I can already tell this will be a multi-part series, so just get ready! After being in various schools for over a decade, I am now a stay-at-home mom. Talk about foreign territory! For a short period, I homeschooled my pre-schooler, only to conclude that since he was, from birth, supported by a his school social setting, he benefited more from that environment consistency (not at home with Mommy and Baby Bro). Fortunately, he now shares a school with his big sister. So, I'm left at home with the baby. Asides from maternity leave, in which I was barely coherent and more sleep deprived (than I am now), I have never spent long periods of time at home with any of my children. Oh, and my education is all weighted in 3 year-olds and up! So what do I do with an infant at home!?! The results have been pleasantly surprising.
I, unlike most stay-at-home moms, have a wealth of knowledge about Montessori infants and toddlers, having trained many teachers, set up environments, and studied countless resources. When I assumed my new at-home role, Caleb was 8 months old. He was rocking and kinda humping the floor (as babies do when they are trying to crawl but can't--I apologize for the graphic description, but you now can visualize what I mean… You're welcome). I knew he was attempting to move. Check off the sensitive period for movement box! I knew I needed to support this development by offering him space and activities encourage it. I spent hours on Amazon, looking at and finding inexpensive ideas for a bridge, incline, and other structures. Then it hit me. I was not happy with the fact that he can now move, though only in the flat tummy army crawl. I needed to give him more to encourage more movement! Hold that thought; there's more.
Caleb finally started to sit still without grabbing and eating books I read to him. Score! Check off the sensitive period language box! My older two children have enough books in our house to start a library, and I blame my husband, who always has a book in his hand! I re-organized Caleb's spaces to include books so we could enjoy them throughout our days at home. Unfortunately, many times, he lost interest or just wanted to grab the books for himself. Why weren't my attempts achieving success? He should've been able to sit through at least one reading of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Just wait one more second... I'm not done.
Order! I had this sensitive period in the bag-check! I knew so much about what babies need by setting up environments after observing them. I was in our own space and knew it would be easy to replicate this at home. I purchased a cheap floor mirror, collected baskets and trays from around the house, ordered a few essentials for his range of development, and off we went! Well, not really. He explored the works here and there as I did my thing of housework and projects. A few moments later, he would whine and cry due to what I had interpreted as boredom. I was honestly offended. Was my infant unappreciative and unamused by my awesome attempts to meet his needs? Was there too much or not enough stimulation? What was I doing wrong?
There was nothing personal about his response, though me taking it personally revealed a lot! I had forgotten him... Caleb, in the process. I had forgotten about one of the most important parts of the environment: the people in it. Though I created some top-notch Montessori spaces in my home (don't mean to toot my own horn but beep-beep), I was not there. I'd show him how to do it or lay it in front of him to explore and walk away, leaving him feeling insecure. AND my absence prevented another vital component to Montessori: observation. I wasn't there to see how he responded to his environment. What likes/dislikes were present? How did he respond to the works that were there? What other things caught his interest? I was neglecting my role in our adult-child relationship. Now what?
I have started to take more time to be fully present with Caleb. When he wants to be near to me, he comes close by. When he is focused on something, I move away slightly so he can independently enjoy the experience, engaging with him when he calls for it. I'm learning how to carve intentional, focused time (out of my busy at-home schedule... eye roll) with him. During these moments, my phone is silenced and out of the room. The television is set to Spotify on some calming, instrumental playlist. He directly has my attention while I indirectly have his. As we've been practicing this, I have made some discoveries: