Part of me is terribly opposed to writing anything concerning “school” when it comes to baby and toddler years, but with the huge push for early education in our culture, I think it’s important to address it.
So many parents are feeling the pressure to get as early a start as possible to be sure that their child isn’t “behind”. The truth is that these years should be some of the most enjoyable years of parenting, free from the pressure to flip flash cards in front of our little ones’ faces or bury them in “developmental” toys or watch Little Einstein dvds. There’s a reason little ones are so cute and fun and easy to please. I believe we are supposed to relish this time without the pressure of “school”. Their contentment with simplicity is that breather we need between diaper changes, potty training, baths and meal times. If we keep ourselves too busy in between, we can become exhausted and that makes it much harder to enjoy our little ones.
Babies and toddlers are happy with the simplest pleasures and thrive in an uncomplicated, consistent routine. It is in their best interest (and ours) to keep their toys to a minimum and encourage them to play with real life things (especially as toddlers) like wooden spoons, spatulas, mixing bowls, making forts with sheets and pillows, helping us with simple tasks in the kitchen, playing with playdough (or bread dough), blowing bubbles, reading books, singing, learning to pick up their toys and coloring. (This is also much easier on our pocketbook!)
Although we need to be conscious of where our littles are and what they are doing, we don’t need to hover over them all the time. Little ones need space to explore and experience their world within reasonable and safe boundaries.
Touching our littles, talking to them, looking into their eyes, interacting as we go about our daily tasks can seem mundane and almost unimportant, but babies and toddlers have SO much brain development and little connectors connecting during this time and this type of daily, loving care is the very thing that facilitates that. It lays a solid foundation for future learning.
I can’t stress enough to you the importance of simple, predictable routine. There are so many reasons to spend most of our time at home during these years. Although a little outside interaction can be good, babies and toddlers are generally happiest at home having regular eating, playing and sleeping times. Sometimes, as moms, we need to visit with other moms for our own sanity, and that’s ok. But it really is not that important for our littles. They generally play side by side of one another with very little interaction and that’s ok because that is typical for this stage of development.
It can help to look back at the thousands of generations of mothers in various cultures. They pretty much did what came naturally in a very simple environment. Are times different? Yes, but babies and toddlers needs haven’t changed. Simplicity and following our mommy instincts trumps overstimulation and helicopter parenting any day in the past, present or future. And this is the time to tune into that, because you will NEED that confidence later on when you have to make more decisions regarding your kids’ schooling.
Growing up takes time. It’s a slow process, and there are many stages of development that happen along the way. Each child has their own internal clock. As parents, we have the privilege of tuning into our children and simply giving them time and space to grow and learn at their own pace. Homeschooling is ideal for this, BUT we have to resist the urge to feel pressured into pushing our children before they are ready and this includes the baby and toddler years.
It doesn’t matter what other people’s kids are doing or what’s right for THEM. We have to take responsibility and do what’s right for OUR children. A simple life at home with our little ones lays a very solid foundation for our kids’ future education because our kids are not machines. They are people, who consist of body, mind AND spirit. Some years of home education are spent more intensely in some areas and others in another, but we are always dealing with a WHOLE person and we need to approach our kids’ education with that in mind.
To put it plainly, our kids’ education is incremental. In other words it happens a little at a time, especially at first. This baby/toddler phase is PART of that. It needs to look different than the later years, though, because our littles simply are NOT ready for what happens later. That is a blessing because homeschooling is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s easier on us, as moms, to slowly increase our pace as our kids are ready for it because it gives US time to grow with their homeschooling as well.
Slow down and savor these very sweet and fleeting years. Give yourself space to enjoy your littles. Quiet your heart and really BE with them. Enjoy every diaper change and bathtime. You won’t regret it. You will blink and this precious moment will be gone. There will be plenty of time for schoolbooks and “education”, but only you can give your children the gift of an unhurried and natural approach to their start in life.
Please be sure and check out my book…a simple, mercifully short book on homeschooling…The Unhurried Homeschooler (aff) and my podcast, Durenda Wilson found on my blog, iTunes or SoundCloud.
(If you would like to learn more about the developmental stages of 0-3 year olds, this is a very interesting site to visit! I’m sharing this for your information as it’s good to be able to recognize all our kids are learning just from everyday life. But remember these things can happen in a very relaxed and natural home environment!)