Brocha and I never get tired of telling the story. Of how we met, how we first collaborated, and how it all took off from there. It was August of 2017 and I got a call from a dear friend, Khurram, the owner of Alisons Montessori. He had received a call from Brocha Baum, the owner and head of school for Darchei Noam Montessori near Baltimore. Could I help her with launching a new elementary program? Work with her new teachers? Support a new Montessori classroom? “She’s good people. Help her if you possibly can”. I thought ahead to what the Fall had in store for me by way of obligations and felt that I could probably manage a trip down from Maine sometime in October, and said, “Sure, give her my contact information and we’ll go from there”. In the ensuing conversation, I quickly learned two things: one, Brocha wanted someone to come down over Labor Day weekend (!) , and two, it saves a lot of time if you just agree with what she needs to get done in the first place. Brocha must mean “relentless energy towards a goal” in Hebrew. Consulting turned into workshops, turned into in-house teacher-training, turned into a full-blown course with 12+ adult learners coming from five different Montessori programs three years later. Mazel Tov!
While I never had illusions of creating a best seller, I wanted to write a book that was useful, meaningful, enjoyable, and accessible. I think I accomplished that based on reader reviews and was happy to see that sales have gone over 1250 copies sold. Big thanks for everyone that bought the book and gratitude for all the kind words!
Cosmic education can generally be described as the unifying element in the Montessori pedagogy. Simply stated, it avers that all things are interdependent, that humans have a role in the universe, and that each of us have a “cosmic task.” Cosmic education states, grandly, that a human developmental process underlies all growth and, further that education has a role to play in this development. It is the overarching theme of a Montessori classroom, a concept that is unique to the pedagogy, and the thread that holds the fabric of a Montessori experience together. It is a belief that theoretical structures, in all areas of study, should find practical use within our classrooms.
Cosmic education has four main aims. The first is to lead to the development of a whole human being. Academic achievement is not the only goal; rather, the goal is the realization of each child’s natural potential. Learning involves the physical and emotional being, not just the intellect. The second aim is the formation of several types of relationships. These include the relationship between the child and the universe, a sense of marvel and respect for the vast scale of things, and an appreciation of the dignity of all things; the relationship between the child and the processes of life, creating a sense of the process of growth, an understanding of the role of cycles, and the perception of death as a continuation of natural law; and the relationship between the child and humanity, a realization of common needs, a celebration of diversity of culture, and the perception of oneself as a reflection of one’s own culture. The third aim is the realization of responsibility, to all life, to the human species (through family, community, country, and society), and to self, through movement and reflection. Lastly, cosmic education endeavors to create a sense of independent action in the child, teaching him or her to take but give in return, to share willingly and with compassion, and to appreciate conscious and unconscious service.
And how is this implemented? A Montessori education leads children from the whole to the specific, displays the positive aspects of culture and history, employs concrete activities in the curriculum that lead to abstract concepts, uses impressionistic elements and emotions in lessons, and challenges students with ideas, while still providing reflective space towards the process.
Cosmic education, then, is not a singular area of study but rather a connective web that unifies the curriculum, providing both respect and responsibility to the child throughout the school years.