Discipline (positive guidance) and freedom go hand in hand in the Montessori classroom. As children pursue their own work, they are likewise taught to respect the work of others. Patience is learned while waiting for a turn at a given lesson or group activity, which helps the child develop an “inner discipline” rather than one imposed externally. The lessons of “grace and courtesy” begin on each child’s first day and a sense of community is soon established as all children begin to make the classroom their own.
The various forms of freedom provided in a Montessori environment are: Freedom for speech, Freedom for movement, Freedom for spontaneous choice, Freedom for work and not to work, Freedom to repeat, Freedom of presentation, Freedom for social interaction, Freedom for communication and Freedom of expression. Each child is given freedom of choice. From the moment the children enters the class in the morning, they are free to choose their activities for themselves. One will choose to start the day with mopping the floor. He may then choose to sit and do nothing, quietly watching his friends, before choosing to join a group activity. Another may arrive and immediately start to trace some of the sandpaper letters with his fingers and then write on a chalkboard. This is auto education – the child has the freedom to respond to the teacher within him/her and has access to materials in the environment that can satisfy each developmental need.
Each child is also given freedom of time. They are free to work with an activity for as long as they choose, free to repeat it as many times as they need, or simply take their own time. For example, in the prepared environment there is only one of each set of materials;one easel for painting, for example. If a child has an impulse to paint and another child is already painting, there is a natural limit to that impulse.
Montessori education has a special term called normalization for the process whereby characteristics including initiative, self-discipline, concentration, independence, a love of purposeful activity, and compassion become manifest in the child.
Dr.Maria Montessori used this term to indicate her belief that these characteristics are the normal characteristics of childhood. She believed that the characteristics that we normally associate with childhood such as capriciousness, selfishness, laziness and the inability to concentrate appear only when a child’s natural development is being thwarted. When children are allowed freedom in an environment suited to their needs, they blossom. After a period of intense concentration, working with materials that fully engage their interest, children appear to be refreshed and contented. Through continued concentrated activity of their own choice, children grow in inner discipline and peace. This “normalisation” is the single most important result of Montessori education.
Free the childs potential, and you will transform him into the world.
Dr. Maria Montessori