Deep in the heart of Fayetteville, Georgia, a unique Montessori environment is nestled in a 14-acre forest. Embraced by a small farm, woodland gardens, and groves of trees are children ages three to 18, learning and growing, building their independence and interdependence in the land of Counterpane.
From an early-childhood literacy outreach program open to parents and their babies in the community to matriculation to college for our students, Counterpane Montessori School has been serving the Fayette community for more than 40 years.
The founder, Brenda Erickson, lives on site and continues to seek innovative ideas as she guides the school. Brenda recently sat down to talk about the past, present, and future of Counterpane.
Flipping through the pages of an old yearbook, Brenda recalled each student and staff member with incredible detail. Her love for the students and passion for what she does is unquestionable.
Following are a few highlights from our interview. ?
What was the original vision for Counterpane?
BE: To acknowledge, protect, and assist the fire – the gift – within each child, giving them permission to be! Thus the name Counterpane, from a Robert Louis Stevenson poem, “The Land of Counterpane”: education designed through the eyes of the child.
How has Counterpane grown?
BE: Counterpane grew as need was demonstrated. After completing Counterpane’s preschool program, my daughter attended a local private school and was a child with no classroom community, as she took certain classes in grade one and others in grade two. Not really ideal for a six-year-old child. A Montessori mixed-age community would have served her better. Thus Counterpane, to respond to personal need and parent requests, added elementary grades. After completing elementary at Counterpane, students went out to public and private schools in the area. It did not take long for parents to share their wish that Counterpane add the next levels – middle school and high school. One comment after six weeks in a prestigious, local, private school cemented the decision: “It’s not really worth it to be smart is it, Mom?” Such comments voiced by my children and those of other families made expanding Counterpane’s offerings to middle school and high school essential.
And it has worked! The first high school graduating class was in 1991. Every child who has graduated from Counterpane has been accepted to four-year colleges or universities. Acceptances include MIT, Brown University, Harvey Mudd, Berry College, UGA, and many schools all over the country. While the list is impressive, even more important is the fact that most often these students have gone on to graduate study, ensuring that learning is, indeed, a lifelong endeavor.
Our responsibility is not to send students to college. It is to prepare them well so they have choices!
Were there happy surprises along the way?
BE: Absolutely! The children are a constant source of surprise! We need to trust them more, observe them more, follow them more. There is so much we can learn about what education/learning should look like.
What do you envision for the next 40 years?
BE: Well, I doubt we’ll change the child and we wouldn’t want to. We’ll have to change ourselves, constantly revisiting and redesigning how we do the work of educating. Ultimately, to do Counterpane well, we must be the learners. To the extent we design from the child, Counterpane will continue to thrive because our students will thrive.”
So, who are those guys behind the trees and the caterpillar-like hedge on Highway 314?
BE: We are Counterpane Montessori School, and we take children and learning very seriously.
For more information:
839 GA-314, Fayetteville, GA 30214