Montessori Birth, to Adolescence & Back, Romania & Sweden, Fall 2018

Catalin Ivan, Member of the European Parliament for Romania, discovered Montessori for his children and soon realized it would be good for his country, especially the education of the poor. Visiting the AMI office in Amsterdam it was recommended that he begin by getting Montessori birth to three information to parents by translating The Joyful Child: Montessori, Global Wisdom for Birth to Three. and then focus on training Montessori teachers.

1 book signingIt was an honor to have this book translated into Romanian. The first three years are the time when the basic personality and all attitudes are formed and parents who experience Montessori during these years understand the power of supporting the potential of their children from the beginning.
First stop, a book signing and public lecture based on the book.

2 tot program
Although Catalin was responsible for this work, he credits his wife Catalina (pictured in the middle above), and the teachers and parents of the school, for all of the hard work necessary to make this dream a reality. In October of this year the “seminar format” section of the AMI training of trainers program will begin here in Iasi! (pronounced “yash”) It will be given in English with translation into Romanian so teachers from around the world are welcome.

3 hotel and amazonIasi is a beautiful combination of tradition and modernity. Located in the north of the country, the historical region of Moldovia, it has always been known as one of the leading centers of Romanian social, cultural, academic and artistic life. The course will be held in a lovely hotel in a quiet area not far from the center of the city.

For information write to: TOT ROMANIA
For general information on becoming an AMI teacher training, click here: TOT

4 classroomsThere is no international AMI school consultation program yet, but I love to help bring existing Montessori practices to the very highest level wherever I go. Here I was able to observe and help two infant communities, 3 primary (2.5-6) classes, and one elementary class. Some comments from teachers that I received later:

First I want to thank you again for the extraordinary experience that I had, having you here. I feel that I learned so much and you answered me to some questions that I had for long time. Thank you, thank you!

Yesterday I had a meeting with lead teachers from other classes and I was so surprised to find out that all of them made changes. We had a wonderful talk yesterday and we realized that in such a short time we had so many nice experiences from classes to share.

5 palace of cultureI always combine Montessori work with learning about the local culture, especially in a country where I have never been before. To begin this exploration all I had to do was look out of the window in my hotel room. Here is the view, The Palace of Culture.

6 operaOpera! There were no ticket left to see La Traviata during my exploration of Romanian culture, but we got permission to attend a rehearsal, which in my experience, even with a symphony orchestra performance, a rehearsal is just as interesting in different ways than the final performance. And to see the gypsy (Roma) dances here in Romania was very special.

7 all teachers in Iasi croppedWhen I first began to research Romania to prepare for this work I found that the ‘painted monasteries’ of the north were among the most beautiful buildings in Europe. But I assumed they were too far away from Iasi. Imagine my surprise when finding that we were going to drive to see them and spend two days seeing several.

After one last goodbye dinner with the staff we Catalina, Simona Nicolae, one of the primary teachers, and I headed north to the Bukovina area next to the border with the Ukraine to see as much of this part of Romania as possible.

8 music and danceThis picture of Romanian musicians and dancerS is from ”Souvenirs of Bucovina”, a DVD I watched at home. There are at least 18 ethnic groups in Moldavia and hundreds of dances, still celebrating births, wedding, and deaths. The Klezmer musician in this picture keeps alive the Jewish tradition. During WWII the Nazi’s in this country killed thousands of Jews and Roma (the gypsies who migrated to Europe from India). Before working as a Montessori teacher Simona worked for a project to provide a measure of justice for holocaust victims.

9 painted monasteriesAll monasteries are painted inside but in 1530 the outside began to be painted. This movement lasted only for a short time but it is amazing to see the brilliance of the paint. Notice the Turkish invaders in this detail of one of the walls. This is how people learned their history.

For more click here: PAINTED MONASTERIES

10 traditionIn this monastery cemetery there is a large garden plot in front of most of the stones, and stork nests everywhere. It is considered very lucky to have one on one’s home.

11 eggsAs in many Eastern European cultures painting Easter eggs is an art of its own in Romania’s villages. While painting eggs is even today a skill very few master as the process is long and meticulous, some Romanian artisans have transformed these hollowed-out eggs into unique works of art, exhibited all around the world. The colors and symbols used to decorate the eggs vary according to the region, usually three-four colors are used, each with its own meaning. Red symbolizes love and solar light, black is the eternity, yellow is about youth and rich crops while green relates to nature and blue to health and sunny skies.


12 water pipeMy last two nights in Romania were spent with a friend and her artist husband in the Armenian district of Bucharest. Theirs is a tiny apartment, part of what used to be a large and beautiful Armenian mansion, filled with artworks, paintings, prints, and sculpture. The cat and I slept on the sofa and I felt very much at home, sort of like San Francisco on the ‘60’s. We spent the day on the open top of a tourist bus to see the whole city quickly, and then wandering around the old part of the city. Water pipes and music everywhere.

Miruna Paul is a translator and we met as she was translating for the French students in the Montessori course in Casablanca last summer.

To see more about our work together on this course click here: MOROCCO

13 manuc

We made use of our few hours together seeing Bucharest from the top of a tour bus and walking through the old part of the city. We had lunch in an open central courtyard of the oldest inn in the city, Manuc’s Inn built in 1808 by a wealthy Armenian, and tasted the traditional homemade “dalinka” back at her home. I think it is like straight vodka.

For more about the inn click here: MANUC
For more about Bucharest click here: BUCHAREST

14 birthday cake75th BIRTHDAY
On October 29, 2019, I celebrated my 75th birthday with Miruna. We had perhaps the best chocolate cake I have ever tasted. The next morning arriving at the airport I found that my flight to Sweden through Germany had been cancelled so I was able to fly through Poland! It was too dark to see anything but it was my first time in Plant and it was nice to see pictures and hear music by my favorite composer at the Warsaw Chopin Airport!


15 farmMontessori Centre for Work and Study
On the southwest coast of Sweden is one of the oldest and most authentic “Erdkinders” available today. This is a working farm run for the most part by adolescents, which was the plan set forth by Dr. Montessori to meet the needs of this age. The students come from many countries.

For more information about Erdkinder click here: ERDKINDER

16 student and honeyThe students take turns getting up early in the dark winter to care for the animals; they grow as much of their own food as possible and freeze or can for the winter and to sell in the community; they cook and clean and take care of the farm and each other and still maintain high academic standards. They know what they do every day matters; they are needed. The school does not advertise nor do they have a website. Families find them by word of mouth.

To find out more, write to: RYDET

This is a program where teacher who are working with Montessori students from age 12-15+ come together somewhere in the world to study this age, to make a plan, to go home and attempt to execute it, and then come together again to share their experiences. The teachers here were from Norway, Germany, France, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, Réunion (a French Island in the Indian Ocean), the USA, and other countries.

18 talks by susanThe head of the school, Jenny Marie Hogland has been my friend for many years and we have been planning to get together here. Finally we did it. My first work with adolescents was with girls in a detention center in California. I was part of the group researching the Erdkinder idea in the USA many years ago, and editor of the Erdkinder Newsletter documenting those first baby steps. And using the AMI 6-12 training our family homeschooled our last child through middle and high school. So Jenny invited me to share my experiences with the teachers. I spoke about three things:

1 – the similarities in development and needs of the human being from birth to three and from age 12-15.

2 – The most important skills that are fostered in Montessori education, where high academic accomplishment is a by-product, not the prime focus.

3 – Our elementary, middle school, and high school years as a homeschooling family

19 staff and studentsThe best part of this work is the people. The students and the teachers are on the same level, treating each other as equals, as co-workers in the process of getting educated. In the first picture you see, from left to right: A graduate of the Erdkinder, Jenny-Marie, me, one of the orientation participants who is now housefather at the Erdkinder, an adolescent expert from the USA, and Jenny’s daughter, also a graduate of the Erdkinder, who is not on the staff. The picture on the right shows three women, participants in the adolescent orientation, from Romania!

So my work began with birth to three in Romania and ended speaking about birth to three with some Romanians.

For information on AMI work in Romania click here: ROMANIA
To learn more about the adolescent orientation programs around the world,
click here: ORIENTATION

20 originals

One of the most exciting things about the Montessori world is that we never know what our children are going to do next. We meet their needs, fire their imagination, foster their curiosity, and then step back and enjoy the opening of each new flower, the unfolding of each unique and fascinating individual.

We don’t know what they they will be when they grow up, but we know that they will love learning and will be kind, creative, hardworking,  generous, practical, and compassionate. And they will know how to be happy.

Today, however, those things which occupy us in the field of education are the interests of humanity at large, and of civilization. Before such great forces we can recognize only one country—the entire world.
—Maria Montessori (The Montessori Method)



Mongolia, Sweden, Morocco, Spring 2018

Events are happening quickly now so this will be a brief blog post, but with lots of pictures as usual.

0 michael olaf news image

In May I will on the staff at the first AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) 3-6-diploma course to be given in Morocco. It will be wonderful to return to this country where I have learned and taught twice before. Here is a link to the Michael Olaf news from this month with more information on both the course and the international translations of books. CLICK HERE:

3 spring work 2018 best

In February and March I traveled around the globe for the second time. The first was on the ship University of the Seven Seas (now Semester at Sea), a trip of 4+ months. This time is was less than one month:

In Mongolia it was very exciting (and very cold!) to be able to attend an Eagle Hunter competition not so far from Ulaanbaatar, the capital. If you have not heard of this ancient sport I highly recommend the movie “The Eagle Huntress” which tells the story, through a true documentary, of a young girl who became the first female to ever enter this male dominated sport, and she won! (Oops, hope I didn’t ruin the movie for you. No I do not think so for I have seen this movie 3 times and am sure you will enjoy it.) Hunting with eagles has been the way of getting food in this part of the world for many years and during a competition the horse and rider and eagle must work together to obey commands, just as though they were hunting for food. It was a beautiful sunny day but so cold that I had to turn my face to the sun to convince my brain that I was not freezing.

Above is a short video clip, taken by my friend Lhamo Pemba, of one of the riders. The eagles are trained as babies and after 7 years returned to the wild with gratitude of the hunter.


5 eagle hunter statue best

And here is one of the statues of the revered Eagle Hunters found at the amazing monument, The Genghis Khan Equestrian statue, the largest equestrian statue in the world. CLICK HERE:

6 book and susan

Then on to the Montessori work! My good friend and AMI trainer, Lhamo Pemba, gave the 10-day AMI Assistants course, an introduction to Montessori for ages 3-6, and allowed me to contribute. Also I gave a 1-day workshop based on the book The Joyful Child: Montessori, Global Wisdom for Birth to three, and we held a book signing with the participants because it is now available in the Mongolian language, translated by the president of the AMI affiliate society in Mongolia, and soon to be graduate of the AMI 0-3 diploma course in Denver, Co, Tsolmon Namkhainyam. The cover art is of an oil painting of a baby whose herder family, living in a ger (yurt in Russian) out on the steppe, we interviewed the last time I was in Mongolia.

8 names in mongolian best

Here is a picture of two members of the AMI affiliate board as they presented both Lhamo and me (both in Mongolian dress) with beautiful scrolls of our names written in the ancient Mongolian script.

9 mindfulness cover

Now on to Sweden! In both Mongolia and Sweden I gave a talk based on the book, “Montessori and Mindfulness”. The book was inspired by the talk I gave at the AMI congress in Prague last summer. It was something I had been thinking about for a long time.

As adults in today’s world we are always rushing from one thing to the next, our attention usually on the past and the future. But in Montessori, uninterrupted concentration on age appropriate activities that involve the body and the mind working together, are the most important and most valuable gift we have for children. This is the most natural experience of true mindfulness.

Also, in Montessori education, instead of the teacher delivering lessons to a group of children, he or she is trained to observe each child individually, as well as the group, all day long, to adjust individual lessons to the stage of development and the interest of each child. There is no way for this teacher to be thinking about the past or the future; she is drawn into each moment of the teaching day, completely being in the moment. Thus Montessori is a method of mindfulness for both the child and the teachers. Here is the link to this book on Amazon. CLICK HERE:

And from the publisher. CLICK HERE:

10 sweden speakers best

It was wonderful to be back in the lovely home of my friends Barbra Waller and her husband Tom. Jim and I have visited with them before in Sweden and Finland and they have visited us in California. Old friends Patricia Wallner and Louise Livingston, both AMI teacher trainers, were the other two speakers. Here is a picture of us with Barbra and members of the AMI affiliate organization for Sweden.

11 museum

After the inspiring Montessori workshop in Stockholm I visited Barbra’s 0-3 class, amazed as always with her natural instincts and abilities with children of this age. Then we spent a day exploring in the Nordic Museum pictured here. I wish I had time a space to share much more of this visit but . . .

12 susan on the beach

. . . Now it is time for me to return to our beach, where I do my best thinking, and enjoy precious with my husband and family, as preparations are in full swing for traveling to Casablanca in exactly one month.

Love to all,


Dublin, Amsterdam, and Marseille – Spring 2017

1 culture in dublin

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.

3 boredom

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”

4 agm

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)

5 amsterdam dublin 1

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

6 france

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,

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


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.

The Joyful Child 0-3 Montessori

Much of the information on this page, and more, can be found in the above book, available:

From Amazon in many countries: USA Joyful Child

Wholesale from the publishers: Michael Olaf


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.



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.


— 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.



AMI Assistants to Infancy courses

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