions Office for observing a classroom at the next level.
You can best prepare for these transitions by attending moving-up meetings that are scheduled throughout the year. Parents whose children will be in their last year of Primary are encouraged to attend the Elementary director’s parent education sessions and any evening programs that may be offered throughout the year, to learn more about Montessori Elementary.
In December, we have a meeting for the parents whose Young Children’s Community children will be moving up to Primary in the spring.
Listen to Your Child
To help prepare your child for a transition, it is important to listen. They will probably express a mixture of excitement and anxiety. Change can be scary; listening to your child’s feelings, and expressing your support, will make a difference.
Parents with concerns about whether their child is ready for the next level should contact the teacher. Decisions will be based on the needs of the individual child.
Multi-Age Grouping: Building Community
At each level, children are clustered in small learning communities for a two-, three-, or four-year period. These small communities provide a number of advantages not found in conventional schools. Children work with others who are older and younger than themselves. The older students serve as role models for the younger students, and in the process they gain confidence in their own abilities and self-esteem regarding their skill level and expertise. The younger ones watch the older ones, and in the process gain a clear vision of what’s expected of them, and have the benefit of working with and learning from their peers as well as the teacher. This small community is a direct preparation for life in the family and in the workplace. Communicating and working well with others are important life skills.
Balance of Needs and Learning Styles
Each small learning community develops its own personality. The placement of children in these environments as they move from one level to another is a very important task. Each community needs a blend of learning and personality styles so that it truly reflects larger communities. Grouping children by their intellectual abilities would defeat the greater goal of establishing a sense of community in the classroom.
Siblings and Friends
Siblings and clusters of friends are not usually placed together. A child grows from developing new relationships with others. Building community requires individuals to extend themselves beyond their immediate circle of comfortable relationships.
The Placement Process
In conventional school settings, a child’s placement in a classroom is often determined by the child’s ability to get along with the teacher (and vice versa). The Post Oak School is not a teacher-centered educational system: it is child-centered. When students are moving from one program into another, their assets and strengths are analyzed, and then students are placed in a learning community that needs their gifts. Placement is determined by matching the skills and needs of the individual with the skills and needs of the learning community. The teacher is one part of the learning community.
The school does not honor parent requests for children to be placed in particular classrooms, unless the request is for a younger sibling moving into a classroom level the older child is leaving (i.e., an older child transitions to Middle School and a younger child transitions to Upper Elementary, and the parents wish to continue the pre-established relationship with that teacher). Administration and faculty work hard to ensure that each child is placed in an environment where their needs will be met. If you have particular concerns about your child’s learning style during a time of transition, you are welcome to meet with the division directors to discuss those concerns.
The school expects students to conform to the school’s rules and expectations to retain their places. The school reserves the right to refuse admission to, or call for the immediate withdrawal of, a student whose presence is considered detrimental to the school’s best interest.
The school reserves re-enrollment for students who have shown good work, effort, and attitude. The school reserves re-enrollment for families willing to cooperate with the school. The school believes that a positive and constructive working relationship between the school and a student’s parents (or guardian) is essential to the fulfillment of the school’s mission. Thus, the school reserves the right not to continue enrollment or not to re-enroll a student if the school reasonably concludes that the actions of a parent (or guardian) make such a positive and constructive relationship impossible or otherwise seriously interfere with the school’s accomplishment of its educational purposes.
A family’s tuition and fee accounts must be current to receive re-enrollment contracts.
High School Re-enrollment and Graduation Requirements
The Post Oak School is an environment that is committed to supporting students working at their own pace. Any student whose work is incomplete at the end of the first semester may not receive a re-enrollment contract for the following school year, or may not be eligible to begin the next school year. The school administration will make those determinations prior to sending out re-enrollment contracts, and again at the end of the school year.