Baan Dek

Freedom and Discipline


Freedom and Discipline are fundamental parts of a Montessori classroom, but they’re tough for a few reasons. We’ve written about Freedom and Discipline before, and we surely will again. Each day, we learn more deeply what these mean, more intricately how they’re tied, more fully how children are capable of great capacities in each.

To that end, we’ve also recorded a podcast about Freedom and Discipline! Take a listen at the end of this post, or subscribe on iTunes.

montessori freedom and discipline

To start with, the words are rather unpleasant. They’re emotional, political, evocative, and we have our personal responses to them. It’s hard to imagine freedom for a young child, and even more challenging to imagine discipline, particularly in the “self-discipline” manner that is developed in a Montessori classroom.

Sometimes we understand and enforce one, but not the other. Sometimes one is easy, but not the other.

You need one to have the other. They’re two sides of the same coin.

We put together a few pairs of Freedoms and Disciplines together, to illustrate how they’re inexorably tied.

  • The Freedom to choose your own work.
  • The Discipline to choose, to only select things you have been shown.
  • The Freedom to work with a material as long as you like.
  • The Discipline to work purposefully. Each material has an intention, and by selecting it, you’re making an agreement to use it well.
  • The Freedom to move around the classroom.
  • The Discipline to move without impacting others the learning or wellbeing of others.
  • The Freedom to choose not to work.
  • The Discipline to observe.
  • The Freedom to ask not to be observed, to be left alone.
  • The Discipline to treat your classmates with respect, to know we work in community, and that no individual outweighs the group dynamic.

montessori freedom and discipline

There’s a careful balance at play with Freedom and Discipline, and they grow in tandem. As a child shows increased self-discipline, new opportunities to exercise freedom emerge. Additionally, as a child shows a lack of discipline, it is a sign for adults we’ve extended too much freedom — the fault lies with us, not with the child.

Listen here for more!

Written by:

Charlotte Snyder

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