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Purposeful work or aimless fun?

posted Aug 22, 2015, 8:38 AM by Prem Kumar Aparanji   [ updated Aug 22, 2015, 9:54 AM ]
Naren and Gargi working with shapes
Priliminary activities
Why do children in a Montessori seem to be working with concentration and purpose rather than simply having fun or playing aimlessly?

Have they been forced to be so or is there any other magic happening there that makes them focus on the task they are doing?

Is that kind of intensity at such a young age healthy or is it detrimental to the development of a child into an adult?

These are some typical questions that parents always have in the back of their minds when they come across a high fidelity Montessori House of Children and it is true with our parents too.

Children who come to work at Vismaya Montessori are always busy. Busy building the character of the adult they will be.
Children concentrating on their own freely chosen work
Traditional wisdom and common knowledge tells us that the character of a person is built by the age of five. For the personality to form, the child's will, intelligence and actions should work together. There are four characteristics that are a signal that this is happening:
  1. Love of work - includes the ability to choose work freely and to find serenity and joy in work
  2. Concentration - appears as individual children in a group became absorbed in their own freely chosen work
  3. Self-discipline - the ability to carry through what the child has begun
  4. Sociability - refers to patience in getting the materials one wants, respect for the work of others, help and sympathy for others, and harmonious working relationships among members of the group
These must appear, no matter how brief, to say that the representative of mankind is taking shape.

And that is what's happening in a high fidelity Montessori House of Children when you see the children so intently working with unwavering focus for a considerable length of time.

Mental state in terms of challenge level and skill level, according to Csikszentmihalyi's flow model.

Modern psychologists, like Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, would say that these children are in a state of Flow, which is attained when the child's skill level and the challenge level of the activity are at their optimum. A bit less challenging task and the child feels in control of the activity but is not in the state of flow. A bit less skilled and the child is aroused by the challenge but is not in the state of flow. As you can see from the above diagram, a child is bored when the challenge is very low. It is pretty straight forward to convert this into a state of arousal - give the child a higher challenge. In a Montessori House of Children, the child takes up a higher challenge and improves the skills in a continuous cycle and is in a state of Flow.

Here in this TED video Mihaly explains how Flow leads to happiness.

Flow, the secret to happiness

 
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