Our project began last year when our family returned to our home on Paros from Canada where our daughter had attended a Montessori kindergarten in 2010-2011. We had developed a very high regard for the Montessori method in that time and did not want to give it up, but the only Montessori schools in Greece we knew of were on the mainland. So we purchased some Montessori materials and found a consultant to help us, but we had no idea where we would be able to hold classes when we arrived back on Paros in September 2011.
As if by magic, that same summer, completely independently, a young and dedicated teacher, Katerina Tsounaki, had equipped a classroom with Montessori materials (incredibly, the items she bought perfectly complemented the ones that we had bought) at her frontistirio in the village of Naoussa on Paros. Katerina is a teacher of foreign languages (English & Italian) with many years of experience, had recently completed a Montessori training and it was her dream to introduce the Montessori method to the island community. We began to work together to make it happen.
Though we are barely scraping through financially, the class has now been running for a little over a year and we have had children from all different backgrounds, languages and cultures attend - some short-term (their home is in another country, but because the materials are the same worldwide and the lessons are individually tailored, a child can join the class at any time and continue in another Montessori school exactly where they left off), some long-term, some from wealthy backgrounds, others from poorer ones. Our kids so far have been Greek, British, French, Greek-French, Greek-Australian, Greek-Romanian, Greek-Hungarian, Greek-Italian, Japanese-American, Albanian and Canadian!
Our classes are run in English, with a Greek-speaking assistant and using both English & Greek materials. Because of the difficult economic climate, some parents who are able to do so have left the country - but as a result of their experience of Montessori education here on our tiny island, they intend to either find a Montessori school abroad or to follow a Montessori training themselves to continue their children's education!! Other families have experienced unemployment and have had difficulty in continuing to pay the full fees, so have instead offered their time and skills to the school - making materials, giving extra-curricular classes and making improvements to the building. It is precisely BECAUSE of the "crisis" that our school and community have benefited hugely as a direct result of their efforts! And the sense of humanity, solidarity and community (all key elements of the Montessori philosophy, by the way) that this has afforded is beyond measure.
Interest in Montessori in the local community has sky-rocketed - this week 15 parents and teachers from Paros will start a one-year distance-learning Montessori training.
We have recently started an afternoon Montessori programme for slightly older children who attend the Greek Dimotiko in the mornings. And we are in the process of setting up a correspondence between the children of our class and another Montessori class in Turkey, working towards giving the children in both countries the opportunity to learn something about one anothers' culture from the earliest age.
On a small-scale we are seeking to improve our children's academic and social education; on a wider scale, we aim to follow the founder of the Montessori method - Dr Maria Montessori's - vision that our children are "the hope of peace for the world".