Discovering Freedom in Routine

“He (the child) lives in a sort of everlasting present. He does not hurry as we do towards the end of the action, because for him the end of the action is the action itself.”

—E. M. Standing, Maria Montessori, Her Life and Work

Routines, not lesson plans, should be prioritized.

Though we, like the rest of the world, are bound by the clock and calendar, a regular pattern allows us to enjoy true independence.

The regularity of a set timetable, which Montessori dubbed normalization, is one of the qualities of a Montessori classroom. Children’s normalization is heavily reliant on their ability to predict what will happen next. When children are aware of the plan, they feel safe and are able to concentrate. If we give the children these predictable patterns, they become more self-assured and inner-directed, which leads to normality.

Many children, numerous schedules

Today’s schools provide programs to meet the needs of today’s busy families, resulting in a very long school day for some students. A child’s day frequently includes multiple adults and environments. Children may transition from before-school care to the classroom, to lunch, to naptime, to more school time, and finally to after-school care. This detailed schedule must also include outdoor or playground time. The challenge is to transition the children from one activity or environment to another with as little disruption as possible.

Creating a Routine and Sticking to It

Every school creates and implements transition routines that take into account staff availability, physical environment, and safety concerns. Individual teachers in the classroom have flexibility in determining how to handle transitions. While every child and classroom is different, many of the teachers we work with have shared the following suggestions for making transitions easier:

Getting the day started

  • Some schools have an assistant who greets students at their cars and walks them to their classrooms, whereas others have parents bring their children inside. The process should include ways to reassure parents about separation issues at the start of the school year.
  • To ease the transition once the children enter the classroom, most teachers greet each child individually by shaking hands and making eye contact; others have a group welcome ritual before work begins.

Transitioning from work to group time

  • Some teachers ring a bell, sing quietly, or dim the lights to signify the end of work time.
  • Following the signal, the children finish their work, put it away, or save it for later completion before moving on to a group, lunch, or another activity.
  • Consider how to deal with a recalcitrant child. Determine the restrictions for anyone who wishes to remain outside the group. For instance, if a child is quiet, he may observe from afar.

From the inside to the outside and back again

  • When monitored, some schools allow students to freely move from indoor to outdoor classrooms or playgrounds.
  • If the entire class is heading outside, children may be instructed to gather their coats in pairs before rejoining the group or forming a line to go outside.
  • Outside time is signaled by bells for some teachers. Before re-entering the classroom, some students have a procedure for removing sand and grime from their shoes.


  • In some schools, cleaning up at the end of the day is a collaborative exercise, ensuring that all materials are returned to their proper places.
  • While the other children wait for their parents, children heading to after-school care are sometimes taken by personnel to the other venue.
  • Some schools dismiss students from outside the classroom, while others dismiss students from the hallway or just outside the classroom. Almost all of them require the child’s parents or caretakers to sign him or her in and leave.
  • When parents arrive for pick-up, some teachers say farewell to each child individually. Others may greet parents and converse with them about their day.

Routines that are predictable

Throughout the school day, the schedule is crucial. The children’s maturation may necessitate a new strategy. Nonetheless, a constant framework allows not only the children to learn to function independently in the classroom, but also the instructor to focus on the growth of individual students as they engage with the planned environment.

“One of the first essentials for any adult who wishes to help small children is to learn to respect the different rhythm of their lives instead of trying to speed it up, in the vain hope of making it synchronize with ours.”

—E. M. Standing, Maria Montessori, Her Life and Work


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