Mom Talk: Q&A With Pamela Strode of Strode Montessori

The founder of the first Montessori daycare and preschool on O‘ahu shares tips for a smooth back-to-school transition.


Strode Family

Photo: Sky and Reef Photography


“You can only control the things you can control,” Pamela Strode explains her mantra for home, work and everything in between. “From time management to modeling positive behavior, I try to put this into practice each day.” In fact, when she found out there wasn’t a Montessori center for children under the age of two anywhere on the island, she took control and started her own.


After falling in love with the Montessori approach during her master’s program at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and seeing the deep need for quality early education here, she founded Strode Montessori in 2011. Now, the in-demand Downtown daycare and preschool enrolls keiki ages 6 weeks to 6 years.


As a mom of three littles herself (ages 6, 4 and 2), an educator and school administrator, Pamela knows a thing or two about the anxious, yet exciting, back-to-school season. We chatted with her to find out how her family navigates the transition and to get advice for local kids (and parents, too) on starting the new year in stride.


How do you juggle the demands of work and family?

Finding time for myself, whether it is a workout class or getting together with girlfriends, allows me to be a better version of myself. Some days feel fun and easy, and some days feel like I’m barely keeping my head above water, but every day is an opportunity to start fresh.


What Montessori tactics are helpful at home?

I think the best thing that you can do at home from a Montessori approach is positive reinforcement. I even use it with my husband. Be very specific with your praises like, “I see you emptied the dishwasher, or there are no toys on the ground!” Verbalizing the little things that you notice can help to show your gratitude but also causes your partner or children to want to continue doing those things because they feel seen and appreciated.


Can you share advice on how to select a daycare or preschool?

Start early, very early. Many centers, like ours, have a year-long waitlist! Allow yourself time to either tour schools in-person or take virtual tours. You also need to ask the important questions: What is the school’s philosophy? What are the hours and holiday schedule? Is lunch provided? What’s your staff-to-child ratio? How do you handle discipline?


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What are some of your favorite back-to-school must-haves?

I try to stay away from school supplies that can be distracting, so my kids pick a favorite color instead of a character for lunchboxes and backpacks. Then we label EVERYTHING! I use a Wite-Out pen for all my kids’ slippers, which stays on really well.


Favorite school snacks?

Our go-to these days are That’s It fruit bars and pouches, lots of pouches.


What were the best things you did as a family this summer?

When school is closed, I like to unplug (literally) and get in the water. Our favorite is Kuli‘ou‘ou Beach Park because it’s shallow, and the kids can just run and play for days. Makapu‘u is fun, too, with the tidepools. We also go camping at Malaekahana every year with friends.


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Tips on how to prepare for the new school year

  • Getting on a consistent sleep schedule is really important. Make sure that your bedtime routine starts early enough so that your child can be the best version of themselves in the morning and not wake up tired or groggy.
  • To squelch anxiety, talk through any social situations your child is nervous about. Discuss how they will problem-solve if the scenario arises.
  • Work together to pack your child’s backpack, so they know what’s inside. Ensure they can open their lunchbox, fold their nap blanket, etc.
  • Ask your teacher for the daily schedule and review it with your child, so they know what to expect.


Strode Montessori

Following Montessori principles, Strode leads the way while nourishing the children’s individual spirit and freedom of movement. Photo: Courtesy of Pamela Strode


What is Montessori?

Developed by Dr. Maria Montessori in the early 1900s in Italy, the child-centered educational approach puts an emphasis on hands-on learning, freedom of movement, and a physical environment designed to foster independence. Think: mixed-age groups, small staff-to-child ratio, orderly classrooms and choice of activities., @strodemontessori