The Montessori children in the elementary environment are beginning to find their independence. We, as the adults, are there to foster this independence. Children need freedom and discipline in order to be independent. These two ideas are intertwined because to truly have one, you must have the other. Freedom does not necessarily mean that the child can do exactly as he pleases. “To let the child do as he likes when he has not yet developed any power of control is to betray the idea of freedom” (Montessori, 1967, p. 205). We give children the tools to be successful in the classroom. This includes clear classroom expectations, appropriate lessons and materials and specific accommodations made for students’ needs. We are giving them the freedom to choose while instilling in them the discipline to stay on track. A child who is not free to make choices cannot truly possess the discipline needed for independence in the classroom. Likewise, a child who does not yet have self-discipline cannot have as much freedom of choice. Therefore, freedom and discipline are complementary.
At Walnut Farm, one of the ways we foster independence in the elementary environment is by giving them a work plan. The work plan enables children to freely choose, while also ensuring that they are choosing work that is appropriate for their level. While every child has choices with their work, their choices are not limitless. They are expected to choose work from their most recent lesson and on their own level. A child who is not yet normalized will need guidance to choose work, while a normalized child will be able to choose with minimal guidance from a teacher. We also enable independence through class jobs. Each child has a responsibility such as lunch helper, laundry, biologist and botanist and sweeper. They are expected to help care for the environment daily.
You can help foster their independence at home by giving them some home responsibilities. Create a list of chores and allow them to choose which ones they will be responsible for. After they have made this choice, they should be held accountable for these responsibilities. Here is a list of appropriate responsibilities for children ages 5-12!
Home Responsibilities of the Five- and Six-Year-Old Children
- Help with meal planning and grocery shopping.
- Help prepare lunch to take to school.
- Set the table.
- Peel carrots and potatoes.
- Involved in more challenging preparation of food, including baking and cooking, with assistance.
- Make bed and straighten room.
- Choose clothing the night before, dresses self.
- Ties shoes.
- Attends to personal hygiene.
- Fold clothes and puts them away.
- Answer the phone properly.
- Yard work and gardening.
- Feed pets and clean their living area.
- Assist in caring for younger sibling.
- At busy times, the child may offer, “How can I help?”
Home Responsibilities for Ages 6 to 12
- All of the above with increasing challenge.
- Prepare a simple meal independently.
- Care for own belongings.
- Organize belongings.
- Earn money for special jobs, perhaps receive an allowance.
- Beginning money management: saving, giving, spending.
- Increasing thoughtfulness toward others, appropriate manners.