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Our History

1965 - Parent Study Group Begins Primary Class

In 1965, a parent study group dedicated to the educational theories of Dr. Maria Montessori came together and hired Montessori trained teachers to begin teaching their children. The new Montessori Primary class has 12 children enrolled and meets at the North Shore Unitarian Church in Lake Forest.

1966 - MSLF Founded

A group of dedicated parents from the study group found the Montessori School of Lake Forest as a not-for-profit organization. It becomes the fifth Montessori school established in the state of Illinois. Twenty students form the first official class at MSLF.

1967 - Primary Classroom Added

An afternoon class for Primary aged children is added. Enrollment grows to 31.

1968 - New Program for Two-Year-Olds

The beginnings of a Toddler program is created, when a class for two-year-old children is added. Enrollment increases to 40 children.

1969 - Foreign Language Program Introduced

A French program is introduced for the Primary children. Written in a February 1969 newsletter: “A French Program is to expose a child in the 3-6 year old group to new sounds and to teach him how to pronounce these sounds correctly. At this young age, the child’s adaptability to new situations, the flexibility of his oral muscles, and his freedom from psychological blocks, all conspire to allow him to repeat with near perfection the sounds he hears.

1969 - New Location Purchased

Property for the school is purchased at 1180 S Western Avenue in Lake Forest, under the name Montessori Society of Lake Forest, Inc. An open house held on November 20 includes discussion about a permanent site for the school, moving the discussion beyond the board members and staff to include parents of the school. Bob Tschetter (Board Treasurer, 1968-1969, Board President 1969-1971) is instrumental in negotiating for a new site and building for the school.The Primary class is led by Mrs. Joan Karstrom and assisted by Mrs. Marchand, and the school enrolls 45 children. Plans to add an additional afternoon class are discussed, to start in January 1970.

1970 - Successful School Year Ends – Plans For the Future

A very successful school year comes to a close and plans for a new building continue to be discussed, but are postponed due to the lack of finances.

All staff members will enthusiastically return for the next school year, including Full Day Directress Mrs. Joan Karstrom and Mrs. Katharine Kenneth, who was hired as the first administrator, As Administrative Directress, Mrs. Kenneth was engaged in both teaching and administrative functions. Enrollment is at 50 students.

1971 - First Summer Session

In July 1971, the first summer session is held at the Quaker Meeting House, Old Elm and Ridge Road in Lake Forest. The summer program will have familiar Montessori materials plus Montessori oriented work in nature, art, music and movement.

1971 - School Moves to New Building

Montessori Society of Lake Forest, Inc. moves to building at 1180 S. Western Avenue in Lake Forest. Only morning classes are held when the school year begins on September 13, 1971, with 40 students enrolled.On Sunday, October 24, 1971, the new building was officially dedicated. Mrs. Judy Siegel, Board President, was Master of Ceremonies. There was good attendance by parents of past, present and prospective students.Also in attendance were Mrs. Keith Bohlig, a founder, with her two alumni children and mother; Mrs. Kenneth; Mary Small from the Illinois Montessori Society, as well as several teachers from area schools. All directresses and interns were present too. Brian Kent was noted as instrumental as Building Committee Chairman.

1972 - Afternoon Classes Added

Afternoon classes are added to accommodate demand. Enrollment increases to 70 children.

1973 - New Vision for Growth

Katherine Kenneth shares her vision: “a vision that MSLF would grow slowly, but steadily…allowing the children to further their skills and insights…that little boys and girls would experience the joy of learning…that children would be active in music, gym, and foreign language classes, directed by a staff willing to learn and grow. Enrollment expands to 78 children.

1974 - Additional Space Needed for Expansion

Additional space is rented at Woodlands Academy, to accommodate the addition of a new Primary class. Enrollment expands to 84 students.

1975 - Celebrating 10th Anniversary

MSLF celebrates the 10th anniversary of the first gathering of parents to create the school. Morning, afternoon and Saturday classes are initiated for children 18-30 months. Enrollment increases to 90 children.

1976 - First Fundraiser Held

The first fundraiser is held, an auction at the Drake Theater at Barat College in Lake Forest. Enrollment stands at 90 students.

1978 - Toddler Program Begins

Sonja Koenig starts the formal Toddler program at the Friends Meeting House. In the February 1978 newsletter, she writes, “the classroom has provided us the opportunity to have an indoor gym area, and the outdoor environments around the Meeting House have proven to be a scene of wonderful discoveries.”Due to the increasing demand for programs for children under three years of age, there will be three classes during the next semester: one for children 18-24 months, one for children 2-2.5 years, and one for 2.5-3 year olds.There are 90 children enrolled.

1981 - Lissa Hektor Hired as Executive Director

Lissa Hektor is hired as the school’s first Executive Director. Hektor came to the school in 1978, as an intern working under Pat Johnson in a Primary class. By 1980, she was teaching and coordinating the Toddler program. Enrollment reaches 100 students.

1982 - Enrollment Grows; Second Location For Classes Needed

In September 1982, enrollment grows to 126, and MSLF offers classes in both Lake Forest and Lake Bluff. Children 3-6 years of age will be served at the schools own building at 1180 South Western Avenue in Lake Forest. Classes for two year olds and and an additional 3-6 class will be held at the Lake Bluff East Elementary School on Sheridan Place in Lake Bluff.

1985 - School Celebrates 20th Anniversary

MSLF board, faculty, parents and children celebrate the schools 20th Anniversary with an ice cream social. Enrollment has grown to 168 students.

To better provide for expanding enrollment, MSLF search for a site suitable for consolidating all of MSLF’s programs.

In 1988, MSLF purchased property in unincorporated Lake County and retained the architectural firm of Serena & Sturm to design a facility to accommodate a full service school, offering Full Day as well as Parent Infant, Toddler, Primary, and Elementary programs. MSLF moved into the new 23,000 square foot facility as scheduled in the fall of 1990, a fitting celebration of MSLF’s twenty-fifth year.

In October 1997, MSLF added two spacious new Elementary classrooms, allowing faculty and staff to re-occupy their conference room and faculty lounge. In February 2000, MSLF added a Multipurpose Room and Parent Infant room. This 5,000 square feet expansion also included a nurse’s office, a music room, and tutoring rooms.

In August 2002, MSLF opened its Adolescent Program, one of the first land-based Montessori adolescent programs in the nation. The Adolescent Program serves students 12 to 15 years old, and is located on farmland at Prairie Crossing in Grayslake, Illinois, nine miles west of MSLF’s main campus in west Lake Forest.

In 2003, MSLF completed its Outdoor Learning and Discovery Project, which provided classroom yards, playgrounds, prairie, woodland, additional gardens, and reconfigured drives and parking lots.

In 2007, MSLF purchased property at Prairie Crossing to build a permanent facility for the Adolescent Program.

The Montessori School of Lake Forest continues to pursue Dr. Montessori’s philosophy of educating children. MSLF serves more than 200 students from 30 communities. The school continues to thrive by offering excellence in Montessori education. MSLF’s stability is due to the generosity of the school community: Board members, parents, faculty, and staff, who give of themselves on behalf of their children, and the children of the future.