Steve Hughes’ conference – “Education for life: neurosciences perspectives on Montessori education” – held in Vésenaz on May 9, 2019, in partnership with the Maria Montessori Training Institute (IFMM)


Dr. Steve Hughes, a renowned American pediatric neuropsychologist and a prominent member of the Research Council of the International Montessori Association, is no longer being introduced.

The purpose of his intervention in Vésenaz was the confrontation between Montessori pedagogy and neuroscience, through the key concept of Montessori as “education for life”. A complex program that Dr. Steve Hughes has made intelligible to everyone.

Beginning by recalling the specificity of living systems, which is to resist the second law of thermodynamics by extracting energy from their environment to survive, he presented the child as a living being lacking the skills necessary for survival. Hence the importance of freedom of movement for children, through which they will gradually acquire the opportunity to interact with their environment. The brain is thus an extraordinary tool for adapting to the environment.

The role of a Montessori environment is first and foremost to promote the child’s purposeful movement, which helps to build his or her brain. In this sense, Montessori pedagogy is directly an “aid to life”.

Maria Montessori Les Aiglons middle school – End of year celebration and exhibition on the theme of “food” – Saturday 29 June 2019


La fête de fin d’année du Collège Maria Montessori des Aiglons a donné lieu pour la 3ème année consécutive à la présentation d’une exposition réalisée par les adolescents. Cette année, le thème était celui de la “nourriture”.

La nourriture à travers les âges et les cultures, les procédés de cuisson et leurs implications physiques (cuisson au jus de citron, cuisson au feu, cuisson par induction, cuisson solaire, etc.)

Il y en avait pour tous les goûts. 

Et bien entendu des exposés sur la crise alimentaire actuelle, la “malbouffe” et ses implications sanitaires.

L’occasion pour tous les parents et plus généralement les familles de découvrir en détail le travail réalisé par leurs enfants ainsi que pour certains leur engagement “politique” pour sauver la planète et lutter contre les abus de toutes sortes.

Après l’exposition, un repas préparé exclusivement par les adolescents, comprenant de nombreuses spécialités culinaires du monde, a permis de profiter de la belle journée estivale sur la terrasse du collège. Puis les élèves des classes de 5ème et de 4ème ont présenté un spectacle de théâtre en plein air.

Maria Montessori des Aiglons middle school – Graduation ceremony for 12-15 year olds – Wednesday 26 June 2019


On Wednesday, June 26, 2019, the graduation ceremony for the 12-15 year olds took place at Maria Montessori College in Les Aiglons. 9 students were given a certificate of completion, which testifies to their time at the school.

A small ceremony was organized by the director Sylvie Coffre, which allowed everyone to remember the progress made in 2 or 3 years, since the arrival in the 5th grade for most of them. Adolescence is really an age where the changes are dramatic in a few years!

While some have simply grown up and are recognizable in the oldest pictures, the majority have moved from being children to being young adults. And as a reflection of this physical transformation, intellectual and emotional evolution is equally marked.

This is the challenge of this Montessori College’s global educational project, which is unique in France thanks to its boarding school from Monday to Friday, which enables teenagers to truly learn to live together and to confront their peers. A good way to prepare for adult life!

Annual General Assembly of the Swiss Montessori Association (AMS)


The AMS (Association Montessori Suisse – which brings together the actors of the Montessori community for the cantons of French-speaking and Italian-speaking Switzerland) is organising its annual General Assembly on Wednesday 12 June 2019 from 17:00, at the Maison des Associations, 15 rue des Savoises, in Geneva.

This will be an opportunity to take stock of the events of the past year, but also to talk about the many projects. The AMS is in a special situation because in Switzerland, and unlike many countries, the name “Montessori” is protected.

But how can we evaluate that a school respects the criteria corresponding to a “true” Montessori pedagogy?

In addition, the Committee that manages the association on behalf of its members will be largely renewed this year: an opportunity to discover new faces and exchange ideas within the network.

Following the general assembly, a conference will be proposed by Jessica Scrimes, Montessori trainer in training for 0-3 year olds, on the theme of Montessori for the youngest.

A theme particularly requested by the community, for which Jessica will be able to share her experience!

Annual General Assembly of the College Maria Montessori des Aiglons (Cruseilles – Haute-Savoie)


The Maria Montessori des Aiglons College, located in Cruseilles in Haute-Savoie since 2014, is celebrating its 5th anniversary this year!

It has been constituted in 2016 as a cooperative society, of which the employees of the college, but also the parents and several Montessori schools in the region are members, not to mention the supporters of the project, former or more recent.

An original governance that aims to bring together the various stakeholders around the educational project, who together contribute to the educational development of the 35 or so young people who are welcomed each year in boarding schools, from 5th to 3rd grade (12-15 years old).

This General Assembly, the first after the financial difficulties of the previous year, will be an opportunity to discuss with the college’s management team (Sylvie Coffre, Olivia Gollain and Julien Lamorte) the year that is ending and the prospects, particularly with regard to the future of the Les Aiglons site and possibly the opening of a future Montessori school.

Karen Pearce’s lecture: “Seeing is believing” – the art of observation – in Geneva, on June 1, 2019


The art of observing and really following what the child reveals. We will reflect on what it means to really trust the child to show us the way.

The session will continue with a reflection on the four steps that Montessori observes in children on the road to normalization. We will study the characteristics and indicators at each developmental stage to determine how best to support the child at each stage. The conference will be based on pure Montessori pedagogy but will also keep a very practical tone.

We will also see how to draw and analyze the different work curves. We will examine how educators can collect the necessary information for their observation:

  • What data?
  • How to rate them?
  • How to draw and analyze work curves?

We will continue this session by using a case study to develop the art of analyzing and proposing a customized development program focused on Pedagogy rather than age or curriculum.

A former school principal at the Maria Montessori Institute, Karen managed their children’s home from 1990 to 2008 under the mentorship of Hilla Patell. Pedagogical director of Montessori Place, she continues to advise Montessori educators, is a lecturer at the AMI courses and leads the MMI post-graduate course on the science of child observation.

The limits of associative management in a Montessori school


I continue my reflections on Montessori schools and the limits of associative management.

This is an important subject because many schools open every year, and this subject of the legal form is often problematic for the creators of the school.

A school is an economic entity

The first subject, which has constantly challenged me for years: a school is an economic entity, which distributes salaries each month to its employees, and sometimes manages substantial budgets of several hundred thousand euros per year.

So yes, of course, the director (there is still an overwhelming majority of women in this role) is present every day, and ensures the daily functioning.

But what about the management structure when it is an association?

Do not make the director take responsibility for everything

As we have seen, legally, the director cannot totally be in charge, he/she can only act by delegation.

When I was president of the Maria Montessori Les Aiglons middle school (we were created in the form of an association before switching to a cooperative company), I had thus formalized a delegation of signature to be able to incur expenses up to 1000€ for the director, which allowed her to operate for most of the daily expenses without having to refer to me each time, while keeping an eye for all the important expenses. 

But we must keep in mind, on the one hand, that it is a delegation, so you are still responsible, and on the other hand, that this delegation cannot be total.

On the other hand, I know a number of schools where the treasurer spends every day signing cheques, or comes once a week and waits for no expenses except in emergencies (which can be reimbursed on an expense account for example). It must be admitted that this is not the greatest flexibility, and from my point of view, it is only a reflection of the fact that the associative form is not the best in this case.

It goes for the daily management. 

General meetings of shareholders

At the annual general meeting, there is also a strange number: it is obviously the director who presents the report on the past year’s activities, which is generally well listened to … but what about the “moral report” presented by the president? What is its role?

We can try to build something on the themes of relationships with parents, the life of the association as such, as if we could really separate it from the school (not at all if it is an unopened “association”), but frankly it is a little artificial.

And I am not talking about these meetings of the board of directors or the bureau of the association, where it is of course the director, and that is normal, who although simply invited without voting rights, proposes and encourages the various decisions.

This is another strange way of running the school.

What about the educational team in all this?

A final issue is the link with the staff, the educational team in the first place but also the rest of the staff that is often forgotten: cooking, cleaning, etc. They are not at all involved in this associative governance, except at the annual general meeting. Which is a little limited please have some frustrations.

You get it, after all these years, I am not a big fan of this associative governance for Montessori schools, even if it may correspond to a local context. 

That being said, in relation to the various limitations I have identified, original solutions exist: I would like to talk to you in a future post about the collective intelligence process deployed at the Montessori school in Lyon over the past few years.

The role of parents in a Montessori school


I am taking a break from the story of my years at the Montessori school in Lyon, to try to share with you some of my thoughts on associative governance for schools, and the impact on the role of parents.

In the fifteen years since I have been working in the Montessori community in France, and since I have had the opportunity to interact with many educators and school principals, I have seen an evolution in school governance.

Montessori schools in associative management

Fifteen years ago, the vast majority of schools were set up in the form of associations: simplicity of creation, no need for special financial support, and honestly we don’t need to be very large, a small group of people is enough.

Finally, the associative form also corresponded well to the “alternative” aspect of these schools, which did not wish to embody a “commercial” or “institutional” aspect. There were indeed a few schools set up as commercial companies, but this was ultra-minority, as was the total number of schools: at the time, in 2005-2006, less than fifty schools throughout France.

What role for parents in an associative Montessori school?

So obviously the “problem” in the governance of associative schools is of course the parents. This is very paradoxical when we consider that Montessori schools are very keen to welcome families, even to co-educate children with them, and therefore to leave their doors open to parents.

But what are we talking about? What role should parents play? Let them organize parties and other extracurricular activities? On that, no problem of course, everyone is happy. Even more so when organized activities can bring a little (or even a lot) of money to the school.

Risks of parental management

But when we start talking about school management, that is, the “nuclear core” to use an industrial metaphor, then that is something else. Because indeed the risk is very high that they will find themselves judge and party. This is not said in this way, of course (we are talking about education, so it is not very appropriate), but in a school, parents are the beneficiaries of the service provided: in other words, they are the clients. 

And where did we see that it is the customers who decide on the production of the service? The mix of genres is never far away, not to mention the zeal of certain individuals who are always well-intentioned, who imagine they know better than teachers what is good for their child, and secondarily for those of others.

Come on, come on! Besides, it’s not really a profession, since you can go to school at home! (I would like to point out that all this is ironic, in case some people didn’t get it).

And so in associative governance, since the law says employees (including the director) cannot be judge and party, they, and therefore members of the Board of the association, and well it is necessary to find other people: parents are the most “obvious” people in this case, since they attend school and will therefore in theory be sensitive to its future.

Parents closing schools!

Unfortunately, I have seen too many schools close, because of malicious or well-meaning parents who have come into conflict with the principal or even the rest of the team, or playing one part of the team against the other… It usually ends very badly, and the principal does not have the hand to fix the situation. What a waste when you think of all the energy put into keeping a school going!

Since I am not the only one to have made this observation, many schools legally “bias” their governance, and operate “associations” that have no association other than the name, because they are totally locked: either they place trusted outsiders, who will have no interest in the school (but it is a bit like a lottery and not necessarily sustainable), or even relatives.

Some associations are thus run by husbands, brothers or sisters, parents or children.

Keep the spirit of the association alive

For my part, I think it is a way of bypassing the spirit of association to make it an entity in which we do not associate. Either we play the association game, possibly by putting in safeguards but being well aware that there is no such thing as zero risk, or we change the structure. Because other legal forms exist when you have other projects.

Running a Montessori School Parents’ Association


So here I am president! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!

Well, you have to put it in perspective right away, in France we like titles, but as I will discover later, I am president of the Montessori school of Lyon’s Montessori parents’ association, you know the one that organizes parties and others. An association with a budget of 4000€ per year, in good years.

Two associations for one school

I am not talking about the school management association, the “really serious” association, the one that manages the salaries of educators, takes all the important decisions, and where we only come in by cooptation, not following a crisis meeting because there is no other candidate.

Far be it from me to make polemics or express any frustration, especially fifteen years later, but this is an opportunity to reflect a little on the governance of Montessori schools, which is one of the topics of this blog. I’m back to the serious business of nothing.

Beyond the first few months, I quickly feel the strange side of the situation: we claim to be a school that is very open to parents (and this is absolutely true for everything regarding relations with families in the educational context, with mistresses, parents are really welcome in the school), but on the other hand the “heart” of the school appears comparatively “locked” and quite mysterious it must be said.

Why two associations in this school? A “parents” association in which the headmistress comes to the meetings to make the link, and another association for the management of the school? I am told that this is historical.

A complicated story with parents

And indeed, I am learning about history: the school was created more than twenty years ago in the form of a commercial company, but after fifteen years it went bankrupt, with a deep crisis and the separation of the two former partners directors, and the departure of many families, a sharing of the school between two camps… In short, it was necessary to rebuild a lot of things, to leave not in another society but by bringing together a group of people who had stuck together during this difficult period, and therefore in the associative format. 

But there is no longer any question of reproducing the previous situation, so we have locked in: recruitment into the management association is exclusively by cooptation. The parent association that existed (next to the management company) continues, and so the school finds itself with two associations, and a somewhat strange governance.

Cooperation, a key concept in a Montessori school

But there is a real spirit of cooperation: I was able to take things in hand, find good will and build a real project team (no one wanted to be president, but many people were willing to contribute), and things are moving forward. And the following year, I was asked to join the management association in order to better coordinate the activities of the two associations (the management association can be responsible for reserving a room, for example, if it is necessary to give a guarantee that the meagre budget of the parents’ association does not allow). 

So here I am, two years after my arrival at school, a real “politician” at Montessori: president of the parents’ association and vice-president of the management association (a position that allows me to participate in meetings and decisions, but without too much extra work). How to bypass a complicated system and ensure a better circulation of information through the accumulation of mandates.

Being parent of a student in a Montessori school


So here I am as a new parent in this Montessori school.

Our eldest daughter had returned in January (there was no spot for the start of the September school year, but a spot had become available afterwards), and as early as February, curious and positive after the first few weeks, I see an invitation for an “extraordinary general meeting” of the parents’ association. Let’s go !

A surprising parents’ meeting

And now… how can I say this? The meeting is clearly not what I expected…. It must be said that there was no precise agenda except for “organization of activities for the end of the year”, a rather vague title. At least in my memory, because it goes back a few years already! I say this in case some of my readers have attended the same scene and have a very different view of it, I will be happy to discuss it with them.

The current president welcomes us, and begins to explain that this is her second year as president, that the first year has been great, that so many projects have been proposed for this year but she is no longer doing well, that she has too much to do, that she is not getting enough help, that everyone is always willing to organize events but that after that when we get down to business there is no one left. And that she can’t take it anymore and quit! In the middle of the school year (it is February and it is particularly important to prepare for the end of year celebration).

The audience was obviously taken aback, no one was aware of it, except that some felt that something was wrong. But they had no idea about this decision. Several people try to get her to reconsider her decision, but nothing works. We have to face the facts, we will have to elect a new president. 

And of course, no one volunteers: many voices are raised to say that of course they are willing to help, to participate to ensure that the planned projects can take place, but not from there to become president. e. Problem…

Engaging in an associative school

I already had quite a few years of associative commitment behind me, mainly in the professional world: at the time of this meeting I was a director of the ARADEL association, the Rhône-Alpes Association of Local Economic Developers, the people who work, for the most part within local authorities, to welcome and support companies; and I had been a director in a local Crédit Mutuel bank, you know the bank “which belongs to its member-clients”. Two very different experiences, but which in any case made me no more afraid of becoming president than that. 

Even if it was a little bold, just a month after arriving in school. 

These are sometimes (often?) the accidents of the path of associative governance.

In any case, after a former president (who was going to leave school the following year and therefore did not want to return to this position) assured me of his support and guidance, I am the only candidate, and valiantly elected president of the parents’ association. The honour is safe, things can continue. For my part, I am not finished seeing any more green and ripe steps regarding the functioning of associations. We will certainly talk about it again, it is one of my main concerns….