Freedom Within Limits in a Montessori Homeschool

Welcome to Lesson 7 of the Montessori Homeschooling 101 Series

Homeschooling - the kind where you keep your children at home (or at least with you) all day - can be a daunting task! The house seems like it is overrun with tiny humans, all with their own opinions and agendas - and mess. 

"Freedom within limits" is a famous Montessori philosophy that holds great value in the homeschool and in the home, in general. 

Montessori Homeschooling 101: Freedom Within Limits

Today, we are going to unpack the meaning of "freedom within limits," as it particularly applies to families who keep their children at home. 

The basics of "freedom within limits" 

Basically, set your child up for success. Set up the environment, your home, and your schedule so your child can set his feet in a broad place.

Give him room to make messes with proper protection on your tables and floors.

Show him how to clean up a spill before there is even a real spill to clean up!

Have a space for every piece of work you put out for your child, and show him how to put it back in its place so your space doesn't become a disaster!

(Speaking from all my fails, remember? I promise I'm not riding the high and lofty "Montessori mom" horse. I've done everything wrong and it's the only reason I can say what to do instead!) 

Allow your child to choose work whenever possible.

Introduce an activity, but put it away after your presentation if he doesn't have any interest in doing it! It's okay.

Remember, we are aiming for 20 minutes in the beginning of focused attention and working up from there!


Don't try to do too much. Don't put out too much work. Don't give too many choices. Keep your space clutter-free, and adopt the "less is more" mindset. 

If you have a stack of ten plates for two children, you may find that the plates become a "toy" instead of a home for food that is currently being eaten. 

If you have too many pairs of shoes, you may find your children leaving them all over the house with no concern since there will probably still be pairs they can wear when shoes are needed. 

If you have three toothbrushes for each kid, one may get left on the living room floor. 

We live in a world of "abundance," but we are drowning in this type of abundance. By having just enough of certain things, you are forced to teach your child how to take care of what he has instead of just expecting there will be another. 

Here is a list of four areas where you *might* have too much stuff, where if you decluttered these areas, you will have the freedom to give your child more freedom

  • Shelf work. If you find your child not choosing shelf work, try paring down your shelves considerably so there are fewer choices. Step back and look at your shelves from your child's perspective. Are works crammed together, or is there space? Which would you choose? Can you actually see the items on the shelves? 
  • Clothes. Huge one! This area will save YOU, as well as your child. Fewer choices allow your child to make decisions more quickly and easily, freeing up mind space for more important things in life - like her next block castle creation! 
  • Toys. I'll go over toy clutter in another module, but, please, clear out your toys! If you have 5 toys out, your children will play with them more than if there were 200 toys out. Try it. It works. 
  • Dishes. I'm sure you've done some reading on allowing your child access to her own stuff in the kitchen (if not - I will also be discussing this in another module!). Just make sure there is a reasonable amount of dishes in the accessible space. If you eat three meals and three snacks at home each day and have multiple children, you may want to consider showing your children how to wash and dry their dishes after their meals instead of keeping 6 plates per child in the cabinet to cover your meals... 

We'll stop there for today, but, before you go, I want you to visualize the following: 

You have a house that is not bursting at the seams with stuff. Your child is happy and peaceful and knows where everything goes. She gets out one toy and easily puts it back before grabbing another, without frustration or tears, because it is so obvious where it goes. 

There are not piles of clothes and shoes all over the floor of every room. Every piece of clothing has a purpose and is used, because there isn't an over-abundance that lends toward waste. Your child takes good care of her clothes, because she wants to have clean clothes to wear each day. She knows where her shoes are, because she doesn't have too many pairs. 

The dishes are not piled up in the sink. Because they are needed for the next meal, dishes are always washed right after being used. 

The routine of the home is consistent and simple, and when it comes time for "work" (homeschool), there haven't been heated battles about getting dressed, brushing hair and teeth, and cleaning up toys and breakfast dishes, because Mom has simplified the home to make these tasks easier on everyone. Thanks, Mom! 

Oh, and look at that shelf work! I see exactly what I want to do, because there is empty space allowing my eye to drift right to the work that is calling to me. 

Montessori Homeschooling 101: Freedom within Limits

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If you're looking for more lessons in the Montessori Homeschooling 101 series, here are the links: 

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