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Fundamentals of Montessori Pedagogy in the Classroom: Responsibility & Freedom

In no other pedagogy is freedom emphasized as strongly as in Montessori education, but unfortunately, this is often misunderstood by outsiders. It is a fundamental right of every child to enjoy freedom in both the Montessori school and their personal development. Every child should have the opportunity to unfold independently and without interference. However, it is important to emphasize that in Montessori education, freedom is almost always used in conjunction with other concepts like responsibility, discipline, and love. This means that Montessori children cannot do whatever they want, but rather, freedom is balanced with these other values.

But what does freedom mean in Montessori education?

Freedom in Montessori education can be divided into two essential aspects. First, there is external freedom, which describes a person's ability to make decisions independently, such as choosing where to go or with whom to be friends, without external constraints. Second, there is inner freedom, which embodies the idea that a person has free will, and the child is seen as the "master of oneself," free from inner constraints or limitations. This emphasizes that Montessori education promotes not only external freedom but also the child's ability to self-determine and develop their individual potential.

When we talk with the children in our school about the concept of freedom and responsibility, we emphasize that my freedom ends where another person's freedom begins. Even if I have the desire to talk about private matters with my classmates during work time, I have the responsibility to ensure that I do not disturb or impede anyone's work. This has nothing to do with freedom but is about consideration for others and responsibility.

„Freedom and Discipline

are two sides of the same coin“

Maria Montessori

The principle of freedom and discipline plays a crucial role in our school and accompanies the children daily. It forms the foundation for our work and child development.

For example, children enjoy the freedom to choose materials in consultation with our educators. However, this choice also entails a certain obligation. This is where discipline comes into play. The child acquires the ability to make a decision and is then committed to seeing it through.

In educational practice, another crucial term plays a central role, without which the effective granting of freedom is not possible: its trust.

The more trust the educator can place in the children, the more freedom they can grant them, and the less they will rely on external discipline. Trust forms the fundamental basis for a positive learning environment. When children feel trusted, they develop healthy self-confidence over time. Only when they have confidence in their own abilities will they approach challenging learning materials. Trust leads to self-confidence, and self-confidence builds confidence in others.

So, of course, there are rules in our Montessori school:

The "rules" or guidelines in our classroom are not "laws" with consequences for non-compliance. Instead, they are developed and formulated together with the children to promote a positive community. For example, if a child feels disturbed by excessive noise in the classroom, they can use our gentle sound bowl. A single sound of this "gong" signals to everyone in the classroom to regulate the volume. This is not a call for silence but a request to behave in a way that does not interfere with the freedom of others. These kinds of rules are essential and accompany us daily because without them, there would be chaos, which is the opposite of the freedom in which each child can optimally develop.

Montessori says: "I can only acquire freedom when I am the master of myself, when I have myself so much under control that I can make the decision."

The moral development of children between the ages of 6 and 12 is a fascinating topic. In this phase of their lives, they intensely grapple with questions of right and wrong and begin to develop their own moral compass. They are eager to categorize behavior as right and wrong. Children of this age show a strong affinity for rules and even create their own, which they want to follow diligently. However, it is equally important for them to understand these rules and not just blindly obey them. If someone does not adhere to agreements, this often triggers strong outrage in them.

For more on this topic, you can learn from a Montessori Academy seminar or read Maria Montessori's writings, such as "The Discovery of the Child."


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