The L.I.F.E. Series


The Austin Montessori School L.I.F.E. Series is an acronym for
Living, Including, Following (the child) and Experiencing Montessori grounded in a philosophy of life.

The presentations which form part of this series were originally developed by Donna Bryant Goertz who founded Austin Montessori School in Austin, Texas, in 1967. After 34 years of directing and teaching at the school, Donna designed a curriculum for parents to learn more about the philosophy of Montessori education and the particular school culture. This curriculum is crucial to the partnership built between school and family. 

Donna currently acts as a resource to schools around the world. Her book “Children Who Are Not Yet Peaceful: Preventing Exclusion in the Early Elementary Classroom” (now in French as “Quand l’école s’adapte aux enfant ” and in Russian soon), draws on her years of experience guiding a community of thirty-five six-to-nine-year-olds. She received her Montessori elementary diploma from the Fondazione Centro Internazionale Studi Montessoriani in Bergamo, Italy, and her assistants to infancy diploma from the Montessori Institute of Denver, Colorado.

Presentations from the L.I.F.E. series occur through the school year and topics include those listed below.

Lyin’, Cheatin’, and Stealin’: Why We Don’t Even Think About Own Children’s Behavior in Those Terms

Nor do we ever use such words to describe other children’s behavior as they grow and learn and adapt to the codes and customs, the values and principles we hold dear in adult society. So how do we think, what do we say, and how do we guide our children’s attachment to the truth, their honoring of the rules, and their respect for the possessions of others?

Sharing and Taking Turns: How, Why, and at What Age

The developmental task of a child under six is to be wholly absorbed in activities of individual self-construction. Authentic sharing and taking turns is a point of arrival that comes from the core of the heart, mind, and spirit of the child of six years of age. How can we foster the deep security and self-esteem required in the child under six for authentic sharing and taking turns to emerge? How can we avoid demands that a child share and take turns that early that we elicit a hollow imitation?

Beyond Bullies and Victims: Eliminating Those Destructive Roles and Labels

Temperaments and personalities, and therefore behaviors and relationships, vary dramatically from child to child. How can we bully-proof and victim-proof our children? How can we enlighten our thinking and structure our responses to their behaviors and relationships so that we eliminate the roles of victim and bully? How can we build a family and a community that refuses to cast children in roles or to define their behavior and relationships destructively?

Out and About: Where and for How Long

How do we give mindful attention to the extent of a particular child’s ability to benefit from, tolerate, or endure outings? How do we select or eliminate outings and distinguish whether they are for the child’s development, the adults’ enjoyment, or of unavoidable necessity? How do our own adult self-discipline, impulse control, and delay of gratification serve as the model for that of the child?

Montessori Manners: Grace and Courtesy at Home

How do we support the child to say please, thank you, and sorry in a way appropriate to his age? How do we help the child come to a natural expression of heartfelt good manners?

Specific, Detailed Acknowledgement Instead of Praise

How do our adult pride, empty praise, and constant comments keep us from a deeper relationship with our children? How can we express authentic admiration, helpful reflection, and honest feedback to our children? How can we give a descriptive response, specific acknowledgment, and detailed information?

Inclusion and Peace: Supporting Variety in Temperament and Learning Styles and Rates

How can we prevent others from seeing our child in terms of disabilities in behavior or learning and assigning her labels? How can we see a child in terms of strengths and interpret a child’s particular attributes in terms of talents? How can we translate a child’s characteristic behaviors and learning styles and rates into a way of thinking and speaking that are worthy of her truest self?

Writing to Reading: What’s the Process at Austin Montessori School

Why does writing precede reading and support its spontaneous emergence? How can we help see that the drive to express bursts forth into writing? How do we feed the senses, the intelligence, and the imagination to bring forth writing?

Freedom and Limits: Can’t Have One Without the Other

How can we set limits and circumscribe boundaries to support authentic freedom? How does freedom differ from license? How can responsibility to others provide the limit of personal freedom? How do control of impulses, delay of gratification, and self-discipline promote healthy freedom?

The Cycle of Activity: Protecting the Child’s Drive to Learn

What is a cycle of activity? How do we recognize and protect its vitality? How does it support the development of long and deep concentration? How does concentration produce the authentic traits of childhood?

Maximum Effort and Independence: Helping Children Grow a Strong, Flexible, and Resilient Sense of Self

Why do independence and maximum effort give the child authentic self-esteem? How do we arrange for experiences of independence and maximum effort for the child? How do we show respect for the child’s need to struggle?

Full Participation in Family Life: Meeting the Child’s Need for Power and Influence

How do we provide authentic experiences of community life to the child? How do we arrange for a child to contribute for the welfare of the family in ways that are meaningful? How can we include the child in big decisions in ways that are significant, genuine, and relevant, and yet still age-appropriate?

Power Play: Children’s Need for Active and Dynamic Adventure

How can we provide the excitement and tension needed by children in the First Plane while keeping them grounded in concrete reality? How can we provide for the need for excitement and adventure of Second Plane children without immersing them in the Myth of Inevitable Violence and the Culture of War? How can we free the fresh intelligence and powerful imagination of the child to envision a better way to work through intractable problems? How can we prevent the quicksand of the past from swallowing our future? How do the cynicism and fatalism of violence lead to hopelessness and depression?

Preserving Intrinsic Motivation: Valuing Process over Product

How can we live with our child in such a way that she can value her own journey and honor her own path? How can we assist the child to reach for her own highest achievement without distracting her with extrinsic rewards? How can we show our respect for our child’s own standard of individual excellence? How can we free our child to satisfy her deepest longings so that she will find satisfaction in life?

The Seasons of a Child’s Year: Keeping the Holidays Rooted in the Good Earth

How can we develop our own ways of celebrating, ways that reflect who we are as a family, not who the mass media or the commercial interests tell us to be? How can we help our family form an attachment to symbols and ceremonies that celebrate our own family values?

Children’s Books: From Concrete to Abstract; External Life to Symbolic Life

What is the importance of concrete, real-life stories for the child in the First Plane of Development? When is the foundation of external reality complete so that the burning questions of who, what, when, and where become the urgent questions of when, where, why, and how? How do the abstract and symbolic elements satisfy the hungry intelligence and abstract mind of the child in the Second Plane of Development?

Relationships in the Classroom: You, Me and Us

How can we give our children the most and best support for the natural and independent development of relationships at school, be they with adults or other children? How can we empower our children to be able to see and bring out the best in others while keeping themselves safe?

Montessori Culture Clash: All Around Town

How can we be real with and for our children while modeling respect and tolerance for others? How does our saying “no,” cheerfully and firmly, and meaning it prepare and strengthen our children for doing the same as adolescents? How does our integrity in living out our own values and standing firm in our own family culture prepare our children for staying safe and healthy during adolescence?

Helping the Child Replace Whining, Wailing, and Begging with Effective Communication

Why do our children whine, wail, and beg? How do we unwittingly provoke and promote the very forms of expression we wish to prevent? What’s our role in helping our children present their point of view, express strong emotion, and make fervent requests in a more pleasant, civilized manner?

Falling in Love Again and Again: From Birth Through Maturity

How can we protect our children from pop-culture values, images, and customs that exploit their natural emotions, distorting them and translating them into teen scene versions of the real thing? How can we support the authentic and healthy yearning of life as it transforms over the ages and stages of development in its journey of being, belonging, and becoming?

Our Children and the Subjects of Death and Dying

How do we support our children when they contemplate death and dying, when they are confronted with suffering and pain? Which information and how much is just right? When and in what manner do we offer it to our children?

Mommies, Daddies, and Babies: Variety in Family Life

How does new life come upon the earth among the plants, the animals, and humans? How much information, when, and in what detail do our children need? Why do we give the basics first and the variations next, as determined by the particular family?

The Spiritual Needs of the Child

How do we answer our children’s questions about the Realities and Truths beyond concrete experience? How do we support our children’s intuitive experiences of Mystery and the Mystical?