Art and Iphones, blogging from Panama

panama city


I am blogging from the Copa Club at the airport in Panama City on the way to Santiago de Cali, Colombia. With a 7-hour layover on a beautiful sunny day, even after a red-eye flight from San Francisco, I am too excited to try to sleep.

our home


I know that some of you do not know that we live in the middle of a grove of ancient redwoods on the north coast of California. The trade-off for this good fortune is that one cannot count on flights actually leaving at the right time, sometimes even the right day, so I always plan a stopover in San Francisco with old friends.

museum 1 and 2


We take advantage of visiting art exhibits in the city. This time it was “How Japan inspired Monet, Van Gogh, and other Western artists” at the Asian Art Museum.

museum 3 and 4

There are more than 170 artworks drawn from the  collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, with masterpieces by the great impressionist and post-impressionist painters Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, and Paul Gauguin, among others.

haystack both

Years ago I did a study/copy of this painting of a haystack by Monet and was so pleased to be able to see it up close, and to photograph his remarkable brush work. I am more interested in learning painterly styles like this than photo-real oil painting. So I study the details of great works of art wherever possible.

susan art finished

There was even an area where visitors were invited to do studies of a selection of the Japanese pieces. Helen and I each did one very quickly as it was almost closing time. What a perfect end of a museum visit.


There is one more thing I would like to share with you before signing off.

family best

Last week, in the coffee shop in our village, I noticed that there seemed to be something unique about a family having breakfast together. I kept watching them, trying to figure out what it was.

Suddenly it hit me! They were actually talking to each other, listening, laughing; and no iphones or ipads were in sight—shades of the past! I don’t know them but asked if they would mind if I shared their picture on Facebook. They were pleased and so was. A reminder for all of us.

Signing off, running out of battery on my laptop here at the airport.


PS On January 21 I received an email from a Swedish friend who lives in Thailand. She wrote in response to the “iphone” bit of this blog:

I want to share with you a similar experience in my house. We had a boy just 6 years old visiting us with his uncle and aunt from Bangkok. I noticed when he arrived how polite he was saying in English “Good Morning Doctor Kolmodin”. He had no toys with him, no books or anything to amuse him. He spend 3 hours in the car, talking and looking out at the traffic, fields, and so on. He helped us in the kitchen and talked with us. He ate in peace together with us in the dining room. I was so impressed of this calm boy with no Ipad or toys and, as you realized that this was for us a few years ago normal.



Cosmic Education: The Child’s Discovery of a Global Vision and a Cosmic Task

blog susan

Susan in Mongolia exploring education from birth in that part of the world.


This is an excerpt from an article printed in The NAMTA Journal, Global Citizenship: Uncovering the Montessori Mission, Volume 40 Number 2, Spring 2015.

Susan Mayclin Stephenson tackles a large subject, Cosmic Education, which Montessori defined as a “unifying global and universal view[s] of the past, present and future.” Stephenson takes the reader from birth to the end of the elementary age with examples of how the child grows into an understanding of Cosmic Education through their experiences at home and at school. Central to her thesis is the theme of discovering one’s cosmic task, which depends on “fostering…curiosity and compassion toward other beings.” Stephenson concludes with examples from around the world and illustrates how children are born with this tendency toward compassion and how it is experienced from birth through age twelve within Montessori environments.
(Editor, “The NAMTA Journal”


blog and starfish

Observing starfish on the California North Coast before gently placing them back in the water.

The word cosmic today usually means something very large or having to do with the universe. But the word comes from the Greek kosmikos, from kosmos, meaning order. The term Cosmic Education in Montessori lingo refers to a child’s gradual discovery of order, a unifying global and universal view of the past, present, and future. It is the coming together of many components of knowledge into a large vision or realization, as in a mosaic, of the interdependence of elements of the solar system, the Earth, planets and animals, and humankind. The character of our time is sometimes referred as the information age; today’s children are bombarded with facts and information with no way to make sense or bring this information into some kind of order. Cosmic Education helps a child make sense of all the information and is more important today than ever before.

blog plant

One page of a Montessori 6-12 class student journal of work.

These principles of Montessori education are usually discussed in reference to the second plane of development, the years 6–12. But such an idea is not something Dr. Montessori invented for the elementary child as an academic curriculum. As usual, she “followed the child” and the child’s interests. This does not begin at age six.

blog topponcino

A painting by the author, big brother holding his infant sibling safely and comfortably on a Montessori “topponcino” which is made during the AMI Montessori Assistants to Infancy course.

NOTE: the topponcino is available from the Michael Olaf Company:

The discovery of Cosmic Education and one’s cosmic task depends on fostering the curiosity of the human being and the natural tendency to feel compassion toward other beings beginning at birth. There is evidence that natural curiosity and feeling responsibility for others, or compassion (the sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it) begins long before the child enters the elementary class. Wanting to be useful and helpful and caring about the happiness of others is not something that needs to be taught; it is a basic part of the human make-up and can be observed even in the very young.

blog math

Math, such as this child is enjoying in a school in Paro, Bhutan, is just as enjoyable and interesting as any other subject in a Montessori class.

Speaking at the University of Amsterdam in 1950, Dr. Maria Montessori said,

It should be realized that genuine interest cannot be forced. Therefore all methods of education based on centres of interest which have been chosen by adults are wrong. Moreover, these centres of interest are superfluous, for the child is interested in everything.

A global vision of cosmic events fascinates children, and their interest will soon remain fixed on one particular part as a starting point for more intensive studies. As all parts are related, they will all be scrutinized sooner or later. Thus, the way leads from the whole, via the parts, back to the whole.

The children will develop a kind of philosophy which teaches them the unity of the Universe. This is the very thing to organize their intelligence and to give them a better insight into their own place and task in the world, at the same time presenting a chance for the development of their creative energy.

blog math journal

Children record their favorite math, geometry and algebra discoveries over 6-12 years of the elementary class. And enjoy decorating the margins and using colors to make a beautiful record of their work.

To see the complete article, which was just published as the February, 2016 newsletter from the Michael Olaf Montessori Company, go to this link:

For more information on NAMTA (North American Montessori Teachers’ Association) and membership. Click on the following link. Anyone interested in learning morea about Montessori is welcome, and there are members all over the world: