Cosmic Education: Language and Geography

The cosmic education of elementary Montessori does not allow us to study just one subject in isolation.

The geography album encompasses "earth sciences" - geology, physics, and the like. Some very few children  do not simply jump at the opportunity to repeat the demonstrations they are allowed to do (the volcano being the one almost all children want to do!) following presentations from the geography album. The reasons may be varied: adult level of trust (children sense it even if the adult appears to be trusting of the child's abilities), lack of space, environmental expectations just aren't there, adult enthusiasm, materials not readily available, adult hasn't explicitly stated "Would you like to do this?"

By simply using the language album, and following it accordingly, the children working with the grammar box materials are introduced to simple experiments. By following these commands which correspond with the grammar boxes and filler boxes, the child will strain then filter starch-water and sugar-water, after mixing up solutions and discovering the terms "in suspension", then letting it all settle out (or does it all settle out ;) ).

Thus the reluctant-in-science child who is more of a language-child has now experienced some of the science experiment processes. Now those geography presentations present something to the child that he CAN DO. And he is much more likely to DO them. Or at least be open to the idea. ;)

Straining starch-water and sugar-water

comparing pure cocoa with cocoa-sugar

creating an emulsion

Grammar Boxes - Question from a child

An older child (age 8) is working with a set of grammar box material, organizing it and checking it for accuracy; preparing to make sure there are sufficient materials to perform all the commands or otherwise fulfill each sentence - in preparation for a group of younger children coming in.

He asks, "Mama, why are these so simple???? The reading is simple, the tasks are simple. They are kind of fun, but why so simple!? This work could not be appropriate for someone my age." (use a dramatic 8-year-old voice for the italics)

"Remember that this work is intended for incoming elementary children - 6 years old. Or children just learning to read."

"Oh! So they should all be done by the time they are my age." (statement, not a question)


He then later articulated what was being taught with the material and is putting together his own "extra challenge" version of the work at a higher reading level. "Just for fun," he says.

  • synonyms
  • parts of speech
  • expansion of vocabulary
  • spelling notes
  • definitions
  • experiments
  • interacting with people
  • interacting with objects
  • rules (and permission to break some at appropriate moments)

sample verb commands - separate from the filler boxes themselves

These activities are interesting, but definitely move away from an older child's needs in regards to movable pieces, vocabulary development and complexity of the activities. Older children who still need it can zip through this work, then develop their own extensions. They simply won't stay with it the way a 6 year old would.

A Study - Outcomes of Montessori Fidelity

I recently had a chance to read this article:

Preschool children's development in classic Montessori, supplemented Montessori, and conventional programs
Angeline S. Lillard
Department of Psychology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville VA 22904-4400, USA

I put forth a particular paragraph that stands out for me:
It really says a lot about the Montessori Method - and the article goes on with more!

Theoretically, using Montessori materials would seem to exercise many aspects of executive function. For example, one of the first Montessori materials with which a child is presented is the Pink Tower, a set of 10 wooden pink blocks ranging in size from a 1-cm cube to a 10-cm cube, with each cube 1-cm larger on each face than the previous one. In using this material, the children's task is to carry the cubes one by one from a display to a rug that they have previously rolled out on the floor, then rebuild the tower. To do this task entails planning. Second, each time a child chooses a block, she or he must do so with reference to its relation to all the other blocks: Is there another one in between the size of this one and the last one placed on the tower? This step requires working memory. Third, the child must inhibit the prepotent tendency to grab the closest block, and fourth, the child must pay strict attention to how he or she places each block on the one below it, creating a symmetrical tower. After building the tower, the child takes it down, returns the blocks to their stand by the shelves (in the proper order), and then tightly rolls up the rug and returns it to its place. This step requires flexibility and task switching. Consider the difference between this and engaging with ordinary blocks. With ordinary blocks, one can do anything, without necessarily having any set plan, and one does not have to think about the blocks in relationship to each other. A preschool might not have a requirement that children put items away right after use (instead, there often is a single clean-up time right before going home), and there may well be no set way to arrange blocks when returning them to their place (often, they get put haphazardly into a large basket or box). The executive function demands are much reduced, and this difference in executive function demands applies across many other activities as well.