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You may have heard the quote” “How you start your day is the way you live your day, how you live your day is how you live your life.’ (Louise Hay)

At the start of the school year, this quote is a great reminder to help our children get the best start to their day so they the best outcomes from their day. 

One of the simplest ways to structure a child’s day for optimal learning, social outcomes and productivity is to start the day on time.  Here’s why:

Starting on time allows children to ‘find their flow’ 

The Montessori 3-hour learning cycle is sacrosanct.  It is one of the key practices we use to help children ‘find their flow’. We don’t want any students to miss out. 

Dr. Montessori was a scientist, and the Montessori method of education was born from her observations of children and learning how to support their optimum development.  

In her studies, Dr. Montessori found that children aged two and a half and older need at least 2 hours of uninterrupted time to find a rhythm of focus and consolidation. Often, the most growth and meaningful work happens toward the end of a three-hour block of time. 

A modern comparison of this concept is being in a flow state, or what some people call “being in the zone.”  

This is when we are so immersed and focused on what we are doing that a sense of time and distraction disappear.  

This concept of flow has been most clearly articulated by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Csikszentmihalyi was a psychologist whose studies of happiness and creativity led to his articulation of flow – a highly focused mental state that is conducive to creativity and productivity. Interestingly, when Csikszentmihalyi’s grandchildren started going to a Montessori school, he saw how Montessori learning environments allowed young children to achieve this state of flow.  

To achieve this state of flow, children in our learning communities need sufficient time windows. Montessori morning arrivals and routines are designed so children benefit from an interrupted morning work cycle of 3 hours.  

It’s vital that children in our learning environments have the opportunity to reach this state of flow at the start of their school day. An essential method to reach this is simply starting the day on time. 

Schedules, settling and transitioning 

Our morning schedule is designed to give children time to arrive, be personally greeted by their educators, greet their peers and go through preparation routines without being rushed. Children are then more settled as they enter the classroom environment. Educators, in turn, can commence lessons and support children better from the very start of their day.   

This settling process or transition time, means children start the day ready and are more likely to meet the 3-hour cycle that encourages a flow state. Arriving late in the cycle disturbs this process.  

Late arrival can be disorienting for the child and for the class community.  Students arriving late enter a space where peers are already connected and engaged in their work. For the late arriving child, it is more difficult to connect with classmates and to even know where to start. It’s like that awkward feeling of coming late to a party to find everyone in already-established social circles. 

For educators, late arrivals split their attention between greeting those who arrive late and attending to the children who have started their important work of the day. Children may feel compelled to stop and greet classmates as they arrive or may be distracted from work they are immersed in. This is challenging for the community as a whole.  

Allowing sufficient time to transition is essential. Some children transition quickly, while others take upwards of 15 minutes to put their bags away, greet one another, and so forth. Be mindful of your child’s needs when considering how much time you need each morning. 

Once everyone has arrived, the community settles easily. Having a set time to arrive and to transition ensures everyone is prepared for their day. Once arrivals time is over, a gentle hum often settles over the room. That’s the sound we love to hear! 

Timing is everything! 

Time literally drives the activities we hope to achieve in a single school day.  Arriving on time ensures all tasks are met.  When we start on time, we establish yet another smooth flow, this time for our day: start time leads to work time, then lunch time, rest time and so on.   

We know mornings can be hard – for adults too! 

Being on time is a challenge even for adults. Being on time with one or multiple children is more challenging yet!  The value of being on time however, and its ability to help children find flow in their learning and in their day is paramount. 

It can take time to figure out what is most effective for each child and family, but it is well worth the effort. We would love to hear your ideas and strategies to stay on time as the school year begins and welcome you to share these with our community in the comments box. Likewise if this is something you struggle with, please let us know and we can brainstorm ideas to help. 

Denice Scala

Author Denice Scala

B.A, M.Ed, Dip ED, Dip RSA, Cert. Neuroscience. Principal, Forestville Montessori School. Denice Scala is an executive leader with extensive experience in key strategic roles requiring business transformation and innovation. As a passionate advocate for the power of education to enrich lives, Denice moved from classroom teaching to leadership positions in 1992 and since then has held international in roles in Scotland and Australia as Principal, Head of Junior School, and Head of Learning Support. She has an impressive working knowledge of early learning, primary, middle, and secondary schooling including gifted education and special needs. Her Masters in Gifted Education led her to work extensively to find ways to cater for gifted students. This led to providing professional development opportunities for educators to assist in their understanding of the characteristics of gifted children and the complexities of growing up gifted. Denice’s unparalleled grasp of current educational realities is equally matched by her big picture thinking combined with practical solutions to navigate change. Denice’s passion for Montessori education led her to undertake the AMI Introduction to Adolescents Course, to audit the AMI 6-12 Diploma, and to also currently undertake the AMI School Administration Certificate Course.

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