Our first summer at Zen Montessori has been busy! Veggies are looking great in the garden! The children harvested carrots and regularly come looking for green beans and lettuce leaves to snack on. There was so much excitement and anticipation to welcome the older children that “graduated” the Children’s House program a year ago. What a touching moment to see them back this summer!
It inspired me to learn about this “new child”! The children are the same yet very different. They are 6 and older now. Dr. Montessori described the second plane of development (6-12 years) as a break from a period that happened before: “Psychologically there is a decided change in personality, and we recognize that nature has made this period for the acquisition of culture, just as the former was for the absorption of the environment”. (Dr. Montessori “To Educate the human potential”) It was insightful to observe the characteristics of the “new child” here:
The younger children are content with experiences to what they feel inside themselves. The older children (6 and up) are aware of the world around them. They interact in a more social way with each other. Instead of the side-by-side activity that is more common for the younger child, the older children actually work together to solve a problem, accomplish a mission, research an interested subject. Even if that subject is Pokemon comics;). Outdoor play is very active group play too!
The “new child” can think abstractly, imagine things that they have not had direct experiences with. A younger child wants a name for everything asking “what” and direct contact with materials/experiences is needed to collect the data for the intelligence. The older child asks “why” and can imagine based on what the concrete experiences they have had. I noticed how important “why” was right away. A younger child can simply be invited for a presentation by saying: “May I show you … material today?” or “I’d like to show you this!” It is far from enough for an older child. If you ask an older child: “Can I show you fractions today?” They answer “No”, not always, but quite often. But if you ask: “Do you know what happens when you cut a unit in half?” there is a great interest in figuring it out. Or another real life example: “let’s do subtraction with a stamp game today!” got me nowhere with a seven year old, while it works perfectly great with a younger child. Asking a seven year old how old United States is on this 4th of July by doing subtraction that would require first researching the date of birth of our country is suddenly a project of great interest. The differences are mesmerising!
The older children show a new level of moral development. You often hear discussions about right and wrong, good and bad (good guys, bad guys) and what is fairness. They are able to see beyond their own needs and wants.
Dr. Montessori speaks about Cosmic Education for a child 6-12 years of age. Cosmic in this sense means comprehensive, holistic, and purposeful. Let us give the children a vision of the universe,” wrote Maria Montessori in To Educate the Human Potential. In a classroom setting the children are presented with lessons in the form of stories. At the Montessori elementary school, they are called the “Great Lessons.” These stories explain to children life’s beginnings, how life came to Earth, the first humans and their accomplishments of communication in signs and the invention of numbers. The teacher/storyteller uses dramatic science experiments, charts and timelines to excite the imagination and suggest further exploration on the part of the children.
At home, a child can explore similar concepts with the help of the parents. The goal is to help the children become aware that the universe evolved over billions of years, and that it is based on the law and order through which all the plants, animals, and the rest of creation is maintained.
Montessori believed if you introduced advanced math, grammar, writing, reading, science, geography, languages and history to elementary school children, they would be able to survive the ups and downs of learning during puberty. The most difficult years, according to Montessori, were what we would call the middle school years. She thought these children should be nurtured like a small child. These children should not be stressed out with strenuous academics or sports. Sitting still and studying is the hardest activity at that age.
Dr. Montessori continued explaining that the high school years are the next time to add more rigorous academics and sports.