Parenting in a pandemic: helping children starts with helping parents

An op-ed by MMS Director Jennifer Carriger highlights the ways our school is working to support the entire family during the COVID-19 epidemic. It appears in the May 3, 2020, edition of the Charleston Gazette-Mail. You can read it here


Helping children in a pandemic starts with helping parents

Jennifer Carriger
MMS Director

Mountaineer Montessori, as with schools around the world, has faced the unprecedented challenge of shifting from classroom to remote learning within days of mandated closures. As our teachers and staff re-engineered our curriculum for distance education, it became quickly apparent that it was not only students who would need support in the weeks ahead. The parents were going to need our help, too.

The corona virus uprooted life as we know it. Parents are now often juggling full-time jobs, educating their children and running a household–all while confined to their homes and without the usual social supports and access to resources.

One of first steps we took was to create a remote education handbook to help parents set up home learning environments, manage digital engagement and offer curriculum-aligned activities to support the lessons provided remotely by teachers. The handbook, “Learning Together,” offers tips and guidance that any family could find useful and is available at no charge on the home page of our website:

But academic lessons are only one part of the successful home education equation. Maria Montessori understood that children cannot learn if their physical, social and emotional needs are not met. Giving parents the tools to nurture their children and themselves and cultivate a peaceful home environment is also a part our mission as educators.

To support our families during these new challenges, national consultants and our own staff have offered ongoing “Parent University” Zoom sessions to provide best practices for managing work, family and school in the home and to create a supportive space for parents to express, share and sometimes laugh.

These conversations are rooted in the practice of “Positive Discipline,” a parenting method that cultivates respectful relationships and helps children develop self-discipline, cooperation and problem-solving skills. The focus of Positive Discipline is on the intellectual and moral development of the child, giving him or her the tools to do the right thing for its own sake–and not in relationship to a reward or punishment.

Our parents are already seeing results using the information provided in these programs. In the spirit of service to all children, we’d like to share a few of these simple, yet powerful, ideas with the larger community:

“I thought family meetings were for people who had it all together,” said one of our parents. “But we tried it, and now we are problem solving in ways I thought was impossible.

This is a powerful moment in history and a seminal event in the lives of our children. There is no blueprint for how to parent during a pandemic, but there is a way through: look to the child. They will show us the way, today and tomorrow, if we let them.

“If help and salvation are to come, they can only come from the children, for the children are the makers of men.” Maria Montessori

Jennifer S. Carriger, M.A.


Mountaineer Montessori School