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. (

1 pirmary and elemenary

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.

2 three of us and chouan

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 ( , thinking about what the next step might be for both.

3 neyla at breakfast and blue

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.

2 new room and miracle

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.

3 visit

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.

4 cribs

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:

5 talk and floor room

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

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:

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.

visiting school

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.

planning meeting

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:

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 (

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.

argentina sm

Connie and Marisa from Argenta signing the AMI agreement


morocco signing

Nabil and Aicha signing the AMI agreement


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!

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)

sm tai and fischer

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,

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

Art San Francisco

Art in San Francisco, Spring 2016

1 pierre bonnard

An inspiring special exhibit of Pierre Bonnard at the Legion of Honor till May 15:

2 chess cover

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)


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:









What a garage door, eh?

Thank you for watching.
Susan Mayclin Stephenson

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


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.

3 us


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.


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


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.

6 montessori lyda and me


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.

7 school sign and girl

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


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.

8 omar and garden


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:

9 up the mountain


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


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.


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


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


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


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.


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. 

If you have access to FaceBook there are more pictures from this trip here:

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,

15 camel
Susan Mayclin Stephenson
Trinidad, California  


Art and Iphones, blogging from Panama

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


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


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.


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:

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:

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:

Art & Montessori 2015 in Review


1 12 moons both

On Christmas night I took the picture on the left in Portland, Oregon and posted it on FaceBook. It was the first full moon to be seen on Christmas since 1977. A few hours later I received the second picture from a friend in Moscow, Russia. What a reminder of how tiny we are in this immense universe and how close to each other on our small and precious planet. Thank you Valentina.



6 morocco country school orph before

Early in 2015 I worked in Amsterdam and Morocco. Above is a picture of my hostess showing the principal and head teacher of a madrassa (school) in the Atlas Mountains a short video clip of children working in her Montessori school in Casablanca. They were in awe and wanted to know more. Also, here is a “before” picture of a child in the orphanage in the capital where we have made plans to introduce Montessori ideas.

6 morroco orph after

Since then two teachers from the USA have helped the school, Ecole Montessori Casablanca, with this outreach project, and a Welsh Montessori teacher and the school donated materials. Of course the staff at the orphanage are always doing their absolute best, but they are very interested in learning how to use Montessori ideas for the orphans. In the picture we can see children using Montessori materials that support the development of equilibrium, or balance, and hands, just as they would in any Montessori first years environment anywhere in the world.

6 new puppy picture

To better understand the culture where I am working I always try make time to explore. During this trip the family and I traveled for several days throughout the north and south of Morocco, and it was wonderful for me to get to spend time with the children. Imagine my delight when I later received this little video clip showing the new puppy their little dog had birthed!


4a museums both

I also take advantage of international work to study, close up, the works of the great artists. In 2015 I was able to study the art of Turner and the collection from the National Museum of Scotland – both in San Francisco. Then a Matisse exhibit in Amsterdam, and fascinating art wherever we went in Morocco.

4a sargent details

There is no substitute for standing a few feet away from the actual painting and seeing the true color and the brush strokes of artists such as John Singer Sargent, one of my favorites, as in this close up photograph I took of his painting, Lady Agnew of Lochnaw.


5 art gallery

Back home I try to capture some of the images and memories of travel experiences while painting in my studio. I exhibit in The Trinidad Art Gallery, the elegant Sunset Restaurant in Trinidad, and the lovely All Under Heaven store in Arcata.

5 susans art wall and sand

The Trinidad Art Gallery is a group of 20 local artists, potters, jewelry makers, and photographers, all supporting each other in creating a showcase of exceptional talent. Here is the website:

In this picture you can see some of my work. The gallery also carries my cards and Montessori books!

5 new prints on canvass

Recently I have been able to have giclée prints on canvas produced of some of the paintings that have been sold.


8 home and garde

Jim and I love to garden and we have a long season here in Northern California. Here you can see the wisteria through the living room window and the amazing height of Cosmos grown from seeds brought back from Noko Island in Japan after Montessori work there last fall.

8 summer mama

Also his summer my mother celebrated her 92nd birthday. She was a musician, a choir director, a singer, and artist, and my first teacher, because every mother is the most important first teacher. Here is the link to a bio I created from interviews inspired by my husband’s sisters:


9 JC all three

This year the birth-three book, “The joyful Child, Montessori Global Wisdom for Birth to Three” was published in Portuguese and Vietnamese. The Portuguese edition is available free online through Kindle Unlimited and the Vietnamese edition has been shared by many villagers and is preparing for a second edition.

This book contains a brief but very helpful overview of the Montessori Assistants to Infancy program that was begun in Italy in 1946, when Dr. Montessori realized that beginning to support development at age 3 was too late, that we must begin before birth. Here is the link to the English version, which is available from many sources around the world.


8 summer esf group photo

In July I had an amazing 2-week experience in Thailand, meeting with government officials, scientists, teachers, and parents from all over the world, who are interested in using Montessori ideas to help in many situations—with pregnant mothers in prison in the UK, Syrian refugees, Alzheimer’s patients in Australia, and more. I am going to have to create a whole blog post on this subject. But in the meantime, here is the website Educateurs sans Frontières (ESF):

And here is the link to the blogs for that site, to which I contribute:


7 chess with ermuun and ams

Since 1972 I have found myself using Montessori idea to teach many things outside the Montessori classroom. Chess is one of these. Even at age 2 or 3 children are able to learn the beginnings of this international game and for years I have been asked to write down how to do it. This year I was able to explore the teaching of chess in Mongolia where most children learn from an early age, and at the Chess museum in Amsterdam.

7 chess museum and barb

Since I have never written all the “Montessori” chess learning steps down it needed to be tested. So in the fall I gave the first draft of the book to an old friend in Hawaii and asked her to be my guinea pig. At first she had her doubts because, as is the case with many very bright adults, somewhere along the way she had decided that she was unable to learn chess! It was delightful to see her change. Right away she saw the logic of the game and wanted to get up early the next day to continue lessons so she could teach her grandchildren.

If I can stay home long enough in 2016 to complete and publish this book (for which I already have several orders) you will find out about it on this blog.


2 12 alex mosaic stage 1

Upon arriving at our daughter’s home in Portland, Oregon, I was immediately asked by our youngest grandchildren to do art with her. In my hand were 5 calendars that I had picked up in the discard pile at the post office as we left home in Trinidad, California. Perfect! Remembering one of the art activates in my Montessori primary (age 2-7) classes long ago, I invited her to make paper mosaics with me. First of all I cut strips from the calendars.

2 12 alex mosaic stage 2

Then I showed her how to cut the strips into little squares and sort them into a 6-cup muffin tin: reds, blues, greens, and yellows . . . Then I asked her if she would like to make a circular or square mosaic and hand drew the shape on ½ piece of paper. Then I showed her how to arrange the squares on paper and, when satisfied with the design, to glue them down.

2 mosaic dinner

They added a lovely decoration to the Christmas Eve table.


3 12 song czech

(my art on the wall between the West Bank and Israel)

Just a few days before Christmas I received an email from a friend in Kyrgyz who had been contacted by a Montessori teacher in the Czech Republic trying to find us. She wanted to get permission to translate the lyrics of our family Christmas song/video that was created a few years ago entitled “A Christmas Prayer for the Earth”. Of course we are happy to share these it with anyone.

Here is the link to the Czech version:

And, in case you have not already seen it here is the link to the English version that explains where the pictures are from:


10 end susan's art firewood

Just in time for the holidays I completed the above painting inspired by our grandchildren, who love to participate in daily work at our home in the country, digging potatoes, cleaning the greenhouse, taking care of the birds and animals, hauling firewood to the woodshed, and bringing it in to fill the stove.

4 12 ami card

And to end this message I want to share how lucky I feel this year to have had my art selected to grace the 2015 season’s greeting card from AMI, the Association Montessori Internationale, in Amsterdam. This card went out to thousands of people in 108 countries. Above you can see an image of the original painting and the AMI card.

“It is absolutely certain that the secret of the future human power lies hidden within humanity as it develops — within young people. —Maria Montessori, Education and Peace



Turkish Sufi Performance, Fes (Fez), Morocco

Turkish Sufi Performance Oil Painting Finished!

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

1 painting

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

2 concert total

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

More of Morocco

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

4 susan and children

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

6 teapots

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

6a tea proper

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

8 pottery

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

Montessori Research in Morocco

7 child's hands

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

9 door

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

10 food eating on floor

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

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

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

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

Moroccan Food is world famous – Who knew?

10 food western

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

11 susan and camel

Guess who?

Ecole Montessori Casablanca

13 ecole montessori casablanca

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

In January, 2016 there will be an opening for an AMI Montessori teacher at the 3-6 level and maybe the 6-12 level. Here is the contact information. Please share this blog post with any AMI teacher you know who is ready for an amazing experience.!contact/con8

In God’s Name – Hope through the Children

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

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

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

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

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

If you would like to receive my blog posts in the future should must sign up at the bottom of this page. If you are on Facebook you can see many more pictures from this Montessori travel and work, and my art, at these Facebook pages:

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