Childhood » Age Six to Twelve » Elementary » Curriculum overview
Elementary

Curriculum overview

“In this intellectual period, the child’s questions are innumerable. He wants to know everything. His thirst for knowledge is so insatiable that, generally, people are at their wits’ end about it; therefore, they most(ly) choose the easiest way and simply force the child to be silent, and to learn only what we grown-ups consider useful for him. But, in doing so, we also destroy his spontaneous interest. Learning then becomes a tedious and tiresome business. The result is all sorts of deviations in the child’s personality.” 

It should be realized that genuine interest cannot be forced. Therefore, all methods of education, based on centres of interest, which have been chosen by adults, are wrong. Moreover, these centres of interest are superfluous, for the child is interested in everything… A global vision of cosmic events fascinates the child and his interest will soon remain fixed on one particular part, as a starting point for more intensive studies. As all parts are related, they will be scrutinized sooner or later. Thus the way leads from the whole via the parts back to the whole.

Thus the child will develop a kind of philosophy which teaches him the unity of the universe. This is the very thing to organize his intelligence and give him a better insight.”

Maria Montessori, unpublished lecture, University of Amsterdam, 1950

Dr Maria Montessori described the type of education that Elementary-aged children need as ‘cosmic’. The quote above is from 1950, so a little before the 60’s gave the word a different meaning. She was referring to the Greek root of the word ‘cosmos’ meaning the world or universe as a complete harmonious system. Her insight was to offer the emerging intelligence of the 6-12 year old a holistic framework for at the beginning of their education, rather than at offering fragments of knowledge to be pieced together in maturity. From the whole to the parts rather than the parts to the whole.

We offer the ‘whole’ through a series of five sequential oral stories, each lasting around 30 minutes, which are told over the course of 6 weeks.

  • 1st Great Story – The Formation of the Universe: The first story starts with the expansion of the Universe and ends with the formation of the Earth
  • 2nd Great Story – The Coming of Life: The second story starts with water on the surface of the Earth, and tells how life appeared, gradually gaining in complexity until the Earth was finally ready for a special creature…
  • 3rd Great Story – The Story of Humans: The third story introduces this creature with three special gifts; a mind that can imagine, hands that can work and a heart that can love.
  • 4th Great Story – The Story of Communication through Signs: The forth and fifth stories are about the two great inventions of human beings; written language and numbers. The forth tells of the first marks and signs people would leave as messages before following the journey from the Egyptians through the Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans to the writing we use today.
  • 5th Great Story – The Story of Numbers: Similarly to writing, we tell of the universality of number systems and the various civilisations we have to thank for our number system.

These stories are repeated once or twice a year, and children often come back to hear them again and again. Aside from offering a simple dramatic narrative to explain how things got to be the way they are today, the stories emphasise gratitude. Gratitude for the nameless people that went before us inventing the tools we take for granted today, gratitude for the unconscious service given by animals and plants one to another that makes it possible for life to continue, and a general sense of awe and the harmony and interconnectedness that exists between all things.

The stories open up the study of the Earth, life and the human story. They put into context the child’s work in maths and language. Each story is the starting point for the subjects of physics, chemistry, geography, biology, history, art, music, languages, geometry and maths. A growing complexity is offered in each of these areas, but always with the possibility, for example, of geography work morphing into biology, or maths becoming history.