My good friends Catalina Ivan (head of the Montessori School of Iasi) and Simona Nicolae (excellent teacher now becoming an AMI teacher trainer) drove six hours from Iasi to Bucharest to meet me late at night at the airport, after a long flight from San Francisco via Paris. Later in this blog post You can see the details of our trip.
After fifty+ years in the Montessori field, almost everything I say has shared in my books. It is such a pleasure to return to a place where the books have been translated, publishing, and read. Our work together is so much richer and our conversations deeper as a result. It was so rewarding to see so many of my suggestions from our first work together being implemented at the school. Now on to the Montessori school!
Practical Life Work: Helping Oneself and Helping Others
One of the reasons it is so important to have as few (well-trained) adults in the Montessori environment as possible is so the children will attempt to help themselves and each other. This young boy spends as long as it takes to figure out how to get the soap from the soap dispenser and the two girls are working together, one holding her hair out of the way while the other fastens her apron
Baking rolls for the whole class takes far more thinking, executive functions of the brain, than most other activities that we often think are of interest to young children. He must follow a logical progression, solve problems, concentrate, move carefully, and, while meeting his own needs, is already experiencing how good it feels to do something important for the group.
Children under the age of seven years are in the stage of movement and learning through the senses (different than learning through the imagination later). The 41 counties in Romania are first presented to children as a puzzle, each piece a different country. This gives large muscle experience of carrying, and putting away, the large wooden puzzle map. It provides careful visual acuity and eye-hand coordination to place the puzzle pieces correctly, and the small knobs challenge the pincer movement of the hands in exactly a way that prepares for the correct holding of a pencil.
The sandpaper letters are always presented by the combining of tracing the letter while saying the sound, NOT then name of the letter. This wires several parts of the brain together and is a profound way of learning as well as preparation for lovely writing. Here, as I always suggest, the sandpaper letters are kept in alphabetically order on the wall ledge, teaching a child, during this absorbent mind period of life, the order of the alphabet. This is a skill that will prove useful throughout life.
Reading, Writing, and ‘Rithmatic – Still Sensorial
Even though many adults have been led to believe that they are not musical and should not be attempting to teach music to children, these special Montessori bells are just as much a logical sensorial material as those who teach size, length, color, smell, etc. accessible to any adult. And learning to write and then read music occurs at the same time as learning to write and read (yes, writing first, then reading) words. Math operations with the decimal system, and learning multiplication tables, etc., although perhaps painful and boring to many of us, are fun and easy in the Montessori class.
One of the suggestions I almost always find myself making is to remove any prepared drawings and the often-thought-necessary varieties of lined paper. When a child is given a plain piece of paper, freedom of expression, and the confidence of the adult, there is limit to the inventiveness and creativity that results. I would always prefer to see a flower drawn by a child, and even straight lines made by the child with a ruler when he or she wants to practice writing in a straight line.
The Elementary, Age 6-12, Years – Sensorial to Abstract
Just as much of the math and geometry is easily absorbed in the early year, concepts such as squaring and cubing are presented first with materials in the 6-12 class, and then concepts make sense and can even be pictured in the mind when they are presented later in the abstract and on paper.
This is true at this level in so many areas, the creation of the universe, the evolution of plants and animals, human evolution and cultures, human creations in the arts and sciences, math, and language. First a material representation, and then the imagination takes over and creation is unlimited.
It was a pleasure to see the variety of work, practical and academic, going on in this area of the school. I was shown the building where the elementary class will have more space as soon as next month. And finally, we visited the land that has already been purchased, land near many natural and academic resources, where there are plans for a new school and a place for training teachers in the greater area of Moldovia. It is such a gift to experience to see the work and passion and dedication to the best of Montessori that I have found here.
THE TRIP FROM BUCHAREST TO IASI
For My World-Curious Traveling Friends and Readers, Armchair or Otherwise
After being met at the Bucharest airport, Catalina, Simona, and I headed north to a hotel in the Sinaia area of Romania for the first night of our three-day trip to explore the country between Bucharest and the Moldova area of Romania. On our trip, we often listened to the music of the famous Romanian Enescu. Here is a YouTube rendition of one of his pieces of music, entitles, and sounding like, a Lark. And, upon arriving at the school, I was pleased to see, on my first day of observation at the school a reproduction of one of my own paintings in one of the classrooms. The school owns the original painting represented here!
CLICK: The Lark, by Enescu
The above picture shows the traditional fabric wall in my hotel room and the landscape that met us the next morning on our drive north. The incredible beauty found in this country is just one of the reasons I always look forward to returning.
Above are the Bran Castle and the medieval fortress, Râșnov Citadel. Here are links to more information about the fortress, Bran castle, and the Sinaia area of the country:
CLICK: Bran Castle
Here is a picture of Simona, Catalina, and I looking down from the fortress to farms covering the foothills of Carpathian Mountains.
Romania combines beauty of the landscape, the history and culture of an old civilization, with everything one considers ultra-modern, such as the best Internet and IT expertise I have encountered, and a lovely yoga retreat where we had a delicious vegan/vegetarian meal in the midst of our exploration.
The last day of our trip through history was spent, after walking the long cobblestone page up the hill, exploring the amazing Peles Castle for hours. This is a Neo-Renaissance castle on an existing medieval route linking Transylvania and Wallachia areas of Romania, built between 1873 and 1914, for Kind Carol I. One could hear many languages being spoken by other visitors as we wandered through the beautiful rooms.
CLICK: Peles Castle
Personally, perhaps partially because my mother and grandmother were harpists and singers, and I am an artist, I was inspired by Queen Marie Alexandra Victoria whose love and art and music is clear through this and the smaller, personal, home next door. She was a sculptor, dancer, a student of harp and voice, a humanitarian, and a suffragette, sometimes known as “The Mother of the Wounded.” She was not only a writer, but decorated her writing many of which are on display here, and they are as beautiful as many of the better known illustrated manuscripts from around the world.
CLICK: Queen Marie
To see the details of the last trip, the last Montessori consultation, in Romania: CLICK: 2018 Romania Work
How to subscribe to this blog: CLICK: Subscribe
All Nine First Montessori Books, in English: CLICK: Books
My home page: CLICK: Susan
Montessori links of interest: CLICK: Michael Olaf Montessori Company
In the next post, I will share more of Romania, and then stopping in the Netherlands on the way home from this first in-person work trip in three years. Stay tuned.
Thank you for all the links to the history! I particularly enjoyed reading about Queen Marie and the intertwined relationships of the aristocracy of Europe. I never would have imagined it all! Your photos always intrigue- especially the one of the shadows on the cobblestone path. You filled my morning with a wonderful armchair voyage!