Like many working mothers, I struggled with how to approach childcare for my daughter. I came to learn about the Montessori philosophy when my daughter was only 11 months old and my mom was no longer able to care for her. As someone who holds a Ph.D. in Mathematics, I value education highly. But as a mother, I was desperate to find a place where I felt good about leaving my daughter for 8-10 hours a day. I went through a lot of internal struggles regarding my decisions with her childcare; should I quit the career that I worked so hard to build? Should I leave my precious daughter with strangers that I do not know? Which school is better? Do more expensive preschools mean they are better? It was not easy and the guilt ate me up!
During the three years when my daughter was between the ages of 1 and 4, we had changed FOUR preschools! While I won’t divulge in the details, I will say that I never felt like my daughter was in the right place. Sometimes it was because I did not feel like she was safe or it was not the best environment for her. I was constantly worried if she was at the best place she could be. I am not saying these places were necessarily bad; they were just not the right fit for us. I met amazing teachers, administrators, and families. Many of these schools were Montessori, but I did not feel like we belonged until we moved to Maui.
In Maui we enrolled at South Maui Montessori Hale O Keiki (MHOK) preschool. And now I had a younger son who was enrolled at Kihei Baptist. Here, things were different. MHOK was different. Somehow we fit. I trusted them. I felt safe and at peace when I dropped my daughter off and went to work. I loved the Montessori approach they used. And so it was absolutely heartbreaking when we got the unfortunate news that MHOK is closing after 27 years of operating in Kihei.
The news of the closure made me think about all the children that are attending the preschool and the fact that most preschools have a long waitlist. It made me think how all the working parents (including me) were stressed about a closure of a place they felt safe to leave their child at, no longer would exist; and about all the great employees that will have to look for new employment.
In cases like this, it is easy to think that someone else will solve the big (community) problem. It is easy to think that, ‘…really I only need to worry about my childcare needs.’ However, I struggled with this. I had to do something. I could no longer stand aside and try to find another school, or nanny for myself, while so many families would be struggling to do the same.
This is when I began to engage with the families of MHOK, my friends, community members, government employees, and so on. What I realized in my time talking to these people, is that the community of Kihei, Wailea, Kahului and Wailuku and its surrounding areas are desperate for childcare services. Living in an area where tourism is the most lucrative business, it is natural for a business startup to go into that industry. I have wanted to start a business for a long time, but I never had a good idea, that niche, that desire to go into something. When I realized how desperate families and community members were for childcare services in Kihei, I knew what I had to do! My love for Montessori education and children made it easy to come up with the idea to open my own Montessori school, and so it is how Little Hoku Montessori Academy was born.
It has not been a very long journey, as this idea came to be just a few months ago, but it has been an incredibly challenging time in my life. As someone who is working full-time, with two little kids, it has been trying to say the least, but also very rewarding. Establishing this school is a dream come true, a dream I never realized I had, but nonetheless a destiny I am certain to fulfill. I know Little Hoku will be successful because I am making every decision from the perspective of a mother. I hope that you join me on this journey to help raise and educate our children in a safe learning environment.
The process of opening the school has been challenging for me, and I would not have been able to accomplish it without the support of my friends, family, community, parents, and teachers. It is important that I mention all of those that have helped.
I would like to thank my husband, Nader Naderi, and my kids for making it possible to achieve my goal. Nader held down the fort and took care of the kids for the past four months, so that I can shift my focus to Little Hoku and all the while supporting me through my trials and tribulations. There were so many moments where I thought I would just give up. He did not let me quit even at the times that I could not see a path forward. I would also like to thank Hans Huber for the unspeakable support to bring our Little Hoku to existence. Julie Kover, the Director of Kihei Baptist, for her support, knowledge, and advice. Kihei Lutheran Church and its Congregation for working with us to make this happen for our community. Also, Kristen Schiffman, Director of MHOK for her financial advice. Thank you to Roshanak Hafezi for all the brainstorming and strategic help, even when halfway across the world! My friend Alisa Shtromberg for all those sleepless nights working on our website, Facebook page, forms, and many aspects that formed the school, including building its brand. Jackee Domingo for her nonstop guidance and support. Also the State of Hawaii Department of Human Services, the County of Maui, and all the supportive parents and friends.
Dr. Shadi Naderi
Owner and Head of School
Little Hoku Montessori Academy