Wednesday, January 27, 2016


The Ohio Montessori Alliance (OhMA) is a young non-profit which has been exploring how Dr. Montessori’s insights about optimal development of children might inform the collective development of its statewide community.

Montessori principles place primacy on holism -- the individual is thought of as a whole. Montessorians create the space where children can develop themselves to their fullest potential as an integrated personality, recognizing that optimal development depends on how the parts work together.

Therefore, the Ohio Montessori Alliance is using a holistic view of our statewide community's development.  We seek to support the development of the various parts of our community (supporting the administrators, teachers, families, students, alumni, and community members of Montessori schools and teacher preparation programs,) as well as nurture connections between them.

The Ohio Montessori Alliance invites you to explore how together we might connect our community from the top-down, bottom-up, center-out, fringe-in, thereby co-creating ourselves into a holistic organism capable of transforming the world for children.

Monday, January 4, 2016

2016: An Empty Canvas

Happy New Year! The now-empty-canvas of 2016 is waiting for us to continue our work together, creating the future we long for our children and society!

As the Ohio Montessori Alliance (OMA) enters this new year, as well as our next 3-year-cycle of development, we continue to experiment with the premise that our community will self-construct through a process similar to children -- by engaging in real work in a prepared environment.  However, for our community, the internal process of discovery, reflection, and refinement that takes place within the individual child must become an externalized and social process in order for its collective personality and wisdom to emerge. Towards this end, we'd like to use this blog as a way to host conversations in which we may collectively consider topics affecting our community: Who are we? What do we long for? What is the context in we are navigating? What tools and processes we might use in our work together which most align with Montessori practices? Who do we need to become to create the change we long to see in the world?

Who Are "We"?

The OMA considers the "Montessori Community" to be anyone who has been touched by, or feels drawn to, Montessori education -- as a student, guide, parent, administrator, teacher trainer, and/or community member. We recognize the Montessori Community as rich in wisdom, expertise, resources, and passion -- full of change-makers eager to create a different future for children and society.

To help you get to know us better, the OMA is a non-profit organization committed to creating the environment where the diverse parts of our statewide community can connect, learn together, and co-create ourselves into a unified organism, capable of transforming the world for children. Our state has long been a hub in which Montessori individuals and organizations work tirelessly to serve children.  It is the potential impact of your efforts that the Ohio Montessori Alliance seeks to magnify -- by kindling the power of community, amplifying communication, and weaving networks to facilitate awareness, cohesion, and coordination of our community's efforts. 

We look forward to getting to know you better and working together to create a shared vision of a different future on the now-empty-canvas of 2016!

Friday, January 23, 2015

"Opening Space for Peace and High Performance": The Gift of Invitation in Montessori Education and Open Space Technology

Somewhere beyond the notion of peace-as-the-cessation-of-war (as one side oppresses another) exists the possibility of a future that works for all.  Wondering what such a future might look like and what would be required of us to create such a reality, I've been exploring theories and methods from a variety of fields.  At an Open Space Technology (OST) event this weekend, the value of authentic invitation was highlighted.  It deeepend my appreciation for the gift of invitation in Montessori education and how each day it edges the world closer towards Dr. Montessori's vision of peace.

Open Space Technology "is an approach to purpose-driven leadership, including a way for hosting meetings and events focused on a specific and important purpose or task, but beginning without any formal agenda beyond the overall purpose or theme". (Wikipedia)  Montessorians who attend an Open Space event often comment that it feels "Montessori-like" in that the facilitator creates a safe and often beautiful environment where all choices are displayed so individuals may freely choose based on their curiosity and passion, and they are encouraged to remain with their choice only as long as they are meaningfully engaged, at which time they are free to move around and explore other choices.  

Having experienced the power of OST to stimulate, shift, and galvanize groups, I wanted to dive deeper and learn more from its founder, Harrison Owen, who was co-hosting, "Opening Space for Peace and High Performance" in NYC this past weekend.  An intrepid and diverse group of individuals from as far away as France and Chile gathered, recognizing that humans, our organizations, indeed the entire cosmos, are all self-organizing systems, and considering how we might leverage the power of self-organization to guide society through the turbulence and chaos of our times.

Harrison emphasized that the magic associated with Open Space Technology is not something we "make" happen. Rather, OST establishes the conditions for it to emerge by providing a safe space in which the power of self-organization (similar to "self-construction") is freed to flourish.  He cautioned that fear and force collapse space, and that when space is shut, options disappear and creativity evaporates.  

Fear is infectious, Harrison noted, as evidenced throughout today's world.  The only way out of fear, he explained, is to open the space somehow -- but you cannot force people into that space.  Any time someone is forced to do something, the spark of engagement, innovation, and possibility is extinguished.  An authentic invitation -- an invitation to realize one own's humanity -- is essential for the magic of transformation to emerge.

Peter Block echos this sentiment in Community: The Structure of Belonging: "Choice [is] another term for engaging the whole person", and "the only way real transformation occurs". (Pg 114-115)  "Invitation is not only a step in bringing people together, it is also a fundamental way of being in community...and manifests the willingness to live in a collaborative way." (Pg 117) 

Invitation, in the world of self-organizing systems, is a seed of possibility that may someday flourish into a more harmonious, just, and sustainable future.  Although intuitively it makes sense that such a future will be beckoned, rather than mandated, into existence, it seems radical to consider that rather than toppling institutions, peace might spread virally as the global organism/self-organizing system known as humanity recognizes that "every day, in every moment, in every encounter, we have an opportunity to open space, inviting someone to realize his/her own humanity".*  And that's something Montessorians are doing everyday! 

(*Quote from Harrison Owen)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Representative John Becker Comes to Visit

As a first step in bringing the awareness of Montessori Education to the legislative table during educational policy meetings, I invited Representative John Becker, Ohio House District 65, to tour Children’s Meeting House in Loveland, Ohio and see the power and beauty of Montessori Education in action.

The classrooms were quiet, yet bustling with activity and movement.  Children were working together sharing ideas and answering questions about their work while other children worked independently, absorbed in their process.  Teachers were hard to find, quietly giving lessons, answering questions, and providing assistance when needed.  Looking like chaos compared to a conventional classroom, Meg Thomas, the Head of School for Children’s Meeting House, explained some of the reasons why a Montessori classroom is so successful.  She emphasized how the children working independently, on work of their own choosing, from carefully designed and sequenced materials deepens the level of learning within the child and, through careful observation, allows the teacher to easily assess the child’s skills and knowledge – without the time-consuming testing that is so prevalent in conventional schools.

A father to a college-aged daughter, Mr. Becker had heard the term Montessori but was not aware of what it truly meant.  With an MBA with a focus on taxation, the math curriculum was a great place to explore the Montessori materials in action.  In the pre-primary class, a 4 year old, was working with the golden bead material and let him share the sensorial experience of the difference between 1 and 1000.  “Wow, that’s heavy!” declared Becker.  Another child, age 5, introduced the linear counting chains, counting and labeling the six chain, then showing him how to fold the chain and stack the squares to make a cube. As the tour moved into the elementary classrooms, Becker received a presentation for the trinomial cube.   With gentle guidance from his 7 year old teacher, Becker successfully built the cube and put it back in the box.  Such great patience and perseverance!  He even got to take home the written expression of the trinomial equation.  What a fabulous introduction to the Montessori math materials, making abstract numerical concepts a concrete understanding.

Knowing that there is a large push to remove cursive writing from the curriculum, he seemed surprised to see our students writing in such beautiful handwriting.  Becker asked, “Do the children learn to write in script?”  Thomas’ replied, “Yes, it is still a valuable tool to learn, if for no other reason than it is a significant part of our history.  Our constitution is written in cursive; we’d like our students to be able to read it.”  Quite a powerful perspective for a politician to consider!

It is my hope that the next time Representative Becker places his vote on an educational topic, he will ask himself, “How will this affect Montessori schools?”

I continue to urge you to take action.  Support Montessori education by inviting your state representative and senator to your school.  No agenda, no issues to discuss, and no speeches, but just a casual visit as an introduction to some Montessori constituents.  Not only does this provide an opportunity for the politician to be awed by the Montessori environment and impressed by the children working, but also it aides in raising an awareness of just how many Montessori schools may be in the district. Contact your state representatives here: and

Written by Jill Wilson

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Journey Towards a Future that Works for ALL...

It's not too late to be part of creating a Montessori Community for all!  The conference may be over, but the journey has just begun! 

The Concepts
Although impossible to express the intangible and magical quality of connection, hope, and possibility that was kindled as Paul Born led conference participants on a brief tour of "Deepening Community" and "Collective Impact",  it is important to share some of the experiences and concepts, to build our community's "pool of shared meaning" (a concept from Crucial Conversations that refers to the importance of getting all the relevant information out in the open, as this is the "birthplace of synergy").

Carefully considered and structured exercises which created the time and space to deeply listen to each other's stories (about why Montessori education so important, especially at this moment in history, and what matters most to us about Montessori) gave participants a glimmer of the profound inner shift that is possible on the individual and collective level which might transform how we think and work together going forward.

This tapping into our shared values enabled participants to open our minds, hearts, and wills as we collectively considered:  How might we work together to live out the values of Montessori and transform our community and world?

It became clear that the answer is not about working harder (everyone is already doing everything they can), but about working better together!  Hope was kindled as we realized that by working together differently, we might change the circumstances of children everywhere -- in a way that none of us could do on our own.

Paul Born introduced the concept of Collective Impact -- a way to declare our longing for larger scale outcomes, and understand a system so we can talk about working together in a more systematic way. It gets us thinking together about, "Who is part of the system we wish to affect and how might we engage them?"  "How do we engage more broadly?" "How do we connect with parents, alumni, schools, neighbors, businesses, policy makers, and get them active and engaged -- get them to care?" Paul emphasized that it is hard for people to "care for" something, if they don't feel "cared about". We began to consider, "How might we begin caring for each other, including those with diverse voices and perspectives?"

The power of Collective Impact is magnified by deepening community.  It will only be by getting to know one another -- sharing our stories, enjoying each other, caring for one another -- that we will be successful in working together for a better world!

To Join or Not to Join the Journey?
Paul Born helped us realize that ultimately, we don't need agreement on WHAT we are doing, so much as WHERE WE ARE GOING TOGETHER!  While this collective understanding is something that will only unfold as we turn towards, and get to know, each other, conversations throughout the weekend, and the stories of the 2014 Distinguished Ohio Montessorians, suggested a possible direction -- towards Dr. Montessori's ultimate vision -- the possibility of a different future, a more peaceful future, for children and society.  

Are we ready to embark on the journey towards collectively actualizing this possibility?

Given a taste of the magic of deepening community, and a glimpse of how we might create a bigger impact together, are we ready to venture off the trail of "business as usual" to explore unchartered territtory and pioneer paths towards a future that works for all?  Will we give the time and energy needed to turn towards one another? Will we develop the courage and curiosity needed to explore and experiment with what we might create together?  Will we tolerate the discomfort that comes from shifting our mindsets towards a greater awareness of the whole, recognizing ourselves as integral parts of that whole, and embracing the participatory nature of life that we nourish in our children?

Collective Impact and Deepening Community are powerful concepts but not easy ones! They will require us to learn new ways of thinking, working, and being together! Truly revolutionizing society and how children are cared for and educated, will require the gifts that we give Montessori children each day -- learning how to learn, learning by doing, embracing mistakes, and finding joy in the process of discovery.

The journey towards a peaceful future will not be clear or easy, but it promises to be meaningful! Opportunity is knocking -- will we answer?

"It doesn’t matter where we start -- it just matters that we start!"
If we know where we are going together, and commit to ways of being with each other, we don't need to "figure it all out" before we get started!  Instead, we are freed to embark on an iterative process where we do, measure, tweak -- repetitively do, measure, and improve our way forward together.  It will be a simulaneous process where we "build the plane as we are traveling down the runway together" -- a thrilling process!

As we continue the "meta-process" of HOW to move forward together, we are simultaneously getting started by doing!  Sunday's Open Space event at the conference gave participants the opportunity to collaborate with individuals throughtout the state and nation!  We invite you to join these projects, as their momentum and potential grows!  


A Glass Classroom!  Based on the Model that Dr. Montessori presented at the World’s Fair in 1915, imagine hosting a glass classroom in Ohio for the public to view and learn about the Montessori Pedagogy!

Ohio Montessori History Project!  Ohio's history is long and full of Montessori individuals and organizations who have pioneered great change! Imagine documenting this history for the future -- individual oral histories, school histories, AND a timeline!

Regulation Relief! Imagine there was a way for accountability to be self-regulated in a way that would build recognition for Montessori education and the Montessori teaching credential, as well as educate and protect parents!  Join the conversation about the MF Validation Model!

Special Education: Cultivating Capacity and Community!  Imagine if there were ongoing conversations, learning, and support related to special education; if Montessori-relevant special education resources were aggregated!

Spreading the Word! Public Awareness campaigns are being created, including a "WHY MONTESSORI" brochure that any school could use with their logo for marketing purposes!

And so much more!!!!  Email us to learn more and get involved in any of these collaborative initiatives!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

When We Tell OUR Story, What Might It Be?

(Pictured above, from left to right, are the 2014 Distinguished Ohio Montessorians: Laurie Ewert-Krocker, Martha McDermott, David Kahn, Virginia Varga, Marta Donahoe, and Lynn Fisher)

A highlight from "Creating a Montessori Community for All" was the Distinguished Ohio Montessorian Dinner on Saturday evening, where we heard the stories of 6 Montessorians who've pioneered paths for Montessori education -- in Ohio and throughout the country!

Although each story was unique, several themes emerged, including:
     1.  Opportunity knocks!  Many mentioned that they felt they had been in the right place at the right time; that opportunity beckoned and they responded to the need before them.
     2.  One piece of the bigger puzzle!  Many felt humbled by the honor, that they had only done what so many others are doing -- playing their part in aiding life and transforming humanity!
     3.  It takes a community!  So many mentioned that they could never have accomplished what they did alone.  Each story was intimately linked to the lives and stories of so many others.
     4.  It's not easy, but it is joyful!  Creating new ways forward involves a lot of hard work, which wasn't easy but was deeply meaningful!
     5.  Part of an Unfolding History! There was a powerful linking of the individual's life work to the past (seeing it as an outgrowth of the love, efforts, and hopes of the generations of Montessorians before us) and to the future (imagining the possibility of what level next generations might bring our collective work).
     6. A Unifying Mission! We were reminded that Montessori education is ultimately about creating the possibility of a different future...a more peaceful future...a future that works for all!

These felt like powerful and timely lessons, as opportunity seems to be beckoning each of us to step forward to co-create a community -- and a future -- that works for all.  This IS history in the making! Twenty years from now, when we tell our story, what might it be?  Will our eyes twinkle, like the Distinguished Montessorians', as we reminisce about the hard but meaningful work that was necessary to find new ways to make a greater impact together?  What might be the piece of the puzzle we each contributed that brought Montessori education to such a scale that it fulfilled its mission -- to create a more peaceful future for all?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Creating A Montessori Community for ALL...

If you believe Montessori is a movement for real and lasting change in this world -- capable of transforming children and society -- we invite you to join us at the NAMTA/OMA 2014 Fall Conference, "Creating a Montessori Community For ALLto explore what possibilities might unfold when presenters from both AMI and AMS, national leaders in the field of community and Montessori advocacy, and parents/families, guides of all levels, and administrators, join together.

Why Community?
Community and a sense of belonging are important..
...for our children!  Alfred Adler, (an eminent psychologist and student of Maria Montessori) suggested the primary need of every child is to feel a sense of belonging and significance...many consider the psychological sense that one belongs, to be a necessary condition for successful learning experiences.
...for ourselves!  Community shapes our identity and bolsters our physical, mental, emotional, and economic health.
...for Dr. Montessori’s vision of peace!  Our capacity to contribute to the creation of a world that works for all is intimately tied to the vitality and connectedness of our communities.

Why Collective Impact?
The potential for the Montessori community to create real and lasting change for children and society grows exponentially as more and more Montessorians begin to work collaboratively to protect high quality Montessori education and ensure it becomes an option available for all children. But how might we orient ourselves to be successful?  One model to consider is Collective Impact -- a powerful paradigm for social progress that enables diverse organizations to create lasting large-scale change.

The power of Collective Impact lies in the heightened vigilance that comes from multiple organizations looking for resources and innovations through the same lens, the rapid learning that comes from continuous feedback loops, and the immediacy of action that comes from a unified and simultaneous response among all participants. (SSIR) [Click here to learn more about Collective Impact.]

Why Paul Born?
Holding the intention that whatever results we are hoping to accomplish in the world, community needs to be at the center of our thinking has enabled Paul Born and the Tamarack Institute to leverage the power of Collective Impact and transform how social issues like poverty are being addressed across Canada -- changing more than fifty government policies, supporting over two hundred social innovations, and reducing poverty for more than two hundred thousand people.  Paul is a Montessori Dad who believes “that we do have the time, the money, and all the tools necessary to solve any challenge, by coming together in community.” (Deepening Community, Pg XIV)