Freedom of choice allows children to choose work that they desire.Children learn more and invest themselves more deeply in their work when they are able to make choices. This desire leads them to complete work to the best of their abilities resulting in a deep synthesis of larger quantities of knowledge, not because they were told to learn, but because they wanted to. This concept is integral to every aspect of the Montessori environment: not only do children choose materials, but they also can choose where to work and with whom to work. Children discover their identity and develop an unwavering belief in themselves. This freedom to choose for themselves, which is guided by the teachers within appropriate limits, allows children to discover their own needs, interests and abilities. This paves the way for purposeful learning, where choices bring value and meaning to life. The children also learn that their choices really matter and can affect changes in their environment. This is a critically important life lesson for the maturing child to make a difference in their future world.
Researchers at the Harvard Center on the Developing Child have reinforced that the development of executive functioning involves “individualized teaching in the context of situations that require making choices.” Later, this leads to higher mental flexibility, where children can direct and redirect their attention to make deliberate decisions. Strong soft skills, or executive function, which can be developed and influenced through education, has recently been shown to be of greater importance to school performance and success in later life than intelligence, or family influence.
At the Foundation level, a child might initiate squeezing a lemon, looking at photographs of mammals, or finishing a puzzle. Each day, his teacher will present him with lessons and soon he has a larger range of choice. Eventually at the Casa level, these choices will include writing and reading, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division with concrete materials. Gradually as the child transitions to Primary, these choices of study open up to the universe and its infinite possibilities. With every choice, the child exercises his free will. Each choice made for himself is constructive, developmentally appropriate, and interesting. We recognise in life that not every child reaches those goals in the same way or at the same time.
The successful, creative adult is constructed – one thoughtful choice at a time.
The secret of success in education is found to lie in the right use of imagination in awakening interest, and the stimulation of the seeds of interest already sown.