Freedom with Limits

“The child is the spiritual builder of mankind, and obstacles to his free development are the stones in the wall by which the soul of man has become imprisoned.”
– Maria Montessori

Freedom by definition is the ability to do whatever you want, whenever you want. The difficulty lies in realizing exactly what it is that you want, and then knowing what action to take to achieve your desires. Freedom in a Montessori class gives the children the opportunity to choose materials by themselves; materials that are made in accordance with a child’s size requirements.

Freedom with limits is an important and necessary tool for future learning because it allows the children to build their sense of responsibility, self-discipline and independence.

The limits in a Montessori classroom are enforced in the prepared environment. These limits include respect for others, care of materials, walking slow, a soft tone of voice, carrying one thing at the time, not interrupting friends when they are working, helping others, cleaning up if water/food is spilled and much more. Freedom is always connected to limits since with freedom comes responsibility. In order to be responsible, one must be informed of what is expected of you as well as knowledge of how to complete the task. Our primary task as educators is to encourage and help children learn how to complete tasks on their own so that they can truly be free in their environment.

“We want to discipline to the activity. Not to passivity. We have to show the child what to do. An education method based upon freedom must help the child to conquer, and must guide the child in the path to independence.”
– Maria Montessori

Some ways to create a prepared environment at home include providing child sized tools for eating, cleaning and playing, as well as setting up a smaller table and chair for them to do their ‘work’. You can ask your child to complete specific tasks while still giving them freedom by giving them 2-3 choices. Children can be invited to help with simple household tasks such as to carrying a basket with their clothes to the laundry room, fold kitchen towels, and brainstorm tasks to be completed daily, ex. daily shower, bedtime … It is important to describe the tasks in great detail so the children have a clear understanding of what is expected of them.

An important limit we must always consider is the collective interest. We are often limited in our actions when we ponder the outcomes these actions can have on other people. In a prepared environment that provides the possibility to act free, the child will acquire the self-discipline and self-control to allow them to grow with responsibility of their own actions and decisions.

“Only through freedom and environmental experience is it practically possible for human development to occur.”
– Maria Montessori

By Katya Saab