At Mountaineer Montessori School, children are free to fly!
Our child-centered approach to education fosters learning without limits, offering students the time, space and encouragement to go as far and as high as they can.
Since our school’s founding in 1976, we’ve given wings to an estimated 1,000 children, freeing them to discover their passions, fulfill their unique potential and create stronger communities and a promising future.
“Spreading Our Wings,” our annual spring fundraiser, will be held Saturday, May 18, 7:00-10:00 p.m., at the Charleston Woman’s Club. Buy tickets now
This very special evening will benefit our financial aid, teacher appreciation and specialty programming funds.
We invite our friends to join us as we:
Celebrate education that elevates
Applaud MMS programs and faculty
Bid on amazing class art projects and an array of exciting silent auction prizes Bid online now
Lift up the next generation of business and community leaders, innovators and creators, dreamers and doers
Great night for a great cause!
DJ Mark Davis loves helping people celebrate good times with music, bringing 25 years of musical performance and decades of collecting the best music of every genre to our annual spring event. Mark and Vinyl Village will get you — and keep you — on the dance floor all night long. Surprise appearances by well known musicians and performers are also planned!
Going, going, gone!
A highlight of SPREADING OUR WINGS will be an exciting auction of amazing class art projects and other works of art created by individual students as well as an extensive silent auction featuring an amazing array of vacation and entertainment certificates, fashion and beauty prizes, children’s packages..and more. Take home a one-of-a-kind masterpiece and support education that elevates!
MMS is pleased to offer a wide range of exclusive education investment opportunities to our SPREADING OUR WINGS partners. We invite you to make a splash with a unique themed sponsorship…. bluebird to finch! Your partnership in this high-profile, unique event will showcase your commitment to West Virginia’s children to thousands throughout our region through a sustained marketing campaign and provide critical support to MMS. Contributions to MMS, a 501(c)(3) organization are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.
Individual reservations start at $85 per person and include a tax-deductible contribution to MMS. Your reservation includes admission to the most uplifting party of the year, live music, beer/wine and heavy hors d’oeuvres, creative entertainment…. and affirms your support of our mission, faculty and students. MMS will maintain a guest list and no individual tickets will be mailed.
Because it’s important for our entire school community to join in the celebration, a limited number of free and reduced price reservations will be available. For more information, please contact MMS Director Jennifer Carriger, email@example.com. Your sponsorship dollars support this important community-building effort.
Mountaineer Montessori serves 140 students ages 3-14 in Charleston, West Virginia — the heart of Appalachia. Our mission is to elevate our students and region with forward-thinking, 21st century-aligned education that nurtures tomorrow’s problem solvers, creators, entrepreneurs and community builders…a new generation that will lead the way to a brighter tomorrow and a better world.
MMS is a community-based non-profit organization created to unlock the potential of West Virginia’s children through the scientifically-based, time-tested, child centered approach to education pioneered by Dr. Maria Montessori. We receive no government funding. Our operations are funded solely by tuition, foundation and business partnerships, and personal donations.
Community support helps keep our program accessible to the growing number of families seeking access to high-quality alternatives to one-size-fits-all schools. Enrollment has grown 83 percent over the past five years and we are currently unable to enroll all applicants due to space and financial constraints.
SPREADING OUR WINGS provides critical funding for financial aid, teacher training and classroom materials and programs, and help us continue to grow a world-class education option in our region.
MMS Director Jennifer Carriger is back with an update on the status of back to school planning at MMS.
The Re-entry Task Force has had its initial meeting and is moving forward apace to develop a road map for a safe year together at our school. Thanks to the many parents who participated in the Re-entry Survey distributed in June. Your responses provided valuable insight and ideas for the year ahead.
The task force has divided its work in to six main areas of focus:
Policy and Calendar
Facilities and Supplies
Health and Wellness
Education and Training
Gatherings, Visitors and Events
By the end of today, all of the subcommittees will have met to develop a plan of action for their area of responsibility. Their recommendations will be incorporated into a school-wide Re-entry Plan that will be reviewed by the Board of Directors. The goal is to distribute this plan to our community in two-three weeks.
The Re-entry Plan will be built on three pillars:
Being together as a school community
Keeping our students, families, faculty and staff safe
Continuing to deliver a high-quality Montessori education to our students
The MMS task force, Board and staff continue to participate in professional development and online training; closely monitor developments; and research and gather recommendations and guidance from public health, education and medical organizations.
As with our remote learning updates, a page on our website will be dedicated to re-entry information. The link will found under the “What’s New” box on the home page.
Campessori, our summer program, is in full swing. We are delighted to offer this opportunity to our families, which provides wonderful, in-person enrichment activities to your children and offers helpful insight and practice for August.
Please watch for updates on steps you can take to help prepare your child and family for back to school as well as announcements on the Re-entry Plan.
Thank you again for your support and patience. As always, if you have any questions or suggestions, please contact Jennifer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay safe and have a happy Fourth of July! We look forward to being together with you in the new school year.
Mountaineer Montessori Message June 19, 2020
It has been a year that we all will remember. We are so proud of the students, teachers and families who sustained the learning, creativity and discovery in the face of the unknown over the past months. We ended the year on very strong and positive footing, and are deeply grateful for each and every one of you!
The spirit of Mountaineer Montessori was kept bright with remote learning and parent education as well as the signature events and traditions that are part of the MMS experience. Thank you to all who helped make the fourth annual MMMS Talent Show, 21 st Tie Dye Day, Eighth Year Graduation, and our Virtually Epic Spring Gala successful. And could there have been a better way to wrap up the year under any circumstances than the end of year parade? It was wonderful to see your bright faces pass in front of the school for nearly two hours in the rain!
Campessori 2020 is off to a great start this week! Our school yard and classrooms ring with the joyful sounds of “happy campers.” There are still a few spaces available in selected weeks… please contact Alasha Al-Qudwah email@example.com if you would like to register your child.
Planning for 2020-21
Preparations for the new school year are underway. Our top priority is the safety and well-being of our students, staff, and families. As we pursue every possible avenue that will allow us to carry out our school’s mission while adhering to safety and health guidelines and recommendations, we want to hear your thoughts and suggestions. Please take a minute to complete a short survey and return it by Tuesday, June 23 . Your feedback is important.
So far, 2020-21 planning has included participation in multiple meetings, phone conferences, webinars, and discussion groups with the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, the WV Department of Health and Human Resources, American Montessori Society consultants and member schools, and the National Association of Independent Schools. We are also monitoring announcements from Governor Justice, the state department of education, and Kanawha County Schools.
We are creating a re-entry task force in order to prepare the start of the school year, which is scheduled for August 17. The re-entry task force will include representatives from our MMS staff (administration and guides), representatives from the Board of Directors, and representatives from the parent community. We will continue to consult with the Health Department, DHHR, WVDE, Kanawha County Schools, American Montessori Society, and other outside agencies and consultants as well.
If you are interested in joining the re-entry task force, please email Jennifer at firstname.lastname@example.org by Tuesday, June 23. Task force meetings will take place via Zoom on Tuesdays from 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.. The first meeting will be held on Tuesday, June 30 . We will meet more often as needed.
All parents, please take a moment to answer the following questions that will help us get this important work started. We ask that you complete the survey by Tuesday, June 23.
Mountaineer Montessori presents experiential learning opportunities on campus and in the community during summer breaks. Sessions, led by trained MMS faculty with both camp and classroom experience, include specialty and theme week events, with tracks for both primary- and elementary-age children.
MMS will again offer seven weeks of awesome with our 2020 Campessori program, running June 15-August 1.
This year’s summer program has been planned to meet current health and safety guidelines while remaining true to our school mission. For more information, contact Campessori Director Alasha Al-Qudwah: email@example.com.
Mountaineer Montessori Enrollment Part I: Virtual Tour
MMS Enrollment Part II: Overview of Programs and Curriculum
Tomorrow begins today!
Virtual tours for the 2020-21 school year at Mountaineer Montessori School have been scheduled.
Families interested in enrolling a student in Primary (ages 3-6), Elementary (ages 6-12) or Middle School (ages 12-14) classes next year are invited to reserve their space at one of the following upcoming tours:
Classes fill up quickly and MMS has maintained a waiting list for the past several years. Future MMS families are encouraged to begin the admissions process at their earliest convenience.
MMS serves more than 140 children ages 3-14 in a fully implemented Montessori environment, offering an expansive academic and arts curriculum, along with an extensive after-school program, summer camps, foreign language, chess, robotics, individual learning support, cross country and other enrichment activities. Founded in 1976, MMS is the original and largest Montessori school in West Virginia, and offers the first Montessori Middle School program in the state. MMS is an AMS Pathways to Continuous School Improvement school and the only full member of the America Montessori Society in West Virginia. All lead teachers train at programs certified by the Association Montessori Internationale or the American Montessori Society. Financial is available.
MMS considers all children for admission based upon their readiness for school, potential for success in a Montessori classroom and our enrollment capacity. MMS is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that does not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, creed, religion or ethnic or national origin in its admission policy.
Upper Elementary II students put their nutritional science studies into action this spring with a public service announcement on healthy lifestyles. Students were initially assigned to create a PSA at home to communicate what they learned about healthy eating and the importance of staying active. After learning about the assignment, Abbey Fiorelli, a classroom parent and Creative Director at Digital Relativity, volunteered to create a professional video with the class. Abbey and Jason Adams, also from Digital Relativity, worked with the class on the content and concept, which developed into a parody music video to the tune of “Old Town Road.” The students had three songwriting sessions to create lyrics using their knowledge from the nutritional science lessons. It all came together during a fun video shoot at the Clay Center with the students and Jason. Congratulations to everyone involved in this fun and memorable project!
WHERE: Mountaineer Montessori School, 308 20th Street, SE, Charleston
Mountaineer Montessori School will end its school year tomorrow, Friday, June 5, with a drive through peace parade. The parade will proceed down 20th Street in front the school’s main building.
The event will be the first time students and teachers will see each other in person since mandated school closures in March. Teachers are planning surprises for students to end the year on an uplifting note.
In response to nationwide unrest, the event will also be a visible demonstration of the Montessori peace philosophy and the school’s commitment to respect, justice and safety for all people. Families have been encouraged to make signs and decorate their cars with messages and signs of love, kindness and unity for the community as a whole.
As Maria Montessori explained, “We shall walk together on this path of life, for all things are part of the universe, and are connected with each other to form one whole unity.
“At MMS, we are connected to each other, to our community and to our fellow men and women everywhere,” Carriger said. “Our school is built upon a deep respect for the individual dignity of every person and an understanding that our connections as humans are indivisible.”
“As Montessorians, we help create a better world through the child. We can’t think of a better way to end the school year than with this uplifting lesson in unity. Our parade is intended to put Montessori peace philosophy into action and demonstrate our commitment to justice, respect and safety for our community and all people everywhere.”
Founded in 1976, Mountaineer Montessori is West Virginia’s original and largest Montessori school serving children ages 3-14 at campuses in Kanawha City and South Hills.
NOTE: Media covering this event are required to follow social distancing guidelines. Camera crews are requested to position themselves on the south side of 20th Street or on Frontage Road to ensure safety. MMS representatives will be available for on or off camera interviews For details, contact JoEllen Zacks, 312/622-3008 (cell-text), firstname.lastname@example.org or MMS Director Jennifer Carriger, email@example.com.
It has been a momentous year at our school. We opened our doors to a record 142 children last fall, and what followed were several wonderful months of growth, discovery and creativity. When we were forced to close our buildings in March, the learning continued remotely thanks to the grace, resiliency and commitment of our entire school community. While extremely challenging, these past weeks have been our finest hour in many ways.
As we wind down the year with much-deserved celebrations, we must also look around and understand that we are part of a larger community. Around us, we see injustice, conflict and division.
“We shall walk together on this path of life, for all things are part of the universe, and are connected with each other to form one whole unity,” said Maria Montessori.
At MMS, we are connected to each other, to our community and to our fellow men and women everywhere. Our school is built upon a deep respect for the individual dignity of every person and an understanding that our connections as humans are indivisible.
As Montessorians, we have the power to create a better and more just world through the child. That starts with ensuring that all members of our own school feel valued, respected and safe. We are currently in discussions with outside organizations with deep experience and expertise in anti-bias/anti-bullying education to build upon our peace curriculum to address equity, inclusion and justice. Watch for updates in the new school year.
In the meantime, we will be sharing resources to help our families. Your children, even the youngest, may be exposed to the news, and may be asking some big questions right now, or you may feel it is time to start or continue conversations about race in your home. It is my hope that whatever age your child is, you will find a way to have these important conversations. In an effort to support your conversations, and to help children realize their ability to contribute to the creation of a more just society through understanding, empathy, connection and love, I’d like to offer the following resources.
Dr. Montessori so wisely understood that, “Establishing lasting peace is the work of education: all politics can do is keep us out of war”.
Let us redouble our commitment to ensuring that all members of our community–and all people everywhere– feel valued, respected, and safe.
Yours in peace,
Families are invited to make car signs/decorations celebrating peace, unity and love for the end of year parade on Friday, June 4, from 11:30 a.m.to 1:00 p.m. Please make a sign of unity, kindness and peace and share the love.
June 1, 2020
Dear Fellow Montessorians,
The protests across the globe this week following the murder of George Floyd are an urgent reminder that we must constantly examine how racism shapes our institutions and identify ways to dismantle and disrupt racism. This includes our Montessori schools and teacher education programs.
As the first Black Muslim president of the AMS Board of Directors, I am encouraged by our organization’s strategic priority of Inclusion and Equity, which I believe to be our most important one.
AMS recognizes that institutional change is required to make an impact in the larger Montessori community. Ensuring environments where everyone feels welcomed, valued, and respected is our most important charge as a membership organization. Serving as the largest Montessori membership organization does not exclude us from the institutional racism that is pervasive in associations, schools, and training programs throughout the United States. As the saying goes, “None of us is free until all of us are free.”
Now is the time for us to be intentionally anti-racist, and to denounce and call out injustices that are occurring right before our eyes—injustices that impact the students, parents, staff members, and schools within our community, and in some cases determine whether they live or die. It’s time to stand for, and with, justice.
As we work toward creating a system that evaluates processes and programming and makes decisions based upon the principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion, we hope that you continue to engage with us as our organization strives to be anti-racist. Sometimes we take steps forward, and, sadly, sometimes we take steps backward. But in this moment, we say:
Black lives matter.
Black imagination matters.
Black creativity matters
Black potential matters.
Black educators matter.
Black children matter.
Black people matter.
Black lives matter.
Look to AMS in the coming weeks as we share more resources for teaching children about racism on our website and social media channels. In the meantime, please be well, be safe, be loud, and be anti-racist.
Oh, what night! Our 2020 Spring Gala was one for the books in more ways than one as we reinvented our event to transition virtual platform and yet raised a record amount for financial aid, teacher appreciation and programs–one of our most successful events ever!
Our hearts are filled with gratitude to all who help present–and all who enjoyed–our Virtually Epic Evening.
Click on the photo to enjoy an encore performance and experience the excitement and fun of your gala all over again.
Behind the resounding success of the gala is the hard work, creativity, professionalism and commitment to our mission by some amazing staff, parents and board members, performers and musicians, technical experts and community friends.
Please join us in thanking:
Virtual entertainers: Ron Sowell; Alasha Al-Qudwah, Dr. Ray Singleton and Grant Jacobs/Minor Swing; Sonji Byers Baldwin; Mira and Chuck Costa/The Sea The Sea
Due to the format of this professional production, guests will not be able to interact during via Zoom. We are encouraging guests to follow the event on Facebook and comment and post photos in the comments with the tag #virtuallyepic. No special password is required to participate on FB.
The Epic auction will close at 9:00 p.m. Text epicevening to 76278 or visit the
Get the party started by making your M masks. M Mask Cut out the white space within the orange circles, attach a handle or tie strings and show your Montessori spirit!
Questions/info/login information: Mary Claire Davis, 304/395-4378 (cell-text), firstname.lastname@example.org
Preview of your Virtually Epic Evening:
Enjoy this behind the scenes look at our stellar art auction:
The success of this event is made possible by our epic supporters, including our top sponsors:
Each year, MMS invites our entire school community to participate in the biggest fundraiser on the school calendar–the spring gala. When a traditional event became impossible, our committee members had their work cut out for themselves. One of the biggest concerns was whether our supporters would take part in a virtual party. We should have known better… when asked, our community always says “YES,” and this year’s Virtually Epic Evening is poised to be one of the biggest fundraisers ever.
As of this morning, Saturday, May 30, sponsorships and donations are still coming in! It’s not too late to invest in your child’s education with a tax-deductible gift. Text epicevening to 76278 or visit the event platform.
We are so grateful for the generosity of our school community, including our sponsors.
Sarah & Ben Bailey
Bailey Glasser LLP
Ryan & Shelley Whittington
Elsie & Bill Carter
Blaire Malkin & Rob Bastress
Tiffany Lasky & Eric Olle
Robert & Il Su Spangler
Jennifer & David Carriger
Clifton & Katie Clark
Amanda Davis & James McQueen
Mary Claire & Matt Davis
Darnold & Lyons Heating and Cooling
Susana Duarte & Joseph Jenkins
Selling WV Real Estate Professionals
Magician John Slicer
WV Ortho Neuro/Carrie Frame, DPM
Ben & Meredith Thomas
Amazing Donors and Ticket Holders
David Baldwin & Kristin Reis
Brad & Cassie Barker
John & Emily Christian
Enybe Diaz & Brandon Merritt
Erik & Valerie Frontz
Emma & Theron Gibbs
Brad & Anna Holliday
John & Michelle Hussell
Aaron & Jennifer Preston
Jack Rogers & Elizabeth Scharman
Stacy & Eric Snyder
Ami Smith Spangler
Melissa & Nick Stuchell
Jennifer & Brian Tucker
Maria & Michael Young
MOUNTAINEER MONTESSORI GALA CELEBRATES COSMIC EDUCATION
Mountaineer Montessori School will present an uplifting evening of entertainment, all-ages dancing and auctions on Saturday, May 30, starting at 7:00 p.m., as its annual spring fundraiser goes virtual this year.
“Virtually Epic” will celebrate the school’s 43 years of excellence in education and raise funds for financial aid, teacher appreciation and programs.
“We are always proud of our students, teachers and school community and never more so than in the past weeks, when their creativity, strength and grace has never shown brighter,” says MMS Director Jennifer Carriger. “We are all looking forward to the opportunity to come together and celebrate our special community.”
The family-friendly event, to be hosted by Jim Strawn, will be presented on Zoom and live streamed on Facebook. The evening’s entertainment includes Ron Sowell, director of the Mountain Stage Band; Mira Stanley and Chuck E. Costa who perform as “The Sea The Sea;” Alasha Al-Qudwah and “Minor Swing;” and soul singer Sonji Byers Baldwin. Mark Davis of Vinyl Village will spin the tunes.
An auction of individual and class art projects is the highlight of the school’s annual spring fundraiser. During this year’s event, teachers will introduce the pieces virtually. This year’s stellar works were based on the school’s year-long theme, “Epic Education” and the Montessori” “cosmic” approach to education.
Cosmic education is a cornerstone of the Montessori philosophy, presenting a comprehensive, holistic and purposeful big picture that encompasses the development of the whole person with the context of the universe. It also introduces the belief that humanity might have a “cosmic task,” to better the world for future generations.
The online auction also features an array of prizes donated by local businesses and artists. Admission to the virtual event is free. Tickets and sponsorships are still available. Text epicevening to 76278 for more information or go tohttps://epicevening.givesmart.com.
What if there were no limits to what you could learn?
That’s what every day is like at Mountaineer Montessori!
Our out-of-the-box, out-of-the-classroom approach to education empowers the unlimited potential in each child and creates an inspired future for our students, community and world.
We’re taking this same creative, out-of-the-box approach to our annual spring fundraiser, which was rescheduled due to public health concerns.
VIRTUALLY EPIC, the 2020 MMS Annual Spring Gala, will now be held online on Saturday, May 30, from 7:00-9:00 p.m.
The re-invented event is being announced today, May 5 —#GivingTuesdayNow, a new global day of giving and unity which was created as response to needs arising from COVID-19.
Now more than ever, we need to celebrate our remarkable school community and do our best to sustain our 43-year tradition of excellence and innovation in education.
We invite everyone to join us to:
Celebrate epic education
Applaud MMS programs and faculty
Bid on amazing class art projects created by your child and an extensive array of exciting prizes donated by local businesses and our families–online bidding will be available for art projects and silent auction items starting May 15.
Vie online for “Only at MMS” signature experiences and prizes, including the ever-popular “Director for a Day” and having your child be the voice of MMS for a year through our voice mail system.
We all want to return to the same amazing school in August and your support will make that possible . Sponsors will receive the benefits as before, with the in-person food and beverages to come at a special thank you reception planned at a future date.
Every individual or family who makes a minimum $50 ticket purchase or donation will receive a specially curated at-home party package, which will be hand delivered to your door by a gala committee member!
If you previously purchased a gala ticket or sponsorship and have questions, please contact Mary Claire Davis: email@example.com
While the fundraising is critical, equally important is to bring our entire community together at this time.
ALL MMS families and community friends are invited to participate in this VIRTUALLY EPIC event on May 30 at no charge. . You’ll see familiar faces as we dance together, laugh together and celebrate everything that makes our school so special.
Zoom link information will be available prior to the event. Please watch your email and social media for updates, announcements and information on how you and your children can take part in its success. We’re in this together!
Although we have collected many amazing donations, items are still needed for the online auction . Can you donate a gift certificate for a future specialty home cooked dinner or spectacular baked item? Share your craft, piece of art or home made item? Teach a skill or facilitate an experience for another family? Re-gift a new item that is nice, but is no longer needed? Contribute a high-quality vintage item that our families would like?
We will gladly accept your tax-deductible donation. Contact Mary Claire Davis firstname.lastname@example.org for details or enter the information and a photo directly on our event platform through the “Donate Item” on the landing page.
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 coronavirus 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: www.mountaineermontessori.org.
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:
“And,” not “but”: Be kind and firm in communicating with children. Validate their feelings and offer a choice to cooperate through “and” not “but” statements. For example, “I know you want to keep playing video games AND it’s time to do your lessons. You can turn it off now OR I can put your phone in my closet for the rest of the day.”
Ask, not tell. No one of any age likes being ordered to do something. If a child is reluctant to do homework, couch your direction in an inquiry: “What is your plan for doing your schoolwork today?” Depending on the age of the child, he or she could respond verbally, write out a plan or create a chart or artwork of their work plan. This approach shows respect for your child and reinforces that they are ultimately responsible for their education.
Show, not tell. Find ways to make schoolwork tangible and trackable. When one of our first grade students had trouble accepting the concept of doing his lessons at home, his parents began posting his assignments on a corkboard next to his desk each morning. As the lessons were completed, the student re-posted the work on a second corkboard, creating visual record of his progress. Now, instead of arguing all day about schoolwork, the child eagerly runs down the stairs each morning to see what he needs to do, completes his work and proudly posts it on the “done” board.
Harness housework. In Montessori, there is a great emphasis on “practical life” for students at all levels. Practical life activities develop focus, mastery and independence, building the foundation for academic learning and success in the real world. Engaging children in tasks such a cleaning, cooking and gardening can re-center their attention at this unsettling time as well as develop important skills. Cooking, for example, incorporates many math and language concepts. One teacher’s child writes out each recipe as it is prepared, creating her own cookbook journal while practicing her handwriting.
Empower problem-solving: One kindergarten parent invites her son to create a daily list of three activities he can do instead of disrupting her time for professional work. Now, when he comes to her during worktime, they get out the list, and he chooses what to do, buying her at least 15 minutes of time to focus on her job. Every little bit counts!
Be explicit. Children’s lives and schedules have been turned upside down. One of our families created a colorful chart to illustrate where mom and dad would be at different parts of the day (both are essential workers) and when a grandparent would be in the home to watch the children. Now, the children look at the chart to see who is where and what will happen next.
Model professionalism. During a pandemic, every day is bring your child to work day. As challenging as it is, working from home gives children a window into the adult world and the types of skills used in a business environment.
Family meetings. Family meetings can help create a new “normal” in the home. These can be simple 15-minute gatherings where all family members share what is going well, what challenges they are experiencing and what fun activity they would like to do together. The feeling that their issues will be addressed is very empowering to children. Family meetings should be planned and scheduled, with an agenda that everyone can contribute to as ideas or issues arise. A side benefit is that many of these concerns actually work themselves out before the meeting.
“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.
Let’s talk. Research shows that the biggest determinant of how well a child emerges from traumatic event is the presence of a caring adult in their life. Let children lead conversations about the pandemic, and let the conversations happen again and again. You don’t need to have all the answers, just be there.
Socialize creatively. All children, and especially only children, are experiencing social isolation. Our families are connecting children with their friends with drive through playdates and walk and waves through their neighborhoods, among other activities.
Embrace the opportunity. We now have time to do many things we always wanted to do, said one of our parents.
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
In the face of continuing school closures, Mountaineer Montessori School has created a toolkit for families thrust into homeschooling. “Together with Mountaineer Montessori: Share. Support. Thrive” is a road map for bringing education into the home. It includes practical advice for establishing a home learning environment, child development considerations, digital citizenship policies, and authentic, high-quality, curriculum–aligned Montessori activities to extend education beyond the classroom walls.
The toolkit was created by MMS faculty for parents of the 142 students ages 3-14 currently enrolled at the school, but the tips and strategies included can enhance learning at home for all children. Copies are available free of charge on the school website.
In addition to quality at-home academic lessons, the handbook places an emphasis on age-appropriate “practical life” activities that nurture intellectual, emotional and social development. These range from food preparation to tidying the home, from gardening to pet care.
Practical life activities provide a way for even the youngest children to contribute to family life. Inherent in these activities is the development of key executive functions: decision making, organization, problem-solving, impulse control, collaboration and communication. These skills form the foundation of a child’s academic learning. For example, sequencing is a pre-reading skill.
Practical life is engaging for children at all stages of development and tasks are designed according to their level of coordination and independence. Families can organize a job chart or list of family projects to help guide their children. Planning and gathering resources to complete the tasks is purposeful work. These ideas foster a sense of contribution, responsibility, shared experiences and satisfaction. As children get older, these activities lead naturally to volunteer experiences and beginnings of community work. For adolescents, many of these practical life experiences are the foundation of their sense of belonging and personal vision.
Follow the child
Education as an aid to life
The new publication is grounded in one of the key tenets of Montessori education: follow the child.
“Over the past three weeks, we’ve all learned that Montessori schools never ‘close’ and experienced the Montessori way of education as an aid to life–much more than a building or even the beautiful manipulative materials found in the classroom,” says MMS Director Jennifer Carriger. “What really matters is meeting children as they are and where they are and providing the inspiration, support and guidance they need to develop to their fullest potential.”
The new handbook was created to support children and their families in this new learning dynamic.
Montessori teachers rise to the challenge
Reading Specialist Lindy Hoeft provides remote lessons from her yurt in South Charleston
All educators are facing extraordinary challenges at this time, but perhaps nowhere more so than for Montessori teachers, who utilize hands on learning, responsive instruction,individually tailored lessons and custom materials rather than textbooks, worksheets and iPads.
MMS teachers, driven by passion and purpose, have met this challenge head on, creating an entirely new education system in a matter of days.
As Maria Montessori said, “Now, what really makes a teacher is love for the human child; for it is love that transforms the social duty of the educator into the higher consciousness of a mission.”
Learning is now happening with a variety of tools, depending on the age of the child. Lessons and customized activity plans for primary students are emailed to parents, supplemented by read aloud, sharing time, song and dance lessons, art projects, physical education and other activities presented on a private Facebook group.
Older students participate in class meetings via Zoom and Google Hangouts and receive appropriate lessons and assignments via email from their teachers. All MMS teachers hold virtual office hours and schedule one-on-one chats with parents and children.
The Middle School has a robust and now fully implemented online program using the full variety of technology tools to keep students engaged, challenged and on track to meet state curriculum standards to prepare them for transition to traditional high schools in our area.
MMS specialists continue their work via videos and online meetings. Music and art programs are hosted online and reading specialists continue individual lessons with students via Zoom.
One reading teacher is even working from her yurt in South Charleston.
“I teach Wilson Reading lessons, and like many of my colleagues, I’ve had the challenge of translating multi-sensory, interactive learning into a format that can be delivered remotely via Zoom,” says MMS Reading Specialist Lindy Hoeft. “It has been an opportunity to think outside the box of the way I normally teach, and while it doesn’t all translate, much of it does and my students continue to benefit from personalized support.
“Parents and students have been extremely patient, and it’s always exciting to see a student’s smiling face on my screen when we connect. While we may miss each other and our normal routine, the children seem pretty excited to engage with learning and technology in a different way.”
Feedback from parents has been supportive and positive
“If I could find one positive in all of this, it’s that, by providing lessons and videos for the kids to do at home, it has given the parents an opportunity to become more familiar with the Montessori curriculum,” said Lauren Winter, the parent of two MMS students. “It is almost like its own fully immersive parent education program. I thank everyone at MMS for all that they are doing during this time. It is very much appreciated by both the students and the parents.”
“Maria Montessori didn’t have a plan for learning during a pandemic, but there is a Montessori way to respond to every situation: look to the child,” says Carriger. “I am so proud of and inspired by our wonderful school community. Teachers, parents and children are working with ingenuity, grace and resilience, ever mindful of our greater shared purpose. I know we will all emerge from the current situation even stronger and united in our service to the child, our community and our world.