The Importance of the Uninterrupted Three-Hour Work Cycle


One of our primary community members, concentrating on pin pricking during her afternoon work cycle.

Imagine the start of a typical work day. You stop for a nice cup of coffee, greet your fellow coworkers, check your mail box for anything needing to be picked up; the normal morning routine. You finally sit down at your desk and turn on your computer to check emails, and your day begins. A few hours pass, and you’re deeply involved in your work, concentrating on finishing the task at hand before the impending dead lines. All of a sudden, your door swings open followed by a few of your coworkers wanting to discuss last weekend’s Cowboys vs. Texans football game. You partake in the conversation, knowing all the while that your emails go unanswered. It takes a good 10 minutes to return your focus to your work after they leave. Another hour passes, and you’re interrupted once again by a last-minute office gathering, forcing you to stop your work so that you can participate. You’re frustrated because you know you won’t finish your work on time, not only that, but you’ve lost your focus and concentration, and become exhausted from the constant interruptions.

Now, imagine if this routine was followed by our children at school. How unfortunate this would be if they were provided a few minutes at a time to work, only to be interrupted by families arriving late, other staff members coming and going to/from the room, or unnecessary extra curricular activities. Once the child’s concentration is broken, it is very difficult to try to engage them to the environment once again.

We always stress the importance of an uninterrupted three-hour work cycle, and have followed this belief for many years. We have two cycles: one in the morning, and one in the afternoon. There are no unnecessary extra curricular activities to break them of this work cycle, or do anything that would damage their concentration. Of course, there’s the occasional fire drill, holiday celebration, or group lesson, which are the appropriate exceptions. We want to give our children a fair chance to learn at their own pace, allowing them to concentrate and focus on the task at hand in an uninterrupted, peaceful environment. They’re given the opportunity to choose their work freely, developing each critical skill necessary to the specific sensitive period that they are currently in.

We follow the child’s schedule, not ours.

Dr. Montessori said it best. “Work chosen by the children, and carried out without interference, has its own laws. It has a beginning and ending like a day, and it must be allowed to come full circle.” (Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work p 292)  A child’s work cycle should be carried out in full, without interference. One of the best gifts you can give your child is the opportunity to fully develop their concentration and independence, free from unnecessary adult interruptions. A successful, complete work cycle is one of the best ways to accomplish this.

This is a beautiful article further explaining the importance of an uninterrupted work cycle, as well as a ideas on how you can help your classroom become more normalized in this aspect:

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