Essential Element #8: Freedom with Responsibility

With deep respect for the work of Dr. Maria Montessori, we layer onto our design of the Acton learner driven community element #8: freedom with responsibility. 

In its early stages, this is more simply described as “choices with limits.” 

Children walking into an Acton studio enter a place set up for them to have freedom to make many choices during the day. They are actively engaged with personal power to make decisions at every turn.

Will I read this book or that one? Will I sit at my desk or on the floor? Will I start with my math work or my grammar work? Will I talk to my friends or turn away and put headphones on? Will I snack now or later? 

Each choice has limits or consequences. 

There are boundaries in place as per their contract and consequences for crossing them. There are also natural limits such as digestion, gravity, and human emotions – a friend may get angry if I choose to bop them on the head during work time. I recently asked the elementary school Eagles if we should create a consequence for people choosing not to work during work time. They quickly replied there already is a consequence: those who choose not to work don’t progress through elementary school very quickly. “It will take them longer to get to middle school and that’s their choice,” a nine year old said.

At Acton and in homes where parents give choices with real consequences, children learn quickly that real freedom is not impulsive behavior or getting whatever you want. The true freedom is having a deep sense of self-control, an inner ability to respond to one’s circumstances effectively which leads to authentic connection to others and the world. It also puts them in the driver’s seat of their learning and ultimately their lives.

Now we are truly learner driven. But there are two more essential elements to seal the deal. Stay tuned this week for the conclusion to this series.