20th April 2017
The dust of the minibus’s wake was still in the air as I threw on a suit, stuffed a few things in a bag and left with Paul, Karen, Priscilla and Isaiah to fly to Amsterdam at the end of the last day of the term. Isaiah and I had been invited to speak at the Association Montessori International (AMI) AGM on the topic of ‘The Montessori Adolescent; an Agent for Change’. Isaiah was courageously ticking off a number of firsts – flight, night alone in a hotel room, travelling abroad without his family, and – above all – speaking from a stage in front of a large audience of Montessori guides, trainers and administrators from around the world. We were the first speakers of the Sunday programme and as we were just about to be introduced, Isaiah whispered to me with a wry smile, ‘Paul told me there wouldn’t be many people and most of the seats would be empty’.
We were there on behalf of the Montessori Adolescent Programme Initiative (MAPI), contributing to a ‘how to’ guide to help more European schools move up to 18 years. When we think of adolescents as agents for change, we think of the positive changes young people seek to bring to the world, particularly in the arena of social justice, a sensitive period of this age. Through the MAPI work though, adolescence will instead be an agent of change for adults, spurring on schools to create the environments that truly meet the needs of young people during these mystical and formative years. The Indian activist Rajagopal PV, also speaking at the AGM that Sunday, put it so clearly when he said that education, per se, is not the answer. The problems of the world, from climate change to inequality, he pointed out, are not caused by uneducated people. What matters is the kind of education. What we need, he said, are young people who will ask ‘what will my actions, my work, do for the poorest and most vulnerable?’
In the years leading up to the Second World War, Maria Montessori wrote extensively on the theme of education for peace. Politics, she observed, could end wars but only education could bring about peace. She did not mean that teachers needed to teach peace – the traditional solution to a social problem. Instead she saw that an urge towards collaboration, towards a vision of humanity as one united family, towards equality and social justice, arose naturally in children and young people if their developmental needs were routinely met at each stage of their life. Put simply, the normal and natural state of humanity is one of peace and the route to this is to support and allow normal and natural development in young humans.
So while the deadlines imposed by MAPI and the accountability required when using Erasmus + grant money have been burdensome at times, it is a privilege to be part of a bridge between the Montessori adolescent work of the last 40 years and the new wave of European programmes. All of us that are part of The Montessori Place community are like the bricks of that bridge reaching towards a new shore. Everyone plays a part as we build and nurture the communities of children at each age.
A dramatic pivot occurs during adolescence: a turn from dependent to dependable, a revolution from the formation of the self to the transformation of the world. Though this process is primarily internal, nowhere is this more visible than in the walled garden at Eason’s Green. From the split-wood rabbit-proof gate and stone-filled drainage channels, to the rows of broad beans and edible flowers, the value of their labour is plain for them to see. This is not so much about manual work as real work. Luca for example has taken on much of the work of an IT department, wiring up routers and installing back up software. Does all this detract from academic and wider cultural studies? Far from it. Instead a vital energy is injected into this work, an energy that combines their interests with their desire to be ready for the world.
On Sunday 30th April – from 12pm-3pm– there will be a chance for you to see the transformation of the walled garden and experience the beautiful bluebells of the woods beyond. The bluebells are too lovely to remain unseen. They are blooming now and, I hope, will be in their full glory that Sunday. I would suggest bringing a blanket to lie on for our inaugural – and possibly only – Bluebells & Blankets picnic.
By that weekend the building work on the first phase of the residential accommodation will be nearly complete, ready to open in September. We are starting with two larger bedrooms, one for boys and one for girls. That way there is company even when not everyone is staying overnight. Alongside this there will be a suite for the house parents who will live alongside the young people in the evenings and overnight. From September, Laura Stone has agreed to take on this role for the young people. Laura will continue her work leading the Infant Community during the day before travelling back to Eason’s Green in the afternoon. Amongst the many gifts Laura will bring, I’m especially looking forward to hearing the sounds of her violin wafting across the site. Laura’s husband Ed, a keen cellist, will also stay there in the week when he is not piloting for BA.
After the Easter break we will welcome Lea Morpurgo back from maternity leave. To be honest, it never felt like she went away since her and Anou have been weekly visitors since the world was made more beautiful by Anou’s arrival last year. After Easter Lea will be helping out across both sites and from September will take over from Lesley Ann as the Lead Guide in the Children’s House in Eason’s Green.
Also in September there will be a changing of the guard in the kitchens. Sharon Smith, who has brought the Eason’s Green kitchen to life this year, will be saying goodbye. With the culinary rise of Cami, Terezia and Lydia in the kitchen in Hove we have been able to solve the problem of and imminent lack of a chef in Eason’s Green and the opposite problem of too many excellent cooks in Hove. From September, Cami will take over the kitchen in Eason’s Green while Terezia and Lydia will continue creating delicious and nutritious vegetarian and mainly organic meals in Hove. Part of Cami’s role will be cooking alongside the young people, gradually helping them to become independent in the kitchen.
Meanwhile there are lots of events to put in your calendar – if you haven’t already – for this coming term. In addition to Bluebells & Blankets, there are three ‘everyone’ events this term. First there is the two-part Journey & Discovery on the evening of Friday 23rd June and the morning Saturday 24th June at Eason’s Green. This will be the first time we have run it at Eason’s Green and places are limited. If you haven’t taken part for a few years I’d urge you to come again as another way of staying in touch with your child’s experience. If you haven’t yet taken part, simply tell your partner or a friend that they are responsible for your children on those dates, and come along!
A few weeks later is the Parent Garden Party on the evening of Friday 7th July. Once again we will share a pot luck meal accompanied by live jazz. Book your babysitters early and cross your weather fingers. Then comes the main event in the children’s year, Community Camping on the 21st-23rd July (half the Elementary are already counting down the weeks in their work journals). An always-wonderful weekend in a beautiful private venue. Thank you Johnny.
There are other community-specific events this term – most weeks there is a Week That Was or Parent Study Group taking place in one of the communities. Check out the Diary Dates sheet if you are not sure what is happening when.
One event that isn’t in on the Diary Dates sheet is ‘Science in Sussex’. The Young People’s Community will hosting this international event on Maths and Science from Friday 30th June to Sunday 2nd July. The event for Montessori Guides of 9-15 year olds will be run by John McNamara who is still going strong 50 years into his career as Teaching Principal at Ruffing Montessori in Ohio. John is something of a legend in the Montessori world, and we are honoured to have him with us this summer
Finally with regard to dates, the Summer Term will finish half a day earlier than scheduled – Thursday 27th July will be the last day of term, rather than the Friday. This is because the completed methodology for the MAPI will be published at the AMI Congress in Prague in July. Congress overlaps with the last two days of our Summer Term and we are being urged to make sure we are there to speak on behalf of that work. Thank you for your understanding.
For some children the start of the Summer Term will mark a great change for them as they graduate from the Infant Community or Children’s House. This is a significant step for them, leaving behind a familiar environment which was perfect but which now no longer fits, just as they did when they were born.
Joe Saynor, Pearl McHugh, Athos Louca, Annabelle Bennett and Lili Canick are all leaving the Children’s House in Hove to join the Elementary Community. Joe, Pearl, Annabelle and Athos are staying in Hove, while Lili is moving to Eason’s Green. Scarlett McKenzie, already an experienced member of the Elementary Community in Hove, is moving with Lili to the Eason’s Green Community. Annabelle, along with her sister Issabella (and Tracey and Stephen), is taking an extended holiday in Morocco before rejoining us later in the summer.
Also, this coming term, Afra Chatfield, Harry Anthony, Lola Walker and Icarus Thornton are saying goodbye to the Infant Community and moving downstairs to the Children’s House. They will be joined by Adam Koopman (Chi Eziefula and Frank Koopman) who is also starting in the Hove Children’s House. And at the end of last term we welcomed Rudi Bruseker (Magdalena Oprea and Carel Bruseker) into the Eason’s Green Children’s House.
Finally, Orla Carroll (Jen Rawlings and Aron Carroll) and Evren Eskikaya-Davis (Sofie Davis and Berkan Eskikaya) started in the Infant Community last term and, youngest of all, Eve Paterson (Helen & Guy) will soon join them.
That’s it! I hope you like the new letterhead – by the next letter we should even have the matching envelopes…