Dublin, Amsterdam, and Marseille – Spring 2017

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Art, Music, and Literature in Dublin, Ireland

In Dublin I was taken immediately to the tower, now the James Joyce Museum, where the beginning of the book “Ulysses” takes place. That experience has inspired me to give the book just one more chance and I am now on page 20 and enjoying it. Also in Dublin I saw the Book of Kells which has been on my “to do” list for many years, the National Museum, the Chester Beatty Library Collection, and had two shows of my own art.

You do not have to be a member of Facebook to see pictures of this trip here:

Click here: Culture in Dublin

One evening after a delicious dinner with the family of an old friend we were entertained with guitar music of her son. He had been studying classical piano and had become interested in guitar. In my Montessori classes I have always taught piano and guitar to any interested student and I was delighted when, after showing him the 12-bar-blues pattern, we figured out how to play a duet. Then we gave a little concert for the family. It reminded me of how wonderful it feels as a Montessori teacher to be always observing children, watching carefully for that little spark of interest or curiosity, and they stepping in only to provide what it is necessary to feed the flame of that interest – and then get out of the way, creating space for the child to concentrate on progress.


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Feeding the Flame of Interest vs. Schedules and Requirements

For something I wrote on this subject in 2015, see this MONTESSORI NEWSLETTER:

Click here: Concentration Newsletter, “Where the Magic Happens”

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During this trip attended the AMI AGM (Annual General Meeting of the Association Montessori Internationale) in Amsterdam. In line with what I wrote above, I would like to share a slide from two presentations from this international gathering. In it you see students from two AMI Montessori middle schools, in Sweden and the USA, who were there to answer questions from the audience about the Montessori middle schools they attend. They spoke of the freedom and responsibility we have heard so much of in Dr. Montessori’s writings. They spoke of their love of work and how their education truly is child-centered rather than curriculum-centered. And how their own curiosity is respected. It reminded me so much of the situations I find when I consult with school where, at all levels from age 2-high school, the most valuable parts of Montessori are eliminated in favor of schedules and assignments!!!!

My own Montessori students at the 6-12 level had lists of work they hoped to accomplish during 1 or two-week time period (which I helped them decide upon every 1 or 2 weeks), but other than the 5 Great Lessons given at the beginning of the year, there were very rarely times when I told them when and what to do, and certainly there were no required, regularly scheduled group or collective lessons. I constantly reminded myself, “The teacher is in charge of the minimum, the child the maximum.”

Teachers are doing their best but there so much social pressure to focus on academics that in even the best schools I find situations where daily, sometimes hourly, assignments completely eliminate the possibility of large, long, involved, child-initiated projects.

Rob Gueterbock who was speaking as the students answered questions shared the slide above during the presentation. He told us how important these quotes, recently reread, are in reminding him of the real work. Another of the speakers, John “Mac” McNamara, gave many examples of how, in many years of teaching, the exploration and concentration came before the required curriculum. One example he sighted was three students who found a large fish tank and wanted to set up in the school. They managed all the research and work to do this because it is all they did for 3 days.

Here is a quote by Dr. Montessori to help make this point.

A presentation is given, not to a group of children, but individually, to help the child to grow mentally. We prepare this special environment to help his growth, to offer him freedom so that he can proceed with his work in a normal way. The collective lessons are given only to the child who has not yet been normalized. After normalization, each child grows individually, in his own way.    If we give a lesson we do not command all the children to stop what they are doing in order to listen. Many children may have absolutely no interest in the lesson and we may bore them.

­–Maria Montessori, Creative Development in the Child
page 40 – Kalakshetra 1998, page 207)


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Montessori Work in Amsterdam and Dublin

In Dublin I gave a public lecture, “Montessori, Education for the Future” at University College Dublin, and a full day workshop on Montessori from Birth to Three. In between these two events I flew to Amsterdam to host the president of the new AMI Montessori teachers organization in Peru, and to witness the signing of the affiliate agreement with AMI. This has been in progress since the AGM in April 2016, when, for the first time, Peruvian teachers came to ask for support of AMI. It was a wonderful thing to see.

Click here: Montessori Work in Dublin and Amsterdam


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Marseille, France – Spring 2017

In Marseille, Sandrine Mallet, the founder of the Montessori project, “KidsRFuture” hosted me for several days. Sandrine and I met in 2015 at the 2-week Educateurs sans Frontières (EsF) meeting in Thailand where we gave a joint presentation on our work with children around the world.

Here is her website:

Click here: KidsRFuture

But now Sandrine is the mother of an 8-month-old son, Pierre, and so we arranged for me to visit a school in Marseille and to give a talk on Montessori Birth to Three to the school staff and other parents and teachers. And of course we spent a lot of time observing and learning from Pierre.

Click here: Marseille

I hope you have enjoyed this news, and the pictures, and maybe I will see you on Facebook or Instagram.

Take care,
Susan

PS Since I am an Artist, I enjoy sharing experiences through pictures more than words so lately I have been posting on Facebook and Instagram rather then this blog (Susan Mayclin Stephenson on Facebook, SusanMayclinStephenson on Instagram).

Fischer and Matteo, Musical Babies

Fischer and Matteo, Musical Babies

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Children from Birth to Three have an “absorbent mind”. They take in everything that is going on around them.

A child in his earliest years, when he is only two or a little more, is capable of tremendous achievements simply through his unconscious power of absorption, though he is himself still immobile. After the age of three he is able to acquire a great number of concepts through his own efforts in exploring his surroundings. In this period he lays hold of things through his own activity and assimilates them into his mind. — The Discovery of the Child, Maria Montessori


The role of the AMI Montessori Assistant to Infancy has always been first and foremost to support the parents, the child’s first teacher, in the home. This was done initially in Rome, Italy in 1947 when the program was first designed, to help prepare for as peaceful and successful birth as possible, to help the family prepare the home in such a way that the needs of the infant and the family would be met, and to be there for several days after the birth to help however possible. But over the years it has grown to be even more thanks to research by neuroscientists. We realize the importance of keeping even the very youngest child in the middle of the daily life of the family, of learning to observe the infant to see what he is trying to see and do, to share our interests and daily work with him. In this blog post I am using music as just one example of how to do this.


RHYTHMS – FISCHER

When our grandchild Fischer was born, his musician uncle Michael made a CD for him. Many of the rhythms of traditional music of various cultures were on it. To help him experience these rhythms Michael would hold and move Fischer, dancing in a way, following the same speed as the music on the CD.


 SECOND PIANO LESSON – MATTEO

For a week after giving talks and consulting in Lima, Peru in August, 2016 I stayed with friends from years ago when I was teaching in Colegio San Silvestre. There was a piano in the home but no one had played it for years. I said if they could have it tuned by the time I returned in November I would play for baby Matteo. The following video clips are from “Matteo’s piano lessons” in November.

Second Piano Lesson? What was the first? It was sitting on his mother’s lap watching me play the piano. He watched carefully, not looking away. From the beginning of life a child is carefully observing what is going on around him in the family. Gradually, according to the level of physical development, he is able to follow his strongest desire, which is to join in.

So, after watching me play the piano, for his second piano lesson he sat on my lap. I was careful to hold him firmly around the tummy but to give him enough wiggle space to reach the piano keys with his hands if he wanted to, and to be sure that his legs were comfortable and not pressed up against the edge of the piano.

To get him used to this position I kept my left arm around him and only played with my right. Even though it would have been easy for him to reach the keys with both hands he kept his right hand in his lap and touched the keys only with his left. Maybe he was imitating me in playing with only one hand, but is family (parents, two older siblings and their friends, and his grandmother) have noticed that he seems to use his left hand more than his right. He carefully watched my hand as I played.


THIRD PIANO LESSON – MATTEO

For the third lesson he sat still and peacefully in my lap so I played with both hands. Then, with no help from me he placed both of his hands on top of mine and could feel, as well as see, what it is like to play piano. It was clear to me that he also loves Chopin.


FOURTH PIANO LESSON – MATTEO

We started noticing than when Matteo was being carried as one of the adults walked through the living room, he often leaned toward the piano as he passed it. In the forth lesson he seemed to have mastered it! He was very excited as we sat at the piano, played with both hands with great confidence, and when I was finished playing he carried on with a solo! Soon he was also playing piano in the lap of other members of the family.


BAA BAA BLACK SHEEP – FISCHER

When a child learns language, he first watches and listens, and then he gradually imitates. First some nouns, family labels like mama and papa, gradually filling in all of the elements of grammar with no tension or stress. By age 6 he masters a language in a way that would take so much effort by an older child or an adult. It is the same with music. In this little video clip, Fischer has no idea that he is not playing and singing exactly like the adults he has seen play and sing this song. And with a little help he could learn to do it perfectly when he is ready.


FUR ELISE – FISCHER AND UNCLE MICHAEL

In this video clip Fischer is showing his Uncle Michael a song that he really enjoys hearing and is figuring out how to play on his own. Michael is improvising a duet with him.


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FISCHER AND FAMILY

Art is not in some far-off place. A work of art is the expression of a man’s whole personality, sensibility and ability. When love is deep, much can be accomplished. — Shinichi Suzuki

Fischer (next to his Papa) is now taking Suzuki piano lessons.


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MATTEO AND FAMILY

During these piano lessons with Matteo and his family in November 2016, I was able to be a true AMI Assistant to Infancy. Beginning in August the family have been reading my book, The Joyful Child: Montessori, Global Wisdom for Birth to Three. I had also shared with the whole family (almost everyone in the picture above) the PowerPoint presentation  given in a hotel in Lima. Matteo’s two siblings are university students. They and their friends all love and want to provide the very best for Matteo, this tiny gift to the family, and they are all learning about Montessori. I feel so honored to have this opportunity to bring AMI Montessori to Peru in the very best way, starting with one family.

But music is not all the family is learning. This is just one way to think about including Matteo in the life of his family.

I asked Alheli, Matteo’s mother, to tell me some of the things they had learned, both from the book, and from my visits in these 3 months. This is what she told me:

— We have learned to respect Matteo’s concentration and not to interrupt him when he is looking at something or trying to do something.

— We do not look away when there is eye contact and Matteo is staring at us.

— We all have learned to speak his language by repeating his sounds, exactly as they sound. Now we have long “conversations” with him.

— We talk to him gently and ask for his permission and understanding.

— We value moments like changing his diapers and nursing as moments to develop attachment. We do not rush through them but we understand that every interaction is important.

— We can see the importance of a mirror for Matteo to see himself, to watching himself and others move.

— Rather than providing a lot of baby toys we now know that simple objects we have at home are the best toys. We realize that he wants to handle and explore the things he sees other people using

— We know that his mouth since the beginning has been the most important part of his body to learn about the world.

— We try to understand his sounds and physical signs in order to be empathetic to him.

— We understand he gets upset or cries not only when he is hungry but also more often when he is bored.

— We know the importance of tummy time. And have created a place at home (middle of the house) for him to practice moving and to watch the family.

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— We have learned to dress Matteo in clothing that allow him to move and explore with his whole body and his hands. No more socks.

— Playing is also working and he gets tired (happily tired).

— The most concentrated playing time he has the more time there is between nursing, because food was the only “fun” thing for him before we learned about his other needs.

— Exposure to music that shown us that he is a musical boy!!!

What Mama Alhelí enjoys the most: Music time

What Papa César enjoys the most: Concentration time


I hope this musical post makes you laugh and smile and think, and that it is as valuable to you as the experience has been for me.

All of my best wishes for a musical and joyful holiday season.

Love,

Susan

www.susanart.net

AMI Assistants to Infancy courses

The book: The Joyful Child: Montessori, Global Wisdom for Birth to Three

Montessori Talks in Peru

MONTESSORI TALKS IN PERU, November 2016

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Early in November I returned to Lima, Peru to give presentations on AMI Montessori at three universities, with Susana Chavez, AMI teacher from Lima as my translator. On the first day we spoke at Universidad Femenina Sagrado Corazon for 250 people with a wonderful response. In the afternoon the talk was given at Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia. 80 invitations had been sent out and 1000+ people showed up! They stood in line around the block in the hot sun for 2 hours before the talk; we needed two additional rooms and video conferencing to accommodate the overflow; and since there was not room for the 150 people still waiting outside, I repeated the talk (how could I say “No”) and some of the attendees from the first talk who asked if they could repeat. I think Peru is ready for AMI Montessori! My last talk was given the next day at the esteemed Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, founded in 1551.

Click: SAN MARCOS


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The universities wanted to make these talks available in real time as video conferencing, but I am always afraid that I won’t be natural and relaxed, and I don’t want to discourage questions from the audience. So since I have been asked by many people to share the information from the presentations, here is a brief overview and that basis of the talk, which was presented in Portland, Oregon in 2013 was published and is available on Amazon or from Michael Olaf.

Click: THE UNIVERSAL CHILD


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I always love to talk about how neuroscientists are more and more able to explain scientifically the valuable elements of Montessori practice that we have observed over the years. One example is the need for repetition. We now understand what neurons are firing when a child is repeating a puzzle for example, and why this changes in the brain when the puzzle is “learned.” This reinforces the importance of allowing the child to repeat until he or she decided to stop.

Also we can now understand, as we learn about multiple intelligences and executive functions (see this explanation from Harvard University.

Click:  HARVARD

And how basing Montessori practice on natural human needs and tendencies, such as exploration, real work, communication, concentration, etc., is far more valuable in preparing for the years to come, than basing education on a static academic curriculum.


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Exploration begins at birth and the Montessori 0-3, Assistants to Infancy program helps parents support this need in the home. In my work around the world I find that in some countries children, like the child in this picture in Bhutan, automatically explore and participate in the work of the family which has great benefits in may ways.


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In places where this is not supported (giving children toys and other ways of being entertained instead of sharing the daily life and work) Montessori environments provide real work, called “practical life” in the Montessori environments, from very young ages and through high school. Here we see children preparing food and serving themselves in Montessori Infant Communities (age 1-2.5+) in the Torres Straits north of Australia, and in Japan.

Click: TORRES STRAIT


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The need to study and support the development of communication is ongoing in Montessori environments at any age. Here we see a mother explaining everything she is doing as she dresses the infant, and the child’s face reflects the joy of this experience. In the second picture students in 6-12 environments in Hawaii are explaining, during parents’ night how mathematical cubing is learned first with hands-on materials and then in the abstract. It was fascinating to watch the communication between the students and the parents in these groups.


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The Value of Montessori outside of the Classroom

One of the points I always stress is that Montessori is not limited to a method of education in classrooms. It has proven valuable for over 100 years in many situations and for many kinds of adults and children

Two years ago, while consulting with a Montessori school in Morocco, North Africa, I was taken to visit an orphanage because no matter what country I visit I am always interested in the lives of children in the first years of life. The babies were kept for most of the day isolated in cribs because the ratio of babies to adults makes it difficult to o anything else.

The Montessori school to help this situation so I suggested setting up a Montessori First Year orphanage project because a lot of very important changes can be made at this age with very little training and materials. One year later I gave a talk at the orphanage and found people so excited about the potential of these children, their language, movement, and general excitement with life. Above you can see the “before” and “after” pictures of this project.


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In 2003 as I was preparing to leave for my second trip to learn about Montessori with Tibetan refugees, this time to travel to Tibet, my husband gave me a New York Times story about a blind school in Lhasa. When I visited I was pleased to see Montessori materials, such as the dressing frames, being used.

I did not go into detail about this during my talks in Lima, but I would like to share a bit more of the story. While studying Chinese and Asian civilizations in university in her home in Germany, Sabriye Tenberken, who lost her sight at age 12, was stunned to learn that in Tibet blind children were living in appalling conditions—shunned by society, abandoned, and left to their own devices. The decision was instant: she would go to Tibet to help these children. She single-handedly devised a Tibetan Braille alphabet and opened the first school for the blind in Tibet, with only a handful of students. From its modest beginnings, that school has grown into a full-fledged institution for visually impaired people of all ages and in other countries.

I met one young woman who had spent the first 18 years of her life doing nothing in her home until her grandmother brought her to this school. After three years, at the time of my visit, this girl could read and write in Chinese, Tibetan, and English; she had received training as a masseuse and was preparing to move into an apartment with a fellow student where they would live independently thanks to the Practical Life skills they had been taught.

As she was giving me a tour of the school I commented on the beautiful colors painted on the walls of the school garden. She remarked, “Yes it is amazing how many visitors are unaware of the fact that we can “see” colors through our fingers. This sent me back to what I had been learning earlier (in the book “Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain.

Click: BRAIN

Here is the inspiring story of how Sabriye shone an unlikely light in a dark place. The book “My Path Leads to Tibet.”

Click: MY PATH


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Montessori With Aging and Dementia and with Refugees

Montessori Ageing Support Services, a division of the Montessori Australia Foundation, is the national organization for supporting quality of life for older Australians through the Montessori approach. This work has spread to many countries as a result of being presented at the AMI, Annual General Meeting of the Association Montessori Internationale in Amsterdam a few years ago.

Click: MONTESSORI FOR AGING

Soon after Tibet was taken over by China in 1959, as hundreds of children began to arrive in Nepal and India, the Dalai Lama said that even though food and shelter were priorities, education must begin immediately, and the educational system chosen was Montessori because of Dr. Montessori’s years of work in India. Above is a class in Dharamsala I visited and consulted with the teachers in 2002.

Today there is work being done in the AMI Montessori movement to help refugees all over the world, including those leaving Syria.

Click: AMI


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Respecting the Local Culture

Bringing Montessori to a new place, to a new country, is not an imposition of “Western” educational ideas, but a melding of what is important in the local culture. Research is done on the practical life of the culture, the language, and the arts. Above you can see pictures of the value placed on music in Tibet and Russia.

While visiting a Montessori school in Lima this month I was honored with a production given by the children. They study the history of their country through the costumes, music, dance, and stories of, in this case, the Inca civilization. In the video above you hear the wife of the Inca imploring people to follow his guidance.


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Montessori Bhutan class

Although the teacher of this class in Bhutan had earned an AMI diploma in Thailand, the observation and student teaching of the course had been waived because there were no AMI classes for this element of the training. As a result she did not what a real AMI 3-6 class looked like or how it functioned. My daughter Narda (also AMI 0-3, 3-6, and 6-12) and I took donations from schools in the USA and had furniture and materials made. Then I spent three days mentoring the teacher. The parents were so amazed that their children could actually choose materials, take them to a floor mat or table, work on them, put them back, and help each other, that they huddled around the classroom windows to watch.


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The Work of Nature

The Montessori way of meeting the needs of children is not a mental construct imposed on an empty slate. It is a discovery of what nature intended, of the potential of the child, the human, when the emphasis is on observation and discovery of this person, of creating an environment that supports life, and in learning (through good Montessori training) how to put the person in touch with the environment so he or she can make intelligent choices, concentrate, evolve. This is the true work of Nature.

As we allow children to experience nature and to learn to care for plants and animals, he experiences first hand the meeting of the same needs he has. Above you see a child who cannot yet walk alone exploring a field of flowers as he walks with what we call the GOOD walker so he can stop, sit down, pull up, move forward, and touch and smell as he desires.

Click: THE GOOD WALKER

The last two pictures are from a classroom in Moscow where children have brought the colored leaves to study, and then go on to explore leaves further through the Montessori “leaf cabinet”, and vocabulary, and art.

This has been a very brief sharing of my talks in Lima, but I hope it has been enough to give you a taste of the potential of Montessori in many ways to support the very best physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual growth and happiness of children and adults. It is my hope that with the best of this natural education we will someday have more adults who are less violent, greedy, and prejudiced, and who can strike a healthy balance in their own lives, and take pleasure in caring for others and the environment.

Blessings,
Susan

Click: SUSAN’S WEBSITE


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Although my presentations in Peru were modified depending on the audience, much of the talk was based on the one I gave in Portland, Oregon in 2013 and many of the pictures and the text for that version can be found in this book: The Universal Child, Guided by Nature: Adaptation of the 2013 International Congress Presentation

Click:  THE UNIVERSAL CHILD

Hawaii Montessori & the Chicago Cubs

Hawaii Montessori & the Chicago Cubs

For five days at the beginning of this month I consulted in a lovely Montessori school in Hawaii that began 40 years ago in a little Quonset hut with many of the problems of the tropics that I will not go into (like rats). Today it is one of the loveliest campuses I have ever seen and serves 171 children from Infant Community through middle school.

me-and-middle-school

Middle School

Since I must resist the impulse to interact with, to bond with (and then leave), the younger children when consulting, it was a pleasure to get to spend some time with the 12-15-year-olds, sharing what I have learned about this age in many countries, and to witness their excitement as they plan their trip to our nation’s capital, their volunteer work, their plans for the garden, and so much more.


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Peace Garden

One of the most beautiful areas of the school is high on a hill in the middle of the campus where a peace garden has been created; this is a place to think and be at peace, with log benches as they gather in groups to share their dreams, plan their work, and discuss creating a peaceful world. Look carefully and you can see the basketball court and the Pacific Ocean in the distance.


beach-selfie

All by myself

I don’t drive much as the members of our family can attest as I easily get distracted and lost (yep, a bit ADHD) so imagine my surprise when I found that I was staying in a lovely hotel 35 minutes from the school and I was going to have to follow the GPS on my iPhone and drive a strange rental car to get back and forth from school every day! I did it and feel so grown up! It is about time since I turned 73 during this trip. I even got myself to a beach and managed a selfie.


The Chicago Cubs!

When I was a cheerleader in high school I always immediately felt sorry for the loser at the end of any game, which rather dimmed the excitement of winning. So I have not since been a follower of sports.

However, one of the teachers in this school who is from Chicago is an avid admirer of the Chicago Cubs and her excitement spilled over into her class with joy and excitement as they stayed in the world series so I got caught up in the flow.

During a class meeting, run by three students in the elementary class of this teacher, there was a mention of controlling excitement over the cubs with the cheer of “go cubs go”. I raised my hand and asked if someone could explain what “go cubs go” was and this little video clip shows what they did in response to my question.


cubs-in-tv-at-pool

Watching TV to follow the Cubs last game

 This is what I learned about baseball: there are 9 innings in a baseball game. “Top of the inning” means the beginning of the inning. “Bottom of the inning” means the end of the inning is coming. Each team gets to play (that means trying to hit the ball with a bat and then run around) in each inning. If there is a tie at the end of the 9 innings there is no “overtime” (I had heard that somewhere as a cheerleader) but there can be extra innings.

I learned all this because I watched the end of the last game of the World Series game, between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians, out at the hotel pool bar so people could explain to me what was happening.

When the game was tied and almost over I couldn’t stand it anymore so I went back to my hotel room to lie in the bathtub and recover. Then I decided to turn on my iPhone and see who had won and THE GAME WAS STILL GOING ON. I turned on the TV and watched the Cubs win! But now I have had enough sports for the rest of my life.


picture-trump-pumpkin

A Little Politics

Because it was almost Halloween there was a pumpkin-carving contest at the hotel. Guess which one I voted for (hope I don’t get kicked out of the country).


The Montessori Work

Every night after a day of observing at the school I drove back to the hotel over the lovely countryside of the island and spent many quiet hours in my room going over the day’s notes, of course sometimes with a break to enjoy the sunset and to look for the giant turtles cavorting near the rocks on the beach.

I saw one large carapace (the back of the turtle) and one flipper and have several pictures of “where the turtle just was” just like my pictures from home of “where the humpback whale just was” which means lots of pictures of water.

By the end of the week I had a plan of what to share with the 12 teachers.

picture-insets-and-sensorial

There is so much work in meeting the needs of children in Montessori classes at every age and we are all striving for the best. But sometimes we forget the importance of being exact in our teaching. Two of these areas that I often find in even the best 3-6 classes are “the correct use of the metal insets and the sensorial materials. The metal inset picture above is correct, but the children in the second picture are using the color tablets and knobless cylinders incorrectly and so will not benefit from these wonderful materials.

picture-3-hour

And OF COURSE I almost always talk about the importance of the uninterrupted (by group snack, scheduled group lessons, etc.) 3-hour work period. If you want to know more about this extremely important part of Montessori see the book “The Advanced Montessori Method, Vol 1″, the chapter, ‘My Contribution to Experimental Science.’

Once more I could share one of my favorite quotes 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 of 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.

picture-of-center-and-per

The Center and the Periphery

During my training there was one concept that made the essence of Montessori work especially clear to me and the memory of this suddenly popped into my head as I sought a focus that would reach all of the teachers. I didn’t have a picture of the illustration above on my computer so I reached out by email to friends around the world and received it from my good friend Seiko Ohara in Japan. This is the illustration (adapted above) of the “Center and the Periphery.” It guides us in just how far we have the right to affect the child.

In our work we only invite, offer, or inspire particular lessons or work, affecting the child at the periphery of his being. The most important work comes from deep inside the child where the wisdom abides.

This is rather like trusting a plant. In building compost (as they are doing at this school) one tries to provide all of the nutrients a plant needs to thrive. Warmth, light, water, and these nutrients are all provided, but it is the wisdom of the plant that accepts. The plant might grow toward the sun (phototropism) or a flower might close up when the sun goes down or when the temperature grows to cool. Exactly the correct amount of water will be taken in (unless we drastically overwater and overwhelm), and the exact amount of each nutrient in the soil will be taken in. This is the plant’s wisdom, its “center.” Cannot we do the same for the child?

This was a concept that applied to all of the classes at the school, from age 1 to 15 and we kept going back to it during the workshop to guide our discussions.

sunset-from-my-room

What more can I say?

Perhaps it would be wise for all of us to become more aware of our own centers and how the influences at the periphery of our lives affect us. To realize that so much of what guides us during each day, each moment, might just be unnecessary distraction from what is really important.

With this in mind I will try to reach deep to my center during prayer and meditation, allowing myself periods of silence as I walk or sit and think, and wait for messages and inspiration  from the place where we are all connected.


rainbow

I hear babies cry and I watch them grow,
They’ll learn much more than we’ll know
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world world

From a beautiful song heard all over the islands “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”
Hear a bit here: Israel Kamakawiwoʻole

Aloha Hawaii,
Susan

http://www.susanart.net

 

 

MEXICO-ART, FOOD, MUSIC, & MONTESSORI

MEXICO—ART, FOOD, AND MONTESSORI, AUGUST 2016

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 INSTITUTO INTERNACIONAL MONTESSORI

This year it was my honor to be one of the two examiners at the AMI (Montessori Association Internationale) 0-3 course at “Instituto Internacional Montessori” in Mexico City. I have been to Mexico several times but I was never able to spend so much time in the capital. I was ready to explore the Montessori world, the art, and the food in one of the most beautiful and exciting cities in the world


ART

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Juan Manual Micher MD, “Juancho”, medical lecturer for the Montessori course (and old friend from our work in Denver) was kind enough to accompany me to the interesting parts of the city where he grew up, and his appreciation of both the traditional and the modern art and architecture was obvious. Above is just one of the many churches and the very large drawings for the murals of Diego Rivera in his final art studio.


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FOOD

Every where in the city there are the street food sellers of traditional Mexican foods and people line up for it at meal times. But even in the most elegant restaurants one can find the favorites, like this taco filled with roasted grasshoppers (chapulín), fresh cheese (queso fresco), guacamole, and mole, a sauce made with chocolate and many spices.


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MORE ART

The Soumaya museum is one of the most amazing buildings I have ever seen and the life drawing class was using statues of Rodin as their models. Brilliant. I was able to study the brushwork of some of my favorite artists and discovered that Kahlil Gibran, the author of the famous “The Prophet” was also an artist and played the violin. Here is the website in English if you would like to know more about this museum.

http://www.soumaya.com.mx/index.php/eng/


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PUEBLA

Coral Ruiz, AMI 3-6 trainer returned to her home in Puebla the same week that I arrived in Mexico and she invited me to visit her. We had been in touch for a long time about Montessori in Latin American but had never met in person. She sent a car to bring me the 2-3 hours (depending on traffic in Mexico City) to the beautiful old city of Puebla and back to Mexico City, past an erupting volcano, Popocatépetl! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popocat%C3%A9petl

First we visited her training center, Instituto Paolini de Peubla, and then walked around the lovely old city. Then she surprised me with a special lunch dish that is only available in August and that originated in Puebla. It is now famous all over the country.

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This is the famous Chiles en nogada. The name comes from the Spanish word for the walnut tree, noga. It consists of poblano chilies – which are only large enough for this recipe during August – filled with picadillo, a mixture usually containing shredded meat, herbs, fruits, and spices. It is topped with a walnut cream sauce and pomegranate seeds, giving it the three colors of the Mexican flag: green chili, white nut sauce, and red seeds. It takes at least 24 hours to make this dish and so Coral ordered my special vegetarian version ahead of time. As you can see, each dish is lovingly made and comes with a certificate of authenticity. Mine was number #4929. The restaurant was full and on every plate was Chile en nogada!

For more information on the AMI 3-6 course in Puebla, Mexico, contact: informes@montessoripaolini.com


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THE EXAMS

One of the reasons that AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) teacher training courses continue to maintain a very high quality of training is that the examiners come from other training courses, and often from other countries. So it is not just the students, but also the entire course content, the environment, and the teacher trainers themselves who are being assessed. The written and oral exam questions come from the AMI headquarters in Amsterdam and everyone is working together to keep the international standards as high as possible.

Here is a picture of the first environment of the child, and my translator Maria. “Nido” is the Italian word for “nest” and it is the name of the environment for the child from birth until he or she is walking. The Montessori students learn how we can support the way an infant sleeps, eats, is dressed and bathed, and moves his body and hands, and how all of this care lays the groundwork for the way the child will feel about the world and himself. We support the physical, mental, psychological, and spiritual aspect of development through our actions and the by what we provide in the environment in the first year. After many years in the field, I believe that the Montessori training in caring during the first year of life is the most powerful way to help support balanced and happy human beings.

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The IC or Montessori Infant Community is the environment for the child who is walking until age 2.5 or 3. It contains lovingly made and beautiful materials that support and developmentally appropriate “work” (which means “important”) that includes movement of the whole body, development of the hand, language, cooking, cleaning, polishing, music, art, dance, how to care for the environment, oneself, and each other, and so on. In this picture you can see the environment set up for exams (table in the corner) and notice that one of my own art prints graces the wall next to the dressing table where a child learns to care for his or her hair.

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Although there are many beautiful gardens throughout the city, space is limited and so this school and training center have created a special stairway where there are appropriate risers and handrails for adults and children both to walk up and down to the roof top garden.

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Here the children can climb and ride vehicles and they grow the vegetables that they prepare in the infant community and the flowers they use to make small flower arrangements to decorate the environment. They can climb and enjoy special meals. Also on the roof there is a place for the student who are taking the Montessori course to prepare and eat their meals out in the fresh air. One of the most valuable things about this training center is that there is a functioning Nido, and functioning Infant Community for children from the neighborhood in the same building, so the Montessori trainees can see how this “works” as they study.

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GRADUATION

The speeches by the student at the graduation were so moving that I was often brought to tears. The range of ages and professions was notable. For example there was one student who was just beginning her college career, and another who was an MD who is now teaching in an Infant Community during the week and practicing medicine on the weekends. They all told how the wisdom of this training had transformed them as human beings. I am so lucky to have ended up working in this field and it is a joy to see it spreading all over the world.


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CAFÉ DE TACUBA

One of the last evenings, Chacha (Maria Teresa Vidales, head of training), Juancho, their daughter Teanny, and the other examiner Virginia Buckley toured the historic center of Mexico City and had dinner at Café de Tacuba, where the beautiful architecture, the traditional paintings on the walls, and the strolling musicians made me stand still in awe as I entered the restaurant and then walked around in a daze, listening to the musicians serenade, forgetting where I was, just soaking up the Mexican celebration of culture. This would certainly be an amazing place to take 0-3 training.

Here is more information on this special place to enjoy the art, music, food, and culture of Mexico. http://www.cafedetacuba.com.mx/en/

In June 2017, for the first time, there will be an international course give in English with Spanish translations. Students will come from all over the world.

For more information on the AMI 0-3 course in Mexico City contact: contacto@iimontessori.com.mx


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MEXICAN-INSPIRED ART AT HOME

The blue house of Frida Kahlo, known as “casa azul”, so inspired this lover of the color cobalt blue, then upon returning, knowing that it was time to repaint some of the doors of our home, guess what color we chose.


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TRAVEL INSPIRED PAINTINGS

I have not started a painting from Mexico yet, but here is one from Lima, Peru where I was working just before arriving in Mexico City on this trip. I never have time to paint when working abroad, but I often make notes and take photographs. Above is a photograph of the fishing boats on the harbor of Lima, Peru. I was struck by the calm water, the variety of colors of the boats, and the pelicans quietly waiting for the opportunity to grab a fish.

Why do I paint?

Recently I have realized that no matter what problems of life may crowd into my brain and bring grief and sadness, when I am in my studio painting I can ignore them; there I control my world; I can turn anything into calm beauty.

Often when traveling, I have an inexplicable feeling of joy or amazement that I want to remember, or I just see a combination of colors that I want to reproduce — and the subject of the future painting is second in importance. So back at home I imagined what it would look like as the sun rose over the city of the city of Lima which sits on the cliffs above the beach, as it lit up the water and the boats. Above you can see the transformation of what I saw to what I felt.

I return to more work in Peru this fall, so stand by for more learning and sharing. I do hope you enjoy it.

Blessings,

Susan Mayclin Stephenson
Trinidad, California

www.susanart.net

Montessori, Education for the Future – One Example

AMI MONTESSORI PRESENTATION, LIMA, PERU

On August 2, 2016, I presented a Montessori PowerPoint in a beautiful hotel in Lima, Peru. But before telling you about that I want to share a video clip of two Montessori students who gave all of us a charming demonstration of the Marinara dance, which I was so lucky to have studied when I lived in Lima many years ago. Still today children all over the country learn this dance as part of their studies.

The title of the talk was “Montessori, Education for the Future”

It is clear today that our traditional idea of a curriculum is outdated because the world is changing too quickly to predict even what professions will be valued in 10 years, so certainly then we cannot predict with certainty what subjects need to be studied to prepare for these professions! But there are many skills that are, and will be, vital. The 10 that I selected to talk about are all fostered and supported in Montessori environment.

These are: (1) exploration, (2) work and putting forth maximum effort with no external rewards, (3) repeating an activity until it is mastered, (4) focusing or concentrating on age-appropriate healthy activities, (5) self-control, (6) developing a mathematical mind, (7) communicating, (8) working with others with respect and kindness, (9) caring for the environment, and, (10) solving real problems.

Many of these skills are evident in the early days of life. I am going to give examples of just one of these natural human tendencies or skills, Visual Exploration


FIRST VISUAL EXPLORATION

So often we hear people say, “babies only eat and sleep.” But there is a lot more going on that that. In the video above it is clear that this infant is entranced with the gentle movement of the mobile, that he is focused and concentration on this visual exploration and something important is happening in his brain. This does not happen with just any mobile, but it does with one so light that it moves gently in the air currants of the room. As far as the selection of appropriate mobiles we have learned that 5 elements is the maximum to keep from over-stimulating the child, and it is best to present either abstract shapes or images that he will store in his brain really moving this way, such as birds, butterflies, and fish – NOT elephants, clowns, apples, etc.


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EYE CONTACT

The dear friends I was staying with in Lima have a new baby, Matteo, just celebrating his 8th week of life. At the request of the family I gave the same PowerPoint to the mother and father, the grandmother, two university-age siblings and the boyfriend of Matteo’s sister. And all week we shared Matteo’s experience and discussed Montessori ideas. I will share just a bit of the visual exploration of our rich experience together, observing and meeting the needs of this infant.

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As a gift I had brought the Montessori 0-3 book, The Joyful Child: Montessori, Global Wisdom for Birth to Three, and the parents began to read a chapter every night.

(Available here: Montessori 0-3 books and materials)

Right away the family realized that Matteo was trying to sustain eye-contact with them, and they grasped the importance of not looking away from him until he signaled that he was finished looking into our eyes. After the bath, instead of rushing to dress him, being sure that he was warm, the father looked into his eyes until Matteo looked away.

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Breast-feeding is a golden opportunity for the baby to look into the eyes of the mother, and at any other time the mother was sure to stop whatever she was doing to engage eye contact.


EXPLORING THE HOME

Before I came the family had noticed that Matteo seems happier when resting on the bed in his sister’s room than the parents’ room, so I suggested we lie down on both beds and see what he was seeing. What we discovered was that the light above the parent’s bed was much larger and gave off more light, too much light. Above the sister’s bed was a much smaller light and it was easier to look around the room. Returning to the parents bedroom we could see that even though there was a mobile on above Matteo’s bed it was large and it didn’t move, not interesting for long. And the ceiling and walls were bare white. While in the sister’s bed there was a lovely image of a tree on one of the walls, and a large wall-TV on the opposite wall. When we placed Matteo on her he moved his back and forth several times, studying both walls, looking at the tree and the TV which provided a high contrast of black against the white wall. What was he thinking about? Whatever it was we did not interrupt him. And of course I explained why it is better to have any TV’s turned off when he was near them.


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EXPLORING LIMA

On my last night in Lima the parents, grandmother, and I wrapped up Matteo and headed for the beautiful downtown area of Lima. For 45 minutes Matteo looked at the ceiling of the car just above him. We were astounded. What was he looking at? He craned his neck at times to look at different areas of the ceiling – even though as far as we could see there was nothing but a dark fabric. It makes one wonder if it is true, as some people think, that the very young can see things that we have forgotten to be able to see.

2a downtown

After these 45 minutes of uninterrupted concentration he was hungry and the mother fed him for 15 minutes.

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Then he returned to his visual exploration “work” and for another 35 minutes he looked intently out of the window at the buildings, the trees, the streetlights, as we slowly made our way through conveniently, for Matteo, heavy traffic back home. We were all careful not to get between Matteo and what he was looking at, and not to move him is such a way that his concentration was interrupted. Again he craned his neck to see clearly and his eyes were wide open.

It was not only Matteo’s eyes that were open, but ours as well.


Here is a quote  by Alheli, Matteo’s mother:

I am very grateful to you as I have learned that I must have not just my eyes but my soul opened to understand Matteo (and also my other “two babies”) and help them to have a positive, productive and most importantly, happy life. Parents are only intermediaries for that, and that’s our privilege.


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POST VISIT MATTEO REPORT

Now I am working in Mexico City and just received the following message, and the above picture, from Matteo’s parents:

 Matteo is doing great with his concentration exercises. On Sunday after you left, César (ed. Matteo’s papa) and I took him out to do the shopping and went also to a restaurant and we stayed out from 12:30 until 5:30 pm. That is a complete achievement for us! Before that we used to go out only for very short periods of time, but we are not afraid anymore. We have understood that when Matteo gets upset, it’s not just because he’s hungry, but because he’s bored and needs to get interested in something. When shopping, he just wanted to see everything with his eyes wide opened. He’s become such great company. Then he was so tired that when we went to a restaurant, after nursing him, he fell asleep.

I do hope that this little peek into the value of reaching parents with Montessori information in the early days of life has been interesting to you, and any prospective or new parents or grandparents you might know.


The Joyful Child is available at:

Amazon USA

Also from:

Michael Olaf

and:

NAMTA

It contains much more information that can help children, even in the first three years of life, prepare for a balanced and happy life.

Here is the link to all of the AMI “Assistants to Infancy” 0-3 training courses:

0-3 training courses in the world.

It is easy to imagine how much more is there to be learned since this teacher training was begun in Italy in 1947 when Dr. Montessori realized that it is important to meet the needs of humans in the very beginning of life.

Blessings,

Susan

www.susanart.net

 

 

THE MUSIC ENVIRONMENT FROM THE BEGINNING TO THE END

AMIJournalCreativity

It was an honor for me to be part of this publication on creativity. This article is shared with permission of AMI, The Association Montessori Internationale and NAMTA, The North American Montessori Teachers Organization.
It was published in  AMI Journal 2014-2015 Theme Issue: The Montessori Foundations for the Creative Personality.

This 237-page publication on creativity, imagination, self-expression, language, music, the Montessori creative view of childhood, art, and contemporary Montessori research and creativity,  can be ordered from NAMTA: AMI JOURNAL

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