House work and one’s academic skills and are interrelated (Who’d have thunk it?). The brain works better and thinks clearly, creatively and logically when it is accustomed to the routine practice of everyday work.
Dr. Maria Montessori observed that purposeful movement during daily tasks prepares the mind and body to be able to work peacefully. She saw that children tend to mimic adults and are interested in doing the works that adults do. While it may be fun to watch a toddler grab a cloth and mop the floor, this also has a role in development and functioning of the brain.
In the Montessori classroom, the child performs many day-to-day activities that he sought but never got opportunity to do at home. The challenge is not forced on him, it is what the child wants (and needs) and the activity calls to him. He learns, through repeated practice and deep focus, how to function in this world like he has seen the adults do and can also clean up after himself when needed. Therefore, Independence is an obvious outcome of practical life activities.
This ‘Independence’, however, isn’t just about self-help. It is also a great confidence booster for the child who lives in frustration of having to need an adult’s help (interference) for everything. The child repeats over and over again until the skill which is intended is achieved and he has overcome the challenge of it by himself. It gives him the satisfaction of completion and success.
While everyone can agree that independence and confidence are important, there arises a question of whether these are the only outputs of practical life activities. The answer will be a resounding “No!”
Let’s take the example of a simple task like mopping and break it down. It may be a no-brainer to us adults but for the child it is a series of steps that must be followed in sequence and with physical skill too.
This requires a child to choose a place to mop, acquire the tools – a bucket with adequate amount of water, liquid cleaner that needs to be mixed in and the correct cloth to be used for mopping. And let’s not forget the challenges of physical control and logical thinking required in the task. Is there enough water in the bucket?, is the ratio of cleaning solution to water correct?, to be able to carry the filled bucket without spilling water everywhere, to control the amount of cleaning solution poured in, to dip the cloth and wring out the excess liquid and mop the floor in long strokes while moving along the decided space. AND, all these steps he must go through in that specific order to mop the floor. So, what does this work actually help the child do? The child is indirectly planning ahead by logically thinking through the steps and then executing the steps with focus till the desired result is achieved. This method of thinking is eventually put in use in Mathematics and problem solving. And of course, the vocabulary and grammar that comes with communicating about the tasks build his language. Not only that, even the working of the muscle groups during the work, such as wringing the mop cloth will help strengthen his muscles which will eventually help him with pencil grip while writing.
This is just one simple example. In the Montessori classroom there are many more activities that require multiple steps to be planned and followed through. And what better way to learn than to allow the child to work with them for as long as he wants and as many times as he wants until he is satisfied and ready to move on. Therefore, the positive side effects of acquiring the skill of everyday life work are confidence, focus and independence. The child directly and indirectly benefits from these which are interconnected and designed to help the child build himself into a wholesome human being.