Follow the Child

The other day Emmett and I stopped by my in-law’s house to welcome them home from their recent trip back east. I had gotten him pretty excited about seeing Nana, so when she wasn’t home and we had to get back into the car pretty quickly, his little face just fell and he began to cry as I strapped him back in his car seat. I felt so bad seeing big tears run down his cheeks, so I told him I could see that he was sad but…wracked my brain for a redirect…would he like to head over to the farm and say hi to Dad? His face instantly lit up and away we went. Even at this tender age, I’m pretty sure he knows that farm + Dad = tractors.

One of the main tenants of Montessori learning that we’ve embraced with Emmett is to “follow the child.” Follow their natural interests and inclinations, and use those to help them learn in other ways.

The goal of early childhood education should be to activate the child’s own natural desire to learn. -Maria Montessori

From a very early age, Emmett has expressed great interest in anything with a motor. Cars, trucks, tractors, planes, trains and even the Kitchenaid Mixer. His first sounds were the growl of an engine, and his aim in learning to stand, to see the farm equipment he kept hearing pass by our house. We changed the subject of the song “We’re on Our Way to Grandpa’s Farm” from animals to farm equipment, and for a long time, singing it was the only thing that would keep him calm in his carseat. He hasn’t quite figured out his little scooter/trike we bought with his Christmas money, but he sure loves to sit on it and rev his pretend engine. Don’t even try to take him inside off the lawnmower with Dad and good luck getting his attention if there’s a forklift nearby. My dad plays an audio clip of a car starting almost every time we FaceTime him, and rarely is it met with anything but an, “Oh wowwww.” He’s clearly got a special place in his heart for vehicles and machinery.

So, while we are definitely still exposing him to lots of other things in the world (especially with our Year of Montessori Learning), we have really embraced his interests. We have all kinds of books about trucks, tractors, vehicles and farm equipment. We try to stop by the farm at least once a week so he can hop on and ride along with Dad. We sit on the chairs in the front room and talk about the colors of the cars that drive by, and we line up all his cars by size and shape on the play mat he got for his birthday. We work on his coordination playing with the trike and driving the toy tractors around the floor, walls and even in the bath. And most of the time, when it’s just he and I, I sit back at a distance reading a book and pretending not to watch, while he dives into his own little world where wheels are king and I just get to enjoy him.

For some reason, maybe I’m just a sentimental mama, but something about his sweet fascination with tractors and trucks makes me feel like we’re doing something right. Like we were just meant to be here, living on the farm, raising this tractor loving boy with a bright future of driving those big machines around and working with his Dad who grew up the same way.

The child who has felt a strong love for his surroundings and for all living creatures, who has discovered joy and enthusiasm in work, gives us reason to hope that humanity can develop in a new direction. -Maria Montessori

Taking humanity in another direction, doesn’t that sound lovely right about now? As I’ve been thinking (A LOT) about the state of our world, our country, etc. I keep coming back to what can I do? Practically, on an everyday basis, what can I do to make this world a better place? Sure I can subscribe to the Sierra Club, write my senators, watch documentaries, retweet people and causes I find important, and even put a sign in my front yard, but by far the greatest thing I can do right now is raise this kid of mine right. To be compassionate, caring, wise, selfless, and a loving steward of anyone and anything that has been entrusted to his care. Teach him to find joy and enthusiasm in his surroundings and in his work, and give him hope that he can change the world by being who he was meant to be. And most of all, choose every day to share in what he loves and help him work his way to a better tomorrow, simply by following the child.