All over the blogosphere, on homeschool teaching blogs and early childhood education blogs, we talk about maths, literacy, physical education, but we don't give enough credit to the importance of cultura subjects in our currciculum: science, botany, zoology, history, geography, art and music...
Culture was not part of the Montessori curriculum. However, Montessori realised the importance and necessity of such a curriculum if she wanted her education to complete its cycle and be fully holistic and cosmic. Cosmic education is founded on the belief on integration and interconnection. Cosmic education opens up the child's mind and lets him discover that everything in the universe is interrelated and interdependent. Everything has a part to play to maintain harmony. When the child has understood how connected things in the universe are, he then realises that he or she also is a part of the whole, and has a part to play. Montessori spent so mch time observing children. She realised that young children interact with the natural world everywhere they go: smeling flowers, picking up leaves and feeling them, watching ants at work etc.. This is how they learn and understand how things work. Montessori believed it is important to provide the child with hands on experiences with real things before teaching them the specific names of these "things". When a child discovers something new, he is inquisitive and asks questions such as : “What is this? What is it called? How does it feel/smell/taste/sound?”. As you can see, the child try to understand using his senses. In this sensitive period, children should be encouraged to explore their environment with their senses. Awake their senses and then move on to more abstract concepts such as the parts of the tree, the life cycle of a frog etc.. Montessori realized that young children in the period of the absorbent mind have a real need to learn the proper names for things. This is why she created the Montessori nomenclature materials (3-part cards, charts, and booklets along with their controls of error) to help children develop their vocabulary and increase their understanding of the world around them. Once the child has learnt to use his senses as a steping stone to understand the world around him, he will then start grasping more abstract concepts. For example, a child learns about shapes with the Montessori geometric cabinet or the geometric solids. This will later help him discover that his environment is made up of circles, squares and triangles. in the classroom, outside, at home etc..
Maria Montessori believed that introducing cultural subjects to young children had many benefits to the children: they capture their imagination, force them to ask questions, stimulate their needs to learn, make them more aware of the natural world, inspire them and instil in students reverence and gratitude for the people and accomplishments of the past.
So following the Cosmic plan, the idea is to go from big to small, from general to specific. First, you give the child an all-encompassing sense of the universe with its billions of galaxies. Then it focuses, on our Galaxy, the Milky Way, our solar system, planet Earth and its geological history, the first specimens of life, all species of plants and animals and finally human beings. What is inherent in this curriculum is that everything is interconnected. For example, at some stage the child learns about life cycles. He learns how the common fly reproduces and this way, the child also finds out that fly lays its eggs on dead creatures, its offspring devouring the tissues to feed thus ridding the environment of dead matter, that would otherwise pile up and pollute the earth: the cosmic task of the fly.!!!!
All this theory piece to introduce you all to some of our cultural exercises. Keep in touch.... If you wish to learn more about Montessori Cosmic Education, check up the book below. (The autors have done quite a good job at explainign the rationalefor Cosmic Education)