The story of Edward and Barbara Fidellow
Barbara and Edward Fidellow started a Christian Montessori School in 1972 for our own children. In the following ten years we changed locations and names three times finally settling as Lakemont Academy on four and a half acres in the middle of Dallas, TX.
Like many programs, we started with preschool and eventually added to both ends of the program ultimately going from toddlers (eighteen months) through twelfth grade. The program included everything from formal dining rooms, to gardens, greenhouses and animals (a horse, pony, donkey, goats, sheep, chickens, rabbits and a peacock.) Most importantly, it included a commitment to sharing Jesus with the children.
Having been among the early pioneers of Christian Montessori it dawned on us that we couldn’t be the only ones interested in sharing Jesus with their children in a Montessori manner. There must be other Christians who were involved in Montessori so we set out to find them. Using whatever directories and lists were available (where was the internet when you really needed it?), we sent out over 1500 letters. It was a joyous time to get the mail each day to find brothers and sisters who shared these same great passions for Jesus and Montessori. As our board chairman reminds us that in those days most of the Christians were working in secular schools and now over thirty years later there are hundreds of Christian Montessori schools.
Having spent over ten years discovering how wonderful it was to nurture children in this most fantastic Montessori way we wanted to apply this same technique to the teaching of Bible and the scriptures. After we started the fellowship, we discovered that others had the same idea and we were introduced to Jerome Berryman and Godly Play and to the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. And to lots of wonderful Christian brothers and sisters.
We held our first conference on April 23rd, 1983 in Dallas. The Fellowship has held a three-day conference each year since then, with Montessorians attending from each coast, from North and South and Canada, El Salvador and Nigeria.
In August of 2001, we closed our school after 29 years. Closing a labor of love and your calling, under difficult circumstances, takes great faith in the sovereignty of God. You have to believe that God has better ideas than even the one you thought was His idea to begin with. The closing of the school did not dim the call of Montessori but allowed us to concentrate full time on the Christian Montessori Fellowship.
The inauguration of the first regional conference in March 2002 was held in Washington D.C. Montessorians attended from New York, New Jersey, Virginia and South Carolina. In July 2002, the national conference was held in San Antonio right next to the Alamo. (However, we all survived.) San Antonio is now the home for the Christian Montessori Fellowship and hosts the national conference each year.
Our grown Montessori children encouraged us to use the internet to search for more Montessorians and Christian Montessori schools. (Montessori training does make children smart.) So, we began prospecting on the internet. There are thousands of sites with “Christian” and “Montessori” in them. Many are lists of Christian schools and Montessori schools. Some sites tease you – like the Montessori school on Christian Avenue, or the Montessori school that held its auction at Christian Brothers Winery, or the Montessori school with a little boy named Christian on their home page. But the internet has yielded a wonderful harvest of a diverse assortment of Montessori schools interested in the Christian spiritual nurturing of their children - not only in the United States but in Canada, Europe, Africa and Asia.
Finding more Christian Montessori schools has led to an ever-expanding list of regional conferences each year. Conferences have been held in Charlotte, Ann Arbor, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, Shreveport, Houston, Corpus Christi, St. Paul, D.C., Atlanta, New Jersey, Charleston and Phoenix.
Interestingly, the history of the Fellowship is directed at the future. Everything that has gone on before is only a prelude to the making of new history and the ability to bless even more children by training more Montessori guides and starting even more Christian Montessori schools.
The work we do today is tomorrow’s history. The poet Kahlil Gibran wrote that children’s “souls dwell in the house of tomorrow”. And it is the efforts of all that have gone before us and those that go with us now that will continue to write this wonderful history. And then we can say about these children, like Paul says about the Corinthians (2 Cor.3:3) “You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”
The ultimate history of the Christian Montessori Fellowship will be written in heaven. As children pass through our doors and are introduced to Jesus, His words of “Let the children come to Me.” will be fulfilled. And the significant history of eternity will record their names in “the Lamb’s book of life.”
Of all the ways we can spend and pour out our lives, there is no greater significance than to minister to our children and to help them become all that God intended for them to be – both for time and eternity.
Help write the history. Become a member. Get involved and change the world one child at a time by preaching the Gospel through Christian Montessori education.
The Vision of the Christian Montessori Fellowship
Transforming the world one child at a time by preaching the Gospel using Christian Montessori education.
When the Fellowship was started in 1983 its mission was to network Christians who were in Montessori schools. There were few Christian Montessori schools in those days and every time one was discovered it was as if a new relative was found. For years, “I thought we were the only one.” was a constant refrain.
We were all fledgling schools trying to navigate what made us both Christian and Montessori. My Montessori friends said, “You can’t be Montessori and Christian.” And my Christian friends said, “You can’t be Christian and Montessori.” We didn’t have friends in either camp – so we created our own.
We began an annual conference to gather together and to share. The 38th annual conference is coming up in January. The conference has always been about fellowship, learning and encouragement. That continues.
There is a lot of spiritual history both inside and out of the fellowship concerning Christian Montessori. The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and Godly Play have been great developments in hands on Bible instruction. The fellowship concentrated on doing regional conferences in addition to the national conference. CMF had conferences from Massachusetts to Hawaii, Washington to Georgia and in between. Slow growth as we discovered new brothers and sisters and Christian Montessori schools. We identified 25 then 50 Christian Montessori schools then 100. As more and more Christian Montessorians decided to start their own schools we found more and more family – 150 then 200. Today we probably can number about 350 schools that do some kind of Christian spiritual formation with their children. Our mailing list grew from maybe a hundred to about a thousand now. Even so, every time we go to a Montessori conference we find dozens of people who have never heard about Christian Montessori.
The cry of the Christian Montessori community for almost twenty years has been teacher training. We began our first efforts in 2009. We spent almost five years in the studio creating didactic videos of all the materials. We have videoed the philosophy lectures. We have gone from dvds to on-line access. We have inaugurated Zoom classes. We are establishing local training centers around the country and the world. We are in the midst of establishing a recognized MACTE certification for our program. (Important for our international training centers.)
What is the vision for Christian Montessori? To transform the world one child at a time through Christian Montessori education. Montessori transforms teachers, transforms children, transforms families. Christian Montessori education is not just about knowledge but about wisdom preparing us not just for time but for eternity.
To reach this goal we need thousands of schools and tens of thousands of classrooms and hundreds of thousands of teachers. Is it a reasonable goal? No, but it is a God given vision to bless the world with the Gospel. Transformed schools are only possible with transformed teachers and Christian Montessori training is a key. What is different about Christian Montessori training is that the training begins with the One who inspired Dr. Montessori. It begins with the theological base of God’s respect and love for the child. The Montessori philosophy of CMF explores her writing, book after book, teaching her Biblical and Christian spiritual values that animated and created this God-given way to teach and nurture children. This is Montessori teaching as it was intended to be.
The training of Christian Montessori teachers is the defining legacy of the work of the fellowship. Helping schools to have, not only trained teachers, but spiritually transformed teachers is the needed step to proclaiming the Gospel all over the world through Christian Montessori education.
Every school is an important beacon. Every excellent program honors the calling that God has given each of us. Traditional Montessori is excellent; Christian Montessori is the fulfillment of the vison God gave to Dr. Montessori. More than once, she admitted to her biographer that “She was convinced that this new method was …placed in her hands for the advancement of the kingdom of God…”
We look to share this vision with you by meeting the needs for trained Christian Montessori teachers.
The mission of Christian Montessori Fellowship is to nurture
and support Spiritual Entrepreneurs.
What is Spiritual Entrepreneurship?
Spiritual Entrepreneurship is a concept that defines the reality for Christian Montessori teachers.
If you begin defining an entrepreneur as someone who takes responsibility for an enterprise, continue with someone who sees a vision of what could be, and add someone who creates a reality of what is not yet visible by meeting a need or filling a void and reaching a goal, you then have a broad definition of an entrepreneur.
A “spiritual entrepreneur” adds to this definition: one who, as a type of apostle, evangelist or ambassador, creates or authors a spiritual dynamic where there was not one before.
The creation and continuation of a Christian Montessori environment fulfills this dual definition.
By taking the inspiration from God’s own heart (that He revealed to Dr. Montessori) and creating a truly spiritual environment where we discover both God and His gloriously created universe, we fulfill not only the definition of Spiritual Entrepreneurship but fulfill the calling of sharing the Gospel through Christian Montessori education.
The goal of this Spiritual Entrepreneur is to aid the transformation of learners into full-hearted believers who marvel not only at the mystery of God’s love but at the awe of His creation, whether it is the majesty of science, the beauty of art, the order of math or the wonder of how words express our thoughts and emotions.
The Spiritual Entrepreneur lives in a world of both time and eternity – preparing children for now and for their forever future.