The last few weeks we learned what is meant in the Montessori classroom by “freedom of choice” and “freedom within limits”. We learned why both Dr. Maria Montessori and modern psychologists and early childhood experts say that freedom and limits are important for children to thrive.
Now we will address some frequent questions parents ask us about freedom in the Montessori classroom.
Frequently asked questions about freedom in the Montessori classroom
- Can my child do whatever he wants whenever he wants?
Children have the freedom to choose if those choices do not interfere with others’ learning and safety or their own safety. In other words, they have freedom as long as they are respectful to themselves, others and the environment.
Children in our classrooms have the freedom to choose what they work on, where to work (on the floor on a work mat, on the table, or on a floor table) and to move around the room (as long as they are walking and are safe). We trust that children are driven by their interests and developmental readiness, and that their bodies unconsciously know their needs. If a child needs to move around the classroom, we can surmise that their bodies need some physical movement before they are ready to settle into a work, and we respect that need. We offer snack time between 9am and 11am, and children are able to choose to eat snack when their bodies signal they are hungry, instead of having children sit down for a snack at the same time.
We do, however, have some activities which all children participate in at the same time: for example, outdoors time, lunch and nap times.
- Will my child just play all day?
The Montessori environment is prepared so that all the activities available to children serve specific and yet multi-faceted, purposeful learning! Playing is learning, and for the child, learning is playing. Unless your child remains sedentary all day, he or she will absorb learning through experiences in the classroom environment!
- What do teachers do all day if they’re not directing learning?
The Montessori teacher is constantly making scientific observations about each child in their classroom. They then invite the child to learn new activities or perhaps new ways of doing activities the child is already familiar with, taking into account the child’s developmental readiness and interest.
The teacher will not force a child to learn a lesson, but children are almost always eager to learn something new, and love the respect and undivided attention given to them during one-on-one lessons and presentations with the teacher!
A benefit of being in a mixed-age classroom, is that the younger children are seeing older friends learning activities and are eager for the time when they are ready to learn the same.
Our teachers also facilitate two to three group circle times a day, and also do some small and large group learning activities and demonstrations.
- What if other children’s choices negatively affect my child?
Montessori teachers set respectful and loving limits. Freedom of choice is the freedom to choose what is right. A child is given freedom as long as their choices do not negatively impact another child, themselves, or the environment.
- What if my child never shows interest in math or language? Will he just not learn?
Montessori teachers are skilled observers! They offer children individualized lessons and invite children to learn in a way that interests them.
The teacher also maintains meticulous records and goals for each child, gently guiding them through the materials, following their interests and expanding upon them to draw them towards materials a child may not usually choose first.
We have yet to see a child in our classrooms not drawn towards the math and language materials – they are naturally attractive to the child, and as the child sees others working with the materials, his curiosity will only grow!
“Let us leave the life free to develop within the limits of the good, and let us observe this inner life developing. This is the whole of our mission.”
Dr. Maria Montessori