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

Week with Grandchildren

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Montessori Practical Life & Culture, A Week with the Grandchildren

Three of our four grandchildren and one daughter left this morning to return to Portland, Oregon. It was such a rich and enjoyable week that I am sharing it with you. In my international work I have seen over and over again that when homes have very few distractions from the real, daily life of the family, such as toys and screen time, they quite naturally join in and spend valuable time with the rest of the family. As a result children learn about cultures in a natural way, and, as they carry out valuable activities that they see being done by adults, they feel useful. Spending this time with us they learn our values, they imitate everything we do, and they develop skills that will be valuable for the rest of their lives and we have fun together.

FIRST NIGHT

As family were arriving late at night after a 9+hour drive we welcomed them with candle light, Indian music (the sound track from the movie Lagaan) and warm turmeric milk haldi doodh (in Hindi) to prepare for a good night’s sleep. A peaceful end to a long day for all.


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PREPARING BREAKFAST

Our meals are very simple. It is the work connected with the meals that are the most inviting. We explained that in most parts of the world there is little variety in meals so breakfast was always the same and dinner mostly soup, nuts, veggies, and fruit. This simplicity meets a child’s need for a sense of order and we could focus on the shared work connected with meals.

Picking greens from the deck containers (and nibbling them at the same time), and preparing small bowls of nuts.

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Making toast with butter and vegan Parmesan cheese, and fruit salad with walnuts, almonds, and toasted sesame seeds.


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SETTING THE TABLE

Each person in the family selected his or her own napkin ring for the whole visit. This way each person could take care of his napkin and decide when it needed to be washed (by hand of course and hung out to dry). Learning how to light a match, and then the candle for the meal, is very attractive. The match-lighting “rule” is that lighting a match must always be for a useful purpose and in the presence of an adult.

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Our rotating “lazy Susan” in the middle made it possible for each person to serve his or her self. VERY small amounts are taken, and everything is at least tasted. Then each person can continue to take small amounts throughout the meal, paying attention to his or her hunger, and nothing is left on the plate and wasted at the end of the meal. I learned this during my AMI 0-3 training from Dr. Silvana Montanaro and I must mention that the table and chair and the Lazy Susan were left to me by my dear friend and Montessorian Karin Salzmann who some people reading this knew and loved. Thank you Karin.


BEGINNING THE MEAL

Before the first breakfast we explained the various ways people around the world give thanks before beginning to eat, and the children chose the Japanese tradition of saying “itadakimasu”, pronounced “ee-tah-dah-kee-mah-su.” This is a way of giving thanks for those involved in the preparation of the food. (Farmers, cook, table setter, etc.) And toward the meal itself, the plant or animal life that was given to make such a feast.

Everyone was called to the meal and when everyone was served . . . and only when everyone was served, in unison, we said . . . ITADAKIMASU!


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ENDING THE MEAL

In many countries politeness dictates that no one leaves a meal until the last person is finished eating. This really helps to inspire conversation and create longer periods of enjoyable time spent together. Then everyone automatically worked together to clean the table, put out the candle, and sweep the floor, until everything was in order.

Here it is important to say something about the Montessori theory topic of “planes of development”. During the first plane, from birth to 6 years, a child is challenged to learn a lot of practical life, but only until each one is mastered, not out of duty or responsibility. Sometimes a parent will say, “He learned to clear the table, make his bed, hang up his coat, etc., but then stopped doing it! Why?” My response has always, “If this child tried to do, every single day, everything he is learning, there would not possibly be the time.” So at this stage the adult should keep modeling this practical life in a careful and joyful way, inviting the child with careful lessons, and the child will imitate and keep learning as he grows up.

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At the second “plane” or age 6-12 a child is very interested in fairness and making logical rules (notice I did not say “following rules” but “making rules”). For our older grandchild the book “The Little Red Hen” satisfied his need for moral behavior, sharing the work, etc., and we often heard him say to us adults and to himself, “Remember the Little Red Hen, only people who help with the work should get to eat the food! He understood that he and the adults needed to share the real work while his young sister did the work that she was interested in at the moment, and sometimes she just watched others.


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TOYS AND BOOKS

Yes there was time for playing with Lego, my own personal “secret stash” of Star Wars figures, toys, going to the beach, climbing trees, working on the fort behind the house, making a bed of straw in the garden, and learning bow and arrows with Baba (grandpa). But as was discovered in the first Montessori class, the casa dei bambini in the slums of Rome, children preferred real work even to the lovely dolls and toys that had been donated by Dr. Montessori’s friends. So then, as now eventually they are replaced by good quality, child-size, tools so children can successfully manage real and satisfying work of caring for themselves, each other, the environment, and being courteous.

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Always we go to the library when grandchildren visit and winding down in the evening by reading is expected and loved by all

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But no one felt like they were missing anything we most of the day was spent on practical life, real work that adults do.

On these visits the first practical life activity is always unpacking and deciding where everything goes. This time the younger grandchild was tucked in the corner of my office and the older behind a curtain at the top of the stairs. Everything was folded and put away. They even decided to fold their clothes at the end of the day (as we had read a book about Japanese children doing this) and pajamas in the mornings.

Then off to see if there is some other work to be done, such as dusting the houseplants (a memory from their earliest Montessori experience).

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On warm days there was plenty to do sweeping the deck and watering plants, and on cold days bringing in wood, building the fire, and lighting it – all on one’s own with a little help from Baba.


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SUZUKI SUMMER ACADEMY

Finally Monday morning, the first day of the one-week Suzuki begins! At the end of the day the younger grandchild brought home a borrowed violin and showed us what she has learned, as she did every day of the week.

The almost-7-year-old not only showed us his Suzuki piece, but also played a duet with Uncle Michael of a song he had heard someone play at Montessori school in Portland and had figured out by ear.

The music inspired our very dramatic youngest grandchild to create her own dances to the variety of music being performed during the first evening of Suzuki camp.

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And I was finally able to share some of the music vocabulary materials I made for my Montessori classes so very long ago, the names of Western classical composers.


GRATITUDE

One of our family practices we have shared with grandchildren for 15 years now, is gratitude and prayer. Upon waking and before going to sleep we think of a few things to be grateful for.

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And at our Buddhist altar, as each of the 7 water bowls is filled with water, even the children love to pause after filling each bowl and think of something to be grateful for or someone to pray for.


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ART

The whole family easily shared art during this trip. It is my mother’s 93rd birthday next week and each family member spent time and energy to create a personalized birthday card for her that was then placed in a beautifully decorated envelope and mailed.

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And we all enjoyed the paintings and prints being prepared for my own show next week.


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JOURNALS

Journals are also a part of our grandchildren’s visit tradition. Just as in my own 6-12 classrooms as a Montessori teacher I would NEVER REQUIRE daily writing in a journal. But when something special happens I suggest, “Is that something you would like to draw or write, to record and keep until you are an adult to share with children someday?”

Since the elder grandchild has been telling us quite a lot about their family’s 3-day river rafting trip on the John Day river he was very pleased to have a record of that.

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And when the little one found a tiny “baby banana slug” to show the whole family this was a perfect opportunity. She was worried that she wouldn’t be able to draw something “so difficult” but when I pointed out the two little feelers on the head and the gentle curve of the back she drew one banana slug, and then another, and then decided that was the mother and father and followed this with a whole passel (is that the collective noun?) of youngster banana slugs.


SAYING GOODBYE

During the week there were normal periods of hunger and tiredness, impatience, frustration. But we used the age old Montessori axiom of “Teach by teaching, not by correcting” in exploring behavior and preparing for better responses or reactions to situations, just as is done in the classroom.

For example, instead of embarrassing a child by saying, “Say think you.” in front of a Suzuki teacher, we would say ahead of time in the car, “Who do you think it would be nice to thank you your last day of Suzuki camp.” Or instead of “stop fighting!” we could say at a neutral moment, “What would be a good thing to do when you get so frustrated that you want to hit someone?” We create little dramas for practice, often ending in laughter because of the creative variations. The unexpected response to this last question, from the 5-year-old, was “meditate!”

trees end of visit

I hope you have enjoyed this sharing of the best of our week together. In this last picture the oldest and the youngest of 4 grandchildren share one of the most beautiful spots at our home, the cathedral grove, before leaving for the long drive back to Portland, Oregon.

We are blessed.

The child who has felt a strong love for his surroundings and for all living creatures, who has discovered joy and enthusiasm in work, gives us reason to hope that humanity can develop in a new direction. —Maria Montessori


http://susanart.net/

Art San Francisco

Art in San Francisco, Spring 2016

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An inspiring special exhibit of Pierre Bonnard at the Legion of Honor till May 15: https://legionofhonor.famsf.org/pierre-bonnard

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Gave me the courage to try new media for the cover of my latest book, on teaching chess to age 3-90+ (see next blog post for details)

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Most exciting of all were the murals on Balmy Alley in San Francisco. Balmy Alley is a one-block-long alley that is home to the most concentrated collection of murals in the city of San Francisco. It is located in the Mission District of the City. Since 1973, every building on the street has been decorated with a mural and many children in San Francisco have visited it in school groups as part of their studies of the history and art of this great city. The rest of this blog post is picture I took there, and here is the website so you can visit it yourself:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balmy_Alley

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What a garage door, eh?

Thank you for watching.
Susan Mayclin Stephenson

http://susanart.net/

Art and Iphones, blogging from Panama

panama city

PANAMA CITY

I am blogging from the Copa Club at the airport in Panama City on the way to Santiago de Cali, Colombia. With a 7-hour layover on a beautiful sunny day, even after a red-eye flight from San Francisco, I am too excited to try to sleep.

our home

HOME

I know that some of you do not know that we live in the middle of a grove of ancient redwoods on the north coast of California. The trade-off for this good fortune is that one cannot count on flights actually leaving at the right time, sometimes even the right day, so I always plan a stopover in San Francisco with old friends.

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ASIAN ART MUSEUM, SAN FRANCISCO

We take advantage of visiting art exhibits in the city. This time it was “How Japan inspired Monet, Van Gogh, and other Western artists” at the Asian Art Museum.

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There are more than 170 artworks drawn from the  collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, with masterpieces by the great impressionist and post-impressionist painters Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, and Paul Gauguin, among others.

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Years ago I did a study/copy of this painting of a haystack by Monet and was so pleased to be able to see it up close, and to photograph his remarkable brush work. I am more interested in learning painterly styles like this than photo-real oil painting. So I study the details of great works of art wherever possible.

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There was even an area where visitors were invited to do studies of a selection of the Japanese pieces. Helen and I each did one very quickly as it was almost closing time. What a perfect end of a museum visit.


FAMILY CONVERSING WITH NO IPHONES

There is one more thing I would like to share with you before signing off.

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Last week, in the coffee shop in our village, I noticed that there seemed to be something unique about a family having breakfast together. I kept watching them, trying to figure out what it was.

Suddenly it hit me! They were actually talking to each other, listening, laughing; and no iphones or ipads were in sight—shades of the past! I don’t know them but asked if they would mind if I shared their picture on Facebook. They were pleased and so was. A reminder for all of us.

Signing off, running out of battery on my laptop here at the airport.


 

PS On January 21 I received an email from a Swedish friend who lives in Thailand. She wrote in response to the “iphone” bit of this blog:

I want to share with you a similar experience in my house. We had a boy just 6 years old visiting us with his uncle and aunt from Bangkok. I noticed when he arrived how polite he was saying in English “Good Morning Doctor Kolmodin”. He had no toys with him, no books or anything to amuse him. He spend 3 hours in the car, talking and looking out at the traffic, fields, and so on. He helped us in the kitchen and talked with us. He ate in peace together with us in the dining room. I was so impressed of this calm boy with no Ipad or toys and, as you realized that this was for us a few years ago normal.

 

 

Turkish Sufi Performance, Fes (Fez), Morocco

Turkish Sufi Performance Oil Painting Finished!

While working as a Montessori consultant in Morocco in the spring of 2015, I was fortunate to be present at a Performance of Sufi dancers and singers from Turkey. I was captured by the intense expressions of the men, especially the singers. It was this experience that inspired this painting.

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Here is a photograph of the whole performance. You can see the singers from the painting in the lower right hand corner.

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Below is an i-phone short video. As you watch the passion of the dancers and singers I think you will understand the inspiration for this painting. The painting has been sold as a result of this blog post. Since more than one person wanted it and there is of course only one original oil painting I am having giclees on canvas made. If you are interested in this let me know.


More of Morocco

Just in case this little “art” blog post has whetted your appetite to see more of this amazing trip, here are a few more photos. First of all, I spent several days consulting at a wonderful school in Morocco, Ecole Montessori Casablanca. Here is a link to their website and I highly recommend anyone to visit: http://www.montessoricasablanca.com/

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Above is a picture of me with the children of the owners of this school. Since I always want to learn everything I can about a country in order to be a good consultant I was invited to join the family for a week of school vacation exploring their culture throughout the country. Here we are sitting on the edge of a fountain in a “riad” (traditional house) in the “medina” (old city) of Fez.

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We explored the medina for hours. Here is a little shop where I found a traditional tea-pot to bring home. The cook at the Montessori school taught me how to make proper Moroccan mint tea. I have found the correct mint at the farmer’s market here in California, and am practicing?

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What, practicing you say? Yes, it is not that simple. After boiling the tea, sugar, mint for the proper time, as it is poured into the glasses, the teapot is gradually raised to a height of up to 2 feet, aerating and flavoring the tea. In this picture tea is being poured for us at a school for poor mountain children as the family and I accompany the volunteer eye-doctors for their annual volunteer work, and tell them about Montessori.

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The beautiful traditional arts of Morocco are being kept alive and passed on the next generation. Pottery, mosaics, metal work, carpets. Above is a workshop/school in Fez.


Montessori Research in Morocco

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As always, I am constantly exploring the way young children are treated, cared for, and educated – in homes, schools, in the market, on the street. This child is being carried on her mother’s back, but given something to explore with her hand when she tires of the amazing visual exploration of the market!

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And as you can see, there is plenty to explore visually!

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The traditional way of sitting on the floor to eat, here and many places where I work, is very good for young children because they can join the adults at a very early age and it gives the child just what he wants, practice in using his hands to serve himself.

It is so nice to be in places where no one would dream of watching TV, texting, talking on a phone, or reading during a meal. Because of this a meal is truly a social event, relaxing, and comforting. It really seemed to me that when the conversation was about the food, every bite tasted better. It inspired a meal I later had with our grandchildren where we talked about how many people, how much work, went into the production and transportation of each item at the table. It was a true “mindfulness” practice, just like a Montessori study of the inter-relatedness of everything.

Also, just as in a Montessori class the food is placed in serving dishes – not on individual plates.  This way each person, even the youngest child, is free to take what, and how much, his body wants or needs. This is so much better than being given a plate full of food that someone else has prepared; someone else deciding what and how much a person should eat at any one meal. Who but each of us knows, with internal guidance, what and how much to eat.

Not only does a child feel good to have his choice of what and to much respected, but he learns, at an early age, how not to waste food.  All of us then can take just a small amount and when that is finished to take more if we are really hungry. This is just another Montessori home/school principle with historical/cultural roots.


Moroccan Food is world famous – Who knew?

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Of course the exception is eating in restaurants – and one can find the most delicious meals everywhere in this country. The first thing I did when returning home was to order a Moroccan cookbook with beautiful pictures. I had no idea that Moroccan cooking was so world-famous!

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Guess who?


Ecole Montessori Casablanca

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Here is the school where I helped out. Children, from Montessori infant community through elementary (6-12) classes, learn in English, French, and Arabic. There are families from all over the world, all religions, all cultures, all welcome. The school is growing and becoming a model Montessori school for the country, indeed for this part of the world. While I was there we began a Montessori program for children from birth-3 in a local orphanage. I will post about this later.

In January, 2016 there will be an opening for an AMI Montessori teacher at the 3-6 level and maybe the 6-12 level. Here is the contact information. Please share this blog post with any AMI teacher you know who is ready for an amazing experience.


http://www.montessoricasablanca.com/#!contact/con8


In God’s Name – Hope through the Children

In this video clip that I took in the Fez medina you can hear one of the daily five “calls to prayer”. Sometimes it is hard to come home and hear all the “anti-other” religious views on the main-stream media. Every religion has its crazies (remember the Spanish Inquisition? the partition of India struggles? the church bombings in the USA?).

Every religion and philosophy also has its saints, and those of us who are just inspired to do better each day because of spiritual models. While in Morocco I was surrounded by people who respect all religions and focus on  being better people and helping the poor. People like this, for whom religion is their inspiration and hope, and their path to help society and the world, exist in all countries.

I am going to end this blog post with a song that brings tears to my eyes. Not because it is sung by Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills, and Nash – one of my favorite music groups. (if you cannot see it here, go to youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSKjOBvybxw )

I am sharing it because the song “In Your Name” expresses something I think about all the time. Something that gives meaning to the overriding principle of my life. That it is the idea that it is only through the education of the very young that we can help the world to become a better place.

The child is both a hope and a promise for mankind. —Maria Montessori, MD


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Susan Mayclin Stephenson
The Art of Susan Mayclin Stephenson
The Michael Olaf Montessori Company
The Joyful Child Montessori Company
Montessori Assistants to Infancy


Beauty in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Bangkok

SAN FRANCISCO

turner front of museum

No matter where I am headed for Montessori work, I take advantage of the opportunity to experience beauty. It sustains me. One of the greatest English painters of the 19th Century Joseph MW Turner is an inspiration for my painting and one of my oldest friends (fellow Montessori mother and teacher) and I viewed this exhibit of his work at the DeYoung in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.

 

 

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Just as in life, where we can only focus completely and well on only one thing at a time, the rest fading temporarily into the background, Turner’s paintings give us artists models. A welcome relief for our eyes and spirits. http://deyoung.famsf.org/

 


 

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It was lovely to see a docent teaching children about Turner. I eavesdropped his interesting talk several times.

 

 

 

 


 

 

turner susan's commission parliament

In order to improve painting abilities in all ways I often do studies of great works of art, visiting them in a museum to see them first hand whenever possible, and then working from pictures.

Here is an example of a commissioned study I did of his “Burning of the Houses of parliament” for a family who owned the original, donated it to a museum in Cleveland, and wanted a memory. I worked with the museum to get the colors right, as there is always a lot of variety in reproductions.

Sometimes we think that a more “abstract” painting will be easier than a more life-like work, but it is just the opposite. This is the most difficult study I have ever undertaken.


BERKELEY

chez menu

Then on to lunch at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Alice Waters took the AMI Montessori teacher-training course the same place I did. https://www.mariamontessori.org/ And then moved out into the world combining education of children, protecting the environment, cooking, and beauty.

Here are Alice’s words:

I was 22 years old when I first trained to be a Montessori teacher, and Maria Montessori’s philosophy has remained vital to me all my life: Children learn best through experience. The senses are the pathways to our minds—and when a child’s senses are activated, knowledge floods in.

I had this interactive pedagogy in my heart when I started the Edible Schoolyard program, which creates organic gardens and kitchen-classrooms in urban public schools. When students come into the garden-classroom for their math class, they are measuring the vegetable beds—they are doing math by osmosis, effortlessly absorbing their lessons. This is the beauty of a sensory education—which is, at its core, a Montessori education: the way all the doors into your mind are thrown wide open at once.

chz susan with french posterFrom every direction as we sat at lunch I could see her sense of beauty and attention to detail, from the furniture, and art on the walls, and the food.

Here is the link to her foundation to the Edible Schoolyard, a n nationally recognized for its efforts to integrate gardening, cooking, and sharing school lunch into the core academic curriculum: http://www.chezpanissefoundation.org/

 

 

 


BANGKOK

Now I am in Bangkok, on the way to the 4th ESF (Educateurs san Frontieres) Assembly, which was begun to Renilde Montessori, the granddaughter or Dr. Maria Montessori, in 1999. You can read about the first three assemblies, and this one, which will be held for 2 weeks in Thailand, here: http://amiesf.org/

old thailand

Back to the subject of beauty. I was in Thailand for the first time in in 1964. The tallest buildings in Bangkok at that time were the temples and other Buddhist structures. Upon returning in 2002 on my way to the Tibetan Children’s’ Village in India, I was shocked and saddened by the modernization of the city. One looked down on these beautiful temples from a freeway over the city! But because we cannot stop progress (but we can help direct if in positive ways, especially through our children) I am learning to see beauty in the new world.

airportLate last night, after 20 hours of flying, counting stopover for 2 hours in Tokyo, I took this picture as I left the Suvarnabhami airport in Bangkok to take the shuttle to the hotel. I was exhausted and my mind was screaming “ugliness,” but my eyes are learning to focus on color and shape and light, and I found beauty for a moment even this modern structure. Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder.

 

 

 


I have lived in both San Francisco and Berkeley, and have spent months helping with Montessori teacher training in Thailand—these are three beautiful place on our earth and I hope you have enjoyed the pictures.

Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting. —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Look for another post from Thailand when there is time!