Our little Rose Bud is wrapping up 10 years at Casa Dei Bambini Montessori School this month. Along with five of her fellow “sixth years” she will be leaving the safest, most nurturing place they’ll ever know.
She fell asleep, exhausted, leaning against her mom’s car outside our front door after her first day as a ‘morning child’ shortly before she turned three.
In the years since she’s learned everything from fine motor skills to microbiology basics. She was among the first Jewish girls to play the Pope on Italy Day, and she helped her school win the state championship in the .
She’s 12 now, headed off to public middle school this fall, her fellow graduate classmates scattering to different public and private schools. She faces dramatic change from her sheltered Montessori days, a brave new world of moving from class to class, lockers, teeming hallways, school buses and school lunches and the hustle and bustle that Casa Montessori does such a great job of keeping at bay while young minds learn to thrive.
But it's time. She says she’s ready for it, with all of the new freedoms and responsibilities that come the way of kids her age. Many more are coming in the decade ahead. But “Casa” has been a safe, nurturing, caring little bubble inside of which she’s adjusted to life and knowledge from her Elmo days through Justin Bieber times.
The new school will be infinitely more impersonal, a turbulent river ride instead of a paddle across a calm lake. Grades will be a new concept and test scores will begin to send her down certain tracks. Every parent's aching hope that their kid will grow up to be a doctor or lawyer or business titan bumps up against the unanticipated obsession with the guitar or cars or boys or, God and the workforce forbid, the liberal arts.
Our growing prodigy hopes to be a veterinarian some day, with a ranch of her own where in her off time she can tend to more critters than Ellie Mae Clampett. If she makes it all the way through, shows that sort of steel and determination, her success will have much to do with the work of her teachers every step of the way at Casa over the last decade.
The daily ritual of circle, assigned chores, the learned cooperation by which older kids help younger ones with lessons—these Montessori keystones have been the great bonus on top of the reading and writing and arithmetic. Our child has learned to think, alongside learning the rote facts.
Florence Johnson started Casa Dei Bambini Montessori in 1974, making it one of the longest-standing schools in the Atlanta area offering Maria Montessori’s education methods. Flo’s daughter Suzanne took hold of the reins for her mother last year as Directress. Flo still drops by regularly to look in on the children she’s always called her angels.
There are now generations of Casa kids making their way through Atlanta and the world. Some have returned to put their children through the same place they remembered so well.
The place is truly one of East Cobb’s cultural jewels, funded all along by its parents and benefactors, and run by selfless teachers and staffers who have always been more devoted to the children than chasing a bigger paycheck.
A nest full of baby mockingbirds hatched last week in one of the bushes adjacent to the school office in view of the carpool lane off of Powers Ferry Road, and the bigger kids have been stealing a peek at the little featherless chicks in the nest, squawking for their next mama’s meal.
Soon it will be time for them to fly away, and leave the safest place they’ll ever know.