Montessori – The Child’s “Work”

Parents with children in Montessori schools may wonder why there is an emphasis on “work”. There seems to be no place for fun and play in the Montessori system. They hear the term “the child’s work”? What does that mean?

Work sounds serious, strict and void of imagination. In the Montessori environment it is the work of self-development and as this happens, work and play flow through one another, and to children it is the same thing.

They have no expectation of an end product through their work, but releasing energy through work/play is the fuel that allows development to happen. The benefit of their work is obvious and reflects in their behaviour. They feel calmer, more content and satisfied after a period of work.

It appears that each child’s inner guide is the source of his uniqueness. The repetition of work based on interest develops internal discipline.
There is work for all children from birth, and you can observe their obvious enjoyment in all their upcoming challenges as they grow.

  • The intent look on their face as they pull themselves up to walk.
  • Their perseverance in lifting a heavy object and moving it by themselves.

Montessori does not give awards for this natural effort and how absurd is it to do so? It is superfluous because the child’s purpose is not to get a prize; it is an unconscious move responding to an inner guide.
The child is self-motivated to action and this follows a natural sequence. He does not need entertainment, especially if it is a distraction to his work. One of the most important aspects of a learning environment is that it is conducive to concentration and reflection.

Social life, music, gardening, art, craft, etc., are all part of their work. The fun may not seem evident, as you will not see the teacher-led games and entertainment activities as in traditional classes.
Montessori education provides fascinating, attractive materials, social discussion and inclusion in a classroom community. It recognizes children as active beings.
Traditional education sometimes treats children as passive beings for whom the adult must act. They substitute their imagination for the child’s.

Children don’t want adults to feed them nonsense, they want to invent for themselves.
In Montessori schools, learning happens in an indirect, non-threatening way. It is free from judgment, which annihilates the creative impulse.

The Importance of Freedom –

Dr. Montessori believed that as well as an environment of beauty, order and reality; children need freedom to develop creativity.

  • Freedom to select what attracts them in the environment.
  • Freedom to relate to it without interruption and for as long as they like.
  • Freedom to discover solutions and ideas and share them with others at will.

On a visit to a Montessori school you may see a child who seems alienated and detached, and observers may feel that he is left unattended. They think the teacher should make more effort to occupy him. The truth is that this is a state recognised by the teacher as a part of the creative process itself. He is reflecting.
When the child appears unoccupied, the impulse is to jump in and offer food, drink, cuddles etc. But, he doesn’t need any of these as they may disturb his reflecting and absorbing mind.

Children flower in a Montessori environment because they establish habits that make them learners for life.
Although a visitor might feel a strange suspicion of all the work going on, the work is play and the fun is work.

“Dr. Montessori deserves credit for an early appreciation of the scope of creativity, and for developing better means for encouraging it.”
– Paula Polk Lillard author of Montessori, A Modern Approach.

  • Maria Montessori was an Italian physician and educator. Her educational method is used today in schools throughout the world. She was Italy’s first woman doctor.
  • Dawn Hyde is a Montessori-trained preschool teacher.

Please share and leave a comment below – Dawn

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