Monday, 16 October 2017

Simplifying Montessori: The Need for the Work-Cycle

In The Absorbent Mind, Maria Montessori wrote that "normalization is the single most important result of our work." 
If normalization is such a significant aspect of Montessori, how is it achieved? 

Today I am not going to go into detail on what the term normalization entails, aside from dispelling the misconception that it means that Montessori expects all children to be forced to conform in order to reach an expected normal.

Maria Montessori found that normalization appeared spontaneously in all children, characterized by the joyful and peaceful quality of their work, in the prepared environment.

What is the Work Cycle?

If "normalization is the single most important result of our work" how is it achieved?

According to this great article, normalization appears through the repetition of a three-step cycle. The building of character and the formation of personality that we call normalization come about when children follow this cycle of work.

The work-cycle is composed of three parts:

  • choosing a work
  • completing this work
  • returning this work to its proper place before moving on to another work

Why Is the Work Cycle Important?

Completing the work cycle in its entirety is important, as each part helps to develop something essential.

  1. The first phase, in which the child gathers together all the necessary components of the activity, encourages independence, coordination, and cues the mind to begin to concentrate on the chosen work. This work is freely chosen, based on the inner guide of the child, which leads them to choose work which is meaningful, and necessary, for them.
  2. The second phase, in which the child completes and repeats the work, is where concentration and mastery of a skill or ability occurs.
  3. The third phase, returning the work to its proper place and cleaning up any necessary materials, evokes the internal reward of satisfaction for the achievement of work, and restoration of order. 
When a child has developed a love of work, they will repeat this cycle over and over on various activities, reaching the deep level of concentration and joyful work that is characteristic of a normalized Montessori child.

As I have written about before, the opportunity to concentrate on meaningful work is essential and will lay the basis of the child's normalized personality, but the implementation of the work-cycle must come even before concentration can be reached.

A child will not develop a deep power of concentration if simply turned loose in a Montessori environment. Especially at first, the child must be guided, encouraged, and shown the work-cycle for a given work.

This is why Montessori children are taught to gently move a chair without making noise, to do work at designated places such as a mat at the table or a rug spread on the floor, and are shown how to gather together all the necessary components of a work, such as painting, and are then expected to put all away when finished.

In giving a Montessori lesson, the guide uses careful, precise movements, showing the child the necessary care and respect of materials and processes. (You can find really detailed outlines on how to give lessons such as on or this video on presenting the binomial cube which I have found really helpful.)

The Best Place to Start

As with all aspects of Montessori, this process must first start with preparing the guide, in this case myself. My children learn to model the slow, careful, systematic movements of the three-part-cycle by what I model for them.

In a way, for my children to reach normalization, I must also reach normalization as their guide. 

As always, thank you so much for reading! For more posts in my simplifying Montessori series: Practical Life | Following The Child | The Value of Concentration | Obedience and Self-Discipline

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me. And if you are interested in following along in our daily adventures, follow us on Instagram where I post daily.

God bless,
Olivia Fischer

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