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April 23, 2021

Activities to Support the Montessori Fourth Great Lesson

I've said this before but one of my favorite parts about homeschooling this year and having the kids home more has been incorporating the Great Lessons into our home life. Cosmic education is just the most amazing part of the Montessori method in the elementary years. Giving children the "big context" of why and how the universe came to be is literally what is missing from many (if not all) traditional elementary programs. Finally, truly bringing these lessons to life in our home and given me the confidence to continue this tradition long after life returns to normal (and likely everyone returns to in-school, in-person learning.) 

The Montessori fourth great lesson is the history of writing. The lesson starts way back in ancient Egypt and tells the story of how the Phoenicians helped to influence the creation of written language which eventually led to the Roman alphabet and the letters we use (in our home) today. 

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I'm no expert in this story and much of the information was completely new to me. To learn the great lesson I used a couple of resources and adapted the story to my own story telling style. These resources included:
Then, the beauty of the great lessons is that we don't just have to stop at the story! We can explore some of the concepts presented in the lesson. These activities can vary year to year based on the ages and interests of your children. For us, this meant a combination of books and small work that Henry and Nora could return to after the lesson and the opportunity to dive deeper into these topics. The fourth great lesson provided so many fun opportunities for exploration. 

Fourth Great Lesson Follow Up Work Ideas

We had a variety of books available for the kids to look through, read and dive deeper with, including: 
Our follow up work included: 

Chinese CharactersBuddha Board with Chinese Symbol Stencils - The kids could trace the words on the buddha board as a way to explore one example of a non-western (Roman) based alphabet/written language. The great lesson itself wasn't great about exploring other forms of writing. 

Cards with Alphabet Examples: I happened to have found a used set of Alphabet cards sharing the alphabets of a variety of different languages from around the world. These cards included ancient alphabets (Phoenician, Hieroglyphic) and more modern alphabets (Russian, Greek, Arabic, and Hebrew.) In total, there are 20 different alphabets represented. I wish I had a source, but I bet this could be DIYed. 

Writing with a Quill: Thank you Harry Potter obsession for this idea. I got a simple quill set and the kids got to try out how it felt to write with it! It was a lot of fun and really popular. 

Cave Painting: Using earth toned pastels and long strips of paper, we recreated cave paintings to tell a story. We paired with the book on cave paintings to learn more about this early form of communication.

Hieroglyphics: I bought some air dry clay which the kids were able to pound into small tablets. Then they could use these plastic templates to make words in the clay and let them dry with the words on them. The kids really enjoyed this too and like creating different stories with the symbols. 

And that's it! This work stayed out on our shelves for about two months and we slowly worked our way through it all. It was really fun and a well enjoyed set of work! I hope you'll give it a try if you have older kids, even if you aren't fully homeschooling. 

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