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.

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.


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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

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).

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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!”

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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/

“No Checkmate” Montessori Chess Book

Book Reviews and Quotes from the Book

This new Montessori book helps parents see the possibility of sharing their lives with their children in a way previously thought not possible and it seems to be taking the Montessori world by storm. Here are two amazon.com review of “No Checkmate, Montessori chess lessons for Age 3-0-+”:

Chess without a headache! Susan covers every detail of making this game meaningful and fun for even the very young.

— Rita Zener, AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) teacher trainer


If you are looking for a book that will help you to introduce the game of chess to your child in a non-competitive, gradual, and fun way – you have found it!

Deep respect and understanding of human development in its formative stages is a common denominator of all Ms. Stephenson’s books. In NO CHECKMATE you will find a conceptual framework of developmental characteristics along with a practical guidance in form of preliminary games and activities, gradual introduction to the key rules of the game, and more… This book opened a new field of exploration and joy for me and my two daughters!

Dmitry Ostrovsky, AMI Montessori teacher and dad

1 grace and courtesy

(From page 21)
Graceful movement and balance of the whole body

At around 1.5 years of age a child, so glad to be in an upright position with hands free, wants to put forth as much effort as possible and delights in carrying heavy things. This practice solidifies the balance of walking, carrying something, and watching where one is going. One of the first things you might offer a child in the learning of chess might be the opportunity to carry the chess set to the table, placing it quietly on the table, and putting it away when the game, between two other people, is finished.


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(From page 23-24)
The courtesy of shaking hands

When a child enters a Montessori class, at least in Western Cultures, the first thing he usually does is shake hands with the teacher who is sitting on a chair just inside the classroom so her face is at the child’s level. This marks the beginning of the child’s day at school; it sets the energy of mutual respect and focus on being in the moment. Similarly you can teach this in chess. Either person can offer to shake hands at the beginning of a game or lesson.

But the main reason for this is because the manners of chess require that at the end of a game the two people shake hands and say something along the lines of, “Thank you for playing chess with me,” or, “I enjoyed playing chess with you.” This may not seem like a very important step in the beginning of learning to play chess, but it is extremely helpful when, at the 3rd level of chess, both people are trying to win, and someone loses. Knowing that one is going to end the game in such a polite manner can prevent the frustration, anger, and ill manners that are sometimes displayed when a person (even adults) lose a game.


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(From page 41-42)
Dusting or polishing chess pieces

This brings up a point that is sometimes misunderstood in a Montessori class. When a child asks if he can work with materials that he is not prepared for, for example wanting to get his hands on the beautiful glass beads that teach squaring and cubing before he has begun the basic math work the reply should never be, “No, you are not ready for that.”  The child doesn’t understand that in time he will have the skills to work with more advanced materials, that someday he will be ready. He only hears the word, “NO!”  Instead the teacher says, “Yes, you will be able to work with those materials, as soon as you can do this, and this, and this” perhaps pointing to the beginning shelves of math materials. “This one comes first. Would you like a lesson on that now?”

Sometimes, if a child is not even ready to begin the first math lesson and still wants to “work with” the beautiful bead materials, the teacher can say, “Yes, do you see that these beads and the shelves are really dusty? Would you like a lesson on dusting them?”  Sometimes children have been able to practice their skill of wood polishing on materials in the Montessori classroom that they will not be using in the prescribed way until much later. This is all satisfying, important, real work.


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(From page 94-95)
Mongolia

In 2015, I was in Mongolia to give the first AMI Montessori public lectures and to consult with two schools. I was staying with a family who had a 5-year-old boy whose grandfather had taught him the chess moves. One evening that the boy and his father were playing chess in the living room, Ermuun suddenly exploded into anger, stomping and yelling and his father looked toward me with a puzzled look on his face. I asked what happened and the father said, rather sadly, “He doesn’t like to lose.” My reply was that winning and losing was not appropriate at this age, but the emphasis is better placed on spending fun time with one’s father, and learning more and more about chess. And, with his interest aroused I went on to explain the “Three Levels of Chess” that our family has developed over the years. Later I received news from Mongolia that the boy enjoys chess now much more than before.


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(From page 115-117)
Creativity – Oden’s game

Chess has changed many times since its birth in India and it is still changing. The rules have changed and why cannot children continue to change them? Recently I was playing chess with my sister’s grandchildren. One the youngsters, already identified as a unique and creative thinker, decided to make up his own game. I had given them a combination chess and checkers set and he wanted to created a way to use all of the pieces of both sets in one game.

I explained that all games were the result of agreement between people about how the game is played. An example is the rules of Scrabble in our family. Scrabble is a word game in which two to four players score points by placing tiles, each bearing a single letter, onto a game board  which is divided into a 15×15 grid of squares. The tiles must form words which, in crossword fashion, flow left to right in rows or downwards in columns. The words must be defined in a standard dictionary . The game is played without access to a dictionary unless a word is being challenged.

But a year ago I suggested that this way of playing limits the players to words they already know, so our family began to play with the dictionary as our constant companion, accessible at any time. This was a cooperative way of playing, and it was so exciting for all of us to learn so many new words in one game that winning became secondary. It was still fun to find words that could score a lot of points and have a high score at the end of the game, but there was much more learning and enjoyment of Scrabble from then on.

So why not a game with chess pieces and checkers together? All I remember, as I heard him explain his new game to his brother and cousin, was “And the Queen has more power when she is standing on a checker!”


(From the back cover)
Benefits of chess

I once came across a list of 10 ways learning chess can benefit the brain. Here is the list:
– It increases creativity
– It improves memory
– It increases problem-solving skills
– It can raise an IQ
– It grows dendrites
– It can help prevent Alzheimer’s
– It exercises both sides of the brain
– It improves reading skills
– It improves concentration
– It teaches planning and foresight

These are all important results of learning chess. But in learning chess the Montessori way we can add to this list:
– It helps one learn patience
– It teaches body awareness and grace
– It teaches good manners
– It teaches cooperative problem solving
– It teaches how to help another
– It teaches one how to treat another person the way one would like to be treated
And maybe you can think of even more.


There are a few more quotes on the most recent Michael Olaf Montessori Newsletter, May, 2016: http://michaelolaf.net/newsmay2016.html


chess book front large

NO CHECKMATE, Montessori Chess Lessons for Age 3 to 90+
ISBN 1-879264-18-8
123 pages, black and white illustrations
Copyright © 2016 Susan Mayclin Stephenson
$14.95

To order:
Michael Olaf Montessori company No Checkmate book
NAMTA (North America Montessori Teachers’ Association) No Checkmate book
Amazon USA No Checkmate book

CHECK AMAZON IN YOUR OWN COUNTRY


Montessori – Morocco, Amsterdam, Argentina, Belarus, Portland

Montessori in Morocco, Amsterdam, Argentina, Belarus, and Portland

This has been a very interesting and rewarding Montessori month. First of all I returned to Ecole Montessori Casablanca, the Morocco school. (http://www.montessoricasablanca.com/)

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primary class “the Roman arch”, elementary class botany research

A year ago I worked here as a consultant for the classes for children from age 1-12. This year I returned to see the progress and to document a “Montessori First Year Project” we started then. The school is doing very well except for the face that they, as many others, desperately need teachers with the AMI Montessori Assistants to Infancy, A to I, diploma! They have diploma teachers at the 3-6 level, and are very fortunate to have an AMI teacher trainer from Canada, Kyla Morenz, as the main 6-12 teacher.

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Aicha Sajid, me, Kyla Morenz on the Mediterranean – Chefchaouen

I visited the orphanage and the village school (two school outreach projects) and then spent the week, as together we explored the country (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chefchaouen) , thinking about what the next step might be for both.

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Just one of the blue buildings in Chaouen – typical Rif Mountain breakfast


Morocco First Year Orphanage Project

I posted pictures from the orphanage earlier but here is an update.

1 last year and setting up

“before” and “after” for ages 8-18 months

Over the year the school and several other people helped to create a Montessori environment for children from age 9 months to 18 months.

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Just one of many miracles

Since this change in the environment everyone present with the children has remarked on the level of independence exhibited that no one previously thought possible. The pediatrician told us that one child had been given up on, thought unable to move in any way except to lie on his back and rock back and forth. But he surprised everyone. After observing others and how they could move, he made his way across the room to climb up on the Montessori “stair”. It was considered a miracle.

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We spend a morning in the new environment

After a morning observing children in this environment and talking to all of the staff we asked to see if we could help the 0-9 month-olds who, although they are given loving care by the entire overworked staff, pretty much spend their days in cribs with slanted mattresses.

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Days spent in cribs for ages 0-9 months

After a week of thinking what to do, I put together a PowerPoint showing the movement and language potential of children in the first year of life – most of it from this page: http://michaelolaf.net/BirthYearOne.html

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A Montessori “first year” Powerpoint, in French – future “movement” room

The results were mixed. There was a hesitancy to make such drastic changes mixed with an enthusiasm to “do it all”! So we identified a room that is being used as storage and suggested they just give these very young children daily opportunity to spend time on the floor rather than in a crib, and see what happens, to follow Dr. Montessori’s advice to all of us to “follow the child.”

I predict that they will be even more impressed with the human potential at this age as they were with the older ones. And this will have a lasting effect on the children.


“Foundation Zakoura” Montessori School Outreach Village School Project

http://www.fondationzakoura.org/

Rita El Kadiri is the CEO of the Foundation Zakoura, whose aim is to create schools for the poor village children of Morocco. You can read about her here: http://mobilelearningweek.org/speakers.php

She is also a parent as Ecole Montessori Casablanca and ever since her daughter entered the Montessori school she had been wanting to figure out how to share some of the Montessori ideas in these village schools all over Morocco.

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The Foundation Zakoura school in El Jadida, Morocco

We met over lunch at the beginning of my time in Morocco, and then she accompanied us to spend the day at one of the project schools.

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Our final planning-for-the-future Zakoura meeting

At the end of the week we met again and I presented a paper of ideas. Some of these  were from my experience of teaching a class of children the same age in Lima, Peru with no Montessori materials. If you want to know more about this look for “MONTESSORI PRACTICE IN A TRADITIONAL CLASSROOM” on this page: http://www.michaelolaf.net/lectures.html

We had a very long and fruitful discussion, Rita and her head teachers for the project meeting with Aicha and Leila from the school. We came up with several ideas that would incorporate the cultural values of Morocco, and gradually move toward giving the children more general knowledge and independence. I look forward to hearing about the progress of this very important work.


AMI Affiliate Societies (http://ami-global.org/societies)

Every year there is am annual general meeting in Amsterdam of AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) people from all over the year, the AGM. One day is spent in meetings of AMI affiliated societies from around the world. Becoming an AMI affiliated society is a really big deal as it brings attention to, and provides international support for such as school consultations and plans for teacher training in the country. There can only be one AMI affiliated society in each country of the world.

Finally at this AGM I enjoyed the culmination of a year of work in assisting both Morocco and Argentina in the formation of AMI affiliated societies. I didn’t do much more than encouraging application nd helping them through the process by putting them in touch with the correct person in the AMI office. But I was richly rewarded in being able to be present at the official signing of the affiliate agreement between AMI and my friends in Argentina and Morocco.

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Connie and Marisa from Argenta signing the AMI agreement

Argentina: http://www.fundacionmontessori.org/

morocco signing

Nabil and Aicha signing the AMI agreement

Morocco: http://www.montessorimorocco.org/


Susan’s Retirement?

Thinking that my Montessori work was done for one lifetime I was ready to return home and act like a normal 72-year-old, but oh no!

On the last day of the AGM I was approached by the representatives from Belarus who want to translate my books into Belarusian! And since one of my favorite artists, Marc Chagall, is from there I just may have to go! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belarus

sm kyril belarus and alexandra

Mr. and Mrs. Kiryl Zhibul from Belarus – grandchild #4 in primary class

And then, in Portland Oregon on the way home I visited the wonderful Montessori school in Portland, Childpeace, where three of our grandchildren study. (The oldest attended from age 2 through middle school, graduated from Montessori, and is now in high school)

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Grandchldren #2 and #3 in Montessori elementary and middle school

When I see how valuable Montessori has been for our own children and grandchildren and could be for children and adults in all kinds of situations, I cannot help but  continue to study and learn, and to reach out and help spread this wisdom.

Shared with love,
Susan


For more information here are names of the FaceBook pages I manage or co-manage:

Susan Mayclin Stephenson
The Art of Susan Mayclin Stephenson
The Michael Olaf Montessori Company
The Joyful Child Montessori Company
Montessori Help for Zika Babies
Montessori for Ageing and Dementia
Trinidad Art Gallery

http://www.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/

Colombia, Drugs, Zika, Montessori, & Art

COLOMBIA, DRUGS, ZIKA, MONTESSORI, & ART

1 comfort zone

When I sign on to follow a blog and the blogger posts too often I quickly stop following! So I am not posting often, but this means that sometimes these posts will be loooonnng. There were always be lots of pictures. When someone asks me what I am going to do on an upcoming trip I reply, “I won’t know till the trip is over.” because one never really knows what will be the most important part of a trip.

2 police

DRUGS IN COLOMBIA 

For example I never expected a trip to visit old friends to be a short course on Narcotráfico en Colombia or the illegal drug trade in Colombia. On the 3-4 hour drive from Cali to Popoyan we saw at lease 50 police, most flashing us a “thumbs up” signal to signify that there was no trouble with drug traffickers on that day. Later, when I was leaving for the airport in a taxi to come home at 2AM, we were stopped for a routine check for drugs because the road to the airport continues on to the coast where drugs make their way to the ships. Cocaine is produced at $1500/kilo in jungle labs and can be sold on the streets of America for as much as $50,000/kilo. The statue in this picture we bought on the road; these little art pieces are made for a fundraiser to provide money for families of police who were killed or disabled during drug wars. Of course my first thought when in a country that has suffered in this way for so long is, how can we help the children.

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FRIENDS THEN AND NOW 

Here are pictures of my dear friends Denise (from Brazil) and Adolfo (from Colombia). We met in 1960’s when I was an unofficial hostess at The Bechtel International Center at Stanford University because of a relative who was a professor there and we have stayed in touch and visited each other over the years, especially when Cali was a stopover on the way to Lima, Peru when I taught.

LATIN MUSIC 

When asked why our son Michael is so interested in Latin music, I for the first time realized that Cali, considered the heart of Salsa, might have had something to do with this. In Colombia in 1979, at a night club called Hunca Munca, I learned to dance the Salsa. And, because of my positive experiences in Colombia and Peru, visited Cuba in 1980 and fell in love with that music. So Michael can maybe credit his love of Salsa/Timba music to Denise and Adolfo! If you are on facebook you can see more of Michael’s band on the page “Timbata” and he is playing keyboard in this video clip.

0 Portuguese bk cover jul 2 2015.indd

MONTESSORI HELP FOR ZIKA BABIES 

During this trip, Denise educated me about the horrible situation of the Zika virus, causing babies to be born with unusually small heads if the mother was exposed during pregnancy. Knowing that Montessori has a lot to offer people (from birth to old age) with mental and physical problems I created the facebook page “Montessori Help for Zika Babies” with up-to-date news and infant development video clips for parents. Also the Portuguese translation of the Montessori 0-3 book, The Joyful Child: Montessori, Wisdom for Birth to Three, is being read free by parents in Brazil on Amazon’s “kindle unlimited” every day.

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MONTESSORI BILINGUE, CALI 

Monica Abadia, who was an infant when we were all together in California kindly helped arrange school visits and translated for me. I had been in touch with the owner of the Montessori school via facebook and it was so good to meet in person. This school, started over 25 years ago, was inspired and helped in the beginning by an old friend of mine. Ursula Thrush received her AMI diplomas in London and Bergamo, Italy, and was the first teacher of both of my daughters in San Francisco! She was the person who inspired me to go to London myself to get my first AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) teacher training. What a small world.

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“Every unnecessary help is an obstacle for the child’s development” —Maria Montessori, MD

MONTESSORI FOR EVERY CHILD

Montessori Bilingue has received awards as a model for the country because at least 10% of the students have disabilities and they thrive in this Montessori environment.

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MONTESSORI PEACE PRAYER 

Omar, the 12-year-old son of the school owners, Lyda and her husband, started a school garden project and now the students grow a lot of their own food. When we met, Omar (an Arabic name as the family originally came from Morocco) told me it was his dream that every family on the planet could have a garden and grow food. He said this through a translator, but then recited a well-known Montessori prayer for peace in English.

I offer you peace
I offer you love
I offer you friendship
I feel your pain
I see your beauty
I hear your cry
My wisdom flows from my spirit within
I salute that spirit in you
Let us work together for peace. amen

As he finished tears glistened in my eyes. There are many schools around the world isolated and in need of contact with other Montessorians. Since returning I have put Lyda in touch with some via facebook and already an AMI Montessori teacher trainer in Mexico has offered to give an introductory “assistants” course in Cali hopefully sometime in 2016. And when Lydia requested an audio file from me to share with the teachers I was able to send this link about the Montessori Model United Nations and a little video of the keynote I gave there in 2013. If feels like being back in Cali with the teachers:

http://michaelolaf.net/MMUN2013.html

9 up the mountain

INTO THE FOOTHILLS OF THE ANDES 

One of my favorite memories of my first trip to Cali years ago was leaving the hot and humid valley below to drive up into the foothills of the Andes where the fog rolled in just like our home in Northern California. So one day we went. Looking back we could see the city laid out below us as the air became cooler and cooler.

10 hot chocolate

CHOCOLATE CON QUESO  

We ordered large cups of steaming hot chocolate accompanied by plates of fresh goat cheese for dipping and softening in the hot liquid, something we would never do down in the hot Cauca Valley. We had seen many of the goats on the road up the mountain and little stands selling goat cheese.

HOT SAXOPHONE! 

As we ate we listened to a really good saxophone player who soloed with recorded music. No matter what era or type of music came on the CD player he could immediately play along beautifully. Above is a little iPhone video clip to capture a bit of this magical moment.

12 rembandt

REMBRANDT 

Back down in the valley Adolfo took me to something I didn’t expect and was thrilled to see: an exhibit of 68 etchings of Rembrandt. Three rooms, all packed, with small magnifying glasses provided to guests so we could examine closely the great works, which was really helpful as some of the etchings were only 2-4 inches wide. It is amazing to think of these creations being shared across the world 400 years later.

13 school art teapot

SPEAKING OF ART – COLEGIO BOLIVAR 

Colegio Bolivar is the school for children from age 6 through high school where Monica’s daughter (Adolfo and Denise’s granddaughter) goes and it was a pleasure to see this beautiful place. We visited the “nido” which at this school means 2-4 year-olds, and the primary classes, which are very much influenced by the Reggio Emilia program from Italy that incorporates a lot of art with every subject. In this picture there are two art projects, one from a primary class, and the other, a fountain made out of “trash” cup and saucer, from the atelier which is an amazing art studio used by all ages. They insist upon using the word trash, rather than recycled materials, because these things have been thrown out, or “trashed” then found and creatively used by the students.

14 art drums and outside

The picture on the left is one of several sculptures by young children exemplifying what they want to be when they grow up. This student wants to be a drummer and had made this drum set, about 12 inches in height from trash. The picture to the right shows the outside area of one of the classes. At the primary level classrooms have only three walls andare open to the outside year round.

15 at night

CALI AT NIGHT 

There is so much beauty in this country. I have not even touched on the magnificent  churches and cathedrals, the mountains, the sugar cane fields and orchids, the central plazas in all of the small towns, the amazing nightlife full of clowns and dancing and music.

The first Friday night as I had not yet located my earplugs I was able to document in person the fact that salsa music is played at least until 4 in the morning. The same thing on Saturday night. On Sunday things became quiet a couple of hours earlier. But I couldn’t complain because the noise was music! So that means music and dancing on 3 or the 7 nights of every week.

TROPICAL FRUIT

In the evenings, as people gathered at St. Anthony Square (as in the pictures above) to watch the full moon rise, people were selling the luscious tropical fruit of the area. I always look forward to the fresh, seasonal, fruit and there is always something in season. Here is a link to a list of fruits, some of which you will recognize from stores in your own country, and some you still have to look forward to.

http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/09/tropical-fruit-in-south-america-guide-colombia-slideshow.html#show-110386 

If you have access to FaceBook there are more pictures from this trip here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153894148937813.1073741877.707497812&type=1&l=a19c291db8

I hope you enjoyed the small part of this amazing trip. If you would like to receive blog posts in the future please sign up with your email address near the bottom of this page. Look for a small colored rectangle or circle (depending on your computer) with the word “follow” or a “+” in it and follow directions.  You will then be sent an email to confirm the fact that you wish to follow this blog.

Take care,
Susan

15 camel
Susan Mayclin Stephenson
Trinidad, California
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.

 

 

COSMIC EDUCATION The Child’s Discovery of a Global Vision and a Cosmic Task

blog susan

Susan in Mongolia exploring education from birth in that part of the world.

 

This is an excerpt from an article printed in The NAMTA Journal, Global Citizenship: Uncovering the Montessori Mission, Volume 40 Number 2, Spring 2015.

Susan Mayclin Stephenson tackles a large subject, Cosmic Education, which Montessori defined as a “unifying global and universal view[s] of the past, present and future.” Stephenson takes the reader from birth to the end of the elementary age with examples of how the child grows into an understanding of Cosmic Education through their experiences at home and at school. Central to her thesis is the theme of discovering one’s cosmic task, which depends on “fostering…curiosity and compassion toward other beings.” Stephenson concludes with examples from around the world and illustrates how children are born with this tendency toward compassion and how it is experienced from birth through age twelve within Montessori environments.
(Editor, “The NAMTA Journal”

 

blog and starfish

Observing starfish on the California North Coast before gently placing them back in the water.

The word cosmic today usually means something very large or having to do with the universe. But the word comes from the Greek kosmikos, from kosmos, meaning order. The term Cosmic Education in Montessori lingo refers to a child’s gradual discovery of order, a unifying global and universal view of the past, present, and future. It is the coming together of many components of knowledge into a large vision or realization, as in a mosaic, of the interdependence of elements of the solar system, the Earth, planets and animals, and humankind. The character of our time is sometimes referred as the information age; today’s children are bombarded with facts and information with no way to make sense or bring this information into some kind of order. Cosmic Education helps a child make sense of all the information and is more important today than ever before.

blog plant

One page of a Montessori 6-12 class student journal of work.

These principles of Montessori education are usually discussed in reference to the second plane of development, the years 6–12. But such an idea is not something Dr. Montessori invented for the elementary child as an academic curriculum. As usual, she “followed the child” and the child’s interests. This does not begin at age six.

blog topponcino

A painting by the author, big brother holding his infant sibling safely and comfortably on a Montessori “topponcino” which is made during the AMI Montessori Assistants to Infancy course.

NOTE: the topponcino is available from the Michael Olaf Company:

http://michaelolaf.com/store/

The discovery of Cosmic Education and one’s cosmic task depends on fostering the curiosity of the human being and the natural tendency to feel compassion toward other beings beginning at birth. There is evidence that natural curiosity and feeling responsibility for others, or compassion (the sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it) begins long before the child enters the elementary class. Wanting to be useful and helpful and caring about the happiness of others is not something that needs to be taught; it is a basic part of the human make-up and can be observed even in the very young.

blog math

Math, such as this child is enjoying in a school in Paro, Bhutan, is just as enjoyable and interesting as any other subject in a Montessori class.

Speaking at the University of Amsterdam in 1950, Dr. Maria Montessori said,

It should be realized that genuine interest cannot be forced. Therefore all methods of education based on centres of interest which have been chosen by adults are wrong. Moreover, these centres of interest are superfluous, for the child is interested in everything.

A global vision of cosmic events fascinates children, and their interest will soon remain fixed on one particular part as a starting point for more intensive studies. As all parts are related, they will all be scrutinized sooner or later. Thus, the way leads from the whole, via the parts, back to the whole.

The children will develop a kind of philosophy which teaches them the unity of the Universe. This is the very thing to organize their intelligence and to give them a better insight into their own place and task in the world, at the same time presenting a chance for the development of their creative energy.

blog math journal

Children record their favorite math, geometry and algebra discoveries over 6-12 years of the elementary class. And enjoy decorating the margins and using colors to make a beautiful record of their work.

To see the complete article, which was just published as the February, 2016 newsletter from the Michael Olaf Montessori Company, go to this link:

http://michaelolaf.net/newsfebruary2016.html

For more information on NAMTA (North American Montessori Teachers’ Association) and membership. Click on the following link. Anyone interested in learning morea about Montessori is welcome, and there are members all over the world:

http://www.montessori-namta.org/Membership-Form