Purpose of This Blog

Devoted to Guiding Educators Towards a Centered and Intentional Montessori Practice.


Friday, December 21, 2018

Winter Benediction for a Montessori Guide

What is it that calls us to this work?

What, beyond all other reason, provides for us the energy to continue to step boldly forward in service and support, partnership and solidarity? It must be “belief” - belief in the power of the human spirit to rise above.

We are, all of us, champions of humanity’s capacity to question, wonder, work, struggle, persevere, and to constantly be making itself anew.

I suggest that our work as stewards of the children in our care is often more ministerial than academic, more pastoral than instructional. It’s all related, of course: our work in skills development and content mastery, coupled with social and moral development. If our task is to help support the unfolding of the child’s inner self, it’s blossoming can only be as grand as the fertile soil from which it’s slender stem grows.

Remember, therefore, the significance of the intentionally prepared environment (yes, every nook and cranny), and of the spiritually prepared adult… every nook and cranny; nothing can be left to chance.

In an outer world that often feels fast, loud, scary, and impersonal you provide the light in the darkness. It is your thoughtful presence in our students’ lives that makes the difference; you serve as the beacon of clarity, and promise of safe harbor.

Our work is, at its heart, is an act of great hope, faith, and defiance. We cannot foretell what the future may bring, but we believe that the path forward for humanity - for today and tomorrow - is to equip the young people with which we share our days with the compassion, balance, ingenuity and grace to transform the world as we know it to one in which love triumphs over greed, and where joy dances beyond of the shadow of fear.

On this Winter Solstice, this day of longest night, take heart in knowing that we stand together and together we are strong. In our continual work to refine our practice and reaffirm our commitment to the scope and depth of the responsibilities we hold, shine out your inner light. Let it guide you, and welcome others to the warmth of your soul.

(This blog post was first published in Finding Our Center - Reaching Out on December 21, 2016.)

Friday, September 21, 2018

Peaceful Children, Peaceful World: The Challenge of Maria Montessori

September 21, 2018 - International Day of Peace

The beginning of the school year provides great opportunities for reflection and renewal. Within the first weeks of being together, staff communities settle back into familiar routines in preparation for the students’ return. 

These are critical times to set the spiritual and emotional climate for the months to come. A staff needs to know the reason and rationale for their work, the great and powerful “why” they serve the children and their families in the capacities that they do. 

Throughout her writings, Maria Montessori infused a sense of the greater aim of our endeavors; namely, to cultivate in children a new consciousness, from which peace can flourish. It is essential that now, and throughout the school year, we return to this central vision. 

The words that follow are excerpts from “Peaceful Children, Peaceful World: The Challenge of Maria Montessori” by Aline D. Wolf, with illustrations by Joe Servello (1989). For this book, Wolf selected significant sections from Maria Montessori’s 1932 speech at the International Office of Education in Geneva, Switzerland – published first in Italian as “Educazione e Pace”, then later in English as “Education and Peace”(1943) by the Theosophical Society in India. Wolf edited sections from the Indian edition for this book. 

“Only a sane spiritual rebuilding of the human race can bring about peace. To set about this task, we must go back to the child.

In the child we can find the natural human characteristics before they are spoiled by the harmful influences of society.

The life of the embryo in the mother’s womb has the sole purpose of maturing into the newborn child. But the gestation of the whole human being is not confined to that short period.

Another period of gestation follows, whose sole purpose is to incarnate and make conscious the child’s spirit. Delicate nurture is needed to protect this often unrecognized process which can only be carried out by the child, obeying a natural rhythm of activity which has little in common with that of the commanding adult.

Truly, upon the spiritual growth of the child depend the health or sickness of the soul, the strength or weakness of the character, the clearness or obscurity of the intellect.

The nurturing of the spiritual life finds its expression both within the family and at school in what is still called education.

If education recognizes the intrinsic value of the child’s personality and provides an environment suited to spiritual growth, we have the revelation of an entirely new child, whose astonishing characteristics can eventually contribute to the betterment of the world.

I believe that the new adults who emerge from a more tranquil childhood will use their intellects and achievements to find a means to end the fury of war.

Monumental changes are needed to establish peace in the world: first, the maturing of adults to a higher level of development and, then, the providing of an environment that will no longer deprive any human being of the basic needs of life.

Through new education, we must enable children to grow up with a healthy spirit, a strong character and clear intellect, so that as adults they will not tolerate contradictory moral principles but will gather human energies for constructive purposes.
                                                                                                   - Maria Montessori

- In what ways can we explore Montessori’s profound vision with the broader school community? 
- How might students, teachers, administrators, and parents reach a new understanding of what we are here to do?
- What are the collaborative structures and systems needed such that Montessori’s vision can be realized?
- In what ways can the whole school community share in the keeping of this flame?
It is easy to become distracted. Like any meditation, however, we have to purposely bring our minds and hearts back to ground, back to the breath. It is this practice of mindfulness that will not only assist us in clarifying our mission, but will be palpable to the children and families with whom we share this adventure: priorities clear, distractions at bay, hearts open, ears attuned – minds and bodies ready to be present for the great unfolding. 


“Peaceful Children, Peaceful World: The Challenge of Maria Montessori” by Aline D. Wolf, with illustrations by Joe Servello (1989)
ISBN-10: 093919502X
ISBN-13: 978-0939195022


"Education and Peace" by Maria Montessori (1992 edition)
ISBN-13: 978-1851091683

A Short List of Related Links from This Blog

Why Montessori Matters:

Children Centered Learning – Learning Centered Children:

Teaching With Spirit: Maria Montessori’s Cosmic Vision:

Weaving the Cosmos:

Looking for Grace in the Work We Do:

Monday, January 22, 2018

On Gratitude

I have been feeling profoundly grateful recently. This gratitude comes, in part, from being a member of a community who’s noble work is to serve childhood and adolescence at a deeply personal level - providing thoughtfully designed opportunities for our students to connect with and explore the universe and its many possibilities through their hands, hearts, and minds. We do this, not by following a weathered, prescribed, and rote program of education; rather, we partner with and shepherd our students much like expectant parents do: mindful of human development and the tendencies to which we are predisposed, and intentional with how we prepare ourselves and our environments to receive and serve.

I have also been considering the many curricular pathways that Maria Montessori shared with us so to explore and express our own gratitude through our studies with students. The Great Lessons, and embedded supplemental presentations, are rich experiences in the sciences and history, numeracy and literacy, to be sure; they are also pathways to gratitude: gratitude for our planet, our home, to be so perfectly positioned between the warmth of our great central star and the cold of deep space; gratitude for the earliest photosynthetic multicellular organisms on our young planet for filtering its toxic early atmosphere, making the air oxygen-rich and ready to support terrestrial life; gratitude for the lives of our hominid ancestors - bipedal, imaginative, tool making, and fire building; and more.

Indeed, in many lessons and in multiple writings and public addresses, Montessori reminds us of our human solidarity - across continents, culture, and time. She repeatedly returns to a theme of gratitude and unity, even when sharing her ideas during some of the darkest days of modern human history. Our collective strength is what we have created and shared, expanded upon, and developed further - so to bring peace and equanimity to more and more of the world’s citizens: reliable sources of nutrition, clean water, and medical care; education, and pathways out of poverty; nonviolent conflict resolution, and targeted social action - to name just a few. In thinking of those who have preceded us, preparing the way for our lives and work today I, too, offer my deepest thanks.

And lastly, in real time, I feel great gratitude for my colleagues and compatriots in this work - for bringing the world’s possibilities closer to our students and their families. Let us consider the gratitude that we each feel and carry with us. Let us embrace the opportunities we have to study, express, and deepen our appreciation of our own collective gifts today and in the days and weeks that follow.

Our work today, is the child’s world tomorrow.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Montessori at Midwinter

One of the characteristics of the Montessori community that I most treasure is our capacity to care for and support one another, to hold each other close. There is a tenderness to our professional relationships that provides both solace and strength in times of stress and uncertainty.

This, admittedly, is not always easy, in part due to our inherent differences, but also on account of the nature of the work: we approach our responsibilities with dedicated and committed passion, focused with singular attention on the needs of our children and our programs. This work is not easy, and the tenacity and humility required takes great courage and faith.

At times, we all can get caught-up, hooked by our own comforts, perceptions, and experiences and - catalyzed by fatigue - that may limit, for a time, our true potential and the possibilities of our collective partnerships. This is not a particular trait of who we are, or of our unique assemblage of hearts and minds; rather, it’s evidence of each of us working to understand the human experience and our own calling.

Through it all, there is a bond that unites us, a purpose and synchronicity to our community - united in spirit and service. In trial and change, it is our ability to breathe, reflect, and step progressively ever-forward together that speaks to our health, wisdom, and resilience. Fear not the challenges, for they are our greatest teachers.

Consider our work and, through it, its impact on the world. Reflect upon our days in service of our students, their families, and each other. Everything matters, even those seemingly little touches that could easily be left undone, and more easily forgotten. The subtleties of our care and concern for each other and those whom we serve is the measurable difference.

On this midwinter day, let us pause to celebrate our Montessori community and the roots of our strength. May the light of the new year's sun warm and sustain us, and serve as a gift of perspective and balance - reminding us of what is at stake: How precious are our populations? How prepared are our practices? How powerful are the possibilities?

Saturday, November 18, 2017

How We Say, What We Say - Part IV

In November of 2011, shortly after starting this blog, I created a “wordle” of all of the text of the posts to date in an effort to explore how I was saying what I was saying:

How We Say, What We Say - Part I

It was certainly an interesting reflection of my priorities and sensibilities; at least, in how I expressed them at the time.

In June of 2012, I created another wordle upon which to reflect:

And then, in April of 2014 - a year and ten months and thirteen posts later - I built a third glimpse into the weight of the words I choose:

How We Say, What We Say - Part III

Now eighteen months and thirty-seven posts since the last word cloud, and five years since beginning this journey through the blogosphere, here is another creation: from aphorisms to action. 

Try it out with your own work: www.wordle.net

Sunday, October 29, 2017

On Stillness, Silence, and the Insight that Attends

I am interested in the space between things. Of beauty and majesty I am a devoted fan; it's what lingers within, however, that attracts me the most. 

What defines an experience? And, how does one explore the dimensions and value of each? 

As biological beings, we interact with our world and those sensorial moments define and shape our lives. We place these experiences in boxes of similarily-associated moments in our subconscious, and then gather these memories as tools for understanding our world, our lives, and our future possibilities. 

After all, what are we but ever-changing constellations of unique experiences - constantly making and remaking our selves, informed by the past, present, and potential?

Our souls are cavernous museums of such stories. The experiences we collect stand defined on separate plinths, and hung on the welcoming walls of our inner selves. 

As much as it is the art and artifacts collected therein that brings meaning to one's life, it is also the way the light plays throughout the hall, the quality and movement of the air, and the feel of the floor beneath our feet. There is an intimacy between the objects themselves and the space and energy that connects them. 

What is it like to travel through such a chamber of secrets? The making of one's self centers on the ability to return to the moments of the past, finding meaning and definition from the connections we can draw from and between them, as much as it pivots on the decisions we initiate each new day. 

We can navigate the space between by welcoming silence and stillness into our lives, and by opening ourselves to the insight that attends us. In pausing we welcome proximity, bringing the mystery and magic of our true selves into sharper focus. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Peace Day Celebration: September 21, 2017

The following is the text of a brief address that I gave at the annual Peace Day Celebration at the Golden campus of Compass Montessori School on September 21, 2017:

"Good morning!

"Welcome everyone to our ceremony in honor of the International Day of Peace.

"Today, alongside thousands of Montessori schools, and tens of thousands of citizens in the United States and around the world, we pause to celebrate the local, national, and global efforts to create a more peaceful world - and to contemplate what more we can do.

"Please join me in acknowledging our incredible school community: our Children’s House, and our Elementary program; our Farm School, and our High School; our amazing staff; and parents, guardians, and guests who have joined us in solidarity and celebration.

"Our gathering today has extra special meaning, for amongst many skills - including being a physician, anthropologist, educator, and child advocate - Maria Montessori was a peace activist. She saw in the child the hope for a better tomorrow. It was her vision that, through her schools, curricula, and mindset of the adults who worked there, that a more peaceful and just world could be brought into being.

"For her selfless commitment to the world’s children and for serving impacted communities on nearly every continent, Montessori was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times - in 1949, 1950, and 1951 - but never won.

"As members of the Compass Montessori School community, we are the heirs of Montessori’s vision, the recipients, and beneficiaries of her legacy. Our job is to continue her call to action, to carry the torch forward.

"Last year we dedicated a Peace Pole to our community on this day. It says 'May Peace Prevail on Earth' in four languages - Chinese, Spanish, English, and Hindi - the four most commonly spoken languages in the world. What does it mean? And, why have it written in four languages? It means that Peace is Possible everywhere: in every nation, every state, every city, every town, every neighborhood, every school, every family, and every person. It doesn’t matter where you live, what language you speak, what clothes you wear, or what color your skin is: Peace is Possible.

"Peace is Possible when each one of us decides to be peaceful. When we help one another, encourage one another, respect one another - Peace is Possible. When we let others know how we feel and what we need - Peace is Possible. When we let others tell us how they feel and what they need - Peace is Possible. Every time we work together to make things better for us all - Peace is Possible.

"What are you going to do today that will make a difference? How will today be different from yesterday, and tomorrow different from today?

"Peace takes practice, and work; it is a continuous process, one that requires thoughtful dedication, an unflappable determination, and the willingness to do even more.

"As we conclude our celebration today, I suggest that we commit to ourselves and to each other what our role is now - and what it will be in the days to come - towards building a more peaceful world.

"Please repeat after me:

I am…
...the future;
I can…
...make a difference;
We are…
…stronger together.
We can…
… build a more peaceful world.

"Thank you!"

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Hate Has No Home Here

We find ourselves in challenging times. Not since the middle part of the last century have we seen in our country such an apparent resurgence of hate speech and harassment, and threats and acts of violent hate crime.
How do we help our students navigate the conflicting messages that they witness in the world around them?
In Montessori schools, one of our mandates is to provide opportunities for children to find their personal moral center. What are many of the lessons in Grace & Courtesy and Cosmic Education intended to generate, but for a deeply felt sense of tolerance, respect, unity, and service – in short, a “spiritual equilibrium” (Montessori, From Childhood to Adolescence 73) from which our students can be architects and advocates for peace.
Dr. Maria Montessori saw in the child “both a hope and a promise for mankind Montessori, Education and Peace 31). She dedicated her life to teaching others about the natural laws of biological and psychological development such that they could then align their service to children so to best aid the growing child to become their most natural selves: compassionate, empathetic, and integrated thinkers committed to the care of others.
As context, consider this timeline of select events from Montessori’s journey from physician to peace activist:
1900 - Following her work at the psychiatric clinic in Rome, Maria Montessori is appointed director of the Orthophrenic School, a model school for training teachers of children with developmental disabilities. For two years, she experiments at the model school with materials to stimulate the senses. Montessori succeeds in fostering the development of some of the children to such an extent that they achieve the same results on state exams as typically developing schoolchildren.

1901 – Montessori begins a second degree - in education, experimental psychology, and anthropology - at the University of Rome, and visits elementary schools to do anthropological research.

1904 - 1908 – Montessori lectures in anthropology and biology at the University of Rome’s School of Education, incorporating her clinical observations of pupils in Rome’s elementary schools.

1907 – The first Children’s House (Casa dei Bambini) is opened in the San Lorenzo district of Rome.

1909 – 1910 – Montessori delivers her first training courses.

1911 – Montessori resigns her teaching post at the University of Rome, and gives up her private medical practice to concentrate entirely on education.

1911 – 1913 The Montessori method is put into practice in English and Argentinean schools, and is beginning to be introduced into Italy and Switzerland. Model schools are set up in Paris, New York, and Boston.

1913 – Montessori delivers the First International Training Course. Students come from European countries, Australia, South Africa, India, China, the Philippines, the United States, and Canada. Montessori travels to the United States for the first time, and founds the Montessori Educational Association.

1914 – 1915 – Montessori delivers training courses in Rome and the United States.

1915 – Montessori travels to the United States for the second time, accompanied by her son, Mario. She addresses the International Kindergarten Union and National Educational Association (NEA). At the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, a Montessori class works in a glass pavilion observed by visitors.

1916 – The Montessoris move to Barcelona at the invitation of the city government; Barcelona remains ther home until the coup in 1936 that brings General Franco to power.

1921 - The New Education Fellowship (today known as the World Education Fellowship) is founded, of which Maria Montessori is an active member and engages in heated debates with the leading educational reformers of the time.

1924 – Montessori’s meeting with Benito Mussolini (who had come to power in 1922) results in official recognition and widespread establishment of Montessori schools by the Italian government.

1926 – Montessori speaks on education and peace at the League of Nations in Geneva.

1929 – 1931 - Montessori continues to train and lecture in Europe.

1931 - Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the Indian independence movement, visits Montessori schools in Rome.

1932 – At the second International Montessori Congress in Nice, France Montessori delivers a lecture entitled “Peace and Education”.

1933 - The Nazis systematically destroy the Montessori movement in Germany, closing all Montessori schools in that country.

1934 - After conflicts with the fascist system under Mussolini, all Montessori schools in Italy close.

1937 – The Sixth International Montessori Congress is held in Copenhagen, Denmark under the theme is “Educate for Peace.” Montessori delivers several lectures, later collected in the book Education and Peace:

In her Lecture, “Educate for Peace”, Maria Montessori says:
“Education today, in this particular social period, is assuming truly unlimited importance. And the increased emphasis on its practical value can be summed up in one sentence: Education is the best weapon for peace (28)…
An education capable of saving humanity is no small undertaking; it involves the spiritual development of man. The enhancement of his value as an individual, and the preparation of young people to understand the times in which they live (30)…
The child is both a hope and a promise for mankind (31)…
Peace is a practical principal of human civilization and social organization that is based on the very nature of man (32-33).”

1939 – The Montessoris depart for India to deliver what was to be a three-month training course at the invitation of the Theosophical Society, which has been using the Montessori method to successfully combat illiteracy.

1940 - Italy enters World War II on the side of the Germans. In June, Mario is interned by the British colonial government in India as an enemy alien, and Maria is confined to the compound of the Theosophical Society. Mario is released in August. Still, the Montessoris are not allowed to leave the country until the war is over.

1939 - 1946 – Maria Montessori delivers training courses in India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka), and further develops the Cosmic Education Plan for the elementary years with Mario’s collaboration.

1946 – With World War II over, the Montessoris return to Europe.

1949 – Maria Montessori is nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for the first time. At the Eighth International Montessori Congress in San Remo, Italy Montessori delivers the lecture, Human Solidarity in Time and Space.

In it, she says:

“Today the necessity for unity among peoples is more marked… the spiritual understanding, which alone can lead to unity amongst all men, continues to be missing (12)…
[T]he question is to bring about a radical change in he way we view human relations, endeavoring to influence men’s consciousness by giving them new ideas, fighting indifference and incomprehension; to awaken in man’s spirit a sense of gratitude towards other men (13)…
Our task as educators is to ensure that an intense consciousness of universal solidarity will flourish in our children… This is the great task of education: to make the child conscious of the reality and depth of human unity (16-17)…
This is the aspect from which we should consider human relationships if we are to be able to create a better humanity (18).”

1950 - Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

1951 - Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.


The “Hate Has No Home Here” campaign was coined by young children advocating for their community’s health. It is a powerful message of solidarity and sanctuary, one that calls for “safe places for conversation, work, learning, and living” (Hate Has No Home Here).

The simple statement codifies what we stand for and what we do as Montessorians. As a public message, it is a defining stake in the sand - a declarative statement to all, and to ourselves - about the paramount work of educating for peace.
Click HERE to learn more.
Wishing you Peace.

*              *              *              *              *              *

Montessori, Maria. Education and Peace. Amsterdam: Montessori-Pierson Publishing
Company, 2007. Print.
---. From Childhood to Adolescence. Amsterdam: Montessori-Pierson Publishing Company,
2007. Print.
----. “Human Solidarity in Time and Space” The San Remo Lectures, 1949. Amsterdam:
    AMI, 2003/2004, Print.
Schneider, R. et al. “Timeline of Maria Montessori’s Life”. AMI, www.ami-
    global.org/montessori/timeline-maria-montessoris-life. Accessed 21 August