Monday, April 28

Standing there in the yard, talking to the Warden (Miss Angela),  this is the question that I ask her.  What do Sergey Brin  & Larry Page (Google co-founders), Jeff Bezos (, Prince William, P Diddy,  and my Boy & Girl all have in common?   Aside from a combined wealth in excess of 50 billion dollars, there is another thread that connects them.  They are all products of Montessori Education.  So, the Warden says to me, in her understated, impeccably articulate speech, “That’s very interesting, maybe you should write a letter or something”. posts:

“On the Barbara Walters ABC-TV Special "The 10 Most Fascinating People Of 2004" Larry Page and Sergey Brin, founders of the popular Internet search engine, credited their years as Montessori students as a major factor behind their success. When Barbara Walters asked if the fact that their parents were college professors was a factor behind their success, they said no, that it was their going to a Montessori school where they learned to be self-directed and self-starters. They said that Montessori education allowed them to learn to think for themselves and gave them freedom to pursue their own interests.”

Who cares?  It’s a good question.  I care, and this is why.

Montessori of Manhattan Beach has been the cornerstone of our Family Life for the past 4 years.  Both of our children are soon to be Alumni.  Without reservation I recommend this school.  At our initial meeting with Erna Moore, Head Mistress, she promised that turnover of personnel was very low, and that they were fair people.  She was right, years later, that’s the way it’s been. 

It took a Parent Teacher Organization meeting to convince me that we really hadn’t signed our kids up for day-care.  This was an honest to god school.  With a philosophy that fell directly in line with how I think you should learn.  All based on the ideas and concepts of Maria Montessori, who I didn’t even know had existed. 

Every parent thinks that their kids are the best.  That makes me unqualified to make this claim.  My claim is that the boy and girl both have confidence and curiosity that seems different than their non-Montessori peers.  In sports, and out and about town they are fearless in their interactions, independent, and courteous in away that doesn’t represent either of their parents.  In a point of fact they have become role models for their parents. (Please don’t tell them)

Miss Lynn Garcia, teacher at the yellow house, stands strong in the tradition of Montessori.  There is an illusion that she is allowing the kids to run amuck and create their own path of destruction.  However, my multi-year experience with her let’s me see behind the deceit.  As a teacher, a mentor, and a facilitator of learning,  our family will be forever in debt to Miss Lynn Garcia.  She has given the boy the chance and space to grow and learn in so many ways.  She also has displayed the sense of confidence, integrity, and courage to do the right thing at the expense of doing the “politically” correct thing.  For that I will always be grateful.

Mrs. Clark has been a mainstay in our lives.  She is as competent and well suited to teach Kindergarten as anyone on the planet. The family is approaching the end of our second year with her and can’t imagine anyone better for this age.  The wonder, structure, and assignment of tasks in the classroom seem to have inflated our little guys into little humans.  If I were a youngster today nothing would make me happier than to be a line leader of her troops marching off to playground. If there is a hall of fame for this job she will be on the short list for inductions.

In this age of recession, withdrawal of funding, and elimination of any program of learning that has a “fuzziness” to it, the opportunities have been abundant.  The enrichment programs available are truly world class.  For the boy my personal favorite was a complimentary weekly Tae Kwon Do lesson from world famous, internationally acclaimed Anton Kasabov.  In between his stints on the movie set Anton has offered a fun personalized lesson in how to be prepared to kick some butt in case it is required.  For the girl my favorites were the offerings of Kristen Kaa of School Dance.  Beyond just teaching Ballet and Yoga she offered a vision and a role model of how to be a lady with confidence and poise.   The kids favorite seems to be tennis with Coach Jeff, his collection of gear and coaching ability really seem to catch the kid’s imagination.

The owners of Manhattan Beach Montessori have many years experience in teaching the Montessori method and it shows.   Their attention to the details, facilities, and decisions to pay teachers well, and offer meaningful benefits have resulted in a remarkable collection of teachers.  The depth, diversity, intelligence and charisma of the teachers who work at this school represent what is good about America, and on an even deeper level represent the hopefulness that exists in us all.

In looking for suitable material and information to expand my understanding of the Montessori method I ran across the Michael Olaf Company.  Nestled in amongst the Redwood trees of Northern California where my teeth were cut in education, I was excited and pleased to do business with them.  In doing research for this post they had the reference to the Barbara Walter’s piece mentioned in the opening.    Their catalogs can be a source of knowledge far beyond what to buy.  They offer an insight into a very abbreviated look at what the philosophy is behind the name.  If it were me and I was considering a Montessori for my kids that’s where I’d start.

Warren Buffet is arguably the best investor of our lifetime and offers this observation.  If you ran an experiment with monkeys, and consistently all of the superior monkeys came from one zoo,  the logical conclusion is that you’d want to research what was going on to produce those results.  Along the same lines of thought, you could do worse than to have your child follow in the footsteps of the Sergey Brin,  Larry Page & P. Diddy.  These guys haven’t only seen the changes, they’ve made the changes. 

When the boy and girl started Montessori years ago I had a spreadsheet listing all the expected payments that needed to be made.  You get what you pay for and with a  yearly price tag higher than UCLA, It’s with a happy heart that I prepare to cross out the last one with a feeling of contentment.  There is no way to know if it was the best choice, at this point all indications are good.


If you happen to see the Warden (Miss Angela), let her know that despite all the heartache and pain, she’s appreciated too.