Commitment to Solidarity

Beloved Community,

Heartwood Montessori School is a place-based institution; since our inception we have been intentionally committed to being present in and serving the Northeast Minneapolis community.

On Monday evening this week George Floyd died as a result of violent action and inaction by Minneapolis Police officers.  Mr. Floyd was part of our extended Northeast community and Heartwood wholeheartedly condemns both the action and inaction that resulted in his tragic death.

While cell phone footage in recent years has increased mainstream media’s exposure to authoritarian violence against people of the Global Majority / people of color in our country, state, and city, we acknowledge that our nation’s history is founded on practices of racial injustice and discrimination.  As an educational institution, we are in a position of power to perpetuate or dismantle these systems of prejudice and discrimination.   Inaction – like that of the bystanding officers Monday evening in Minneapolis – will perpetuate such systems.  We must act intentionally toward dismantling the myths that uphold the imbalance of power and perpetuate systems of injustice in our community and world.

At our latest Strategic Planning meeting in March, Heartwood’s Board of Directors revisited and refined our mission and vision statements to read:

Heartwood Montessori School grows community by empowering children through respect, independence, and discovery.

Nurturing the child is the hope for humankind.

We commit to engage in Anti-Bias, Anti-Racist work within ourselves as educators and to practice this work in our school community and beyond.

This is hard work, and it comes knocking on our door at a time when many of us already feel worn down and over-extended. If you find yourself – as I do – able to wake up and walk into the world with the choice to engage in this work: acknowledge your privilege.

To join us in this work, we invite you to engage your children in conversations about race and racial injustice.  A Montessori colleague, Ben Moudry, wrote the following message to his school community:

I know it is hard to have these conversations and it is critical that we have them, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us. 

When we talk to our children about this incident, remember:

  • Ask them what they know 
  • Ask them how they feel about it or what they think about it
  • Ask them what they want to do about it 
  • Spend more time listening than talking
  • Use the same level and amount of words that they use with you

The following articles may be helpful to you as you prepare for these conversations:
“Don’t Say Nothing” by Jamilah Pitts

“How to talk to kids about racism: an age-by-age guide” by Alex Mlynek

For more information on addressing the particular events of police violence against Black and Brown people, Lara has recommended the book Something Happened in Our TownThis book includes a guide for follow-up conversations between parents, caregivers, and children.

During these scary times, our commitment to the health and safety of your children remains our top priority.  While we endeavor to act toward a more nurturing, respectful, and empowered community, we commit ourselves to following best practices for social distancing, hygiene, and sanitation. Our staff will not physically attend any large gatherings.

Please let me know if you have any suggestions for how we can continue to show solidarity to our grieving and fearful community during this time.

Establishing lasting peace is the work of education.” – Maria Montessori


In response to Executive Order 20-40, Heartwood Montessori School will provide child care for currently enrolled students and children of Critical Sector workers beginning May 4. In coordination and cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Human Services and the Minnesota Department of Health, HMS will help families who are working on the front lines access child care.

During the outbreak and until instructed otherwise, HMS will implement the following:

  • Child care will be carried out in groups of 10 or fewer children per day;
  • If more than one group of children is cared for at one facility, each group will be in a separate room.
  • Child care providers will remain solely with one group of children;
  • Child care staff will work a maximum of 8 hours in a 24-hour period;
  • All staff and children are compliant with up-to-date CDC Guidance about health and behavioral instructions as related to COVID-19. 

In addition, we will implement the following practices:

  • Drop off and pick up will be done at the back gate;
  • Children must arrive between 8:00 and 9:00 am;
  • No parents or visitors will be admitted to the building;
  • Children and staff entering the building will be excluded if
    • temperature is 99.4°F or higher
    • show signs or symptoms of a respiratory infection, such as a cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, and low-grade fever
    • in the previous 14 days has had contact with someone with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19; is under investigation for COVID-19; or is ill with a respiratory illness
    • in the previous 14 days has traveled internationally to countries with widespread, sustained community transmission
  • Reduce on-site hours: 8:00 am to 4:00 pm
  • Provide individual snacks;
  • Continue to follow existing procedures for reducing the spread of respiratory illnesses among children and staff including frequent hand washing and cough etiquette (coughing and sneezing into your elbow);
  • Encourage children to spread out during story and circle times;
  • Discourage children from touching their eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands;
  • Allow for no less than three feet between cots. We will place cots so that children rest “head to toe” rather than “face to face”;
  • Extend outdoor play and get plenty of fresh air;
  • Implement more frequent disinfecting of commonly touched surfaces like handrails, doorknobs, countertops, sinks, etc.;

If a child or staff member has been exposed to COVID-19 by someone with the virus in their immediate household, we will notify Minnesota and Minneapolis Departments of Public Health and DHS to determine the best course of action.    

If it is confirmed that someone with COVID-19 has been in the school, we will dismiss everyone immediately and notify Minnesota and Minneapolis Departments of Public Health and DHS. We will work with these agencies to determine the best course of action.

COVID-19 Child Care Model

Beginning May 4, child care will be available to all current Heartwood families and new Critical Sector families.

Dear Families,
First, THANK YOU for all that you continue to do and for your kind words regarding my last communication.  I have been working diligently from my home office to get the gears in place to re-open Heartwood to your families during this Peacetime Emergency, and am delighted to inform you that Heartwood will re-open on April 20 to provide child-care for Critical Sector Workers as defined in Governor Walz’s Executive Order 20-33 who perform work that can only be done at a place outside the home. We will continue operating in the following model until further notice.

Beginning April 20, Heartwood will be open from 8am – 4pm, Monday through Friday. 

While our staffing structure will have changed during this time, we hope to maintain a familiar daily routine for the children. Notably, following the CDC’s guidance on Best Practices for Social Distancing, while acknowledging that children cannot social distance, we will staff only one adult per group of children in attendance each day.  For the remainder of April, the adults on-site will be either Ms. Rochelle or Ms. Asha, and myself. Beginning in May, Julia and Lara will re-enter our on-site staffing rotation.

Children may arrive from 8am – 9am, when we are playing outside.  You will walk your child to the back gate, and wait while the attending staff person takes your child’s temperature; any child with a temperature reading greater than 99.4 degrees will not be permitted to attend.  No child will be admitted after 9:00am any day & parents will not be permitted inside the school building at any time during this Covid-19 Operating Model.

If you have a child in attendance until noon, we will bring your child to meet you at the back gate.

Otherwise, children will play outside again from 3pm – 4pm. During this time, you will again park in the parking lot and wait for staff to bring your child to the gate for dismissal.

Again, THANK YOU for all you do & for your patience as we put key pieces and players into place to make this happen. 

If you hope to access childcare any day(s) April 20 – May 1, please let me know so we can plan accordingly.  Likewise, I would appreciate knowing your plans and childcare needs for May.  You can RSVP for either or both months HERE.

As always – if you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me!
In solidarity,



Our homes have become – now more than ever – centralized to all aspects of our lives! Under the state’s Stay Home Order, I leave my small apartment only to go for a walk in my neighborhood every morning.  These quiet moments have become sacred to me as I and the natural world awaken together – I see or hear an additional bird species each day and the ground has slowly transformed from brown to protrusions of green.  Once I return home, it’s time for coffee and breakfast, to bid a distant goodbye to my husband who’s an Essential Worker, and to settle in to work in my Home Office / former Guest Bedroom.

Throughout the day, as my legs become stir crazy my work drifts into the kitchen and living room.  By bedtime, I crave to return to the one space that remains untouched by the demands of Work from Home and Life under Isolation: the bedroom.  Bedrooms can be a sanctuary for rest and self-care.  Keeping children’s bedrooms free of clutter and designated for the purposes of self-care will optimize their daily periods of quiet rest and nightly sleep.


Books placed near the child’s bed or within reach of a comfortable chair or reading nook will foster a child’s association of reading and comfort – a building block to independent literacy!

Is the overall environment prepared to support restful routines and activity? Are the toys accessible in the bedroom soft, and in a variety of colors and textures for sensory exploration? Does the artwork on the wall beautifully encourage restful contemplation, and is it placed at the child’s eye-level?

Consider adding a music source to your child’s room to encourage self-soothing.                                                                                                                                          


Place a limited selection of season-appropriate clothes hung at child-height in a closet or in low drawers your child can easily open and close.  Designate an accessible space for your child to place their dirty laundry. As your child explores the freedom of choosing their own clothing, you may need to adjust how many options are available to them daily and which clothes are seasonally appropriate.


Does your child have access to their own tools for self-care? Hang a vertical mirror on the wall or make a hand-held mirror accessible for your child.  A small table in your child’s room may hold the tools they need for self-care (hairbrush, etc.) and provide a surface for independent activities.

Dolls and stuffed animals provide opportunities for your child to practice the processes of self-care.                                                     

Prepared Environment

At the beginning of each school year, Montessori Guides spend one full week to one full month – or maybe the entire summer – preparing and amending the classroom environments in anticipation of hosting children full time. As Coronavirus and its accompanying closures and restrictions descended upon us quickly, we most likely did not have time to accommodate the new needs of our family to live, work, play, and rest together 24/7! In fact, our environments may still require some amendments as our expectations change.

As you designate your own Work-from-Home space, invite your child to designate their own nearby. Ideally, this will include both a shelf for constructive, independent activities and a choice of workspace. In the classroom, children have the option to work at a table (child-size if you have one), a “chowkie” (low floor table), or on a Work Mat placed on the floor. The Work Mat serves the dual function of maintaining and orderly environment, and preventing territorial disputes among children.

Ideas for Independent Activities:

In addition to the activities your child’s Guide will provide throughout our Distance Learning sessions, some activities you may consider placing on your child’s designated work shelf include:

  • Nesting dolls
  • Simple puzzles*, especially those with inset pieces with knobs – these characteristics serve as a control of error and refine the prehensile grip used for writing!
  • Toy phone
  • Matching games*
  • Crayons and paper
  • Beads and a lace for threading*

*If you have multiples of any activities, put out only one at a time and rotate the available activity on a weekly basis – this provides comfort and invites engagement.

Notes on Environmental Design and Maintenance:

Storing children’s activities in a toy box or chest may appear tidy when everything is inside, and the lid is closed. However, this storage system often invites frustration from children and adults in practice. Imagine how you would access your favorite things if you stored your items in a similar fashion! Children often have in mind the activity they want to do, and if it’s at the bottom of a toy box – you can bet they’ll dump onto the floor every obstacle in their way – creating a mess that neither of you will want to face when it comes time to clean up.  If you currently use a toy chest in shared living space, consider spending some time with your child selecting several favorite activities to keep on a shelf for easy access for a while. You can revisit this process as interest in the chosen materials wanes.

At school, the standard expectation is that one child may do one activity at one time. We encourage you to set similar expectations at home, understanding that it takes some practice and enforcement when introducing new expectations. This maintains a sense of order and fosters children’s responsibility for their activities.

At the end of each work period or day, children are invited to put away their activities and to tidy their work or play space.  Understanding that some projects may require more than one work period or day to complete – think Lego constructions or art projects – children may be given the option to “save” their work for next time.  In the classroom, each child has a name card they use to do so; what system might you use at home?

Kitchen Design + Activities

A child’s homework is the work of the home.”

In addition to this video I made attempting to adapt my kitchen to share with Montessori children accustomed to preparing their own dining spaces, serving themselves, and cleaning up independently, I’d like to offer a few ideas for inviting your children to work alongside you in the kitchen.

  • Make and maintain a grocery list. Depending on the child’s age, you may invite them to illustrate an ongoing grocery list with their requested items or phonetically sound out and write a list of their requests! The “Preschool” section on this website has a few different writing paper options that may serve as a guide. If you’re unsure of realistic expectations for your child’s development, contact their guide!
  • At Heartwood, all children help to fold our cleaning cloths and napkins. If you use cleaning cloths and/or cloth napkins in your home, now is your opportunity to invite your child to show off their skills!
  • Involve your child in simple food preparation activities. With the appropriate tools, children can: core and slice an apple, slice a banana, tear lettuce leaves, grate/grind spices, grate cheese, mix ingredients together in a bowl, peel and slice carrots or other vegetables, count quantities of items to serve. If you’d like more ideas or delineated how-to’s, contact your child’s guide.
  • Bus dishes / load the dishwasher / put away clean dishes / set the table.
  • Match tupperware containers and lids!
  • Reheat a plate or bowl of food in the microwave for 30 seconds.

Share with us how you’re involving your child in the kitchen at home!

Freedom Within Limits

Over a century ago, Dr. Maria Montessori discovered (and modern neuroscience has validated) that children – especially young children – thrive within routine! At Heartwood, we have the freedom to establish and maintain a nearly identical routine day-to-day. Implementing a predictable daily schedule will allow your young child to cultivate a sense of peace in your household, as it reduces anxiety over the unknown “What’s Next?” question. We, as adults, are feeling this anxiety on a global scale: I anticipate bringing predictability into your home life may help you find a sense of peace and calm amidst the outer chaos as well.

With your child, create an illustrated poster outlining your new daily routine. You will notice your work schedule must shift as you work alongside your children at home. Before the blocks of “independent work” or “free play” time, communicate your expectations with your child: “It is time to work. I will work on _______________. What activity will you choose to do first?” There will also be times throughout the day when you need to set your work aside and be fully present with your child. This period of social isolation may very well define our younger generation: children may look back on this time as a period of great stress and anxiety, or they may reflect on this period as one that strengthened family bonds.

This is not magic. Anticipate interruptions and maybe even arguments as you settle into your new routine, but refer to the poster you’ve made together. After several days’ repetition, your child will internalize the routine you’ve set together and your days will begin to run more smoothly. Allow your child and your self to get absorbed in independent activity and allow yourselves to be pulled out of your work to be fully absorbed in one another’s presence.