I have always thought that things like child led weaning and 'potty training' made a lot of sense, but weren't always easy to do. Recently I came to the realisation that in fact they are the simplest, easiest and most natural way of doing things.
With Ryan we decided to go the child led weaning route and while I did start him on solids sooner than I now think was necessary, he very soon started to feed himself and was eating pretty much whatever we ate. I never forced or bribed him to eat something he didn’t want to eat. Now at almost three years old, he is a healthy eater who prefers veggies to sweets and loves salad. He even enjoys foods like olives, pickles (ok, so not exactly healthy) and camembert cheese. He has no problem eating mushrooms, brinjals and baby-marrows – all items my twelve year old hates. Unfortunately with our oldest we weren’t as enlightened. While I never believed in forcing him to eat something he clearly didn’t like, he did learn a lot of bad eating habits at pre-school, back in the days before I was able to be at home with the kids. Now I just wait for Ryan to decide he no longer needs his ‘nanas’, but he will stop breastfeeding when he is ready. At this stage the most frustrating part of still nursing two kids is the comments from my mum-in-law. To Ryan nursing is not only a source of nourishment but also security, he is pretty high needs and given the choices of forcing him to wean and making him miserable or listening to funny comments from MIL when she visits, I would rather just deal with her. Funny enough Storm – who is seven months old – is the total opposite, to her breastfeeding is a source of nourishment and her security comes from cuddling with mom or dad. I sometimes wonder who will decide to wean first.
Ryan 'potty trained' – I use inverted commas because I didn’t do any training – he basically figured it out for himself by watching us - yippee. With the help of a kiddies potty learning book and the minimum of fuss, no star charts and bribes to get him to perform. I decided to put off getting him out of nappies until I felt he was ready for it. Also with a baby arriving two months after he turned two and us moving provinces shortly thereafter, the time just never seemed right. I am glad we went this route as it all just happened so naturally without any forcing.
Over the years we have been homeschooling, we have come to the realization that child led learning is the way to go. Like so many parents new to homeschooling we went the formal curriculum route, this just didn’t work for us and caused a whole lot of stress before we saw the light and abandoned the curriculum and allowed our son to lead us. I must admit that I did get frustrated when he had no interest in doing anything even remotely school related, but we got him to read by allowing him to read (almost) whatever he chose and he is now an avid reader. He has also become quite motivated this year and is doing loads of schoolwork on his own. He talks about wanting to become an engineer or archaeologist and realizes that he will need to study to do these. I have days when he doesn’t want to play outside with his brother and rather sits in his room studying. He has developed a great enjoyment in doing maths and has whizzes his way through an entire grade 6 maths text book already this year. His other loves are science and art.
I have definitely learned over the years that child led living is the way to go; it is far less stressful for all concerned, most importantly the children involved. It is like most things in life, they all happen in their own good time and if we can all find the patience to allow life to happen at its own pace our lives will be so much richer.