“Child of the World” Takeaways

I read Child of the World by Susan Mayclin Stephenson. It’s about a Montessori education from 3 – 6 and also 6 – 12. I am new to the 6 – 12 age so I wanted a generic overview of it. I think I did get that from this book.

I’ll get “the bad” out of the way. There was a lot positive in this book, which I will list below. But I think I can illustrate a point by talking about the bad in this book, which was a somewhat judgmental tone.

Somebody once said to me, “What if your most cherished assumptions are the ones holding you back?” I think cherished assumptions that demonize anything are the highest risks to holding you back. In this book, the author is a bit judgmental about things. She says she never allows screen time for a child and never asks the child (under 6) to read aloud and she is most definitely opposed to counting bears.

I can see that there might be good reasons to minimize screen time, as well as the other points. But I have found enormous benefit in iPad apps. I think they deserve a look and I think the author holds herself back by cutting them out altogether.

I believe there are healthy and un healthy ways to raise a child. However, I am to the point in my growth where I think the attitude should more be, “To the best of my knowledge, doing this is healthy for these reasons and doing this other thing is not healthy for these reasons,” and to remain open to the potential in some of these things that the author otherwise says she never does.

Compare this more judgmental tone to some of the authors who write about the more emotional part of parenting. Dr. Tsabary, who says things like to meet every new person as if they might take you on an exciting ride, is one who has a most opposite view of this. It is a view I have appreciated and has helped grow me. For instance, Dr. Tsabary says about screen time to not see it as “bad,” but that the child needs balance and to offer things that are not screen time to the child if you think their education has become unbalanced.

That said; I absolutely got things out of this book. Here they are:

Tell children stories about other children

This is the most insightful thing I personally got out of this book, which was new to me. I started to be very liberal with telling my children about my childhood. You can see some of my stories over at my facebook page, The Observant Mom.

The Montessori Great Lessons

This is what I wanted to read more about. In an elementary Montessori education, a broad overview of the history of the earth is presented to the child. I still want more information about this. But I liked how the author said this is not a one time deal. You give the lesson over and over again, at least once every year. I did it with my son and I found he was pretty fascinated by it. He himself initiated an activity where he took pictures of the events and put them in sequence. I will always have extra large pictures like this to put in sequence when we do these lessons from now on. My son is only 4 1/2 and while I liked the lesson, I think some of the hands on activities might be better for his age.

The materials don’t necessarily matter

So many people get hung up on the Montessori materials themselves. I don’t think the exact materials matter so much as the principles and knowledge of teaching. The author shows a picture of children in another country playing with twigs, which were used for the lessons, and they worked just as well.

Ease up on reading lessons

I had been doing reading lessons with my son when I started this book. We were chugging through beginner books. I admit these are sometimes stressful, because he doesn’t want to read one per night. I have always honored this, but night after night of refusal to read can be frustrating. I channeled my energy more towards the typical Montessori 3 part lessons. I try to find ways to build his reading vocabulary. Every other non-reading lesson I do now has a word printed about what we are discussing. I might do away with the beginner books for my next children–though my son enjoyed the stories themselves. A pity, because they were pricey.

Instruction is necessary

Too often I see memes on facebook or such that children just need to be out in the mud playing or they need “process” art. I agree with this to a large extent, but, like the author says, these open ended activities work well when simple instructions are first given. When painting, the child should be shown how to use the paint brush and clean it. When I made salt dough ornaments with my kids, I made sure to show them a few ideas they could use when making them. Then, yes, turn them loose and don’t correct them for being “wrong.”

Introduce the child to cultures of the world

I am going to look for opportunities to expose my children to cultures of the world. The first one I did was to place Disney characters on a map to show where they are form, as a first and very relatable exposure to different cultures.

Some other points:

  • Don’t talk when demonstrating but also don’t demonstrate while talking! Research suggests children cannot process both at the same time.
  • Flags are interesting to a child around 5 years old. I bought a game like this where flags get matched (“Flag Frenzy”) and my son really liked it.
  • Avoid zoos, which show caged animals. A bird feeder is nice as it lets a child see an animal in its element where the child is taught not to disturb it.
  • Try a rock collection with small children
  • Try an art book
  • Children age 6 – 12 can take more responsibility over their school work, doing their own research
  • If the child isn’t doing work, try a daily activity journal to gently bring their attention to this.
  • The child over seven is intensely interested in morals and heroes. Mythology provides a wealth of material for this exploration, and inspires discussion that will encompass behavior in everyday life, in the family, the class, and society.
  • Have the child keep their own dictionary of words they don’t know
  • The Italic script is very beautiful and a link between cursive and print. I have seen a child’s cursive writing improve dramatically as he casually worked through a set of Italic workbooks over a period of months.


“One of the most important attitudes to nurture is to see each child as a new being each day, forgetting the past and seeing only the potential for greatness.”
Child of the World, Susan Mayclin Stephenson


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