learning all the time
house tour: musical dining room

our parenting philosophy

Mexico nostalgia

Being pregnant with your first child is such a fun ride. There’s the smile that crosses your face whenever the baby moves, there’s the wonder and awe at your once-familiar body’s transformation into a powerful fertility goddess, there’s the back pain and the first trimester blahs, but, most surprisingly, there’s the veritable shower of parenting opinions from family, friends, and even the stranger at the grocery store.

This is a funny transition for me – a Montessori teacher with an M.Ed and a number of years of early childhood education under my belt. I sort of got used to being the “expert” in the room at parent teacher conferences and monthly parent night presentations. (However, let it be known that teachers are no experts - we’re learning all the time from the children, much like parents. Once you haughtily declare that your classroom is “normalized” or that you’ve figured out this whole teaching thing, another little love arrives on scene and makes you rethink everything from scratch once again!)

But I do realize that I’m embarking on this parenting journey with an interesting set of experiences under my belt, some of which have prepared me directly for motherhood, others which might be a hindrance, others which might be indirectly helpful. Obviously, guiding eighteen 3-6 year-olds on their paths of self-formation is a plus. One of the question marks is my tendency to devour all books on alternative educational philosophy. I’m a Montessorian by training, but I love Waldorf and I love unschooling. The one thing I learned during my year teaching 5th grade at a public school in the Bronx was that I strongly dislike traditional education. It gives me the heeby-geebies. So how can I meld together what I love most about these (often) differing parenting and educational philosophies?

It was only during a chat with my parents over the holidays when I finally was able to concretely define my parenting philosophy – the foundational maxims upon which all else is built. Here they are:

1. Respect and observe our child and do our best to respond to his true needs.

2. Thoughtfully question any given philosophy (including Montessori) and refer back to number 1 when implementing anything.

3. Be wary of any marketing to parents or children. That means boo-hiss to Graco and Fischer-Price and there’s-no-way-I’m-ever-shopping-at-Babies-R-Us. That means we choose natural toys for our child and believe that less is more when it comes to “stuff” for kids. Too much “stuff” stifles the child’s creativity.

I do have some strong opinions, (one being that plastic is gross and just plain ugly, and I don’t want any of it anywhere near my baby) but I will try not to let my opinions get in the way of observing the actual needs of our child. I fully expect to learn and grow more than I ever thought possible during this whole parenting journey, and I fully expect never to be an expert. Phew! Isn’t that realization liberating? There is no absolutely right way to raise a child, since each child and specific circumstance is different. It is, however, difficult to start on a journey if you don’t have some sort of map (or stars) with which to navigate. Our “destination” being a happy, healthy adult who marvels in the world, we do have some specific ideas that seem to provide a nice route from here to there (although, like any trip, there are Plan B’s, detours, and yet unknown roads that might make us change our travel plans).

Birth: We want a natural, peaceful birth for both our child and ourselves. We are planning on giving birth with a midwife at a fabulous free-standing birthing center in the area: www.ncbirthcenter.com. For subsequent children, we would like to explore the option of a homebirth, although our insurance options are extremely limited.

Diapering: We would like to try out Elimination Communication (EC) with a cloth diaper back-up. I’m fascinated by EC, and I didn’t even know about it until a fellow Montessorian tipped me off (thanks, Jen!) If you are interested as well, I would highly recommend reading Diaper Free: The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene .

Babywearing and Co-sleeping: Yes. I’ve read loads of studies that demonstrate the benefits of both of these practices. (I had a friend at Notre Dame who took co-sleeping researcher James McKenna’s course, and I’ve been convinced.) Also, living in close contact with the indigenous Tarahumara in Mexico made me reflect upon the necessity of separate rooms and strollers for babies. These things just seem so, well, unnecessary in the whole scheme of human existence. Not that I think cribs and strollers are evil, I just choose not to spend my money on them!

Breastfeeding: Of course. 'Nuff said.

Raising a bilingual child: Yes and no. I will speak Spanish to my child (speaking to children in Spanish can seem more natural to me than speaking in English!), but I won’t follow a strict routine. If I’m not feeling it, I won’t put any pressure on myself in this area. There are always summers to be spent with our friends and their children in Mexico, and since I have such confidence that language learning can happen at any time in life, I don’t feel that I’m doing our child a disservice by not speaking Spanish consistently in the house.

Homeschooling: Yes. We are flirting with the idea of opening our home as a learning community for a very small handful of other young children, but I would still call that homeschooling. Our homeschooling philosophy is anchored in the Montessori curriculum for young children as I value a certain routine, rhythm and structure for the little ones – I believe that this helps them to become confident actors in the world. I have a fabulous collection of learning materials, some handmade, some gathered from our world travels. But, at its core, our homeschooling philosophy is one of child-guided, discovery-based learning – a melding of Montessori, unschooling, and Waldorf.

So there you have it. A term-paper length parenting manifesto blog post. If you made it to the end, I think you’re rad. I’m sure we’d have so much to talk about over tea!