Freedom Within Limits
When observing one of our classrooms at Montessori Island, you may not initially be able to locate the teacher. The teacher does not stand at the front of the classroom with ordered rows of desks laid out in front of her. Instead, the teacher moves fluidly throughout the classroom. You may think to yourself, “How does she do it? How does this work?” Seemingly, it may appear that there are no real rules to follow. The children move about, working on different lessons without necessarily being prompted or told what to do. However, the beauty of Montessori is that there is so much freedom in the classroom, but it is freedom within defined limits.
When first arriving to their new classroom, the child is shown a lesson and then they repeat what the teacher has done. Once this lesson has been shown to them, they are aware that this is a lesson they have learned. They quickly come to recognize these lessons and they know that the learned lessons are the ones that are available to them. This provides the child with freedom within limits. They are free to choose from these lessons as they please, giving them control and independence over what they choose to work on.
Freedom within limits is an empowering concept. Instead of telling the child what to do, it embraces the notion of the child as an explorer who is capable of learning and doing for themselves. We are able to encourage the concept of freedom within limits through the design of our prepared environments, such as the low open shelves that are logically ordered with activities, as will as the child-friendly layout of our classrooms. The child is then encouraged to move freely around the classroom, choosing their own work with limits of appropriate behavior.
As with most things in life, there are limits in the Montessori classroom. All other rules stem from these three ground rules:
1) Respect for oneself
2) Respect for others
3) Respect for the environment
By laying out these three rules for the children, they are then able to work safely and productively amongst their peers while taking care of their environment.
The concept of freedom within limits encourages the child to become a respectful member of their classroom community. Through real life experience, students learn that freedom is choosing to do what is best for themselves and others. It teaches the child how to become an independent and confident learner who respects the rules of freedom.