I don’t know about you, but the word “work” puts a bad taste in my mouth. I have lots of work to do: cook, clean, raise wonderful children, laundry. Then there’s my actual “work” where I get paid to do things for other people, which can be time-consuming and stressful. If you are lucky, you love your work. You wake up in the morning and can’t wait to get started. You think about it in the shower. You receive more than material gain; it fills your mind and lifts your spirit. Wouldn’t it be great if all of us loved our “work?”
So I ask myself, what’s the difference? How do I teach my children to love work when I don’t always love it myself? To answer this question, I would like to dispell a common Montessori myth: Children Work But They Don't Play. Let's talk about how children play in Montessori and why it's called "work".
The first difference in work within the Children’s House is that work is not forced, but freely chosen (I’ll talk about this more in another post on Freedom & Discipline). When a child has the ability to choose work freely, it is proven time and again, they will make a choice that has purpose over something that is frivolous. While engaging in this work, children show an ability to concentrate for long periods of time and may repeat the activity until the skill is mastered. During their work, their facial expressions are interpreted as great consternation, but instead it is great concentration. It is usually followed by a mile-wide smile with exclamations such as “I Did It!”