Where the Family Goes, the Montessori Learning Will Follow
How Guidepost is empowering families on the go with flexible, impactful schooling options
For 8-year-old Allegra Mauro, elementary school can happen anywhere. While the Guidepost Montessori student spends most days in a mixed-age classroom in Southern California, her learning doesn’t stop there. It can’t — because life and work take her family all over the world, most often between sunny California and the snowy slopes of Utah, where the Mauros hold dual residence.
As a result, Allegra has learned in a traditional campus, in-home with a learning pod, and on-the-go using Virtual School — a continuity of education made possible by the Guidepost Montessori school network.
In 2019, she was among the first to try Guidepost at Home — a national learning pod program that matches families with in-home educators. When her family left California to spend their winter in Utah, Allegra was able to continue her Montessori education there, joining up with a family traveling from Africa in a customized, prepared Montessori learning space that was set up in the Mauro’s Utah home.
This past year, Allegra navigated the same change of scenery from California to Utah, but this time, instead of joining a learning pod in her family’s Utah home, she enrolled in Guidepost Montessori Virtual School, an online education program that provides structured, daily instruction delivered by certified Montessori guides.
Once again, part of the Mauro family home was transformed into a customized Montessori environment, with all the learning materials needed shipped to Utah and learning conducted online by a top Montessori educator.
Weeks later, when it was time for the family to head back to California, Allegra simply transitioned right back to her classroom without missing a beat.
Making Montessori-from-Anywhere a Reality
While not every family will need to utilize that same level of educational flexibility, the Mauro’s situation is by no means an outlier. Diana Le Sieur, Head of School at Allegra’s home campus, Guidepost Montessori Foothill Ranch, says that this kind of support is a common ask from families.
“It’s normal for us to support travel,” she said. “It used to be that we would prep students with physical work that they could do — inspired by and embedded within the surroundings and culture of where they would be going — following the lead of the parent in terms of how much work to plan.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March of 2020, the Guidepost Montessori team tripled its program offerings to support learning in home, beyond its network of physical campuses. By the fall, with the implementation of the Altitude Learning tech platform, Guidepost was able to effectively scale its virtual and home-based programming such that — for the first time ever — it enabled students, parents and educators to meaningfully access Montessori education from anywhere.
“Supporting children around the world in this way was always a vision of our network, but the pandemic pushed things into high gear and developing our virtual platform brought it all together,” Le Sieur said.
While it feels like the way of the future, it also feels overdue. The pandemic may have restricted short-term travel for business and leisure, but forecasts show the number of annual business trips alone recovering to pre-pandemic levels of 457 million by 2024.
To Mainstream Montessori, You Also Have to Modernize It
The need for “schooling from anywhere” arises for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s a military family in-between duty stations looking for an urgent, short-term bridge. Other times it’s a dual-working family who needs consistent childcare while navigating frequent business trips, a parent who wants to take extended time reuniting with relatives, or a family that needs a learning environment that consistently minimizes health risks.
All of this, and more, is why Guidepost Montessori has been prioritizing flexible schooling since its inception in 2016, when the network committed to uniting educators around the world to elevate the Montessori movement from segmented and grassroots to collective and global.
“It’s fun to be living the life I imagined relative to this company fulfilling what it said it was capable of doing,” said Allegra’s father, Greg Mauro, who helped pioneer these programs as a Guidepost parent. “The Montessori virtual experience is so robust with the Altitude Learning software. It’s liberating to know that I can take Allegra anywhere in the world, and she could stay plugged in academically with her community while at the same time, gain that enrichment from travel.”
Erin Walsh, Head of School with Guidepost Montessori Virtual School, added that once enrolled in the virtual program, families that need flexibility in learning are citing direct benefits to the child — who naturally craves agency of their learning — and the parent, who needed the structural support to honor life on the go.
“Our virtual experience is all-encompassing, which is a huge differentiator,” Walsh said. “A lot of people assume Montessori and virtual don’t go together, but we did it. We are groundbreaking in that way.”
A Learner-Centered Platform to Maintain Montessori Principles
Altitude Learning’s platform is where the digital curriculum lives, enabling students to work collaboratively and independently with that element of agency that Montessori learning is known for. This agency helps parents step back into a support role, further empowering the child as the driver of their own learning. After live instruction in their virtual classroom, students continue offline with this dashboard that facilitates individualized follow-up work, tracking and assessment.
“From the time that parents enroll, they have immediate connection to our team in terms of first understanding the Montessori Prepared Environment,” said Walsh. “We go over how to set up the home, followed by shipping school supplies and Montessori learning materials so that children can use the same materials that the guides are presenting. Pair this with the technology of Altitude Learning, and you’ve got a truly streamlined experience.”
For Allegra, virtual school days are a blend of logging on for live instruction, feedback and collaboration, followed by offline work using the Montessori classroom materials that were prepared in her home, balanced with the wonder and joy of getting out into the Utah mountains to ski. Her father, Greg, feels that this holistic approach to education has been a growth opportunity for his daughter.
“It’s about being able to pick up a skill, like learning how to ski, while also experiencing a different climate where she can appreciate the mountains and connect to the outdoors,” he said. “It also encourages maturity, with that self-guided aspect of Montessori where I have seen her manage her schedule independently.”
Flexible Schooling Enriches the Learning Experience for All
The concept of “schooling from anywhere” is bringing students together in ways that are unique from brick and mortar and go beyond benefiting the individual student, said Allegra’s Lead Virtual Guide, Carrie Puello. Now in her tenth year of teaching, Puello was traditionally trained and worked in the Chicago public-school system before aligning with the Montessori path. After seven years as an AMS certified Montessori Guide, this is her first leading virtual classrooms with Guidepost.
“Everyone brings so many unique experiences to the virtual space. As we have opened up and gotten to know each other, we have connected in ways that are organic,” she said. “I get to see glimpses of my students’ lives, their homes. I know their siblings, who we invite to come join in on story time. Parents can pop in and listen, too. It’s a level of engagement that you wouldn’t experience in the same way with a brick-and-mortar school.”
Furthermore, students are connecting from different cities, regions and states, opening up opportunities to share diverse life experiences. Allegra’s mountain experience in Utah, for example, is contrasted by another student’s tropical scuba-diving experience from Hawaii.
“Allegra’s experience in the mountains benefited everybody, as she had such a unique story to share,” said Puello. “She befriended a first grader and gave him a virtual tour. He was in the middle of doing his own mountain biome work and was able to create a connection between his work and the real world because of Allegra.”
Puello takes advantage of the flexible environment to add enrichment to her teaching. She recently visited a nearby zoo on the East Coast as a shared field trip for her students on the West Coast. Virtual field trips are a regular thing on Mondays, and she also hosts days dedicated to experiments, research, and cooking. Her students have toured Air Force One through the Museum of Flight, used Google Earth to visit The Pyramids, and spent a day collaboratively tuned into the recent Mars Rover landing.
In many ways, this disruption of schooling as stationary to transient is game-changing. When you maintain the long-held benefits of hands-on learning — a pillar of the Montessori approach — and merge it intentionally with real-world experience, you cultivate an education system that is an authentic preparation for life.
Or as Dr. Maria Montessori said, “Free the child’s potential, and you will transform him into the world.”
Jenna is a trained journalist and writer whose parenting journey transformed after implementing Montessori at home with her three children. She is a passionate advocate for bridging Montessori to the mainstream as a means to build community, empower parent-child relationships, and honor learning as the lifelong journey that it is.
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