Spotlight Lindsay Dewald

We had the great pleasure to chat with Lindsay Dewald, from the wonderful blog, Little One Love. We've long been fans of her passions and relished the opportunity to hear her perspective on life, Montessori and more! Oh, and by the way, her photos are so captivating and enchanting that sometimes it's difficult to look away. We've provided a smattering here, but we highly recommend that you visit her site to get the full effect. Enjoy!


Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your background, your interests, your dreams?

A: Certainly! I'm a Montessori 3-6 teacher, founded The City Flea with my husband and am a lifestyle blogger at Little One Love. I live in Cincinnati Ohio with my husband and Chocolate Lab and we're expecting our first baby in February! I graduated from Columbia College Chicago in 2006 with a degree in Marketing and upon graduation moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in entertainment public relations. After about a year in that industry I realized my passions lied with children. I had worked for an after school program all through college and knew working with kids was what I was meant to do. I made a career change and began teaching at an enrichment center for little ones in West LA. My husband and I then decided we wanted to try our hand in New York City and made the move across country to NY. I landed a job as an assistant at a Montessori school in Manhattan and the rest is kind of history. I fell head over heals in love with the philosophy, got my diploma and now teach in my own Montessori classroom at a progressive / non traditional school. I could not be happier with the way things fell into place.

I love design, art, coffee, travel, blogging, and being outdoors. I'm looking forward to this next chapter of life as a mother and dream of a simple, happy, fulfilling life.


Q: Now that the hardest question is out of the way: What's your favorite color?

A: This IS the hardest question! I think my favorite color changes season to season. Right now it's mustard yellow.

Q: Do you have a favorite book? How about a film?

A: I'm sure I do but my goodness it's hard to pick just one! As far as film goes, I'm kind of a sucker for anything Wes Anderson!

Q: When you close your eyes late at night, and imagine waking up and starting a new adventure: what is that adventure?

A: Homeschooling my children while we travel around the world as a family.

Q: Can you tell us about your hobbies?

A: My husband and I love to hike and travel, try new restaurants, practice yoga. I also love to write, blog, and take photos.


Q: Switching to Montessori, what advice do you have for new Montessori schools?

A: Stick to the teachings of Montessori. If there is one pet peeve of mine when it comes to newer Montessori schools it's seeing classrooms that lack proper Montessori materials and teachers who aren't familiar or dedicated to the philosophy.

Q: With that in mind, we suppose the same question can be applied to established Montessori schools.

A: My answer would be the same for this one too. It's cheaper (material wise) and sometimes easier (guidance wise) to fall out of the teachings of Montessori but sticking to the methodology, trusting the children, and being committed to Montessori education as a whole certainly pays off. If your teachers aren't Montessori trained, send them to training programs. Ill equipped teachers are such a dis service to the students. Schools need to remember that the system is about the kids. Nothing else.


Q: How have things changed since you first got started in the field of education?

A: Honestly, they haven't much. I'm still on the younger end of the spectrum so for me I haven't seen a ton of change first hand. I've always worked in a private setting but in the public system I've seen lots of friends loose jobs because of budget cuts. It is heartbreaking. Students are loosing out on a wonderful education because of the way the systems are set up. Large class sizes, arts programs being cut, primary focus on passing state tests - it's such a shame and again, it's just heartbreaking for the kids.


Q: Did you have a "Montessori Moment?"

A: Yes! When I was working as an assistant I can remember watching our classroom environment function like a little community. There were 4 year olds cleaning dishes, 3 year olds weaving, and 5 year olds reading. Just observing such independence, purpose, and confidence in these young children made me fall in love with the philosophy. I get teary eyed thinking about watching my students work with such conviction and confidence. I can remember parents telling me how much their children loved school and would cry during holidays when school was closed. Why can all education not be like this?!


Q: What's your favorite Montessori quote?

A: "The child is both a promise and a hope for mankind."

Q: What do you think is the best introduction to Montessori?

A: Observing how a Montessori classroom functions. There are many great books and resources on the subject but seeing it first hand is the best way to understand the dynamic environment.

Q: What continues to inspire you about Montessori?

A: Seeing growth in my students. Often I'll feel discouraged about progress I'm making with a student then bang, they get it and it's all because of the philosophy. I need to remember to trust myself and the teachings of Montessori. It's amazing what happens when you allow yourself to trust the process.


Q: How do you feel Little one Love can impact the community at large?

A: Wow. I've never thought about this. The focus of Little One Love is not Montessori but I do try to incorporate it in from time to time. I want people to know how beautiful and amazing this type of education is. If anything, my hope is that I'm able to expose more people to the philosophy. I also hope that over the next few years, with a small child at home I will be able to create an at home Montessori environment that readers find inspiring. I think a lot of the way I live in my life is reflective of the Montessori philosophy which has sort of just happened organically over the last few years. I cherish simplicity, beauty and community. I think those are all things that are a part of the Montessori methodology and making that connection has been amazing for me personally. If people can see that connection then, my goodness- that's the impact I'd like to leave.

Q: What kind of legacy to you hope to impart.

A: I want to be a genuinely good person. I want to serve, educate, adopt babies, and spread love. I try everyday to just be a good person and my hope is that I can teach these same things to my children. If i'm able to raise good, compassionate, thoughtful kids, I'll feel like I've left the greatest lecacy there is.

Q: In what ways do you envision the future of education?

A: I'm not super positive that really great, beneficial changes will be made. What I hope though is that education becomes more student-led and personal. Really, I wish educators would look at the Montessori philosophy as a basis for the standard of good education. I know I'm dreaming here but when you think of what would make the education system better, most things that would be stated would all be things that fall under the Montessori philosophy. I recently heard this talk from Sir Ken Robinson on education reform and my mind was blown. Definitely worth watching. Anyone who understands the Montessori philosophy will see direct correlations to what he's saying needs to be "fixed" and what Montessori already teaches. Good stuff!

You should definitely follow Lindsay on Twitter: @littleonelove

Montessori For Everyone

In this Spotlight, we were fortunate enough to chat with Lori Bourne, from Montessori for Everyone. Starting out as a teacher, designing and creating her own materials for the classroom, she soon identified a need to offer these services to a wider audience. Hence, the birth of Montessori for Everyone! Lori is "certified in Montessori Elementary", and lives in the "Chicagolandarea", where she homeschools her son and daughter. We hope you enjoying getting to know Lori.


Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your background, your interests, your dreams? 

A: My name is Lori Bourne and I have a degree in History from Indiana University. While going through college, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. After graduating, I got a job as an assistant at a Montessori school and immediately knew I wanted to be a Montessori teacher.

My interests are very much in line with my business - I love to read and learn about homeschooling, education, and parenting. I also enjoy leading a women's Bible study and helping out at my church in the children and middle school ministries.

Q: Now that the hardest question is out of the way: What's your favorite color?

A: I love all shades of green, but celadon is probably my favorite

Q: Do you have a favorite book? How about a film?

A: I have two favorite books: East of Eden by John Steinbeck and Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. I don't have a very favorite movie but all of my favorite movies are comedies, like This is Spinal Tap, Fletch, and Monty Python: Search for the Holy Grail.

Q: When you close your eyes late at night, and imagine waking up and starting a new adventure: what is that adventure?

A: I would love to travel around the world with my family. I traveled a lot as a child and it instilled in me a love of new places and a love of adventure.

Q: Can you tell us about your hobbies? 

A: My hobbies include music (I sing and play the piano) and reading (I've read thousands of books), and I have to admit that I love online life - from blogs to Twitter and Facebook to small businesses like mine, I spend a lot of time online reading, chatting, and shopping.

Q: Switching to Montessori, what advice do you have for new Montessori schools?

A: New Montessori schools need to be run by someone who is Montessori certified. Yes, that person needs to have business and fundraising skills, but if they don't truly understand Montessori, they will not be able to lead the school in the right direction.

If you are going to call yourself "Montessori", you need to do and be just that. Don't call yourself a Montessori school and then bring in plastic toys (in the younger ages) and give out lots of homework (in the older grades), for example. Parents who come to your school for the "Montessori" of it and find something else will end up being disappointed - you are only hurting yourself in the end.

Yes, running a true Montessori school is both hard and expensive, but it can be done.

Q: With that in mind, we suppose the same question can be applied to established Montessori schools.

A: For an established Montessori school, make sure the teachers you hire are not only Montessori certified but that they share your vision for a true Montessori school. The teachers will end up shaping most of what the children learn and have the most contact with the parents, so it's very important to hire great teachers.

Q: How have things changed since you first got started in the field of education?

A: In regards to traditional education, there is more pressure than ever before on the schools and teachers for children to "achieve" and to be able to measure that achievement in testable ways. It's a true tragedy for both the children and the teachers. There is little to no emphasis on creativity, learning for learning's sake, and cultivating the curiosity that all children are born with.

In response to this, there are more Montessori schools (and other alternative schools) and more homeschoolers than ever before. It's great that people have options, but sad to see the two sides move further away from each other rather than closer.

Q: Did you have a "Montessori Moment?"

A: I absolutely did. I was working as an assistant in a Montessori 3-6 classroom, and I remember one day, early on, watching the children work and being hit with this feeling that this was what education should be like. The specific day I remember, one child was scrubbing a table and another was using an egg beater in a bowl to make bubbles. It was amazing to watch them work on their own.

Q: What's your favorite Montessori quote?

A: "A child's work is to create the person he will become."

Q: What do you think is the best introduction to Montessori?

People who are interested in Montessori should read Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work by E.M. Standing and arrange to observe at a quality Montessori school.

Q: What continues to inspire you about Montessori?

A: I am inspired by the fact that the Montessori method is still so relevant, maybe even now more than ever. Current brain research tells us that the Montessori method of hands-on, self-directed learning is the best way to learn. Maria knew that by observing, and now we can prove that by looking at the brain. Amazing!

"The timelessness of Montessori materials". Picture is courtesy Lincolnshire Montessori, used by permission.

"The timelessness of Montessori materials". Picture is courtesy Lincolnshire Montessori, used by permission.

Q: How do you feel Montessori for Everyone has impacted the community, locally and globally?

A: I've provided the Montessori community with beautiful, high-quality materials at very reasonable prices, and have given many people information they can use through my blog. I also feel that my Facebook page (14,128 fans and growing every day) is a place where the Montessori community can gather to share experiences and ask questions. I truly hope that I've helped make Montessori for everyone!

Q: What kind of legacy would you hope Montessori for Everyone will impart to students?

A: One emphasis of my work has been to update materials, not just with modern pictures but to correct outdated information as well. Dr. Montessori would not want us using out-of-date materials just because they are traditional. I hope that children today - as they start to become adults who shape society - are willing to make changes to accepted practices when science provides new information.

Q: In what ways do you envision the future of education? 

A: I hope that there is radical reform in the United States and around the world, towards student-driven education with an emphasis on critical thinking, curiosity, and real-life experiences over teacher-led classrooms with stiflingly narrow curriculums. I can dream, can't I? ;)

You should like Lori on Facebook and follow her new Tumblr:

Spotlight Dr. Annette Haines

We have so many nice things to say about Dr. Haines. She's an inspiration and a guide to so many. We couldn't be more excited to introduce you to her marvelous mind and her upright, captivating spirit. We hope that the lines of the future of Montessori are drawn by the generous heart of Dr. Haines. We hope you enjoy reading the exchanges as much as we did!


Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your background, your interests, your dreams? 

A: A bit about myself? Oh my, where do I begin? With a whopping 65 years to recount you really don’t want my memoir here. I was born and raised in the Midwest. Actually, I still live close to where I was born. Dr. Montessori was right about the absorbent mind—we learn to love where we grow up. I was a pretty normal kid and went to public school. It wasn’t until the university that I discovered learning and then I became ravenous to learn everything. I have a bachelors in English Literature, a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction and a Doctorate in Education with an emphasis on “the learner and learning theory.”  

My interests are in conservation of natural resources, children, and animals. I also paint in oils when I have time and have dabbled in stained glass.  

My dream is to pretty much do what I am doing. I am living my dream and I wake up every morning and shake my head and wonder why I am so fortunate to wake up today to another day.

Q: Now that the hardest question is out of the way: What's your favorite color?

A: My favorite color is green.  Always has been.  This summer we had a drought and I painted my nails green.  Then it rained.  Green is life.

Q: Do you have a favorite book? How about a film?

A: Favorite Book?  This is hard.  As an English Lit. Major I read enough fiction to choke a goat (Spencer, Milton, Dante, Wordsworth, D.H. Lawrence, etc.) and so I spent at least two decades reading non-fiction—which is still my favorite—science, biology and science stuff.   But I find the quality of both fiction and non-fiction has diminished lately and have been having trouble finding anything good to read.  Have you read Sir James Barrie’s Peter Pan?  Three other oldies but goodies might include: 

1) The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image by Leonard Shlain (1999) 2) The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes 1976). 3) The Ascent of Man by Jacob Bronowski (1973).


Q:  When you close your eyes late at night, and imagine waking up and starting a new adventure: what is that adventure?

A: I have two imaginary adventures and they are antithetical to each other. The first is to have a permanent training center in the South St. Louis near Tower Grove Park and the Botanical Garden where we could have academic and summer courses and maybe occasionally an elementary or A-I course, etc. My second adventure is to move to the end of a long one way road in Montana with my dogs and two (yes, only two) horses…where I would hear nothing but the sound of cawing birds, a gurgling stream and wind in the pines.

Q: Can you tell us about about Red Fox Paso Finos, your horse training, breeding and training facility? 

A: Oh the horses! Where do I begin? My husband and I have been ‘doing’ horses since 1995 when we moved to my parents’ farm in Troy, Illinois. Dad had just died and the place was in shambles.  The fences were falling down and (oh well, I won’t go into all that). Bit by bit we have grown a horse business—breeding, raising, training, and selling Paso Fino horses. We now have a herd of about 30 mostly young horses. We have a full-time trainer and another fellow who cleans stalls and feeds. When I’m not doing Montessori, I work with the horse clients, help them with their horses, manage the property and oversee the operation, which could certainly be a full time job.


Q: Are there overlaps to your work there, and in the Montessori world?

A: There are many overlaps between my work with the horses and my work with Montessori.  I read somewhere that the IQ of a horse is about that of a normal 4 year old. They have many of the same needs and characteristics. They are emotional learners. They need repetition.  They seek pattern and consistency. They are harmed by abuse and resist being pushed. They love ritual, a constant daily schedule, and patterns of movement that they can count on. Any change causes upset, perhaps even illness. Horses can be therapeutic for the adult humans who work with them but first the adult humans have to control their own movements and their own emotions. I told Bobby that someday I wanted to write a book called Of Horses and Children.


Q: What advice do you have for new Montessori schools? With that in mind, we suppose the same question can be applied to established Montessori schools. 

A: The advice I would give to new schools (and old schools) is to follow the ‘album’ for the corresponding plane of development and follow the AMI Guidelines for School Recognition. These are not easy things to do; they separate the good schools, the good programs, the good classrooms—real Montessori—from the rest.

Q: How have things changed since you first got started in the field of education?

I began in education in the 1960’s and the big thing was Bloom’s Taxonomy. Nothing has really changed in traditional education in the last 50 years, but they change the jargon of the latest, greatest thing. First it was outcomes based, then it was assessment based, then it was researched based…Come on. None of this really has anything to do with what you do on a daily basis with a child. That’s why I am a Montessorian.

Q: Did you have a "Montessori Moment?"

A: I have had many “Montessori Moments.” I won’t bore you with them all.  But I think the most important realization was when, as a young teacher, I went back to the training center to begin Training of Trainers and, still teaching, tried to do what the album said, down to the tiniest detail, in my presentations with the children. Now that was an epiphany.  If you do that, you will have just amazing success.

Q: What's your favorite Montessori quote?

A:  My favorite quote comes from a little pamphlet called “Peace and Education.” In it she talks about how our age represents a time of crisis…a period of passage from one era to another comparable only to the opening of a new biological or geological period in which new conditions of life will be realized which have never existed before. The natural boundaries of mountains, deserts and seas no longer limit man, “now that he can fly over them.” (1975, p. 30) In this new age, she says, “laws and treaties” will not be enough; the limits will have to come from within.  For this, we need a fundamental change in education, for —

-the child who has never learned to act alone, to direct his own actions, to govern his own will, grows into an adult who is easily led and must lean upon others. (1975, p. 23.)

And then there is good stuff in the 1946 Lectures.  For example:

Just imagine what a society would be like that was quiet, a society without movement. Think what would happen if all men stopped moving – if only for one week. What would happen? Everyone would die. It is not a question of social life, but of work. It is not a question of individual gymnastics. If the whole society of men all over the world made nothing but uncoordinated, jerky movements they would die in a short time. All their energies would be consumed for nothing. 
Society is a complex arrangement of individuals, each of whom moves differently from the other. Keep in mind the construction of the world – each organism moves to suit its own purpose. Imagine what it would be like if all the plants stopped moving. There would be no more fruit or flowers – there would be too much poisonous gas in the air. If everything stopped – if the birds remained motionless in the trees or if the insects fluttered to the ground and remained still, if the wild beasts did not move through the jungle or if the fish stopped swimming in the water – what a terrible world it would be. 
Immobilization is impossible. Nature gives a useful purpose to each animal. This is the philosophy of movement: all life is movement. Each organism has its own movement for its own purpose. The creation of the world is a harmony of all these purposeful movements. 

The whole series of 1946 Lectures probably constitutes my favorite quote…I love every sentence.

Q: What do you think is the best introduction to Montessori?

A: The best introduction to Montessori is as a parent. Young parents are in a sensitive period and open and looking for ideas that resonate with what they are experiencing. My first introduction to Montessori was as a young mother and it was like a conversion experience. I did not need to understand it with my head; I immediately understood it with my heart.

Q: What continues to inspire you about Montessori?

A: What continues to inspire me is that it works today just as it did over 100 years ago and the children continue to reveal themselves in the same way as they revealed themselves to Dr. Montessori.

Q: How do you feel that Montessori can impact communities?

A: Montessori can only impact communities when it impacts more children and families. It must not remain a fringe phenomenon. Nor can lousy Montessori speak for the method. It must be good, quality, authentic Montessori and this must be available for everyone, everywhere. What a pipe dream!

Q: In what ways do you envision the future of education?

A: I don’t know. Sometimes I get weary and depressed. No one seems to ‘get’ it and public education seems to keep spinning around in the same old circle. Private schools like yours will have to continue to be the model for the time being, if only to hold on to the idea long enough for it to replicate and spread.

Q: Lastly, do you have another "worn littles suitcase, zipped and locked with a tiny padlock", like The 1946 London Lectures by Maria Montessori, which was just recently published?

A: Actually, I do.  It is the 1946 London Lectures of Mario Montessori, which I envision to eventually be a companion volume.  Dr. Maria Montessori and her son Mario worked together and both gave the course.  Without Mario’s words, Maria’s are still incomplete.  I have been trying to persuade the family to publish the 1946 Mario Lectures but up until this point they have been reluctant to do so.

Spotlight Samantha Cedarleaf

We couldn't be more excited to introduce you to Samantha Cedarleaf. Here's her biography: "I'm an AMI-certified primary directress. I run a little Montessori school in a big city."

Yes, we know, her biography hooked us too! Now, for hook, line and sinker. Location? Where else, but Brooklyn, NY. We have a feeling that Samantha is just getting started!


Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your background, your interests, your dreams?

A: My Montessori journey began in 2004 when my family helped start a Montessori school in Kampala, Uganda. We were in the process of adopting my little brother and we met a woman who had been trained in the Montessori method in London. I had a vague idea of what Montessori was but didn't really learn more until 2008 when I got more involved with the school in Kampala.

I realized that I needed to be trained so I took a correspondence course with the North American Montessori Center and received a primary diploma from them. When I did more research about Montessori I heard about the AMI and a woman named Lynne Lawrence. I heard about her work with Montessori schools in Kenya and Tanzania and decided that I wanted to be trained by her.

I moved to London and was part of the 96th course at the Maria Montessori Institute. My dream is to help spread AMI Montessori to Uganda, but in the meantime I'm living and working in Brooklyn. I started a little school with just a few children in my neighborhood and I love it!


Q: Now that the hardest question is out of the way: What's your favorite color?

A: I can't pick just one! Can a sunset be my favorite color?

Q: Do you have a favorite book? How about a film?

A: My favorite children's book is Miss Rumphius. I get choked up every time I read it. And I have too many favorite movies. "What About Bob" and "Waiting for Guffman" are in my top 10 for sure.

Q: When you close your eyes late at night, and imagine waking up and starting a new adventure: what is that adventure?

A: I would love to be working in East Africa helping people start Montessori schools and training programs. It would be amazing to be a part of something that could transform the lives of so many children!

Q: Can you tell us about your hobbies?

A: Since I started my own school I spend most of my spare time working! I make a lot of materials for my class, and I love to write and illustrate reading booklets for my students. I also love to explore the City but I don't cross the bridge to Manhattan as often as I'd like. When I do, I often take a sketchbook to the MET and draw for a few hours.


Q:  Switching to Montessori, what advice do you have for new Montessori schools?

A: I'd say that the most important thing is to find parents who are excited about the Montessori method. The first year is really challenging for all sorts of reasons and if you can eliminate the challenge of convincing skeptical parents, then do it!

Q:  With that in mind, we suppose the same question can be applied to established Montessori schools.

A: Since I'm only in my second year I'm not sure I'm the best person to give advice on this. But the biggest lesson I learned from last year is to communicate with parents, but not to overdo it. I've found that parents don't necessarily want a minute-by-minute log of what their children did at school. They just want to know their children are happy and learning.

Q: How have things changed since you first got started in the field of education?

A: I'm still a rookie so I'm not sure! ;)

Q: Did you have a "Montessori Moment"?

A: I think the moment I was truly convinced that Montessori is the BEST and ONLY way to educate young children was the first time I observed in the Children's House at the Maria Montessori Institute. I really couldn't believe my eyes.


Q: What's your favorite Montessori quote?

A: The first quote that ever struck a chord with me is from the Discovery of the Child: "She cannot understand her apparently passive role, which is like that of an astronomer who sits fixed at his telescope while the planets go spinning around. It is very difficult to assimilate and to put into practice the idea that life and all that is connected with it go on by themselves, and that it must be observed and understood without intervention if we wish to divine its secrets or direct its activities." 

And another favorite is from the Absorbent Mind: "The teacher of children up to six years of age knows that she has helped mankind in an essential part of its formation. She is happy in the knowledge that in this formative period, they were able to do what they had to do. She will also be able to say, ‘I have served the spirits of those children, and they have fulfilled their development, and I kept them company in their experiences.'"

Q: What do you think is the best introduction to Montessori?

A: I think there are two important ways to get to know Montessori: The first and most profound is to see Montessori children in action. Nothing can compare to it! The second is to read about it. E.M. Standing's Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work is an excellent introduction. 

Q: What continues to inspire you about Montessori?

A: During my training I was really into the theory of the Method. I wasn't concerned so much with the practical details. But when I opened my school I was forced to really dive head first into the practice. I was amazed to see everything that I had read about happening before my eyes. The method was materialized right in my own classroom and it is every single day. 

Q: How do you feel your school has impacted your community?

A: I feel like I've found a great group of families who are excited and passionate about their children's education. We're becoming Montessori evangelists to our little neighborhood in Brooklyn!

Q: What kind of legacy would you hope your school will impart to students?

A: My greatest hope for my students is that they would grow up to be compassionate, independent, and thoughtful contributors to their families, then to their neighborhood, then to our city, then the world.


Q: In what ways do you envision the future of education?

A: Just from my interactions with parents in my neighborhood I've sensed that people are no longer satisfied with the status quo. I know several people who have pulled their children out of public schools and are beginning to educate them at home. I hope that this dissatisfaction will lead to a revolution in how we educate our children. I think we need to return to the most important factor in education, the one that seems to have been ignored the most -- the child.

You should follow Samantha on Twitter: @verymontessori

Spotlight Mandie & Prairie Hill

In this Spotlight, we turn our attention to Mandie Cody Schadwinkel, who helps run an inspiring and unique Montessori school, called Prairie Hill, located just outside of Lincoln, Nebraska.


Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your work at Prairie Hill?

A: I am a co-director of the primary community and am the Education Programs Coordinator for the school as well.

Q: What makes Prairie Hill so unique and such a silver staple of Montessori in the Midwest?

A: Since PRAIRIE HILL was founded in 1981, it has been committed to offering education in an atmosphere that promotes individual growth as well as caring for others and the earth. It has lived out that mission every day since.

The foundation of that philosophy as well as incredible vision and work from the founders, Lyn and Jim Dyck, lead the way for all of the children, staff, and parents to see what amazing things happen when children are exposed to and work together within their natural environment and a Montessori community.

The Montessori teachers have maintained that vision and action by working closely with the administration and board of directors to provide enriching experiences for children and adolescents year round.

Our parents are very involved and are committed to being a "village" of support and care for one another. Alumni come back year after year to be a part of our family workdays, and they volunteer and work at our summer camp programs. The people on staff are passionate, kind, well trained, and talented.

All of this adds up to mutual feelings of thanksgiving and respect for the value of providing a learning and caring environment to the plants, animals, and people on this Montessori farm school.


Q: One of our fondest memories of our time at Prairie Hill, was of a boy named Henry. How is he? (The image we have emblazoned in our minds is of him showing us how to tie his shoelaces at the age of two.)

Henry is a joy! He is eight years old and is looking forward to being a "third year" in the younger elementary this year. He loves working on research projects with others, writing, and moving his body.

My younger son Charlie is five and will be in his third year of the primary community. He enjoys collecting beautiful rocks or finding bones for a "museum" that he and some friends established and set up near the duck pond at PH.

Q: Can you describe your path to Montessori?

A: Since I was nine years old, I loved the idea of being a teacher. I used to make up activities and games for my younger brother. My last year of high school I taught at a camp and was reminded that I love to be around children. I studied elementary education and early childhood development at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I had very good professors and embraced the "constructivist" philosophy of education.

I was introduced to Montessori briefly through a class at UNL and was interested in knowing more.  When I first stepped into the primary classroom at PRAIRIE HILL, located in a historic farmhouse, I was hooked. I loved the environment and was intrigued by the materials. After working at PH during summer camp, I was inspired by the philosophy in action. The children were aware of their environment and themselves, kind, self-regulating, and confident. I knew I wanted to be a part of this secret of childhood that Montessorians knew how to foster.

I worked the next few years at PRAIRIE HILL as an assistant in several different communities ranging from the Young Children's Community (18 months to 3 years old), Primary, and Elementary. I also traveled to Australia and Europe to see international schools for children, both mainstream and Montessori.

After college graduation, I worked as an assistant in another Montessori school and enrolled at the Montessori Training Center of Minnesota. It was excellent. My trainer, Molly O'Shaughnessy did a wonderful job of teaching us and sharing her passion. She is an outstanding leader and advocate for children. Since then, I've been at PH with a wonderful group of children, colleagues and families.


Q: In our estimations, learning doesn't just about inside the classroom. It can happen anywhere. Can you describe how Prairie Hill exemplifies this idea?

A: PRAIRIE HILL provides opportunities for children based on their development needs for contributing to and experiencing the world. The children who are younger than six regularly "go out" on our farm to feed animals, water plants, pick vegetables and fruits from our gardens and orchard, deliver food or give message to other communities, explore the woods, etc. all as a part of their daily work.

The children older than six take part in adventures here on the farm as well but also out among the broader Lincoln area community. They go to hardware stores, universities, bakeries, etc. to learn about the way the world works and to gather information or materials they need. The older elementary students prepare and serve food monthly to a kitchen outreach center for people in need. They plan and go on camping trips to nearby states each year. Some years, they also take longer/ bigger trips to learn more about history or current events/opportunities.


Q: Okay, a tough question: What does Montessori mean to you? What does it mean to your students? What does it mean to your family?

A: To me, Montessori means continuously observing and analyzing children and their surroundings. It means reviewing the writings of Dr. Montessori as well as current research on development, culture, and education. It means putting forth the extra effort to advocate and work hard on behalf of children, even in difficult or discouraging times. It also means working with a warm community of amazing people with passion to help create wonderful experiences for the children of the world.

To the students, I think it means that they are surrounded by adults who trust that children have a natural way of developing and revealing themselves to the world and supporting them in that process. We respect and care deeply for them and work to remove obstacles on their behalf. We strive to foster optimal living and learning experiences. These experiences aren't always the ones that are the fastest, easiest, or most entertaining for children but the ones they need in order to have for the self-mastery they desire and for the grace and courtesy they need when working with others.

For my family, as most families, we want to find that balance between freedom and responsibility in the home. Both my husband and I know that it can be very easy to "over parent" and not let our children make mistakes. We remind ourselves that it's important to let them fail and then go over what happened and talk about lessons learned from those experiences. We also try and give them space and time, not always running around as a family or having TVs or computers constantly in use, to enjoy the pleasures of simply being with one another.


Q: What's your favorite Montessori quote?

A: "Our method takes into account the spontaneous psychic development of a child and assists it with means drawn from observation and experience. If physical care enables a child to enjoy the pleasures of a healthy body, intellectual and moral care introduces him to the higher pleasures of the spirit and urges him on to new insights and discoveries both in his external environment and and the intimacy of his own soul. These are the joys which prepare a man for life and which are the only ones that are really suitable for the education of children." - The Discovery of the Child

Q: Where do you see Montessori in the next 100 years?

A: I think mainstream education will naturally gravitate more to the wisdom that Montessori provides. I hope that 100 years from now mainstream education will include mixed ages, more focus on the inward preparation of the teachers, and more attention to how to guide children in a more holistic and empowering way.

Q: What are your hobbies?

A: I always love good conversation around a great meal! I enjoy traveling, yoga, reading, bike riding with my family, and spending time with family and friends.

Q: Have you read any good books lately?

A: I really liked "A Sense of an Ending" by Julian Barnes and am currently enjoying "Unbowed," A memoir by Wangari Maathai.

Q: What life lessons have you learned from Montessori?

A: Be present and be patient.


Q: Do you have advice for other Montessori guides?

A: I would encourage observing other Montessori environments/ schools twice a year, attend conferences, and revisit Montessori writings and your albums. Also, some kind of regular relaxation practice or something that fills you up to be able to keep giving is very important.