The Joyful Child: Montessori, Global Wisdom for Birth to Three
When a human’s physical, mental, and spiritual needs are understood and provided for, especially in the formative first three years of life, a true global citizen may be revealed; a person with a healthy self-image who has learned to know and trust others, who enjoys silence and deep concentration because the resulting joy, and compassion for others, has been experienced first hand. We have then a person who has the capacity to access the deep inner resources with which we are all born, and to nourish the lives of all beings and the planet herself. Happy Earth Day!
This picture of the author with Silvana Quattrocchi Montanaro, MD, Assistant to Infancy founding trainer for The Association Montessori Internationale, was taken in the 90s.
The book The Joyful Child: Montessori, Global Wisdom for Birth to Three began in 1984 as the “the teaching text” of the catalog for the Michael Olaf Montessori materials company. Every year 100,000 copies were printed and spread around the world. Then in the following year the text was revised, refined, made more helpful because of feed-back from teachers and parents.
When it came time to publish a book, the writing was done very carefully with the collaboration with Silvana, who Susan visited several times in Rome, and Silvana’s co-trainer Judi Orion. Some of the pictures were provided by friends who are Montessori 0-3 teacher trainers in other countries. The cover art, as is the case with all eight of the author’s books, was taken from her own oil painting.
Silvana, from the introduction to the book:
Susan Mayclin Stephenson has seen with her own eyes, over many years, that these principles succeed with children of any country, of every culture. In The Joyful Child Susan shares what we know of the child in the first three years of life in an elegant and compassionate way. I am convinced that her words will help create a better life for children all over the world.
This book has been translated into many languages. The Persian translation is shown here. One child psychologist in Iran ordered 15 copies to share with parents and wrote to express her gratitude!
To see the table of contents, birth to three child development video clips, comments from readers, and translations:
CLICK: MORE JOYFUL CHILD
Who might benefit from this book?
The Joyful Child has been used in birth-preparation classes; mommy-baby classes; nanny training; online book clubs; university classes in various areas of study; pediatrician waiting rooms; orphanage staff in several countries; homeschoolers; Montessori teacher training courses at all levels as it explains the basic formation of the human personality.
Susan’s pre-Montessori work was as a counselor for troubled adolescents and a Latin tutor for high school students. She has lectured in high school and university classes and learned a lot from young adults about their needs and goals. When she first began the Montessori 0-3 diploma course it was clear that there were many similarities between the child in the first three years of life and the young adult. These stages mark the beginning of childhood, and the beginning of adulthood. The parallels are important to understand in order to meet the needs of both: they both experience an emotional back-and-forth of wanting to be cuddled and hugged and needing to be independent; there is a need for real practical and important work observed in the family in the first case, and in society in the second. There is a need to have choices of activities, and rest from activity; a need for respect for self-directed sleeping and eating; there is a need to be spoken to with respect during these sometimes-volatile periods. And this is only the beginning.
From the book introduction by Silvana:
It is important to reach young adult during adolescence, when they are searching for their own potential, when they are seeking to understand their own changing bodies and minds, seeking to find out who they are and what their mission is.
— Silvana Montanaro
For these reasons The Joyful Child is often used in Montessori middle and high school child development classes to help adolescents understand themselves, and what it is like to be a parent. Here you can see comments by some of the students:
CLICK: Child Development Text
People new to Montessori
The Joyful Child has often been the first Montessori book translated in a country new to Montessori. In 2020 it was published by the government of Iran and provided at a very low cost.
It is clear and simple, with a lot of the information shared through pictures. This was at the insistence of Dr. Montanaro who reminded the author that we are now a “visual” culture. Over and over we hear the after reading this book (and Susan’s other books) the readers want to know more, and are able to better understand the deep wisdom found in Montessori’s own books.
The Elderly and Forgetful
In talking about Montessori helping those living with dementia, and the value of procedural memory of early practical life work for children . . .
A friend from Japan told me, “Quite often boys are not expected to do the household chores such as cleaning the house, cooking, washing dishes. This is though of as girls’ work. You can see the results in homes for the aged now. Men don’t have anything to do while women are so active and happy!”
—Susan Mayclin Stephenson, Aid to Life, Montessori Beyond the Classroom
So the practical life, the real work, carried out in the first three years of life can prepare a person for the last stage of live, providing daily focus and concentration, exercise, purpose, happiness.
All Adults –Yes, US!
One day, during my Assistants to Infancy (birth to three) training in Denver, Colorado, I had spent the morning observing very carefully a group of children from 1-3 years in a Montessori infant community. I observed every detail of their actions and recorded carefully and scientifically, as was required.
It was the end of the week and each Friday all of us students gathered in a park near the training center and shared our meal. Then we would join hands and dance a Greek circle dance that is a very special part of many of the 0-3 training courses. I was a bit late so I sat on the grass at a distance and watched.
I was astounded. There, in front of me, were a group of large-bodied (adult) 1-3 year olds.
The course students, men and women, were exhibited the same characteristics I had been observing all morning. It was clear in watching their movements that there were great differences between the members of the group, differences exactly like those that I had just observed in the children. Some of the adults were shy about their abilities; some hesitated briefly before taking another person’s hand; some stood tall and proud and others slouched apologetically; some seemed worried that they might trip and fall and focused on, “What would other think?”; others practically flew like birds, reaching to the sky with joy.
This was an example of what we were learning in the course, that what happens in the first three years of life can stay with us, and affect us, in many ways as adolescents and adults. Some adults trust that the world basically a safe place while others worry about everything. Some adults feel good about themselves exactly the way they are, while others might never feel that way—no matter how thin and pretty and handsome and well-educated and wealthy and powerful they may become
Reading about Montessori principles in this book can help us all understand a little bit who we are, why we are the way we are. It may help us be better or love ourselves exactly the way we are.
There is also 0-3 information in the book Aid to Life, Montessori Beyond the Classroom
CLICK: Aid to life
0-3 Montessori Training: If you have an interest in learning more about the 0-3 Montessori parent/teacher training, a good way to begin, especially as now it is possible online, is the 60 hour 0-3 certificate course (sometimes called “orientation course” or “assistants course”). Here is the link:
CLICK: A to I Orientation
The author began her Montessori journey during graduate school when a friend gave her The Montessori Method and she enrolled her first child in an AMI Montessori school in San Francisco. She has AMI diplomas for 0-3, 3-6, 6-12, and fifty years experience as a Montessori teacher for children and young adults at all ages, a consultant for parent groups and schools, a lecturer on Montessori teacher training courses and at conferences, an international speaker and school consultant, and an oral examiner for the Association Montessori International.
She and her husband live in the middle of the redwood trees near the Pacific coast of Northern California where Susan is gradually retiring to her love of gardening, playing the piano, and painting.
CLICK: Author’s Home Page and Blog