Archive for News

“How to Raise an Adult” Montessori Parents in Action (MPIA) Parent Workshop

In this seemingly competitive world that at times may feel like an achievement arms race, it is tempting to do everything in your power to make sure your child succeeds. Many parents jump in to solve problems for their children, schedule every waking hour of the day,  over supervise daily activities and academic work, and offer an abundance of praise all along the way.  But is that really what will make your child become a successful adult? How will the real world feel to a young adult who has grown up having their problems solved for them, having all obstacles moved out of their way, and accustomed to praise at every turn?

Join us on January 18 at 8:30 am for a Montessori Parents in Action (MPIA) group discussion on Julie Lythcott-Haims book, How to Raise an Adult.

We hope you will join in on this important discussion. Don’t worry if you haven’t read the book. This event is open to the public but we do ask that you call the main office to RSVP. We will have great information to take with you!  To find out more about the author, visit her website at

Life After Montessori: An Alumni Parent Workshop

Please join us on Thursday, January 17 at 6:00 pm for one of our favorite events of the year! We are thrilled to welcome back Five Oaks Academy Alumni and invite them to participate in a panel discussion about their transition to high school and beyond.

If you would like to attend, kindly respond by clicking on this Eventbrite link to register –

We are always excited to have our alumni back “home” on campus! We can’t wait for you to meet them, listen to their life stories, and hear how they feel prepared for their future thanks to their experience at Five Oaks Academy!

Discover and Develop Your Child’s Unique Strengths

We all want our children to be successful but what exactly does that mean and how do we guide our children towards success? Humans generally feel successful when they know they excel at something. Certified Gallup Strengths Coaches Chandra White and Renee Anderson from WellSmart Solutions recently spoke to the FOA community on the topic of “Strengths”. They provided us with insight on how parents can start on the journey to guiding their children in discovering and developing their unique strengths while focusing on their own as well.  

Chandra and Renee began their session with the definition of talent and the relationship between talent and strengths. They explained that talents are naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling or behavior. Strengths are simply talents that are developed and can be productively applied. It is our job as parents to help our children “lean into” and develop their natural talents so they become strengths, thus leading them towards excellence or success. They stressed that while guiding your child toward success you want to look at what is right, not wrong, with them. This starts with recognizing your child’s unique talents and simultaneously letting go of pushing them to be who they are not. Begin by noticing what they are naturally good at doing as well as what they gravitate towards automatically. Another indicator of a strength is when an activity leaves a child energized.

Furthermore, Chandra and Renee explained that when parents focus on using their child’s natural talents and develop them into strengths, they can use the child’s strengths to manage their weakness much better. One example given was if a child hates math facts but is “competitive”, a parent can use their child’s competitive strength to create a math game to practice their math facts, thus making it about winning the game and not about the math facts. Another example was if a child struggles in reading and has “determination” as a strength, a parent could emphasize the child’s determination to push through difficult work. Shifting the focus makes it no longer about reading, but about the child’s determined spirit. It is important to note that the research indicates that a weakness will never become a talent or strength so it is best to point your child towards the management of their weakness versus expecting excellence.

Renee walked us through what it means to be mindful versus “mind full”. She emphasized how adding a mindful practice of only 8-10 minutes a day can help the mind by improving the working memory, focus, concentration as well as reducing anxiety and depression and the body by increasing energy, improved stamina, and reducing pain and inflammation. Yoga and meditation are two types of formal mindful practices that are beneficial. She also encouraged informal practices such as self-awarenesses where you are deliberately paying attention while driving, showering, or washing the dog.

As parents seek to develop talents into strengths, it is important to notice the natural talents, encourage them to develop in their child and then help the child share them with the world. It is then that the child will feel truly successful. Pairing a child’s strengths with a mindful practice will enable them to not only feel successful but live a healthy and purposeful life.

We look forward to having Chandra and Renee back for future parenting workshops! They have amazing knowledge and a passion for helping people discover their strengths so they can live the best life possible!

Thandi Tutu-Gxashe Shares Her Story With FOA Students

Five Oaks Academy was honored to welcome Thandi Tutu-Gxashe, CEO of Desmond Tutu Tutudesk Campaign “Tutudesk Campaign 2020”, on Monday, November 26. Ms. Tutu-Gxashe is the daughter of Desmond Tutu, a highly influential leader of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. She has lived, worked and been educated in the UK, Swaziland, Botswana and the USA. Ms. Tutu-Gxashe echoes her parent’s vision of equality and the importance of education. Her sincere, warm, and gentle nature instantly captivated her audience of FOA elementary and middle school students.  She shared her passion for education and her drive to address the issue of the vast shortage of desks in sub-Saharan Africa. Our students were stunned to learn there are over 90 million students who had no hard surface to write on and who are literally working on the floor of a classroom or under a tree.

The “Tutudesk Campaign 2020” aims to address the shortage of 90 million desks in sub-Saharan Africa, by providing 20 million Tutudesks to 20 million children by 2020. The Tutudesk is an environmentally friendly, light, portable desk that children can use at school or at home, in regular classrooms or under a tree. The organization’s goal is to improve the lives of African children, their communities and countries, and to make Africa a more globally competitive continent by impacting education and literacy. Ms. Tutu-Gxashe gifted FOA with 3 Tutudesks for our Five Oaks students to use. For more information and to make a donation, please visit In addition to education, Ms. Tutu-Gxashe is passionate about many public health issues, especially in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

We are so appreciative of the time Thandi Tutu-Gxashe extended to our students. Her dedication and drive are such an inspiration to us all!  A special thank you to Upper Elementary student, Charles A., for contacting Ms. Tutu-Gxashe and coordinating her to visit FOA.

Mindfulness-Based Strength Development Workshop

Please join us for Montessori Parents in Action (MPIA)  this Friday, November 16 from 8:30am-10: 00 am at Five Oaks Academy for a workshop on “Mindfulness-Based Strength Development”.

Renee Anderson and Chandra White of Wellsmart Solutions will be at FOA to discuss how to strengthen the foundation of family and ensure your child’s positive, successful growth by developing mindfulness-based strengths. This event is open to the community! Grab a friend and join us for coffee, a lite breakfast treat, and learning about our strengths as parents and those of our children.

Make your Mark; Empowering Young People with the Skills They Need to be Successful in the 21st Century

Five Oaks Academy invites you to “Make Your Mark”, a Synergy event, featuring international consultant, trainer, and author, Jonathan Wolff, in an exploration of the life skills needed for success in today’s world and tomorrow’s. This event will be held on Wednesday, October 24 at 6:00 p.m. at the Five Forks Library Meeting Room.

The students of today need more skills beyond facts, figures, and formulas. Jonathan Wolff will examine the types of abilities needed in a world with increasing demands in higher order thinking, social intelligence, and self-organization. He will discuss how to not only produce outstanding scholars, but more importantly, empower young people to think for themselves, think of others, and think outside-of-the-box.

Please register for this event by visiting

We welcome you to the Five Oaks Academy campus the following morning, Thursday, October 25, at 8:30 a.m. for a Montessori Parents in Action  (MPIA) meeting as we continue the discussion with Jonathan Wolff on the skills needed for young people to feel successful, happy, healthy, and productive.

FOA’s Fall Community Day a Big Success

FOA held the first Community Day of the school year on Friday, September 21. As a small school, it is hard to get everything done around campus and in the classroom. Our community members of students, parents, and faculty members came together and GOT IT DONE!!!  It was such a wonderful day of hard work, sweat, laughter, and, community building!

We would like to thank all of the volunteers who spent their valuable time with us on this fun and crazy day! We accomplished so much more than we ever could have on our own. It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a village to keep a small school looking good!

An additional thank you to the following business for your generous donations that helped make this event a complete success:

Jet’s Pizza for donating pizza to all of our hardworking volunteers at lunchtime, Flatrock Family Dentistry for providing popsicles to our hot student, parent and teacher volunteers, Charlene Panek, C. Dan Joyner Real Estate for keeping our volunteers hydrated with cold waters, Arbor Master Tree Care (Stephen Swafford and team) for bringing your awesome truck to our campus, Lowe’s Home Improvement for 50% off of everything we purchased from them, The Home Depot for donating the supplies to build the Gaga Ball pit, and Felicity’s Flowers & Design for donating donated flowers for our students to plant and make our campus beautiful


We would like to thank our 2018-2019 Title Partners for their support of all our school events!


FOA Celebrates Diversity During an International Tea

Every year at our International Tea we celebrate the unique cultural differences and backgrounds we have at Five Oaks Academy (FOA). Our community is very diverse with approximately 30 different countries and areas of the world represented within our student body and their families. On Friday, September 7, we gathered together to share our heritage and the stories of how we ended up in Simpsonville, SC while tasting yummy treats from all over the world.

In addition to the International Tea, we also hold an International Festival in May each year. This year, we will celebrate FOA’s cultural richness by creating an international cookbook. We are asking all FOA families and friends to participate by contributing their favorite recipes. The cookbooks will be available for purchase before the holidays and would make a wonderful present for family and friends. Please contact the school for details on how to submit a recipe or how to purchase a cookbook.




Thank you to our 2018-2019 Title Partners for their support of our community events and especially Monica Parkkonen of Monica Parkkonen Photography for taking these beautiful pictures for us to remember this special day.








FOA Student’s Research Project Comes to Life

 Africa and Asia were the two continents that the Lower Elementry program focused on during their cultural and historical studies last year. For the final project of the year, Lower Elementary students were asked to pick one African or Asian country to research, create a visual to share, and finally present to the other students. FOA student, Alex McCall, knew his family had planned a trip for early August to go to Kenya to witness the Great Migration in hopes of seeing hundreds of thousands of wildebeest cross the Mara River. Knowing about his trip at the end of the summer, naturally, Alex picked Kenya for his project.

The project was the perfect way for Alex to learn about the country he would be visiting. He learned some phrases and important words in Swahili. He learned about the geography and different animals that call Kenya home. He also learned about the current president, Uhuru Kenyatta, who is the son of a former president of Kenya and well-liked by his countrymen.

Imagine the McCalls surprise when they met President Kenyatta while waiting for their flight at a tiny airport near Mt. Kenya! Alex recognized President Kenyatta from his project research and was able to greet him by name as he approached. The president was quite taken with this young American boy bursting with excitement at the prospect of meeting him. He stopped and shook hands with Alex and his sister, Maddie. President Kenyatta proceeded to ask them questions about their visit to Kenya, the animals they had seen, and about their favorite part of their trip so far.


Upon returning to the US, Maddie and Alex shared photos, souvenirs, and even African candy with their classmates allowing them to share in their amazing experience.  

Polish Educators Embrace U.S. Colleagues and Create Long-Lasting Bond

The distance between Warsaw, Poland, and Simpsonville, SC, is more than 4,800 miles, and the cultural differences between Poland and the United States can be vast, but for a group of Montessori administrators and educators who participated in a recent exchange program, their newfound bonds have made those miles and seeming differences feel insignificant.

It all started in February 2017, when Kathleen Trewhella-Grant, founding Executive Director of Five Oaks Academy, and Paul Epstein, Ph.D., a renowned international author and speaker on Montessori methods, were invited to present a three-day Leadership Series in Warsaw by the Polish Montessori Institute.   

More than 70 heads of schools from throughout Poland attended the training and lecture program.  

“The participants’ enthusiasm for Montessori was amazing and their thirst for knowledge and continuous improvement was simply heartwarming,” said Trewhella-Grant on her return.  She noted that the growth of modern Montessori schools is exploding throughout Poland, with the number of schools tripling in recent years, and more and more training centers popping up as well.    

Considering the growth of Montessori in Poland, Trewhella-Grant and Epstein were natural choices as speakers for the Leadership Series.  South Carolina has more Montessori schools than any other U.S. state, and the Polish administrators were anxious to discuss mutual experiences about the management of rapid expansion.

Trewhella-Grant and Epstein came away from the visit impressed with the innovation they saw, whether it was in city schools or small-town schools. For example, Trewhella-Grant notes that new modern schools are being built with distinctly clean designs and large open spaces for an enhanced learning environment, as supported by research on optimal school and classroom design.    

At the conclusion of the Leadership Series, the program received overwhelmingly positive feedback – so positive in fact, that Joanna Maghen, head of the Polish Montessori Institute, asked Trewhella-Grant if she and Five Oaks Academy would be willing to host a group from Poland to visit South Carolina.

“It’s rare to consult a group that is so motivated, that shows so much gratitude and resilience,” said Trewhella-Grant.  In others words, her answer was a resounding yes.

The timing for the exchange visit (beginning in late February 2018) was designed to coincide with South Carolina Montessori Education Week, which was proclaimed by South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, and is a period to recognize both Montessori’s promotion of respect among children and peace to humankind, as well as Montessori schools and educators for their contributions to South Carolina students.  

“The exchange visit was a way for us to celebrate Montessori Education Week in a very big way,” said Trewhella-Grant.  “Through the commonality of children’s studies, we are in fact fostering global connections and promoting international relations that enable us to understand one another better. It’s extremely valuable for students and world communities as a whole.”  

The group of 11 from Poland, including heads of schools, teacher trainees and teachers, arrived for their eight-day learning adventure bearing multiple gifts, ranging from a beautiful Polish tea set to books on Poland and handmade Montessori lesson cards.   Their packed agenda included a mix of lectures and training sessions, combined with classroom observations in Greenville, Columbia and Charleston, SC, as well as fun and sightseeing in Greenville and Charleston. In addition to Five Oaks, schools welcoming the Polish visitors included the private Montessori School of Greenville, hosted by owner Robin Bylenga; the private Montessori School of Columbia, hosted by Head of School Karen Kuse; and the charter school East Cooper Montessori, hosted by Principal Jody Swanigan.  

Kuse, of the Montessori School of Columbia, said, “Having the group of Polish teachers visit our school was a wonderful treat. The children noted that Montessori is global, music is universal, and people share common emotions, regardless of where they live.”

As to preparations for the visit, she said: “Prior to their visit, our students learned how to say welcome in Polish and to identify Poland on the map. After welcoming the teachers to our school, many of our students have been noticing Polish artifacts or choosing to research Poland. In Montessori, we call this a ‘Key Experience’ — an exciting lesson or event that sparks an interest and facilitates further learning.”

The feelings of accomplishment were mutual among the visiting Polish educators.  One of the participants said she felt “overjoyed” at the opportunity to experience the classroom environment at Five Oaks Academy and the other schools, noting she was particularly impressed with the U.S. schools’ documentation of lessons, as well as the open and natural communication style with the students.

Among some of the sightseeing and cultural highlights for the visitors included shopping and eating in downtown Greenville; stops at Shem Creek and the Isle of Palms; a Charleston Harbor boat tour; and a BBQ farewell luncheon hosted by Five Oaks Academy.

The U.S. and Polish delegations remain in touch and look forward to future opportunities to work in tandem for the ultimate benefit of Montessori students in both their countries.



Susan S. Nichols is a freelance business writer and former B2B magazine publisher with more than 25 years media and marketing experience. She may be reached at