Joel Mendes, Executive Director of Higher Ground International, in an exclusive Montessori Post interview about the project Guidepost at Home Family Framework
Montessori Post (MP): The Family Framework platform offers free resources for parents of Toddlers, Early Childhood and Elementary students. Is this platform a response to the vast school closures, or is it something that Guidepost had already offered?
Joel Mendes: It is a direct response to support our families who suddenly had to find a new way to help their children learn and grow in their homes. To tell the truth, though, we’d always wanted to have such a resource for families, so the closures, in an odd way, actually acted as an accelerant.
MP: The interaction with other members which mimics the Facebook platform looks quite active. How has the social networking aspect helped the participants in the platform?
Mendes: What people need more than anything, especially during such an isolating time, is a community. There are millions of parents struggling right now to quickly transition to being their children’s educators, all while, in many cases, continuing to work themselves. Finding a few other parents going through the same things that they are is an invaluable resource to get ideas, share struggles, and help each other get through this. This window into parent needs gives our team the opportunity to respond with impactful resources to support the biggest pain points for our community.
MP: How was the Family Framework developed?
Mendes: We had a lot of ideas for how people without any Montessori materials at home and minimal knowledge of the principles underneath Montessori could quickly learn and use everyday activities in their homes in a Montessori fashion. We started compiling these activities, culling them together, and wanted an easy way for people to access them. We quickly realized that the activities alone wouldn’t be enough to really develop our children’s independence and concentration without a full approach to organizing their day, helping with scheduling, preparing their home environment, and essentially lesson planning to prepare specific and contained activities for their children. All of this pointed us to the need for a platform that could deliver lots of resources, a step-by-step implementation plan, and a community all in one place–including expert help. That became our Family Framework network.
We’ve also recognized that many parents want access to resources that they could implement themselves while others wanted someone by their side to help them learn to support their children better. We’ve tried to pack as much as possible in to as many families as we could, so you’ll see that all of our resources, some virtual learning experiences for children, and many parent webinars, are free. For those families who need that person by their side, we’ve provided an avenue to get access to small-group virtual classroom experiences and unlimited access to book one on one meetings with our team of expert Montessori consultants in our Family Framework Plus offering that does have a cost. That customized, individual support is really hands-on with live people–something our families are truly enjoying that is really quite special.
MP: What do you intend for the Framework once school closures end?
Mendes: I’m sure it’ll look a little different for families who start attending schools again, but I think it’s a common desire to help families bridge school and home in a thoughtful way, and we intend for this community to continue to do that after schools open. Some families can’t afford or find a good Montessori school, and others love Montessori but want to do more at home on weekends and in evenings. We can do lots of parent education and parent support through this platform and we just don’t see that need ending.
MP: What have you learned about the Montessori parenting community since launching the Framework? What have you learned about the homeschooling community?
Mendes: What we’ve learned has confirmed our previous suspicions (and our own feelings as parents): people want what’s best for their child and are willing to learn new things, ask excellent questions, and try to implement what they find compelling. The parents on our platform are phenomenal people doing everything they can to support their children, and I keep being blown away by their thoughtfulness and support for each other. The biggest value that parents seem to enjoy is our team of experts who help them plan out their schedules and set up their prepared environments in the home. We have the capacity to give one-on-one support to families and getting the chance to talk with someone about their own family and circumstances is pretty impactful.
MP: What else would you like readers to know about your work?
We’ve always been driven by our passion to help families who know and love Montessori to find excellent quality in our schools and our resources while also introducing many, many more families to Montessori that might otherwise not have found it. We want to be a gateway to help increase the number of children who benefit from Dr. Montessori’s work, since I think we can all agree, for how right and good it is, Montessori is still way too small!
MP: Tell us more about yourself.
Mendes: I’m a Montessori educator, trained in 3 to 6 from Montessori Institute of San Diego. Prior to that I was a traditional educator who actually started my teaching career at the college level and gradually started working with younger and younger children. It was, like many Montessori educators, when my oldest child was born that I really fell in love with the approach and dove all-in as a family. I now have three children, from ages 3 to 9, all of them have exclusively attended Montessori schools so I know in a very personal way the power of the approach. I’ve since devoted my work towards helping adults understand and deliver a complete and authentic Montessori approach to their students through training, professional development, and by providing lots of support.
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