Sunflower Montessori: It takes a Village

Neha Poddar Photography
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Finding the right crèche can prove to be a challenge of some magnitude. After all, you are searching for the ‘village’ to help with raising your child.

With my first child, I was a bit of a mess when I set about visiting creches. I walked into a couple and was quite discouraged from the beginning. My gut said ’no way.’  The finally, on a house hunting trip, after arguing with a taxi driver about an extortionate fair from the airport to Sunflower in Findel, (if I hadn’t been wearing my serious créche-viewing shoes I could have walked from the tarmac),

I entered what can only be described as a serene utopia peacefully run by miniature people.

 

There were two-and-a-half-year-olds serving themselves lunch using ceramic plates and cutlery, happily sitting with their food while calmly chattering. The teachers were observing. It was like nothing I’d ever witnessed. I knew zero about Montessori but didn’t care because from this moment, I knew I’d found my village.

As a young, skeptical nursery school worker in England, Sam O’Dea set out to poke holes in the Montessori methodology. She was dying to prove it was a ridiculous notion that children are capable of initiating learning. Instead, she was left dumbfounded by the positive impact this approach has on early education, and ended up opening her first Montessori creche in Luxembourg. 16 years on Sam and her business partner and friend, Helen Clarke now have 6 creches within Luxembourg as well as offering after-school programs, holiday camps and Saturday School.  They are both dynamic teachers as well as owners and wear both hats successfuly.  Luxembourg has embraced Sunflower with vigor and such were the demands for administration, Sam’s husband, Tom O’Dea left his career as an engineer and joined as a director so the three now make a solid team.

If you’ve ever been in a Montessori classroom, you will notice that the teachers are always in the background. They let the children find their own path in an environment which is tailored to their own stage of development.

From the moment you walk into any one of the Sunflower spaces, you feel something magical is happening and while I couldn’t put my finger on it, I was aware of what was missing: the usual chaos of a créche was replaced by overall calmness. I watched as my son walked into the classroom each morning and selected a peculiar looking Montessori toy from the shelf. Once I hung back and watched him patiently place pegs on a rope for more than half an hour. He was two-and-a-half! The longest I could remember seeing him sit in one place was for at most 3 minutes, and it was with the help of a certain Pig who shall remain nameless.

When you sit with Sam O’Dea you notice immediately how passionate she is about the Montessori methodology. Her policy is that she, herself, is available to speak to any parent about any issue.

I had absolutely no idea that Sunflower offered after school programs or holiday camps. It was my understanding that Montessori was focused on early years education, but its scope is not limited to small children. In fact, Sunflower offers an approach to life for children right through to adolescence as they accept children up to the age of 12 in their after school programs in Findel and Moutefort. They collect kids from schools all over Lux and the activities on offer post academic day foster creativity and natural development. The fabulous locations mean the forest can be their playground. The European School kids are given a hot lunch on days they have half days and everyone can stay until 7 pm.

CAMPS: They offer fantastic activities during every school holiday throughout the year. Their flexibility is rather fabulous as children can come full time, mornings, one week or two. They go on outings to the butterfly garden, visit farms, bake, work on early literacy as well as maths. Hint: Switched on parents know a good thing when they see it so the most in-demand camp is during February half term so book in advance!

Reserve a place for the camps by emailing here.

Sam’s excitement is contagious and by the end of our conversation, I found myself begging for her to set up a primary school in Luxembourg. Fingers crossed one day I will be signing my nearly six year old up!

Learn more about Sunflower’s creches, camps and locations here.

 

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Meredith Moss
Meredith shot to fame at an early age, playing Jesus in her school play. It has been downhill from there. Needing gainful employment, she worked as a television producer in Los Angeles until she met her British husband in a seedy beach bar. An enthusiastic expat, she is a good cook, a bad parker and occasionally terrible mother.

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