About Us
Message from the Head of School

Thoughts from Paul

September 25, 2020
A few words about record keeping, and why it is so important for us right now.
But first, a big shout out to our Middle School students.  One of the perks of Middle School, in addition to Friday skiing and running a pizza business, is getting to read to Children’s House friends.  Since they cannot do this in person, the students decided to record themselves reading some of their favorite books. The recordings will be posted on Children’s House class websites so students can watch them at home with their families. This is their way of connecting to the community.
Now to record keeping.  Your daily health screening form is the basic building block that allows us to track the health of our school community. The daily screening tells us who is healthy and who is not.  It also helps us log absences.  If someone is out for a medical reason, we follow up with a phone call to discuss symptoms and next steps. We follow up until the student or staff member returns to school.
We log this information in the secure Nurse’s Office tab in our Student Management System.   It is our tracking tool.  We know how many in our community have been tested for COVID, and the outcomes, and how many have quarantined.  We know when a doctor has recommended against testing.  This data helps us make sure we are on top of health issues, to see patterns and trends, and to make responsible decisions.
We plan to share a high-level summary of this data with you in the form of a monthly Community Health Dashboard.  I think it is important that we all know how we are doing, and how much the daily steps that we each take contribute to the health of our community.
Be safe friends,


September 18, 2020
There are two important things that I want to share with you this week.
The first is that on Thursday our EEC Licensor made her annual inspection visit.  This included a detailed review of all of our logs and records (attendance, health forms, emergency procedures, personnel files, etc.) and an on-site visit and safety inspection.  She did the full campus visit via FaceTime.  The result is that we are in full compliance with EEC regulations, which means that, even with all of the extra attention and effort COVID-19  is requiring, we are not neglecting the details.  In fact, we are doing them better.  A huge thank you to all faculty and staff for this.
The second is that Tachou Brown and Purvi Harley have agreed to co-chair the Parent Association this year.  The PA is an important partner in helping us to build community.  This year will present challenges as we cannot hold our traditional in-person events, but I am certain that we will figure out creative ways to connect and network.  A virtual Curriculum Spotlight presentation means you do not have to hire a sitter in order to attend.  You can expect to hear from Tachou and Purvi soon.
Finally, I am thinking about a brief conversation I had this week, in which the other person said, “Well, now that school is open you can relax.”  That would be nice, but the answer is no we cannot.  We all need to continue to wear our masks, wash our hands, and respect social distance.  These things are just part of what we do and model, like saying thank you, holding doors, and respecting each other.  Our children get it, and it is not stopping them from being happy to be in school, engaging.
Be safe friends,

September 11, 2020
This weekend marks six months since we were forced to suspend on-campus learning.  It has been quite a journey.
We had to move quickly from onsite to online, delivering virtual curricula and resources daily.   We Zoomed. We navigated the ever-changing public health and regulatory landscape, and we acquired a new vocabulary: pods, cohorts, etc.  We kept on Zooming. We ran a successful summer program, and practiced social distancing, hand washing, and wearing masks.  We Zoomed some more. We made classes smaller and rearranged spaces.  And here we are, at the end of week one.
For me, through all of this, there have been two constants.  The first is knowing that there will always be something new around the next corner, and the second is that whatever that may be, we, working together, will figure out how to deal with it.  We share a common purpose, and as we work together, we are building a stronger school community. 
We are also part of the larger educational community.   As such we are participating in the National COVID-19 School Response Dashboard, a collaboration between organizations representing public and independent schools, under the leadership of Brown University Professor of Economics Emily Oster.  This effort will track the impact of COVID-19 on enrollment and staffing trends over time and help us all make better decisions supported by good data.

Who knows what lies ahead.  Whatever it may be, our school community is up to the challenge.  For that, I am grateful to all of you.

Be safe friends,
Note: As we begin the new school year, our weekly communication is migrating from LEAF to our redesigned web site.  I will still appear in your In Box each Friday, but please visit the web site News & Events page for lots of useful information and news.  More details to follow soon.


List of 7 items.

  • March 2020

    March 20, 2020

    Sitting at an old curly maple table, looking across the Annisquam River at Wingaersheek Beach and thinking how much has changed, and just how important it is that we work hard to remain connected.  
    Our wonderful teachers and staff are certainly working hard at maintaining connections and providing resources and experiences for our children.  Every level is posting a variety of things every day.  I even got to read Shel Silverstein’s poem Spaghetti to the Children’s House!  Some of the resources are off-the-shelf, but a lot are homemade.  While there are some group activities, most are asynchronous, as we know each family has its own schedule and needs. 
    It has been great fun getting videos and photos from some of you, and for us to watch your children learning in the most creative ways.  That is very rewarding for their teachers, who greatly miss their daily interaction their students.  
    As we all feel our way through this, please let us know what is working, and what is not.  We are also aware that too much of a good thing is not good; everyone is juggling a lot of things.  We need your feedback to find the Goldilocks spot - not too much, not too little, but just right.
    We are working to keep your children engaged and connected and to be ready to welcome them back to school as soon as it is safe to do so.  In the meantime, we are here as a resource for you, whether it be for books from the library, ideas for Montessori activities, or just an ear.  Please reach out to us.
    At times like this, I recall this from Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy: “Even after the heaviest storm the birds come out singing.”  I just watched a video of one of our LE students searching for signs of spring, and all around her the birds were, indeed, singing.
    Be safe, friends…

    March 6, 2020

    It has been fun watching children stop to explore the Penguin world next to my office.  This was created by students in a February Experience week course on coastal creatures.  In addition to studying penguin habitats, they used a variety of tools to create a great penguin-world display, including a flock of large-scale origami penguins.  For the next two weeks, Lower Elementary students will be immersed in ancient Greece and Egypt. Our older students will be based at Gloucester Stage Company, where they will experience all aspects of a working theater while rehearsing and staging an original production.   These are wonderful opportunities for students to dive deep, and to share what they have learned at the end.  I hope to see you at the Ancient Civilization fairs and at the production of Dragon’s Lair.
  • February 2020

    February 28, 2020

    I love talking about Harborlight and the educational experience we offer at every level, Infant through Middle School.  But, of course, that is my job.  So, we thought it would be more powerful to turn the camera on and ask Middle School students and a couple of parents to talk, unscripted, about their Harborlight experiences.  The result is the short video below.  I think it nicely captures the essence of what we are.  I hope you will like it and share it.  (And we have lots more footage to play with, so stay tuned.)

    February 14, 2020

    For many years our Lower Elementary students have studied ancient civilizations and created presentations to show what they have learned.  Our Upper Elementary has taken this a step further: students worked together in small groups to create their own civilizations, which had to be situated in a real time and geographical region. They had to research climate, geography and natural resources and figure out how they would help shape the civilization. They had to think about basic needs, daily life and interactions with other peoples, friendly or not.  I was particularly struck by the creation myths they developed for their civilizations.  Lots of research, creativity, imagination, and teamwork going on!

    February 7, 2020

    There is a wonderful exhibit currently at the Cape Ann Museum - A Father & Son’s Journey in Paint - featuring the work of local treasures Tom and T.M. Nicholas.  While T.M. grew up watching his father paint, his style is very much his own.  In his words, “We always talked about art: about what was important; the reason why you made pictures.  He never taught technique, believing that everyone should come to find their own way.”  Tom provided inspiration and opportunity, but for T.M. to find his own way, as his father had, was essential to his development as an artist.  There is a lesson for all of us – parents and teachers – in that.  
  • January 2020

    January 31, 2020

    Clayton Christensen, the Harvard Business School professor who coined the phrase “disruptive innovation” died this week.  He wrote several thought-provoking books on the power of innovation, and also a more personal one entitled How Will You Measure Your Life, which contains this profound thought:  “In order to really find happiness, you need to continue looking for opportunities that you believe are meaningful, in which you will be able to learn new things to succeed….”  Amen!  I believe the seeds of this mindset are planted when we are young; we generally do not suddenly acquire curiosity, courage, optimism, and perseverance as adults.  Nurturing those seedlings is an essential part of what we do as parents and teachers. 

    January 24, 2020

    Check out these pictures of Upper Elementary students exploring the concept of volume.  It can be a little messy, but sure beats filling in dotted shapes in a workbook.  If you can hold it in your hands and make it happen, it becomes instinctive and you will not forget it.  This is how children learn naturally, and the way our Montessori students learn, from Infant/Toddler through Grade 8.  Montessori learning is not passive; it requires that the learner be engaged.

    January 17, 2020

    I get envious watching our younger students working with bead chains.  What a wonderful introduction to math, moving over time from simple counting to squares and cubes; from concrete to abstract.  Bead chains are hands-on, and it takes persistence to master them. Students love working with them. What a contrast to my rote-based math experience, the low point being trying to master a slide rule with no real understanding of why. Our children will work in a world where content knowledge is at their fingertips, and artificial intelligence will perform tasks faster than they can.  In their world, understanding the “why” in order to evaluate information and apply critical thinking will be a very valuable asset.  Rote is for machines.

    January 10, 2020

    Poet e.e.cummings offers this insight, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”  It does, and courage is not something we are born with.  Gaining courage requires acting in the face of fear. By overcoming self-doubt, we build a sense of self-trust.  This is not something we can do for our children. We can provide some help by creating an environment where they feel safe to risk and by supporting them when they fail.  But finding the courage to be oneself is their work, and we need to have the courage to let them do it.
  • December 2019

    December 20, 2019

    The perfect gift enriches both the recipient and the giver.  This week our Upper Elementary students organized The Great Cookie Giveaway.  They collected, baked, decorated, packaged and delivered holiday cookies to people who make a difference in our community.  The Harborlight cookie bus made seventeen stops in Beverly, Hamilton, Wenham, Manchester and Gloucester. This gifting required the givers to actively participate in the whole process and gave them an opportunity to say “thank you” to the special folk they met at each stop. A perfect gift! 

    December 13, 2019

    Charlie Davidson, who presided over the Andover Shop in Harvard Square for seven decades, passed away last week.  Charlie was a haberdasher, raconteur, connoisseur of jazz, and a great friend.  He was also very wise, as quoted in his obit.  When Charlie made a suit, he really thought about the lining, as I know from personal experience.  As he told one customer who protested that nobody would see the lining, “That’s the point; No one has to see the lining.  But you’ll know it’s there.  Style, not fashion.”  Fashion changes on a whim; style is constant. I think that applies to a lot more than suitcoats.  

    December 6, 2019

    A bit of wisdom from the ancient Chinese scholar Xunzi: “The learning of the petty man enters his ear and comes out of his mouth,” so that the words have affected only “the four inches between ear and mouth.” With the wise man learning “enters his ear, clings to his mind, spreads through his four limbs and manifests itself in his actions.”  I wonder what Xunzi would say about our world, where the “learning of the petty” regularly goes viral, adding to the constant cacophony of broadcast and social media.  How do we teach our children to sort and digest rather than simply accepting and pushing “share,” or that owning a big microphone does not make one an expert, or even right. There’s a challenge for us, and an opportunity to teach by modeling.  
  • November 2019

    November 22, 2019

    Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and I think the reason has to do with my father, whose birthday was tomorrow.  He found something of interest in almost everyone, and his circle of friends cut across every social division.  So, our Thanksgiving table was host to an ever-evolving olio of family, friends, and strays adopted for the day. There were some interesting pairings: a Kenyan independence advocate swapping stories with a white South African law professor, a Pakistani Muslim debating English common law with an Indian Hindu, or two young conservatory students – he a Korean tenor and she a Japanese pianist – who ended up getting married in our living room.  Over the years, my very blue-collar Irish grandparents became fast friends with an elegant Jewish refugee couple from Germany. To a child this was fascinating, and because it happened at our table, absolutely normal.  I grew up thinking this is the way the world was meant to be.  For that, and for a father who made it happen, I am forever thankful.  

    November 15, 2019

    I spent time at two secondary schools this week – one a local day school and the other a New Hampshire boarding school.  The conversations inevitably turned to the school’s role in preparing their students for the future.  Both schools have high academic standards, but also put great emphasis on the attributes and skills their graduates possess.  I repeatedly heard words like curiosity, collaboration, risk tolerance, respect, and especially, kindness.  Both schools work hard at maintaining a culture that fosters these. One of the school heads said that they prize students who came from places that have similar cultural values, “like a Montessori school” (their words).   Nice affirmation.

    November 8, 2019

    This article is definitely worth a read, and something every one of us should think about.  The co-author is an organizational psychologist at the Wharton School of Business at Penn.  

    November 1, 2019

    I really like our Middle School students.  They are a diverse group of personalities, but they share some very important qualities.  Over the past two weeks I have watched them interact first with a videographer and then with a pair of prospective parents.  In both cases, they were welcoming, open, and articulate.  They engaged in meaningful conversation and answered questions frankly.  In short, they were confident and connected. This is not necessarily what one expects from this age group.   I ran into the videographer last evening, and he could not say enough about our “older kids.”  I know the school environment they have grown up in has played an important part in helping to shape those shared qualities; it is an essential part of our mission.

  • October 2019

    October 25, 2019

    Next Saturday, November 2nd is Fall Festival day at Harborlight.  This is shaping up to be a really fun event with something for everyone, from toddlers to grandparents, to enjoy.   I will definitely be decorating a pumpkin and trying to catch a donut-on-a-string.  (Not so sure about being the target in the pie throwing contest, but I might be persuaded if someone bids high enough.)  What a great way to spend a fall day with friends!  I hope to see you there!  

    October 18, 2019

    When Mother Nature interrupts our daily routine, as happened yesterday, I invariably think of the Blizzard of ’78.  For several days after the storm life was anything but normal.  So, after digging out, we skied to the center of town where the Legion Post had a large BBQ grill going, spent time with neighbors, built a snow fort, sledded, and caught up on reading.  Our lives are so programed, calendars so full, that “found time” is a gift.  When given the unexpected opportunity, enjoy!

    October 11, 2019

    I have been doing mock interviews, helping some 8th Grade students prepare for secondary school admission interviews.  Typically, the student confesses to being nervous about the process, and we talk about that.  I offer two pieces of advice.  The first is something I heard years ago: It is perfectly normal to have butterflies in your stomach; the trick is to teach them to fly in formation.  The second is: just be yourself.  Helping our students to know themselves and trust their instincts is an important part of what we do.  There will always be “butterfly” moments in ife; self-knowledge and self-trust are the keys to managing them.

    October 4, 2019

    My mother went to a one-room schoolhouse through 8th Grade. She talked about how, as a very young child, she looked up to and learned from the older students.  As she became an older student, she helped the younger ones.  I think about her as I watch our older students interact in various ways with our youngest, and I see how the young children look up to the “big kids.”  I see it, also, within each level with its Montessori three-year cycle.  Spend some time in any of our classrooms and you will see this happening in myriad ways every day.  My mother said that she grew to feel responsible for the other children, and that was a lesson that stuck with her for life.
  • September 2019

    September 27, 2019

    We often use the word community to describe the students, teachers, and parents (and grandparents) who comprise our school.  But a real community is more than a simple aggregation of people; building community takes collective involvement.  We offer many ways for you, even the busiest of you, to help build our school community.  Among them are a list that Parent Association co-chairs, Keira Capobianco and Jenny Silva have posted in this LEAF. Please take this opportunity.  You will be helping the school, modeling for your children, and most likely getting to know some really nice fellow parents. 

    September 20, 2019

    Over forty years ago, Betsey and I wrote our first Annual Fund check to the wonderful elementary school our three sons attended. We continue to do so, as time has only confirmed what a strong foundation the school provided for all that has followed.  Our check is a tangible way of acknowledging that, and of thanking the teachers who gave our family so much.
    Deb Thomas and John Cusolito, co-chairs of the Harborlight Fund, have sent you a message through our Student Management System, inviting you to participate, and making it really easy for you to do so.  Making a donation is a twofer: it is a meaningful way of supporting what happens here at Harborlight Montessori, and it is an investment in your child’s future.

    September 13, 2019

    I have great fun greeting in the morning.  We shake hands and say good morning, but, with younger children, success can be getting them to come out from behind a parent.  We exchange high fives and fist bumps, and I greet a variety of stuffed animals.  But, what is most rewarding is seeing each child’s growth in confidence and independence.  The child who barely responded last year now looks me in the eye and says good morning.  The child who clung to a parent all the way to the Children’s House cubbies now waves goodbye and walks off to Lower Elementary.  Last year’s LE student now walks in with UE friends. Nurturing confidence and independence is an important part of what we do, and I see the results every morning.  

    September 6, 2019

    This observation from Pablo Picasso came my way this morning: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”  As we begin a new term, it is worth reminding ourselves that it is our mission that we guide each child to be who they are.  Essential to that is allowing them to grow to be themselves and not what we might wish they would be.  We can help and encourage them to grow, but we cannot grow for them.  As a parent and grandparent, I know that can be frustrating at times, but the result is worth the tongue-biting.

About Harborlight

Harborlight Montessori is an independent, co-educational, day school for children from infant-toddler through grade 8 that is committed to innovative teaching and learning.