Montessori Glossary Community Project

Freedom within limits

The adagium ‘freedom within limits’ or ‘freedom within bounds’ is strictly taken not by Montessori, however, the Dutch Montessori movement found in Erikson’s views a solid psychological approach for the guidance of freedom which is paramount in Montessori education. In primary education, classrooms are carefully and thoughtfully designed to encourage children to move about freely and choose their own work, within reasonable limits of appropriate behaviour. Those limits are the classroom ground rules and enable children to exercise their own free will while ensuring that their chosen activities are respectful of others and their environment. In the third plane of development, this concept is enriched with the development of the adolescent. Developing self-regulated discipline within that freedom is significantly important for the ‘we don’t do what we want, we want what we do’ attitude. Adolescents also frequently challenge the set boundaries to develop autonomy and learn to stand on their own feet, make their own mistakes, and learn from them. Furthermore, the young adult is discovering that the ‘real world’ is also a place of freedom within bounds. There are legal, physical, psychological, moral, social, ecological, and loving responsibilities shaping the stewardship of this planet. To connect to others, a deep understanding, discipline, and empathy must be developed. Therefore, Montessori's third plane offers choice within the personality and academic development in form, test, time, with whom, and how often also in content. The only choice that is not optional is not to work, for all work is noble, apart from not working.

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