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Syneva Barrett

I agree that Montessori’s Cosmic Education is developed across the ages. Last year I spoke with a great Montessorian, Larry Schaeffer about the advanced courses I was developing for Montessori teachers interested in deepening their knowledge of the 5 Great Lessons. Larry said, “Every three year old looks at the world with reverence. Go on a walk with a three year old and you will see they have reverence for the dandelion, the grasshopper, the sunshine… Our job as Montessorians is to help the children extend that reverence throughout their whole childhood and, hopefully their whole life.” Larry’s way of explaining it really struck me. Of course, to truly help extend that reverence in children, the teacher must have it in herself/himself. This is part of the spiritual preparation of the adult that happens in training. Once you start looking at the  world and the Universe through that lens, it changes the way you look at everything!

Jonathan, reading your thoughts about the “ancient” young child reminded me of my conversation with Larry. It’s true that young children can be very wise (such as feeling reverence for all living things, natural interest in and care for the Earth etc.) The elementary children certainly do start the work of thinking about the cosmic questions – Who am I? Where do I come from? Why am I here? That they will continue to explore in secondary – and hopefully their whole lives!  I think where Montessori differed is she felt the young child needs a firm grounding in their own reality before they were ready to use imagination.  Of course exploring the Universe, evolution etc… requires a lot of imagination so that was reserved for elementary.  In my own experience as a child, I remember being very confused about whether unicorns were real or not.  In my defense, a horse with a horn seems a lot more plausible as reality than a dinosaur.  

The other challenge with young children is that they have no concept of time that is why in Montessori schools history is a subject that starts in elementary.    We start by exploring clocks, calendars etc.  Then go to the impressionist materials like the long black line which represents the whole history of the Earth and shows the very tiny portion of the Earth’s history that humans have been present.  Our history curriculum continues from there in order of time.