Free to be a child

Let the children be free; encourage them; let them run outside when it is raining ...
— Maria Montessori

This quote of Dr. Montessori's is actually from a larger passage in her book The Discovery of the Child:

Let the children be free; encourage them; let them run outside when it is raining; let them remove their shoes when they find a puddle of water; and, when the grass of the meadows is damp with dew, let them run on it and trample it with their bare feet; let them rest peacefully when a tree invites them to sleep beneath its shade; let them shout and laugh when the sun wakes them in the morning as it wakes every living creature that divides its day between walking and sleeping.

As a precaution, it's important to note that *merely* allowing for such spontaneous experiences wouldn't be helpful for a child, whether at home or in school. Although Dr. Montessori was an ardent advocate for creating and supporting environments in which children enjoy the freedom to be themselves, she was very much against the view that they should be able to do whatever they want, whenever they want. Here's Dr. Montessori's longtime friend and biographer, E.M. Standing, commenting briefly on the topic:

An environment in which children are simply physically free to ‘run about and play’ is not enough. ‘That’, says Montessori, ‘is the kind of freedom we give to cats and lizards.’

We can allow children the freedom to be themselves while also remembering that they need our thoughtful guidance, structure, and at times redirection. Ultimately, this is freedom within limits.