Baby-led weaning is a parenting trend that goes against conventional wisdom. Instead of introducing babies to the world of solid foods through mushy purees, baby-led weaning encourages babies to eat solids- actual solids- at their own pace. Instead of pureed green beans, a baby might be given an actual green bean to gnaw on. Younger babies get larger pieces of food so that they don’t choke, but soon they learn to deal with the food well and can eat smaller pieces like chopped bananas and cereal.
Though we didn’t try this with our older two children, we’re trying this method with our littlest. He just turned six-months-old, and, being the third child, carefully observes every morsel that his big brother and sister put into their mouths. He is so very interested in food and the process of eating. So far, he has tried chunks of bananas, avocado, string cheese, and carrots. This doesn’t involve me spooning things into his mouth- it’s not my job to make him eat. It’s my job to make him want to eat by offering him enticing foods. Often, with my other children, forcing something into their mouths was a sure-fire way to make them not like a food. I love it because I can sit and enjoy a meal with my family without having to stop and shovel, scoop and wipe.
Enjoying a wider variety of foods is a big benefit of baby-led weaning. There are lots of other benefits, as well. Children who learn to feed themselves from the very start also improve their motor skills and hand-eye coordination. This is because they have to grab their own food and bring it to their mouths themselves. Baby-led weaning also helps children learn to self-regulate their eating at an early age. Instead of being stuffed with bite after bite of food, they choose when to eat and when to stop. (You can read more about the benefits of baby-led weaning in this article from Parents Magazine.)
You’re probably wondering why in the world I’m talking about baby led weaning. This isn’t that kind of blog. But could we substitute a few words in my paragraphs above and have it apply to Charlotte Mason’s ideas towards allowing children to take in knowledge on their own, without having to force-feed it to them?
Charlotte Mason’s 10th and 11th Principles
Charlotte Mason’s 10th and 11th principles go against conventional wisdom. Instead of introducing children to the world of knowledge through dumbed-down books and jingles, her 10th and 11th principles encourage us to let children take in ideas- actual ideas- at their own pace. Instead of being told what to think, a child might be given an actual idea to gnaw on. Younger children take in simpler ideas so that they don’t choke down inappropriate knowledge, but soon they learn to deal with the ideas well and can take in more complex ideas like those found in Pilgrim’s Progress or Burgess’s stories.
Though we didn’t try this with out older two children from the start, we’re starting out using this method with our littlest. He just turned six-months-old, and, being the third child, carefully observes every book we read or conversation that we put into our children’s heads. He is so very interested in learning. So far, he has heard beautiful living books that many would say are beyond his years (months, I guess!) I love that it doesn’t involve me pushing knowledge into his head. It’s not my job to make him learn. It’s my job to make him want to learn by offering him enticing ideas. Often, with my other children, forcing something into their heads was a sure-fire way to make them not like it anymore. I love it because I can sit and enjoy reading and learning with my family without having to stop, dissect, and explain tidbits knowledge.
Enjoying a wider variety of ideas is a big benefit of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy. There are many other benefits, as well. Children who learn to take in and process ideas for themselves from the very start also improve their ability to think. This is because they connect with ideas that are particularly meaningful to them and mull them over in their heads themselves. Charlotte Mason’s philosophy on knowledge also helps children learn to self-regulate what they’re willing to take in at an early age. Instead of being stuffed with bite after bite of knowledge, they learn to search out the best of the best- they’ll seldom want to stop.
Now, I don’t want to over-explain this analogy, per the content of the post. (I did take some poetic license- because Charlotte Mason is NOT “child-led!”)
Here are some other quotes and resources for you:
The teacher who allows his scholars the freedom of the city of books is at liberty to be their guide, philosopher and friend; and is no longer the mere instrument of forcible intellectual feeding.” Towards a Philosophy of Education, page 32