About Us
Message from the Head of School

Thoughts from Paul

March 5, 2021

Harborlight is a learning community, and this applies to the adults as well as our students.
Today, our faculty and staff are engaged in a variety of professional development activities. Early this morning, teachers were engaged in remote learning in small socially-distanced groups.  Today also marks the start of the two-day American Montessori Society Conference, and many of our teachers and staff are attending those virtual sessions.  
This is just one example of the adult learning that goes on year round, as we engage, as a whole faculty, in small groups and individually, in growing our knowledge and professional skills.  This important work is supported by our professional development budget and by an active Professional Development Committee, made up of teachers and staff.
Harborlight is also home to Montessori Institute-New England (MI-NE), which, since 1996, has provided high quality professional training to individuals aspiring to become Montessori teachers.  MI-NE graduates teach in Montessori schools throughout New England and beyond, and in our own classrooms. 
Just two recent examples of individual professional development (out of many):  Hiromi Sudachi, our Infant/Toddler Director, was the recipient of a two-year Emerging Leaders Fellowship from AMS, and Adrienne Frautten is currently enrolled in the AMS Instructor Academy, a rigorous two-year course which prepares Montessori teachers to teach future generations of Montessori educators. 
Our learning community extends to parents.  We provide a variety of parent education opportunities; and this is something Zoom has actually made easier to do.  Finally, in a remarkable moment this past week, Harborlight parents, trustees, faculty and staff joined 9,000 peers from 127 AISNE schools for the webinar with Ibram X. Kendi, the largest event AISNE has ever produced.
One of our goals is to encourage habits of lifelong learning in our students.  We are modelling this in many ways.
Be safe, friends, 

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February 26, 2021
Kindness, respect, and a commitment to justice and equity are core values of our Harborlight community.  But how do we bring that commitment beyond our school?  How do we look at ideas and institutions we've known all our lives through a different lens and objectively evaluate them against our ideals?
Earlier this week you received an invitation to a March 3rd webinar talk by Ibram X. Kendi, the best-selling author of Stamped, and a professor and historian, who, since July 2020, has directed the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University.  The event is sponsored by the Association of Independent Schools in New England (AISNE), and will be attended by parents, faculty and staff, and trustees from 120 member schools.  Registration is free and available on a first-come basis. 
Kendi’s talk is titled: Go Beyond an Awareness of Racism: Contribute to the Formation 
of a Truly Just and Equitable Society.  
I know that these conversations, which many of us are having in our workplaces, our schools, our faith communities, in organizations we volunteer for, and in our own families, can be difficult and often uncomfortable.  They require us to get past preconceptions, and be open to introspection.
One of the most important traits we hope to nurture in our students is self-awareness.   The better we are at that the more they will be able to engage openly in life’s tough conversations, and to contribute to a more truly just and equitable society.
I hope you will join us on March 3rd.
Be safe, friends,
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January 29, 2021
What is school going to look like next year?   As one of my colleagues on our weekly heads’ calls said: “Anyone know where I can get a crystal ball?”
I will know we have made it through when the Middle School is back in the pizza business and Grades 6-8 are off on the yellow bus to ski Mt. Wachusett on Fridays.  When Upper Elementary and Middle School are back at Gloucester Stage Company for two weeks of set building, lighting design, rehearsing, and  staging a play.  When we are working in the field (or the watershed) with Salem Sound Coast Watch.   When we go to the pumpkin patch.
In the meantime, we brought the pumpkin patch to campus.  Holly has students doing lots of creative work in the art room, and Jay Daly is doing an amazing job of teaching band on line, while Elaine’s socially-distanced ukulele group is thriving.  Elisa’s library is open for business. Students at all levels are engaged in their work and happy to be together in school.  Upper Elementary has been studying Greek gods, and one class is about to do presentations of their work.  In the other UE class, students just wrote their own “I Have a Dream” speeches. Some really good stuff happening.  
We are planning our summer programs, at all levels, with the assumption that we will be on campus, in small groups, and masked.  
As for the Fall, our goal is to get back to the traditional three-year cycle in Children’s House and Lower Elementary as quickly as possible, and to do so in a way that provides continuity for teachers and children.  We know that is doable.  In the upper grades, we see this year as an opportunity to take a good look at how we really “do Montessori,” whatever the circumstances. 
So, at Harborlight we do have a crystal ball.
Be safe, friends,


January 22, 2021
Watching President Biden’s Inauguration, I was struck by how the complexion of the group on the dais has changed in my lifetime.  When Dwight Eisenhower took the oath in 1953, Margaret Chase Smith of Maine was the only woman in the Senate.  The cabinet members were all White males, as were the justices of the Supreme Court.  
Four years later, in a first, Marion Anderson, the Black opera singer barred by the DAR from singing at Constitution Hall because of her race, sang the National Anthem at Ike’s second inauguration. 
The next “firsts” took longer to come.  In 1966, Edward Brooke of Massachusetts became the first Black senator since Reconstruction, and in 1967, Thurgood Marshall joined the Supreme Court. It was not until until 1981 that Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman on the Court, and 2009 that Sonia Sotomayor become the first Hispanic Justice.
So, looking at the faces on the dais and the photos of the President’s cabinet nominees this week, I was encouraged, but also keenly aware of how many “firsts” we are still checking off. “Firsts” are important milestones, but only if they are followed by seconds and thirds and so on, until we get to the point where the wonderful and powerful diversity of our country is reflected in our leadership, both public and private.
As the remarkable young poet Amanda Gorman challenged us, there is much work to be done, for “…being American is more than a pride we inherit; it’s the past we step into and how we repair it.”
Be safe, friends,


January 15, 2021
I have thought a lot about the power of words recently.  Words can paint pictures, and bring smiles, laughter, or tears.  Words can heal or hurt, they can inspire or incite. Whether used intentionally or carelessly, they have impact.
A really good author or orator can elevate prose to poetry and make the words even more powerful.  This is true of both the written and spoken word, but I think the spoken word has more immediate impact. 
Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was only 271 words and took just two minutes to deliver (it was an afterthought to the main speech of the day), but to read it is to read powerful poetry.
John F. Kennedy’s inaugural speech, with passages like, “Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans,” and “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country,”  inspired my generation.
Both were powerful, inspirational speeches.  But the most powerful speech I have ever heard was delivered by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. on August 28, 1963.  King spoke from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to over 250,000 peacefully assembled civil rights supporters and to millions more by live television. 
Delivered with the cadence and rhythm he had polished in the pulpit,  King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was among the most important in our nation’s history.  It concluded with these words:
“When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’”
I listened to that speech live, and Dr. King’s words inspire me still.  You can watch it on YouTube, and you should on this particular weekend.
Be safe, friends,


January 8, 2021
January 6th is a day that will be remembered along with September 11th and December 7th, as days when we, as a nation, were attacked.  The horrible difference is that we were attacked this Wednesday by ourselves; it was a homegrown mob, some wrapped in our American flag, that ransacked our Capitol.
As a lifelong student of history, and of American history in particular, I am appalled, but not surprised. Our social and political fabric has been slowly, and then not so slowly, fraying over the past several decades. What happened this week was a long time in building. 
What sort of country will our children inherit if Americans continue on this path? If we continue to demonize the “other” and to shout rather than listening to our fellow citizens?  If we define ourselves by our differences instead of looking for common ground? 
We must find a way to reweave the fabric.  That work has to happen in every community and in every school.  The task is long term, and never ending.  Building respect and community is an absolute necessity if we are to be the great nation we aspire to be: one where every American is valued for what they contribute to our story.
This work has a mission statement.  It is on the Great Seal of the United States: E pluribus unum.  Out of many, one. 
Be safe, friends,


January 3, 2021
At a pre-arranged hour on New Year’s Eve, my village erupted in a cacophony of whistles, air horns, pots and pans, drums, and sleigh bells, topped off by the bell of the Village Church at the head of the cove.  A neighbor had suggested this as a socially distanced way to ring out the old year together.  It was great fun. 
The next day, a friend commented, “We certainly sent 2020 and all its woes packing.”  Alas, would that it were that easy. 
As a school community we can look back at 2020 and come up with a lot of words to describe how we coped.  The word that comes to my mind is perseverance.  Whatever else we did to survive and keep moving forward, it took a lot of individual and collective perseverance to get us this far, and we will need more of the same in the days to come.
We need to keep at the rituals of health screening, wearing masks, and social distancing.  We need to maintain small groups and keep the air circulating.  We need to be mindful that what we do outside of school has the potential to disrupt what we can do inside school.  You all know this, but we are coming back together after a two-week break and we need to remind ourselves. 
If we persevere in taking care of ourselves and each other, we will be okay.
As I hung up the sleigh bells on New Year’s Eve, I did have a simple wish: that we can all be making the same wonderful racket next December 31st, in celebration of a year that ended better than it began.
Be safe, friends,


December 11, 2020
Today is the first day of Hanukkah.  In a normal year that would mean a visit from one of our wonderful parents, who would tell students the story of the holiday while serving delicious latkes (potato pancakes).  Alas, no latke fix today. 
My parents, one Catholic and one Jewish, came from large families who loved to gather, so all holidays in my childhood boiled down to one very important thing – food.  My Irish mother, not to be outdone by my father’s sisters, made awesome latkes. She knew nothing about the Montessori Practical Life curriculum, but she assumed from her own childhood that every kid had a job, so mine was hand-grating the potatoes.
Years later, I discovered that this was the first step in producing the yummy rösti my Swiss daughter-in-law makes for our hearty Christmas breakfast.
(If you are looking for a simple kitchen project with a delicious ending, here is a recipe: Pure Potato Latkes)
Back to Hanukkah: it celebrates the rededication of the Temple after the Maccabees, against long odds, retook Jerusalem from the Syrian-Greek empire.  Only a single cruse of oil remained in the Temple, but the Menorah was relit, and the light lasted eight days.  Hence, Hanukkah is a festival of lights, and of faith that cannot be extinguished.  It is a celebration of hope, and that seems especially important this year.
I am looking forward to next year and sharing latkes and rösti.
Be safe, friends,


December 4, 2020
We have passed 100 school days since returning to campus on June 29th.  A huge thank you to all of you for helping us to this milestone.
I spent last evening on a call with some high-powered public health folk. The takeaways: the good news is that there is light on the horizon, with the availability of vaccines getting closer.  But even after wide scale vaccinating, we will still need to use masks and practice social distancing until we reach herd immunity. There are still lots of questions, but the road forward is beginning to look clearer. 
The bad news is that the road is likely to get steeper between now and spring.  Public health officials are predicting a post-Thanksgiving surge, followed by another connected with the upcoming holidays. 
We will all make our own choices about how to spend the holidays.  Please remember that some choices are riskier than others and every choice has consequences, for you and your community.
It does take a village.  Thank you for being part of ours.
Be safe friends,


November 20, 2020

Thank you!  The response to our Thanksgiving Travel/Hosting Survey was great.
As of this morning, we have heard from almost everyone (and are tracking down the stragglers).  The overwhelming responses were “not traveling” and “not hosting,” with “low risk hosting/visiting” a distant third. The very few who are traveling have been proactive about sharing their plans for complying with testing and quarantining protocols.
None of this is fun, but it is absolutely necessary, and I am grateful for your commitment to the safety of our community.
While some of our Thanksgiving traditions were beyond reach this year, one very important one is happening.  Thank you to all who have helped fill our food boxes for Beverly Bootstraps. If you have not, you still can through Tuesday.  I hope you have talked with your children about the importance of sharing, particularly at this holiday.
While Thanksgiving will be different this year, I will be no less thankful.   I am an optimist and fully believe, to borrow from Carousel, that at the end of this storm there will be a golden sky, and that we are not walking alone.  We are walking together toward a future that will be in the hands of your children and my grandchildren, and we are doing all we can to equip them for that responsibility.  I am really thankful for that.
Be safe and give thanks, friends,


November 13, 2020

When I think about friendships in my life, I am struck by how many were forged through the shared experience of parenting, of connecting though my children’s early school days. We met watching our very young in their soccer scrums, we flipped burgers together at the school fair, and we chaperoned field trips.

Some of us went on to hike, ski or sail together, and we have all enjoyed watching and sharing the unfolding life journeys of our collective children and grandchildren. It is no surprise that many of our children remain close friends; it is fun to watch them connecting on social media.

Two takeaways: First, we met by engaging in the life of our children’s school, which benefited the school in so many ways. Second, the benefit to us has been worth more than we were ever able to give the school. A classic win-win.

It is challenging to create this sort of engagement right now, but we should not let that stop us. We can make moments with what we can do.

The Parent Association is hosting two virtual chats: the first is today at noon, and the second on Wednesday, Dec. 9th at 8:00pm. Particularly if you are new to Harborlight, this is an opportunity to meet other parents. Bring your coffee mug to the first and your beverage of choice to the second. We have also scheduled three Parent Education zooms, based on your survey feedback: CH–Nov.17 ,I/T–Nov.21 ,and K-8–Dec.3 .

I hope you will take advantage of these opportunities to engage, to keep connections going and begin making new ones. One can never have enough good friends.

Be safe, friends,


November 6, 2020

Each Thursday morning at 7:00, I have coffee with a group of colleagues – heads of independent elementary and preschools. We have been doing this since March and have all benefited from the support and sharing.
The group has moved from the early weeks of asking “what do we do” to “what did you do when….” Yesterday, a colleague noted that, originally, we all geared up to run a sprint, but now we find ourselves running a marathon. You simply cannot run at a sprinter’s pace for too long.

For me, at this school, thanks to really good teammates, the race has felt more like a relay; we are always running but supporting each other along the way. From the beginning, we have looked to many sources for guidance, but then tried to apply that information in a manner that
works for our specific community. We have worked to keep a hard challenge from becoming even more difficult, and, at times, that has simply required solving a problem by applying
common sense.

We will be running this race for a while, and who knows what is around the next bend, but I am grateful to have my teammates – faculty and staff – to run it with. And, the whole team is extremely grateful for your support; it makes the running easier.

Be safe, friends,


October 30, 2020

It’s snowing! It is also cold and flu season, so on Monday, as an extra layer of precaution, we will add a temperature check to our morning health screening. We use a digital infrared thermometer. Parents of younger children might want to talk about this with them, so they are not surprised on Monday morning.

We are also approaching the holiday season. As I have written before, Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday, because it is simply about family and friends. Alas, there will be fewer seats at the table this year. We are all thinking about the risks of traveling and hosting and about how many at the table is too many.

We need everyone in our school community to think hard about these things, too. What we each do outside of school has the real potential to adversely impact what we can do in school.

Chris Wilson has compiled the latest information on travel and holiday celebrations from the state and the CDC , and these are included in this week’s LEAF and posted on the COVID-19 page our website. Please read them. If you are traveling or hosting visitors, particularly from states with high rates of infection, we need you to follow the rules about testing and quarantining before returning to school.

In the meantime, enjoy Halloween and the full “blue moon” tomorrow night, and do not forget
to set your clocks back.

Be safe, friends,


October 23, 2020

Four of my grandchildren are voting this year, three for the first time. One went to the Town Clerk’s office to register on his 18th birthday. The two in college have wondered whether their votes would matter more where they go to school or at home. This past week we have all been sharing pictures of ourselves holding our mail-in ballot envelopes. They are excited to be participating in this most essential ritual and are taking their responsibility as citizens seriously. I am very proud of them.

As a former Town Meeting Moderator, I have seen firsthand how much our democracy depends upon an educated and engaged citizenry.
With that in mind, I have enjoyed watching our Middle School students using this election year for a civics lesson to learn about voting, how the election process works, and about political parties. They are becoming educated citizens, which is very good as a couple of them will be
eligible to vote four years from now.

Whether you bought one of the Middle School “Vote” T-shirts or not, please do not ignore the message. Our right to vote is not a gift to be squandered; too many have given so much to secure it for us.

Be safe, friends,


October 16, 2020
We had a field trip yesterday!  Okay, it did not involve the big yellow bus, but we all wore our jeans and flannel shirts and went to our very own pumpkin patch on the greenhouse lawn.  Classroom by classroom, everyone got to pick a pumpkin and have cider and apples.  I hope you enjoyed the pictures as much as we enjoyed the event.  We really appreciated your feedback.
Many thanks to Elisa for organizing, to Harvey Alto (Holly’s husband) for helping us get the pumpkins, cider and apples; to Jed, Caleb, and Ava Dickman (alumna) for picking them up; and to the Middle School for creating the pumpkin patch and helping with the field trip.  
Why was this a big deal?  Because visiting the pumpkin patch is a longstanding Harborlight tradition, and because shared experiences are essential in building and sustaining community.
How wonderful that the entire school got to share the fun and carry on the tradition!
Some of us are already thinking about what could be next.   If Mother Nature cooperates, I would vote for snowman-building and hot cocoa. 
Be safe, friends,


October 9, 2020

Today is Parent/Teacher Conference Day, and I want to give a big Thank You to the parents who chipped in to make the traditional faculty lunch happen. We miss your homemade dishes, but greatly appreciate the feast you provided. Thank you, especially, to Tachou Brown and Purvi Harley, for organizing this. Our teachers give a lot of themselves every day, and gestures like this mean a lot.
I also want to give a shout out to alumna Ella Walgreen, who just was just elected to the First- Year Student Leadership Council at The Academy at Penguin Hall. We are not surprised. When I was head of Antilles School on St. Thomas one of our feeder schools was V.I. Montessori. I could usually tell which high school students had come from there. They were self-aware, confident, and engaged. Ella is not alone; as I think of the Middle School students who I have known at Harborlight, a long list of names comes to mind. Each one unique, but all self-aware, confident, and engaged. It is wonderfully rewarding for us to watch them blossom!
Finally, I want to thank you again for helping us to maintain a safe place for our children to learn in person. As I listen to stories from other schools, I am reminded of what a gift it is to be part of a community that cares.

Be safe, friends,


October 2, 2020

I woke up feeling crummy on Tuesday. Normally, I would shrug it off, but this is not a normal time, so I called my doctor. She agreed it was likely something that would quickly pass, but she also knows that I go to school each day. As we talked about the measures and protocols we follow at Harborlight, the next step was obvious; off to the drive-through line for a PCR test, and back home to await the results. I settled back into my home office, and yesterday afternoon she called to say I had tested negative. Choosing caution over toughing it out is just part of what we need to do now because that is what we owe to the members of our community.

On Tuesday I also participated, along with 85 fellow school heads, in the first session of an Anti-Racism Workshop under the aegis of AISNE, our regional independent school association. The workshop will run through January, and after the first two-hour session, I look forward to the
rest of them.

Reflecting on the session, I keep thinking about a concept put forth by one of the facilitators. We are all used to talking about equality, but have we thought much about equity, and about the difference between the two. He illustrated the difference very simply: equality is when everyone is given a tee shirt; equity is when everyone is given a tee shirt that fits.

As a Montessori school, it is in our DNA to respect each person and follow each child. Following the child starts with meeting them where they are, which we define in social, developmental, and intellectual terms. Does equity require us to expand our thinking about what respecting each person and following each child mean? If so, in what ways? Each of us comes at this conversation with the perspective of our own background and experience. I would like to hear yours.

Be safe, friends,

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.