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Families find ‘Montessori’ in different ways. For me, personally, it was my father’s girlfriend, Anne, who in 1968 brought Montessori into our house at Topanga Beach in Malibu. Her two children were already in a Montessori school in Pasadena when she met my father, and we (my wife, Frances, and I–we weren’t married until the following year) took care of Anne’s children while my dad and Anne headed off to Hollywood to make historic documentary films and television commercials. The children were great, very independent, and fortunately didn’t drown while I went surfing. As it turned out the arrangement was short lived because by the end of the year my father died of acute myocardial infarction, and Anne headed back to Pasadena with her two wonderful children. Turns out I ‘found’ many things that year, and two years later Frances and I were in Bergamo, Italy, with Camillo Grazzini, Mario Montessori, Eleanora Caprotti, and Muriel Dwyer as our Montessori teacher-training teachers (mouthful!).

More recently, this morning I found ‘Montessori’ too, more than 40 years later, when, as I straightened up my office (GTD) I pulled off of my bulletin board a postcard I sent myself in 2009 from Mt. Vernon, VA; the last time I traveled with our Erdkinder students to Washington, DC. Turns out ‘Montessori’ was in the house; at Mt. Vernon, and I had sent myself the postcard just in case I forgot! There it is, right there, in George Washington’s historic home, where, in the post card’s photograph his simple bedroom is pictured as it was furnished at the top of the narrows stairs climbed by George and Marsha.

How Montessori? Look for yourself the next time you’re visiting Mt. Vernon: There is an adult bed and there is a ‘baby’s’ bed (not a crib; no jail bars; Montessori!) close by, just on the other side of the small room. The current baby bed has 8″ legs supporting a wooden frame with rope lattice looped warp and woof style beneath the feather mattress; the surface of the mattress is 8″ off the ground (Montessori!). AND, the bed’s legs were interchangeable (Montessori!), and would be changed out for taller legs as the child grew (Montessori!). I remember thinking to myself, “Yes! This is incredible!” and one of our junior high students turned to me and said, “That is so cool!” Indeed.

‘Montessori’ at Mt. Vernon in 1776, and beyond.

Jim Fitzpatrick is the founder and Head of School at Santa Barbara Montessori School, an AMI school on the beautiful California coast.