Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Freedom to Choose

I just had an a-ha moment while responding to a post in a Montessori homeschooling group.

A child's freedom to choose his activity can be thwarted by our own desires.

But I don't just mean by us actually stopping a child from doing this or that, saying things like, "You can't do that," or "You need to do this now."

Even our very unspoken desires can affect the child's freedom. How? 

Children can so very often sense what we are feeling, what we want. If we are really trying to convince a child, encourage a child in a specific direction, really hoping that they'll do xyz, this is, at its heart, a form of coercion. We are wanting to control the child's benign activities.

The Montessori philosophy allows the child to choose *whatever is good*. So, disturbing others is not an acceptable choice; doing any type of available work is.

If a child is choosing only math for an entire week, and we start worrying and trying to "get him" to do something else, he may either do so to please us, or he may reject our attempts and keep doing what he's doing, not necessarily because he wants to keep doing math, but because he wants to resist being controlled. Either way, he is not acting out of freedom.

Freedom is not attached to someone else's emotions. Freedom is never expressed through rebellion. Freedom is unfettered.

I admit it, I am wholly guilty of trying to get my children to work on certain things or of trying to encourage them to do other things. In the end, time and time again, I have seen that having no expectations on my part and simply offering different activities (and, of course, doing things myself), giving them the freedom to engage in them or not without any pleasure or displeasure on my part regardless of what they choose, is the most pleasing and satisfying way. For EVERYBODY. They are happy because they know they won't make me unhappy and they are choosing something they find satisfying. I am happy because my happiness isn't tied to what they choose and they are happy.

When will I finally learn and stop regressing to trying to coerce my children into doing certain things? Maybe never. ;) But, as FlyLady says, "Progress, not perfection." As long as I keep working towards truly allowing my kids to choose their work, to be a guide instead of a coercer, I will make progress. And so will they.


Sandy said...

I just want to thank you for this post. I found the link in a interesting message you wrote at playschool6.

D. said...

You are welcome! And thank you. :)