Category Archives: Parent Insight

Inly’s Middle School Diversity Conference is for Parents, Too

“When prejudice is vanquished by knowledge, then there…will appear the child who is destined to form a humanity capable of understanding…our present civilization.” —Dr. Maria Montessori

“When prejudice is vanquished by knowledge, then there…will appear the child who is destined to form a humanity capable of understanding…our present civilization.” —Dr. Maria Montessori

There are plenty of engaging, intellectual, and hands-on workshops planned for middle school students, but an equally important component of the upcoming Montessori Conference on Diversity & Equity (MCODE) are the two parent tracks and afternoon panel that is ‘by parents, for parents’.

As our children learn about same and different, fair and unfair, and how to navigate peer groups, they often make statements or pose questions that catch us off guard—whether they are preschool, elementary, or middle school students. While these questions can be tricky, and we often feel like we miss opportunities to teach our children valuable lessons, simply being willing to engage in these conversations is key to helping our children develop positive self-identities, no matter what their age.

“We all want our children to be able to navigate the global, multicultural world that is their reality. The parent workshops at MCODE will give us, as the adults in their lives, some much-asked for tools and language for those critical discussions with our children about who we are and who we want to be in the world,” said Donna Milani Luther, Inly Head of School.

For full details about the conference, the programming for students, the sessions for parents, and the keynote, visit the website at Register today to join the 80+ participants (including more than 30 parents) from half a dozen different Montessori schools who are already signed up for the conference.

Additionally, Friday, October 24 (the day before MCODE) is the “Inside Inly: Diversity” Parent Insight Event. While Saturday’s MCODE programming will focus on tools for conversations between conference attendees and their children, Friday’s “Inside Inly: Diversity” conversation will focus on Inly’s curriculum and the multicultural competencies that are taught throughout all the different levels.

We hope to see you at one or both of these events — Inly is indeed “going places” when it comes to the important and challenging work of fostering global citizens!

Inly’s Parent Insight Events in 2014-15

DSC_0118A bedrock commitment of Inly School is to work closely with parents to educate, involve, and engage them in the work of the school and the work of the students.  We know that this partnership is of singular importance to the healthy growth and development of the child, and so we make every effort to communicate with and involve families in as many ways as possible to meet the needs and the time constraints of all families in our Inly community.

One of the many ways that we hope to engage and educate parents is through our Parent Insight Series that runs throughout the year.  This year, the theme of our series is “Inside Inly Curriculum.”  We hope that your Montessori Compass reports will provide deeper insight into your child’s work and our Montessori Curriculum, as our classroom portals, especially in Upper Elementary and Middle School, will continue to do as well.  In addition, please mark the following events in your calendar – or, if you are unable to attend – be on the look out for the link to view a video of the discussion on the web.

Inly School Parent Insight Series 2014-2015

9/9 – Tools for Transition, 8:30am

9/17 – UE Parent Talk, 6:00pm

10/15 – Discussing Adolescence, 7:00pm

10/24 – Inside Inly Diversity  8:30am
Middle School Teacher and Inly Diversity Coordinator, Paran Quigley, will facilitate this interactive presentation on developing multicultural competencies in children.

11/12 – Curriculum Night, 5:30pm
Travel from Toddler House to Middle School to learn more about the scope and sequence and approach to the writing or science curriculum at Inly.

11/12 – Going the Distance at Inly, 7:00pm
In this panel presentation, Admissions Directors, Alumni, and Alumni parents will speak about the admissions process, their respective high schools, and their experience with how Inly students who go the distance make the transition.

12/3 OMRAN•NELSON Speaker Series, 7:00pm
Alfie Kohn “The Myth of the Spoiled Child
As part of Inly’s commitment to being a center for teaching and learning on the South Shore, we open our doors to the community for an evening with innovative educator and thought leader, Alfie Kohn.  

12/9 – Inside Inly Literacy, 8:30am
Join the Inly faculty to learn more about the balanced literacy program at Inly from Children’s House through Middle School. You’ll leave knowing more about what we do, and what you can do at home to support the development of a lifelong love of reading.

1/22 – Check Out the Next Level, 7:00pm
This evening presentation provides an in-depth look at each educational level at Inly. Parents of children transitioning to a next level are strongly encouraged to attend, but all parents are welcome to come to learn more about the different levels and programs at Inly.

1/30  Inside Inly Technology, 8:30am
During this parent session, we will share Inly’s philosophy about technology, our curriculum, and tips and resources for parents to help them support their children in developmentally appropriate ways.

4/1  Spring Field Study, 6:00pm
Parent Orientation
This evening will give all parents of students who participate in end of year off-sites the essential information they will need to support this important experience for their child.  This evening is highly encouraged for all, and mandatory for parents of sixth year students.

4/3  Inside Inly Math/Science  8:30am
Join Inly faculty from Children’s House through Middle School to learn more about the math and science scope and sequence at Inly. This presentation will include the why, how and what of math and science and Inly, and answer the question “is my child prepared.”

4/22  Teach Your Parent Night  5:30–6:30pm
This evening is a great way for parents to connect with their children around the work in the classroom.  Guiding parents in their “work environment” gives students a sense of accomplishment and ownership that is so important in keeping them connected with the learning process.

Thoughts on Sports, Teamwork and Montessori Education

What does a former NFL football player have to do with Montessori education? Head of School Donna Milani Luther recently shared her thoughts and explained why national sports educator Joe Ehrmann was selected to kick off the 2013–14 Nelson ♦ Omran Speaker Series on October 23rd.

How does Joe’s message fit with the Inly ethos and philosophy?
He’s actually very Inly-esque in his approach to coaching, and I think it aligns perfectly with who we are as a school. We share the understanding that students learn well when there’s a sense of happiness and friendship and teamwork and love. As someone who extends that onto the coaching field, Joe presents a really interesting view.

Joe talks a lot about teamwork and collaboration and the importance of helping each other succeed… and I see a lot of similarities in our approach at Inly. Because our classrooms are multi-age, the older students are taught how to be role models and to help the younger ones. And because we’re a preK–8 school, this happens at all levels — from middle school down to preschool — as older students model kindness and leadership, teach skills and inspire younger students. The whole educational model at Inly is set up to help us all become the best we can be.

What about the role of competition in sports? Is this at odds with the Montessori-based approach at Inly?
I’ve always been one to think that you compete with yourself. If I’m doing math, I want to do math myself better the next time; I don’t need to beat the person beside me. At Inly we teach children to make personal goals and then to work hard within that framework to achieve them. Our approach is “we’re all in this together” rather than competing against one another — which leads to cooperative learning and to the kind of teamwork that I think kids need in this century.

Joe’s philosophy is that teamwork, not competition, is what it takes to succeed — both on the sports field and in life. That’s our philosophy at Inly as well.

Joe talks a lot about gender issues and the sports culture in our country. What is this all about?
He touches on this a lot — particularly in his “Be a Man” TEDx talk. It all has to do with healthy child and adolescent development, and knowing one’s true self. Joe comes from a traditional macho place and knows that the mentality is set from a young age. The “here’s what guys do in sports” message is all around us — they drink a bit too much, they act a certain way, and there’s that kind of bravado. It applies to boys in particular but all kids when they don’t have another way to identify themselves and fit in. Sometimes when kids don’t have another angle in they use sports as a shell around themselves as opposed to finding their authentic selves.

Joe’s message is about the need to transform the culture of sports, and it starts with parents and teachers and coaches sending the right message—the earlier, the better.

What do you hope parents take from this talk?
Joe presents a much more holistic approach to sports. It’s not about winning this particular game, it’s about winning your long-term personal race in life. It’s about ‘how am I going to be the best person I can be?’ and viewing sports as one vehicle to get there. I hope parents see that this kind of approach can lead to happier, healthier humans and that they help their own children get there.

What about teachers and coaches? What do you hope they take away?
We’re actually doing a pre-talk workshop for Inly teachers and coaches as well as YMCA coaches. Each teacher and coach will write a personal mission statement on how they pledge to help boys grow to men and girls grow to women and to help each child be the best they can be. Their individual statements will detail how they plan to help facilitate this back in their classrooms, gyms or out on the sports fields.

Is this a brand new collaboration with the YMCA?
Yes and no. The Joe Ehrmann talk is co-sponsored by the South Shore YMCA. But since the Y now owns the South Shore Natural Science Center, last year’s talk with Richard Louv could technically be considered our first collaboration.

As for sports programs, we’ve been lucky to be involved with the South Shore YMCA for several years. Our Upper Elementary students regularly travel to the YMCA in Hanover to do a physical fitness and life skills program; Upper Elementary and Middle School students also play in the Y’s flag football league as part of Inly’s After-School Program. It all makes for a healthy, well-rounded and developmentally-appropriate physical education and sports curriculum—both during and after school.

Read more:

Transforming the Culture of Sports: Former NFL player, named the “Greatest Coach in America,” speaks at Inly School

The Third Teacher: The Montessori Learning Environment

by Donna Milani Luther, Head of School


Lower elementary students at Inly enjoying the Destination Exploration station featuring circuit boards

I was delighted to recently read a book called The Third Teacher, a collaborative project by Cannon Design, VS Furniture, and Bruce Mau Design. The premise of The Third Teacher is that in every classroom environment, there are three entities responsible for teaching and learning; the first is the teacher; the second is the student; the third is the environment. The book explores how much an environment can support or detract from learning.

The Third Teacher is structured in a series of small vignettes that discuss different possibilities for enhancing learning environments, with perspectives from experts in various educational fields. It states, “This book is intended to ignite a blaze of discussion and initiative about environment as an essential element of learning.” Not surprisingly, the book references Maria Montessori’s philosophies on learning spaces. In particular, it discusses her feelings about movement within the classroom. “Watching a child makes it obvious that the development of his mind comes through his movements,” Maria Montessori wrote. In her last book, The Absorbent Mind, she observed, “When we think of intellectual activity, we always imagine people sitting still, motionless. But mental development must be connected with movement and be dependent on it. It is vital that educational theory and practice should be informed by that idea.” The Third Teacher, inspired by Maria Montessori, encourages designers and educators to “Make peace with fidgeting. Think of it as brain development, which it is. Then think of how to make room for it in the classroom.”

I had the great fortune to meet two of the architects from Cannon Design who collaborated on writing The Third Teacher, Trung Le and Christian Long. Le and Long work solely on designing schools and other learning environments and are incredibly passionate about elevating these spaces. Cannon Design not only explores classroom environments but also hallways, waiting spaces, bathrooms, playgrounds–absolutely every aspect of a learning environment inside and out. They examine how inviting a space is and how much freedom and independence a space encourages. They even examine whether a learning space asks children to be two different ways; one way in a hallway, for example; and another way in a classroom and what this might mean. The ultimate question they consider is can learning happen everywhere? The answer, of course, is yes it can and yes it should.


An Inly student is seen here painting on a Buddha board, a canvas that turns black with water. As the water slowly evaporates, the designs magically disappear. This is one of many of the Destination Exploration stations set up around the school.

After reading this book, we were inspired to install the “Destination Exploration” stations that you will now see set up around the main building. These stations remind our children that they don’t have to just learn inside a room–they inspire children to explore outside the classroom–to stop and explore. They provide everything from a mental break– like the soothing Buddha Boards–to a mental challenge–like the chess set and circuit boards.  The Third Teacher states, “Children of all ages need places where they can learn by touching, manipulating, and making things with their hands… trigger the senses. Sound, smell, taste, touch, and movement power memory. An environment rich in sensory experiences helps students retain and retrieve what they learn.” Our Destination Exploration stations allow our children to do exactly this: EXPLORE through the use of all of their senses. These stations also help Inly have inspiring environments everywhere–not just in the classrooms–proving that even a hallway can be an incredible opportunity for learning, engagement, and fun.

Next time you visit Inly, please stop by a Destination Exploration station. Observe a child as they problem solve and get creative. It is a truly magical sight.

Inly Parent Education Talk: Joe Ehrmann on “Transforming the Culture of Sports”

Be A Man: Joe Ehrmann at TEDxBaltimore 2013

Who’s sports educator Joe Ehrmann and what’s he all about? Watch this video clip to hear his compelling message at a recent TED talk. Then read the following news story to learn more about his upcoming talk for parents, teachers and coaches:

Transforming the Culture of Sports: Former NFL player, named “The Most Important Coach in America,” speaks at Inly School Oct 23

Co-sponsored by the South Shore YMCA, this talk is open to the public. Tickets are $20 and available online at the Inly Speaker Series page. Bring your friends and spread the word!

Positive Discipline is Key Tool in Building Internally Motivated Children

By Julie Kelly-Detwiler, Assistant Head of School

positive discipline pyramid

Through her years of careful scientific observation, Maria Montessori created a system of educating children that was revolutionary at the time. At the heart of this new direction in education was her understanding that children want to learn, and that a happy, engaged child, is a well-behaved child. Montessori turned the standard approach to discipline on its head when she instructed that in order to respond to a child who was “misbehaving,” we first must look to the environment, then to the teacher, and only then to the child to understand the roots of the problem.

Say, for example, a child is having trouble settling into the morning work cycle or a home routine. One might consider first the environment: Is the environment distracting or not engaging enough? Is there some obstacle in the way of the child’s work? At home, it could be that the snack is just out of reach in the kitchen. At school, it could be that another student is using a material that the child wants to work with.

It is important to make as many observations as possible about the space around the child. Once all environmental observations have been made, one might next consider the teacher or parent: Do they feel prepared for the day? Are they stressed and is it obvious? Are they communicating choices clearly?

Finally, only after all of the above are exhausted would one would consider the child: Is the child upset? Did the child have a tough morning? Is there a learning or sensorial issue to consider? Does the child have needs that aren’t being met?

Montessori did not see children as blank slates to be molded, but rather, as spiritual embryos in need of careful nurturing to grow. If we start with the belief that the child wants to do good, and needs our support to do so, rather than the prevailing idea that the child wants to disrupt and it is our job to stop this, our role as disciplinarian changes dramatically. No longer do we seek to control and incentivize behavior through rewards and punishments, we now seek to partner with the child to support their strong urge to develop into their best selves. A prepared environment, and discipline, in the form of fair and firm boundaries, connection, and encouragement, is essential for this healthy growth to occur.

 The Positive Discipline Model

Alfred Adler, a contemporary of Montessori, held the same fundamental beliefs about discipline as Montessori. Together with Rudolph Dreikers, they created an approach to discipline, which is now referred to as “positive discipline.”

Adler and Dreikers identified the following five criteria for effective discipline:

  1. It helps children feel a sense of connection.

  2. (Belonging and significance)

  3. It is mutually respectful and encouraging.

  4. (Kind and firm at the same time.)

  5. It is effective long-term.

  6. (Considers what the child is thinking, feeling, learning, and deciding about himself and his world – and what to do in the future to survive or to thrive.)

  7. It teaches important social and life skills.

  8. (Respect, concern for others, problem solving, and cooperation as well as the skills to contribute to the home, school or larger community.)

  9. It invites children to discover how capable they are.

  10. (Encourages the constructive use of personal power and autonomy.)

 Practicing Positive Discipline at Inly

This past August, more than 20 Inly faculty members from all levels attended a two-day training on positive discipline. Recently, we chose the book Positive Discipline in the Classroom, for our fall faculty book group discussions, to help us more deeply embed and apply the many principles and strategies this approach has to offer.

Montessori and the positive discipline approach are perfectly complimentary. Jane Nelson, author of the positive discipline book series says, “It is always such a joy for me to work with Montessori teachers and parents because I don’t have to convince them of the importance of treating children with dignity and respect.

“As Maria Montessori said, ‘Discipline must come through liberty. We do not consider an individual disciplined only when he has been rendered as artificially silent as a mute and as immovable as a paralytic. He is an individual annihilated, not disciplined.’

“Would that everyone could visit a Montessori school where teachers ‘follow the child,’ and children are engaged in the love of learning. Montessori provides a light of sanity in the world of education.”

Further Resources

If you’d like to learn more about extending this approach into your home, you can read Positive Discipline by Jane Nelson, or visit

The Montessori Approach to Discipline” via The Montessori Foundation

The Montessori Classroom: Not Just a Pretty Space

by Julie Kelly-Detwiler, Assistant Head of School

EditedThe Appeal of a Montessori Classroom
I always love giving tours to prospective Inly families and seeing Inly anew through their eyes. And, it is equally rewarding to hear the words of appreciation from our current Inly families who have returned to campus this fall. These moments remind me of my first visit to a Montessori school while living in Chile, where I, too, was struck by the beauty of the classrooms. I was pulled in immediately–as were my children–and our family spent two formative years as members of that Montessori community. It wasn’t until we found Inly School some years later that we were able to recapture those feelings of being enveloped and at home in a beautifully prepared learning space. It was comforting to be back in a Montessori environment. Even though we were halfway across the world, the materials were the same, the furniture was the right size for my children again, and there was a sense of order and calm in each room.

The Principles Behind the “Prepared Environment”
It wasn’t until I became a Montessori educator myself that I learned about the purposeful choices that each Montessori teacher makes as he or she sets up a classroom. Dr. Maria Montessori had a deep conviction that “the child should live in an environment of beauty,” and that “the things he sees are not just remembered; they form a part of his soul.” She instructed that classrooms be “scientifically planned and methodically formed,” and articulated principles that must be considered in each Montessori environment: structure and order, reality and nature, beauty and simplicity.

That is why you will see natural wood, natural lighting, well organized materials that follow a logical progression, uncluttered shelves with beautiful and inviting manipulatives, soothing colors, and comfortable furniture in a Montessori classroom. These types of environments are intended to calm students, to ground them in nature, and to entice them to explore. They are also arranged to maximize the child’s independence, concentration, and growing sense of responsibility.

The Benefits of the “Practical Life Curriculum”
From Toddler House to Middle School, students at Inly are taught to care for their environment. Children as young as 18 months are taught to treat the materials with respect, to take only one work out at a time, and to put work away when they are finished. In the early grades, each classroom has a “practical life” section where children learn how to care for themselves and for their environment. Children are taught how to do important everyday tasks such as buttoning, zipping, sweeping, pouring, flower arranging, sewing, and washing a table.

Through the practical life activities in the Montessori classroom, a child not only learns concentration, coordination, independence, and order, but also how to interact with others and gain an understanding and appreciation of the environment.  The child begins to build himself from within while learning to treat himself and others with respect and dignity. That is why you will see the teachers at each level take the time to engage students in daily jobs within their classrooms, and, as they grow, within their broader school community.

The Montessori Classroom is Designed to Teach
As you return to Inly this fall and visit the classrooms, I encourage you to take note of the essential components of a Montessori classroom. Notice the commonalities from room to room, space to space. The classrooms, outdoor playgrounds, Meehan Family Artsbarn and the rest of the campus were all purposefully designed with Montessori’s philosophies in mind. And while each space is unique, they are all intended to nurture joyful discovery, the growth of personal responsibility, and a deep connection to self and community.

Additional Reading
Montessori Classrooms from American Montessori Society
How Classroom Design Affects Student Learning from Fast Code Design