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How We Teach: From Shy to Hi

The two-year old approaches … hand outstretched. We shake. “Good morning,” I say. He moves on—silent. An older toddler and another confident handshake. To my “Good morning” he shouts, “I’m four! I can have gumballs!” A shy youngster emerges from the crosswalk … glides past my outstretched hand. I turn to watch her ascend to Children’s House. She looks back and blows a kiss.

I am standing across from the parking lot on the Lead Mine Campus, greeting children and parents on their way to classrooms. It is an independent day school ritual but at MSR it is about much more—a lesson in Montessori’s “practical life” curriculum, which, even before 8:30 a.m., I am helping to teach by saying “Good morning,” making eye contact, and inviting a child to engage in a chat. This is how we begin our work with children, Montessori writes, “by preparing the child for the forms of social life ….”

When I ask her name, she replies, “I’m named for a flower.” “I carried that flower in my wedding bouquet,” I say. She walks on. I see a young boy out of the corner of my eye. No greeting, just an exuberant “It’s a firetruck!” and his small finger pointing to the design on his shirt. “I like that color of red,” I respond.

The “practical life” curriculum is, in part, about helping the child adapt and orient to society, and teaching grace, courtesy, and respect for others, values rooted in Montessori philosophy, is a central focus. Parents who choose a Montessori environment embrace those values, and together, parents and teachers, partner in ensuring that children are “socialized,” i.e., that they know how to exchange greetings, respond appropriately, listen, share, take turns, i.e., how to adapt and work well with others.

I had the chance to learn first hand how well Lower Elementary (LEII) students are progressing in their socialization skills when I received an invitation to tea during the first week of school. Two confident LEII girls arrived at the reception area close to my office and asked to speak with me. When I appeared, they greeted me warmly, presented me with a handwritten invitation, and asked me to join their class for tea at 12:45 p.m. that same day. I expressed concern about not knowing how to find the LEII classroom. Without skipping a beat, one student looked at the other and said, “Do you think we should come back and get her?” The other replied, “I think we could do that right before we begin.” Imagine having the maturity at the age of 9 or 10 to engage, analyze, and problem solve without any assistance from an adult.

Arriving at the appointed time for the party, I saw again the social maturity of these youngsters. They had prepared questions for me, and we embarked on a serious discussion about leadership. For the better part of an hour, the students were quick to pick up on social cues, facile in the give and take of group dialogue, and clever in telling jokes, which added some silliness to our conversation. I left our little gathering impressed with the social IQ of children so young.

“I’d like to talk more, but I need to get to class—I have things to do.” Hurried words from an older elementary student as she rushes off. On the Brier Creek Campus, I see a self-assured middle school student coming my way. “You must be Ms. Norris … We’re glad you’re here. Good to meet you!” A few minutes later a high school student engages easily in conversation and agrees to talk later about an IB course she is taking.

Not only do schools help socialize children but, of course, parents do as well. Well known child psychologist Mary Pipher writes in The Shelter of Each Other: Rebuilding Our Families that beyond caring for the young, parents have two other major responsibilities: to protect and to socialize, i.e., to help children connect to “a larger world of meaning.” [224] She adds that these roles, however, “are often at odds with each other.” We want our children to integrate successfully when they step into college and adult life. And, we want to protect them when we note the collision between values we hold high and those saturating the messages that surround children and young people in today’s media-driven culture.

She turns away at my “Hello.” “So sorry,” says the parent of a toddler, “she’s not very talkative today.” “No problem,” I respond, “Some day she will have a lot to say.”

In fact, we can’t continue to protect our children as they become young adults and move out into that larger world. What we can do, and what MSR parents know well, is provide an environment when they are young that offers freedom within structure, aspiration and challenge, a values-heavy culture, and respect for each child’s unique path to accomplishment and independence. That is, a Montessori setting. In this rich soil, a child develops roots of resilience, self-worth, a lifelong love of learning, and values that have stood the test of time. With those strong roots, the child is free to grow wings and soar.

We will continue to socialize students because we know opportunity awaits those who have both the confidence to be independent and the skills to work with others. A recent study conducted at Harvard’s School of Education and Kennedy School confirms the value of a high social IQ by noting that the job market “favors those who have the skills to be good team players.”* According to the lead researcher in the article, “Technological change is disrupting the nature of existing jobs … ,” and industry is moving more toward “team-based, project-based approaches.”

“Good morning.” High-five instead of a handshake. “Have a good day!” “You, too!”

With roots and wings Montessori graduates are prepared fully to step out, adapt, connect in meaningful ways with others, and greet every new setting with a confident, “Hello, world.” High Five!!

*Source: accessed on 9/16/18

This article originally appeared in our new monthly email newsletter called Spice Box.

Amazon Founder Pledges $2 Billion for Montessori Education

The Amazon founder and chief executive, Jeff Bezos, and his wife, MacKenzie, pledge $2 billion for a new fund to start Montessori preschools to serve low-income students across the country. This sizable pledge shows his commitment and belief in the Montessori method and is a great vote of confidence in the benefit and impact of this type of education. Mr. Bezos attended Montessori as a child and believes it is what gave him his sense of exploration and focus. It is quite amazing that two of the three largest technology companies in America have founders who attended Montessori schools. The other company is Google! Both Founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin attended Montessori schools. They met while attending Stanford.

So, you want to go to Harvard?

Well according to their website, here is how your application would be considered.

In their admissions process, they give careful, individual attention to each applicant. They seek to identify students who will be the best educators of one another and their professors—individuals who will inspire those around them during their College years and beyond.

Here is The Montessori School of Raleigh’s Philosophy:
As life-long learners and mentors of their younger classmates, MSR students are routinely fulfilling this role. Everyday in our multi-age classrooms, older students collaborate with younger students, reviewing lessons with them as needed. The idea is that the older student is much more approachable for the younger student, and younger ones learn by example from classmates they look up to. Further, older students benefit by reinforcing the lessons they are teaching. Teachers guide older students in their roles as mentors and help build pride as they take on ownership of not only of their own education, but also that of their classmates.

Harvard asks … “Have you reached your maximum academic and personal potential?” “Have you been stretching yourself?”

Here is The Montessori School of Raleigh’s Philosophy:
MSR challenges students to reach beyond themselves as teachers help identify topics in which students have increased ability and interest and then guide them to delve more deeply into the subject. In our Upper School, the International Baccalaureate Programme (IB) challenges students academically with a curriculum that is becoming the gold standard for university admission, while engaging students socially through its Creativity, Activity, Service program called CAS.

Harvard asks … How have you used your time? Do you have initiative? Are you a self-starter? What motivates you?

Here is The Montessori School of Raleigh’s Philosophy:
Our students take the initiative. Whether it’s starting a club, organizing a community service experience, or exploring a career path, they are intrinsically motivated to take charge of their education. Students begin using a daily planner as early as first grade and are held accountable for their work through this tool. They are encouraged by teachers to cultivate that internal motivation, to do their best work, and to find personal pride in a job well done.

Harvard asks … Will you contribute something to those around you?

Here is The Montessori School of Raleigh’s Philosophy:
Students at MSR learn from an early age to give back to the community, whether it’s their very own classroom or in another school in need on the other side of the world. Community service is sewn into the fabric of an MSR education from the earliest years and is a requirement in Middle and Upper School.

Harvard asks … Do you care deeply about anything—intellectual? Extracurricular? Personal?

Here is The Montessori School of Raleigh’s Philosophy:
Our students are taught to think deeply about meaningful topics, to develop empathy in order to learn from others, and invest in passions that move them on a base level.

Harvard asks … What have you learned from your interests? What have you done with your interests? How have you achieved results? With what success or failure? What have you learned as a result?

Here is The Montessori School of Raleigh’s Philosophy:
As our students follow their passions and interest, they traverse the bumpy landscape of learning guided by expert teachers who allow them to stumble and fall and are there to encourage and teach them how to bounce back. They learn so much more than students who never get the opportunity to develop resilience.

Harvard asks … In terms of extracurricular, athletic, community, or family commitments, have you taken full advantage of opportunities?

Here is The Montessori School of Raleigh’s Philosophy:
Our entire culture is built upon being involved and that includes taking part in a diverse array of extracurriculars, athletics, and community opportunities.

Harvard asks … “What about your maturity, character, leadership, self-confidence, warmth of personality, sense of humor, energy, concern for others, and grace under pressure?

Here is The Montessori School of Raleigh’s Philosophy:
As our students complete their education at MSR, whether it is Montessori, IB, or a combination of both, they have acquired skills as agile thinkers, poised communicators, gracious collaborators, and engineers of authentic and fulfilling lives.

Are MSR students prepared for Harvard? Of course … and for anywhere else they choose to go.

10th Annual Miners Golf Tournament

Join us for a great cause and some amazing golf on the beautiful Bermuda greens of the Heritage Golf Club. Enjoy a day of golf and support The Montessori School of Raleigh in the 10th Annual Miners Golf Tournament. Last year we had 47 parents, grandparents and friends of MSR supporting us in tournament play. Together with 6 sponsors and 21 area businesses graciously donating prizes, we were able to raise over $6,300 for the Miners Athletic program.

Event Date:
October 22, 2018
Registration 11:00 a.m.
Lunch 11:30 a.m.
Golf 1:00 p.m.


Event Location:
Heritage Club
1250 Heritage Club Avenue
Wake Forest, NC 27587

Courtney Nutter, Athletic Director
919-848-1545 ext. 253

Happy Birthday Maria!

Happy 148th Birthday to Maria Montessori! Montessori was born on August 31, 1870 in Chiaravalle, Italy. Her father, Alessandro Montessori, 33 years old at the time, was an official of the Ministry of Finance working in the local state-run tobacco factory. Her mother, Renilde Stoppani, 25 years old, was well educated for the times and was the great-niece of Italian geologist and paleontologist Antonio Stoppani.

In 1906 Montessori was invited to oversee the care and education of a group of children of working parents in a new apartment building for low-income families in the San Lorenzo district in Rome. Montessori was interested in applying her work and methods to mentally normal children, and she accepted. The name Casa dei Bambini, or Children’s House, was suggested to Montessori, and the first Casa opened on January 6, 1907, enrolling 50 or 60 children between the ages of two or three and six or seven. And the rest is history. Thanks Maria!

MSR is Now Offering the IB Program

We are thrilled and proud to inform you that the International Baccalaureate (IB) organization has authorized the Montessori School of Raleigh to offer the IB Diploma Programme beginning in Fall 2018. MSR will become just the third independent school in North Carolina – and the only one outside of Charlotte – to offer the prestigious IB Diploma.

As an IB World School, MSR is now part of a global community of institutions committed to developing knowledgeable, caring young people ready to negotiate successful futures and make contributions resulting in a more harmonious and peaceful world.

Obtaining IB authorization is a difficult process that takes three years. Candidate schools are evaluated in great depth to ensure that the proper structures and processes are in place to proficiently run the Diploma Programme. That comprehensive review explored MSR’s philosophy; school organization; leadership and structure; resources and support; curriculum (collaborative planning, written curriculum, teaching and learning, assessment); and faculty and staff training to ensure we meet the extremely high standards of the IB. The review culminated with an on-site visit by an IB Verification Team that met with our students, teachers, parents, Board members, and administration. We would like to commend our educators, administrators, students, trustees, and families for their active roles in reaching this notable milestone.

On our Brier Creek Campus, the new Upper School building that will house our Montessori and IB Programme is well underway. When the project is completed this fall, it will mark the culmination of six years of work and many millions of dollars of investment in MSR – beginning with a new performance stage and soccer field, followed by a new regulation gymnasium and administration building, then the renovation of the Watson Fine Arts Center, and now a beautiful new Upper School for our children. We thank every member of our community for the support and hard work it took to get us here.

The positive impacts of the IB program on the MSR community and our students will be immeasurable. The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme is among the most-recognized and most-respected college preparatory programs in the world and is a robust pathway to the finest universities. Graduating classes of our Diploma Programme students will go on to engage in meaningful study and work to enhance social, cultural and economic environments locally, nationally and even internationally – engineers of authentic and fulfilling lives.

SummerScape 2018 was fun for all!

SummerScape is MSR’s summer camp program. Many students return to our campus for week-long camps designed for those who love sports, crafts, cooking, or just plain old summer fun. MSR strives to make SummerScape a continuation of the Montessori experience by providing a creative, safe and fun environment.

Click the links below to see the catalog from SummerScape 2018 with full schedule and camp descriptions. SummerScape 2019 descriptions should appear on the website sometime in late January and registration usually opens the first of February.




  • June 11 – 15 SummerScape Week 1
  • June 18 – 22 SummerScape Week 2
  • June 25 – 29 SummerScape Week 3
  • July 2 – 6 NO SummerScape 4th of July Holiday
  • July 9 – 13 SummerScape Week 4
  • July 16 – 20 SummerScape Week 5
  • July 23 – 27 SummerScape Week 6
  • July 30 – Aug 3 SummerScape Week 7

Click here to read our Refund Policy.

Book Fair was a BIG Success!

The annual MSR Book Fair had the Watson Fine Arts Center hopping with students and parents shopping for some outstanding reads. We were honored to partner with Quail Ridge Books who year-after-year provides us with a wonderfully curated selection of books for all ages! In addition, we also collected gently used book donations for the Durham-based Book Harvest. (Book Harvest provides books to children who need them and engages families and communities to promote children’s lifelong literacy and academic success.) Last year, we sold close to $13,000 worth of books and raised over $2,700 for the school.

Scott Reintgen, author of the best-selling Nyxia series, visited the Brier Creek campus. He shared his young adult sci fi/fantasy novel with the Middle and Upper School students and discussed his writing process.

Fall Festival and Upper School Groundbreaking

The 2017 Fall Festival was the biggest and best one yet! And the Upper School Groundbreaking Ceremony was a truly momentous occasion! After many years of dreaming, planning and hard work, it was fantastic to have a record number of people join in the celebration! The Montessori School of Raleigh now offers programs for students from 18 months through 12th grade.