Montessori from Age One through Adolescence
October 2023 marked the third trip as a consultant for the Montessori School of Iași, Romania. They have translated five of my books so our communication is deep and successful. There is so much to learn in an AMI diploma course and the observation, creation of the environment, observation and meeting the needs of each individual, goes on forever. Some of what we focused on in the last two visits was protecting concentration by more work being done on the floor (less eye contact), having only one chair per table (less interruption), and abolishing “trained” afternoon napping, allowing sleep only when needed and the possibility of a full day of Montessori work. The improvement at all levels was obvious.
Infant Community, Age 1-2.5
In this environment an order of the day must be kept unchanged so the children know where everything is and what comes next. And, just as with the older children, individual presentations and freedom to choose an activity that meets a need allows for more and more intelligent choice, independent work, and concentration. I watched this little girl approach the music shelves, place a floor mat and a small xylophone on the mat, and play as she hummed along.
Then she put everything away carefully, stood up and sang—and acted out—a song that teaches the parts of the body, “Heads and Shoulders Knees and Toes.” She did this several times, and then looked around her infant community environment to decide what to do next.
Primary Classes, Age 2.5-6.5
Here a child is sleeping next to the sandpaper letters while children work nearby without disturbing him. The sensorial work called the decanomial will be used later as algebra material. What a wonderful change from last visit—no more scheduled naps. Good sleep is vital for health, but—as we learn in the 0-3 training—sleep should be dictated by an inner need, NOT scheduled by an adult. This was difficult for some families to accept because there is such a tradition of afternoon naps, but they soon saw the reasons and the results. The children are free to rest or sleep as needed in this “Children’s House,” (the term Montessori used instead of “school” or “pre-school.”)
The use of individual tables clearly improved concentration. One table has been arranged in a quiet corner with a view to the outside garden. I am sure it is always occupied. The work level is higher and the concentration deeper when children can concentrate. Here the morning work period is now longer than 3-hours, and after lunch and time outside the children are happy to get back to work.
Learning to hold and care for an animal comes before learning the external parts, kinds of animals, and so forth. Learning to polish small brass objects prepares one for care of the environment in many ways.
Washing dishes is not a special exercise here, it is part of daily life in the children’s house. And I am always happy to see my art, much of it inspired by international Montessori work, decorating Montessori environments. To order prints here is the website: CLICK: PRINTS
A discussion of the order of the alphabet and sandpaper letters? And a child who often makes use of the official “observer’s chair” to watch others, think, and decide what to work on next. Just as when an adult visitor is seated here, observation is considered important work and the observer not interrupted.
Elementary Classes, Age 6-12
As a consultant, one of the sad changes I have seen occurring at this age level over the years is the result of pressure from society to try to combine authentic Montessori with a meeting of all of the requirements of traditional school—impossible of course. Real work that one finds in the home or out in society is just as important at this age. In this elementary class kitchen, the children cook the lunch once a week, and often bake. This child is bringing muffins hot out of the oven to us in the office.
When I enter a 6-12 class that is noisy it is often because children are waiting for the teacher to tell them what to do next. This was the case here last year, but now the children are receiving 1:1 rather than group lessons, helping and teaching each other, and working through a long free-choice morning and afternoon.
But wait! The room is still noisy! The first thing one of the 6-12 teachers said to me was, “I know it is loud in here but I don’t know why.” The noise level was still one that would prevent my own concentration, and certainly has the same effect on some students.
So, what next? Together we looked at the arrangement of the tables and chairs. Even though elementary students come together to plan their work as a group—and to have important, searching discussions about the philosophical questions they are interested in—creative and satisfying concentration on work only occurs when one can truly focus without being interrupted. Together we found that most tables had 4 chairs. There were only two single chair:table pairs (they were occupied and these students were concentrating.)
That night the teacher rearranged the classroom to support concentration and the change was immediate. I had an interesting discussion with some of the students about this change and found that some can concentrate in a noisy room, or seated next to another person, and some cannot. I assured them that silence in the classroom should not be imposed by an adult, but arises naturally when everyone is concentrating. In my own teaching each year the children decided what part of the environment would be for talking and which part would be for silent work.
The Erdkinder plans, Age 12-18
Erdkinder or “earth children” is the term Montessori used to describe an environment where young adults from age 12-18 can live and learn close to the earth. Where they can carry out practical work connected with daily life, growing and processing food, and handling the connected finances, as an example. And where this practical work creates the interest to know more and inspires academics. In this picture you see the teacher who will be the teacher next year for this program, and the two heads of school, standing in front of a beautiful farm house in the middle of the university botanical garden, acres and acres of forest, a pond, organic orchard, and gardens.
The house already contains a kitchen, shop, sewing rooms, bedrooms, classrooms, and a covered deck overlooking the land and will be shared with the family who live there. The school heads have visited Montessori Erdkinders in several countries and the experienced AMI teacher has taken the AMI Adolescent Orientation course and is excited to begin, as I am excited to follow the progress. For more information on adolescent and other level training CLICK: AMI courses
Montessori in the Republic of Moldavia
In preparation for bringing AMI Montessori to the neighboring country of the Republic of Moldavia, we left early in the morning and drove to the capital, Chișinău. Valentin Crudu (Ministerul Educatiei) hosted us at a meeting with the managers of the preschools in the capital. What was supposed to be a one hour meeting became three hours, because of the perceptive questions, and the variety of perspectives given by the four of us: Catalin, a father, former member of the European parliament; Catalina, mother and head of school; Simona, co-head of school who is becoming an AMI primary trainer; and myself. Because my books translated into Romanian can be read here, this will provide information preparing for the next meeting.
The directors then graciously hosted us with a traditional tea and tour of the children’s kindergarten where we met. While walking through the city center garden toward a restaurant for dinner the rainbow seen through the water of the central fountain felt like a blessing for things to come.
Sighișoara – Culture Exploration across the Mountains
As always I love to learn as much as possible about a country where I am working, and to continue to discuss Montessori with friends, so we crossed the mountains to the ancient city of Sighișoara and spent two days exploring. Above is a little video clip from my hotel window the first morning. And since this is a very important and interesting historical place I am including a link to learn more: CLICK: Sighișoara
Here is a model of the ancient city, originally built on the ruins of a Roman fort, and just one example of the beautiful pottery found all over the country (which I never have room for in my carry-on-only luggage).
Last Montessori Work Day
We returned to Iași and prepared for the final day of Montessori work. Catalina is the head of the Federation of Montessori Teachers for Romania, so following a meeting of members from several other cities, and many of the school parents joining, I gave a presentation “Montessori for the Future” where I was able to combine what we know about the results of Montessori education with the executive function work of neuroscientist Adele Diamond, and the research, expressed in the book “Five Minds for the Future” by Howard Gardener at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. It is exhilarating to see modern researchers now able to explain just why and how Montessori principles are so valuable and successful.
A Special Moment with a Special Lady
Elisabeta Negreanu had come from Bucharest for the Federation meeting and my talk. She was very excited about what we covered during the talk and the following questions. She told me that she was also inspired because I will be 80 years old this month; she is younger and now reassured that she can keep sharing Montessori! Then she told me that she was one of the first AMI diploma holders in Romania, having taken the first course allowed after the fall of communism, which was taught by my very good friend, Rita Zener!
And then, another surprise, she had attended my lecture at the AMI congress in Portland Oregon in 2013. I was happy to sign a Romanian translation of the book based on this talk, The Universal Child, Guided by Nature. This was the perfect ending to a wonderful visit: proof of the existence of a supportive international Montessori world, filled with hope for meeting the needs of many more children and families in this part of the world in the future.
These “simple and profound” books were birthed over 50 years ago as I responded to questions from parents of my school, and visitors from the local university classes. Today they serve the same purpose, provided by Montessori schools and training centers, and have brought many children to Montessori, and adults to AMI Montessori teacher training. CLICK: First Montessori Books
The AMI affiliate organization for Romania which is in Bucharest: CLICK: AMI AFFILIATE
The Montessori school where I have worked three times, and the source for five of my books that have been translated into Romanian: CLICK: IASI MONTESSORI