If you’re familiar with the Montessori Method, you’ve likely heard the phrase “follow the child” – but what does that mean? Do Montessori guides actually follow students around the environment throughout the day? Are they allowed to dictate their entire schedule? We discuss what this commonly used phrase means and how you can apply it at home.


At MMS, when we say, “follow the child,” we typically start with observation. When left to explore an environment, which items do they gravitate toward? What skills are they working on? Conversely, are there things they ignore or avoid?

When you observe, be sure to do so without judgment. As parents (and even as guides), it’s easy to fall into our own expectations of what the child needs or wants. However, the child knows best!

Freedom within reason

A common misconception about the Montessori Method is students can do whatever they want inside the environment. While Montessori education is about freedom and developing the self, life has rules and limitations – and so does a Montessori environment.

While the child does choose what they wish to work on based on their interests, it’s important to remember a Montessori environment is intentionally prepared. This means all the activities available to them are purposefully placed to foster independence and spark interest. This creates freedom within reason – the ability to choose from a set of designated items designed to help the child reach their full academic, emotional and spiritual potential.

This is where observation and freedom combine to form the Montessori Method. Through observation, you can determine what interests your child and how they best learn. For example, if your child loves to read, incorporate more reading materials. The freedom comes from allowing them to select the book that interests them most. Once you master both of these principles, following the child can encourage learning while instilling balance and a set of rules that allow for freedom.

If you’d like to learn more about the Montessori Method and how we follow the child at MMS, email us at mms1986@bellsouth.net or call 901-527-3444.