The child's life is one in which work – the doing of one's duty – begets joy and happiness.
– Dr. Maria Montessori (The Absorbent Mind, p 28)
Wouldn't it be wonderful if that statement described the adult's life, too? It could. The difference between adults and children is that children refuse to do work that doesn't meet their needs. If adults followed that philosophy we would find work joyful, too. Human beings like to work.
That statement might seem counter-intuitive, but it's true. “Work” is just the act of putting forth effort – and it's enjoyable when we do the work that meets our needs. Think of the hobbies people use to fill up their spare time: gardening, building a car, scrapbooking... they're all just kinds of work that meet the hobbyists' needs.
A child's work (and play) is anything that helps him explore what his body and mind can do. If we offer work that is just right, he will never feel that work is boring or too hard. Just by following their inner drive, children go from helpless infants to functional, intelligent members of society in only a few years – and this is the work to which Dr. Montessori refers.
She saw repeatedly that children who were given the means to do this and not obstructed were happy and joyful. She attributed it to the understanding that human beings like to work.
From all the many years that Montessori has been in action, we have a starting point for meeting each individual child's needs, based on the progress of thousands of children that came before. We observe, and the children themselves tell us what work they need.
We have a saying in Montessori education, a quote from Dr. Montessori. We say, “follow the child,” because we know that human beings are born to exercise their potential, and we trust the children to know it too.
Welcome to Montessori Moments, a blog written for Dynamite Montessori School in Cave Creek, Arizona. If you'd like to check out our school, please visit Dynamite's website.