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A Montessori Journey Comes Full Circle


A Montessori Journey Comes Full Circle

Elizabeth Topliffe

By Leigh Ebrom, Graduate and Parent

In 1981, I joined the Children’s House at Marywood. My parents got a fair amount of grief over sending their three-year-old daughter to school five days a week. The critics were certain that my parents were overwhelming me and that the last thing a young child needed was an intensive academic environment.

On the last day of the school year, Marywood held a parent-student picnic. While the other children played outside, I insisted that my mother and I return to the classroom. We spent the afternoon doing work. My parents never questioned my need for Montessori education again.

At the same time that my family’s belief in the Montessori method was taking root, Marywood decided to end its elementary Montessori program. A group of dedicated teachers and parents banded together and founded Stepping Stones Montessori. My friends and I became the first SSMS students in the 1982–1983 school year.

Montessori focuses on a child’s innate ability to learn. Subscribing to this philosophy, our teachers and parents created something magical. They provided us with an environment that fostered exploration. Besides learning the basics, we were encouraged to write poetry, study botany, and have intelligent conversations about the importance of cuneiform and the Rosetta Stone before the age of 8. We wrote letters to our French pen pals. We started recycling drives and watched joint-replacement surgeries. We were allowed to run, and the places we ran to were pretty amazing.

Montessori isn’t just a teaching method. It’s a worldview. Our teachers taught us to view our environment as a classroom that offered infinite lessons and revelations. As a child, I would sit through a lesson and then go to the library to find more information. My progress reports talk about my eagerness to delve into subjects and report my findings to my friends. My teachers harnessed that energy, and I spent hours preparing research papers and presentations. They didn’t make me learn. They made learning feel natural.

While applying for college, I was asked to write an essay about something I kept in my backpack. While most people probably wrote about their favorite author, musician, or pastime, I wrote about the pink tower.

I’ve been to a lot of places since my days at Stepping Stones. But every time I step on the school’s campus, it feels like home. It’s still a magical place filled with infinite possibilities.

I’m also honored to share my school with my son (Class of 2025). Last year, my two-year-old and I were in the Tulip Tree classroom at the end of the day. I asked him to put on his coat and backpack so we could head home. Instead, he told me that we had work to do. In a quiet classroom, we sat and worked on knobbed cylinders together.

The journey comes full circle.

The journey comes full circle.

While my Montessori journey has come full circle, his is just beginning. I am excited to see where it will take him.


To learn more about the Montessori method, click here .