At the beginning of this month Tiffany and I held our first Parent Discovery Night with the Lower Elementary Parents. Our topic was general – INDEPENDENCE – and what this means for children between 6-9 years old.

We all want our children to become independent, confident, and self-reliant adults, but how do we assist them in this process in the most beneficial way? We want to encourage independence, but don’t want our children to feel like they can do whatever they want; there needs to be some boundaries!

In the Montessori System we encourage freedom with responsibility.

For the child to experience the true meaning of ‘freedom’, they need to go through a process. We believe that by providing children with the opportunity (as much as possible) to make choices within limits, they will need to become responsible for their choice (which could have either a negative or positive outcome) and will then be following a healthy path in the pursuit of independence.

The opportunity to make choices in life never ceases; we just learn to make wiser choices based on our experiences in the past. So, if we want our children to grow up and be able to make good decisions about life in general, then we need to make sure we offer them this opportunity as much as possible in the early years!

Children in the Lower Elementary class have the freedom to:

  • sit wherever they like
  • decide who they will work with
  • choose how long/short they will work on a particular task for
  • move around the room
  • take part in choosing what lessons they want
  • choose what job they would like to do to maintain the class

However, this type of freedom comes with responsibility. Each example of where we offer the children freedom comes with a responsibility to:

  • sit wherever they like à be responsible for managing behaviour
  • decide who they will work with à be responsible for working productively
  • choose how long/short they will work on a particular task for à be responsible for taking it out and cleaning it up when done
  • move around the room à be responsible for not interrupting the other children
  • take part in choosing what lessons they want à be responsible for completing the needful by the end of the day/week
  • choose what job they would like to do to maintain the class -à be responsible for following through on that task

If a child cannot be responsible for the freedom that we give him or her, the freedom will be taken away. This is the limit. If we want the child to go through the process of freedom, the adults in his/her life need to have the importance of limits clear. Limits must be consistent so the child knows what is expected of him.   Establishing limits or consequences are crucial to developing your child’s budding independence. Children need to experience and live out the natural consequences of his choices because this will allow him the opportunity to incarnate the real information about the world. The more he can live out the natural consequences of his actions, the more understanding he will have about the world and how his actions influence those around him.

So in closing, what can you do to assist all this freedom and responsibility that your child is given in Montessori School?

  • Offer choices within limits that are age appropriate (ex. Give your child the choice to clean out his lunch bag now or after dinner)
  • Allow your child to live with the consequences of his actions (Your child chose to continue playing when you told him it was bedtime so now he doesn’t have time to read his book.)
  • Give your child jobs to help with a sense of responsibility (ex. Have your child participate in tasks such as setting the table or emptying the dishwasher.)