Mountainside’s Blog

Together from a Distance

May 21, 2020

From a distance there is harmony
And it echoes through the land
It’s the voice of hope
It’s the voice of peace
It’s the voice of every man
-Julie Gold
In lieu of our traditional End of the Year picnic and soccer game, our Mountainside community came together in typical joyous fashion for a drive by parade. With the campus decorated with balloons and signs and with music blasting, the school came alive as families drove down the driveway toward dancing and waving masked Mountainside staff.  As their cars rolled slowly by, we all shared our hellos and goodbyes, our wishes for good health and a good summer, and our longing hopes to be together again. Fond memories of the day: smiling faces, distant waves, hollered hellos, hand painted signs, dancing staff, decorated vehicles, honking horns, a few tearful moments, and lots of love behind everyone’s eyes. Thank you to our wonderful Mountainside community – it truly was a special day. 


May 17, 2020

We have been so touched by everyone’s support and enthusiasm to help us provide as much consistency and normalcy to the students’ education as possible during this time of distance and Learning from Home. We wanted to find a way to represent this unity and have all the students participate in creating something together.

We decided on an outdoor mural, located on the barn on campus, for all the children to paint. An outline of the mural was created by Ms. Rubin and painting supplies were provided. With the help of an online schedule, families have been coming by one at a time to paint a section of the mural.

We are very excited with the progress! It is our hope that the finished mural will stand as a permanent reminder of our community working together despite the need to be physically apart during this time.

Earth Day 2020

April 22, 2020

There are ways to bring back balance to our Earth.  The measurable and photographic evidence during this time of pandemic and global slowdown is undeniable.  As humans slow their pace, decreasing harmful emissions and having less negative impact on the world’s resources, we are seeing positive changes. These changes give promise to the power and ability of the Earth to blossom and heal in a remarkably short period of time. Already, strong reductions in emissions are being observed worldwide, waters are clearing, and satellite images from NASA are showing drastic decreases in air pollution.

Through as many actions possible, let’s choose to build on this reboot. Plant a tree. Plant a seed. Plant a thought. Let’s make every day Earth Day.

In This Together

April 21, 2020

During this time of COVID-19, our staff continues to work diligently on our ‘Learning from Home’ initiative. It has been truly heartwarming to receive so many positive comments and such supportive emails from our families over the past few weeks.  I know I speak for all the staff when I say a heartfelt, “Thank You!” It is wonderful to be part of such a supportive community. Here are just a few of the comments we have received. Please keep them coming, as they are a lifeline! 

“ZOOM time for the toddler class was so fun this morning, what a great way to start the day seeing friends – learning about the frogs – catching up on each child sharing something – singing – thank you for hosting, very much looking forward to tomorrow!”

“I know we will get through this TOGETHER! I am so grateful to have you as a part of our family, and don’t know what we would do without you. We appreciate and love everything you do <3 Big hugs!”

“I would also like to take a moment to thank you for how you have handled this crazy year. Thank you! It’s been crazy! You and the Mountainside staff have been great, and we are very thankful and impressed how well you’ve balanced keeping our kids educated and safe.”

“To say we miss MMS would be a huge understatement. I really want to bold that and change the color to add more emphasis, but I am restraining myself.’

“We so miss Mountainside and everyone there.” 

“I just want to say thank you for taking the time to compose this genuine, thoughtful message to all of us. We are so grateful for the time and energy that you – and the whole staff at Mountainside – are putting into crafting at-home learning resources, not to mention the personalized support you have offered.”

“We’ve been really thankful for Mountainside the past couple weeks.  Alice has been amazing at conducting lessons over Zoom and giving additional daily personalized work and feedback.”

“We really appreciate all that you, and the Mountainside staff, has been doing to maintain as much of a state of normalcy during this overly trying time. Miss Alice has been incredible!”

“We have been reflecting on how much more challenging this would be without the support of our dear school and community.  Mountainside has kept our girls feeling a great deal more secure amidst the uncertainty. And you all have made the task of picking up the work of the classroom at home much less daunting for us parents.”

“We are feeling extra grateful and appreciative these days.” 

Community Service

February 18, 2020

Our Adolescent students were busy last week volunteering at the Fauquier Food Bank and with Friends of Rectortown. At the Food Bank, they cleaned, organized, stocked shelves, and took out trash. They learned that the Food Bank provides for 1,000 families each month. With Friends of Rectortown, the students helped pack weekend food bags for 27 local elementary students in need. Our students are thankful to both of these organizations for their efforts.  They’re also thankful for the opportunities to learn about their local community and to become involved so that they may make a tangible difference through their service to others.

A Going Out: The National Gallery of Art

January 16, 2020

As part of their study of the artist, Claude Monet, a group of Upper Elementary students planned a Going Out to the National Gallery of Art to see some of his paintings.  They wanted to learn more about Monet’s life and 19th-century Impressionism. The students did all of the planning for their trip, including scheduling and obtaining driving, navigating the metro, and mapping out walking directions.

Paying It Forward

December 2, 2019

Our Adolescent Class would like to thank the community for their support of the class’ Thanksgiving turkey fundraising project. The project was a great success! Proceeds will benefit their Adolescent Program as well as another Montessori program the students have chosen to promote. The Adolescent students decided to “pay it forward” and donate a portion of their earnings to Ncinci One’s Montessori, a Montessori school in rural Xhosa, South Africa which has launched a literacy campaign for children through GlobalGiving. Giving to and supporting others, especially those less fortunate, is an important lesson for our students and we are sincerely grateful to the generous many who have helped our students as they learn to help others.

Season of Giving

November 25, 2019

This month, the Lower Elementary class collected over 300 items of food for their food drive. The students delivered the donations to the Fauquier Community Food Bank and watched as their boxes were weighed. They were amazed to see that they had collected 352 lbs of food! The students learned that their donations will help the Food Bank serve up to 60 families a day. They felt very proud of their accomplishment and they are grateful to their families and friends for their unwavering generosity!

Teaching and Learning through 4-H

October 29, 2019

The Mountainside 4-H Livestock Club hosted 15 Piedmont Farmers Clover Buds, led by Miss Laura Galante, and their families in a goat parasite education session and tour of Mountainside Farm on Sunday, October 20th. Stuffed animal goats were used to help demonstrate to the children different types of goat parasites. Children were surprised with candy inside the stuffed animal goats which made the activity especially fun. A major highlight of the afternoon was the tour of Mountainside’s Farm. Despite the rain, everyone had fun visiting the animals.

Thanks to Miss Laura for bringing her group.

Thanks to the parents for sending snacks, both Mountainside and Piedmont.

Thanks to Misses Edel and Theo for the use of the Adolescent House.

A big thank you to Miss Lenah from the extension office for teaching our group about goat parasitology so that we could then share that knowledge with the younger members.

-Written by Charlie, a student member of the Mountainside 4-H Livestock Club

Bird Watching

October 25, 2019

Every morning, the children of Blue House fill the classroom bird feeder and wait with anticipation to see what birds might come to visit.  On this morning, a small group of children gathered excitedly at the window.  One of the children pointed to a visiting bird.  Another child quickly and spontaneously went to her cubby to get her name tag which had a picture of that very type of bird.  The other children did the same and waited patiently to see if they, too, would encounter a match.

Though young, our Primary children are already interested in classifying their world.  They can identify White Throated Sparrows, Eastern Bluebirds, and Red-Winged Blackbirds.  They recognize which friend has the Northern Cardinal on her tag.

The birds became quite used to the children at the window. The children learned if they sprinkled cracked corn on the porch, the Mourning Doves would come and feed very close to the classroom doors.  Some of the children would draw or write their observations in our classroom nature journal.

Curiosity leads to a love of nature and the outdoors. What a nice way to spend a school day!

Ecuador: A Full Day in Mindo

March 23, 2019

Another full day yesterday in the Mindo area, a couple hours west of Quito. We spent the day taking a chocolate tour, meandering through butterfly gardens and zip lining through the canopy which was the highlight for all. We were invited to stay the night with our taxi family in their river house in a small lower valley village. We spent time with the family, played billiards at the only local store/ center, cooked breakfast this morning and harvested fruit in their yard before driving the three hour windy mountain roads back to Quito. We packed up from our wonderful Airbnb and are staying in the hostel of our taxi family before flying out early tomorrow morning. All have been fantastic travels and the trip has been beyond everyone’s expectations. We are all looking forward to being home and giving loved ones warm hugs.

Ecuador: Meaningful Work

March 20, 2019

Our third and final day of community service at the day care center was spent completing painting and window repair. The students felt accomplished and decided to make a donation for supplies, toys, and for the staff with some of their budgeted money of their trip. The day care center staff and students had a lovely thank you and appreciation ceremony for us as they bid us farewell. It was meaningful work and allowed all to feel connected with the community – Minga! The afternoon was spent at a set of hot spring pools up in the mountains which was both magical and relaxing. We shared dinner with our taxi cab family, Carlos, and his brother and look forward to our two final days in Ecuador.

Ecuador: Minga

March 19, 2019

Day 2: Another productive day at the day care center painting, building a brick wall for the garden, and replacing broken windows. All morning young children attend the center then in the afternoon older students come after school for homework assistance and play. We learned the teachers work twelve hour days, have a four year professional degree, and are paid $1.60 an hour. There is a word in Ecuador, Minga, that captures the meaning of the community coming together when others are in need of support. These last two days we have fully experienced Minga.

Ecuador: Community Service

March 18, 2019

Since their arrival, the students have been eager to engage in a Community Service Project. We were fortunate to make some really good connections here and heard about a small day care center on the outskirts of Quito that needed some help, Mis Pequenas Sonrisas, a day care center that provides free day care for many poor families, whose parents are required to work 2 jobs to simply survive. The students used their hard earned money to purchase lots of paint and some beautiful plants to enhance their environment. They worked tirelessly in the heat for 8 hours and were the star attraction of the day. The children were in awe of them and wanted to help them so badly. A little tricky when paint is involved! It was lovely to observe not only their hard work, but their gentle and patient interactions with the children. I think everyone will sleep well tonight.

Center of the World

March 17, 2019

Our day was spent exploring the center of the world! We enjoyed a tour of the Museum of the Sun, then a tour at the Center of the World. As we were literally on the equator, we learned about gravitational pull and did various experiments, including having a raw egg stand on end on the tip of a nail (Matthew was the only one to make it happen), draining water and watching which way it swirled on each side of the equator, and testing our own finger and arm strength based on where we stood in relationship to the equator. Although many lessons of earth science, all connected back to the Incas and the belief in the earth’s energy and the importance of maintaining balance. The day wrapped up with an evening picnic and walk in the neighborhood park, which was filled with families and activities. We are so enjoying soaking in the richness of Ecuador.

Ecuador: Parque del Condor and Otavalo Market

March 16, 2019

Another incredible day of Ecuadorian adventures. We had a lovely drive north to Parque del Condor where we had a tour of ancient Inca spiritual grounds. It was an amazing presentation of the balance of energy between the earth and sky and humans’ role. We then had a short hike to a fabulous waterfall and literally walked through the water to fully experience it. Lunch was enjoyed at a traditional Ecuadorian restaurant before heading into the huge Otavalo market. The Ecuadorian crafts were an overload for the senses, but a wonderful experience and immersion. Another culturally rich day and all smiles and laughs.

Ecuador: Cotopaxi

March 15, 2019

We had a fantastic and physically challenging day climbing to the glacier of Cotopaxi volcano. Trekking up the loose volcanic rock, we felt accomplished as we reached 15,900+ ft – higher than Mt. Rainer, the highest mountain in the continental USA!  Edel, Ayla and Theo continued on to reach the glacier at 17,000 ft. The drive through the countryside is always breathtaking and the sprawl of the city that is built on incredibly steep slopes seems to defy gravity. The day ended with a traditional Ecuadorian meal together at our lovely Airbnb.

Ecuador: To Market We Go

March 14, 2019

A day at a traditional Ecuadorian market in the town of Saquisili followed by a short hike at Laguna Quilotoa, a volcanic crater lake. The drive was stunning and roads windy and steep. Livestock and crops are grown on impressively vertical hillsides, with intensive and rotational grazing practices. Today, we drove through the countryside to the west, which was far drier than the eastern side of the mountains. The students are practicing their Spanish skills as they sampled traditional foods and tasted new fruits. A full and culturally rich day.

Ecuador: Antisana Ecological Reserve

March 13, 2019

We hired two taxis for the two hour drive to the Antisana Ecological Reserve. Located along the snow capped Antisana volcano peaks in the Andes, it is the fourth largest volcano in Ecuador. We climbed the Micaloma trail, which has an elevation of over 12,000 feet. There was a little shortness of breath!  We saw several juvenile Andean Condors, a wolf, a large buck and doe and, of course, all the the amazing flora. We stopped of for an early dinner in Pintag, where we interacted with some students. Great day!

9th Grade Trip to Ecuador

March 12, 2019

In this third plane of development, adolescents are seeking to find their place in society and understand the world at large and how they may, ultimately, be world contributors. The 9th graders are developmentally, physically, and emotionally prepared to embark on an international trip.  Some are leaving the country for the first time.  Most are traveling without their parents for two weeks for the first time.  The opportunity to design their own trip and travel to a foreign land becomes their work and is an experience that changes them.  They spend two years raising the money for the trip and do all the leg work from booking tickets, booking lodging, planning the itinerary, and organizing packing lists. 
This year, the 9th graders chose to go to Ecuador for their international trip. The travel went well and our first day was spent in Quito, the capital city of Ecuador. We enjoyed a magnificent visit to the Botanical Gardens, just around the corner from our home. We also took some time for a little grocery shopping and a great adventure into the old historic center of this wonderful city.  It was a fun first day!

Community Breakfast

September 21, 2017

September 21 was International Peace Day and the adolescent class had their first Community Breakfast of the year. Although we had a smaller crowd than expected, it was a good experience. We did much of the preparation the night before so we felt organized and had less to do in the morning.  We learned how much food we will need for next time, how best to set-up our space, and the responsibilities needed for each person in the class.  Once the breakfast was over, clean-up went very quickly and we were finished in under 15 minutes.  This week we made $154.00 with a profit of $62.00.  We look forward to more people attending our next Community Breakfast and have some ideas for better advertising such as educating new parents at MMS, putting up fliers in town, and seeing if we can advertise in Marshall Minutes.

Courtney, Mountainside Adolescent Student

The Benefits of Having Chickens

November 7, 2012

These chickens have enriched our lives so much since they came to our school. To begin with, the children hatched them out in their classrooms, carefully monitoring the temperature and checking the humidity of the incubators. They candled them and got to see through the shell the living, moving embryo contained within – an embryo that is similar to a human’s for a period of time. That was an amazing lesson! They got to witness the tiny chicks’ great effort to get out of the shell, and what happens if they cannot.

The children displayed tremendous empathy when one chick struggled to survive for the first 24 hours. They organized heat lamps, shavings, water, food, and shelter as the chicks grew. They built a small fenced area for them to run around in daily. It was great.

Some wonderful parents got together and built an amazing coop on wheels, and the then-young pullets were able to move into their large fenced area. This provided the opportunity for more chickens, and suddenly there was lots and lots of research done on various heritage breeds of chickens. That was followed by the children voting on the breeds they wanted – democracy at its best. A going out was organized by the children to Over the Grass Farm, where they planned to purchase four Orphingtons to add to their flock of Leghorns with their own hard-earned money. To their surprise, the farm donated the hens instead.

Then I want you to imagine what it was like when they found the first egg. It was possibly akin to a good-sized lottery win….. but it was nothing in comparison to the children actually seeing an egg being laid. I heard the screams long before I saw the children, and yes, the hair stood up on the back of my neck. I thought it was going to be bad, so you can imagine how I felt when all the screaming children told me, “We saw the egg coming out! It came out of Henny Penny’s butt.” Yes, it was a great moment! The students have now organized Leslie Edmundson, who taught the Elementary children an agriculture class two years ago, to come to school and do a unit on how the egg is made and laid!

Just when I thought it could not get any better, the children came up with some great ways to make money to maintain the hens. They are putting the most amazing ideas out there to get the neighbors buying stuff, people coming from all over to The Store…..very elaborate indeed. They settled on the Mountainside Shop to sell products to our very own parents. Don’t you love the entrepreneurship here? I hope you do, because I just want to burst with pride and excitement when I hear and see these children come up with ideas and then make them happen. It is all them! And I love all of you for supporting them in their endeavors.

But here is my favourite of all the benefits: The other day a Primary child was having a very bad morning and ended up in the office screaming and throwing the biggest of tantrums, not to be consoled by anyone. I stuck my head in the door and said, “Oh, did you know we got a new chocolate-colored hen today? Would you like to go and visit her?” I got two nurturing Elementary children to take the Primary child out for the visit. I looked out the window as they each held her hand and walked across the grass to the chickens. There I could see them laughing and running around trying to catch Coco (the new Cuckoo Maran hen). How wonderful is that!

It’s the Climb

October 20, 2012

The great things in life never come easily. It is sort of like climbing Mount Everest – imagine the feeling you get when you reach the summit!!!

We are not there yet, of course. But we finally got some traction, and we made it over that part where the rocks under our feet kept shoving us backward instead of forward. (That would be the four different sources of financing that fell through.) But we never lost sight of our goal and were never deterred.

We got busy fundraising and getting the Mountainside name out in the community. Finding the right property to fulfill our vision took almost a year, and I cannot tell you how much property we looked at in Orlean, Hume, Marshall, and Warrenton. But I do remember arriving at 4206 Belvoir Road and instantly feeling that this was going to be the new home of Mountainside Montessori. It had room for all the students, parents, and whatever else we needed. There was something else there too, and it is hard to explain because it is more like a feeling. It is peaceful, solid, and beautiful. The property needs a lot of work, but it is all there waiting for us.

On October 17, after more than three years of work, sweat, tears, more tears, anxiety, Planning Commission, Supervisors, well drilling, architects, engineers……. WE CLOSED ON OUR FINANCING AND ON OUR NEW HOME. IT IS FINALLY OURS!!

Now we get to sit in the sunshine on the side of the mountain and rest a bit as we take a moment to celebrate and enjoy this momentous occasion.

As you all know, Mountainside’s journey is not about reaching the summit. It is about the climb, and the fun we are going to have getting there because this is our life:
• Watching our children happily go to school each day in specially prepared environments that help them reach their full human potential
• Parents picnicking under the dogwood while their children build stick houses and enjoy all that nature has to offer
• Teachers who joyfully come to work each day because they are motivated, committed, and most importantly supported by the administration, the parents, and of course the community of people who support us in our mission.

So stay tuned and enjoy the climb with us!