The History of the Christian Montessori Fellowship, by Edward Fidellow
Barbara and I started a Christian Montessori Schoolin 1972 for 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 of land 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, 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 twenty 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 even Canada .
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 newsletter of the fellowship “The Cobbler” had been an intermittent publication. In January of 2002 “The Cobbler” began regular monthly publication. Someone recently wrote and said, “I have a copy of “The Cobbler” from 1993 and the next issue I have is from 2002. Can you send me the ones in between?” We had to laugh. As you all well know, running a school leaves little time for almost anything else.
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 summer.
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. Recent conferences have been held in Charlotte , Ann Arbor , Seattle , Chicago , Boston , Shreveport , Houston , Corpus Christi , St. Paul , D.C. , Atlanta , New Jersey 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.