Ever wonder what the secret to the success of a Montessori classroom might be? There are many reasons why Montessori works, but one is especially crucial to the classroom. Freedom of choice. As Dr. Maria Montessori once said, the child “must have absolute freedom of choice, and then [they require] nothing but repeated experiences, which will become increasingly marked by interest and serious attention during [their] acquisition of some desired knowledge.”
At Fishtown Montessori, the teachers understand that the children in their classroom are all unique. People, no matter where they are from, have various strengths, weaknesses, and passions. By offering freedom of choice in a Montessori classroom, every child’s learning experience is customized and optimized to suit them.
What Does Freedom of Choice Mean?
Let’s start first by saying what freedom of choice is not. One misconception is that giving students such a freedom means that they can do whatever they want at any time, that Montessori classrooms aren’t disciplined. This isn’t true.
The Montessori classroom is built around the idea of a prepared environment, meaning that the room is organized in such a way that independent learning is possible. The Montessori school in Philadelphia will choose materials that children are free to use when they want while the teacher observes or guides students how to perform a task. Since it’s also important that children gain a sense of self-sufficiency, many of the items are also child-sized.
In short, freedom of choice means that the children choose which skill they would like to develop or which activity they wish to concentrate on. They aren’t forced to sit and listen to a teacher. Rather, they are given the freedom to choose how they wish to learn.
Why is Freedom of Choice Important?
Even identical twins are going to have interests unique to themselves. Imagine trying to get a classroom of children with varying interests, skills, and activity levels to all focus on the same thing for a set period of time. Yes, this is a traditional classroom setting, and those differences among the students is one the reasons so many get left behind.
Some children will do well in a traditional setting, but all children can succeed in a Montessori classroom. By creating an environment where children are free to explore and learn on their own time, you give each one a chance to develop at their own speed. To practice what interests them most. When a child can choose their own activities and lessons, they become genuinely interested in gaining knowledge.
Freedom of Choice in the Montessori Classroom
What does freedom of choice look like in a Montessori school? At any developmental level, freedom of choice is seen in the unregulated blocks of time where children determine for themselves how they would like to work. The children aren’t confined to a desk but are free to roam the space, choose an activity, and either work with one another or alone.
In a primary classroom, self-discipline, grace and courtesy is taught. Here, freedom of choice given is limited. Children learn self-control when choosing a single activity and returning it to the shelf when they are done. Students learn how to function as a community and to give respect to their peers.
In an elementary Montessori classroom, the responsibility of learning is increased. Comprehension of various subjects is increased with lessons, but students are expected to utilize their time on their own and to balance subjects responsibly. Children are allowed to self-regulate their relationships, activities, and their interests.
Examples of Freedom of Choice
Let’s consider an example. There are two students. One student is reading a book while the other is using matching cards to learn vocabulary. The teacher isn’t telling both students to work on the same thing, because the first reading the book has already mastered what the other is doing. Similarly, the teacher won’t tell the student who is working on vocabulary to read a book that is too difficult for them.
Similarly, you can observe any Montessori school in Philadelphia and will see younger children studying their older peers; a child prepping a snack while another wipes down the table; one student at the 100 board while others practice counting 1 through 10. What you won’t see is every child focused on the same activity.
The child decides what they want to do. The teacher never decides for the students.
What happens when a child can’t choose? Should the child approach a teacher and ask for help, it is important that they are still given options rather than being directed to a single task. This also shows a child that their decisions are important.
Supporting Freedom of Choice at Home
Just as giving children an option in the classroom is essential to their independence and self-confidence, so too is freedom of choice at home. Promote opportunities for choice whenever you can. Allow your child to select from a small group of clothing what to wear. Give them a few options for snacks to prepare. Allow them to choose how they want to help out around the house or which toy to play with.
And if you think this has no application in the real world, keep in mind how important it is for children to learn the power of yes and no. To learn how to make decisions and accept the consequences with grace. Freedom of choice at a young age now supports their lifelong development.
Looking for a Philadelphia Montessori School?
The freedom to explore your thoughts and interests is so important to the healthy growth of a young mind. If you want a creative, self-motivated, and independent child, they need to be allowed to make choices for themselves. Consider enrolling your child into a Montessori program. At Fishtown Montessori, our highly trained and educated staff have your child’s best interests in mind. Give us a call today to learn more about our programs and teachers.