A letter to MFS students’ parents

 Dear Parents, 

This letter is long, but please take a moment to read it, recognize it, and reflect on it. As always, we appreciate your time and partnership. 

It is the second time I am writing this letter, at around the same time of year, when – as psychology says – masks of our students – the adolescents are off and they have built their tribe, and the community is working side by side with the adults at our Bialka center for study and work. 

We are at the beginning of the 12th week of Montessori Farm School (MFS) Folwark Bialka. It is the School of Experience in the Elements of Social Life. We run the school along with something that we call in Montessori the Plan of Study (daily academic schedule) and Work (duties/chores/running the farm and the hotel/palace) – your children successfully hosted three WMS groups of students and earned money for their Sicily Trip. 

Thank you for trusting us and building with us and our students/adolescents – your children – the very first Montessori Farm School in Poland with a residential aspect. It is an honor and a true privilege to work with you and your children on this demanding but beautiful and fruitful project. We do appreciate your partnership, cooperation, and trust. 

Together, strong as we often say in Bialka – let’s take your children together to the plane of adulthood – it is a long process but our common goal is to have them ready to enter adult life. 

Maria Montessori recognized the need for protecting adolescents during this time of change and identity formation, and she advocated for a unique, supportive environment to ensure the most positive transformation of the individual into a mature, capable, creative, confident, and responsible young adult. 

This Montessori Plan for Study and Work was first mentioned by Dr. Maria Montessori in her book “From Childhood to Adolescence” (Appendix A, pages 59 to 70 and Appendix B, pages 71 to 81 – attached). 

The Plan of Study and Work was designed in detail and has been implemented all over the world by a group of specialists, Montessori practitioners, pedagogues, and psychologists to help adolescents enter real life. This Plan runs in the passage from Adolescence to Adulthood to allow the adolescents (your children/our students) to experience real life and work, cooperation, collaboration, friendship, love, faith, and acceptance with their challenges and the fact that life and its circumstances could be full of unexpected moments and unpredictable situations. 

This Plan is also very academic which is why you could see on our day-to-day weekly plan that our students are busy from 7.00 AM to 10.15 PM

(…) Schools as they are today, are adapted neither to the needs of adolescence nor to the times in which we live. Society has not only developed into a state of utmost complication and extreme contrasts, but it has now come to the crisis in which in the peace of the world and civilization itself are threatened (…) 

Dr. Maria Montessori ”From Childhood to Adolescence” 

https://www.montessoriseeds.com/uploads/1/2/9/0/129029854/ plan_of_study_and_work.pdf 

As you must have heard from your children, our MFS Syllabus has been adjusted not only to the needs of our mixed age group (age:11/12-15 – first sub-plane of 3rd plane of development) and to students being at certain grades (from 5th to 8th grade this year) but also to the fact that we have 3 students who are 8th graders and they will be taking their (8th-grade exams mid-May. I used to say that here in such a well-prepared Montessori environment we cannot be slaves to the national curriculum, but all the hard work of the eighth graders last year and their teachers supporting them resulted in perfectly high 8th grade exam scores. We were very proud of them and sent them to the world ready for secondary school. 

The residential Aspect of our MFS Folwark Bialka – MF School – allows your children/our adolescents to live and work together in the palace and at the farm (that is a limitless field for academic/scientific studies) and to learn to be a part of a small but growing community with the division of labor, acceptance, respect and love toward each other. 

A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other’s lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for each other, their trust in each other, the freedom with which they come and go among themselves.” 

Wendell Berry, “The Loss of the Future”, in The Long-Legged House (Essays, 2012) 

The life lessons that your children have been experiencing for the past 12 weeks now are a process. Growing through all of the challenges of an evolving community with our students – coming from different cultural, language, social backgrounds, and school academic systems – is not only making our community stronger but giving each and every one of its members life experience and knowledge on how to live life in such a rapidly changing world. Diversity of: ages, nationalities, religions, beliefs, academic backgrounds, and knowledge shared also makes us stronger here at MFS. 

We wake up with your children at 6.30, do the morning duties (chores), cook together (Ms. Rose’s Kitchen is such a well-prepared and welcoming environment, we bake fresh bread daily and run a no-waste kitchen) eat together 4 times a day as “sharing food is sharing life”, we go to school together to study rooms well dressed (no: flip flops/ crocs, pajamas or shorts), we go swimming, to the gym and outdoors to enjoy the fresh air on our 8 and a half hectares (3,55 acres) of space here in Bialka. Then your children have midday and evening duties/chores again to meet the needs of both our community and their members – individuals, growing adolescents. By 5.00 – the only hour and a half – of free time – the students/community members now want to spend time together to be a tribe, to share these beautiful and at times challenging moments. Mr.Rathim still takes students outdoors, now that the days have got shorter – to the local gym for an hour. At 6.30 we have evening duties, at 7.00 dinner, 7.30 after-dinner duties, and 9.30 study hall. 10.15 is lights off and 11.00 is bedtime. Younger students tend to be in bed around 8.30/9.00 and this is also an option. We sometimes also enjoy movie nights or watch some sports games together. 

We please ask, when you spend quality time with your children over the weekends both short and long, and over any school breaks to model: kindness, trust, appreciation, faith, and involvement in the real life of smaller or bigger communities/societies. Model grace and courtesy ( especially table manners and greeting people with respect), share food together, eat meals together, read books, and many more simple but at times difficult moments of life. Without your partnership, our community will not develop and evolve. We need you to hear as much as we need your students and all of our dedicated staff members. 

MFS Folwark Bialka Staff and their disciplines and shared passions: 

– Languages spoken in the Community: English language of communication for all, Polish language of communication for most (bilingualism), Spanish as a second/third language, Italian, Ukrainian/Russian, German – native languages of our students. 

– Language classes: English with Ms. Madhura and Spanish with Mr. Gustavo, Language Consultation – preparation for the 8th-grade exam by Mr. Przemek Przychodniak our IB DP Language specialist and ORE Examination as of March. 

– Humanities: Polish with Ms. Ewa and History with Mr. Jacek – Math in Polish with Mr. Leszek and Math in English with Mr. Ashan or Mr. Szymon if consultations are needed. 

– Sciences: biology: beekeeping and taking care of our bee farm with Mr Lukasz and our green keepers throughout the whole 4 seasons (Founder’s Garden, green house, orchard and herbal and vegetable garden), geography Ms. Edyta Zawisza, professor at Polish Academy of Science (PAN), Physics and Chemistry with Mr. Marek “the professor” who is also our IBDP (International Baccalaureate Diploma Program) specialist. 

Barn Duty with Mr. Rathin, who also takes the students to the gym daily and does yoga and photography classes with them. Mr Rathin is not only a certified yoga instructor but also a very talented and sensitive artist. ‘Woodshed Weekly’ is also run by Mr.Rathin. 

– Self Expression: Music and Drama with Ms. Magda (Peace Song Performance, preparation for our Christmas Concert on December 21st in Warsaw at Och-Teatr). Private piano classes take place on Wednesday evenings with Ms. Nina. The students are welcome to practice in their free time in the piano room as well as to get some guitar guidance from Mr. Gustavo

– Microeconomics with Mr. Rathin: weekly market-sale trips, before moving to online store preparation (we will welcome various experts to share their knowledge) planning a budget for our Sicily trip, shopping: Lidl, market, and more, budgeting and hosting three elementary groups from Warsaw Montessori School, pumpkin sales to Warsaw Montessori Family Schools. 

– Psychology – last week we started weekly sessions with CBT psychologist Ms. Emilia Pozarowszczyk, the students are welcome to visit Ms Emilia in room number two for 30-60 minute sessions weekly. These are only consultations, in case of any further needs to be met, diagnosed, and taken care of – MFS will ask you directly to take care of it. The parents are then responsible both financially and organisationally for setting up extra individual sessions. 

– Sports: we started with football, capturing the flags, ping pong, and badminton outdoors when weather permits, as movement makes your children smarter. Now we move to the gym daily, enjoy chess sessions with Mr. Adam twice a week, and do yoga with Mr. Rathin. 

Text Books: We will not be providing textbooks here at the Montessori Farm School, we will only use them as resource materials along with our study guides (karty pracy) and study notebooks used for each of the disciplines. 

“Expecting a kid to learn only from a textbook is like asking them to look at a travel brochure and calling it a vacation” 

I found this quote in September 2016 when building our Middle School Community (yellow villa/Tatrzanska) in Warsaw to show the parents that we really do not need textbooks (podreczniki) and grades (oceny, we will only have them mid and end of the year to meet the expectations of the 8th-grade exam system) and that both are limiting your child’s academic and social growth at this important time in their lives. 

We have successfully entered the third month of the second year of the existence of our Montessori Farm School: 

– the first farm school in Poland with a residential aspect 

– the school of experience of the elements of social life 

– the center for study and work built for your children to guide them, 

– to work side by side with them in this difficult time of adolescence 

This will not be possible without: 

– You – the Parents and your trust and partnership 

– Your children – our students/adolescents whom we love and accept as much as you do 

– and our beautiful and dedicated Staff who have been working very hard for the last 12 weeks to make this dream of the very first farm school in Poland come true. 

I would also like to acknowledge our House Parents Ms. Wachira, Mr. Ahsan, and Mr. Gustavo for their hard work over the afternoon and night shifts, and Ms. Kinga whom you do not see in our weekly pictures but who is with us at all times virtually, making sure tickets are bought and orders are made and Ms. Kasia our housekeeper who helps us keep this palace in order. 

Masks are off now and you read this letter while we as staff, alongside our students are preparing for Thanksgiving this week, last week we celebrated Diwali – the Indian festival of lights, with a visit from a group of teachers from a Montessori school in Checkia on Wednesday and Thursday this week, and On-Line Parents Conferences during the week of November 27th. We are also in the process of getting ready for the Annual Christmas Concert (December 21st at Och-Teatr in Warsaw) with our Christmas Sale and finally planning for White School (February 25th – March 2nd) as we are experiencing our first snow this year already in Bialka… 

Thank you for being with us and making this place such a wonderful school of experience in the elements of social life, the upper school (high school) opening is not only planned now but its grand opening is confirmed for September 2024 as expected because here at our Montessori Farm School we believe unlike much of the cultural messaging about adolescents (teens) and their struggles, that the vision of adolescence that Montessori education supports is inspiring and hopeful. 

Malgosia Tarnowska