While our Back to School issue guest-edited by Giovanna Fletcher is focused on school-aged children, we wanted to make sure we also touched on nurseries, because starting nursery is just as momentous a step for parents and their kids as starting 'big school' is.
We spoke to Sarah, Duchess of York as she was named Chair of the newly formed International Montessori Ambassadors group in June. The Duchess shared her memory of enrolling her younger daughter Princess Eugenie at a Montessori nursery in Windsor in 1992 – and why she is so passionate about the Montessori approach, which "encourages a love of learning and curiosity".
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When asked what she remembers about Eugenie's first day of nursery, the Duchess told HELLO!: "I remember her first day very well actually, very well. I was really impressed by the way the school was.
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"And I researched, for many years now, Maria Montessori, who started it, and why she thought it was so important to let the child be free enough to describe what they want. And it suited Eugenie, absolutely down to a tee, because she's a very strong character, and I wonder whether her love of History of Art came from an early age. She loves to see something aesthetically. I'm sure it came from her nursery."
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One of the changes the Duchess and mother-of-two hopes to introduce, is bringing even more kindness into nurseries.
"She's a very strong character," Sarah said of her younger daughter
She revealed: "When Leonor Stjepic, CEO of the Montessori Group, said, 'What would you like to see in Montessori schools?' I said 'Kindness.' And I would love to talk to you about that. That is the KQ – kindness quotient from the Kindness Foundation. They made this KQ quota and what I would like to do is to bring the KQ into all Montessori schools so that young children, when they join, they have to tick the kindness quotient.
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"And so I'm very excited to join forces with Montessori globally, and not only just on bringing kindness into primary education, but also going around and travelling, reading to children at primary schools. It's really where I live with all my children's books."
Eugenie attended school in Windsor after going to a Montessori nursery
The Duchess, who has written over 20 children's books and features daily in her Storytime with Fergie and Friends YouTube channel for kids, remains just as passionate about the Montessori approach as she was when her daughter was a little girl.
"The Montessori approach encourages a love of learning and curiosity that is life-long, and this is something I'm very passionate about," she said. "It's just as needed in today's world as it was 100 years ago when Dr Maria Montessori developed her pedagogy. I'm looking forward to supporting the Montessori Group to reach more children, and ensure they get the best start in life."
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