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Freedom and Responsibility in the Elementary Classroom

Traditional schools and Montessori schools often differ greatly in their views of Freedom and Responsibility. In traditional schools, freedom and responsibility are usually opposites. Discipline is imposed by the adult and the feelings of the child do not matter. The child is to obey the teacher unquestioningly. This creates an environment where the child is dependent on an external source to show them how to behave. It also encourages the use of negative discipline such as “be quiet!” or “no running!”. On the other hand, Dr. Maria Montessori encourages children to learn true discipline, the kind that comes from within. This level of discipline is much harder to achieve, but is also more beneficial and long-lasting, both for the child and those around them.

In order to learn true self-discipline, the children need to experience the freedom to move at will. After all, if the discipline is to come from within, it must be developed from within as well. Through their work both at school and at home, the child develops physically (learning to coordinate movements and learning muscle control) and mentally (learning cause and effect and experiencing how others react, both positively and negatively). Of course, this freedom requires a set of limits, guidelines for what is and is not acceptable behavior, which must be explained to the child in a way that makes sense to them. It is much easier to follow rules when we understand the reasons behind them. This goes for children and adults alike. Experiencing the natural consequences of actions helps the child connect cause and effect, and eventually allows the ability to think through and predict possible consequences before acting, so that they may choose more wisely.

The only way a child can learn to make responsible decisions is through practice. It is not a skill that can be taught, but one each individual must learn through trial and error. And so, it is through freedom that the child learns responsibility. They each can develop their own inner compass for what is right and wrong, without needing external rewards or threats of punishment to do what is right.

If you have any questions about Freedom and Responsibility, please don't hesitate to reach out to Laura or your child's Elementary Guide. They would be more than happy to sit and chat with you about how to help your child appropriately develop their inner discipline.

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