Freedom and borders

Montessori does not mean laissez-faire

In Montessori education, the free choice of material, topic, social form of learning and working time is a fundamental condition for the healthy development of the child. But freedom in Montessori is not to be confused with unlimited freedom or even with a laissez-faire approach; rather, it is to be understood in close connection with the development of the child's inner - active! - discipline and very clear boundaries. Thus Maria Montessori points out quite clearly: "To let the child have his will, who has not developed his will, is to betray the meaning of freedom".[1]

Rules, boundaries and respect

Rules, boundaries and mutual respect are necessary to ensure productive coexistence. Freedom is limited through the law of the object and the community. Three limitations result from dealing with the material and the community:

  1. "The freedom of the child must have as its limit the common good[...]"[2]: The freedom of the individual ends where the interests of a fellow human being or the community begin. Freedom is a social quantity.
  2. The child may only choose material that it has already been introduced to. Real choice, for Montessori, is a choice between things that are known. Real choice is a sign of reason.
  3. Proper handling of the material, because only this leads to deep concentration and the development of insights.

[1] Maria Montessori (1972): The Creative Child. Freiburg: Herder, p. 184.

[2] Maria Montessori: (1969): The discovery of the child. Freiburg: Herder, p. 57.