Independence is one of the key principles and goals of Montessori Method of education as Dr. Maria Montessori tells us in The Discovery of the Child that, “If teaching is to be effective with young children, it must assist them to advance on the way to independence…. We must help them to learn how to walk without assistance, to run, to dress and undress, to wash themselves… All this is part of an education for independence.”
Montessori observed that it is in the nature of young children to strive for functional independence. As children have this inner desire to be independent, children should be given lots of opportunities to become autonomous, self-regulating, and confident adults. Independence is a skill that is developed through role modelling, lots of practice, hands-on experiences, and repetition. For children to develop and master independence, the environment should be exclusively designed for them and should nurture independent exploration. Montessori classroom is called a, “Children’s House” as it is carefully prepared for the child. The Montessori prepared environment includes all the key elements that support the developmental needs of young children at different stages or planes of their development. Dr. Montessori designed the activities in the Children’s House to support the natural work of the sensitive periods and the child’s absorbent mind. Everything in the environment is child-sized and consists of beauty, order, range of activities, choice, freedom and respect. The environment fosters observation, independence, movement, repetition, mastery, exploration, and love for lifelong learning. The role of the Montessori Guide or Directress is to carefully prepare the environment and support the children in their self-construction and holistic development.
In the Cycle One Montessori classroom, the emphasis is on “life” and building life skills. Practical Life curriculum is integral to independence and all the activities encourage the child to learn a variety of life skills such as pouring, spooning, scooping, cutting, dressing and undressing, opening and closing, hand washing, cloth washing, shoe polishing, setting up a table, preparing a fruit platter, sweeping, mopping, taking care of plants and animals and mannerisms etc.
Independence leads the child to self-construction. As the children are busy constructing themselves we as adults are always so eager to interrupt and help, we may believe we are “helping” the child, in fact, any time the adult offers unnecessary help, it becomes an impediment to the child’s growth. We must remember that a child’s mind is very different to ours, children work as they enjoy the process whereas adults work for end product or result. When children act and think for themselves there is not only an increase in their self-belief, self-confidence and esteem but it also prepares them better for life ahead.