A Letter That Changed My Day

I was in a gloomy, what’s-it-all-about funk recently when I received something miraculous — a letter that changed everything. Touched, flattered and gratified on many levels by this note, the passion I usually have for my work was instantly invigorated.

I share the letter here because it resonates with me, reminding me of the intense moment of recognition I had when I first discovered infant expert Magda Gerber’s theories about babies being self-learners. The knowledge I gained from Magda Gerber brought clarity to my confusion as a new mother. It connected free-floating mental dots, giving them form – a rendering of infant life, nature, and education that felt accurate, universal and true.

Dear Janet,

I stumbled across your blog about a week ago, and I feel like my world has finally clicked into place. It’s like it’s been there all along, and the focus has been blurry, the zoom settings were all wrong, and somebody fiddled with the saturation and volume levels. And suddenly, everything stopped spinning, the noise fell away, and the edges became crisp and clear. I’ve been on the cusp of “getting it” for a very long time, but the words just haven’t been said, and the signals were confounded by static and interference.

Ever since I was 12 I have been fairly obsessed with the science of learning. I’ve read everything I could get my hands on about the neurological development of babies, of study techniques, and techniques for letting the mind make new connections (systematic creativity, if you will).

Much of the time I found that I was simultaneously impressed and uneasy. The more I read, the more I understood at a gut level that babies and children are unfathomably bright, and curious, and love learning and exploring. But I couldn’t get this to jive with what I was seeing with the flashcard crowd: show a baby related facts about electrical engineering. Diode. Transistor. Capacitor. Inductor. *yawn*.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that electrical engineering is fascinating and fun. I’m a computer programmer. I think math jokes are funny. Unfortunately I couldn’t recognize art if it hit me in the head… I just cannot see how showing your baby the symbol for a transistor is going to let her discover the joy and excitement of science, or how flashcard representations of famous/great works of art are going to instill in her a sense of wonder and appreciation of beauty.

I don’t have any children yet. I’m over 30, and my husband and I plan on getting pregnant soon. I’m so thankful that I found your blog first. Very high up on my list of things to do before we get pregnant is to come to the RIE center and take a prenatal class.

With thanks and kind regards,


The realization that babies can be trusted to be initiators — learning and developing naturally in their unique manner and on their own perfect timetable — is a wonderful gift.  It was given to me by Magda Gerber, and I’m thrilled to be able to share it.

Parenting is not about driving a child’s education with flashcards and lessons. It is creating a nurturing, stable, safe environment for a baby to explore, and then going along for the ride. There will be countless surprises, discoveries and revelations for everyone along the way.

So, slow down. Sit back. Enjoy.

1 Comment

Please share your comments and questions. I read them all and respond to as many as time will allow.

  1. The picture looks like Madeline….?

    How thankful I am for all the mothers of today that find the RIE “way”.

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