Romania, Sweden, and my 75th Birthday!

IASI, ROMANIA, Fall, 2018
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.

Here is the story of presenting Montessori in Romania, exploring the cultures, and then speaking at one of the most famous Montessori farm schools for adolescents, in Sweden

1 book signing
It 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.

4 classrooms
There is no international AMI school consultation program yet, but I try to help bring existing Montessori practices to the very highest level. At the school in Iasi 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!

5 palace of culture
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 opera
There were no ticket left to see La Traviata but we received permission to attend a rehearsal, which in my experience is just as interesting in different ways than a final performance. And to see the gypsy (Roma) dances here in Romania was very special. Here we are all together for a pre-opera meal followed by a 75th birthday cake for me.

7 all teachers in Iasi cropped

When 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. 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 painted churches.

After one last goodbye dinner with the staff Catalina, Simona Nicolae, and I headed to the Bukovina area next to the border with the Ukraine..

8 music and dance
This 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 celebrating births, weddings, and deaths. Klezmer musicians, like the one in this picture, keep alive the  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 monasteries
All monasteries are painted inside but in 1530 painting the exteriors began. 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.


10 tradition
In the 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 a nest at one’s home.

11 eggs
As in many Eastern European cultures painting Easter eggs is a fine art in Romania’s villages. Painting these beautiful eggs is 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.


12 water pipe
My 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 filled with artworks, paintings, prints, and sculpture, part of what used to be a large and beautiful Armenian mansion. The cat and I slept on the sofa and I felt very much at home,  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 cake

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 Poland and it was so nice to hear music by my favorite composer at the Warsaw Chopin Airport!


15 farm

Montessori Centre for Work and Study
On the southwest coast of Sweden is one of the oldest and most authentic “Erdkinders” (Montessori land children school for adolescents) available today. This is a working farm run for the most part by adolescents. The students come from many countries.

For more information about Erdkinder click here: ERDKINDER

16 student and honey
The 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 orientation
This is a teacher-training 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 susan
The head of the school, Jenny Marie Hogland and I have been planning to get together here for a long time. Finally we did it. My first work with adolescents was as a Latin tutor for high school students and then as a counselor for 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. Drawing on this experience, and the homeschooling of our last child through middle and high school I was able 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

Montessori Homeschooling book information here:
CLICK: Montessori Homeschooling

19 staff and students
The best part of my work is getting to know the people. Just as in any Montessori class, the adolescent orientation  teachers-in-training, and the trainers, treat 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 was then a housefather at the Erdkinder, an adolescent expert from the USA, and Jenny’s daughter, also a graduate of the Erdkinder, who is now 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)



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