The birth story of Urban Garden Montessori is a tale that shows our roots run deep, even though our seedling has yet to burst through the ground.  Our school is first and foremost, already, a community garden. It does not belong to one person,  it is not tended to by one gardener,and most of all, it exists for the good of the whole community.  Little Rock is fertile ground for an urban Montessori school that has children growing their own organic vegetables, playing the cello, taking nature walks along the river, and delving deep and wide into that vast body of knowledge that makes up elementary, middle, and high school. 

But before we get too far, let me start at the very beginning.  In the heart of Little Rock, there is a warehouse - a one of a kind, beautiful,empty, warehouse.  It has been calling to me for twenty years.  I would drive by it every so often, just to check in.  I did not own the warehouse, and I did not know who did.  I had no plans for it.  But I loved it.  I would drive by, slow down, take a deep breath, and be happy.  The warehouse was built at a time when even an industrial building - a casket factory in 1926 - was created with beauty, and with great care.  It was built to last for generations, a legacy to be passedon to future generations, who would touch those same red brick walls a hundred years later and breathe in the wisdom of great grandfathers.  The first time I saw that beautiful building, a seed was planted in my heart.  And there it lay for many years, unknown even to me.

I was on the phone with a dear friend late one night, talking about dreams and fears and plans for the future.  She asked me, what would I do, if there were no limitations - no worries about money, or failure, or other obligations?  Without hesitation, the following words came out of my mouth: Oh that's easy, I would buy that warehouse and open a school. I laughed after I said it, because never in my life had I thought of opening a school.  On and off throughout my life I have considered becoming a teacher, but I discovered that my interests and talents lay more in developing programs and educational theory.  I became an attorney,  I served on nonprofit boards... I had children.  No one ever told me that choosing a school for your children is one of the hardest decisions a parent can make.  Maybe that is not the case for everyone, but from conversations with my friends, I discovered it is a source of much worry and doubt.  Our children spend so many hours in their classroom, for so, so many years.  We can't deny the effect that schools have on who our children become; and so we parents ask ourselves who do we want our children to be? And then, we search for a school that we hope will foster those values,nurture and love our children, and help them reach their fullest potential - academically, socially, personally.  Such a monumental task and so much as stake. 

I grew up attending many different schools, as my family moved around.  I wanted stability for my own children, and hoped to find that one school that would see them through from kindergarten to high school.  We found a nurturing, joyful home in The Cathedral School, and I proudly watched my oldest march into kindergarten there.  However, after the school closed, our family bounced around from school to school, attempting to find a good fit for our children and our family.  Our oldest daughter was bright, happy, and completely uninterested in school.  She wanted to run, play piano, find a huge group of friends to talk to, and have adventures.  She found herself pushed too hard, and (much to my dismay) hated reading.  She thought math was boring, and just could not find a way to engage in other subjects.  Our younger daughter was the opposite, determined to learn - she would move deliberately and seriously from puzzle to puzzle in her three year old classroom, showing no interest in her peers and having little patience for art or playground time.  When we discovered Montessori, I knew it would be a good fit for our younger daughter.  And sure enough, her Primary classroom became her safe haven - an orderly, calm, beautiful, quiet space - away from the chaos of living in a house with four children and a dog! She was deeply content.  But what sold me 100% on the Montessori method, was our older daughter's experience.  Free from the constraints of a traditional classroom, she blossomed.  She came home talking about how FUN math was!  She literally could not sleep at night, because she was so excited about the things she had learned.  I caught her reading on her own, doing math problems in her room on weekends, and discussing her school work with her sister.  No longer forced to sit quietly next to her friends, she was happy to discover that she could collaborate with others and meet her social needs within the classroom, not just at recess.  Free from worksheets that contained endless meaningless math facts, she began seeing numbers as meaningful - stringing together beads to solve bigger and bigger problems.  "Mom! I figured out what 2,186 times 4 is!" she yelled with so much excitement and pride.  School had finally done what it really ought to do - it fanned the flames of her own curiosity and desire to learn, and then stepped aside as she devoured her lessons. 

And so, on that late night telephone call, I said YES to a dream I didn't even know I had.  And as soon as I made that decision - doors began to open and people came running into my path, who would become the owners, the gardeners, and the community that is Urban Garden Montessori.  The sun shone and the rain came and the little seed sprouted in the most amazing way, not by my own power, that is for sure.  Like life bursting forth from a planted seed, it has a will to live and my job now is to nurture it and guard it and take joy in the journey of watching it grow!