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1110 College NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503



Montessori Discovery: A Parent's Perspective

Sarah Danielski


Last Saturday morning, rain poured down heavy and thick, with dire weekend predictions threatening area harvest festivals. But inside the Children’s House classroom, soft lamp-light glowed and the quiet buzz of adults talking ebbed and flowed.

This was the Montessori Discovery weekend. We were doing our work.

Parents sat on rugs, splayed out on the floor, or folded their long legs to fit into tiny chairs. Some worked alone, shaking tubes to compare and contrast sounds, or practiced pouring water from a glass pitcher to a bowl. Others worked in a small group to put together a puzzle map on the floor.

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I kneeled on a square rug, counting tiny beads.

“These are in sets of 10,” the guide explained to me. “This block makes up 100. So the children learn that 10 of the 10-bead-strings make 100.” She showed me how the chains of beads collapsed and expanded and explained how the kids would learn later to link the bead counts to the abstract idea of number symbols.

I nodded. Conceptually, I knew this is how 100 worked—10 sets of 10. But to hold the little beads in my hands, to fold and unfold them—10 lines of 10—awakened in me something soft and tender.

I swallowed hard. My face flushed. I was 41 years old. I’d sat at frosted-glass boardroom tables, explored my share of twisted cobbled lanes and snow-capped mountains, and mastered middle-of-the-night diaper changes. But never before had I held in my hands something as simple and elegant as a set of beads, 10 by 10, that equaled 100. I could immediately see how the concrete beads became the abstract numbers.

Who would I have become, I thought, if I’d learned this way?

I sat back on my knees. I smiled at the guide, pretending like I was still paying attention—she was still gently showing me how the beads work. But inside I mourned for the eager little girl of my childhood who would have loved to spend hours truly understanding these beads.

This is what I remember of my early education:

  • Classrooms filled with desks in long rows
  • Heavy textbooks— lots of them
  • My sick-to-the-stomach panic if I didn’t know “the right answer” and terror if I didn’t get an “A”

Montessori is none of this. This is why we chose Stepping Stones—I knew this intellectually.

But the Montessori Discovery made my intellectual understanding of these ideals something far more real. Now, every morning when I drop my girls off at school, hand them their lunch bags, and say, “Have a good day!”—they sometimes look back and wave and sometimes run on ahead—I think of how I sat on the rug that rainy Saturday morning, fighting back tears over a handful of beads. I know now in my body that today my girls will go to their classroom and do work that is strong and beautiful and true, the ultimate gift that nurtures a lifetime love of learning.

Thanks to Mandy Geerts for sharing her thoughts with us. Mandy is the mother of two SSMS students.

Thanks to Mandy Geerts for sharing her thoughts with us. Mandy is the mother of two SSMS students.

A Rookie's Guide to the Auction for the Love of Learning

Leigh Ebrom

Stepping Stones Montessori’s Auction for the Love of Learning is one of the school’s most important fundraisers. The Auction’s proceeds go directly towards operating costs—such as teacher salaries, classroom materials, and staff training. But just as importantly, it’s a lot of fun! If you’re new to the school (or haven’t attended an SSMS Auction), here are some things you need to know.

The Auction for the Love of Learning is scheduled for November 4, 2017, from 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM. Tickets are available online or at the school.

The Basics

Why Do We Have an Auction?

Believe it or not, tuition alone does not cover the cost of a Stepping Stones Montessori education. We raise additional funds for our budget through the Auction. We also have an annual fund campaign in the spring, and alumni families continue to remember us in their annual giving. But our school's budget depends on the money raised at the Auction. Rather than promote several wrapping paper sales, magazine drives, or fundraising races, we prefer to get together as a community at a single fundraiser.

Are Kids Invited?

The Auction is an adults-only event. Stepping Stones Montessori loves children. Our kids are fantastic. But every parent needs a night out. The Auction is a great excuse to get away, meet some equally cool parents, and support your children’s education.

When Should I Get There?

The Auction begins at 6:00 PM. While you do not have to show up at 6:00 sharp, it’s in your best interest to get there earlier rather than later. The evening begins with the silent auction—and tables will begin closing by 7:15 PM. Additionally, some of the sign-up events fill up quickly. If you show up really late, you’ll miss the opportunity to bid or sign up for these items.

The live auction will begin at approximately 8:00 PM. However, you do not have to stay for the entire event. Feel free to show up (and leave) whenever you want.

What is the Dress Code?

Do you think we're going to tell you what to wear? This is not a black tie event and you’ll see guests in everything from suits to jeans. We welcome everyone (even auction emcees dressed as hot dogs).


Where is the Auction Located?

The 2017 Auction for the Love of Learning is at Blandford Nature Center.

Do I Get an Assigned Seat?

We don’t have assigned seats in our classrooms-- why would we have them at the Auction? Feel free to mingle with other parents, staff members, and alumni.

Can I Get an Uber?

Absolutely. If you have a little too much fun, we encourage you to call a taxi or request an Uber. If necessary, we’ll bring your auction items to the school for pickup on Monday.

Can I Buy a Ticket at the Door?

Yes. If you decide at the last minute to attend, you may pay for tickets at the door. However, our Auction Committee prefers that you pre-order tickets so it can order enough food and drink.

Is Dinner Included?

There will be heavy hors d’oeuvres, but dinner is not offered.

You Mentioned Getting an Uber. Is There a Bar?

Absolutely. There will be a cash bar with beer and wine. Drinks are obtained by buying drink tickets. You can use a credit card to purchase drink tickets, but cash is preferred.

What’s Up for Bid?

Every year, there are amazing items at the Auction. Our staff, parents, and alumni donate really cool stuff and experiences. For many, the holiday season is fast approaching. There has to be someone on your list who would love homemade jam, a vacation in Leland, Michigan or monthly flower deliveries. 

You will also have the opportunity to bid on classroom art projects. These aren’t your standard macaroni-and-glitter pieces. They’re thoughtful (and sentimental) works that your kids helped make. In the past, classroom projects have included painted canvases, elaborate string art, and a student-built "free library."



Additionally, the Auction always has a series of sign-up events and items. At the Auction, you will see a series of sign-up boards with various activities and items listed. They typically include dinners, classroom photo books, and the always popular "Night with Friends"-- a December evening where your SSMS-enrolled elementary students get to hang out at school and have a pizza party. (Meanwhile, you can enjoy a dinner date, shop, or enjoy some peace and quiet.)



Finally, this year's Auction will include a wine pull. At check-in, you can buy a bottle of wine (or two) for $20 each. All wine pull bottles are all worth at least $15 and a few will be particularly special. You will receive your randomly chosen bottles at checkout. 

Check out the Auction Catalog for more information about this year's offerings.

Are the Sign-Up Events Just for "Veteran" Parents?

Every year, the school offers a series of sign-up events. For these events, you simply sign up and pay the stated price. Most of the events have limits on how many people can be included, so it's worth arriving early. There’s an Amazing Race–style road rally. You can enjoy a "Beer with Matt." It can be intimidating to sign up for a night out with strangers, but don't be shy! Our community is really friendly and fun. 


Can I Just Browse the Auction?

We don’t expect everyone to spend a lot of money at the Auction. Our catalog includes a wide range of price points: items range in cost from $15 to thousands of dollars. While this is a charity event, it is also a night of community building. Feel free to show up, have a drink, and browse.

I Can't Attend. Can I Still Participate in the Auction?

While we do not offer online bidding, consider donating. You and your loved ones can also buy 50/50 tickets! The tickets are a great way for your out-of-town friends and family to support Stepping Stones. Last year’s 50/50 winner received over $4,000—and you do not need to attend the Auction to participate in the raffle. If you're interested in buying 50/50 tickets, contact us.

How Do I Get Tickets?

Tickets to the Auction can be purchased at Stepping Stones or online. We're looking forward to seeing you there!

Why a Farm School? Parent Education Event with Hershey Montessori's Laurie Ewert-Krocker

Katie Powell

As Montessori families, you understand the importance of the prepared environment, which provides optimal conditions for the development of the whole child by meeting his or her social, emotional, cognitive, and physical needs. At our event, Impossible Without Me, Dr. Steven Hughes described how modern neuroscience is validating what Dr. Maria Montessori observed over 100 years ago--that brain development does not stop at adolescence. In fact, adolescence is characterized by big changes in the social, emotional, cognitive, and physical state of the child as he or she becomes a young adult. Like children, young adults can only develop to their full potential if we prepare an environment that meets their unique developmental needs.

As we think about the prepared environment for our middle school program, we are always evaluating our choices in this context. Before moving forward with any decision, we must be able to say, with confidence, “This is what we provide because these are the aids to development that adolescents need.” Maria Montessori envisioned adolescents building a community on a farm, because she believed that a farm environment provided the aids to development that adolescents need for their natural human tendencies to unfold across the third plane.

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The model for a Montessori adolescent community organized around the principles Dr. Montessori puts forth in her book, From Childhood to Adolescence, is Hershey Montessori’s adolescent community in Huntsburg, Ohio. Laurie Ewert-Krocker was instrumental to starting this exceptional program, where she remains on staff as the Upper School Program Director. We are thrilled to be working with Laurie to develop the curriculum for our middle school, and we want to provide you with the opportunity to benefit from her expertise on adolescent Montessori education as well.


Please join us for a parent education event featuring Laurie Ewert-Krocker on Saturday, October 7 from 4pm to 6pm at our school. Laurie will be speaking about her 25 years of experience at Hershey Montessori School and will be available to answer all of your questions about why Montessori adolescent education works best on a farm.

We are planning to host a community event for our families on River Ridge Farm, where our middle school will be located, in late November. We want to make sure you get all of your questions answered by Laurie while she is here, so we will be hosting this event at our main campus and we would prefer for this to be a parents-only event.