There is a reason why every year Montessori elementary students, ages six to twelve, kick off with the same Five Great Lessons. Every single year. Sometimes multiple times throughout the year. It’s through these stories that Cosmic Education begins and continues in a spiral throughout the curriculum.
Maria Montessori believed that Cosmic Education would produce a new kind of human being–a new stage of evolution–where humans would become conscious of our unity with other people, with the earth, and with the universe.
In Christian circles, we might call this the “unification of all things,” because that’s what the Biblical authors called it. And not to get ahead of ourselves here, but from what we understand about Christ, this was his mission too. Montessori was a devout Catholic, so I’m not surprised that she saw her work as a continuation of Christ’s.
The Five Great Lessons tell a mythical, but true, story that starts with the birth of our universe and ends somewhere around ancient civilizations with the invention of writing and numbers. These stories, told over and over again throughout a child’s time in the elementary classroom, are accompanied by a variety of experiments, key lessons, and Montessori work materials.
The goal of these lessons is to help the child answer three intrinsic questions:
- Where did I come from?
- Who am I?
- Why am I here?
What I love most here is that the Montessori method doesn’t offer up lofty, up-in-the-air spiritual ideas or Bible school answers, but rather concrete, scientific evidence–all the while illustrating how everything in the universe obeys God because everything in the universe obeys the laws of nature. God is the vehicle of transformation in every story, but these stories make a connection between the spiritual and the logical.
A Montessori child understands how our universe began. They understand the evolution of stars and their planets, how each element in the periodic table came to be and how these elements collided and merged to form all matter and life. This child understands that billions of years went into the creation we see with our eyes today and that what we do see is but a small speck of the universe we live in. They also understand that for every answer and discovered theory, there are a million more questions unanswered, waiting for a new pioneer to take them on.
All things work together for thy good.
The Great Lessons lay a foundation for systems-thinking, which helps the child become grounded in his or her place in the universe. Great emphasis is put on how all things work together–from the biggest to the smallest. This is how Montessori kids end up creating lifestyle-altering solutions like Amazon, Google, Facebook, and the Sims. All of these innovators experienced Montessori cosmic education. They received a foundation in understanding how things are interconnected through systems and how everything that has happened in our universe up until today was a gift that allows us to live the way we do. That includes the evolution of galaxies, solar systems, planets, atmosphere, continents, countries, humans, animals, plants, bacteria, fungi, innovators, philosophers, inventors, artists–we could go on and on. Our very survival and future depend on every other element in our universe. That’s how you understand the world through a systems lens.
These famous Montessori kids had an opportunity to discover their own cosmic task in the timeline of humanity, which they later used as vehicles for change and progression in our world when they grew up and became adults. I mean, just listen to Mark Zuckerberg’s commencement speech at Harvard to hear more about how these kinds of thinkers see the world.
Every lesson in this sequence, and just about every other Montessori lesson or material, is designed to help the child to not only recognize the purpose of everything in the universe and the role everything and everyone has played in bringing us to this exact moment in time but also to discover the child’s own cosmic task as they progress through life.
For example, during the First Great Lesson, The Coming of the Universe (God With No Hands), a dramatic story is told along with up to twenty science experiments that accompany it. Out of these twenty experiments, everyone is bound to have one or two that they are most drawn to. Recognizing areas of interest is part of the cosmic curriculum because it gives the child, and the teacher, a direction to go in–an opportunity to dig deeper. These opportunities for children to explore what lights them up will have a significant impact on the contributions they make as they mature and become members of society.
Maria Montessori believed that you start by giving the child everything–the entire universe–and then allow them to follow their interests. Following the child at the elementary level means continuously feeding them with information and opportunities to dig deeper and then stepping back to let the child go as deep as they want to.
For all of these reasons and more, we intend to continue cosmic education as we transition back into homeschooling. I’ve been told to pick a curriculum and teach it through a Montessori lens. Or that Montessori is too expensive and out-of-reach for the homeschooling family. Or that it’s impossible to really grasp without teacher certification.
Don’t get me wrong, if you plan to become a Montessori teacher, please get certified. And if you’re looking for a Montessori school for your child, definitely make sure they have the right credentials. But, for me, the Montessori method just naturally lines up with how I see the world and how I want my children to experience the world–so I’m sticking with it, even through homeschooling.
In no other curriculum are you going to see a deep exploration of creation myths and theories of evolution. It’s not just a blip on the syllabus for science class. It’s a deeper, intrinsic, subversive truth that’s taught throughout every activity you do, every lesson you teach.
I’m excited to begin.
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Born With A Bang
Children of the Universe by Michael & D’Neil Duffy
From Lava to Life: The Universe Tells Our Earth Story
Hubble Legacy Edition
Mammals Who Morph: The Universe Tells Our Evolution Story
Story of Life: Evolution
The Deep Well of Time by Michael Dorer
To Educate The Human Potential by Maria Montessori