Spotlight Maren Schmidt
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your background, your interests, your dreams?
Today I live on the Big Island of Hawaii with my husband, Mark. I have two adult daughters, Dana, a naturopathic doctor and Hannah, a turn-around management consultant.
I spend most of my time putting together newsletters, webinars and online workshops for three audiences: parents, teachers and school leaders.
In 1990 I started a Montessori school in Bentonville, Arkansas. As anyone who has started a school will tell you, you do everything. Teach, administer, clean, mow the lawn and make payroll.
In 2004 my husband retired and we turned over the school to a parent board, and moved to my husband’s home state of Oregon.
My father, for the first few years of my life, was the circulation manager for the Daily Oklahoman in Oklahoma City. He’d come home in the evenings and throw me a paper. While he visited with my mother as she cooked dinner I would unfold the paper and “read” the paper. I have distinct memories of being just two-years-old, hunched over the paper in our living room and thinking, “Someday I am going to write for a newspaper.”
In 2004 I had my first newspaper column published in Bentonville. My school’s website designer, Jeannette Balleza, recommended that I start a blog and online newsletter with the column. Fourteen years later, and my first Kids Talk column has morphed into books, webinars, online workshops, three blogs, three newsletters and consulting services.
An underlying theme of my work has been about encouraging adult leadership to create optimum learning environments for children…at school, at home, and in the larger community.
Right now, I am energized about teaching leadership and mentoring school leaders.
I dream about helping school leaders build awesome school communities.
Q: Now that the hardest question is out of the way: What’s your favorite color?
That’s easy. Blue. Royal blue. Every shade of blue!
Q: Do you have a favorite book? How about a film?
I love reading and I love movies.
One of my favorite books is To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. When I first read the book as a young teen I appreciated Scout’s perspective on the world, particularly school.
Having lived summers in the South before air conditioning, Harper Lee’s description of 1932 rural Alabama drew me in and I felt as if I were there.
Very few films capture what happens in your imagination when you read a book, but I think the film, too, of To Kill A Mockingbird is one of my favorites for the way that the director, Robert Mulligan, visually recreated the story. It’s timeless.
Q: When you close your eyes late at night, and imagine waking up and starting a new adventure: what is that adventure?
My new adventures might not seem like adventures to other people.
My adventures start with intention to create.
Whatever project I’m working on, whether it’s writing a newsletter, putting together a webinar or a workshop, talking to a Kids Talk reader, or cooking dinner, I find it an adventure in the fact I never know what twists and turns will occur.
“I dream about helping school leaders build awesome school communities.”
I start in one place and end up someplace with new ideas and people…and most of the time something tasty for dinner.
Q: What first appealed to you about Montessori?
The first classroom I observed was a toddler class. The dignity and confidence in which those 12 to 30-month-olds moved about the classroom fascinated me.
When I saw the three to six-year-olds get ready for lunch, everybody working together, I thought, “I wish the people I worked with could be so organized and kind.”
That’s the moment that I began this Montessori journey.
Q: What advice do you have for new Montessori adults?
To get started, read my book, Understanding Montessori: A Guide For Parents, or take my online course, Seeing Your Child The Montessori Way.
Q: What’s your favorite Montessori quote?
It’s hard to choose! Here’s one.
My vision of the future is no longer of people taking exams and proceeding on that certification from the secondary school to the university, but of individuals passing from one stage of independence to a higher, by means of their own activity, through their own effort of will, which constitutes the inner evolution of the individual.
From Childhood to Adolescence, Preface
I love that phrase… by means of their own activity, through their own effort of will, which constitutes the inner evolution of the individual.
Q: What inspired you to share your Montessori story on your blog and social media?
The game I like to play is to write about Montessori principles and ideas without ever using the word Montessori.
Because Montessori principles are enduring universal principles of learning and teaching that work with children and adults, all over the world.
Dr. Montessori “discovered” these principles. She didn’t invent them.
Once you see a “Montessori” principle in action, the common-sense of it all becomes evident.
At least I hope so.
Q: What advice do you have for new parents trying to incorporate Montessori at home?
I recommend my complimentary 45-minute online workshop, Preparing Your Home The Montessori Way.
Find out more here.
Q: What do you think is the best introduction to Montessori?
I think that once you see a well-running classroom perhaps you’ll be fascinated enough to learn more.
How do you know you are watching a well-running classroom?
It will be hard to find the adults in the classroom as the children are so prominent and engaged in activity.
Q: What continues to inspire you about Montessori?
The dedication of teachers, school leaders, and especially parents to guide another generation of children to adulthood.
Q: In what ways do you envision the future of education?
A few years ago I did a series Kids Talk series of articles I called the Exponential Education Series. They are on my blog with the first one is entitled Towards the New Education.
Somehow as human beings we have to figure out a way to help each person realize who they are.
The potential of so many lives are squandered simply because, as children, those individuals lack enlightened adult guidance and a prepared environment in which to learn and grow.
Q: Where do you see Montessori in the next 100 years?
We are in a precarious time in human history. Perhaps we are always in precarious times.
Addiction to technology is supplanting human relationships and understanding.
Many children’s sensory environments are difficult for them to navigate, and do not provide a situation where children can develop concentration and independence, the foundational blocks for learning and building a well-lived life.
Will Montessori education weather this storm of technology overload and addiction?
How can we protect our children from the dangers of this onslaught?
“Once you see a ‘Montessori’ principle in action, the common-sense of it all becomes evident.”
Do we understand what forces we face in guiding normal and natural human development over the next 100 years? Because they will be formidable.
It will take strong leadership to protect the embodied principles of Montessori education.
That’s one reason I want to focus on developing leaders in the Montessori world.
I’ll close with this thought that might highlight the difference between a Montessori principle and technology addiction:
An interesting piece of work, freely chosen, which has the virtue of inducing concentration rather than fatigue, adds to the child’s energies and mental capacities, and leads him to self-mastery.
The Absorbent Mind, page 188
Written by:Charlotte Wood