We are so excited to share the wonderful story of how the Linguakids Montessori school got started in Paros. In this blog post we will share some wonderful images and information from Vicki Preston (one of the founders of Linguakids Montessori). Much of this information was featured in a issue of Paros Life magazine and used with permission from Vicki. Prior to launching the new KHT Montessori site, Karen had Vicki and many others from Paros, as students in her Montessori Certificate course. The same course we offer here at KHTMontessori.com. Karen told me the story of the Paros school a while back and I was inspired their story and how it connected to Karen’s course. This is one of the reasons I decided to jump in and help Karen create the KHTMontessori.com website and “upgrade” the course. Let’s start with a note from Karen…
“I was so excited to have Vicki Preston from Paros Greece email me in 2012. She had discovered my Certificate Course through Deb Chitwood’s Blog LivingMontessoriNow. Deb is from Colorado Springs and completed this online training 2 years ago before I launched KHT Montessori.
Vicki sent me an email and shared the “Paros Montessori Project” that she and a friend (foreign language teacher and NAMC trained) were committed to. They had been managing a small pre-school Montessori class and an afternoon lower elementary program for the past year. They had three AMI directresses help assist them to get started. They had come to a point where they wanted all the staff to be trained and to have a standard set of Montessori Manuals.
She was so genuinely excited about the online Certificate Course I offered and how affordable it was….that she posted the details in her parents’ group and immediately emailed me with a total of 14 people to take the online course. I have found Vicki a creative and loving person dedicated to sharing Montessori on Paros! Every member of the Paros group continues to do everything possible to “grow” Montessori on their island.
So, if you visit Paros in the future and you find a woman sitting in the heart of Paroikia at Mikro Café making Montessori Bead Chains….say Kalimera to Marina Hickman. If you are out on Market Street by the Café, don’t be surprised if you see children laying out the Montessori Thousand Bead Chain down along the street. The children will greet you in the Montessori way and hand you a leaflet for the parent information sessions being held at the school!”
- Karen Tyler
MONTESSORI ON THE GREEK ISLAND OF PAROS
Greece is front and center on the world stage these days, with many disturbing reports in the international press about the financial crisis and the harmful effect it is having on so many aspects of everyday life for the Greek people. Yet in one village on a small Greek island in the middle of the Aegean, a group of parents and educators have come together to defy the “crisis” and to give local children the chance to benefit from a first-class Montessori education, thanks to KHT Montessori and the incredible support of other dedicated Montessori educators around the world.
“Our project really first began to take shape in 2011 when our family returned to our home on the Greek island of Paros from Canada where our daughter had attended a Montessori kindergarten in 2010-2011,” says Vicki Preston, one of the founders. “We had developed an extremely high regard for the Montessori method in that time and did not want to give it up, but the only Montessori schools in Greece we knew of were on the mainland. So we purchased a few Montessori materials and found a qualified Montessori teacher to come back with us to help us get started, but we had no idea where we would be able to hold classes when we arrived back on Paros in September 2011.”
As if by magic, that same summer, completely independently, a young and dedicated teacher, Katerina Tsounaki, had equipped a classroom with Montessori materials (incredibly, the items she bought perfectly complemented the ones that Vicki and her husband had bought) at her language school in the village of Naoussa on Paros. Katerina, a teacher of foreign languages with many years of experience, had recently completed an online Montessori training and it was her dream to introduce the Montessori method to the island community. They began to work together to make it happen.
Though barely scraping through financially, Linguakids Montessori has now been running for over a year and has hosted children from all different backgrounds, languages and cultures – some short-term, some long-term, some from wealthy backgrounds, others from poorer ones. “Our kids so far have been Greek, British, French, Greek-French, Greek-Australian, Greek-Romanian, Greek-Hungarian, Greek-Italian, Japanese-American, Albanian and Canadian,” Vicki explains. “Some of our families have had to leave Greece because of the difficult economic climate in the country these days, but as a result of their experience of Montessori education here on our tiny island, they intend to either find a Montessori school abroad or to follow a Montessori training themselves to continue their children’s education!! Other families have experienced unemployment and have had difficulty in continuing to pay the full fees, so have instead offered their time and skills to the school – making materials, giving extra-curricular classes and making improvements to the building. It is precisely BECAUSE of the “crisis” that our school and community have benefited hugely as a direct result of their efforts! And the sense of humanity, solidarity and community (all key elements of the Montessori philosophy, of course) that this has afforded is beyond measure.”
Classes are run in English, with a Greek-speaking assistant and using both English & Greek materials. Several dedicated and passionate Montessori teachers have now visited Paros for a few months at a time to keep the project running (if you’re reading this and you’re interested, get in touch and we’ll pass the information on to them!), but the longer-term vision is to build up enough local knowledge for the school to be sustainable without needing to bring in outside help. “I came across Karen’s online training by chance,” says Vicki, “and realized that this was exactly what we needed – accessible, affordable and flexible – and with more support from Karen than we could ever possibly have imagined – suddenly, instead of feeling isolated and alone, we are part of a huge, connected, world-wide community! And we realized that interest in Montessori in the local community had sky-rocketed when we posted the information about the training and FOURTEEN parents and teachers from the island signed up within days! The high-quality KHT albums give us all a “common language”, are helping us to standardize our presentations and materials, and allow us to create Greek language versions of the materials so that we can be truly bilingual. We’re using the materials in our Casa class, but some are also perfect for the pilot half-day Elementary programme we recently started for slightly older children – for example, they loved creating maps of the classroom based on one of the Geography Album activities.”
One of the ways that Linguakids Montessori hopes to be able to continue to fund the project until Greece is out of the financial woods is to appeal to families around the world who dream of taking a sabbatical and traveling but are uncomfortable with the idea of homeschooling their children. A great advantage of the Montessori system is that the materials are the same wherever you go and the lessons are individually tailored, so an English-speaking child can join the class at any time and continue in another English-language Montessori school anywhere in the world exactly where they left off.
“Welcoming ex-pat children from other countries to join our class for a few months would also be a wonderful way to further enrich our sense of cultural diversity. We’re right now in the process of setting up a correspondence between our class and another Montessori class in Turkey, working towards giving the children in both countries the opportunity to learn something about one anothers’ culture from the earliest age. On a small-scale we are seeking to improve our children’s academic and social education; on a wider scale, we aim to follow Maria Montessori’s vision that our children are ‘the hope of peace for the world’.”