The Red Corolla, Montessori Cosmic Education

New Book, “The Red Corolla, Montessori Cosmic Education”

Click HERE for details and ordering information

front cover lg

What I like about this book is the possibility that it will give to teachers who have not learned in their training this way of presenting the various cultural areas — art, music, geography, biology and physics — to young children. That is, how to offer it in such a way that the child freely chooses to absorb the material. However, I don’t think this is a book to cozy up with and read straight through. Its value is in the excellent information about how adults can prepare themselves to inspire children in the first place. Secondly the information on how to pass on the inspiration gives a valuable pattern to follow within that section. I think it is a book to take section by section according to ones interest. Although it is scattered throughout the book, there is information on approaching various ages of children, not just young ones. The book will require the adult to put in some effort, but the author enthusiastically proclaims that it is well worth the effort for both the adult and for the child.
—Rita Zener, AMI Montessori Teacher Trainer

I love all of your books and “The Red Corolla” is no exception. Whenever I read one of your books I feel like I have both my mom and a teacher guiding me (I lost my mom long before becoming a parent, so this is a precious feeling). Your writing style is therapeutic for me. This is a valuable resource for anyone who wants to deeply understand the Montessori approach.
—Claudia Dumitrascu, Romania and Canada

Note: a few of the color pictures here are in the book, but in black and white.

The culture lessons taught in an AMI primary teacher-training course—physics, biology, history and geography, and the arts—are presented here in great detail to lay the foundation before age six for the older child’s search for his Cosmic Task. Also included are personal “filling in the gaps” assignments for the parent or n teacher, and two republished AMI and NAMTA articles, one on Cosmic Education and the second on music for all ages.

class nature walk 2

From the chapter “The Work of the Adult— Gaps, Leaf Collection”

Recently I gave a presentation of leaves similar to what you find in this chapter and then led a nature walk with the students in the AMI primary course in Casablanca, in a beautiful garden in the home of my hosts. The students were hesitant at first, but very quickly found themselves as excited as children as they discovered the ways that the leaves were attached to the stems—alternately, oppositely, or whorled or in a group of leaves all attached at the same point. As we prepared to leave the garden and headed down the path toward the vehicles, I noticed several of the students walking slowly, looking carefully, and taking pictures. This is just the kind of involvement we will see in our children when we share the desire to explore and learn more with them.

physics

From the chapter “The Work of the Child— Culture, Physics”

The reason we give this work to the young child is to give experience with isolated examples of the natural principles of physics in everyday life. Physical laws apply everywhere and every time. This is an introduction to real life, to truth, rather than opinion and belief. The experiments introduce experiences with buoyancy (an object sinking or floating), the movement of water, surface tension of water, movement of air, heat, sound, magnetism, electricity, gravity, weight combined with movement, and weight affected by shape.

mosaic 2a.jpg

From the chapter “The Work of the Child— Culture, Art”

The main work in the art area of the classroom is to give the child the tools to express his feelings and his ever-expanding interest in and understanding of the whole world. Of course it follows that, just as all of the other work in the Montessori primary environment, this work will give opportunity for deeper and longer periods of concentration, improved visual discrimination and eye-hand control, and more concepts and a richer vocabulary for verbal communication, and skills in writing and reading.

11 orchestra in ulaanbaatar

From the chapter “The Music Environment” (AMI Journal article The Music Environment from the Beginning to the End)

The natural urge to sing, dance, make and listen to music wells up from the depths of each person, from birth to death. It can be stamped out at an early age or it can be fostered to enrich all of life. This article describes how important music is to us at every time in our life, from birth to death.


CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

COSMIC EDUCATION (NAMTA article)

THE WORK OF THE ADULT
Mind the Gaps Introduction
General Knowledge Album
Leaf Collection
Formal Language Album

THE WORK OF THE CHILD
Culture Album Introduction
Culture, Physics
Culture, Botany
Culture, Zoology
Culture, History and Geography
Culture, Music
Culture, Art
Balance
The Language of Culture

CULTURE FROM BIRTH TO AGE 12+

THE MUSIC ENVIRONMENT (AMI article)

GLOSSARY

A must read for anyone in education looking towards moving away from the compartmentalising of education into “subjects”. Literacy and numeracy skills are important but they are a toolkit to access so much more and this books helps to illustrate how to do that. —Esma Al-Samarrai, Cardiff, Wales


I first lectured on these topics in 1971 after returning from a year in London earning my AMI primary (age 2.5-6) diploma. The last lectures were given in summer 2019 at the first AMI primary course in Morocco. For years I have been promising a book.

Please feel free to share to anyone for whom it will be interesting and perhaps helpful.

Blessings,

Susan

WWW.SUSANART.NET

Montessori Birth, to Adolescence & Back, Romania & Sweden, Fall 2018

IASI, ROMANIA
Catalin Ivan, Member of the European Parliament for Romania, discovered Montessori for his children and soon realized it would be good for his country, especially the education of the poor. Visiting the AMI office in Amsterdam it was recommended that he begin by getting Montessori birth to three information to parents by translating The Joyful Child: Montessori, Global Wisdom for Birth to Three. and then focus on training Montessori teachers.

1 book signingIt was an honor to have this book translated into Romanian. The first three years are the time when the basic personality and all attitudes are formed and parents who experience Montessori during these years understand the power of supporting the potential of their children from the beginning.
First stop, a book signing and public lecture based on the book.

2 tot program
Although Catalin was responsible for this work, he credits his wife Catalina (pictured in the middle above), and the teachers and parents of the school, for all of the hard work necessary to make this dream a reality. In October of this year the “seminar format” section of the AMI training of trainers program will begin here in Iasi! (pronounced “yash”) It will be given in English with translation into Romanian so teachers from around the world are welcome.

3 hotel and amazonIasi is a beautiful combination of tradition and modernity. Located in the north of the country, the historical region of Moldovia, it has always been known as one of the leading centers of Romanian social, cultural, academic and artistic life. The course will be held in a lovely hotel in a quiet area not far from the center of the city.

For information write to: TOT ROMANIA
For general information on becoming an AMI teacher training, click here: TOT

4 classroomsThere is no international AMI school consultation program yet, but I love to help bring existing Montessori practices to the very highest level wherever I go. Here I was able to observe and help two infant communities, 3 primary (2.5-6) classes, and one elementary class. Some comments from teachers that I received later:

First I want to thank you again for the extraordinary experience that I had, having you here. I feel that I learned so much and you answered me to some questions that I had for long time. Thank you, thank you!

Yesterday I had a meeting with lead teachers from other classes and I was so surprised to find out that all of them made changes. We had a wonderful talk yesterday and we realized that in such a short time we had so many nice experiences from classes to share.

5 palace of cultureI always combine Montessori work with learning about the local culture, especially in a country where I have never been before. To begin this exploration all I had to do was look out of the window in my hotel room. Here is the view, The Palace of Culture.

6 operaOpera! There were no ticket left to see La Traviata during my exploration of Romanian culture, but we got permission to attend a rehearsal, which in my experience, even with a symphony orchestra performance, a rehearsal is just as interesting in different ways than the final performance. And to see the gypsy (Roma) dances here in Romania was very special.

7 all teachers in Iasi croppedWhen I first began to research Romania to prepare for this work I found that the ‘painted monasteries’ of the north were among the most beautiful buildings in Europe. But I assumed they were too far away from Iasi. Imagine my surprise when finding that we were going to drive to see them and spend two days seeing several.

BUKOVINA, ROMANIA
After one last goodbye dinner with the staff we Catalina, Simona Nicolae, one of the primary teachers, and I headed north to the Bukovina area next to the border with the Ukraine to see as much of this part of Romania as possible.

8 music and danceThis picture of Romanian musicians and dancerS is from ”Souvenirs of Bucovina”, a DVD I watched at home. There are at least 18 ethnic groups in Moldavia and hundreds of dances, still celebrating births, wedding, and deaths. The Klezmer musician in this picture keeps alive the Jewish tradition. During WWII the Nazi’s in this country killed thousands of Jews and Roma (the gypsies who migrated to Europe from India). Before working as a Montessori teacher Simona worked for a project to provide a measure of justice for holocaust victims.

9 painted monasteriesAll monasteries are painted inside but in 1530 the outside began to be painted. This movement lasted only for a short time but it is amazing to see the brilliance of the paint. Notice the Turkish invaders in this detail of one of the walls. This is how people learned their history.

For more click here: PAINTED MONASTERIES

10 traditionIn this monastery cemetery there is a large garden plot in front of most of the stones, and stork nests everywhere. It is considered very lucky to have one on one’s home.

11 eggsAs in many Eastern European cultures painting Easter eggs is an art of its own in Romania’s villages. While painting eggs is even today a skill very few master as the process is long and meticulous, some Romanian artisans have transformed these hollowed-out eggs into unique works of art, exhibited all around the world. The colors and symbols used to decorate the eggs vary according to the region, usually three-four colors are used, each with its own meaning. Red symbolizes love and solar light, black is the eternity, yellow is about youth and rich crops while green relates to nature and blue to health and sunny skies.

BUCHAREST, ROMANIA

12 water pipeMy last two nights in Romania were spent with a friend and her artist husband in the Armenian district of Bucharest. Theirs is a tiny apartment, part of what used to be a large and beautiful Armenian mansion, filled with artworks, paintings, prints, and sculpture. The cat and I slept on the sofa and I felt very much at home, sort of like San Francisco on the ‘60’s. We spent the day on the open top of a tourist bus to see the whole city quickly, and then wandering around the old part of the city. Water pipes and music everywhere.

Miruna Paul is a translator and we met as she was translating for the French students in the Montessori course in Casablanca last summer.

To see more about our work together on this course click here: MOROCCO

13 manuc

We made use of our few hours together seeing Bucharest from the top of a tour bus and walking through the old part of the city. We had lunch in an open central courtyard of the oldest inn in the city, Manuc’s Inn built in 1808 by a wealthy Armenian, and tasted the traditional homemade “dalinka” back at her home. I think it is like straight vodka.

For more about the inn click here: MANUC
For more about Bucharest click here: BUCHAREST

14 birthday cake75th BIRTHDAY
On October 29, 2019, I celebrated my 75th birthday with Miruna. We had perhaps the best chocolate cake I have ever tasted. The next morning arriving at the airport I found that my flight to Sweden through Germany had been cancelled so I was able to fly through Poland! It was too dark to see anything but it was my first time in Plant and it was nice to see pictures and hear music by my favorite composer at the Warsaw Chopin Airport!

RYDET, SWEDEN – THE ERDKINDER

15 farmMontessori Centre for Work and Study
On the southwest coast of Sweden is one of the oldest and most authentic “Erdkinders” available today. This is a working farm run for the most part by adolescents, which was the plan set forth by Dr. Montessori to meet the needs of this age. The students come from many countries.

For more information about Erdkinder click here: ERDKINDER

16 student and honeyThe students take turns getting up early in the dark winter to care for the animals; they grow as much of their own food as possible and freeze or can for the winter and to sell in the community; they cook and clean and take care of the farm and each other and still maintain high academic standards. They know what they do every day matters; they are needed. The school does not advertise nor do they have a website. Families find them by word of mouth.

To find out more, write to: RYDET

17 orientationSATILA, SWEDEN – ADOLESCENT ORIENTATION
This is a program where teacher who are working with Montessori students from age 12-15+ come together somewhere in the world to study this age, to make a plan, to go home and attempt to execute it, and then come together again to share their experiences. The teachers here were from Norway, Germany, France, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, Réunion (a French Island in the Indian Ocean), the USA, and other countries.

18 talks by susanThe head of the school, Jenny Marie Hogland has been my friend for many years and we have been planning to get together here. Finally we did it. My first work with adolescents was with girls in a detention center in California. I was part of the group researching the Erdkinder idea in the USA many years ago, and editor of the Erdkinder Newsletter documenting those first baby steps. And using the AMI 6-12 training our family homeschooled our last child through middle and high school. So Jenny invited me to share my experiences with the teachers. I spoke about three things:

1 – the similarities in development and needs of the human being from birth to three and from age 12-15.

2 – The most important skills that are fostered in Montessori education, where high academic accomplishment is a by-product, not the prime focus.

3 – Our elementary, middle school, and high school years as a homeschooling family

19 staff and studentsThe best part of this work is the people. The students and the teachers are on the same level, treating each other as equals, as co-workers in the process of getting educated. In the first picture you see, from left to right: A graduate of the Erdkinder, Jenny-Marie, me, one of the orientation participants who is now housefather at the Erdkinder, an adolescent expert from the USA, and Jenny’s daughter, also a graduate of the Erdkinder, who is not on the staff. The picture on the right shows three women, participants in the adolescent orientation, from Romania!

So my work began with birth to three in Romania and ended speaking about birth to three with some Romanians.

For information on AMI work in Romania click here: ROMANIA
To learn more about the adolescent orientation programs around the world,
click here: ORIENTATION

20 originals

One of the most exciting things about the Montessori world is that we never know what our children are going to do next. We meet their needs, fire their imagination, foster their curiosity, and then step back and enjoy the opening of each new flower, the unfolding of each unique and fascinating individual.

We don’t know what they they will be when they grow up, but we know that they will love learning and will be kind, creative, hardworking,  generous, practical, and compassionate. And they will know how to be happy.

Today, however, those things which occupy us in the field of education are the interests of humanity at large, and of civilization. Before such great forces we can recognize only one country—the entire world.
—Maria Montessori (The Montessori Method)

 

 

Mexico City 2018 – Art, Food, Music, & Montessori

1 graduation

Graduation

Please join me for a return to experience AMI Montessori in Mexico City. The main purpose of my visit was again to serve as an oral examiner for the AMI Montessori A to I (Assistants to Infancy), birth to three, course. But as always in this Montessori world a guest is greeted with grace and courtesy and a desire to joyfully share culture, which includes food, as Mexico City is famous internationally for this element.

Above is a picture of the graduating class seated with us two examiners, the teacher trainers, their course assistants, and my translator. I was pleased to see that the medical doctor who graduated from this course in 2016 is now the guide/teacher in the infant community for children from one year to 2.5 or 3 years of age, returning to Puebla on weekends to take care of her medical patients.

2 santana and carrington

Santana and Carrington

This year I had an overnight flight from San Francisco so in order to stay awake we went to the Bosque de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Park), one of the largest parks in the Western Hemisphere, measuring 1,695 acres. Large pictures of Santana and other important Mexican historical figures grace the black iron fences that surround the garden, and museum signs heighten our excitement as we approach the Museo de Arte Modern (Modern Art Museum) to see the special exhibit of the works of British/Mexican artist Leonora Carrington.

More on Santana here: here: Santana

More on Leonora Carrington here: Carrington

My hostess was surprised that I had never heard of this artist so I explained that since I love the Impressionists and Post-impressionists has crowded out a lot of art history and I need to be educated about surrealism. And my eyes were opened; what an interesting person.

3 carrington kitchen best

Saint Teresa in the Kitchen

This was one of my favorites of her painting. Carrington urged women, in both her writing and her graphic arts, to own their power. Saint Teresa, in the black and white tunic of the Carmelites, is seen as the patron saint of gastronomy. She was famous for her ecstasies and here she hovers over a boiling caldron in the center of the kitchen frying an egg in miraculous rapture. For Carrington the kitchen was an exclusive place for coming together and for experiments; the analogies between cooking, magic, and painting turned it into an alchemical laboratory.

4 frida

Frida Kahlo

Frida, Surrealist or Realist? Last time I was here the lines to get into the Casa Azul, or the “blue house”, the home of this famous Mexican artist, were around the block and there was no time to wait so it was a treat to relax and spend my second day exploring her home and art. If you do not know this artist the best introduction is the 2002 movie “Frida” staring Salma Hayek.

More on  Frida Kahlo here: Frida

5 staff and nogado

Chiles en Nogada

Again it is a treat to be here during the season of this famous dish. This year the AMI 3-6 trainer, who was in Mexico City for a month, brought each of us our on special blue and white plate from Puebla, and a Chile. We enjoyed them over lunch in the institute staff room.

Here is a little of the history of Chiles en Nogada. Agustin de Iturbide, Emperor of Mexico from 1822 to 1823, signed the Treaty of Cordoba which granted Mexico its independence from Spain in 1821. The event took place in Veracruz and on his way back to Mexico City he stopped in Puebla. The townspeople of Puebla decided to honor the Emperor—and independence—by creating a special dish using local ingredients. The Augustinian nuns of Santa Monica convent came up with Chiles en Nogada, which means chile in walnut sauce. It is made of poblano chilies stuffed with a mixture of meat and dried fruit (a special vegetarian version for me) and decorated in the colors of the Mexican flag: pomegranate seeds (red), parsley (green), and a sauce made of fresh, carefully peeled walnuts (white). To this day the nuns earn money by the painstaking task of peeling the walnuts for local restaurants. It is considered very patriotic to order or serve this dish.

6 grasshoppers and fire ants

Grasshoppers, Fire Ant Eggs, and Tequila

We work very, very hard at Montessori exams. The trainers are not the ones who test the students so no one can be “prepared for the tests.” The exam questions are sent from the Association Montessori Internationale in Amsterdam, and the oral examiners are selected from around the world. This is one of the reasons why AMI Montessori teachers are so well prepared for their work. The pressure is on. But several times a week we manage to have our discussions over delicious meals.

A vegetarian eating insects you say? Well, I just tasted, considering it practice for the probably main source of protein in the future as Earth’s population grows and grows and grows; and no one argues with eliminating a few million of the eggs of the dreaded fire ants!

More on fire ants here: Fire Ants

And now for the tequila. I had tasted this drink before, but on this occasion it was served in the traditional manner. First one takes a bit of salt in one’s hand and licks it up. Then a little taste of fresh lime juice followed by a sip of tequila. Finally a sip of the famous sangrita. The combination was delicious.

The word sangrita means little blood and was probably invented in the 1920’s as a way to cleanse the palate between sips of tequila and it was thought to be made up of the leftover juices of fruit salad. So it could contain pomegranate, tangerine, orange, mango, papaya, and so forth. Again this way of serving represents the colors of the Mexican flag: lime juice (green) tequila (white), and sangrita (red). I felt very patriotic.

7 soup and mole

Squash Blossom Soup and Mole

After this delicious traditional Meal meal I came home looking for squash blossoms to make soup, and since it is late in the season could only find enough to decorate the top of soup, but next season I shall plant zucchini and do it properly.

Mole contains chocolate and many spices; it comes in several colors, and is famous in Mexican cooking, and again it is the nuns of Puebla who might have invented it. Our version, Enchiladas de Mole Negro with cheese at the restaurant Azul Condesa, was a special treat. And it was followed by even more chocolate for desert.

More Mole information here: mole

8 hot chocolate

Champurrado

This is a delicious Mexican version of hot chocolate made with chocolate, flour, cinnamon and flavored sometimes with anise, vanilla, ground nuts, orange zest, and more, to make a variety of interesting drinks. The chocolate is packed into little individual tablets for storage that are melted, mixed with or milk, and then blended or whipped with a wooden whisk called a molinillo. The whisk is rolled between the palms of the hands, and then moved back and forth in the mixture until it is aerated and frothy. Then it is poured into a bowl made of cocoanut shell and drunk. There are many recipes on the internet ¡Buen provecho!

9 tea made by children

Two-Year-Olds Make Their Own Herb Tea

Things have changed in the Montessori 3-6 classes with the introduction of the Infant Communities for children from age 1, or walking, to age 2.5 or three. Pouring rice, lentils, or water, from small pitchers is common for other children who have not had much experience using their hands with challenging tasks. But in the Montessori A to I world children begin pouring their own water before they are a year old, yes, before they can walk. They water plants, fill basins with water to wash their hands, and want this work to be real, collaboration with the group, not mindless, repetitive activities.

I asked the Infant Community guide to show me how the tea-making was carried out by a 2-year old in her class. There are many steps, beginning with measuring and adding loose leaf tea to the pot, adding (previously prepared) hot water, waiting till the water reaches the correct color, setting the table with a place mat, napkin, cup and saucer and spoon, carrying the pot to the table, sitting down and enjoying the tea, putting the used tea leaves in the compost, the placemat and napkin in the laundry (to be washed and ironed by another child), and the tea-pot, spoon, and cup and saucer with the dirty dishes (to be washed by another child), all the time concentrating deeply and not being interrupted; and then going on to choose the next physically and mentally challenging and satisfying “work”. I have just described a series of skills included in the list of “executive functions” which are a more reliable predictor of academic success in later life than IQ, and the basis for real Montessori practice at any age “meaningful work and uninterrupted concentration” that produces happy people who then reach out naturally to care for others and the environment. Thank you Margarita.

10 church and market

Coyoacán (the “place of the cayotes”) 

The last afternoon after graduation I was hosted by the brother of the head of the AMI affiliate organization in Colombia, South America who lives in Mexico City. We went to Coyoacán to see the cathedral, the crafts market, and to enjoy Middle Eastern food. We were joined by the head of the AMI affiliate society for Peru. Both of these women were students in this course.

I was pleased to see a statue of San Martin de Porres who, along with Santa Rosa of Lima, is patron saints of my old home (for a short time) Peru. Coyoacán is the second most visited site in Mexico city, but the real pleasure was in enjoying it with friends after the intense week of exams and the graduation.

More on Coyoacán here: Coyoacán

11 algajores and friends

Peruvian and Colombian Montessorians

Here I am with these two women who will be first to take AMI Montessori Birth to Three information back to Peru and Colombia. They are passionate and inspired and I look forward to see what they, and all of the other students, do with this precious information. Yes, the picture on the left is more food, alfajores, my favorite cookie from Peru.

More on AMI Affiliated Societies here: AMI

12 susan

Back Home in California

Now I am back home, catching up on writing a 6th book Montessori book, and preparing for work in Europe in the fall. I don’t usually enjoy shopping, but this beautiful hand-made blouse and amber earrings are gifts and memories of that fascinating local crafts market on the last lovely day in Mexico City.

Stay tuned . . .

Hugs,
Susan

More here: Susan’s Home Page

Montessori Dream in Morocco

For my third trip to Morocco I was honored to have a part in the first AMI Primary course to be given in this part of the world. This is something that I have dreamed about for years, to be part of Montessori teacher training for children from age 2.5 to 6 where I could share what I learned in my very first course at The Maria Montessori Institute (MMI: See more here Montessori ) in London, England almost 50 years ago. I wanted to do this in a place where I can be 100% behind the efforts of the people who are bringing AMI Montessori to their country. Morocco is this place. A dream come true.

1 atlas trip

On the first day the students, the director of Training Lhamo Pemba, and I were hosted at the home of the parents of Aicha Sajid for a delicious traditional French-Moroccan breakfast and then we headed south for 4 days to experience some of this ancient civilization before we settled down to work. This trip was a generous gift of our hosts and none of us will forget it—the wild argon trees with goats climbing to reach the leaves, the walls of ancient cities, the art, the food, the beauty, and the music. It was a unique and valuable beginning of a course as we were able to spend precious time getting to know each other and hearing the variety of stories about what brought each of us together in this place and time, sharing the belief that it is through gentle support of the potential of the very youngest that there is a chance to reveal the very best in humans, for the sake of these individuals and with hope for the future of the world.

2 trip students

The students came from several countries, Australia, China, Mongolia, Congo, Martinique, Morocco, and the United States, all to receive this Montessori teacher training.

3 my room and garden

Because it is almost time for Ramadan, the 40-day fast that is one of the 5 pillars of Islam, my hosts parents invited me to stay in a room in their beautiful garden so I could join the family each night for Iftar or the breaking of the fast. Here is a picture of the garden and my room.

4 ramadan

During the entire month of Ramadan, Muslims fast every day from dawn to sunset. It is meant to be a time of spiritual discipline — of deep contemplation of one’s relationship with God. I joined in the fast; but for me not eating anything between sunrise and sunset was just a small reminder of how it must feel for so many people in the world today who actually experience hunger every day of their lives. And I was one of the fortunate, having a delicious meal to look forward to each day after sunset. The experience was confusing, thought-provoking, and valuable. I am still processing it.

For more about Ramadan click here: Ramadan

Each night some of the members of the extended family and I gathered at around 7:30 PM (the time changing a few minutes each night) to await the evening call to prayer heard from several directions of the city, only then beginning to eat.

The meal began the same every night. One soft-boiled egg sprinkled with salt and cumin, dates and nuts (both delicious in Morocco), and special honey and sesame seed sweets served only at this time of the year. A soup accompanied these, usually the traditional “Harira” made of lentils and chickpeas, spices, and vegetables and meat. The family very graciously always provided vegetarian versions of the soup and everything else just for me.

The second course is “salad” which is a broad term to cover a variety of delicious vegetable dishes, little meat or vegetable pastries, and sometimes fish.

The third course is the famous “tagine” which refers to both the mean/vegetable dish and the special pot it is slowly cooked in over hot coals. Click: Tagine

5 beautiful homes

Sometimes the meal was served in the home of a relative so because of Ramadan, and being invited to tea, I was able to see some of the most beautiful architecture I have ever seen in my life. Here you can see the mural on the wall of a woman who loves India, and the hand-painted ceiling of the grand dame of the family.

6 watercolor study

I was little worried about leaving my considerable work at home to be in Morocco for almost three months so I took along a very tiny watercolor set and two small watercolor blocks. Stealing moments from the 24/7 work on the course I finally was able to do a “study” of a piece of art a friend had shared with me that I had stored on my computer. She had photographed the original, a little known work created by the Japanese artist Tsuguhara Foujita, in Paris. It has been a long time since I worked in watercolor and ink and it was challenging and enjoyable.

Neyla is the daughter of my friend Aicha Sajid, who pulled all of this together, and I have gotten to know her and her brother Nacer very well since we traveled together on my first trip to Morocco. They and their friends often visited me after school to play music, read, sometimes work on math, or just talk about life. One day I asked Neyla to recite some of the prayers of the Koran she was learning. Here is a video of just a few of her words.

8 art neyla drawing

I think you can see why the experience inspired me to do a watercolor and ink drawing of her. I also painted one of her brother Nacer and gave them both to their grandparents as a thank you gift for hosting me. I think they are both on my facebook page “The Art of Susan Mayclin Stephenson”

9 physics

One of the subjects I lectured on during the course was physics. This has been a great love of mine, perhaps because of my physicist father who was interested in how everything works and, even many years ago, in non-coal based energy, including solar! I was thrilled to find that physics was part of the curriculum on my first Montessori training course in London in 1970. Because I loved this subject, so have all of my students over the years. And I hope also the students in the course in Morocco will learn to love it. It seems so in the picture above.

In this picture you see the first slide of a PowerPoint I prepared showing how the experience of physics begins early in life. The students in the picture come from a variety of backgrounds—a “Montessori Mama” separating sand and iron filings; Aicha (who studied computer science at Brown University the same years as our son Michael) and Leila, an artist, are completing the electric circuit; the student experimenting with a candle with limited air was a child advocate lawyer who realized that one must begin earlier in life to truly help children.
They all seem to be enjoying physics.

10 botany

Botany was another subjects of my lectures and the exploration of leaf shapes and attachments to a stem was rich indeed as I was able to deliver that lecture, followed by a long period of research by the students, in the lovely Sajid garden. The second picture here shows the excitement of two of the students when a few days later I discovered and took into class an example of “whorled” leaf attachment to the stem.

11 art day

Of course I was thrilled to be able to deliver the lecture on art, and to provide what was supposed to be a short art workshop but turned out to be a whole day. When lunch was announced none of the students even looked up from their work. And again at the end of the day no one was especially eager to stop creating and discovering. I had wanted them to see what it feels like to be deeply engrossed and concentrating on a project requiring the mind and the hands working together, moving in new ways with paper and scissors and glue and colored pencils and paint, combining them in an open-ended variety. The only requirement was that they use all of the materials (drawing, painting, print-making, cutting, gluing) and that they draw or paint at least one bird, and at least 5 flags.

This last requirement was to show the students that they can indeed draw and paint. Part of their “general knowledge” work back at home between the 2018 and 2019 blocks of the course will be filling in their knowledge gaps that we all have in preparation for working with children.

12 art framed for classroom

We all worked, under the direction of Lhamo, to create a beautiful primary class environment for the students to be able to carry out the many hours of practice on the materials in preparation for oral and written exams next year. An important part of a Montessori environment is art on the walls hung at the level of the child’s eyes. We had 10 frames and I was more than happy to fill some of them of images of my own art.

13 susan with desert

Twice we were treated by Aicha and her co-worked Leila Ouarrak Sfez, to a meal at an elegant French restaurant, “Le Relais de Paris”. When I ordered “profiteroles” the first time I was expecting one small one on a plate as the course of all meals are much smaller outside the USA. Imagine the shock when I was served a pile of profiteroles served with ice cream and chocolate sauce. I was not the only one. And, yes, we had the same desert the second time, but ordered less food for the meal to save room.

14 hanane and hamza

As I think back on this experience I realize how fortunate I have been to be able to work with Lhamo, and to get to know a very special group of talented, hardworking and passionate women who are taking the Montessori course, the two women who are translating the course into French and Chinese, and the teachers and staff at Ecole Montessori Casablanca who helped us so much.

But I also now have other very dear friends in this part of the world, all from the home where I lived for two months.

Every year during Ramadan the king of Morocco invites scholars of Islam from around the world to deliver inspiring lectures on Islam. My host, Mohamed Sajid, as minister of culture for Morocco, is invited to attend. At each of these ten lectures the guests are presented with a beautiful piece of Arabic script in gold lettering to memorialize each of the talks. Mohamed kindly presented me with several of these documents. An American-Moroccan scholar from the University of Chicago delivered the lecture commemorated here.

I often shared meals with Mohamed’s wife, my dear friend Hanane, a Medical doctor who works as a volunteer for whomever needs her, and her son the artist Hamza. They taught me much about their country and their lives. And I now know more about soccer and the World Cup than I ever though possible.

Never will I forget this family and all of the others who contributed to my wonderful stay in Casablanca, Omar, Latifa, and especially Medeni and Hakima who never gave up trying to teach me Arabic and Berber!

15 culture book cover art

When I realized that the work load for the course (as I was writing and delivering lectures along with all of the regular course assistant work) left me no time for my regular work as a Montessori consultant, writer, and a multitude of other tasks I work on when at home, so I was forced to finish my lectures in a little over two months and return to California.

But this experience convinced me of the value of the Montessori primary culture work that were the basis of my lectures—physics, botany, zoology, geography, history, music, and art. Over the last 50 years I have shared this information in many countries, speaking and writing. And often I have been asked to write a book on the subject. So now it is official.

Hopefully in the next year there will be a book with the picture above on the cover. This painting of my youngest grandchild examining a flower with a magnifying glass is not yet finished, but I think it captures the essence of the projected book. Stay tuned . . .

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Finally some of my prints and paintings are now available to purchase via the Internet. I updated this page before leaving for Morocco but only recently posted it. You can see more at this link: Susan’s art

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Just as I was gathering photos (I wish I could have posted 100!) for this blog post, news arrived that the translation of The Joyful Child: Montessori, Global Wisdom for Birth to Three will soon be available in the Romanian language so I might be back in that hemisphere of the planet earth sooner than I thought for a book signing.

Take care,
Susan

Mongolia, Sweden, Morocco, Spring 2018

Events are happening quickly now so this will be a brief blog post, but with lots of pictures as usual.

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In May I will on the staff at the first AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) 3-6-diploma course to be given in Morocco. It will be wonderful to return to this country where I have learned and taught twice before. Here is a link to the Michael Olaf news from this month with more information on both the course and the international translations of books. CLICK HERE: http://michaelolaf.net/newsapril2018.html

3 spring work 2018 best

In February and March I traveled around the globe for the second time. The first was on the ship University of the Seven Seas (now Semester at Sea), a trip of 4+ months. This time is was less than one month:

In Mongolia it was very exciting (and very cold!) to be able to attend an Eagle Hunter competition not so far from Ulaanbaatar, the capital. If you have not heard of this ancient sport I highly recommend the movie “The Eagle Huntress” which tells the story, through a true documentary, of a young girl who became the first female to ever enter this male dominated sport, and she won! (Oops, hope I didn’t ruin the movie for you. No I do not think so for I have seen this movie 3 times and am sure you will enjoy it.) Hunting with eagles has been the way of getting food in this part of the world for many years and during a competition the horse and rider and eagle must work together to obey commands, just as though they were hunting for food. It was a beautiful sunny day but so cold that I had to turn my face to the sun to convince my brain that I was not freezing.

Above is a short video clip, taken by my friend Lhamo Pemba, of one of the riders. The eagles are trained as babies and after 7 years returned to the wild with gratitude of the hunter.

 

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And here is one of the statues of the revered Eagle Hunters found at the amazing monument, The Genghis Khan Equestrian statue, the largest equestrian statue in the world. CLICK HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r83X_4DEDUw

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Then on to the Montessori work! My good friend and AMI trainer, Lhamo Pemba, gave the 10-day AMI Assistants course, an introduction to Montessori for ages 3-6, and allowed me to contribute. Also I gave a 1-day workshop based on the book The Joyful Child: Montessori, Global Wisdom for Birth to three, and we held a book signing with the participants because it is now available in the Mongolian language, translated by the president of the AMI affiliate society in Mongolia, and soon to be graduate of the AMI 0-3 diploma course in Denver, Co, Tsolmon Namkhainyam. The cover art is of an oil painting of a baby whose herder family, living in a ger (yurt in Russian) out on the steppe, we interviewed the last time I was in Mongolia.

8 names in mongolian best

Here is a picture of two members of the AMI affiliate board as they presented both Lhamo and me (both in Mongolian dress) with beautiful scrolls of our names written in the ancient Mongolian script.

9 mindfulness cover

Now on to Sweden! In both Mongolia and Sweden I gave a talk based on the book, “Montessori and Mindfulness”. The book was inspired by the talk I gave at the AMI congress in Prague last summer. It was something I had been thinking about for a long time.

As adults in today’s world we are always rushing from one thing to the next, our attention usually on the past and the future. But in Montessori, uninterrupted concentration on age appropriate activities that involve the body and the mind working together, are the most important and most valuable gift we have for children. This is the most natural experience of true mindfulness.

Also, in Montessori education, instead of the teacher delivering lessons to a group of children, he or she is trained to observe each child individually, as well as the group, all day long, to adjust individual lessons to the stage of development and the interest of each child. There is no way for this teacher to be thinking about the past or the future; she is drawn into each moment of the teaching day, completely being in the moment. Thus Montessori is a method of mindfulness for both the child and the teachers. Here is the link to this book on Amazon. CLICK HERE: http://a.co/53awIWf

And from the publisher. CLICK HERE: http://michaelolaf.com/store/page79.html

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It was wonderful to be back in the lovely home of my friends Barbra Waller and her husband Tom. Jim and I have visited with them before in Sweden and Finland and they have visited us in California. Old friends Patricia Wallner and Louise Livingston, both AMI teacher trainers, were the other two speakers. Here is a picture of us with Barbra and members of the AMI affiliate organization for Sweden.

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After the inspiring Montessori workshop in Stockholm I visited Barbra’s 0-3 class, amazed as always with her natural instincts and abilities with children of this age. Then we spent a day exploring in the Nordic Museum pictured here. I wish I had time a space to share much more of this visit but . . .

12 susan on the beach

. . . Now it is time for me to return to our beach, where I do my best thinking, and enjoy precious with my husband and family, as preparations are in full swing for traveling to Casablanca in exactly one month.

Love to all,

Susan

Dublin, Amsterdam, and Marseille – Spring 2017

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Art, Music, and Literature in Dublin, Ireland

In Dublin I was taken immediately to the tower, now the James Joyce Museum, where the beginning of the book “Ulysses” takes place. That experience has inspired me to give the book just one more chance and I am now on page 20 and enjoying it. Also in Dublin I saw the Book of Kells which has been on my “to do” list for many years, the National Museum, the Chester Beatty Library Collection, and had two shows of my own art.

You do not have to be a member of Facebook to see pictures of this trip here:

Click here: Culture in Dublin

One evening after a delicious dinner with the family of an old friend we were entertained with guitar music of her son. He had been studying classical piano and had become interested in guitar. In my Montessori classes I have always taught piano and guitar to any interested student and I was delighted when, after showing him the 12-bar-blues pattern, we figured out how to play a duet. Then we gave a little concert for the family. It reminded me of how wonderful it feels as a Montessori teacher to be always observing children, watching carefully for that little spark of interest or curiosity, and they stepping in only to provide what it is necessary to feed the flame of that interest – and then get out of the way, creating space for the child to concentrate on progress.


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Feeding the Flame of Interest vs. Schedules and Requirements

For something I wrote on this subject in 2015, see this MONTESSORI NEWSLETTER:

Click here: Concentration Newsletter, “Where the Magic Happens”

4 agm

During this trip attended the AMI AGM (Annual General Meeting of the Association Montessori Internationale) in Amsterdam. In line with what I wrote above, I would like to share a slide from two presentations from this international gathering. In it you see students from two AMI Montessori middle schools, in Sweden and the USA, who were there to answer questions from the audience about the Montessori middle schools they attend. They spoke of the freedom and responsibility we have heard so much of in Dr. Montessori’s writings. They spoke of their love of work and how their education truly is child-centered rather than curriculum-centered. And how their own curiosity is respected. It reminded me so much of the situations I find when I consult with school where, at all levels from age 2-high school, the most valuable parts of Montessori are eliminated in favor of schedules and assignments!!!!

My own Montessori students at the 6-12 level had lists of work they hoped to accomplish during 1 or two-week time period (which I helped them decide upon every 1 or 2 weeks), but other than the 5 Great Lessons given at the beginning of the year, there were very rarely times when I told them when and what to do, and certainly there were no required, regularly scheduled group or collective lessons. I constantly reminded myself, “The teacher is in charge of the minimum, the child the maximum.”

Teachers are doing their best but there so much social pressure to focus on academics that in even the best schools I find situations where daily, sometimes hourly, assignments completely eliminate the possibility of large, long, involved, child-initiated projects.

Rob Gueterbock who was speaking as the students answered questions shared the slide above during the presentation. He told us how important these quotes, recently reread, are in reminding him of the real work. Another of the speakers, John “Mac” McNamara, gave many examples of how, in many years of teaching, the exploration and concentration came before the required curriculum. One example he sighted was three students who found a large fish tank and wanted to set up in the school. They managed all the research and work to do this because it is all they did for 3 days.

Here is a quote by Dr. Montessori to help make this point.

A presentation is given, not to a group of children, but individually, to help the child to grow mentally. We prepare this special environment to help his growth, to offer him freedom so that he can proceed with his work in a normal way. The collective lessons are given only to the child who has not yet been normalized. After normalization, each child grows individually, in his own way.    If we give a lesson we do not command all the children to stop what they are doing in order to listen. Many children may have absolutely no interest in the lesson and we may bore them.

­–Maria Montessori, Creative Development in the Child
page 40 – Kalakshetra 1998, page 207)


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Montessori Work in Amsterdam and Dublin

In Dublin I gave a public lecture, “Montessori, Education for the Future” at University College Dublin, and a full day workshop on Montessori from Birth to Three. In between these two events I flew to Amsterdam to host the president of the new AMI Montessori teachers organization in Peru, and to witness the signing of the affiliate agreement with AMI. This has been in progress since the AGM in April 2016, when, for the first time, Peruvian teachers came to ask for support of AMI. It was a wonderful thing to see.

Click here: Montessori Work in Dublin and Amsterdam


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Marseille, France – Spring 2017

In Marseille, Sandrine Mallet, the founder of the Montessori project, “KidsRFuture” hosted me for several days. Sandrine and I met in 2015 at the 2-week Educateurs sans Frontières (EsF) meeting in Thailand where we gave a joint presentation on our work with children around the world.

Here is her website:

Click here: KidsRFuture

But now Sandrine is the mother of an 8-month-old son, Pierre, and so we arranged for me to visit a school in Marseille and to give a talk on Montessori Birth to Three to the school staff and other parents and teachers. And of course we spent a lot of time observing and learning from Pierre.

Click here: Marseille

I hope you have enjoyed this news, and the pictures, and maybe I will see you on Facebook or Instagram.

Take care,
Susan

PS Since I am an Artist, I enjoy sharing experiences through pictures more than words so lately I have been posting on Facebook and Instagram rather then this blog (Susan Mayclin Stephenson on Facebook, SusanMayclinStephenson on Instagram).

Fischer and Matteo, Musical Babies

Fischer and Matteo, Musical Babies

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Children from Birth to Three have an “absorbent mind”. They take in everything that is going on around them.

A child in his earliest years, when he is only two or a little more, is capable of tremendous achievements simply through his unconscious power of absorption, though he is himself still immobile. After the age of three he is able to acquire a great number of concepts through his own efforts in exploring his surroundings. In this period he lays hold of things through his own activity and assimilates them into his mind. — The Discovery of the Child, Maria Montessori


The role of the AMI Montessori Assistant to Infancy has always been first and foremost to support the parents, the child’s first teacher, in the home. This was done initially in Rome, Italy in 1947 when the program was first designed, to help prepare for as peaceful and successful birth as possible, to help the family prepare the home in such a way that the needs of the infant and the family would be met, and to be there for several days after the birth to help however possible. But over the years it has grown to be even more thanks to research by neuroscientists. We realize the importance of keeping even the very youngest child in the middle of the daily life of the family, of learning to observe the infant to see what he is trying to see and do, to share our interests and daily work with him. In this blog post I am using music as just one example of how to do this.

The Joyful Child 0-3 Montessori

Much of the information on this page, and more, can be found in the above book, available:

From Amazon in many countries: USA Joyful Child

Wholesale from the publishers: Michael Olaf


RHYTHMS – FISCHER

When our grandchild Fischer was born, his musician uncle Michael made a CD for him. Many of the rhythms of traditional music of various cultures were on it. To help him experience these rhythms Michael would hold and move Fischer, dancing in a way, following the same speed as the music on the CD.


 SECOND PIANO LESSON – MATTEO

For a week after giving talks and consulting in Lima, Peru in August, 2016 I stayed with friends from years ago when I was teaching in Colegio San Silvestre. There was a piano in the home but no one had played it for years. I said if they could have it tuned by the time I returned in November I would play for baby Matteo. The following video clips are from “Matteo’s piano lessons” in November.

Second Piano Lesson? What was the first? It was sitting on his mother’s lap watching me play the piano. He watched carefully, not looking away. From the beginning of life a child is carefully observing what is going on around him in the family. Gradually, according to the level of physical development, he is able to follow his strongest desire, which is to join in.

So, after watching me play the piano, for his second piano lesson he sat on my lap. I was careful to hold him firmly around the tummy but to give him enough wiggle space to reach the piano keys with his hands if he wanted to, and to be sure that his legs were comfortable and not pressed up against the edge of the piano.

To get him used to this position I kept my left arm around him and only played with my right. Even though it would have been easy for him to reach the keys with both hands he kept his right hand in his lap and touched the keys only with his left. Maybe he was imitating me in playing with only one hand, but is family (parents, two older siblings and their friends, and his grandmother) have noticed that he seems to use his left hand more than his right. He carefully watched my hand as I played.


THIRD PIANO LESSON – MATTEO

For the third lesson he sat still and peacefully in my lap so I played with both hands. Then, with no help from me he placed both of his hands on top of mine and could feel, as well as see, what it is like to play piano. It was clear to me that he also loves Chopin.


FOURTH PIANO LESSON – MATTEO

We started noticing than when Matteo was being carried as one of the adults walked through the living room, he often leaned toward the piano as he passed it. In the forth lesson he seemed to have mastered it! He was very excited as we sat at the piano, played with both hands with great confidence, and when I was finished playing he carried on with a solo! Soon he was also playing piano in the lap of other members of the family.


BAA BAA BLACK SHEEP – FISCHER

When a child learns language, he first watches and listens, and then he gradually imitates. First some nouns, family labels like mama and papa, gradually filling in all of the elements of grammar with no tension or stress. By age 6 he masters a language in a way that would take so much effort by an older child or an adult. It is the same with music. In this little video clip, Fischer has no idea that he is not playing and singing exactly like the adults he has seen play and sing this song. And with a little help he could learn to do it perfectly when he is ready.


FUR ELISE – FISCHER AND UNCLE MICHAEL

In this video clip Fischer is showing his Uncle Michael a song that he really enjoys hearing and is figuring out how to play on his own. Michael is improvising a duet with him.


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FISCHER AND FAMILY

Art is not in some far-off place. A work of art is the expression of a man’s whole personality, sensibility and ability. When love is deep, much can be accomplished. — Shinichi Suzuki

Fischer (next to his Papa) is now taking Suzuki piano lessons.


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MATTEO AND FAMILY

During these piano lessons with Matteo and his family in November 2016, I was able to be a true AMI Assistant to Infancy. Beginning in August the family have been reading my book, The Joyful Child: Montessori, Global Wisdom for Birth to Three. I had also shared with the whole family (almost everyone in the picture above) the PowerPoint presentation  given in a hotel in Lima. Matteo’s two siblings are university students. They and their friends all love and want to provide the very best for Matteo, this tiny gift to the family, and they are all learning about Montessori. I feel so honored to have this opportunity to bring AMI Montessori to Peru in the very best way, starting with one family.

But music is not all the family is learning. This is just one way to think about including Matteo in the life of his family.

I asked Alheli, Matteo’s mother, to tell me some of the things they had learned, both from the book, and from my visits in these 3 months. This is what she told me:

— We have learned to respect Matteo’s concentration and not to interrupt him when he is looking at something or trying to do something.

— We do not look away when there is eye contact and Matteo is staring at us.

— We all have learned to speak his language by repeating his sounds, exactly as they sound. Now we have long “conversations” with him.

— We talk to him gently and ask for his permission and understanding.

— We value moments like changing his diapers and nursing as moments to develop attachment. We do not rush through them but we understand that every interaction is important.

— We can see the importance of a mirror for Matteo to see himself, to watching himself and others move.

— Rather than providing a lot of baby toys we now know that simple objects we have at home are the best toys. We realize that he wants to handle and explore the things he sees other people using

— We know that his mouth since the beginning has been the most important part of his body to learn about the world.

— We try to understand his sounds and physical signs in order to be empathetic to him.

— We understand he gets upset or cries not only when he is hungry but also more often when he is bored.

— We know the importance of tummy time. And have created a place at home (middle of the house) for him to practice moving and to watch the family.

feet-2-pictures

— We have learned to dress Matteo in clothing that allow him to move and explore with his whole body and his hands. No more socks.

— Playing is also working and he gets tired (happily tired).

— The most concentrated playing time he has the more time there is between nursing, because food was the only “fun” thing for him before we learned about his other needs.

— Exposure to music that shown us that he is a musical boy!!!

What Mama Alhelí enjoys the most: Music time

What Papa César enjoys the most: Concentration time


I hope this musical post makes you laugh and smile and think, and that it is as valuable to you as the experience has been for me.

All of my best wishes for a musical and joyful holiday season.

Love,

Susan

www.susanart.net

AMI Assistants to Infancy courses

The book: The Joyful Child: Montessori, Global Wisdom for Birth to Three