Montessori Basics: Respecting the Child as an Autonomous Person

Montessori Basics: Respecting the Child as an Autonomous Person

The title of this post may seem a little unnecessary.  You may be thinking, “Of course the child is an autonomous person, and of course we respect that!”  If you are here reading this, chances are you care deeply about your child’s education, and more importantly, you care about your child as a person.  When it comes to parenting, however, our inclinations are often to protect and guide.  There is nothing inherently wrong with this (in fact, we can all agree those are our critical tasks), but our good intentions can sometimes get in the way of our child’s individual path.

You’ve probably heard Montessori guides talk about how we “follow the child”.  What this means is that we suspend our own assumptions about how things ought to be done and instead observe the child to see what they actually need and/or want.  Sometimes we forget that children are capable of doing more than we realize, or that they have interests that are vastly different than our own.

We want to show our children that we trust them.  We trust them to learn, to do things for themselves and for others, and we trust that they know what they need.

What does this look like in the classroom?

As a teacher, especially if one is trained in traditional methods prior to discovering Montessori, there is a sense that we are obligated to engage with the child at all times.  Our society leads us to believe that stepping back and allowing the child to work without us must mean that we are not doing our jobs.

Dr. Montessori, however, had other ideas.  She said, “The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.’”

We want to guide the children in such a way that they are eventually able to direct their own learning.  Our job is to present new material in a way that drives curiosity rather than conveying ready-made answers.  We want to create a classroom environment that supports each child in every stage of development to do as much for themselves as they are capable of doing.

When a child doesn’t need us?  We consider that a win.  Of course, as they grow they will need help in other ways, but the long-term goal is to gently help them reach their potential as they work toward adulthood.  We want them to trust themselves and their abilities, so we show them that we trust them.

 Some examples of what you may see in a Montessori classroom that honors a child’s independence:

What might this look like for families?

Some moments to consider:

Questions?  Interested in seeing one of our classrooms in person?  Contact us today.  We would be happy to help!

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