RIE classes are a little different than your typical mommy and me class, there’s little you have to do, but a lot to take in. Here’s what you can expect.
Upon arrival, I ask parents to leave all of their things outside of the playspace…this includes diaper bags, water bottles, coffee cups, and yes, even cell phones*…The idea is to plan to spend the entire 90 minutes being completely present, with no distractions.
*I do allow exceptions if parents are expecting an urgent call or email, and parents may also set their phones on airplane mode if they wish to bring them into the space to take unobtrusive photos. (With the consent of the other families in the group…and if cameras become too distracting, I do ask parents to put them away…)
Upon entering the space, parents come in with their child and find a seat along the perimeter, and here’s the first opportunity to slow down. You can allow your child to sit with you as long as he or she likes. When they are ready, they will move away…and if you have a young baby who’s not yet mobile, take a few minutes to sit and get comfortable yourself. When you are comfortable and you think your child is, go ahead and gently lay them down on their back, even if they can sit up or comfortably roll onto their stomach, I find that being on the back is the position of most relaxation and comfort, as a bonus, it also allows your child to maintain eye contact with you as long as they like…they can move when they are ready.
I’ll ask you stay in that one place for the whole class, so your child can use you as an anchor…moving away and coming back as he or she chooses. If you have to move for any reason, just let your child know before you do it, so he or she can keep track of you. When your child gets upset or stuck, I move in first to model the intervention for you…but if your child is (or you are!) too upset, of course, don’t feel like you are stuck in place…you can come over, too! We’ll talk more about this as the class unfolds.
The flow of the class starts with “warming in,” which is checking in with the other parents and catching up with one another…then, either tacitly or explicitly, we’ll start a quiet observation. Parents either practice simply watching to see what comes up, or I may give suggestions for things to look for. After a little while, I start a discussion about what was observed and offer an opportunity for parents to ask questions. These classes are about observing our children, yes, but they are also about observing yourself…your reactions, impulses, thoughts…it’s about watching our children grow, as we grow with them.
If children are all able to get into a sitting position independently, I offer a snack about halfway through class. Snack is always an invitation for children, but not a requirement, and to that end, I always offer the same thing each week: bananas and water. This is the time of class where I model limit setting, as well as give you ideas for how you can replicate the practice at home. It can be chaotic at times as it takes a long time for children to learn the limits and hone their skills, but it is one of my favorite parts of class. It is such a gift to see how capable and competent children are.
At the end of each class, I offer a short reading, a reflection for parents. Then, I slowly begin to collect the toys in a container. I ask that parents do not help with this stage, nor encourage their children to help. Over time, children will spontaneously start to help, and it’s such a beautiful thing to see. And parents get to sit back and watch their children for a few more minutes, hopefully hanging on to that feeling they’ve cultivated through the last 90 minutes of observation.
So that’s it: there’s no entertaining, no ‘stimulation,’ nothing for you to do. It’s true that there is no set agenda, no curriculum other than observing the children. But it is also true that the entire Approach unfolds over the course of your time in class, your knowledge grows as your children do. It’s an organic approach to teaching and learning and the best way to really learn about it…the Educaring Approach is meant to be lived and experienced. Each parent comes to their own authentic understanding and expression by the time the class graduates. All you need is an open and curious mind, and a ready spirit.