Montessori Talks in Peru

Montessori Talks in Peru

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Early in November I returned to Lima, Peru to give presentations on AMI Montessori at three universities, with Susana Chavez, AMI teacher from Lima as my translator. On the first day we spoke at Universidad Femenina Sagrado Corazon for 250 people with a wonderful response. In the afternoon the talk was given at Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia. 80 invitations had been sent out and 1000+ people showed up! They stood in line around the block in the hot sun for 2 hours before the talk; we needed two additional rooms and video conferencing to accommodate the overflow; and since there was not room for the 150 people still waiting outside, I repeated the talk (how could I say “No”) and some of the attendees from the first talk who asked if they could repeat. I think Peru is ready for AMI Montessori! My last talk was given the next day at the esteemed Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, founded in 1551.

Click: SAN MARCOS


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The universities wanted to make these talks available in real time as video conferencing, but I am always afraid that I won’t be natural and relaxed, and I don’t want to discourage questions from the audience. So since I have been asked by many people to share the information from the presentations, here is a brief overview and that basis of the talk, which was presented in Portland, Oregon in 2013 was published and is available on Amazon or from Michael Olaf.

Click: THE UNIVERSAL CHILD


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I always love to talk about how neuroscientists are more and more able to explain scientifically the valuable elements of Montessori practice that we have observed over the years. One example is the need for repetition. We now understand what neurons are firing when a child is repeating a puzzle for example, and why this changes in the brain when the puzzle is “learned.” This reinforces the importance of allowing the child to repeat until he or she decided to stop.

Also we can now understand, as we learn about multiple intelligences and executive functions (see this explanation from Harvard University.

Click:  HARVARD

And how basing Montessori practice on natural human needs and tendencies, such as exploration, real work, communication, concentration, etc., is far more valuable in preparing for the years to come, than basing education on a static academic curriculum.


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Exploration begins at birth and the Montessori 0-3, Assistants to Infancy program helps parents support this need in the home. In my work around the world I find that in some countries children, like the child in this picture in Bhutan, automatically explore and participate in the work of the family which has great benefits in may ways.


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In places where this is not supported (giving children toys and other ways of being entertained instead of sharing the daily life and work) Montessori environments provide real work, called “practical life” in the Montessori environments, from very young ages and through high school. Here we see children preparing food and serving themselves in Montessori Infant Communities (age 1-2.5+) in the Torres Straits north of Australia, and in Japan.

Click: TORRES STRAIT


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The need to study and support the development of communication is ongoing in Montessori environments at any age. Here we see a mother explaining everything she is doing as she dresses the infant, and the child’s face reflects the joy of this experience. In the second picture students in 6-12 environments in Hawaii are explaining, during parents’ night how mathematical cubing is learned first with hands-on materials and then in the abstract. It was fascinating to watch the communication between the students and the parents in these groups.


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The Value of Montessori outside of the Classroom

One of the points I always stress is that Montessori is not limited to a method of education in classrooms. It has proven valuable for over 100 years in many situations and for many kinds of adults and children

Two years ago, while consulting with a Montessori school in Morocco, North Africa, I was taken to visit an orphanage because no matter what country I visit I am always interested in the lives of children in the first years of life. The babies were kept for most of the day isolated in cribs because the ratio of babies to adults makes it difficult to o anything else.

The Montessori school to help this situation so I suggested setting up a Montessori First Year orphanage project because a lot of very important changes can be made at this age with very little training and materials. One year later I gave a talk at the orphanage and found people so excited about the potential of these children, their language, movement, and general excitement with life. Above you can see the “before” and “after” pictures of this project.


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In 2003 as I was preparing to leave for my second trip to learn about Montessori with Tibetan refugees, this time to travel to Tibet, my husband gave me a New York Times story about a blind school in Lhasa. When I visited I was pleased to see Montessori materials, such as the dressing frames, being used.

I did not go into detail about this during my talks in Lima, but I would like to share a bit more of the story. While studying Chinese and Asian civilizations in university in her home in Germany, Sabriye Tenberken, who lost her sight at age 12, was stunned to learn that in Tibet blind children were living in appalling conditions—shunned by society, abandoned, and left to their own devices. The decision was instant: she would go to Tibet to help these children. She single-handedly devised a Tibetan Braille alphabet and opened the first school for the blind in Tibet, with only a handful of students. From its modest beginnings, that school has grown into a full-fledged institution for visually impaired people of all ages and in other countries.

I met one young woman who had spent the first 18 years of her life doing nothing in her home until her grandmother brought her to this school. After three years, at the time of my visit, this girl could read and write in Chinese, Tibetan, and English; she had received training as a masseuse and was preparing to move into an apartment with a fellow student where they would live independently thanks to the Practical Life skills they had been taught.

As she was giving me a tour of the school I commented on the beautiful colors painted on the walls of the school garden. She remarked, “Yes it is amazing how many visitors are unaware of the fact that we can “see” colors through our fingers. This sent me back to what I had been learning earlier (in the book “Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain.

Click: BRAIN

Here is the inspiring story of how Sabriye shone an unlikely light in a dark place. The book “My Path Leads to Tibet.”

Click: MY PATH


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Montessori With Aging and Dementia and with Refugees

Montessori Ageing Support Services, a division of the Montessori Australia Foundation, is the national organization for supporting quality of life for older Australians through the Montessori approach. This work has spread to many countries as a result of being presented at the AMI, Annual General Meeting of the Association Montessori Internationale in Amsterdam a few years ago.

Click: MONTESSORI FOR AGING

Soon after Tibet was taken over by China in 1959, as hundreds of children began to arrive in Nepal and India, the Dalai Lama said that even though food and shelter were priorities, education must begin immediately, and the educational system chosen was Montessori because of Dr. Montessori’s years of work in India. Above is a class in Dharamsala I visited and consulted with the teachers in 2002.

Today there is work being done in the AMI Montessori movement to help refugees all over the world, including those leaving Syria.

Click: AMI


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Respecting the Local Culture

Bringing Montessori to a new place, to a new country, is not an imposition of “Western” educational ideas, but a melding of what is important in the local culture. Research is done on the practical life of the culture, the language, and the arts. Above you can see pictures of the value placed on music in Tibet and Russia.

While visiting a Montessori school in Lima this month I was honored with a production given by the children. They study the history of their country through the costumes, music, dance, and stories of, in this case, the Inca civilization. In the video above you hear the wife of the Inca imploring people to follow his guidance.


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Montessori Bhutan class

Although the teacher of this class in Bhutan had earned an AMI diploma in Thailand, the observation and student teaching of the course had been waived because there were no AMI classes for this element of the training. As a result she did not what a real AMI 3-6 class looked like or how it functioned. My daughter Narda (also AMI 0-3, 3-6, and 6-12) and I took donations from schools in the USA and had furniture and materials made. Then I spent three days mentoring the teacher. The parents were so amazed that their children could actually choose materials, take them to a floor mat or table, work on them, put them back, and help each other, that they huddled around the classroom windows to watch.


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The Work of Nature

The Montessori way of meeting the needs of children is not a mental construct imposed on an empty slate. It is a discovery of what nature intended, of the potential of the child, the human, when the emphasis is on observation and discovery of this person, of creating an environment that supports life, and in learning (through good Montessori training) how to put the person in touch with the environment so he or she can make intelligent choices, concentrate, evolve. This is the true work of Nature.

As we allow children to experience nature and to learn to care for plants and animals, he experiences first hand the meeting of the same needs he has. Above you see a child who cannot yet walk alone exploring a field of flowers as he walks with what we call the GOOD walker so he can stop, sit down, pull up, move forward, and touch and smell as he desires.

Click: THE GOOD WALKER

The last two pictures are from a classroom in Moscow where children have brought the colored leaves to study, and then go on to explore leaves further through the Montessori “leaf cabinet”, and vocabulary, and art.

This has been a very brief sharing of my talks in Lima, but I hope it has been enough to give you a taste of the potential of Montessori in many ways to support the very best physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual growth and happiness of children and adults. It is my hope that with the best of this natural education we will someday have more adults who are less violent, greedy, and prejudiced, and who can strike a healthy balance in their own lives, and take pleasure in caring for others and the environment.

Blessings,
Susan

Click: SUSAN’S WEBSITE


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Although my presentations in Peru were modified depending on the audience, much of the talk was based on the one I gave in Portland, Oregon in 2013 and many of the pictures and the text for that version can be found in this book: The Universal Child, Guided by Nature: Adaptation of the 2013 International Congress Presentation

Click:  THE UNIVERSAL CHILD

Hawaii Montessori & the Chicago Cubs

Hawaii Montessori & the Chicago Cubs

For five days at the beginning of this month I consulted in a lovely Montessori school in Hawaii that began 40 years ago in a little Quonset hut with many of the problems of the tropics that I will not go into (like rats). Today it is one of the loveliest campuses I have ever seen and serves 171 children from Infant Community through middle school.

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Middle School

Since I must resist the impulse to interact with, to bond with (and then leave), the younger children when consulting, it was a pleasure to get to spend some time with the 12-15-year-olds, sharing what I have learned about this age in many countries, and to witness their excitement as they plan their trip to our nation’s capital, their volunteer work, their plans for the garden, and so much more.


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Peace Garden

One of the most beautiful areas of the school is high on a hill in the middle of the campus where a peace garden has been created; this is a place to think and be at peace, with log benches as they gather in groups to share their dreams, plan their work, and discuss creating a peaceful world. Look carefully and you can see the basketball court and the Pacific Ocean in the distance.


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All by myself

I don’t drive much as the members of our family can attest as I easily get distracted and lost (yep, a bit ADHD) so imagine my surprise when I found that I was staying in a lovely hotel 35 minutes from the school and I was going to have to follow the GPS on my iPhone and drive a strange rental car to get back and forth from school every day! I did it and feel so grown up! It is about time since I turned 73 during this trip. I even got myself to a beach and managed a selfie.


The Chicago Cubs!

When I was a cheerleader in high school I always immediately felt sorry for the loser at the end of any game, which rather dimmed the excitement of winning. So I have not since been a follower of sports.

However, one of the teachers in this school who is from Chicago is an avid admirer of the Chicago Cubs and her excitement spilled over into her class with joy and excitement as they stayed in the world series so I got caught up in the flow.

During a class meeting, run by three students in the elementary class of this teacher, there was a mention of controlling excitement over the cubs with the cheer of “go cubs go”. I raised my hand and asked if someone could explain what “go cubs go” was and this little video clip shows what they did in response to my question.


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Watching TV to follow the Cubs last game

 This is what I learned about baseball: there are 9 innings in a baseball game. “Top of the inning” means the beginning of the inning. “Bottom of the inning” means the end of the inning is coming. Each team gets to play (that means trying to hit the ball with a bat and then run around) in each inning. If there is a tie at the end of the 9 innings there is no “overtime” (I had heard that somewhere as a cheerleader) but there can be extra innings.

I learned all this because I watched the end of the last game of the World Series game, between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians, out at the hotel pool bar so people could explain to me what was happening.

When the game was tied and almost over I couldn’t stand it anymore so I went back to my hotel room to lie in the bathtub and recover. Then I decided to turn on my iPhone and see who had won and THE GAME WAS STILL GOING ON. I turned on the TV and watched the Cubs win! But now I have had enough sports for the rest of my life.


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A Little Politics

Because it was almost Halloween there was a pumpkin-carving contest at the hotel. Guess which one I voted for (hope I don’t get kicked out of the country).


The Montessori Work

Every night after a day of observing at the school I drove back to the hotel over the lovely countryside of the island and spent many quiet hours in my room going over the day’s notes, of course sometimes with a break to enjoy the sunset and to look for the giant turtles cavorting near the rocks on the beach.

I saw one large carapace (the back of the turtle) and one flipper and have several pictures of “where the turtle just was” just like my pictures from home of “where the humpback whale just was” which means lots of pictures of water.

By the end of the week I had a plan of what to share with the 12 teachers.

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There is so much work in meeting the needs of children in Montessori classes at every age and we are all striving for the best. But sometimes we forget the importance of being exact in our teaching. Two of these areas that I often find in even the best 3-6 classes are “the correct use of the metal insets and the sensorial materials. The metal inset picture above is correct, but the children in the second picture are using the color tablets and knobless cylinders incorrectly and so will not benefit from these wonderful materials.

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And OF COURSE I almost always talk about the importance of the uninterrupted (by group snack, scheduled group lessons, etc.) 3-hour work period. If you want to know more about this extremely important part of Montessori see the book “The Advanced Montessori Method, Vol 1″, the chapter, ‘My Contribution to Experimental Science.’

Once more I could share one of my favorite quotes by Dr. Montessori:

 When the children had completed an absorbing bit of work, they appeared rested and deeply pleased. It almost seemed as if a road had opened up within their souls that led to all of their latent powers, revealing the better part of themselves. They exhibited a great affability to everyone, put themselves out to help others and seemed full of good will.

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The Center and the Periphery

During my training there was one concept that made the essence of Montessori work especially clear to me and the memory of this suddenly popped into my head as I sought a focus that would reach all of the teachers. I didn’t have a picture of the illustration above on my computer so I reached out by email to friends around the world and received it from my good friend Seiko Ohara in Japan. This is the illustration (adapted above) of the “Center and the Periphery.” It guides us in just how far we have the right to affect the child.

In our work we only invite, offer, or inspire particular lessons or work, affecting the child at the periphery of his being. The most important work comes from deep inside the child where the wisdom abides.

This is rather like trusting a plant. In building compost (as they are doing at this school) one tries to provide all of the nutrients a plant needs to thrive. Warmth, light, water, and these nutrients are all provided, but it is the wisdom of the plant that accepts. The plant might grow toward the sun (phototropism) or a flower might close up when the sun goes down or when the temperature grows to cool. Exactly the correct amount of water will be taken in (unless we drastically overwater and overwhelm), and the exact amount of each nutrient in the soil will be taken in. This is the plant’s wisdom, its “center.” Cannot we do the same for the child?

This was a concept that applied to all of the classes at the school, from age 1 to 15 and we kept going back to it during the workshop to guide our discussions.

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What more can I say?

Perhaps it would be wise for all of us to become more aware of our own centers and how the influences at the periphery of our lives affect us. To realize that so much of what guides us during each day, each moment, might just be unnecessary distraction from what is really important.

With this in mind I will try to reach deep to my center during prayer and meditation, allowing myself periods of silence as I walk or sit and think, and wait for messages and inspiration  from the place where we are all connected.


rainbow

I hear babies cry and I watch them grow,
They’ll learn much more than we’ll know
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world world

From a beautiful song heard all over the islands “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”
Hear a bit here: Israel Kamakawiwoʻole

Aloha Hawaii,
Susan

http://www.susanart.net

 

 

MEXICO-ART, FOOD, MUSIC, & MONTESSORI

MEXICO—ART, FOOD, AND MONTESSORI, AUGUST 2016

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 INSTITUTO INTERNACIONAL MONTESSORI

This year it was my honor to be one of the two examiners at the AMI (Montessori Association Internationale) 0-3 course at “Instituto Internacional Montessori” in Mexico City. I have been to Mexico several times but I was never able to spend so much time in the capital. I was ready to explore the Montessori world, the art, and the food in one of the most beautiful and exciting cities in the world


ART

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Juan Manual Micher MD, “Juancho”, medical lecturer for the Montessori course (and old friend from our work in Denver) was kind enough to accompany me to the interesting parts of the city where he grew up, and his appreciation of both the traditional and the modern art and architecture was obvious. Above is just one of the many churches and the very large drawings for the murals of Diego Rivera in his final art studio.


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FOOD

Every where in the city there are the street food sellers of traditional Mexican foods and people line up for it at meal times. But even in the most elegant restaurants one can find the favorites, like this taco filled with roasted grasshoppers (chapulín), fresh cheese (queso fresco), guacamole, and mole, a sauce made with chocolate and many spices.


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MORE ART

The Soumaya museum is one of the most amazing buildings I have ever seen and the life drawing class was using statues of Rodin as their models. Brilliant. I was able to study the brushwork of some of my favorite artists and discovered that Kahlil Gibran, the author of the famous “The Prophet” was also an artist and played the violin. Here is the website in English if you would like to know more about this museum.

http://www.soumaya.com.mx/index.php/eng/


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PUEBLA

Coral Ruiz, AMI 3-6 trainer returned to her home in Puebla the same week that I arrived in Mexico and she invited me to visit her. We had been in touch for a long time about Montessori in Latin American but had never met in person. She sent a car to bring me the 2-3 hours (depending on traffic in Mexico City) to the beautiful old city of Puebla and back to Mexico City, past an erupting volcano, Popocatépetl! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popocat%C3%A9petl

First we visited her training center, Instituto Paolini de Peubla, and then walked around the lovely old city. Then she surprised me with a special lunch dish that is only available in August and that originated in Puebla. It is now famous all over the country.

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This is the famous Chiles en nogada. The name comes from the Spanish word for the walnut tree, noga. It consists of poblano chilies – which are only large enough for this recipe during August – filled with picadillo, a mixture usually containing shredded meat, herbs, fruits, and spices. It is topped with a walnut cream sauce and pomegranate seeds, giving it the three colors of the Mexican flag: green chili, white nut sauce, and red seeds. It takes at least 24 hours to make this dish and so Coral ordered my special vegetarian version ahead of time. As you can see, each dish is lovingly made and comes with a certificate of authenticity. Mine was number #4929. The restaurant was full and on every plate was Chile en nogada!

For more information on the AMI 3-6 course in Puebla, Mexico, contact: informes@montessoripaolini.com


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THE EXAMS

One of the reasons that AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) teacher training courses continue to maintain a very high quality of training is that the examiners come from other training courses, and often from other countries. So it is not just the students, but also the entire course content, the environment, and the teacher trainers themselves who are being assessed. The written and oral exam questions come from the AMI headquarters in Amsterdam and everyone is working together to keep the international standards as high as possible.

Here is a picture of the first environment of the child, and my translator Maria. “Nido” is the Italian word for “nest” and it is the name of the environment for the child from birth until he or she is walking. The Montessori students learn how we can support the way an infant sleeps, eats, is dressed and bathed, and moves his body and hands, and how all of this care lays the groundwork for the way the child will feel about the world and himself. We support the physical, mental, psychological, and spiritual aspect of development through our actions and the by what we provide in the environment in the first year. After many years in the field, I believe that the Montessori training in caring during the first year of life is the most powerful way to help support balanced and happy human beings.

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The IC or Montessori Infant Community is the environment for the child who is walking until age 2.5 or 3. It contains lovingly made and beautiful materials that support and developmentally appropriate “work” (which means “important”) that includes movement of the whole body, development of the hand, language, cooking, cleaning, polishing, music, art, dance, how to care for the environment, oneself, and each other, and so on. In this picture you can see the environment set up for exams (table in the corner) and notice that one of my own art prints graces the wall next to the dressing table where a child learns to care for his or her hair.

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Although there are many beautiful gardens throughout the city, space is limited and so this school and training center have created a special stairway where there are appropriate risers and handrails for adults and children both to walk up and down to the roof top garden.

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Here the children can climb and ride vehicles and they grow the vegetables that they prepare in the infant community and the flowers they use to make small flower arrangements to decorate the environment. They can climb and enjoy special meals. Also on the roof there is a place for the student who are taking the Montessori course to prepare and eat their meals out in the fresh air. One of the most valuable things about this training center is that there is a functioning Nido, and functioning Infant Community for children from the neighborhood in the same building, so the Montessori trainees can see how this “works” as they study.

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GRADUATION

The speeches by the student at the graduation were so moving that I was often brought to tears. The range of ages and professions was notable. For example there was one student who was just beginning her college career, and another who was an MD who is now teaching in an Infant Community during the week and practicing medicine on the weekends. They all told how the wisdom of this training had transformed them as human beings. I am so lucky to have ended up working in this field and it is a joy to see it spreading all over the world.


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CAFÉ DE TACUBA

One of the last evenings, Chacha (Maria Teresa Vidales, head of training), Juancho, their daughter Teanny, and the other examiner Virginia Buckley toured the historic center of Mexico City and had dinner at Café de Tacuba, where the beautiful architecture, the traditional paintings on the walls, and the strolling musicians made me stand still in awe as I entered the restaurant and then walked around in a daze, listening to the musicians serenade, forgetting where I was, just soaking up the Mexican celebration of culture. This would certainly be an amazing place to take 0-3 training.

Here is more information on this special place to enjoy the art, music, food, and culture of Mexico. http://www.cafedetacuba.com.mx/en/

In June 2017, for the first time, there will be an international course give in English with Spanish translations. Students will come from all over the world.

For more information on the AMI 0-3 course in Mexico City contact: contacto@iimontessori.com.mx


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MEXICAN-INSPIRED ART AT HOME

The blue house of Frida Kahlo, known as “casa azul”, so inspired this lover of the color cobalt blue, then upon returning, knowing that it was time to repaint some of the doors of our home, guess what color we chose.


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TRAVEL INSPIRED PAINTINGS

I have not started a painting from Mexico yet, but here is one from Lima, Peru where I was working just before arriving in Mexico City on this trip. I never have time to paint when working abroad, but I often make notes and take photographs. Above is a photograph of the fishing boats on the harbor of Lima, Peru. I was struck by the calm water, the variety of colors of the boats, and the pelicans quietly waiting for the opportunity to grab a fish.

Why do I paint?

Recently I have realized that no matter what problems of life may crowd into my brain and bring grief and sadness, when I am in my studio painting I can ignore them; there I control my world; I can turn anything into calm beauty.

Often when traveling, I have an inexplicable feeling of joy or amazement that I want to remember, or I just see a combination of colors that I want to reproduce — and the subject of the future painting is second in importance. So back at home I imagined what it would look like as the sun rose over the city of the city of Lima which sits on the cliffs above the beach, as it lit up the water and the boats. Above you can see the transformation of what I saw to what I felt.

I return to more work in Peru this fall, so stand by for more learning and sharing. I do hope you enjoy it.

Blessings,

Susan Mayclin Stephenson
Trinidad, California

www.susanart.net

Montessori, Education for the Future – One Example

AMI MONTESSORI PRESENTATION, LIMA, PERU

On August 2, 2016, I presented a Montessori PowerPoint in a beautiful hotel in Lima, Peru. But before telling you about that I want to share a video clip of two Montessori students who gave all of us a charming demonstration of the Marinara dance, which I was so lucky to have studied when I lived in Lima many years ago. Still today children all over the country learn this dance as part of their studies.

The title of the talk was “Montessori, Education for the Future”

It is clear today that our traditional idea of a curriculum is outdated because the world is changing too quickly to predict even what professions will be valued in 10 years, so certainly then we cannot predict with certainty what subjects need to be studied to prepare for these professions! But there are many skills that are, and will be, vital. The 10 that I selected to talk about are all fostered and supported in Montessori environment.

These are: (1) exploration, (2) work and putting forth maximum effort with no external rewards, (3) repeating an activity until it is mastered, (4) focusing or concentrating on age-appropriate healthy activities, (5) self-control, (6) developing a mathematical mind, (7) communicating, (8) working with others with respect and kindness, (9) caring for the environment, and, (10) solving real problems.

Many of these skills are evident in the early days of life. I am going to give examples of just one of these natural human tendencies or skills, Visual Exploration


FIRST VISUAL EXPLORATION

So often we hear people say, “babies only eat and sleep.” But there is a lot more going on that that. In the video above it is clear that this infant is entranced with the gentle movement of the mobile, that he is focused and concentration on this visual exploration and something important is happening in his brain. This does not happen with just any mobile, but it does with one so light that it moves gently in the air currants of the room. As far as the selection of appropriate mobiles we have learned that 5 elements is the maximum to keep from over-stimulating the child, and it is best to present either abstract shapes or images that he will store in his brain really moving this way, such as birds, butterflies, and fish – NOT elephants, clowns, apples, etc.


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EYE CONTACT

The dear friends I was staying with in Lima have a new baby, Matteo, just celebrating his 8th week of life. At the request of the family I gave the same PowerPoint to the mother and father, the grandmother, two university-age siblings and the boyfriend of Matteo’s sister. And all week we shared Matteo’s experience and discussed Montessori ideas. I will share just a bit of the visual exploration of our rich experience together, observing and meeting the needs of this infant.

1 a book

As a gift I had brought the Montessori 0-3 book, The Joyful Child: Montessori, Global Wisdom for Birth to Three, and the parents began to read a chapter every night.

(Available here: Montessori 0-3 books and materials)

Right away the family realized that Matteo was trying to sustain eye-contact with them, and they grasped the importance of not looking away from him until he signaled that he was finished looking into our eyes. After the bath, instead of rushing to dress him, being sure that he was warm, the father looked into his eyes until Matteo looked away.

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Breast-feeding is a golden opportunity for the baby to look into the eyes of the mother, and at any other time the mother was sure to stop whatever she was doing to engage eye contact.


EXPLORING THE HOME

Before I came the family had noticed that Matteo seems happier when resting on the bed in his sister’s room than the parents’ room, so I suggested we lie down on both beds and see what he was seeing. What we discovered was that the light above the parent’s bed was much larger and gave off more light, too much light. Above the sister’s bed was a much smaller light and it was easier to look around the room. Returning to the parents bedroom we could see that even though there was a mobile on above Matteo’s bed it was large and it didn’t move, not interesting for long. And the ceiling and walls were bare white. While in the sister’s bed there was a lovely image of a tree on one of the walls, and a large wall-TV on the opposite wall. When we placed Matteo on her he moved his back and forth several times, studying both walls, looking at the tree and the TV which provided a high contrast of black against the white wall. What was he thinking about? Whatever it was we did not interrupt him. And of course I explained why it is better to have any TV’s turned off when he was near them.


3 matteo in car 1

EXPLORING LIMA

On my last night in Lima the parents, grandmother, and I wrapped up Matteo and headed for the beautiful downtown area of Lima. For 45 minutes Matteo looked at the ceiling of the car just above him. We were astounded. What was he looking at? He craned his neck at times to look at different areas of the ceiling – even though as far as we could see there was nothing but a dark fabric. It makes one wonder if it is true, as some people think, that the very young can see things that we have forgotten to be able to see.

2a downtown

After these 45 minutes of uninterrupted concentration he was hungry and the mother fed him for 15 minutes.

4 matteo in car 2

Then he returned to his visual exploration “work” and for another 35 minutes he looked intently out of the window at the buildings, the trees, the streetlights, as we slowly made our way through conveniently, for Matteo, heavy traffic back home. We were all careful not to get between Matteo and what he was looking at, and not to move him is such a way that his concentration was interrupted. Again he craned his neck to see clearly and his eyes were wide open.

It was not only Matteo’s eyes that were open, but ours as well.


Here is a quote  by Alheli, Matteo’s mother:

I am very grateful to you as I have learned that I must have not just my eyes but my soul opened to understand Matteo (and also my other “two babies”) and help them to have a positive, productive and most importantly, happy life. Parents are only intermediaries for that, and that’s our privilege.


5 matteo sleeping

POST VISIT MATTEO REPORT

Now I am working in Mexico City and just received the following message, and the above picture, from Matteo’s parents:

 Matteo is doing great with his concentration exercises. On Sunday after you left, César (ed. Matteo’s papa) and I took him out to do the shopping and went also to a restaurant and we stayed out from 12:30 until 5:30 pm. That is a complete achievement for us! Before that we used to go out only for very short periods of time, but we are not afraid anymore. We have understood that when Matteo gets upset, it’s not just because he’s hungry, but because he’s bored and needs to get interested in something. When shopping, he just wanted to see everything with his eyes wide opened. He’s become such great company. Then he was so tired that when we went to a restaurant, after nursing him, he fell asleep.

I do hope that this little peek into the value of reaching parents with Montessori information in the early days of life has been interesting to you, and any prospective or new parents or grandparents you might know.


The Joyful Child is available at:

Amazon USA

Also from:

Michael Olaf

and:

NAMTA

It contains much more information that can help children, even in the first three years of life, prepare for a balanced and happy life.

Here is the link to all of the AMI “Assistants to Infancy” 0-3 training courses:

0-3 training courses in the world.

It is easy to imagine how much more is there to be learned since this teacher training was begun in Italy in 1947 when Dr. Montessori realized that it is important to meet the needs of humans in the very beginning of life.

Blessings,

Susan

www.susanart.net

 

 

THE MUSIC ENVIRONMENT FROM THE BEGINNING TO THE END

AMIJournalCreativity

It was an honor for me to be part of this publication on creativity. This article is shared with permission of AMI, The Association Montessori Internationale and NAMTA, The North American Montessori Teachers Organization.
It was published in  AMI Journal 2014-2015 Theme Issue: The Montessori Foundations for the Creative Personality.

This 237-page publication on creativity, imagination, self-expression, language, music, the Montessori creative view of childhood, art, and contemporary Montessori research and creativity,  can be ordered from NAMTA: AMI JOURNAL

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Week with Grandchildren

2 sm first night pictures

Montessori Practical Life & Culture, A Week with the Grandchildren

Three of our four grandchildren and one daughter left this morning to return to Portland, Oregon. It was such a rich and enjoyable week that I am sharing it with you. In my international work I have seen over and over again that when homes have very few distractions from the real, daily life of the family, such as toys and screen time, they quite naturally join in and spend valuable time with the rest of the family. As a result children learn about cultures in a natural way, and, as they carry out valuable activities that they see being done by adults, they feel useful. Spending this time with us they learn our values, they imitate everything we do, and they develop skills that will be valuable for the rest of their lives and we have fun together.

FIRST NIGHT

As family were arriving late at night after a 9+hour drive we welcomed them with candle light, Indian music (the sound track from the movie Lagaan) and warm turmeric milk haldi doodh (in Hindi) to prepare for a good night’s sleep. A peaceful end to a long day for all.


1 2 prepar greens

PREPARING BREAKFAST

Our meals are very simple. It is the work connected with the meals that are the most inviting. We explained that in most parts of the world there is little variety in meals so breakfast was always the same and dinner mostly soup, nuts, veggies, and fruit. This simplicity meets a child’s need for a sense of order and we could focus on the shared work connected with meals.

Picking greens from the deck containers (and nibbling them at the same time), and preparing small bowls of nuts.

2 images toast

Making toast with butter and vegan Parmesan cheese, and fruit salad with walnuts, almonds, and toasted sesame seeds.


1 2 napkins candle

SETTING THE TABLE

Each person in the family selected his or her own napkin ring for the whole visit. This way each person could take care of his napkin and decide when it needed to be washed (by hand of course and hung out to dry). Learning how to light a match, and then the candle for the meal, is very attractive. The match-lighting “rule” is that lighting a match must always be for a useful purpose and in the presence of an adult.

2 ready to eat

Our rotating “lazy Susan” in the middle made it possible for each person to serve his or her self. VERY small amounts are taken, and everything is at least tasted. Then each person can continue to take small amounts throughout the meal, paying attention to his or her hunger, and nothing is left on the plate and wasted at the end of the meal. I learned this during my AMI 0-3 training from Dr. Silvana Montanaro and I must mention that the table and chair and the Lazy Susan were left to me by my dear friend and Montessorian Karin Salzmann who some people reading this knew and loved. Thank you Karin.


BEGINNING THE MEAL

Before the first breakfast we explained the various ways people around the world give thanks before beginning to eat, and the children chose the Japanese tradition of saying “itadakimasu”, pronounced “ee-tah-dah-kee-mah-su.” This is a way of giving thanks for those involved in the preparation of the food. (Farmers, cook, table setter, etc.) And toward the meal itself, the plant or animal life that was given to make such a feast.

Everyone was called to the meal and when everyone was served . . . and only when everyone was served, in unison, we said . . . ITADAKIMASU!


1 clearing and candle

ENDING THE MEAL

In many countries politeness dictates that no one leaves a meal until the last person is finished eating. This really helps to inspire conversation and create longer periods of enjoyable time spent together. Then everyone automatically worked together to clean the table, put out the candle, and sweep the floor, until everything was in order.

Here it is important to say something about the Montessori theory topic of “planes of development”. During the first plane, from birth to 6 years, a child is challenged to learn a lot of practical life, but only until each one is mastered, not out of duty or responsibility. Sometimes a parent will say, “He learned to clear the table, make his bed, hang up his coat, etc., but then stopped doing it! Why?” My response has always, “If this child tried to do, every single day, everything he is learning, there would not possibly be the time.” So at this stage the adult should keep modeling this practical life in a careful and joyful way, inviting the child with careful lessons, and the child will imitate and keep learning as he grows up.

2 sweeping washing

At the second “plane” or age 6-12 a child is very interested in fairness and making logical rules (notice I did not say “following rules” but “making rules”). For our older grandchild the book “The Little Red Hen” satisfied his need for moral behavior, sharing the work, etc., and we often heard him say to us adults and to himself, “Remember the Little Red Hen, only people who help with the work should get to eat the food! He understood that he and the adults needed to share the real work while his young sister did the work that she was interested in at the moment, and sometimes she just watched others.


1 toys

TOYS AND BOOKS

Yes there was time for playing with Lego, my own personal “secret stash” of Star Wars figures, toys, going to the beach, climbing trees, working on the fort behind the house, making a bed of straw in the garden, and learning bow and arrows with Baba (grandpa). But as was discovered in the first Montessori class, the casa dei bambini in the slums of Rome, children preferred real work even to the lovely dolls and toys that had been donated by Dr. Montessori’s friends. So then, as now eventually they are replaced by good quality, child-size, tools so children can successfully manage real and satisfying work of caring for themselves, each other, the environment, and being courteous.

2 books

Always we go to the library when grandchildren visit and winding down in the evening by reading is expected and loved by all

1 unpacking and leaves.

But no one felt like they were missing anything we most of the day was spent on practical life, real work that adults do.

On these visits the first practical life activity is always unpacking and deciding where everything goes. This time the younger grandchild was tucked in the corner of my office and the older behind a curtain at the top of the stairs. Everything was folded and put away. They even decided to fold their clothes at the end of the day (as we had read a book about Japanese children doing this) and pajamas in the mornings.

Then off to see if there is some other work to be done, such as dusting the houseplants (a memory from their earliest Montessori experience).

2 deck and fire

On warm days there was plenty to do sweeping the deck and watering plants, and on cold days bringing in wood, building the fire, and lighting it – all on one’s own with a little help from Baba.


1 suzuki

SUZUKI SUMMER ACADEMY

Finally Monday morning, the first day of the one-week Suzuki begins! At the end of the day the younger grandchild brought home a borrowed violin and showed us what she has learned, as she did every day of the week.

The almost-7-year-old not only showed us his Suzuki piece, but also played a duet with Uncle Michael of a song he had heard someone play at Montessori school in Portland and had figured out by ear.

The music inspired our very dramatic youngest grandchild to create her own dances to the variety of music being performed during the first evening of Suzuki camp.

1 composer cards

And I was finally able to share some of the music vocabulary materials I made for my Montessori classes so very long ago, the names of Western classical composers.


GRATITUDE

One of our family practices we have shared with grandchildren for 15 years now, is gratitude and prayer. Upon waking and before going to sleep we think of a few things to be grateful for.

1 altar

And at our Buddhist altar, as each of the 7 water bowls is filled with water, even the children love to pause after filling each bowl and think of something to be grateful for or someone to pray for.


1 grackys card

ART

The whole family easily shared art during this trip. It is my mother’s 93rd birthday next week and each family member spent time and energy to create a personalized birthday card for her that was then placed in a beautifully decorated envelope and mailed.

invitation as of june 28 small

And we all enjoyed the paintings and prints being prepared for my own show next week.


1 journal

JOURNALS

Journals are also a part of our grandchildren’s visit tradition. Just as in my own 6-12 classrooms as a Montessori teacher I would NEVER REQUIRE daily writing in a journal. But when something special happens I suggest, “Is that something you would like to draw or write, to record and keep until you are an adult to share with children someday?”

Since the elder grandchild has been telling us quite a lot about their family’s 3-day river rafting trip on the John Day river he was very pleased to have a record of that.

2 slug

And when the little one found a tiny “baby banana slug” to show the whole family this was a perfect opportunity. She was worried that she wouldn’t be able to draw something “so difficult” but when I pointed out the two little feelers on the head and the gentle curve of the back she drew one banana slug, and then another, and then decided that was the mother and father and followed this with a whole passel (is that the collective noun?) of youngster banana slugs.


SAYING GOODBYE

During the week there were normal periods of hunger and tiredness, impatience, frustration. But we used the age old Montessori axiom of “Teach by teaching, not by correcting” in exploring behavior and preparing for better responses or reactions to situations, just as is done in the classroom.

For example, instead of embarrassing a child by saying, “Say think you.” in front of a Suzuki teacher, we would say ahead of time in the car, “Who do you think it would be nice to thank you your last day of Suzuki camp.” Or instead of “stop fighting!” we could say at a neutral moment, “What would be a good thing to do when you get so frustrated that you want to hit someone?” We create little dramas for practice, often ending in laughter because of the creative variations. The unexpected response to this last question, from the 5-year-old, was “meditate!”

trees end of visit

I hope you have enjoyed this sharing of the best of our week together. In this last picture the oldest and the youngest of 4 grandchildren share one of the most beautiful spots at our home, the cathedral grove, before leaving for the long drive back to Portland, Oregon.

We are blessed.

The child who has felt a strong love for his surroundings and for all living creatures, who has discovered joy and enthusiasm in work, gives us reason to hope that humanity can develop in a new direction. —Maria Montessori


http://susanart.net/

“No Checkmate” Montessori Chess Book

Book Reviews and Quotes from the Book

This new Montessori book helps parents see the possibility of sharing their lives with their children in a way previously thought not possible and it seems to be taking the Montessori world by storm. Here are two amazon.com review of “No Checkmate, Montessori chess lessons for Age 3-0-+”:

Chess without a headache! Susan covers every detail of making this game meaningful and fun for even the very young.

— Rita Zener, AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) teacher trainer


If you are looking for a book that will help you to introduce the game of chess to your child in a non-competitive, gradual, and fun way – you have found it!

Deep respect and understanding of human development in its formative stages is a common denominator of all Ms. Stephenson’s books. In NO CHECKMATE you will find a conceptual framework of developmental characteristics along with a practical guidance in form of preliminary games and activities, gradual introduction to the key rules of the game, and more… This book opened a new field of exploration and joy for me and my two daughters!

Dmitry Ostrovsky, AMI Montessori teacher and dad

1 grace and courtesy

(From page 21)
Graceful movement and balance of the whole body

At around 1.5 years of age a child, so glad to be in an upright position with hands free, wants to put forth as much effort as possible and delights in carrying heavy things. This practice solidifies the balance of walking, carrying something, and watching where one is going. One of the first things you might offer a child in the learning of chess might be the opportunity to carry the chess set to the table, placing it quietly on the table, and putting it away when the game, between two other people, is finished.


2 shaking hands

(From page 23-24)
The courtesy of shaking hands

When a child enters a Montessori class, at least in Western Cultures, the first thing he usually does is shake hands with the teacher who is sitting on a chair just inside the classroom so her face is at the child’s level. This marks the beginning of the child’s day at school; it sets the energy of mutual respect and focus on being in the moment. Similarly you can teach this in chess. Either person can offer to shake hands at the beginning of a game or lesson.

But the main reason for this is because the manners of chess require that at the end of a game the two people shake hands and say something along the lines of, “Thank you for playing chess with me,” or, “I enjoyed playing chess with you.” This may not seem like a very important step in the beginning of learning to play chess, but it is extremely helpful when, at the 3rd level of chess, both people are trying to win, and someone loses. Knowing that one is going to end the game in such a polite manner can prevent the frustration, anger, and ill manners that are sometimes displayed when a person (even adults) lose a game.


3 dusting chess pieces

(From page 41-42)
Dusting or polishing chess pieces

This brings up a point that is sometimes misunderstood in a Montessori class. When a child asks if he can work with materials that he is not prepared for, for example wanting to get his hands on the beautiful glass beads that teach squaring and cubing before he has begun the basic math work the reply should never be, “No, you are not ready for that.”  The child doesn’t understand that in time he will have the skills to work with more advanced materials, that someday he will be ready. He only hears the word, “NO!”  Instead the teacher says, “Yes, you will be able to work with those materials, as soon as you can do this, and this, and this” perhaps pointing to the beginning shelves of math materials. “This one comes first. Would you like a lesson on that now?”

Sometimes, if a child is not even ready to begin the first math lesson and still wants to “work with” the beautiful bead materials, the teacher can say, “Yes, do you see that these beads and the shelves are really dusty? Would you like a lesson on dusting them?”  Sometimes children have been able to practice their skill of wood polishing on materials in the Montessori classroom that they will not be using in the prescribed way until much later. This is all satisfying, important, real work.


6 mongolia

(From page 94-95)
Mongolia

In 2015, I was in Mongolia to give the first AMI Montessori public lectures and to consult with two schools. I was staying with a family who had a 5-year-old boy whose grandfather had taught him the chess moves. One evening that the boy and his father were playing chess in the living room, Ermuun suddenly exploded into anger, stomping and yelling and his father looked toward me with a puzzled look on his face. I asked what happened and the father said, rather sadly, “He doesn’t like to lose.” My reply was that winning and losing was not appropriate at this age, but the emphasis is better placed on spending fun time with one’s father, and learning more and more about chess. And, with his interest aroused I went on to explain the “Three Levels of Chess” that our family has developed over the years. Later I received news from Mongolia that the boy enjoys chess now much more than before.


7 oden game

(From page 115-117)
Creativity – Oden’s game

Chess has changed many times since its birth in India and it is still changing. The rules have changed and why cannot children continue to change them? Recently I was playing chess with my sister’s grandchildren. One the youngsters, already identified as a unique and creative thinker, decided to make up his own game. I had given them a combination chess and checkers set and he wanted to created a way to use all of the pieces of both sets in one game.

I explained that all games were the result of agreement between people about how the game is played. An example is the rules of Scrabble in our family. Scrabble is a word game in which two to four players score points by placing tiles, each bearing a single letter, onto a game board  which is divided into a 15×15 grid of squares. The tiles must form words which, in crossword fashion, flow left to right in rows or downwards in columns. The words must be defined in a standard dictionary . The game is played without access to a dictionary unless a word is being challenged.

But a year ago I suggested that this way of playing limits the players to words they already know, so our family began to play with the dictionary as our constant companion, accessible at any time. This was a cooperative way of playing, and it was so exciting for all of us to learn so many new words in one game that winning became secondary. It was still fun to find words that could score a lot of points and have a high score at the end of the game, but there was much more learning and enjoyment of Scrabble from then on.

So why not a game with chess pieces and checkers together? All I remember, as I heard him explain his new game to his brother and cousin, was “And the Queen has more power when she is standing on a checker!”


(From the back cover)
Benefits of chess

I once came across a list of 10 ways learning chess can benefit the brain. Here is the list:
– It increases creativity
– It improves memory
– It increases problem-solving skills
– It can raise an IQ
– It grows dendrites
– It can help prevent Alzheimer’s
– It exercises both sides of the brain
– It improves reading skills
– It improves concentration
– It teaches planning and foresight

These are all important results of learning chess. But in learning chess the Montessori way we can add to this list:
– It helps one learn patience
– It teaches body awareness and grace
– It teaches good manners
– It teaches cooperative problem solving
– It teaches how to help another
– It teaches one how to treat another person the way one would like to be treated
And maybe you can think of even more.


There are a few more quotes on the most recent Michael Olaf Montessori Newsletter, May, 2016: http://michaelolaf.net/newsmay2016.html


chess book front large

NO CHECKMATE, Montessori Chess Lessons for Age 3 to 90+
ISBN 1-879264-18-8
123 pages, black and white illustrations
Copyright © 2016 Susan Mayclin Stephenson
$14.95

To order:
Michael Olaf Montessori company No Checkmate book
NAMTA (North America Montessori Teachers’ Association) No Checkmate book
Amazon USA No Checkmate book

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