Definition Work

My daughter, Beatrix, attends a Montessori preschool. For those that don’t know, Montessori is an educational model and plan developed by Dr. Maria Montessori. It has a high focus on independent, self-directed, learning and fostering a child’s natural curiosity and hunger for self-development and growth. The particular Montessori school that Beatrix attends takes a very canonical approach to this model and I’ve watched her really flourish and thrive in that environment.

One of the things I love about the Montessori model is the idea and definition of the word “work”. In a Montessori environment, any purposeful activity is described as work. For instance, cutting up bananas to have as a snack is referred to as “banana work” or learning math skills by counting beads is referred to as “bead work”.

The reason I love this is that it takes the often negative ideas and connotations we normally associate with the word work and brings it back to what the word actually means:

work /wərk/ — Noun: Activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result. Verb: Be engaged in physical or mental activity in order to achieve a purpose or result, esp. in one’s job; do work.

So, by this definition, everything we do that has purpose is work. Perhaps, then, we could adopt the phrasing used by the Montessori method…

Throwing a frisbee with the kids? Frisbee work.

Taking a walk to the beach to see the sunset? Sunset work.

Hugging a friend to let them know you care? Hugging work.

Doesn’t that make work sound so much better? I think it does.

So, when I talk about “work”, as I likely will be doing a lot more of here in the coming weeks, please understand that I’m not necessarily talking about a job or career or some task or drudgery. When that is my meaning I will try to use one of those more specific terms.

Instead, my definition of work is a positive one defined by purpose, meaning, value, and results. The way, thanks to Montessori, my daughter understands it.

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