Category Archives: The PATH: Montessori news, research, people, and voices

An Interview with Frans and Ida


Ida observing some Montessori Racks and Tubes math work.

Frans Van Leeuwen, from Holland, and Ida Arnesen,  from Norway,  are visiting Dundas Valley Montessori School for two weeks as part of their training at the Fondazione Centro Internazionale Studi Montessoriani (International Centre for Montessori Studies Foundation) in Bergamo, Italy. They are observing in our Elementary program.

They were kind enough to sit down and answer a few questions about their training, Montessori, and how they came to observe in Canada

Note: in the transcription of their interview I tried to retain a degree of their accents so you hopefully hear their individual voices in text (so if you find any typos, I’m going to say I meant to do that).


Frans takes notes while Ida observes.

How did you come to train at Bergamo, in Italy, being from Holland and Norway?

Frans: My school asked me to do the training in Bergamo. It’s the only AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) school in Holland and they want to have AMI-approved teachers. The course in Bergamo is the best they know. They really wanted me to do it and I was like, “Ya, why not?”

Ida: I worked really hard actually to come here [Bergamo]. I am originally a teacher in Norway, in some subjects, but I really didn’t find my thing there, in the traditional system. I found Montessori and I worked as an assistant for a year and then I heard about the centre. The more I am there the more I like it.

Frans, what led you to choose Montessori as a career?

Frans: It was actually sort of an accident. I never thought about teaching at all actually. I was working for myself and because of the economic crisis my company was broken down. So, I was looking for a job and I was working for a call centre for a couple of years. I was trying to go into the mental institutions, psychology kind of way, and a friend of mine, his mom, had a Montessori school. I was talking with her and they were looking for a guy like me that knows about working in the outside, with gardening and engineering kind of background. I visited and worked there for two or three weeks to see how it feels and it was really great. I just stayed there since then.

What levels are you training for? What levels do you want to teach?

Frans: Now, we are doing the training for 6-12, and I want to do the Upper Elementary first. Then, I want to do the Children’s House [Casa] course as well and after that, or before that, I want to do the adolescence program as well. That’s what I want to do in the end actually [adolescence]. I have to start that in Holland because there is nothing like that in Holland yet. I’m really interested in that.

Ida: The same, 6-12; the whole elementary. I’m not sure yet. I think it’s very nice to see the Lower Elementary, but I also am interested in the adolescence program.


How did you, being from Holland and Norway and training in Italy, end up observing at Dundas Valley Montessori in Canada?

Ida: Our teacher actually. I think Terrence had contacted her or they had communicated. She was saying that, “If someone is interested to go to Canada…”

Frans: And we were interested! [both laugh]

The beauty of it is also that this year was the first year that the observation week was two weeks in a row. Normally it’s just one week then you go back to school, then you have another week, and you have three blocks spread through the year. Now we had two weeks after each other so that was also, of course, much easier to go to Canada because we’re staying here for two weeks. For one week it’s a little bit too far away from Italy to do it, but for two weeks is perfect.

Are you getting a chance to do anything else why you are here – see other parts of Canada or Hamilton, or is it all just work?

Ida: I am trying to do that. We were thinking about Niagara Falls. Also, your colleagues are great. They recommend everything. I think also there is one… the guy with the beard? [Dylan?] Dylan! Thank you. He said he would make a list for what is cool in Hamilton or Toronto. So that’s very nice.

What kinds of things do you like outside of Montessori and schooling? What interests do you have?

Frans: A lot. Music, outdoors, different kinds of sports. A lot. A lot.

Ida: Hiking and theatre are kind of mine. Hiking we already did a little bit. It was really cool. We just went outside from our host’s house [DVMS Upper Elementary French Specialist Janice] and we can just walk from there. [Janice lives close to the Hamilton-Brantford Rail Trail].

Frans: Then you have all sorts of small hiking paths through there and…

Ida: We got lost there a little bit, but then we came back and we managed.

What are your impressions so far? Of DVMS? Hamilton? Canada? Cultural differences?

Ida: The children here are very polite.

Frans: I don’t know if it’s because of the language; the English language is also pretty polite, I guess. The children are very polite here and it’s really nice to see.

Was that a bit of a surprise?

Ida: Yah, kind of. Especially like how some of the children are with which word they choose. They say, “Pardon me…”

Frans: And “Excuse me,” and stuff like that. Working at my school and they don’t understand you it’s like, “What?” or “Huh?”

Did you have any expectations and has anything been drastically different than you expected, or what has fallen in line with your expectations?

Ida: I did expect more snow here though.

[We interviewed Frans and Ida on Tuesday; on Tuesday night, they got their snow, and their first snow day on Wednesday].

Ida: I thought it would be smaller, the school. There is a lot of room here. We were very pleasantly surprised about how open everybody is and I don’t think it is that common that people are used to going from Bergamo and having… I mean, Terrence came and picking us up from the airport. He was so nice – answering all of our mail so fast. Janice gave us a place to stay. She helped – we are borrowing bikes from them. And everybody here… Tony gave us a tour at the first minute we came here. Really nice.

Frans: Very open.

Have you noticed any differences in Montessori – how it’s taught, how it’s experienced – in Europe versus Canada so far, or has it been that Montessori is the same everywhere you go?

Frans: I think it’s more the same where you go. I noticed, and I’m not that experienced yet of course, but what I see at this part it’s similar to what I am used to at my school.

Ida: I noticed one thing, and that is that many of the materials in the classroom that we are in now [at DVMS] has two of them. In Bergamo, they are very strict that it is one per classroom. One of each material. But, I guess, I have seen them also being used, parallel. It’s probably just an answer to something that is needed.

Frans, you will be returning to the school you are already working at when you complete your training. Ida, are you already affiliated with a school? Where would you like to end up?

Ida: No, actually. I’m going for a job interview at Frans’s school, and I also am in contact with some other schools, so I’m not really sure.

You’re not just looking to go home?

Ida: My home doesn’t really have a Montessori school. Other places in Norway do, of course, but it’s not like my home, not like I would go home to work in an AMI Montessori school. That’s not an option. Yet! Maybe it will be. I will start one.


Ida takes note of Lower Elementary North guide Jodi, guiding.

To end things off, as younger people who have chosen to get into the Montessori field, what does the phrase “Montessori education” mean to you? If someone asked you, “What is Montessori?” how would you answer them?

Ida: Happy children.

Frans: A fun way to learn very important matters. The math and language, it starts so basically and so simple and goes into very deep subjects; children of a young age are already able to work with big numbers – the billions. It’s insane how the material makes it so easy to work with and leads them step-by-step to an abstractive way to work and really understand the theory behind it instead of just learning a trick to solve a problem. To really go into the subject and really understand what they are talking about. It’s brilliant!

Ida: Also, the way that you work on a team with nature. I love that as well about Montessori. It is not like a person has an idea. You are actually learning from the children how they can learn things. I think it’s amazing.

Frans: It is the whole picture. Normally, at least at my school when I was young, it was a public school and it was like you just learn the things that society expects from school, but here it is more learning also that you are just part of a very big universe and everything is in balance and everything has its place, and it is very important, I think.

Thank you very much, Frans and Ida, for taking the time to sit and answer some questions. Hope you enjoyed shovelling that Canadian snow.

Testing, Testing…

This post from a Montessorian in the U.S. does a great job of explaining the issue of testing students relative to authentic Montessori practice.

The Montessori Observer

It’s been a while since I posted…is this thing on?

This caught my eye: “States Listen as Parents Give Rampant Testing An F”

It says “States”, but it’s mostly about Florida, an early and eager adopter of high-stakes testing under the aegis of “accountability”, which is now joining the national movement (,, Facebook) to push back against standardized testing.  And no wonder:

In Florida, which tests students more frequently than most other states, many schools this year will dedicate on average 60 to 80 days out of the 180-day school year to standardized testing. In a few districts, tests were scheduled to be given every day to at least some students.

Of course, Montessori schools don’t have much use for tests and grades:

The bad marks with which teachers weigh up the work of girls and boys is like measuring lifeless objects with a balance, measured…

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Montessori: “Hands-On” with the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

A good review of an article offering some significant exposure of Montessori to educators worldwide. The follow-up piece is a valuable read as well. Thanks Montessori Observer.

The Montessori Observer

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD; wiki), “a global community dedicated to excellence in learning, teaching, and leading” with 175,000 members in 100 countries, membership $29 to $189, is a pretty big deal. (Note to Montessorians: this is what an international educational organization looks like. It’s all about scale.)

So it’s great news that their monthly member newsletter, Education Update, has an article about Montessori education by ASCD Managing Editor Sarah McKibben, with extensive quotes from NCMPS’ own Jackie Cossentino. The article is behind a paywall, but I saw a copy and I can tell you a little about it. I’m afraid I have to be bit critical, which is a shame, as it’s not a bad piece and we’re always happy for the exposure. But it’s important to get things right.

The article gets some things mostly right, and a few things…

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DVMS Staff Profile: Noeleen Gibbons, Lower Elementary Guide

By Jason Phillips

I have a special place in my heart for Noeleen. You know how there’s just some people that get your ridiculous sense of humour, who pick up on carry on your lame jokes, well Noeleen’s one of those people for me. She’s also a phenomenal Montessori guide. Get to know Noleen: where she’s from, how she got here, and her thoughts on the present and future of Montessori. Maybe one day we’ll publish the full interview, including all of our childish jokes and digs at each other.

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DVMS Dad Profile: Dr. Neeraj Lakhanpal

By Jason Phillips

NeerajDVMS Montessori Dad Dr. Neeraj Lakhanpal, MD, is the Co-Chief of Anaesthesia at Milton District Hospital. The Lakhanpal family have three children at DVMS and are always willing to volunteer at events, as drivers, or to slog through organizing the Scholastic order forms. They are also strong supporters of Montessori education, and of holistic, peaceful development — a wonderful match.

Neeraj is a busy man, with a demanding job and three active kids, but he’s always so calm whenever we see him at the school. Read on to find out how he does it, why he and his wife chose Montessori at DVMS for their kids, and how you, too, can learn to be as calm as Neeraj.

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DVMS Staff Profile: Janice Egan, French Language Specialist

By Jason Phillips

Janice Egan is the French Language Specialist at the Upper Elementary level at DVMS, and for the adolescent students at Strata Montessori Adolescent School. One adolescent girl describes Janice as her favourite because she is “feisty.” We couldn’t think of a better description… well, maybe smart as a whip, dedicated, and uber-reliable would work, but we’ll just stick with feisty.

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Meditation Event

[Please, click here to RSVP for this event]

NeerajNeeraj Lakhanpal is Co-chief of Anaesthesia at Milton District Hospital (and a DVMS Dad) and has been a resident of Dundas for more than 10 years.  He joins the ranks of a growing number of doctors worldwide who recommend the Transcendental Meditation technique (or TM) to their patients.

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By Tony Evans


DVMS and Strata Montessori School, in partnership with the Art Gallery of Hamilton, would like to invite you to the premier Hamilton screening of Watermark on Wednesday, January 29th, at 7:00 pm, at Landmark Cinemas 6 in Jackson Square, downtown Hamilton. The artist and the filmmakers will all be there.

Watermark is a beautiful film about the profound effect water has on humanity and humanity has on water. We are hoping that the DVMS/Strata community can come together to support this remarkable, visionary film based on the world renowned photography of Edward Burtinsky.

From the Globe and Mail review:

It is an immersive version of his ravishing photographs: thrilling, terrifying and enraging all at once. Baichwal and her editors have staged the film as a series of tiny mysteries, dropping us into landscapes and then parsing out clues to help us figure out where we are. She plays with silence and sound like a symphony.

The last film made by these filmmakers, Manufactured Landscapes, won for Best Canadian Feature at the Toronto Film Festival a few years ago. Watermark may be even more powerful and beautiful. (Bias alert – filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nick de Pencier happened to be two of my closest friends.)

If you didn’t already click the link above, please check out the preview here.

DVMS Casa Staff on Sleep, Technology, and Executive Functions

By Dylan Hudecki, Elizabeth Flenniken, and Pat Stephens

On our last PD day, we attended the Canadian Association of Montessori Teachers conference and were immediately inspired by several different speakers. Continue reading