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Freedom in a Controlled Environment

As we prepare for Parent-Teacher conferences, I try to think about what information I want to impart to the parents.  Of course we have our progress reports which help us to explain what lessons and concepts have been learned.  We have had more than one Parent Education Night trying to get our overall philosophy about Montessori across to our parents.  But something is still missing.

Why are parents so resistant to our message?470489169(1)

I have had parents ask me, “How can I get my child to act like this at home?”  I have parents who are in awe that their child will listen and respect me when I request something of them, but seem to ignore their parents request to do the same.

I have often thought about this dilemma.  Maria Montessori wrote that we should ‘Follow the Child’.  Many people misunderstand this to mean, let them do whatever they want.  I explain it to our parents as ‘Freedom in a Controlled Environment’.  The Montessori prepared environment lets children make decisions based on what we have made available to them – this is a boundary.  We use words like, ‘Have you had that lesson?’ – This is another boundary.  We try to give them lessons and direct them to activities that we know they can perform and be successful completing.  This allows them to experience success with the boundaries we have provided.

Why Children Need Boundaries

"A teacher untrained in observation can trample on before she even discerns it, much as an elephant tramples the budding flower about to blossom in its path.”

When you teach children boundaries and enforce those boundaries, children learn consistency.  At first all children will try to push the boundaries, this is part of their learning process, but in order for them to be successful – We need to enforce the boundaries.

If you tell a child not to do something and then let them do it, the child begins to distrust what you are saying.  A child cannot differentiate when to do something or not do something.  Our ability to set clear boundaries and consistently enforce them; leads a child to the SECURITY that you will be a constant in their lives.  This is true in the classroom, at home, with the laundry, washing hands, etc.

Our classrooms are a testament to what academic levels can be reached when we provide a loving environment with boundaries.


Author: Stacy Horton


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