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The Corona virus has deeply upset our lives in many ways. We are experiencing potential or real job losses, social distancing, and a level of fear and anxiety most of us have not known in our entire lifetime. We feel a sense of loss and wonderment because the world we knew last month is changing faster than anyone could have imagined. I personally feel the grief of Italy. I spent a year taking my Montessori elementary training in Bergamo, Italy, the epicenter for the northern Italy outbreak. We are together with you in the grief that many of you feel for those affected anywhere in the world.

We send our love and the strength of knowing that this too shall pass. Our children may be suffering more than we know. The virus has upset the usual routines of children and families around the globe. Young children are creatures of routine and, while parents are accustomed to having their children home for extended periods of school breaks and in summer, this illness- related closure is particularly difficult for many families. The Montessori community and the educational community at large are banding together to help families with this new set of challenges.

Many schools are using Zoom to broadcast some group activity and regular lessons that children can tune into. Quite a few private schools fear for their survival during periods of closure. It is looking like the shutdowns may last a good deal longer than a few weeks, especially in the hardest-hit parts of the United States and the world. To help, we are offering suggested activities for children of different ages on our website. There are many more resources available and we welcome your suggestions as well. Dive in!

We at Age of Montessori want to encourage you to see to the protection of the health of your children and family first, and to pay special attention to emotional needs. In cases like this, we have to take care of our own mental and emotional health. If you’ve flown in recent years, you know that airlines always suggest that, in an emergency, parents put on their own oxygen first and then help their children. I think this situation is a little like that. If we are going to project security and calm to our children, we have to find it within ourselves first.

Children may be frightened or have heard all kinds of things that may not be appropriate for their ages. Ask them to tell you what they have heard and what they think about what is happening. Despite our adult anxieties, we need to reassure them. We need to acknowledge that it is unique and scary right now for those of any age. We need to provide assurance that, as a family, we will all stick together and come out the other end with more love and togetherness.

Our children look to us for their essential security. Routines may drastically change with the closure of schools and our adult concerns may be accelerating about job security, financial well-being or health matters for loved ones. Whatever this situation brings to our doorstep, let’s remember that we are the adults in the room. Our children will come through this if we can keep a positive attitude and reassure them that they can always rely on our love and support.

To take care of my own well-being, I spent the afternoon outside yesterday. I went to my favorite spot, a state park in Montana at the headwaters of the Missouri River. Fortunately, Montana has lots of open spaces and we can be outside and still honor social distancing. I want to share a few pictures I took. The first one is a delight. I got to talk, at an appropriate distance, with two folks who were carrying a full-size drawing of their great-granddaughter.

Their great-granddaughter’s class had asked each child trace their body, color it in, and then mail it to the grandparents. The grandparents were to take the full-sized image to local historical sites to have their picture taken with it. This couple had just been to Montana’s state capitol in Helena and now were at the Missouri headwaters that Lewis and Clark discovered in 1805.

Climbing up on the hill shown in the second photograph, Meriwether Lewis saw that three rivers came together at this spot to form the mighty Missouri. Lewis and Clark named them the Madison, the Jefferson and the Gallatin after Secretary of State James Madison, President Thomas Jefferson and Secretary of the Treasury, Albert Gallatin. As each child in this little girl’s class has family members in different parts of the globe and all will share pictures like this, the children will learn a lot about the world. It’s kind of like making lemonade out of lemons!

As I sat and watched the water flow by, I was struck that the streaming water can be an analogy for life. It flows and we flow on it and in it. Even as things change around us, the water is still life, adapting to extremely difficult situations. The Missouri River flows through rapids and over waterfalls; sometimes it floods and other times it narrows in drought. But the essence of its being and flow remains. I hope I’m not getting too philosophical here, but I know that my day watching the river and hiking the trails helped me get my head on a little straighter. Even if you can only go onto a porch or into a backyard, take the time to lie down and watch the clouds. Take your kids out and watch the stars at night. We need to stay connected with our deeper selves, our children, and the natural world around us.

The final place I hiked was a few miles away to where an ancestor of mine, who was part of the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery, was buried. No one lost their life on Lewis and Clark’s amazing trips across the country. But my ancestor, who was half French and half Native American, went back to hunt a few years later and died in Montana. As I was thinking about him and about the lives of all those who have made my life possible, I saw the tree in this next photograph. If you look closely, you can see that while most of it looks dead from the long winter, one branch has come alive and is starting to bud. The whole tree will be alive in a matter of a few short months.

We shall overcome! Take care of yourselves and your precious children and find ways to enjoy being at home with them. Two of my three adult children are far away, one in New York and one in Iowa, and I long for their presence with me. We stay in contact by phone and social media. Thank goodness we have so many technological gifts to enable us to stay connected during this time of trial and turmoil.

May all of your family stay safe and well!

Mary Ellen


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