In the beginning of March, I visited the oldest Montessori school in Mexico, Colegio Montessori de Chihuahua. The school meets the needs of children with infant communities, elementary classes, and the higher grades, including a middle school, or Erdkinder (earth children), where the focus is real work that gives the students a feeling of being valuable, and creative, responsible, original, and respected.
What was very noticeable was the lack of adults! In both inside and outside spaces it was clear that students were working hard because they wanted to be doing so, and not because they were directed or scheduled by someone else. They were not rushing from activity to activity, from class to class. The academics were connected to the physical work and satisfying mental curiosity, and I could feel an atmosphere of concentration and being valuable. As Montessori said:
It is necessary to consider not only the active occupations but the need for solitude and quiet, which are essential for the development of the hidden treasures of the soul.” (Childhood to Adolescence, p. 73)
Here is the link to a video on the needs and characteristics of the adolescent years. Being interviewed from Russia is Lesley-Ann Patrick. With degrees from the University of London, and Cambridge University, and AMI Montessori teaching experience in many countries, Leslie-Ann is a world-wide expert on Montessori middle and high school.
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Just as Montessori predicted, when the physical and emotional needs of the adolescent are met, students are ready to tackle the highest academic challenges such as IB and Cambridge curriculum in the high school years.
The staff prepares the meals in the school restaurant for Monday and Tuesday each week, and the students who have been involved with the school gardening and raising of farm animals, now plan the meals, shop for food needed from stores, and do the cooking, caring for the restaurant, and serving food for the rest of the week.
Granja Hogar (beautiful place) is a non-profit organization that has been run by Sacred Heart, a Catholic organization, for many years. It provides clothing and supplies for families, and farming and gardening experience and academic education for the disadvantaged Tarahumara children living in the poorest neighborhoods in Chihuahua. The children stay her from Sunday night through Friday.
Community service is very important during the adolescent years so 16 years ago students from the Montessori school began spending time each week working on this farm, participating in building maintenance, caring for the children, helping with education. Some years ago it was these volunteer Montessori students who requested that the Montessori school create a Montessori preschool for these children. Today the school provides the materials and the teachers to give the best of Montessori to the poorest of Chihuahua, changing the lives of not only these children and their families, but also everyone involved with Colegio Montessori de Chihuahua.
MONTESSORI AND MINDFULNESS
Angeline Lillard is a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, AMI 0-3 trained, and author of the book Montessori, the Science Behind the Genius. Here we are standing in front of a beautiful mural at the Montessori school in Chihuahua. We visited Granja Hogar together, and then rode together to Queretaro where she spoke on the need to not just fix what she calls the “factory model” of education today, but to create a revolution similar to the old geocentric view of the universe and solar system to the present heliocentric view. She is always inspiring to say the least.
Angeline’s paper on mindfulness is included in my book Montessori and Mindfulness. the book thought to be especially helpful during the Covid-19 reason as schools need to find a new way to help students. A helpful Montessori and Mindfulness Facebook page has been created and there is a book club holding weekly meetings from the Montessori school in Moscow, Russia. It is held by zoom so there are participants from several countries meeting on zoom each Tuesday. Here is the link to the most recent, the fifth meeting.
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See Angeline’s personal website where she generously shares so much.
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Upon arriving in Queretaro it was thrilling to be met by Montessori friends from Colombia, and my oldest grandchild, Zahra Sherman, who has been volunteering at the Montessori school in Cali during her gap year between high school and college. We all lived together in for the week and I was very pleased to hear Zahra converse almost completely in Spanish with my Colombian friends. For more on this school in Cali, Colombia:
The occasion was the 25th annual AMI Montessori conference in Mexico. Each year it is held in a different city. Zahra attended all of the lectures, and after having attended Montessori schools from infant community through middle school, I think it must have a revelation for her to now see this experience from an adult perspective. I must say that just being able to share this special occasion and spend quality time with my grown up granddaughter made the trip to Mexico one of the highlights of my life.
The talks were all wonderful, what a great group of speakers Gabriela Molinar President of AMI México, and Eder Cuevas Director, had brought together. High-level philosophy, a valuable variety of very practical subjects, a beautiful venue, time to see beautiful Queretaro, and as always in Latin America, dancing and singing. Here you can see my friend Lyda Franky on the right, her daughter Luz Ka on the left, and Zahra in the middle. Her smile says it all. I was gratified to meet many dear old friends, customers of the Michael Olaf Company over the years, and new friends who recognized me from Facebook and Instagram!
EL NINO ALEGRE
Montessorians, from Spain and several Latin American countries, several here at the conference, have been working on the Spanish translation of The Joyful Child, my most translated book. Even during our time together in Queretaro, Lyda worked on translations and Zahra typed them for her. The book has only just been published and there is more information here:
COVID-19 AND MONTESSORI HOMESCHOOLING
Very soon after I arrived back in California countries had to close their boarders. Zahra had to cut short her volunteer work in Cali, Colombia and fly home to Oregon. She is now continuing to help the students at the Montessori school with their English through zoom. During this time, Montessorians all over the world have been working together to figure out how to support families, students, and teachers.
For 10 years our family homeschooled our youngest child, Michael Stephenson, and I have been promising to record this experience in a book for a long time. Now, because of Covid-19 t it is happening. I will share the chapters on this blog one at a time because there is no time to waste if out experience can be helpful. Stay tuned. In the meantime here is a bit of information about this experience:
Blessings to all, stay safe,
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Michael Olaf still supplies a few very special, unique Materials for infants and children up through age 7 and my books.
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