Baby University: Little Man, My Teacher

Welcome to the September Carnival of Natural Parenting: We’re all home schoolers

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how their children learn at home as a natural part of their day. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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I’m a high school art teacher, I have been for 6 years.  I work in the public school system so the style of teaching and learning is mandated by the school district I work in.  They do allow for differentiation and creativity so that is fine by me, I can find a way to accommodate my students’ learning styles while teaching the required material.  However, this was not my dream teaching scenario.  I fell in love with the Montessori approach when I was in college learning to be a teacher.  I had wanted to see this type of learning in practice because I had attended traditional public schools all my life and it was fascinating to me that you could allow a child to explore their environment at their own pace and through their own interests and that would choose to learn.  This is a novel idea to most teachers of required courses taught to teenagers.
So when I had my son I took an extended maternity leave of six months which, I have just returned to work from, I decided I would allow my child to direct what we did during the six months I had uninterrupted with him.  And so when he arrived I listened patiently to all the advice from the nurses, doctors and my relatives and then threw all that right out the door and waited for Little Man to tell me what to do.  It didn’t take him long either.  Though in the beginning the only one learning was me.  I had to learn quickly what all those different cries meant.  The learning curve was a short one.  I think most of you would agree with me that it doesn’t take a mother long to figure out what her new little companion desires.  Mine wanted food, diaper changes and sleep.
Soon he developed his own routine which mostly consisted of sleep, diaper change, breastfeeding, burping repeat, which I might add I because very accustomed to myself.  All the while I kept hearing about, sleep training, “eat, play, sleep”, the ferber method, The Happiest Baby on the Block, I could go on but since I didn’t care to check any of these things out I’ll brush over them and move on.  All the while I’m not doing much of anything except catering to the whims of a tiny little person who is quite content in his own view of the world.  I felt bad for the moms that talked to me about this or that method and couldn’t get their little one to sleep or eat “properly”  Are you thinking, what I’m thinking?  I felt guilty that my two month old slept through the night and only because he wanted to, I did absolutely nothing.  They would ask and I would tell them we don’t have a routine, Little Man does what he wants, when he wants.
But the teacher in me was still asking, “Where’s the learning?” The mother in me answered, “Patience, it’s coming.”  It did, holding up his head for short periods of time since he was born until he could do it for the entire time he was awake by one and half months.  Despite the fact that he HATED “tummy-time” and had a flat spot on his head to show for it he rolled from front to back at three months and then back to front a week later.  Army crawling came at four months, when he saw something he wanted he went for it.  He used his face as a fifth appendage but he made it to where he was going.  He passed objects from hand to hand around the same time as well.  He did all of this without any real coaching or teaching from me, just because he wanted to at that time.
So you may ask, “What is it that you have taught your baby?”  I actually found out what I taught him the first day I returned to work and he had to go to daycare.  When I arrived to pick up my baby, I thought I would hear from his teachers that he cried and was not comfortable at daycare.  That he might still be crying when I got there and I would scoop him up into my arms and rush to nurse him so that he would feel better.  What did I find?  My son playing with a truck on the floor with another baby, completely uninterested in being interrupted in that moment.  I was surprised and a little miffed but mostly I was relieved and proud, I taught him independence and self-confidence.  So, just how did I do this when I never set a routine nor followed a single baby guru book nor force my child to do the appropriate developmental exercise to achieve those milestones?  I breastfed him.  He felt secure in our bond that it is okay for us to be apart for an extended (11 hours) period of time during the day.  As I reflect back on the past six months with my boy I realize that there was so much learning going on despite my lack of teaching and that I was learning too.  It was nice not to be scheduled and given mandate teaching instructions for your day and how this skill was to be taught.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated September 14 with all the carnival links.)

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11 Responses to Baby University: Little Man, My Teacher

  1. Deb Chitwood says:

    I love your approach! Of course, I am a Montessorian. I can’t say enough about observing your child’s needs and following your child. Sounds like you’re doing a wonderful job!

    http://LivingMontessoriNow.com

  2. Dionna @ Code Name: Mama says:

    Listening and responding to our babies' needs is one of the best gifts we can give them! Thank you for sharing your story :)

  3. Laura says:

    Thanks for sharing. Babies and children do know what they need if we just trust them.

  4. Amy says:

    I've found that following baby's cues is a wonderful, intuitive way to parent. I'm glad you feel that way, too! Thanks for telling your story.

  5. kitchenwitch says:

    *LOVE* I have always followed my baby's cues. And they are all secure and happy :)

    Good job mama!

    <3

  6. livingpeacefullywithchildren says:

    Children will always learn if we will only trust them.

  7. Lauren @ Hobo Mama says:

    I love that you listened to your baby and respected his needs. That's just so perfect, and it sounds like it really paid off for both of you. You sound like such a confident and caring mother, and I'm glad the transition back to full-time work is going all right for you both.

  8. Marita says:

    Strong foundation is so essential for building upon and that is what you have been doing, giving your baby the confidence to be themselves :)

  9. Kat says:

    Wonderful post! I am an Attachment Parenting mommy and I LOVE hearing stories from other moms about how they feel so good, rewarded and how the baby is happy and content, all because they know their parents are there when they need them…the bond and trust that is formed between mother and baby is the most amazing foundation and it's for life!

  10. melissa says:

    beautiful post!!! So true…I'm still following the lead of my kids, and they're 7, 6, and 2. Some days I think they teach me far more than I teach them! =)

  11. Luschka @Diary of a First Child says:

    I think I'm much the same as you. I decided very early on to throw out the 'guru' books as I realised they knew nothing about MY child. She was crawling by 4 months and walking by 8, taking her first solo steps at 10 months and running around at 10 months and 1 day! I always say to new moms now to follow their baby's lead and ditch the books!

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