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Help! How do I protect the 3-hour work cycle?

Ask a Montessorian, how do I protect the 3-hour work cycle? My school begins at 8:30,  but many students don’t arrive until 8:45 or 9 am, which gives them only until 11 am to work. Should I change my expectations of a work cycle, or communicate differently with the parents?

–Nanci L.

Hi Nanci, protecting the integrity of the work period is a common conversation among even the most seasoned Montessori guides. If you choose, you can communicate the importance of arriving by 8:30 am to parents who might be receptive to your requests. Let them know that you need their help in order to begin on time each day. In many situations, this can be a challenge for families as parents navigate morning routines at home, or for parents who have multiple children with various school drop-off times.

If you feel this is not an option for you, you might consider the rhythm of your work period and adjust/build work into arrival and closing rituals. Typically, children aren’t governed by the clock, however we as adults recognize that the day is governed by schedules. Try to focus on the phases of the work period instead of the time. This will help you to feel confident about the joyful learning taking place from the moment the children arrive until they leave for the day. Here are some examples:

Arrival:  As children arrive, ponder the exercises of grace and courtesy such as greetings/salutations, self-care/readiness, and preparations. Work begins as children say goodbye to parents, greet others with a handshake, put away belongings, and wash hands. Right after transition, children can work through care of the indoor environment (folding laundry, setting the snack table, preparing the easel, feeding class pets, rolling rugs, watering plants, arranging flowers, dusting, washing windows) and care of the outdoor environment (filling bird feeders, sweeping a patio, watering outdoor plants, tending a garden).

Engagement: Now the the child is ready to engage. This is the phase of the work period marked by exploration, concentration, coordination, order, independence, and repetition. Adults are engaged through observations and can interact with children through lessons while noting the flow of energy. It is normal for an ebb and flow to occur during engagement and most guides notice period of time where everyone is ‘working,’ followed by periods of socialization. Children will often re-engage with little to no redirection if given the opportunity.  Although socialization might seem boisterous, try to allow the children to re-engage independently.

Transition: Prepare for transition as the engagement phase comes to an end through tidying shelves, sweeping, rolling rugs, washing snack dishes, setting tables for lunch, making beds for nap.  Remember, work is not limited to materials on the shelves. The rhythm of working is what aids in normalization.

Monica Johnson,

CGMS Early Childhood Instructor