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Mon t ess or i Lea der sh ip January 2009

In This Issue‌ Strengthening Your School in Challenging Times Managing School Finances Children with Exceptionalities What Are Your Ratios?

Save these dates ... March 19 - 22, 2009 The 5th Annual West Coast Conference Presented by:

The Montessori Foundation in partnership with The International Montessori Council (IMC)

Life in Balance:

New this Year!

Helping Montessori Students, Fa mil ie s & Educators S t a y H a p p y, Healthy & Connec t ed

A Special Two-Part Workshop for Montessori Parents with Tim Seldin, President, The Montessori Foundation, Author of

Keynote Speakers: Tim Seldin, President & CEO The Montessori Foundation/IMC, Terra Ceia, FL, USA Mohamed Amra, Founder of WonderKids Training Centre, Durbin, South Africa Cynthia Burns, Head of School, Maui, HI, USA Dr. Paul Epstein, Head of School, Montessori School of Anderson, Anderson, SC, USA Jonathan Wolff, Learning for Life, San Diego, CA, USA Dr. Michael Dorer, Center for Contemporary Montessori, St Catherine’s College, Minneapolis, MN, USA

How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way — Sunday, March 22, 2009 Location: The Dolce Hayes Mansion

San Jose, CA, USA

For more information, visit our website: or call Margot at 800-632-4121

Montessori Leadership

Montessori Leadership is the official magazine of the International Montessori Council, a nonprofit organization. The opinions expressed in Montessori Leadership editorials, columns, and features are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of the magazine or the IMC. Acceptance of advertising does not represent endorsement of any product or service. The International Montessori Council does NOT grant permission to reprint material from Montessori Leadership in any other form (e.g., book, newsletter, journal). Copies of this issue or back issues are available for purchase online at Copyright 2009 by The International Montessori Council. All rights reserved.

January 2009


Adding Value with Newsletters by by M. Goncalves


Managing School Finances in Hard Times by John Moncure, Ph.D.


The Early Learning Foundation (ELF) Montessori Teacher Training Project by Hawa Tayob


Partnering with Families of Children Who Have Exceptionalities by Ann Epstein, Ph.D. & Paul Epstein, Ph.D.


An Interview with Sanford & Judy Jones by Lorna McGrath


New Materials/Ancient Roots by Chris Sabin & Sharon Caldwell


What Are Your Ratios? by Christopher M. Glenn, Ph.D.

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24 25 26

The IMC Accreditation Program

Chair: Tim Seldin, M.Ed.

Editorial Review Committee Sharon Caldwell, Editor, East London, South Africa Paul Epstein, Ph.D., Montessori School of Anderson, Anderson, SC, USA Pete Juds, Tokyo, Japan John Moncure, Ph.D., Chair, Camden Montessori School, Camden, SC, USA Liz Webster, Dunedin, New Zealand Conferences & Workshops, IMC – Margot Garfield-Anderson: Phone: 941-309-3961/Toll Free: 800-632-4121/Fax: 941-359-8166 email: Tomorrow’s Child Online: The Montessori Family Connection – Lorna McGrath: Phone: 941-729-9565/1-800-655-5843 Fax: 941-745-3111; email: Past Issues, Books & CD Orders - Robin Howe: For immediate service, use our secure online bookstore at • For questions regarding an order, email: or phone 941-735-0219/fax 941-941-359-8166

Classified & Display Advertising - Chelsea Howe: Phone: 410-504-3872/Fax: 941-745-3111

IMC Membership Application Re-Teaching a Thing Its Loveliness by Marta Donahoe


An Easy HR Solution: Outsource to a PEO by Michael Chaco


The Eaton Community Montessori Project by Meaghan Hicks


Soccer: Making Safety Your Goal by Michael Swain

Subscriptions & Bookkeeping - Kate Bell: Phone: 941-729-9565/1-800-655-5843 Fax: 941-745-3111; email:

Strengthening Your School in Challenging Times by Marc Seldin & Tim Seldin

Montessori Leadership / January 2009



School News Adding Value with Newsletters One way of retaining families in your school is to provide added value. Parents like to know what their children are doing at school, and well prepared Newsletters provide a contact between school and home. M. Goncalves explains how Mammolina Children’s Home in Beijing goes about this.

KEEPING PARENTS INFORMED is always important and always challenging. School administrators dread the day each month when they must stare at the computer screen, think of something to say—that they haven’t already said—and then make sure it comes out right in print. Sometimes they require input from directresses in the classroom, but that only distributes rather than lightens the load, and it creates another group which now faces the same anxiety in microcosm. No matter how it is generated, the school newsletter is necessary. The newsletter: W W W W

notifies parents of upcoming events, explains Montessori practice, gives news of faculty and student accomplishments, and gives parenting tips.

At Mammolina Children’s Home we have devised a system for accomplishing all these goals in a systemic way. As a result, a portion of the load is borne by the system itself, rather than exclusively by the operators. The “system” consists of four documents: the annual calendar, the weekly classroom plan, the weekly Information Sheet and the monthly Newsletter. The first two documents are part of the curriculum planning at our school— the individual class directress does nothing additional for either of them. The annual calendar, prepared before the school year begins, marks major holidays, field trips, parent education events, school community events, end of term parent-teacher meetings, and so on. The weekly calendar, prepared a couple of weeks to one month in advance, relies on the annual calendar for its broad focus and applies it to a day-by-day basis; for instance, during the Diwali season the class may focus on India, with a special guest in a sari, lessons involving the Asia map, animals of Asia, a lunch menu from India, and so on. We send the weekly Information Sheet to parents each Friday, with important reminders and a short description of what their children will learn the following week in terms of the broad cultural focus of the curriculum. During the week, instead of Mommy asking her son, “Johnny, what did you do at school today?” and Johnny, giving the standard reply, “Nothing, Mommy,” Mommy can ask a very pointed question like, “Johnny, what kind of animals did you learn about that live in India?” Such a question creates a level of engagement beyond pleasantries and helps build bonds between parent and child based on the child’s experience at school. It also often includes suggestions for activities parents and children can do together. We chose Friday to issue the Information Sheet because it allows parents to prepare during the weekend—go to the grocery store, for example—for any suggested activities they would like to try. For example, the Information Sheet preceding a focus on India may include a recipe for Nan bread that the parent and child can make together. Such activities are good for the children because they allow practical reinforcement of something they learned in school. Parents feel like they are participating in their child’s education—and with good reason— they are! After one or two months, parents begin to see the pattern and hopefully look forward for the next continued on page 8

By M. Goncalves 4

Montessori Leadership / January 2009

iMC seaL oF reCoGnition ManaGinG sChooL FinanCes

Managing School Finances in Hard Times What does the global economic crisis mean for private Montessori schools? WALL STREET GIANTS TUMBLE, pin-stripe banks close, the Dow Jones Industrials are in a crash dive, and new unemployment claims are spiking: economic gloom and doom. What does it mean for a private Montessori school which is usually small, tuition fueled, and living from hand to mouth? How does it weather the economic storm? Many counter measures come to mind, and most of them are recipes for good management in both good times and bad. Readers interested in these measures should consider a course addressing leadership and management techniques specific to Montessori, such as The Montessori Foundation’s Building a World Class Montessori School. This essay will not address good management techniques in general; instead, it focuses on steps to be taken specific to the economic situation in which we find ourselves. While it is not possible to propose a solution that would serve the thousands of schools affected by the economic climate, there are some tentative generalizations

which may help those charged with the financial well-being of a school. First, and probably most important, is the reaction of the school leadership—heads of school, owners, trustees. That reaction must be one of icy calm, even overt confidence. Neither panic nor predictions of doom and gloom can have any positive effect on the outcome, but they can create uncertainty in the minds of parents. This confidence cannot be faked: parents who are themselves uncertain can smell fear. If they have the financial resources to weather the storm, they will move their assets to stable banks, and they will enroll their children in schools they believe will also survive—possibly even thrive—during the calamity. Fool’s confidence isn’t useful, either; only that based on a clinical assessment of the threats and the development of plans to meet them will inspire genuine confidence. Fear comes not from the known, however daunting, but from the unknown. Logic brings clarity, provides answers, and conquers fear. So how can we, as school leaders, evaluate the situation to determine what steps need to Montessori Leadership / January 2009

Neither panic nor predictions of doom and gloom can have any positive effect on the outcome, but they can create uncertainty in the minds of parents.”

By John Moncure, Ph.D.



be taken and to exude the confidence to inspire the rest of the school community? We need to assess how the crisis will affect the source of our income: our parent population. While generalizations are difficult to make, several factors that affect the financial impact on a school apply across the geographical and economic spectra. First, because many Montessori schools have annual tuition, their families have probably determined how they will pay for school through May. Even if they have a monthly payment plan, they have probably thought through the financial burden for the year. Some may have a drop in income, but unless it is catastrophic, these families are likely to keep their children where they are for the school year. The emotional cost of switching schools in mid-year is likely to outweigh the short-term financial sacrifice. Thus, we are likely to see a very low rate of drop-out before new enrollment packets go out. The first aspect of the problem identified is timing: not now, but in April. For additional analysis, school leaders need to see parents, not as a single cohort, but in economic sub-categories, which may more accurately predict their reactions. An economic crisis is not like the Black Death that affected rich and poor alike (well, almost alike). Unless the economic engines seize completely (a scenario that has no historical precedent), not all families are likely to be affected equally by our current woes. Most families cannot easily afford private education in the best of times, and while lamentably they are likely to suffer job loss or decreased income (even disproportionately), they are not part of the applicant pool of a private school to begin with. Other families are wealthy enough and have such diversified portfolios, or savings instruments that do not follow the Dow Jones average, that their income available for private education is not touched. These groups will perform—enrolling or not enrolling children—as before. This assessment allows us to focus on where the problem lies. The remaining families—the middle category of parents who pay for


tuition out of monthly income and may already be making sacrifices to provide for the private education— can be divided into sub-categories for further refinement of our scrutiny. Parents relying on financial assistance from their parents (the grandparents) are probably in trouble. Grandparents who can help usually operate on an income that is relatively fixed. They are able to help out as long as their stock portfolios (often from retirement plans) produce income in excess to their needs. These families are in trouble because the source of their tuition is directly affected by the stock market. Other parents’ income may or may not be affected by reactions to the economy. Those with businesses affected in small ways by the economic situation will continue to enroll their children and tighten their belts in other areas; those in businesses such as (in many areas) real estate, construction, automotive sales, and so on—or businesses derived from them—will see their incomes decrease sharply. School leaders need to assess, based on such analytical tools as these, what precisely is the size of the problem. This analysis is not difficult: in a small school, leaders generally know parents very well and can assess financial risk to them with some degree of confidence. For instance, if 25 percent of a school population comes from families in “high risk” categories, measures can be tailored to that group specifically. It also means (given the presumption of 25 percent) that 75 percent of the group is secure. Thus, a systematic analysis of the impact on the local, eligible population, not only allows school leaders to focus specifically on where the danger lies; it also erases fear of the unknown. With the problem defined, school leaders can react with some assurance that their numerical solutions will work. If they accurately determine the attrition of enrolled students they can design staffing (the single largest budget category) and discretionary expenses accordingly. Naturally we won’t easily write off either those who can no longer afford the school or new parents whose assets suddenly took a hit, but if all else fails, the school can survive until the economy recovers. Montessori Leadership / January 2009

Creative methods will help retain old and attract new families. A scholarship program can redistribute funds from those with means to those whose means have evaporated. Consider this scenario: W W W

continuing student with demonstrated financial need for whom bridge funding for one school year (until a personal financial recovery plan takes effect) can keep them at school.

These factors identify returning children—those precious, irreplaceable experienced Montessori children, whose parents already appreciate the Montessori Method—who for one reason or another cannot afford to continue because of the economic downturn. The parents submit not only evidence they have a financial problem, but also a plan to extract themselves from it. A scholarship keeps the child in school for the year and, if the plan for recovery works, will probably keep the child in the school until the child must move on. Other criteria might work as well. The specific criteria used at any school should be adapted precisely to influence the behavior of parents in that community. Where to find the funds for such scholarships? Raising funds is an art unto itself, but with a clearly stated goal of providing scholarships it is much easier than for other causes. This is particularly so when those who would donate funds (parents with disposable income) understand that without adequate resources the school will not exist for their own children. Essentially such parents, grandparents, or other community members with a vested interest in the survival of the school, have a choice of paying a portion of someone else’s tuition to keep the school open or paying a great deal more tuition themselves. Scholarship funds generated with this logic can come from two sources: fundraising and tuition. The former is a viable option only for schools that are not-for-profit institutions—501(c)(3) in the United States—essentially for schools to which donations are a tax deduction for the donor. Fundraising campaigns, of both the annual

hoW parents Learn Best

and capital variety, are nothing new. However, a new perspective can be invoked here: national crises— either wars or economic hard times—can create a sense of community that did not exist before. On the 4th of July 1776, grand sage of the Revolution and consummate punster Ben Franklin remarked, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” During the global economic and political upheavals from 1929 to 1945, citizens in many countries pulled together, cultivating Victory Gardens, donating scrap metal and other shortage materials, joining volunteer work groups, and in many other ways putting “sweat equity” or personal wealth at the disposal of the nation. Schools rely on parent’s enthusiasm for their children’s school in campaigns to expand, buy new materials or school buses. With the right rhetoric and compelling argument, funds can be generated for significant scholarships as well. Scholarship funds can also be budgeted. This solution distributes the load for supporting those who cannot afford the full tuition evenly

among those who can afford it. It avoids the whirlwind created by a fund campaign, and captures some additional funds from those who might not contribute to a campaign, but it also fails to tap possible resources outside the parent group. School leaders may elect to use both methods if the environment is such that both will be well received. This essay addresses only two of many possible extraordinary solutions to the situation we face. Both involve courage: facing the situation calmly no matter how the leader’s heart may flutter, and creating enthusiasm for sacrifice are not easy. They are, however, the business of leaders. John Moncure is Head of The Montessori School of Camden, S.C. (USA). After graduation from West Point, he served in cavalry regiments in Germany and Texas, and held teaching positions at West Point, Davidson College, the Univ. of North CarolinaCharlotte, and the French Cavalry School in Saumur, France. John has served as Dean of the Apollo Institute of Health Sciences in Hyderabad, India and was Principal of Eton Academy, a bilingual Montessori school in Beijing, China. A past-president of the Board of Directors of Montessori Educational Programs International, he is now a member the Board of Directors of the IMC. He holds a Ph.D. in European history from Cornell University.

Montessori Leadership / January 2009

2 00 9 Montessori Lead ers hip I ns titute OnLine! February 7 – May 3, 2009

Organizing a New Montessori School Special discount for IMC members and multiple attendees from the same school. For complete information, visit the Center for Montessori Leadership wing on our website: or call 941-729-9565.


Newsletters continued from page 4

week’s events. In sum, the Information Sheet is a two-sided mechanism for synchronization of home and school, presented in a way to make everyone feel positively about it. The Newsletter is mostly retrospective, issued on the last day of the month and addressing events of the month just ended. The information for this four-sided newsletter comes from a variety of sources. The basic information comes from the projected activities of the previous four issues of Information Sheets! The Directress and administrator have already made a detailed account of what they planned, which acts as a kind of diary of what actually happened when we sit down in front of the void of the computer screen. Certainly, differences between the two exist: planning and execution almost never coincide perfectly. But the four most recent issues of Information Sheets give the writer a guide which, at a minimum gets fingers moving on the keyboard. Creation of the Newsletter begins with recounting the outcome of the plans laid during those weeks and is modified by the memory of what actually transpired. Seen in this way, the communications process is much less burdensome than a system in which each word requires an original thought and serves a unique purpose. The cycle of generating information begins with documents that we prepare in order not only to meet government regulations, but also to give our curriculum synergies that would not exist without that level of planning. The weekly preview originates with the weekly classroom plan, with the directress adding sometimes a mini-parent education piece, sometimes connecting concepts to activities, and making suggestions for home activities. Adding in last-minute reminders fills out the pages very easily; if everyone does his or her part, it takes only a few hours to prepare. And the monthly Newsletter follows easily from the weekly Information Sheet. While the same amount of result—perhaps even more—comes from the MCH newsletter system, the effort required seems less to us. M. Goncalves is founder and administrator of Mammolina Children’s Home Montessori Kindergarten. Artist by formation, Montessorian by choice, he has been involved in cultural and educational activities, including early childhood education, since 1982. He is married to China-born Sasah Gigliesi, who is the school’s principal and 3-6 Casa directress. They are parents of three boys and a girl.


Many communities in South Africa are still facing the inequalities of the Apartheid era. Despite huge inroads made by the National Education Department, the backlog appears, at times, to be insurmountable. Montessori training organizations are leading the way among the many NonGovernmental Organizations (NGO’s) which are taking the lead in training women from previously marginalized communities to become educators.

The Early Learning Foundation (ELF) Montessori Teacher Training Project By Hawa Tayob THE ABSA/SOWETAN AWARD is a prestigious accolade awarded to Early Childhood programs serving disadvantaged communities in South Africa. The competition was launched in October 2007 and is sponsored by South Africa’s biggest bank (ABSA) and one of the country’s most influential newspapers (The Sowetan). Two of the ten finalists in the category of Training Organizations are Montessori based. The Early Learning Foundation (ELF) took second place at the National finals in August 2008. The Early Learning Foundation Montessori Training Project (ELF MTTP) is a small, not for profit women’s organization. As a training provider (accredited by the ETDP-Seta, the South African accrediting authority) the project focuses on training women from previously disadvantaged communities in Montessori Early Childhood Education. Our vision is to bring quality ECD Programs to children previously denied access to them. The Project is located in Shireen’s Montessori Preschool Centre in Salt River, Cape Town, South Africa. Salt River can be described as a historically disadvantaged community. The preschool centre was established in the early 1970s by a non-profit organization that recognized the need for daycare and preschool education in this working class community. Unemployment and poverty are not uncommon to this neighborhood, nor are the related problems of drugs and crime. In 1994 I was invited by the Board of Directors of ELF to evaluate the centre and its program. This led to the formation of ELF

Montessori Leadership / January 2009

the earLy LearninG Foundation

MTTP. The Board was concerned that the quality of pre-school education offered at the centre was inadequate and the number of children at the centre was decreasing. The school was also facing financial difficulties and was struggling to meet its expenses and maintain such a large staff. At that time the centre had eight teachers and sixty children. My recommendations included an adapted implementation of the Montessori program, which would respect the culture of the community. The Board supported this proposal and since the beginning of 1995 the ELF introduced the Montessori method of pre-school education at Shireen’s Play Centre in Salt River. ELF MTT began by training the unqualified staff working in the preschool in Salt River in the Montessori method. The pilot program showed that: W the Montessori program was financially viable W qualified staff contributed more positively to the schools pro-

gram and improved the level of professionalism the ambiance and décor increased parents’ enthusiasm about the program the attendance at parent workshops increased the Grade 1 teachers in the schools to which these children transferred commented on the level of independence of the Montessori children compared to the rest of the class the teachers found that these children were able to work well on their own these teachers also commented positively on the literacy levels of the Montessori children in particular the number of children who entered Grade 1 already able to read.

Many of these workshops are open to the broader community and parents.

Since the successful pilot year of the program in 1995, the project now offers a two year part-time Montessori Early

ELF offers many women the opportunity to upgrade their skills. It empowers women as teachers and helps them to



Childhood Program to women. This progam is accredited in South Africa at Level 4 and 5. We also offer workshops on a wide range of topics including: W W W W W W W W W W

hands-on mathematics in the Foundation Phase (Grades K to 3 in public schools) HIV/AIDS with particular impact on the young (0-9 yr.-old child) school management nutrition special needs art music science for young children first aid inclusive education.

Profiles of Individuals the Program Supports (names have been changed)

Katie Katie is a victim of urban violence in the Western Cape. Whilst burying her husband’s brother five family members, including her husband, were gunned down in the front garden of their home. Her children were witness to this horrific act. The children still have nightmares, sleep with her and are anxious when she is away from them. Katie had never worked outside the home. She had no professional training or experience. Left without a breadwinner and with two children to raise, she had to find work. She was persuaded by a friend to enroll for the course. In the beginning she was very shy and insecure. She rarely spoke to other members in the class and never volunteered for any activities. Eight weeks down the line, she emerged as a creative, confident person. She worked well with her group members, providing support and doing her share of the assignments. She also spent many additional hours practic-

ing at the school with the Montessori didactic materials. This paid off in more ways than one. She was offered the position of Directress in the 2-3 year-old class at the school. In addition, Katie feels the course has helped her deal with her own children more positively. She says the children are much happier now that they can see she is happy. She also felt in the beginning that children (3-6 year olds) were not capable of working on their own with so little supervision, or even work with higher number ranges. After having observed at the school where there are 60 children in the class with a directress and assistant she was most impressed.

Jasmin When Jasmin joined the training program, she had done community work with children in the Cape Flats. She had also worked as a part-time trainer for an organization called the Early Learning Resource Unit.

Montessori Leadership / January 2009

She found the course very useful in her own work with and introduced many of the concepts to her own adult students. She had them try the Silence Game with their classes and said they were amazed at how it works. At the end of the course, Jasmin emigrated to New Zealand and was able to find employment at a Montessori Center there. 9

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see themselves as professionals. This intensive course goes beyond Montessori concepts, teaching diverse life skills including how to write notes, make mind maps, do research and write a bibliography. It enables participants to develop abilities to work on group tasks and make presentations to the group. Rather than merely learning how to present materials they come to understand the rationale behind the lessons. A result of the training is that the women themselves have expressed feelings of being energized and empowered:

“I feel empowered, I feel like a professional.” (Trainee from Gugulethu) “Being on the course has helped tremendously. It has given me back my self- confidence, motivation, self respect and boosted my self worth. Thanks for your confidence in me.” (Teacher in training from Mitchel’s Plain) “When Montessori came in my whole life changed and the program in my centre also changed. Montessori changed everything. The children are more relaxed and the noise level is low. The children can work on their own and if they need help they help one another. They can sort out their own problem.” (Trainee from Silvertown, Athlone) “The course has changed my whole lifestyle. I have gained a lot of courage. I can speak more freely now. I can teach my own children at home also, especially my Down syndrome child.” (Mother from Salt River) Hawa Tayob is a South African who completed her Montessori training in the United States in 1987 where she worked until her return to South Africa in 1989. Her educational background includes a B.Ed (Hons) in Educational Psychology and Psychometry from the University of Cape Town and a Masters diploma in Early Childhood Education. She is currently completing her Masters in Educational Psychology. In 1989 Hawa found she was one of only a handful of black qualified Montessori preschool teachers and discovered that Montessori schools in South Africa at that time were only in “white” neighborhoods serving white, upper class communities. She became determined to bring Montessori and its benefits to disadvantaged communities. As the director of ELF she is involved in everything from material development and planning to lecturing and mentoring the students. She is deeply grateful for the opportunity to be able to combine her personal passion and interest with her commitment to the upliftment of the community.


Partnering With Families Of Children Who Have Exceptionalities Ann Epstein, Ph.D. & Paul Epstein, Ph.D.

Montessori Leadership / January 2009

Each family of a child who has an exceptionality is unique. Each family has its own hopes and dreams, as well as challenges and frustrations. Families differ markedly in how they cope, set priorities, and use resources. How can administrators and teachers meet these varied needs (as well as strengths)? A key is to develop effective partnerships. When interviewed, families report that effective partnerships require understanding parents’ experiences of raising children with exceptionalities, communicating effectively and providing accurate information (Raver, 2009). Montessori schools should also have in place clear procedures for admitting, accommodating and assessing children with exceptionalities. The overall goal is to support families and provide high quality experiences for young children who learn in their own unique ways.

ChiLdren With eXCeptionaLities

Components of Successful Family Partnerships Three overlapping components contribute to successful experiences for families enrolling their children with exceptionalities in Montessori early childhood programs (see Table 1). These components include an understanding that families in the United States are entitled to federally mandated services, and they deserve the very best special education practices we can provide within the Montessori framework. Montessori programs in other parts of the world would refer to their own legislated procedures. In addition, they may wish to refer to US policies. Federal mandates, recommended practices from special education, and Montessori principles can enhance families’ learning experiences. 1. Parents’ Rights The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEIA) reauthorized legislation passed in 1990 (Public Law 101-476, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA). This ground-breaking legislation mandated procedures for providing services for children birth through age 21 who have exceptionalities (Turnbull, Turnbull & Wehmeyer, 2007). Children in both public and independent settings are entitled to services. Local Education Agencies (LEAs), typically school district offices of special education, work directly with independent schools to provide evaluations and to design, implement, and evaluate Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) for children ages 3 through 21. In addition, every state must have a system of Early Intervention services for children with exceptionalities from birth through age three. State and local control, within federal mandates, of service provision for children with exceptionalities is largely a positive aspect of IDEIA 2004. However, this local control means that independent schools must contact their local school district to learn which services are provided and how families can access these opportunities. Often families take the initiative by contacting LEAs themselves and then sharing proce-

dures and information with Montessori programs. Ideally, schools should have the following information readily available for families.

drome. This subtle change in word order clearly places emphasis on the child first and on his or her exceptionality next.

Contact information for Early Intervention (birth to age three) services W how to access play-based “arena” assessments W development of Individualized Family Service Plans (IFSPs) W service coordination procedures W local therapy providers (speech and language pathologists, occupational and physical therapists, family counselors, social workers)

In addition to child first language, IDEA mandates a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for all children with exceptionalities. Parents who select Montessori programs outside of their local public school system are entitled to services (as described above). Again, LEAs determine funding and what kind of services will be provided. Examples include consultative services for behavior management of children on the autism spectrum; speech, occupational and physical therapy; and in some districts, transportation to these services. All services need to be implemented in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). Montessori programs are a better match for the special needs of children in districts where individualized approaches are not provided. IDEA also mandates appropriate evaluations and (at a minimum) annual reviews of IEPs and semi-annual reviews of IFSPs, whether children are placed in public schools or independent Montessori schools. Finally, parents must be included in all evaluations and in the development of all educational plans. Legislation encourages parents to bring an advocate to all meetings, to strengthen their voice in determining the best plans possible for their child.

Contact information for Special Education (age three through twentyone) services W free, non-discriminatory transdisciplinary evaluations (available through local Child Find assessments) W development of Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) W implementation of services (see above providers) W at a minimum, annual reviews of progress The 2004 legislation maintains several key philosophical principles, which were first implemented through the 1990 law. “Person first language” requires recognition of the child first, and then the disabling condition. Teachers and administrators show parents they value and accept children by not stating the disabling condition before they mention the child. Consider the following typical comments: W W W W

I don’t think our program can handle an autistic child. We seem to have more ADHD children every year. Asthmatic children have a particularly hard time in our climate. I really enjoyed working with a Downs child at my church.

By comparison, child-first-statements focus on children who happen to have special needs: a child with autism, children who are hyper-active, children who have asthma, a child with Downs syn-

Montessori Leadership / January 2009

As more Montessori schools include infant and toddler programs, administrators and teachers need to understand IDEA services for children from birth to age 3. Individualized Family Service Plans (IFSPs) are particularly well aligned with Montessori principles. Once an infant or toddler has been evaluated, parents work with early interventionists to design a plan that addresses family concerns, priorities and resources. Plans are written in familyfriendly language. For example, an IFSP might include the following statement of parents’ concerns: Mr. and Mrs.Wright are very concerned about Cathy’s delays in walking, using her fingers to pick up things, and in talking with other children. (Cook, Klein, & Tessier, 2008, p.115)


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A goal from the same plan is worded as follows: Cathy will increase her attempts to communicate vocally in order to make her needs known and to interact positively with others. (Cook, Klein, & Tessier, 2008, p.117) Clear jargon-free plans help teachers and parents focus on high-priority family outcomes. Specific strategies are then listed: W


Cathy will be assessed by a speech pathologist by (date) and followed on an as-needed basis. (Plan also documents that the service coordinator will assist Mrs. Wright in setting up this evaluation.) Mrs. Wright will take Cathy to play with neighborhood children and invite children to her home. She will encourage play and vocalization. (Cook, Klein, & Tessier, 2008, p.117)

It is important to emphasize that professionally trained early interventionists work with Montessori educators and parents to design, implement and evaluate IFSPs. Special educators provide leadership in the development of IEPs (for children ages 3 through 21). Thus, Montessorians are not expected to take the lead in writing and implementing plans. Instead, they collaborate with specialists and families. 2. Recommended Practices in Special Education Appreciating and Understanding Parents’ Experiences How can Montessori administrators and teachers partner with parents if they do not have special education background themselves? What kind of support is most helpful to parents? Understanding how parents may react is a good beginning as teachers and administrators develop partnerships with families. Parents may react to having a child with an exceptionality in a variety of ways. These reactions can be placed on a continuum of stages (similar to the grief process described by Kubler-Ross,




What Teachers and Administrators Can Do to Support Families

Shock, disbelief, denial

- Listen with acceptance - Focus on child’s strengths and needs while working together Be patient - Provide referral information (i.e., parent support groups, accurate internet information sites, local professional agencies)

Anger and resentment

- Encourage small steps of progress - Help parent get involved with therapies - Model positive interactions with child - Be compassionate and understanding

Bargaining (parent feels that “if we just do this and this and this, disability will be cured)

- Accept family’s feelings - Communicate with honesty (i.e. “I can see how hopeful you are that…”; “It must be very overwhelming that…”)

Depression and discouragement

- Help parent focus on child’s strengths - Be especially careful to engage child in activities that bring success - Point out successful aspects of parenting skills to build parents’ confidence - When necessary, provide referrals for parent counseling


- Link parents to other families with similar challenges - Provide comfort - Model patience - Maintain open communications Source: Adapted from Cook, Klein, and Tessier (2008)

1969). Parents do not go through these stages in a particular order, and they often return to a particular stage multiples times. Table 1 summarizes reactions and suggests supports that may be helpful for families of children with exceptionalities. Particularly important strategies are in bold. Again, parents do not experience the above stages in order. Nor do they experience these feelings and attitudes only one time. Parents may share, “I thought I was finished being angry, and now I am angry all over again.” While the stage approach is helpful in understanding parental reactions, it is of utmost importance to NOT use these terms as labels. Teachers and administrators may have good intentions when commenting that a parent is, “in denial.” However, this comment does not recognize individual feelings and circumstances, and can be dismissive and even disrespectful. Just as we consider each child’s individual strengths and needs,

Montessori Leadership / January 2009

so too we must work toward understanding each family’s unique, personal experience of parenting a child with an exceptionality. Truthful Communications Open communication is at the heart of building a trusting partnership. We need to invite and encourage parents to share information about their child’s exceptionality. As we build a trusting relationship, parents will share both frustrations and triumphs. Conversations should focus on effective strategies to reach agreed upon goals. If discussions veer off track, teachers and administrators can guide parents back to common ground: the child’s best interests. Parents look to us for updates on their child’s progress, and we look to families for information related to the child’s exceptionalities. This exchange can empower parents as they learn more about their child’s abilities, personality and learning style. In a similar way, teachers learn more about how to better facilitate the child’s development across all learning domains.

reVieW: GroWinG up in trust

Understanding parents’ experienceS of having a child with an exceptionality and maintaining honest, informative, regular communications are the foundation for trusting relationships. An array of communication mechanisms are available, depending on teacher style and parent preference. W

daily journals (via email or a notebook in child’s backpack): teachers note key events of the child’s day, parents note key evening and weekend events W periodic phone calls W meetings when necessary, typically every two to three weeks W class web pages highlighting current projects and events (informs parents of class projects and upcoming events so child can be prepared) W regular updates from child’s therapists Finally, clearly written learning plans are essential. Early interventionists (birth to age 3) and special educators (ages 3 through 21) lead the development and periodic review of learning plans. Teachers and parents are key members of the planning team. An example of a learning plan outline used at an independent Montessori school in Michigan is found at the end of this article. 3. Montessori Principles Perhaps the most challenging Montessori principle for parents of children with exceptionalities is nurturing independence. Parents are understandably protective of children who learn and/or appear differently than other children in the classroom. Like all parents, they want their child to be accepted and happy. They may require more reassurance than parents of children who are developing typically that their child is making progress. If setbacks occur (in academic or social/emotional areas of growth), goals and strategies for reaching these goals need to be reviewed. Parents and teachers need to review both the type and amount of support that will work best for the child’s particular needs. An example follows. Mr. and Mrs. Smith are very concerned that their son Jacob, age four, has very few

friends. Jacob’s teacher, Mary Ann, says he prefers to work alone. Mary Ann and Julia, Jacob’s speech therapist, model “conversation starters” for Jacob, who has been diagnosed with an expressive speech delay and possible sensory integration disorder. Occasionally, Jacob follows their models by asking another child to work with him. He approaches his classmates with a slightly awkward gait and a worried expression. His classmates are respectful and typically agree to work with him, for example, with dish washing or the brown prisms. But these shared activities appear to be stressful for Jacob and have not led to friendships. Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Mary Ann and Julia meet to review Jacob’s progress with developing social skills. They note that although Jacob is interested in making friends, the conversation starters are not helping him. Julia asks about Jacob’s favorite activities, including the playground. Mary Ann remembers that he recently attempted to climb up the ladder and walk over a bridge on the climbing structure. She noted several other children enjoy this as well. Mr. and Mrs. Smith share that they sometimes take Jacob to a neighborhood park with a climbing structure. Mary Ann gently offered to facilitate conversations among Jacob and other children on the climbing structure. Julia suggested that Mr. and Mrs. Smith talk with Jacob about inviting one of the children to go with him to the neighborhood playground. Mary Ann and the Smiths agree to keep notes on Jacob’s play behaviors and his expressive speech while on the playground. They agree to meet in two weeks to discuss progress with the “climbing structure strategy.” Jacob’s parents, teacher and speech therapist all value the importance of nurturing independence. They do not promote invasive, drill-type therapy but instead collaborate on strategies that address Jacob’s needs by focusing on his interests within the context of his Montessori classroom. In this way, they respect his unique learning style and his somewhat shy personality. As Montessori early childhood professionals, our focus is on providing the best developmental experiences possi-

Montessori Leadership / January 2009

ble for young children and their families. Understanding how federal mandates, recommended practices within special education, and Montessori principles overlap helps us accomplish this goal. But we may not be aware of the impact our partnership has on the quality of life of families who have children with exceptionalities. When we listen to parents’ concerns and work collaboratively, we lessen their stress, which improves their quality of life (Turnbull, Brown & Turnbull, 2004). Knowing that we have their child’s best interest at heart both relaxes and energizes parents. Despite the daily challenges of raising a child with an exceptionality, they can enjoy being parents. And this enjoyment comes full circle when we experience the joy and satisfaction of knowing we are contributing much to both parents and their children through collaborative partnerships. REFERENCES Cook, R. E., Klein, M. D., and Tessier, A. (2008). Adapting Early Childhood Curricula for Children with Special Needs. Upper River Saddle, NJ: Merrill/Prentice Hall. Kubler-Ross, E. (1969). On Death and Dying. New York: Macmillan. Raver, S. (2009). Early Childhood Special Education – 0 to 8 Years. Upper River Saddle, NJ: Merrill/Prentice Hall. Turnbull, A.P., Brown, I. & Turnbull, H.R. (2004). Family Quality of Life: An International Perspective. Washington, DC: American Association on Mental Retardation. Turnbull, A.P., Turnbull, H.R. & Wehmeyer (2007). Exceptional Lives: Special Education in Today’s Schools. Upper River Saddle, NJ: Merrill/Prentice Hall. Dr. Ann Epstein is an assistant professor in the department of Early Childhood Education at Lander University in Greenwood, SC. Before coming to Roosevelt, Ann served as Director of Operations and Research for the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and directed Kentucky’s Preschool Evaluation Program. Dr. Paul Epstein has worked in Montessori education for over thirty years as an administrator, teacher, consultant, researcher, speaker, and author. Paul is currently the head of school at the Montessori School of Anderson, South Carolina. As a classroom teacher, Paul has taught in Montessori early childhood, middle and high school programs. He holds both early childhood and secondary Montessori teacher certifications from the American Montessori Society.


in the CLassrooM

Learning Plan Student’s Name____________________________________________

School Year___________________



Teacher(s)_____________________________________________________________________________________ LP Initiation Date___________________________________________

Developed by_________________

Meeting Record Date



Support Services

Person/agency & Type of service

Start Date


How Often

Findings from Professional Assessments_________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________________ Professional Recommendations_______________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________________

An Interview With Sanford and Judy Jones by Lorna McGrath Program Director, The Montessori Foundation RECENTLY, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to spend some time with Sanford and Judy Jones during their stay in Sarasota, Florida. The Joneses were in Sarasota for the eighth time, working with the New Gate School Elementary students and faculty on the performance of the children’s opera, Harlequin, written by Sanford and choreographed by Judy. Sanford and Judy are masters at working with young children and miraculously preparing them in five days to present outstanding musical performances! As we began to talk my first question was: Tell me about your background? Judy: I started dancing in grade school in Kansas and Dallas. When I was ready to go to college I chose the University of Utah because of its excellent ballet program. After college I was off to Broadway in New York. After performing there for ten years, I opened three dance studios and directed them for twenty years. When I met Sanford and saw one of his operas, I thought they needed some movement. So I sold the dance studios and began to choreograph the operas. Along the way, I went to Armstrong State University in Savannah, Georgia and got a degree in theatre. I also took a Montessori training course that Sanford taught because I wanted


Montessori Leadership / January 2009

interVieW With sanFord & Judy Jones

to use the same philosophy and approach with children while working with them on the operas as their teachers used in the Montessori classrooms. We started performing twenty-two operas a year all over the United States. In recent years we cut down to thirteen operas a year and probably this next year we’ll do only six with the opening of the Charter School in Savannah. Sanford: I have loved music since I was a child. I was the kind of child that you never needed to ask to practice the piano. I just loved it! I went on to accompany the high school chorus. I went to Westminster Choir College and became very interested in teaching through my mentor Francis Clark. I actually studied as much pedagogy as I did piano. When I finished college I needed a job and so took a position teaching sixth grade in a Virginia public school. That was where my interest in teaching was really born. I noticed right away that the children were not prepared for what the syllabus required and I knew that we had to go back. We decided to open a kindergarten on our own. Back then there was no mandatory kindergarten and you didn’t need a license for preschools. A friend, Elizabeth Hall, asked if she could use the extra room at the church where we were to open a Montessori classroom. When I saw what she was doing I realized, “Wow, there is a map! Why am I staying up nights creating a map?” This is how I became interested in Montessori education. I went for Early Childhood training at an AMI center in Washington, DC knowing that my main interest was with elementary. Everyone said get your early childhood first. That’s where the basic philosophy is. Later, I went to Bergamo, Italy for elementary training. I returned to Washington, DC in the late 1960s and taught at a charter school where there were children from all kinds of backgrounds—different races, cultures, economic levels, and it was there that I really learned to teach!

I was asked to take on the Executive Directorship of AMI in New York City, which I did. I soon realized that I was not really well suited for administration. I missed teaching, children, parents and teachers. So I left that position and took over a little Montessori school in the west side of the city. The owner told me that the parents were extremely loyal to the school but it turned out that they really were loyal to her. So we opened the school with one student and within a year we had a class of twenty-seven children. I was in my element again! The operas started to be known. I did two operas on my own and then they took over our time. When our children were grown we decided to move south. We were offered jobs in Charleston, South Carolina where we stayed three years. A public magnet school opened in Savannah, Georgia and I was asked to do the teacher training and Judy to do the movement program with the children, which we did. Lorna: After all this what is your main focus now? Sanford: Now we are working with a group of people including six teachers, a wonderful principal from Florida and a Board of Directors to set up a new charter school in Savannah. We have all our materials ready, we’ve had good media coverage and lots of interest. We currently have 160 children enrolled for this fall. We think that we have a good chance of setting an example of how to create a more authentic Montessori program for people who are trying to put together Montessori charter schools. As we have been preparing to open we have certainly had challenges with paperwork and state regulations. We do have some flexibility because of being a charter school and have been able to work around some of the obstacles that we have encountered. Lorna: What made you decide to get involved in opening a charter school? Sanford: It was the brain child of a former Savannah Board of Education member, Dr. David Lerch, who had Montessori Leadership / January 2009

worked with other charter schools. David approached me to be on the Board. For several years people from the community had mentioned to me, “I wish there was more Montessori in Savannah.” So I accepted the role, thinking that this would be a way to expand Savannah’s Montessori choices. The former principal from the Savannah magnet school where Judy and I worked (we are the pedagogical element) plus a lawyer and others who can help us work with the Savannah School Board all are board members as well. Lorna: What things will you do to make it an authentic Montessori program? Sanford: For one, preserving the threehour work cycle. There are just so many specialists employed by Montessori schools. One school I visited had the geography, the Spanish and the music specialists—all were quite good teachers but you needed a traffic cop in the halls. In my training we were taught that the teacher needed to equip her or himself with all areas of the curriculum: a Renaissance person. That would allow all areas of the curriculum to be incorporated into the child’s day. Teachers were meant to plant the seeds of all subjects not to be an expert in everything. In other words, music is meant to be a part of the child’s day everyday rather than just music on Tuesdays at 11:30 am. We will be free of those interruptions and segmented subject areas because I make it very clear to the teachers in training that they are responsible for the art and music, and cultural areas not just the main curriculum areas. The more I read of Montessori’s early work and see pictures of Anna Maccheroni using the rhythm instruments and dancing I know that Montessori herself was an artist not just a scientist. Somehow, I think most of the people in training are left-brained and have picked up on the excellent academic part. I think balance is important. Lorna: What else besides the threehour work cycle? 15


Sanford: We are going to make a real effort to work nutrition and diet into our program. We will model our middle school program after The Edible School Yard started by Alice Walker. The middle school students will plant, grow, harvest, cook and serve school lunches which will be largely vegetarian, although not exclusively. We have a state of the art kitchen for this program. Also, the design and function of the buildings and outdoor environment are important to us. With the help of The Savannah School of Art and Design’s students and a professional architect we will incorporate ecological aspects of indirect lighting, availability of nature to every classroom (a little patio and garden), and no child will look out a window and see a car. The plan is to reconnect inner city kids with nature. There will be a pond, stream, grassland, and a deciduous forest. Lorna: Why do you believe Montessori education is relevant in the 21st century? Judy: It is more relevant than ever because movement is a basic element of Montessori education. Montessori believed that movement was a most important aspect of learning, even from the time in the mother’s womb. Children are not moving as much as they used to. If children can’t cross over the midline or can’t skip they often have difficulty learning to read. Just as Silvana Montanaro, M.D. cited in Understanding the Human Being, movement and language development are inter-related. We can tell in the first day of the opera which children probably are having learning issues because of their lack of ability to perform certain basic movements. Movement is related to brain development and in a Montessori environment there are many opportunities for children to move about. Lorna: To sum up your thoughts about the charter school: W





It will provide an opportunity for children of different socio-economic backgrounds to interact together. It will begin to re-connect inner city children with nature through gardening and exploring the natural environment. It will provide an uninterrupted work cycle by integrating the arts, cultural studies and academics. By incorporating the arts into the children’s day, every day, they will have ample opportunities for movement and brain development.

New Materials / Ancient Roots by Chris Sabin & Sharon Caldwell CHILDREN HAVE ENJOYED PLAYING WITH WOODEN BLOCK SETS FOR HUNDREDS OF YEARS . The Montessori sensorial materials respond to this natural attraction. Now a new set of materials, developed by Chris Sabin, uses this tendency to help children understand the numerical and geometric relationships known as the Fibonacci sequence and the Golden Ratio. I became interested in the Fibonacci sequence of numbers after reading a magazine article entitled “A Magic Ratio Occurs Throughout Art and Nature” (Smithsonian, December, 1975, 110-120). I began to explore how the sequence could be represented in a one-dimensional manner by drawing a horizontal line with divisions marked off in centimeters corresponding to early numbers in the series. Next I thought about a two-dimensional representation, drawing a duplicate line perpendicular to the first and extending the marks as grid lines. The numbers are now represented by corresponding areas of squares and rectangles. Looking at the grid square I wondered what would happen if the areas were transformed into volumes. Voila! Somewhat by accident, an important abstract concept could now be modeled in concrete three-dimensional terms. At the time I was not aware of Maria Montessori and her methods, nor of the concept of didactic materials. Eventually, after many failed attempts to interest the public school system in the set as a manipula-

Montessori Leadership / January 2009

the reaL BeneFits oF Montessori

tive for math programs, I discovered where the block set belonged. A Sabino Block Set consists of 55 wooden blocks, ranging in length from 1 cm to 34 cm and in volume from 1 cm3 to 2197 cm3. These dimensions are based on a mathematical sequence that was introduced by Leonardo da Pisa in the 12th century, known today as the Fibonacci series. The name is taken from the pen name he used while writing one of the most influential books of its time, the Liber abaci, which introduced the Hindu /Arabic system of numbers to the Western world. This infinite series of numbers starts with 0 and 1, and builds by adding the two consecutive numbers to form the next number. For example, 0 and 1 are added together to make the next number, which is another 1. 1 is added to 1 which gives 2, and so on. The early numbers of the series look like this: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144‌. The significance of the series is that it was found to model many patterns of organic growth in nature. This is just one of a number of reasons that make this an interesting addition to a Montessori classroom, linking to Sensorial exploration in the 3 – 6 age group and to the Elementary Cosmic Curriculum on a number of levels. Sensorial Exploration The Sabino Block Set is suitable for sensorial exploration at the 3 – 6 level as indirect preparation for later work. It can provide an early sensorial preparation for the proportions and relationships children experience in their natural surroundings. After the sensorial exploration stage, more formal lessons

can be introduced when the child is ready. These lessons could consist of typical presentations of increasing complexity. Pattern Recognition As the child becomes comfortable with and proficient at performing the introductory exercises, pattern recognition exercises can be offered for the child as extensions. This would involve constructions of blocks consisting of very basic sequences initially, gradually increasing their complexity. The child would duplicate the sequences with the same blocks and at other times with blocks of smaller or larger scale. This sequence (right) demonstrates how a basic four-sequence pattern starting with one cube per sequence can be embellished by adding proportionally analogous blocks to each sequence. The first sequence of four blocks is one that is easily duplicated by the youngest children, yet with the addition of a few blocks, the configuration can become increasingly complex and thus more challenging for the children (and perhaps their teacher as well). One fortuitous consequence of the Sabino Blocks having a mathematical sequence as its base is that it becomes an excellent tool for modeling countless imaginative sequences useful in pattern recognition. At the Elementary level, this material would be a welcome addition as it provides a concrete experience for areas of mathematics not provided for by the traditional Montessori materials, while honoring fundamental principles for Montessori materials. More importantly, it links into the Cosmic Curriculum and Great Lessons on a number of levels. A primary purpose of the Montessori ele-

Montessori Leadership / January 2009

mentary curriculum is to awaken a sense of wonder in the child. After learning the basic idea of sequences the child can explore increasingly complex patterns, linking the proportions embodied in the blocks to explorations of pattern in nature. The Fibonacci series models patterns of organic growth and the blocks can be used to explore these relationships. This material can also be used when studying the Story of Numbers. Geometry and Biology An important aspect of the material is the ease in which the intimate relationship between Geometry and Biology can be illustrated and explored. It is envisaged that presentations can be



devised to link this block set to existing components of the Montessori curriculum. The Sabino Block Set can be used to provide a bridge between the child’s curiosity, Mathematical knowledge acquired from work with the traditional Montessori materials, and the mysterious geometry of nature. An example of this relationship is the growth of the spiral found in the beautiful shell of the chambered nautilus. Seven consecutive cubes, starting with the two 1 cm cubes can be arranged in a spiral form to model this shape. Other well known examples are the spirals found in pine cones, sunflowers, daisies, pineapples, ferns of all types, and the

distribution of limbs and leaves around tree trunks and plant stems (phyllotaxis). These examples, as well as scores of other natural forms can be modeled and explored using the Sabino Blocks.

“Here is an essential principle of education: to teach details is to bring confusion; to establish the relationship between things is to bring knowledge.” – Maria Montessori, From Childhood to Adolescence

Sabino Blocks together with support material, to demonstrate the underlying geometry and math in botany. Two pairs of three identically shaped triangles, having bases of 8, 13, and 21 cm respectively, illustrate this close connection. This same pattern of the major veins is seen in many other leaves such as the sweet gum, sycamore and London plane, to name a few. The venation of many other leaf forms can be modeled in the same manner by altering the degree of rotation between veins. The maple leaf depicted has a 45° angle rotation, other narrower leaf forms (such as pinnate), for instance, may have half that, or 22.5° for instance. Plant blossoms are a fertile source of exploration while using Sabino Blocks, for they are replete with Fibonacci numbers in the number of their petals and the number of the spirals formed by the florets and seeds in the flower centers. All five-petal flowers and all of the daisies are easy examples to explore, as well as the frequently used example for opposing spirals—the sunflower. Ratios and Graphing

The numbers two, three, five, and eight (and many of the higher numbers in the series) figure prominently in geometry and nature, such as the pentagonal starfish shape. The length from tip to tip of any two opposite arms will always be 1.618034… times the length of an arm (or side), no matter the size of the pentagon, pentagram, or pentagonal shape. For early-grades purposes, a pentagon such as the one pictured below (made from five, 5 cm rods) can be traversed by the 8 cm rod to illustrate this phenomenon. Leaf forms, such as the palmate maple leaf, can be modeled, using the


The exploration of ratios with the aid of the blocks is quite natural, for ratios are at the very core of this system. The 1 cubic cm blocks (rods) are the easiest to begin with as their volumes (1cm x 1cm x 5cm or 5 cubic cm for example) are the same as their lengths (5 cm). In this context, the rods are more representative of one and/or two-dimensional concepts than three-dimensional ones, as is the case with the larger blocks. The ratios of the lengths of the rods in successive order are; 1, 2 to1 (2), 3 to 2 (1.5), 5 to 3 (1.667…), 8 to 5 (1.6), and 13 to 8 (1.625), 21 to 13 (1.615…), and 34 to 21 (1.619…). In more advance les-

Montessori Leadership / January 2009

sons, the child will discover that the ratios are oscillating less than and more than while advancing toward (but never reaching) the irrational and infinite number 1.618034… which is the Golden Ratio (φ). Just as we use an approximation of another important irrational numberπ π (pi) to four decimal points (3.1416) for practical and non-scientific purposes, we can use an abbreviation for the Golden Ratio or phi, to 1.618. The ratio of the longest rods is 34 to 21 (or 1.619…) close enough to phi for our purposes. A graph of this convergence makes for an interesting lesson in graphing as does the ratio comparisons of all the blocks for they are all tied together by their relationship to the Fibonacci series and the Golden Ratio—an example being that the largest cube has a volume of 2197 cm3 and the next largest cube has a volume of 512 cm3. The ratio of these two numbers (larger to smaller) is 4.291…, very close to 1.6183 (or 4.236…). In Nature, this ratio is the result (with rare exception) of the dynamics of growth which include genetic, chemical and physical factors. Numerous comparisons of the various sizes of Sabino Blocks should provide a wealth of activity for related lessons and spontaneous exploration. Algebra The ratio of 1.618034… represents the (positive) solution to the quadratic equation; X2 – X – 1 = 0 (the negative solution being 0.618034). It can be explored with the Sabino Block Set using the 13, 21, and 34 cm rods. The Sabino Blocks offer the possibility of exploration of diversity within unity of all that is connected to Nature and the Fibonacci series, through the intelligence and imagination of the child. They help to concretize and illustrate what is perhaps one of the most important concepts a child can learn: that harmony exists between things of nature and things of the mind. The duality of life is perfectly symbolized here—from the bindings of structure and discipline come the unbounded freedoms of knowledge and infinity.

What are your ratios?

Further Reading Doczi, O. The Power of Limits, Boston: Shambhala, 1981. Ghyka, M. The Geometry of Art and Life, New York: Dover Publications, 1977. Hemenway, P. Divine Proportion, New York: Sterling Publishing, 2005. Hoffer, W., “A Magic Ratio Occurs Throughout Art and Nature” Smithsonian (December 1975); 110-120. Livio, M. The Golden Ratio, New York: Broadway Books, 2002. After graduating in 1964 from the Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in Painting, Christopher Sabin designed furniture and wood sculpture for twenty years. A career change, prompted by the onset of an illness, led to the eventual development of the Sabino Block Set. The material is currently being manufactured privately in small quantities. Anyone interested can contact Christoper Sabin at csabin41@ Sharon Caldwell, who resides in South Africa, is a staff member of The Montessori Foundation and Editor of Montessori Leadership.

Calendar February 7 - May 3, 2009

Organizing a New Montessori School Montessori Foundation Leadership Institute

What are Your Ratios? By Christopher M. Glenn, Ph.D. “The word education must not be understood in the sense of teaching but of assisting the psychological development of the child.” –Maria Montessori WITH THE PROLIFERATION OF ‘MONTESSORI’ as a general method of education in private and public educational institutions, it is anticipated that more families have heard of Montessori. However, they often arrive for their first visit to a Montessori school without any understanding of the underlying philosophy.

March 5 - 8, 2009 - NAMTA

The Adolescent & Society: Community Interaction and Social Reform Seattle, WA (440) 834-4011 March 19 - 22, 2009 Montessori Foundation & International Montessori Council (IMC)

5th Annual West Coast Conference San Jose, CA (800) 632-4121 April 16 - 19, 2009 Montessori Association of Australia/IMC

Annual Conference Brisbane, QLD Australia April 23 - 26, 2009 - NAMTA

Montessori as a Global Pedagog Seattle, WA (440) 834-4011

One of the key tenants is that education considers the entire child; that is, both academic and social-emotional development are of vital importance. When considering the choice of school, parents may find it valuable to contemplate their preference for the balance of academic and social-emotional development and to discuss this issue when meeting with the school’s representative. Parents’ understanding of this wholechild approach can serve as a bridge of transition in appreciating this alternative educational method. In the Spring of 2007, the Franciscan Montessori Earth School (FMES) conducted a comprehensive parent survey in which 206 (or 79 percent of) parents responded. Almost half of our sample responded voluntarily in the first two weeks, and this was followed by an intensive recruitment effort led by the Parent Association (parents contacting other parents). Persistence paid off, because nearly all parents who wanted to participate did so, as illustrated by the reduced quality of responses in the final submissions. This comprehensive survey addressed several areas, including reasons for choosing, staying, and leaving, sources of information about where they heard of FMES, importance of a previously identified set of Montessori values and activities, and parents’ preferred ratio of academic to social-emotional development along with their associated thoughts and feelings. This paper focuses on the latter area as one having a broader application. Montessori Leadership / January 2009



Because FMES identifies five areas of developmental importance, we asked parents to divide 100 percent among these five areas. Areas of Development How Much Emphasis?

Academic Emotional Social Physical Spiritual

MeanPercent 34.57 19.55 18.73 14.34 13.44

Source: Dr. Glenn’s Research Services; May 2007 Mean percents for each developmental area were significantly different from each other, except for the pair of social and emotional, which supported combining them. Then we limited the choices to academic and social-emotional, assessing overall emphasis and also by each educational level. All parents could rate overall and each level, regardless of whether they had children at that level. In general, parents wanted a 57 to 43 percent ratio for academic and socialemotional emphasis at FMES. 31 percent of parents specified a 50-50 split. At each increasing level, parents desired more emphasis to be placed on academic and less on social-emotional. This is confirmed statistically as well.

Since many parents mentioned more than one category, percents exceeded 100%.

Another common theme was that, with increasing age, more and more emphasis should be placed on academics (mentioned more by Children’s House, and slightly more by St. Francis Academy [junior high] parAcademic and Social-Emotional Tradeoff ents). Perhaps related was the Percent* Count theme of more social-emotional emphasis being needed in Both must be addressed, Children’s House and again in can’t really separate the two/Balance needed 35% 52 St. Francis Academy “…as a Social-emotional needed first or is more important, result of the introduction of academics will follow naturally 28% 41 hormones and the normal reoccurrence of the need for Increased academic emphasis with age independence and under(specific mention) 18% 27 standing their role in society.” Social-emotional should be more or also Another noteworthy comment addressed at home 10% 15 was that social-emotional should be taught at home, Academic comes first, social-emotional some saying “also” at home, will follow naturally 7% 11 others saying “more” at home More emphasis on social-emotional in Children’s than at school. House and St. Francis Academy (Junior High) (specific mention) 5% 8 There were two themes where Mix depends on individual child, individual needs 5%


Social-emotional and academic are equal in importance (specific mention)



The main focus of a school is academics, but still need some social-emotional 4%


Spiritual needed too (all mentions of spiritual)



Social-emotional does not receive sufficient attention in public school (specific mention)



Percents based on 147 responding parents. Source: Dr. Glenn’s Research Services; May 2007

Most commonly, parents said both must be addressed and that academic and social-emotional cannot be separated (“I think the ideal would be if they were happening simultaneously”). This was mentioned more often by Upper Elementary parents than others. Second ranked was that social-emotional is needed first or is more important. Many parents who said this also added “if a child learns to feel good and Relative Emphasis? Mean Percent confident about himself, Level Academic Social-Emotional his environment, and Overall (not by level) 56.55 43.45 with others, then I really Children’s House (3-6) 36.17 64.23 believe the academic Lower Elementary 52.38 47.62 portion of things will natUpper Elementary 58.82 41.29 urally follow.” Upper St. Francis Acad. (Jr. High) 62.80 37.60 Elementary parents mentioned this more often Source: Dr. Glenn’s Research Services; May 2007 than others.

Then parents were asked a very general question: What are your thoughts and feelings about the academic and socialemotional tradeoff? What came to mind as you answered the above questions? Parents were prolific, with over 11 pages of written comments. These were content-analyzed into the following categories.


Montessori Leadership / January 2009

academics were placed ahead of social-emotional; one that academics come first and that social-emotional will follow (the reverse of the second most common theme, and more mentioned by Lower Elementary parents), and another where the main focus of a school should be academic, but still with some socialemotional. When these themes are combined, academics first moves up to 4th rank.

In conclusion, this survey process, using a combination of scaled and open-ended questions, can serve as an opening dialog for parents and older students to consider what Montessori means to them personally. At our large multi-level school, several parents indicated they had not deeply considered these issues, and they found this survey experience challenging but also rewarding. Dr. Glenn as been Consulting Research Director at Franciscan Montessori Earth School for 22 years. The highlight project was an 18 year longitudinal study summarized in Tomorrow’s Child, 12, No. 2, 18-19. He has also published in Montessori Life. An annotated bibliography and method to request reports of Dr. Glenn’s FMES research can be found at He can be contacted at

strenGtheninG your sChooL



for a whole lot of economic reasons. This is not a situation that is exactly analogous to anything we have had before, whether it be the Great Depression or any recession we have seen since. All that is clear is that we are facing a very severe economic crisis, and its true scope has yet to be revealed. Any substantive recommendations need to take into account the expectation of continuing economic problems.


It is likely that more parents will question the tuition that they are paying for private Montessori education for their children. For many, it will not just be a strain or inconvenience, but a serious matter of concern. This may even affect public magnet or charter Montessori schools. You can almost hear them asking themselves: “Why should we drive to a school that is across town and expensive, when I can enroll my children in the local schools?” Heads of schools need to take into account the many factors that are weighing on their parents. The situation is probably going to get worse. We don’t know just how bad it will be, but we can expect that there will be lots of job losses, and there will be lots of fear. Fear will probably prove to be more significant for many schools than the actual number of families who lose their jobs. Fear leads to cautionary spending patterns. School heads need to figure out what kind of tuition will be appropriate to the situation, how they can continue to attract the right parents, and—most importantly—how to strengthen reenrollment during this challenging period.

Strengthening Your School in Challenging Times By Tim Seldin & Marc Seldin While we all know that we are in difficult times financially, no one really knows what the economy is going to look like in the next four or five years. Anyone who claims to have special insight should probably be treated skeptically. On the other hand, we do need to be planning for that period.

DDD Generally, Montessori schools that are well run, and do a good job of communicating to parents the fact that they are well run, typically do not have a lot of enrollment problems. Of course this is not always so simple. Other factors play a part: W You have to be located in the right environment: U a community that has enough families with young children, U and a high enough average income to afford to consider an alternative education for them. W You have to be offering the right product: U a beautiful school, U a high quality program, and U the ability to communicate to the community at large what your mission and values are. Typically, a Montessori school that follows the above precepts has been able to attract enough interested

Montessori Leadership / January 2009



families from which to keep enrollments stable over time. That is going to become harder now . So the question is: How do you continue to attract and retain enough parents in a much more difficult enrollment?

“Montessori is our differentiator in the marketplace.”

Some may argue that all this sounds nice, but that this wisdom is all irrelevant now. They may succumb to the mistaken belief that, in order to survive this period, schools need to reassure nervous parents at either the expense of the quality of the Montessori program or in lieu of communicating this commitment to parents. The emphasis shifts from providing a true Montessori program to supplying whatever the public seems to want. We urge you most strongly not to give in to this temptation, for exactly the opposite course is the safest. The second you forget or conceal what you’re in this for, is the second that people will stop seeing the difference between your school and the others. The local public school is free! Even those parents who are committed to giving their children a private school education will begin to look at alternatives. Some schools may be less expensive than yours. Large prestigious prep schools may be much more expensive, but offer better facilities and many other perceived benefits, such as social status. This is why so many Montessori schools have a large enrollment up to age five, after which they lose half (or more) of their students to public and other private schools. Although Montessori schools do not need to look like pyramids in terms of their enrollments, most do. In troubled economic times like these, if a Montessori school starts to compromise its Montessori program and philosophy, it may fail completely. We can’t be all things to all people. Montessori is our differentiator in the marketplace.


Montessori is the basis of our contract with our students, parents, and teachers. It says a lot about the kind of school community we’re trying to build. If you pay less attention to that now, then parents will not be able to see what you have to offer.

these opportunities to remind yourself and the community members why the school functions in the way it does.

demands for homework and testing in a heart-beat? The first rule is to survive, right?

your quality and the integrity of your program is going to be the key to building a community that maintains longterm attraction to the parents. This is sometimes referred to as ‘stickiness.’

Primarily, remember that “It will not sures? Montessori educators are the You are the ones with a be healthy for experts! sound base in child development Montessori school administra- a school in the and who understand what children tors and board members have need developmentally. You are the always felt the pressure to who are well versed in long term to ones respond to parent expectaMontessori philosophy and educations and demands. Now, tional practice, and there is just no more than ever, they are like- thrash around way that parents are likely to know ly to find it difficult to resist. as much. Schools which aren’t offering in reaction to them now are likely to be That said, parents have an idea of tempted to offer two and every parent’s what they want for their children three-day programs. Why and thus place pressure on the wouldn’t a school today want school. Looking for ways to address whim.” to respond to parent parent needs without sacrificing

The short answer is that this is the wrong path to survival. The longer explanation is that we encourage you to resist the siren song of these special-interest parents. They are noisier than their numbers would indicate, and it’s easy to be fooled into thinking that what a loud cadre of parents want is what the marketplace will reward. Their under-commitment to your school will not make them good community members, and inevitably you will be sacrificing the quality of your school for little or no gain. It is inevitable that schools will feel this sort of pressure. The important factor to consider is the difference between short and long term survival. It will not be healthy for a school in the long term to thrash around in reaction to every parent’s whim, but in no business model that we can conceive of does this mean utter disregard for your customers. When responding to pressure to sacrifice your program quality, instead of raising your hackles, turn the discussion into one where you kindly, but firmly, explain why as stewards of the school you will not take such an action. Take Montessori Leadership / January 2009

How can you resist these pres-

One of the ironies in these situations is that well-run, authentic Montessori schools lead to much greater academic success in the long term versus those schools that have sacrificed their beliefs at the alter of common, short-term thinking. Like the six year old who wants to wear shorts and t-shirt in a snow-storm, parents who never understood Montessori’s outcomes in the first place don’t really know what they want. Compromising to their concerns will only make them momentarily happier.

DDD You can use community as a tool to turn the economic lemons into lemonade. Let us explain. Many schools, today, see themselves more as part of the independent school community, and may downplay their Montessori identity. They recognize the market demand for independent schools and want

“The concept that is new here is the not children. It includes thinking ab

strenGtheninG your sChooL

to maximize their share of that market. The Montessori approach is not just an educational tool, however, it is a philosophy that should permeate every aspect of how the school runs both its education program and the way the community itself, from the board to the parent community, runs. Besides the unique educational program, another factor that distinguishes Montessori in the educational market place is the importance of the concept of community in the school. In the current economic context, more importantly than ever before, the value of your community cannot be overstated. You really should manage the community as if it were a child— you want to treat it with all the respect, dignity and attention that a child would get. Nurture your community. Don’t treat the parents as if they are simply customers. Make sure that you really care for your teachers as part of the community, and treat them with concern and respect. Ultimately what you are trying to do here is build a sense that everyone who is attending or working at that school is part of a team or club. This is a community with a strong cohesive feeling where everyone is working together because they share a common goal of trying to do some wonderful things. The concept here is the notion of thinking beyond just educating the children. It includes thinking about how to help the parents. For example, if you know that there are parents in economic difficulty, perhaps one of them has lost their job, then you need to look at what you can do to help. Perhaps you can help people find jobs, sponsor fund-raisers to support the families, or start a food bank. You should do whatever you can, because by strengthening the community you strengthen the school. In marketing, this is called ‘stickiness’:

tion of thinking beyond just educating the bout how to help the parents.”

people may leave a school without much regret, but they are less likely to leave a community with which they interact daily. We’re sure you are already doing this to some degree; we urge you to do more! Develop the school as a hub or the center-post of your parents’ community experience. We’re not suggesting you try to set yourself up in competition with churches, synagogues, or mosques. Schools become an important part of people’s lives by serving their needs: helping them communicate to each other about needs; helping them find ways to support each other; supporting each other’s businesses; hosting family nights and picnics; and providing other community activities and opportunities. Try to make sure that every day, or at least every week, there is something community-oriented. This will ensure that your school will be in much better shape over the next couple of years than schools that don’t take this approach. Think about it. In tough economic times people won’t be able to eat out as often. Why not have bi-weekly potluck dinners? The only cost is your time, and frankly these things can be as much fun for staff as for parents. Another way to strengthen the school is by publish information about the various services and professions and business that people within the school community own and run, encouraging others in the community to support those services and businesses. We’re not suggesting formal barter systems, which seldom last for long, but spontaneous service bartering may appear and should be celebrated. This is just one idea that we have recommended in the past to help strengthen school communities, but it is arguably more pertinent now than ever. Make sure that people in the school community know as much as is appropriate about each other. It is not a community if people don’t know each other. One of the most critical things people can do is to support one another. By helping parents feel that they are members of a real community you can create ‘stickiness’ for your school.

Montessori Leadership / January 2009

One of the things we are always impressed with in some of the schools we’ve known, is something that’s evolved as an “angel program.” Families that are somewhat more affluent than maybe the average parent in the school anonymously contribute part or all of the tuition for a family that they know is in need, so that that child doesn’t need to leave the school. The more things you can do to keep people of all economic levels involved, the better. There are always things that can be done. You can have potluck dinners, community yard sales, movie nights, and provide services such as babysitting. Let’s say you have a parent who does nails. You could have an event at your school where the parent does nails and have a fund-raising around that service that she can provide. Basically, involve all the parents as much as possible, and if you have wealthier parents who are willing to help out, so much the better. People like to help when they can. The most critical thing you can do is make people feel appreciated. If you look at a school in a mechanical way, you may actually harm rather than strengthen it. When you dismantle a machine into parts you can say: “How do I keep these parts working most efficiently?” The traditional reductionist way would be to pay every staff member as little as possible, charge every parent as much as possible, and provide as few services as you can. The result is that you end up with a situation where you actually misalign the school. If, on the other hand, you look at the school as a community, the question becomes: “How do I strengthen our school community, because I know that a strong community is going to be the key to helping to keep this business running efficiently.” If you have a more integrated community you will find that you can probably keep tuition rates higher, reduce parent and staff losses, and end up with a situation where you actually do better economically. Your parents will be happy, and you will not be scrimping on high quality, beautiful materials. Your teachers and administrators will be happy and involved and engaged with the parent body.



Look for ways to save costs while simultaneously strengthening community. In Japan , for example, schools involve the children at the end of the day to sweep the classroom. If children and staff clean the classrooms together, you can cut down on janitorial services.

all excellent Montessori schools. This phase follows an easily understood, objective self-study approach. Each standard is carefully laid out with examples and suggested resources. In most cases, schools will have access to sample policies, handbooks, and other resources on CD-ROM or online that can be adapted for individual schools.

By finding creative ways to involve the community, you can save money. You don’t need to have dumpy, run down classrooms just because there is no money to redecorate. By looking at this as an opportunity for the whole community to get more involved, you build cohesion as well as balancing the budget. If you can’t afford to hire someone to paint the exterior of your building, why not make a fun event out of it and involve the community?

After the self-study is completed, the School develops a written strategic plan, in which the school prepares an ongoing plan for continuing to move the entire school (educational program, faculty, administration, facilities, membership and enrollment, marketing and public relations, fund raising and capital resource development, governance, finances) closer to its ideal as set forth in its vision and blueprint.

In closing, we’d like to offer you a final perspective drawn from Rianne Eisler’s partnership model. The critical question is: “How can this community work in partnership?” In the dominator model, it is the administrator’s job to tell everyone what to do in order to make them make the school function. In Partnership, administrators, teachers, parents and children work together to build a beautiful school. As the economic environment gets harder you might have to look at things in new ways.

Marc Seldin is a former Montessori student, father of a current Montessori student, and a consultant on School Business Administration and Marketing to Montessori Schools. He holds a B.A. from Goddard and a MBA from the University of Maryland. Marc is the Business Administrator of the Center for Guided Montessori Studies. Tim Seldin is President of The Montessori Foundation, Chair of the IMC and author of How to Raise an Amazing Child–The Montessori Way and World in the Palm of Her Hand.


Phase 3 The School Improvement Plan:

THE IMC SCHOOL ACCREDITATION PROGRAM IMC School Accreditation offers a user-friendly program of school assessment and accreditation for the American and international Montessori school community. The program enables Montessori schools of widely varying sizes and ages to evaluate program quality, instructional effectiveness, operational and financial health, facilities and site utilization, and future growth potential. Schools that are authentically Montessori in their practice are effective in their work with children and are worthy of public trust and confidence. The Best Practices place particular emphasis on the administration of key aspects of school operation, particularly those related to the quality and integrity of the school’s educational program and the health and safety of students and staff. The standards establish guidelines for policies, procedures and practices. The school is responsible for implementing those policies in a manner consistent with IMC standards on an ongoing basis. Accreditation indicates to the public that a school has voluntarily invited its programs, facilities, policies and procedures to be compared with the standards of Best Practice established by leaders in the international Montessori school accreditation community. The IMC Accreditation Self-Study Process Consists of Three Integrated Phases: Phase 1 School Identity and Philosophy: The school clearly defines its institutional identity, Montessori principles, enduring values and beliefs, and educational outcomes. Phase 2 The Self-Study: The School initiates a Self-Study, in which the school documents how it meets the basic characteristics and principles of Best Practice found in

Montessori Leadership / January 2009

The Onsite Visit: Once the Self-Study is submitted and reviewed, an On-Site Visit is scheduled with the School and conducted by a team of IMC-trained visitors who will spend from two or three days on campus observing the school in operation and validating the information provided in the self-study report. This visit takes place when the school is in full operation during the regular academic year. This process is repeated every ten years. Eligibility for IMC School Accreditation Any IMC school member in good standing that has been in operation for at least three years may begin the accreditation process. New schools may want to use the School Accreditation Standards as a planning tool during their first years of operation, thereby essentially completing most, if not all of the self study process in advance. Once they have completed their third year of operation, they can apply and finish up any remaining steps in the self study document. Upon successful completion of the process, member schools will receive a certificate of their accredited status from the International Montessori Council and may begin to display the IMC Accredited School logo in their brochures, advertisements, and other publications. The Members of the IMC School Accreditation Commission are: Dr. Al Spiewak, Princeton, New Jersey email:; Dr. Paul Czaja (Chair) Venice, Florida email:; Norma Morris, Rockwall, Texas email:; Dr. John Moncure, Camden, South Carolina email:; Tanya Ryskind, J.D., Benton Harbor, Michigan email:; Claire Salkowski, Fork, Maryland email:; Tim Seldin, Sarasota, Florida email:; Dr. Sherry Sweet, Camden, South Carolina email:

MeMBership ForM

The International Montessori Council

Membership Form please print all information when completing the following form, (one form per registration or school). We offer several methods to join: use our publication center at and go through our webstore, call our membership office at 1-800-632-4121, complete this form and fax it to 941-359-8166, or mail it to P.O. Box 130, Terra Ceia Island, FL 34250.

I would like to become a member of The International Montessori Council as: ❍ Individual Membership ($45 us/year) ❍ School Membership ($250 us/year)* ❍ Business Membership ($250 us/year) ❍ Teacher Education Center Membership ($250 us/year) ❍ Montessori Organization Member ($250 us/year) name:


address where information should be mailed is my: ❍ home

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Montessori Leadership / January 2009


Re-teaching a Thing Its Loveliness

version of an imperfectly healthy community. That experience inevitably makes us start thinking about how to recreate healthier relationships and systems in other parts of our lives. And in turn, that glimpse of possibility is what inspires us to take a long invigorating look at the implications for our colleagues, our students and their families—our whole school community. The beauty of making our school lives reflect more trust and collaboration is not only that staff members look forward to going to work everyday; it is also that when our students leave our schools to go on to explore the world, they have developed a sense of what it is that makes life more meaningful. One of the students, who graduated in 2001 from my school, graduated from college four years later, having had great success and one accolade after another in her undergraduate work. She e-mailed me this spring saying, “I miss my old high school SO badly—it was such a wonderful atmosphere. But it set the standard so high, it is difficult to accept how UN-satisfying/-fulfilling/-nurturing/-stimulating most environments are afterwards.” She ended the e-mail saying she may have never understood that life could be richer if she hadn’t had her Montessori education and that she was determined to recreate that richness for herself by pursing her career passion in graduate school.

M o n t e s s o r i Te a c h e r s , Mo n tes s or i Adol esc en ts , a n d Fo r g i v e n e s s by Marta Donahoe The bud Stands for all things, Even those things that don’t flower, For everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing; Though sometimes it is necessary To reteach a thing its loveliness, To put a hand on its brow Of the flower And retell it in words and in touch It is lovely Until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing… – from Galway Kinnell, St. Francis and the Sow


FOR ALL SORTS OF REASONS, Montessorians recognize the importance of the lesson of St. Francis—to reteach ourselves our loveliness and to trust the idea of abundance. Not exactly the kind of abundance that they show you in videos and books like The Secret—abundance where you keep imagining more stuff and accumulating it. I’m talking about the kind of abundance that comes from an open heart and the sense of choosing to celebrate what we have already—our families, friends, and our schools; the abundance that allows us to give to the community and to receive from the community in a time of need. Community creates abundance. O.K. I admit it. There is no consistently perfect Utopian community, but some of us have had the opportunity to participate in some

Montessori Leadership / January 2009

Her e-mail reminded me that what gives meaning to our lives is to give and receive the care, sensitivity, and love that nourishes us. When we are very, very young and very, very old we depend on compassion and the care of others. Those of us that fall somewhere between these two have the obligation to set up the world for care and support to happen. My husband gave me a lesson in this when our daughter was a baby. I was convinced that he was not as good at changing her diapers as I was and so I would sometimes give him “expert” advice or show him a better way of holding her legs, shifting the diaper. One day he looked at me and said, “You know, I really want to do this myself, even if I do it awkwardly. Someday she may have to do this for me and I want her to know I did this for her with love and patience.” He wanted her to have the opportunity to know she was cared for so that she might be better able to do the same for others in her life, including him. Creating meaning in our lives is not a simple step by step process, but it starts when we examine our own lives to consider what gives meaning. It continues when we realize the need to comfort the wounded and tender parts of our lives. When Montessorians sit down to talk with

re-teaChinG a thinG its LoVeLiness

one another about our students, the underlying question teachers of adolescents ask is: “Who must we be in order to guide our students to be healthy, happy adults?” Maria Montessori had a strong requirement for teachers to examine themselves in order to be better servants and guides to our students and, of course, it is impossible to follow this directive unless we have developed some practice that informs our own healthy, happy lives. Simply put, she was asking us to live wisely from the heart and central to living wisely from the heart is the art of forgiveness. When teachers and parents learn more about how to forgive, it creates a greater possibility that the young people we work with and care for will have access to that art. I am speaking about this specifically in regard to adolescents because they are in a sensitive period for being critical and need the softening and opening of forgiveness. No matter what our students learn from us in our academic classes, it is the transforming power of our hearts and our ability to forgive ourselves and others that will give our lives meaning and become a beacon for them. As individuals trying to make sense of forgiveness, we can help our students know it doesn’t mean that we condone or justify a betrayal or hurt. It does mean that we can be in for a long and arduous process. It involves grieving what we have lost by being hurt, but it does not mean that we need to have any kind of relationship with those who have hurt us. It simply means that we learn from the past and learn to do what is needed to prevent further harm. So much of what makes this process of forgiveness hard for us is the fact that we tend to hang on to the past and to resist change, even though change is the one true thing we can depend on. Each of our lives is full to the brim with praise and blame, pleasure and loss. Change is constant. I remember a cartoon that shows a family on camels traveling across the desert. The father on his camel is in the front with his carpets and bags and there is the mother on her camel with two smaller camels traveling behind—two children. The youngest child sidles up close to her father and he says to her, “Stop asking if we’re almost there yet! We’re nomads, for crying out loud!”

Maria Montessori recognized the fact that we’re all nomads and urged us to create opportunities for our older students to develop what she called adaptability. She recognized that the river of change will never stop. So where do we find refuge? Only in our hearts—in mercy and forgiveness, and in the creation of community. Roberto DeVincento, the famous Argentinean golfer, is a model for adaptability and resilience. One day after he had won a big tournament, he was walking to his car when a young woman approached him in the parking lot. She told him the story of her small child who was ill and close to death. DeVincento was so touched he endorsed his check and gave it to her. A week later he was having lunch when a friend came up to him and said, “Hey that woman you gave that money to last week! She’s phony! She fleeced you!” “You mean, there’s no dying child?” asked DeVincento. “That’s exactly what I mean,” said his friend. “Well, that’s the best news I’ve heard all week.” DeVincento reminds me that to carry resentment, regret and anger is to volunteer for suffering. We don’t have to do it. When we hear a story like that we think, “What could I do?” I guess the point for me is that even when a betrayal is obvious, we do not need to live out our lives in that betrayal. It is hard to know where to start with big notions like forgiveness. We can learn more about how to do this if we start every day recognizing little ways we can practice forgiveness and letting go; noticing little slights and letting them go; seeing something or someone suffering and not contracting, just noticing it and letting it pass. That’s how we begin. To understand the pedagogy of forgiveness, we might ask ourselves and our students to experiment with the memory of role models they have had in their own lives. It helps to take a few minutes to remember the most gracious and open hearted person we know—to think of how we feel in the presence of that person. It helps to take time to think, one-by-one, of the people we have hurt and to imagine asking their forgiveness. It helps to think, one-by-one, of the ways in which we have hurt ourselves and to forgive ourselves for

Montessori Leadership / January 2009

that harm we have done to our selves. It helps to remember, one-by-one, the people who have hurt us and to imagine forgiving each of them. When Martin Luther King said, “We will meet physical force with soul force,” he was talking about the bravery of love and forgiveness. In his wisdom, he understood that if people can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love. King understood that fear blurs our ability to feel compassion, so he bolstered our courage in the face of adversity by asking us to be good and kind and strong. We desperately need leaders like him. Montessori schools make that kind of leadership more likely. In the next ten years after our students have left us, if they can look back and trace to their teachers the lessons they have learned in math and music, art and history, literature and writing then we have done a good job. If our students can look back and trace to us the lessons that have made them wellrounded, more joyful, deeper thinking human beings, then we have done our real work. I hope our students develop adaptability and resilience and remember to continue their hard work and to practice forgiveness. I hope they notice their loveliness—their gifts. Then I hope they keep them alive, not by clinging to them, but by passing them along, like St. Francis and Dr. King did, with an open heart. REFERENCES King, Martin Luther, Give Us the Ballot, Address at Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom. Washington DC, 1957. Kinnell, Galway, Mortal Acts, Mortal Words. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, MA, 1960. Kornfield, Jack, After the Ecstasy, The Laundry. Bantam Books, New York, NY, 2001. Montessori, Maria, From Childhood to Adolescence. Oxford, The Clio Montessori Series, 1994. Palmer, Parker, Courage to Teach. Jossey Bass, San Francisco, CA, 1998. Salzberg, Susan, Loving Kindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness. Shambala Publications, Boston, MA, 1995. Marta Donahoe is Program Coordinator at Clark Montessori Jr. & Sr. High School and Director of the Cincinnati Montessori Secondary Teacher Education Program (CMSTEP). She welcomes your feedback and comments and may be contacted at



An Easy HR Solution – Outsource To A PEO


Does the PEO offer all the services your organization needs?


How are services delivered? (e.g. in person, via the Web, through a call center or a combination.)


What kind of assistance does the PEO provide on strategic HR issues such as recruiting highly qualified executives and employee training?


What are the fees and how are they determined?


Can the PEO handle growth in your workforce?


Will the PEO provide you with client references to contact?

By Michael Chacho The Montessori Foundation has worked with Administaff for years and wants to pass this resouce on to IMC members. IT



HAILED AS ONE OF THE MOST POPULAR ADMINISTRATIVE TRENDS OF THE PAST DECADE – human resources (HR) outsourcing. From payroll processing and health care benefits to retirement services and recruiting, there are many reasons to consider taking the HR function to an outside source.

When it comes to outsourcing various elements of HR on a piecemeal basis, there are a variety of choices. Hiring a professional employer organization (PEO), which serves as a one-stop-HRshop, is an attractive option for an increasing number of small and mediumsized businesses. What is a PEO and how does it benefit your organization? It might be easier to start with what a PEO is not—a PEO is not a temporary firm, a staffing agency, a simple payroll service or a placement agency. A PEO serves as an HR department for small and medium-sized businesses. By entering into a relationship with a PEO, companies receive assistance with payroll processing, employee benefits management and compliance with the growing number of federal and state employerrelated laws and regulations. With a PEO at its side, a small or medium-sized business is in a better position to compete with much larger companies, especially when it comes to employee benefits. Benefits provided by


full-service PEOs such as Administaff, the USA’s leading PEO, rival those of big corporations, making them an essential tool in recruiting talented employees. Those benefits often include medical, dental and vision coverage, retirement programs, life and disability insurance, on-site and online training programs, tuition reimbursement, credit union services and adoption assistance. Besides providing and managing a wide range of employee benefits, a PEO typically handles all personnel-related functions such as payroll processing, payroll tax filings, assistance with developing employee handbooks, employment tax filings, and workers’ compensation coverage and claims resolution. Most small companies simply don’t have the budget or staff to perform all of those functions. By using a PEO to provide those value-added services, business owners, in effect, multiply their capabilities without increasing labor costs, freeing them to concentrate on their core business. What should business owners consider when selecting a PEO? 1.

Is the PEO licensed in your state and do they have a local office?


Is the PEO a member of the National Association of Professional Employer Organizations (NAPEO)?


Have complaints been filed against the PEO?

Montessori Leadership / January 2009

10. Does the PEO have the staff needed to deliver on its promises? 11. Is the PEO accredited by the Employer Services Assurance Corporation (ESAC)? PEOs can bring much-needed relief to small and medium-sized businesses that want to spend more time building their entrepreneurial dream and less time coping with HR issues. With HR in the capable hands of a team of specialists, business owners can sleep well knowing that their employees are being taken care of and their clients are getting the time and attention they deserve. Michael Chacho is a bus;iness consultant for Administaff (NYSE: ASF), the nation’s leading professional employer organization (PEO), serving as a full-service human resources department that provides small and medium-sized businesses with administrative relief, big-company benefits, reduced liabilities and a systematic way to improve productivity. For additional information about Administaff, call 303-915-0788 or visit

The Eaton Community Montessori Project by Meaghan Hicks

HAVING GONE TO A MONTESSORI CHILDREN’S HOUSE MYSELF, I always knew that I wanted the same kind of learning environment for my own children. When my husband and I moved to the South-West Region of Western Australia I found myself pregnant, without work and without a Montessori School! I spent lots of time at the local library and got to know the head librarian very well. She introduced me to a local traditionally trained teacher with two young children, who was interested in the Montessori Method. We met and became friends, and often lamented the lack of Montessori programs in the region. Through my involvement in the region’s Early Years Network, I became aware of some government funding that was available for service projects related to the advancement of children under the age of eight. Initial discussions with my teacher friend and the head librarian, along with a representative of the government depart-

the eaton CoMMunity Montessori proJeCt

ment offering the funding, led us to seek and receive $50 000 to set up a pilot program in the local public library. And so the Eaton Community Montessori Project was born. We purchased a basic set of infant toddler and children’s house equipment, and set up a Montessori Resource Section in a small alcove in the library. We offered two sessions per week (one on a weekday morning and the other on a Saturday morning, to cater for working parents), where up to twelve families could come along, for free, to learn more about the Montessori approach to education and parenting. The response was phenomenal, with waiting lists blowing out to nine months in advance within a few weeks. The families who were taking part in the workshops were so enthusiastic and interested in the “Montessori Way” and we were inundated with requests to set up a continuing program for families who had completed the library workshops. This led us to seek further funding, from the Federal Government, this time to the tune of $100,000. We then secured the lease of a spare classroom at the local high school, and purchased a second, more comprehensive set of equipment for our Montessori Children’s Club. We decided to incorporate as a non-profit association to formalize our management and keep our project running for the benefit of the community in the long term. The Children’s Club started out charging a very modest fee for participating families, and soon had a large group of willing parents and children coming along to three morning sessions each week. The club caters to children from birth to age six, with parents accompanying them to sessions, and has some schoolaged children attending as homeschoolers. The funding also allowed us to train two traditional teachers as Montessori teachers, spreading the load for the founding teachers. We all work as volunteers. The club has been running for one year and this month reached capacity enrolment. The parent community voted to seek registration as a school and we hope to Montessori Leadership / January 2009

set up our formal program at the beginning of 2009. Our strongest desire is to start a Montessori Learning Community that offers something for everyone in every stage of their lives. Our intention is to offer antenatal classes, infant toddler classes, a children’s house program, a primary program, an enrichment program for children in traditional schools, a parenting program, a Saturday morning extended family program for grandparents, dads only workshops, and we are currently seeking funding to set up a support program for families caring for someone with dementia using the techniques outlined by Dr. Cameron Camp. Our fees are no longer the lowest in the world! In fact we are charging the highest fees in the region, but families have now experienced the joy of a true Montessori learning environment, and realize that you really can’t put a price on what we are offering. I believe that several factors have contributed to the success of our project and the overwhelming community response: W A free, no strings attached, introduction to Montessori, and a chance for us to get to know each family in an intimate setting over an extended period of time (families attend sessions for ten weeks before graduating) W The chance for parents to attend classes with their children (many parents are pleasantly surprised and very grateful for the acknowledgment that Maria Montessori gives parents as their children’s first educators) W The strong parental education program offering a chance for parents to meet each other and explore Montessori parenting ideas (reduces social isolation in a time where most families live far from immediate family support) W The spirit of community service generated by volunteers within the community – a whiff of commercialism really turns people away (the fact that the teachers are prepared to work for free speaks volumes) W The funding from government sources, which allowed us to set up 29


the program and purchase all of our equipment with no financial risk to our organization (this was a vital part of our ability to run programs for free or low fees) W A lack of educational alternatives in the area, at a time when many parents are feeling disillusioned with the state education system W The wonderful course “Building a World Class Montessori School” run by Tim Seldin and Sharon Caldwell in Canberra, Australia this year. This knowledge is allowing us to plan ahead for our true vision and helping us to create a place of learning that will stand the test of time. It was worth every penny. We would be happy to share any lessons we have learned along the way and would love to reflect on our somewhat ‘different’ practices with other teachers, schools and communities. Keeping the Montessori vision alive and vibrant within our community, country and the world is very important to us. Meaghan Hicks attended a Montessori school in Cape Town, South Africa. She returned to Montessori after several years of teaching in a number of fields including: Special Needs, Gifted Education, Homeschool Support, Highschool Music and Drama, and working as a private music teacher for violin and piano. She has NAMC 0-3, 3-6 and 6-9 Montessori teaching diplomas and is now the lead teacher and coordinator of a pilot Montessori program in the South West region of Western Australia


6. Evaluating athletes for injury or incapacity. 7. Supervising the activity closely. 8. Warning of inherent risks. 9. Providing appropriate emergency assistance. By incorporating these guidelines and legal responsibilities into your soccer program, a coach can create and maintain a winning environment for players, spectators, and volunteers. Supervising Athletes

Soccer : Making Safety Yo u r G o a l By Micha el Sw a in THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS completed a review of soccer-related injuries in 2000. Of the approximately 150,000 soccerrelated injuries that occur each year, 45 percent occur in participants under the age of 15. This study does not include injuries to spectators, volunteer coaches and parents who are involved in the sport. This article can help you create a safe environment in which young athletes can compete. Understanding the Coach’s Role Coaches involved in youth sports have a tremendous obligation to safeguard the welfare of the children involved in their program. Parents trust a coach to not only be a coach, but also a teacher, mentor, safety expert, doctor, and yes, even a babysitter. Volunteer coaches are now being held to a higher standard of care because of the importance parents place on sports. The Coalition of Americans to Protect Sports (CAPS) suggests a coach is responsible for performing nine legal duties: 1. Properly planning the activity. 2. Providing proper instruction. 3. Providing a safe physical environment. 4. Providing adequate and proper equipment. 5. Matching athletes by ability, age, and size. Montessori Leadership / January 2009

Supervision is more than just overseeing a soccer player’s activities. Many experts estimate that 80 percent of athletic injuries result from a lapse of direct or indirect supervision. The person who is accountable for supervision, be it the team coach, assistant coach, or parent volunteer, must be mature enough to handle situations that may arise during practices or games. At minimum, a coach should be 18 years old. Unless there is a sibling relationship, under no circumstances should a young child be left in the care of another child under the age of 18. Supervision includes the following: Providing for the safe arrival and departure of participants and spectators. Attending to field-of-play safety issues, spectator safety, and the use of proper safety equipment. Recognizing the hazards and potential injury-causing elements of a particular activity, such as heading. Recognizing the potential for sexual abuse, and taking steps to prevent it from occurring. [Publish your policies for opposite-gender supervision. Maintain a general rule that an individual coach should never be alone with an individual athlete.] Training coaches to be aware of all emergency procedures, how to handle an injury, how to get help, and how to handle peripheral problems until emergency personnel arrive at the scene. Keeping Spectators Safe Spectators have been injured when they were struck by a foul ball, or when a player running off the field collided with a spectator. Spectator violence also leads to injuries. Spectators and players must understand before a game that there is zero tolerance of any violence and poor sportsmanship. Coaches must be prepared to call the police if necessary or have a police presence at highly competitive events. To protect spectators, it’s important to communicate your rules before every practice or game.

MaKinG saFety your GoaL

These can include warning them against sitting too close to the touch line or guide line, as well as rules of conduct. Conducting Pre-Game Inspections Conducting field and facility inspections before any soccer event will allow you to identify potential hazards. The goal of your inspections is to prevent unwanted injuries from occurring to athletes and spectators. A field in poor condition is a time bomb full of injuries waiting to explode. Inspecting both practice fields and game fields before and after every activity helps to promote a safe playing field. Look for and remove foreign objects and debris from the field. Fill in holes or trenches with dirt to eliminate tripping hazards, or block off the area to prevent people from entering. It’s also important to check soccer goals before and after every game. Make sure they are securely anchored, and check connecting hardware before each use. Do not let anyone other than the coach or maintenance personnel move the goals, and don’t let students climb on them. After a game, secure goals facing each other so they do not allow trespassers to climb on or move them. Throughout your facility, check areas that spectators may use as a walkway and remove anything that might cause them to trip and fall. If there are areas that spectators should not enter, including parking areas, block them off so they are inaccessible. If indoors, and protective screens are provided, check them for defects and correct them before the event begins. Place nonskid, absorbent mats at entrances to reduce wet floor hazards. Also put nonskid, absorbent mats under water fountains and concession areas to reduce slip and fall injuries caused by wet floors. Place signs or post a greeter to warn spectators and athletes of spills or wet floors. Warning signs must be tall enough to be easily seen and must be visible from all angles. If a spill occurs, clean it up immediately. Managing Emergencies Because coaches and assistant coaches are often the first to be made aware of

an athlete’s injury, they should have some training in first aid and CPR. If a child is injured during practice or a game, it is important to know how to reduce the stress of the injury and obtain proper medical assistance as soon as possible. When an injury occurs, contact emergency medical services (EMS) immediately. Additional resources are available to help soccer coaches and volunteers who have no formal training and want to improve their understanding of sports safety education. The National Center for Sports Safety (NCSS) and the

National Soccer Coaches Association of America have partnered to educate soccer coaches nationwide. The program they offer is called PREPARE. This online program covers everything from minor injuries, such as blisters, nose bleeds and ankle sprains, to life-threatening injuries, including head and neck injuries. Go to for more information.

Michael Swain is Senior Loss Control Specialist for Markel Insurance Company in Richmond, Virginia. Markel specializes in insurance for Montessori schools and K-12 private schools.

Fr e e Montessori Classroom Leadership Registration for Bulk Order Subscribers to Tomorrow’s Child and school-level members of the IMC The Montessori Foundation and The International Montessori Council (IMC) are excited to offer ONE complementary registration in the new on-line in-service education course in Montessori Classroom Leadership to one staff member from each of the hundreds of Montessori schools that belong to the International Montessori Council, or who subscribe to Tomorrow’s Child for their families for the 2009-2010 school year by April 30, 2009. To take advantage of this offer schools must ... 1.

Be current IMC school level members,


Renew or place a new standing bulk order of Tomorrow's Child for the 2009-2010 school year (50 copies minimum per school) before Early Bird Special ends on April 30th, 2009, or


Be both current IMC school level members and Tomorrow's Child bulk subscribers during the Early Bird Special (for TWO complimentary registrations).

This offer has been made possible through the Center for Guided Montessori Studies (CGMS), the first IMC recognized teacher education center. This course in Montessori Classroom Leadership is the first in a series of professional development courses that the CGMS Studies will be creating for: Assistant teachers, Substitutes, Special subject teachers (foreign language, art, music, physical education), and Classroom Parent Volunteers. It is drawn from the Center for Guided Montessori Studies’ highly respected 19-month, online program in Early Childhood Montessori education. This is a formal course of study, covering classroom leadership issues in a thorough, dynamic, and practical way. The course content will include written material, video presentations, online guided discussions, videos of classrooms at work, and interesting and practical assignments. The course in Classroom Leadership will run for five weeks, and represents more than 50 hours of truly interesting online learning. This free registration would normally cost $350 for the five-week course. If you wish, you may register additional staff members, beyond the 1 or 2 staff members for whom you will receive free registration, for the special price of $200 a person. Students will be able to work online at times that are convenient to their schedule (24 hours a day/7 days a week). On completion, students will receive a certificate of completion and information that should be useful in meeting local requirements for staff development. Continuing Education Units (CEUs) will be available on completion from the Sarasota County Technical Institute for a small $10 processing fee.

For more information, visit our website at

Montessori Leadership / January 2009


The International Montessori Council P.O. Box 130 • Terra Ceia, FL 34250-0130

non-profit org u. s. postage paid st. petersburg, FL perMit # 597


In This Issue… January 2009 Strengthening Your SchoolStrengthening Your School in Challenging Timesin Challenging Times Managing School Fina...

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