Here I am, November 2022, seated at the desk of Montessori in her office, in the apartment where she lived for many years. It is at the top of several flights of typical Dutch narrow and steep flights of stairs. This building is the headquarters of AMI (The Association Montessori Internationale) in Amsterdam. Over the years, because of Montessori work, I have been to this beautiful and interesting city many times. But this visit was very special because it followed the first month of in-person speaking and consulting work possible since the Pandemic showed its ugly head. This time I was on the way home from work and play in Romania. You can read a brief outline of her work over the years here:
CLICK: Maria Montessori
Just outside of her office, on a small landing at the top of the stairs is a tiny museum of some of the original materials and more recent books about her life. The 3rd box of color tablets (Montessori material with which a child, who has learned to match identical color tablets, learns to order shades from light to dark) is made of carefully wound silk thread.
Because of the war in Ukraine, Yuliia Timoshevska, director of the AMI affiliate in Ukraine, and her daughter Maria, have been given shelter at the AMI headquarters. From Amsterdam Yuliia is able to help the situation in Ukraine, working with AMI for the organization Montessori Ukraine United. Here is a quote from the website:
Its immediate goal is to assist the Ukranian Montessori community and schools with the financial and moral support they desperately need to stay open during the winter months and to survive the war. This is an emergency situation; temperatures are dropping, the country’s infrastructure is actively being destroyed, and the hardships faced by the Ukrainian people—especially its children—are mounting daily.
And a link to learn how to help: CLICK: MONTESSORI UKRAINE
Maria attending school with other refugees of the war. She kindly gave up her tiny room for me and slept with her mother during my visit. The second picture is my good friend Judi Orion, one of the guiding lights of AMI. I sometimes worked in this little room with Judi and sometimes in my room. We bought fresh flowers daily—so typical in Dutch homes and offices.
EXPLORING THE CITY
One day Judi and I took time off from work to explore Amsterdam on a sunny and almost warm day. Flower stalls were everywhere and here is a picture of one of the diamond factories that Holland is so well-known for.
Under the Rijksmuseum there is a road for bicyclists and pedestrians to pass through to the other side of this imposing structure and almost always there are excellent musicians entertaining the travelers for donations. A creative way to earn a living. This young woman has a beautiful operatic voice so Judi donated while I made a small video.
2 VOICES MONTESSORI SCHOOL
Heidi Philappart is an AMI Montessori 0-3 teacher trainer and the administrator of a beautiful school in Amsterdam. I took another friend, Joanne Kaya, who I had first met while working in a Montessori school in Moscow, Russia, to visit Heidi’s beautiful school and to visit with the staff. I am always to glad to return to this school.
On Thanksgiving evening the three of us, Heidi and Judi and I, visited with Heidi’s family, then crossed one of the many bridges over the canals and celebrated the holiday with a delicious meal together. After the Covid years, even though they are still upon us, being able to spend time with old friends, and of course, with new friends, and with family members, seems more special than ever.
For a few days during this trip I stayed with Joanne Kaya’s family in Nootdrop, a Dutch town between The Hague and Delft. Her children attend the Bilingual Montessori School in Pijnacker. Above is a picture of one of the classrooms and the oh-so-wonderful outside environment filled with wood and stone instead of the brightly painted plastic and metal one so often finds in school play yards.
From Nepal to Bhutan, and now in Holland, I have seen how happy and creative children can be outside when they are left to their own devices and given time and space and natural materials, rather than human made “equipment” to occupy themselves.
Always on the lookout for “real work” when visiting Montessori schools it was a delight to see children cleaning their boots and their classrooms, preparing real meals, and building with tools and wood in a covered outside woodworking/craft area.
THE ROYAL DELFT MUSEUM
With the children happy at school, and dad off at work, Joanne and I rushed to the Delft Museum and worked hard painting tiles under the instruction of a professional artist, along with visitors from several countries. As is so common here one gets used to being surrounded by French and Spanish and German and Dutch and other languages. I am always listening and focused on trying to identify the tongue being spoken. Here is bit of text from the website, and a link to explore more.
Discover how the world-famous Delft Blue is made and create your piece of art. Choose a tile or a plate and discover the craft of Delft Blue painting yourself. The painting workshops take place every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoon at 2 pm.
After the workshop, we explored the museum and plan to return to learn more and see more examples of this tradition of beautiful tile work. I took many pictures but could only share these few, so to see more, here is a link to a YouTube Video:
CLICK: DELFT MUSEUM
Imagine my surprise when I learned that this whole family was learning chess from my book! It was such a delight to have a conversation about checkmating with the children, Ann Medina and Richard Hamza. I had seen a review of the book some time ago on Joanne’s Instagram site “Montessori_together”. As an AMI 3-6 and 6-12 elementary teacher, she understands the purpose of this book in the way it is intended:
NOT JUST CHESS!
This book can tell you how to teach chess to any child in a Montessori way. But if you look past the chess, you can use this book as an insight to teach your child anything, using the Montessori method. The book introduces the game of chess using: grace and courtesy of handling the chess pieces, and the social aspect of the game; practical life— polishing/dusting the pieces, setting up the environment; language, using the three-period-lesson to learn the names of the pieces; mastering the game by building up one difficulty at a time. This is the essence of Montessori. If you are not interested in learning chess this book is still a gold mine of knowledge and insight into the Montessori method and how to offer any skill to a child. As always, this author welcomes you into the world of the child and how to help spark their interest.
Here is a link to more information about this book:
CLICK: CHESS BOOK
TO MY READERS AND FELLOW TRAVELERS
I hope you have enjoyed the last few blog posts. Three years ago, I had been on my way to Romania/Norway/Holland when all travel had to be cancelled as we all began the arduous path of figuring out how to live with a Pandemic.
In the last three months, I have been so lucky to work, to help, to spend time with old and new friends in Massachusetts, Colombia, Peru, Romania, and the Netherlands. If you look back through these 2022 blog posts you can travel with me.
Until next trip, or next sharing from home on this blog, I wish you good health, joy, and appreciation of all that we have in our lives today, in this present moment, wherever we are.
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