Independence, Concentration, Compassion – Child of the World

Child of the World:
Montessori, Global Education for Age 3-12+

The e-book version of this book, which is considered one of the best introductions to Montessori for parents and teachers, reached over 2000 people around the world in July, 2021. For more information and to see the complete Table of Contents: CHILD

The author’s website: SUSAN

Chapter: Age 3-6, Caring for Oneself, for Others, and for the Environment

Boys at a Montessori school in Bhutan preferring to work on fixing the school sidewalk than to play.

(Page 4) One of the great discoveries in the Montessori world in the past 100-plus years is that children are not empty slates with a need to be filled up, or rewarded into working, learning, concentrating, being kind.

These are natural tendencies of the human being and should be protected. Every child, by instinct, wants to learn and grow to the limit of his abilities. To support this need we must carefully prepare the physical and social environment, provide tools that enable the child to work to create himself, watch for those first tentative moments of concentration, and get out of the way, following the child as his path unfolds. We call the activities through which he creates himself “work” rather than “play” only because the use of this word reminds us adults to respect and not to interrupt the child. This work not only fulfills the child’s potential but also seems to be the most powerful force in creating the peace in the world we all long for.

Montessori’s work did not begin by developing language, math, and cultural materials so important in all kinds of education today. These came after her most important discovery: When children are given clear lessons that allow them to perform real work, when they can then independently choose what to work with, concentration follows, and compassion is the result of these long periods of concentration.

When the children had completed an absorbing bit of work, they appeared rested and deeply pleased. It almost seemed as if a road had opened up within their souls that led to all their latent powers, revealing the better part of themselves. They exhibited a great affability to everyone, put themselves out to help others, and seemed full of good will.
—Maria Montessori

Chapter: Age 3-6, The Preparation and Serving of Food

(Page 11) In a classroom in Moscow, Russia a young girl prepares potatoes, cabbage, and beets for making soup for her classmates’ lunch.

(Page 14) Parents do not always have the time in today’s fast-paced world to include the child in everything and should not feel bad about this. It is different in the Montessori classroom when the teacher is available to the child for this work all day long, and trained to give lessons and help the child grow toward independence. She is not trying to balance this work with all of endeavors of a parent. It is too much to expect a new parent, or a busy parent to do this perfectly. We must be easy on ourselves in the home and plan a time when we will enjoy work as well as the children. Begin with just one thing, perhaps putting the napkins on the table for a meal, and gradually add to the tasks in which the child can participate, and eventually take over.

Chapter: Age 3-6, The Earth, Physical Sciences

(Page 33) A child demonstrating a simple circuit in a classroom in the Bahamas.

Just as with the real practical work, academics are mastered through independently chosen, hands-on, work that allows for deep concentration and the resultant happiness.

Chapter: Age 3-6, Plants and Animals, Life Sciences

Visiting grandparents and helping to clean up the garden before winter.

(Page 37) Solicitous care for living things affords satisfaction to one of the most lively instincts of the child’s mind. Nothing is better calculated than this to awaken an attitude of foresight.

Chapter: Age 3-6, Music and Art

(Page 55) This young child is singing a Tibetan song accompanied by his father.

Learning songs of one’s own culture and that of others is a wonderful introduction to peoples of the world.

Chapter: Age 3-6, Geometry, Math, and Measurement

(Page 79) This picture is of a classroom in Tanzania, Africa, where the materials are made from “found” objects.

It is the training of the teacher, not the materials, that is most important in the success of Montessori education.

Chapter: Age 6-12, Transition to the Elementary Years

(Page 81) Although academics and sports are important, the feeling of worth resulting from hauling and stacking firewood for the winter cannot be rivaled.

Chapter: Age 6-12, Humanities, Social Sciences

(Page 99) In this classroom in Canada, making model pyramids brings the study of Egypt, and other civilizations of the past, to life.

Today those things that 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.

Chapter: Age 6-12, Invention, Geometry, and Math

(Page 117) In this country school in Thailand students begin to understand mechanics and physics as they learn to care for the school lawn mower.

Chapter: The Adult, Age 18-24

(Page 136) Very young students in this boarding school in Nepal learn to do real work, and by high school are sterilizing told and keeping records for the annual dental clinic run by volunteer USA dentists.

(Page 137) Overemphasis on the competitive system and premature specialization on the ground of immediate usefulness kill the spirit on which all cultural life depends, specialized knowledge included. It is also vital to a valuable education that independent critical thinking be developed in the young human beings, a development that is greatly jeopardized by overburdening him with too much and with too varied subjects (point system). Overburdening necessarily leads to superficiality. Teaching should be such that what is offered is perceived as a valuable gift and not as a hard duty.
—Albert Einstein, “Education for Independent Thought,” (New York Times, 1952)

(Page 138) My vision of the future is no longer of people taking exams and proceeding on that certification from the secondary school to the university, but of individuals passing from one stage of independence to a higher, by means of their own activity, through their own effort of will, which constitutes the inner evolution of the individual.

Chapter: Preparing a Learning Environment

(Page 157, repeating, and completing, the Author’s favorite quote by Dr. Montessori)

When the children had completed an absorbing bit of work, they appeared rested and deeply pleased. It almost seemed as if a road had opened up within their souls that led to all their latent powers, revealing the better part of themselves. They exhibited a great affability to everyone, put themselves out to help others, and seemed full of good will.

It was clear to me that the concept of order and the development of character, of the intellectual and emotional life, must derive from this veiled source [concentration]. Thereafter, I set out to fine experimental objects that would make this concentration possible, and carefully worked out an environment that would present the most favorable external conditions for this concentration. And that is how my method began.


NOTE: A print copy of this book, including the pictures, is available for approximately US$15 on local Amazon sites in many European countries, North America, Australia, India, and gradually in more places. Pictures are not available in the e-book version because there are so many.

NOTE: Sign up at the bottom of the page to follow this blog and be notified of other free downloads.

Praise for Child of the World

I have known Susan for almost 40 years. I have found the information to be the highest quality. In Montessori, we say that we respect the child. Respect is more than a high regard; it is doing something for the child’s wellbeing. Susan respects children in this very down to earth regard. She is doing something great!
—Rita Schaefer Zener, PhD, Director of AMI Montessori Training

Teachers at Shree Mangal Dvip School were fortunate to attend seminars on education and child development given by Susan Stephenson in Kathmandu, Nepal. Her insightful presentation inspired its administration to begin reforming its program to include Montessori ideals and practices. An invaluable resource for all things Montessori, Susan has shared her thoughtful delineation of the Montessori approach and its practices in one indispensable volume, Child of the World, a veritable source of wisdom and guidance for parents, teachers, and administrators.
—Riza Weinstein, Canadian supporter of the SMD school in Nepal

I have a greater understanding of Montessori education from reading Child of the World than I have gotten from my various other readings about Montessori practice and philosophy. Thank you for centering Montessori principles on the needs of children and families.
—Patrick Farenga, Editor of the homeschooling newsletter Growing Without Schooling

This explanation of Montessori practice and philosophy is both readable and inspiring. The writing is a useful response to questions or criticism often heard regarding Montessori education, that it is either too rigid or not rigid enough. It goes to the heart of what a successful Montessori education involves: the child taking the lead in her own education. Ms. Stephenson has dedicated her life to the furtherance of Montessori education around the world. This book demonstrates how the Montessori method transcends different cultures to bring the focus to the child.
—Miriam Geraghty, civil rights lawyer and mother, USA

This book explains the meaning of life, how you are supposed to live it. It would be helpful to other people my age. If the young person does not want to read the chapter, The Young Adult, Age 12-18, then the parents should read it so they can help their son or daughter become a better person.
—Ryan Alcock, Montessori student Age 13, Amsterdam

For information of other titles in this series of books:


The theme “Independence, Concentration, Compassion”, as the basic goal of a Montessori education, can be found in all of these books.

Leave a Reply