I’ve heard children in Montessori schools are allowed to do whatever they want

A common misconception is that children in Montessori schools are allowed to do whatever they want and that there are no rules.

In Montessori classrooms, certain agreements exist as rules established between the teacher and students. These rules aim to ensure mutual respect and create an environment where everyone has the right to work in a safe and reasonably quiet setting. However, the number of rules is deliberately kept limited, avoiding an overly controlled atmosphere orchestrated by the teacher.

As students progress in age, there is an added expectation for them to take on more responsibility in their planning and achieve specific proficiency levels in various subjects. This process is guided by the teacher, fostering a sense of accountability among the children.

The Montessori approach allows 'freedom within limits' - embracing a balance between freedom and limits. Children are granted considerable freedom within these established boundaries and children respect these limits because there are not so many of them.

The best way to understand this is to visit an authentic Montessori classroom. The effectiveness of this approach becomes evident when witnessing the Montessori classroom, where children naturally exhibit a desire to learn, work, and explore.
Importantly, this engagement occurs without the need for authoritative directives such as shouting for attention, demanding stillness, or urging them to learn.

To learn more about authenic Montessori classrooms, see our article Montessori schools – questions to ask & what to look for.