This week is Montessori Education Week, and so I thought I would take the opportunity to write about a few of my favorite things about Montessori!
It was really hard to decide which area of development in the Children's House, Montessori's preschool environment I would write about first. I mean, how do you choose? The materials used to introduce reading and writing fascinate the heck out of me. However, what really blows my mind is to see the progression of mathematics. But in true Montessori fashion, all of the guides in our school implored me to move through the materials as a child might, starting on their first day and progressing through kindergarten graduation. Sigh. Ok. You got me. But first, I need to make sure you understand how the classroom, otherwise known as the prepared environment, is setup.
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!”