Montessori Child: Teach Me to Do It Myself

In the many publications and message boards I subscribe to related to a Montessori education, the topic of freedom within the classroom is very often discussed and debated.

The concept of freedom in terms of education is relatively easy to accept for a preschool student.  The concept, however is much more difficult to envision for an elementary aged child.  And in actuality, I’ve even seen the application of the concept debated within “Montessori Circles.”

Last fall we opened our Montessori Whole-Home School Classroom to a group of our home educating friends for a couple of visits on the Montessori Great Lessons.  That experience helped remind me of exactly why most of our materials are didactic and contain a control of error. But it also reminded me that I need to guide my children but also give them the independence that they need to make mistakes.

The Montessori materials that we use are only truly didactic when there is a set of rules relative to behavior that must be followed when working with the materials. There is a level of accountability.   And, the materials aren’t intended to be used with a parent, teacher or other adult ‘hovering,’ over the shoulders of the children doing the work or correcting the work for the child.

No detail of work within a Montessori classroom is unintentional.  From rolling a rug that was used for a work, to completing a work in a certain order, each activity is designed to help a student become an independent learner. An independent and accountable learner.

The same thing can happen at home, whether with chores or the use of items some may consider to be for adult or older child use only, such as stand mixer, food processor, stove, washing machine, iron or vacuum cleaner.  Clear, step by step directions and accountability for a job well done allow for success for the child who is mature enough and desires the responsibility and independence.

From a very young age, a child’s first communications involved this common request: “Let me do it.”

Children strongly desire independence.

How do you foster independence in your home? And more importantly, what standards do you set for accountability? Do you hover or are you able to demonstrate the proper use of materials, a work or chores and then walk away so that you may observe?


  1. smurfett says:

    Perhaps you can help me w/ this concept. My friend is opposed to Montessori because she doesn’t like an adult telling the child how to use a tool. Her child is a toddler. So for example, when her child plays with a puzzle, she doesn’t want an adult showing this child how to solve a puzzle. Or when a child works with a tool, she doesn’t see why we need to show the child how to use the tool instead of just letting them “discover” it themselves. She wants the child to enjoy the process of discovery. When she puts it this way, I have a hard time refuting it even though I’m not comfortable with her logic.


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