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It is clear today that our traditional idea of a curriculum is outdated because the world is changing too quickly to predict even what professions will be valued in 10 years, so certainly then we cannot predict with certainty what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.


1 matteo ath eye contact 1

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.

1 a book

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.

2 eye contact with mama

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.


3 matteo in car 1

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.

4 matteo in car 2

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.


5 matteo sleeping

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

 

 

Week with Grandchildren

2 sm first night pictures

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.


1 2 prepar greens

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.

2 images toast

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


1 2 napkins candle

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.

2 ready to eat

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!


1 clearing and candle

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.

2 sweeping washing

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.


1 toys

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.

2 books

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

1 unpacking and leaves.

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).

2 deck and fire

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.


1 suzuki

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.

1 composer cards

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.

1 altar

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.


1 grackys card

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.

invitation as of june 28 small

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


1 journal

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.

2 slug

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 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.

museum 1 and 2

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.

museum 3 and 4

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.

haystack both

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.

susan art finished

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.

family best

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.