Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the primary entry age for your school?

We have the most openings for children who are toddlers (15 months to 3 years-old as of Sept. 1st) each year. Most of our toddlers rise to the Early Childhood level each year but we generally admit some 3 and 4 year-olds, as well as older students from kindergarten through the elementary grades each year. In the higher grades, we mostly admit Montessori transfer students.

How far up (in grades) do you go?

MSD enrolls children from 15 months through the sixth grade. Children must be 15 months for Toddler, or 3 for Early Childhood, by September 1. North Carolina state law requires all children to be 5 by Sept. 1 to enter Kindergarten. Elementary students are grouped into classrooms of first through third grades, and fourth through sixth grades, in keeping with the Montessori practice of mixed age classrooms.


What Happens When a Child Leaves Montessori?

Montessori children are unusually adaptable. They have learned to work independently and in groups. Since they’ve been encouraged to make decisions from an early age, these children are problem-solvers who can make choices and manage their time well. They have also been encouraged to exchange ideas and to discuss their work freely with others. Good communication skills ease the way in new settings. Research has shown that the best predictor of future success is a sense of self-esteem. Montessori programs, based on self-directed, non-competitive activities, help children develop a good self-image and the confidence to face challenges and changes with optimism. Our students do very well in all settings, as they are well-prepared academically, and are self-directed, engaged learners, have lots of social skills, and are independent, capable people. Typically, about 50% go on to public schools, and 50% go on to other private schools. Recently, many of our graduates have gone to one of the two Montessori middle schools in Durham County. 

What is a preschool child’s day like?

In the Early Childhood class, the children have one or two group times at some point during the morning, at which time there is singing, conversation, and a lesson usually given to the whole group, introducing some new work into the classroom, or opening a new continent map, or conducting a science experiment, for instance. The children will have individual or group snack during the morning, and each class has at least half an hour on the playground every day. The bulk of the morning is given to the work period, during which children will choose and engage in work. The teachers will be giving individual or small group lessons during this time.

How do the children get lessons?

In Early Childhood, the group is given lessons every day (and again in Kindergarten at the start of the afternoon session). The children may also ask for a lesson with the work they have chosen, or the teacher will say to a child, “Come, I have a lesson for you,” or will observe that a child would benefit from having a lesson re-presented. In the Elementary grades, each child has daily practices in math, handwriting, and spelling, plus additional work based on the lessons given that week. Free choice work options and lesson extensions can be chosen during the work period.

Why do you have mixed age classrooms?

The mixed age class (children stay in each class for three years at a time — two years in Toddler) allows children to be able to progress according to their unique developmental schedule. Each child enters “sensitive periods” at very individual times. The prepared environment of the classroom is ready for that child’s sudden eagerness to absorb the concept of number, or the desire to master pre-reading skills, for instance, whenever it occurs. Furthermore, older children learn by teaching the younger ones, and younger children are able to see what lies ahead (in what the older children are doing), which creates the desire in them to go on to the next set of skills. Finally, the mixed age class allows children to make progress in intellectual development separately from their social and emotional readiness.

What’s the best way to see how Montessori education works?

Parents should call the office at (919) 489-9045 to schedule an appointment to learn more about our classrooms – this is the best way to see what MSD is like. 

Is the Montessori ‘curriculum’ very structured?

Yes, but there is freedom within order. Young children thrive on order and regularity, seeking it out in their environment, but also need to express themselves individually and creatively. Our classrooms offer lots of both.

Do children get to ‘play’?

Yes, Montessori believed that children’s play is the work they do to develop and grow into competent adults. Experienced teachers understand that there is a great deal or learning and practicing packed into what looks, to the casual observer, like ordinary play. Current research confirms that the games of our youth built and developed skills in all areas of development. Montessori termed what they do in the classrooms “work,” because children are driven to master new skills, and this play is as essential and vital to them as satisfying work is to adults.

Do children do any art?

Yes, art is part of the offerings available in every classroom every day. Beginning in Kindergarten, students get formal instruction in a curriculum that extends through sixth grade, in the five elements of art (line, shape, color form, perspective), art history, and in the use of many media.

Can children attend fewer than five days a week?
We offer a 3 day/week program for the Toddler level only. For Early Childhood and beyond, we find the regularity of five days a week is beneficial to the child’s security, knowing what to expect every morning (it’s a school day, it’s a home day). This follows the traditional Montessori curriculum.

What are the hours?

Toddler: 9:00-12:00 (for the half-day classes); 9:00-3:00, 4:00, or 5:30 (for the all-day class)Early Childhood (3 and 4): 8:30-12:00; after-school until 3:00, 4:00, or 6:00
Kindergarten (age 5): 8:30-2:30; after-school until 3:00, 4:00, or 6:00
Elementary (grades 1-6): 8:20-3:00; after-school until 4:00 or 6:00

*Before School Care is available starting at 7:45 for all levels*

What do parents do when school is out?

Our After School program offers No-School Camp on Teacher Workdays, Parent-Teacher Conference days, and Winter and Spring Break. (These programs are not available for Toddler students.) MSD also offers summer camp on a weekly basis for most of the summer.

How do teachers and parents communicate?

Our teachers are very available to answers quick questions on the playground, by phone, or by email. A more in-depth discussion can be scheduled at a mutually convenient time. All teachers offer "virtual office hours" to answer communications. Formal parent-teacher conferences are scheduled twice annually in November and March. The teachers also send newsletter updates with photos and narrative of the latest classroom happenings, parent education resources, etc.

Are your teachers certified?
Yes, the lead teachers are trained and certified in an American Montessori Society-approved program. All of our assistant teachers and After School Instructors have at least a bachelor’s degree, and are trained in-house.

How often do your teachers and assistants turn over?
We enjoy very low teacher turnover. Most of our lead teachers have been here a decade — or three! – and even our assistant teachers typically stay for several years, some of them leaving to go on to get their own Montessori teacher certification.

How do you help acclimate new students?
Change can be a challenge for some children, so for all new students MSD begins the school year with orientation weeks to introduce your child to school gently, helping them feel safe and successful.