Toronto, ON | Grades NS - 6 | Shortlist
When enrolling our kids to a private school, we chose the Montessori method of teaching because it recognize that all children learn in different ways, and at different speeds. We appreciated that Central Montessori Schools takes a collaborative approach to learning where students learn to work with, and learn from each other. This much more closely resembles the real world, where work is done in teams as opposed to individually. Our children appreciate the smaller class sizes and the attention that affords them from their teachers. They also, surprisingly, have taken well to having multiple grades in a single class. Grades 1 - 3 are in the same classroom and learn from each other. While individual grades get their own lessons, and have their own lesson plans - they also have the opportunity to see what the other grades are learning. Often, the older children will even teach the younger kids their lessons. This is also true for the Grade 4 - 6 classes.
CMS fosters a very open and transparent approach to engaging with parents. In the midst of COVID-19, the school and administration was able to pivot to an online curriculum quickly and seamlessly. Our children, both in Casa and Elementary did not miss a beat academically. They did of course miss the in person interaction with teachers and classmates. Communication with parents is among the best in the private system, and as you would expect, much more frequent than in the public system - based on our discussions with parents at other private schools or in the TDSB. Communication via Owl Wise or e-mail, open houses, parent teacher events and "coffee" meetings with Tracy Grisdale (the Principal) are frequent. In formal meetings with the administration and teachers are also encouraged - when scheduled of course. Discipline, when applied in rare instances that we have heard of it, has always been fair when dispensed and always with the best interests of the student and student body in mind.
In our experience, and we have two children at CMS that have been at the school since they were both toddlers, has been excellent. Our children are far above the provincial standards in reading, writing, math and general problem solving, but they also exhibit an approach to finding their own solutions to obstacles, that are far more mature than their young ages. We believe these skills are the product of the Montessori method of teaching generally, but also Central Montessori Schools specifically. All of the teachers that have taught our children, have been engaged and knowledgeable while at the same time providing a nurturing environment that promotes learning, respect for others and a respect for self.
Academic is a strong focus at CMS, which is often demonstrated in the students CAT scores (a provincial test given to both public and private school children). CMS consistently ranks in the top decile of schools, a tradition that is the school is proud of. Pedagogically, the Montessori method has, in our opinion allowed a deeper understanding of the material that is taught. For example, multiplication is not taught as rote memorization of times table charts, but rather as an aggregation of like objects. My demonstrating this method, our children have learned what multiplication actually is and means. This is but one example. Another example is that students have been required to produce projects in class - geography, STEM, sciences. The act of studying and researching something on their own, producing a project (on Bristol board, a power point or a scale model) then presenting that to their classmates reinforces a deeper understanding and hence learning.
CMS offers a number of extracurricular activities. Of course we're speaking of a more normal non-pandemic environment. Our children have taken a number of great extra-curricular classes, from when they were toddlers (ex. monkeynastics, or baby yoga, music) to now as elementary students (art, piano, computers, little architects). There is no shortage of available classes to keep young minds busy and engaged.
When selecting a school for our children, it was important that the school we selected was not elitist, and though private - was a school that demonstrated more egalitarian principles in both its student body and faculty make up. We wanted a school that was nurturing without coddling children, where the student body was comprised of a mix of both boys and girls of different backgrounds and ethnicities that reflected the City of Toronto and the world at large. I believe we found all of the above at CMS. Students are continuously challenged both academically and in their extra-curricular activities. The diversity of the student body is celebrated with each holiday and students are encouraged to embrace their ethnicity by dressing in their traditional clothing or sharing their traditional foods.
Our children absolutely love going to CMS. They have a fondness for their teachers to the point where they are considered extended family, and they love their friends. In fact, we have managed to broaden our own social circles to include parents of our children's friends - many of whom have become very dear friends that we see socially now outside of school events and even do other outside activities with. Ski clubs, piano lessons, martial arts classes - even travel with! We feel fortunate to have this network or community within the school of like-minded parents that can share ideas with, share experiences with. It is an added benefit of CMS. This also extends to parents who have gone on and left CMS now that their children are older.
As I mentioned above, the parent community within CMS tends to unite. Our social networks and friends communities have grown to include the parents of our children's friends. We have quite an active group of parents now that see socially and at extra-curricular events. At times, the children even end up at the same summer camps! It is comforting to know that there is a network of like minded parents to share ideas with. We will often consult each other on extra-curricular activities, whether it be a piano teacher that someone has found to be very good or a new sports activity that one of the kids has taken an interest in. We have even bumped into other CMS parents while on vacation (pre-pandemic when we could travel of course).
Given the location of the CMS schools, as the name implies, they are quite central. Right in the middle of the city between Bayview and Don Mills - along the 401 or Sheppard. The proximity of the schools to highways, major arteries and GO Transit all help in getting to and from school, whether you are dropping off / picking up or racing to get to an after school concert or other event at CMS.