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unschooling food

post #1 of 65
Thread Starter 


I belong to a Radical Unschooling group online and for the life of me I can't see eye to eye on their views of food.  Someone had written in that her son was just eating Pringles and Kool Aid for weeks on end.  I wrote back that I would just not have that stuff in my house. Some on the list have suggested that I leave the list for this response.  My children are still young (3 years old and eight months old).  But I have read and researched so much about food that I can't nonchalantly let them choose whatever they want to eat. I understand that companies put chemicals into food to make repeat customers. Not to mention the addictive quality of sugar, salt and wheat.  We eat mainly primal at home.  I do not allow anything in the house that I wouldn't want my children to eat.  When we go out to eat or at other people's houses, I let my children eat what they want. We talk about the choices and how it affects their body.  And that these are treats.  Am I an unschooling failure? Am I setting my kids up for a bad relationship with food as others keep telling me? Thank you


Edited by lurve - 12/7/10 at 11:28pm
post #2 of 65

Your kids are still young.... I get that.  But your kids have started the same journey that you've been on for however many years and they will and should get to make some of the same decisions that you have come to know (or their own for that matter).

 

My unschooling prospective is this... and it applies to EVERYTHING!

 

Control is an illusion.  You think you can control their beliefs, their actions, but you actually can't.  You can say "our family believes in (fill in the blank)", but you have no real control what your children believe and really you shouldn't.  

 

What I find is that my dd (8) aligns with me for most things.  I have made every effort to let her know that she is welcome to disagree with me without consequence.  Really all I can do build a good relationship with her, be there to guide her (when she is accepting of my guidance that is) and trust her.  As she gets older I look forward to seeing who she really is.   I think as a radical unschoolers we get to see that expression of self much earlier than kids in other families. With all that trust and lack of control the kids do get know themselves at a much earlier age.

 

So please continue to provide healthy food for your children and tell them about your decisions and why you have made them.  Just don't expect compliance or agreement.   As they get older, let them make decisions without shame or guilt and let them experience.  Let them learn the lessons that you have, but on their terms.

 

It's so much bigger than their relationship with food, it's their relationship with you!

 

And with all of that said, I know it is hard to apply these concepts to small children.  They really are so young and naive.

 

 

Renita

post #3 of 65
Thread Starter 

I guess I am looking for more concrete advice.  Like what if they just want to eat Pringles and Kool Aide. Do I let them? For how long? At what age do I start exposing them to this? The people on the list said by my not exposing them to this I was depriving them of "joy."  I have a hard time with this. For instance, I can't see having soda pop in my house on a continious, free range basis.  There is no redeeming quality to it long term.  But what if they want it? And at what age do I take those wants as more serious (now they aren't exposed much to these types of foods).  

 

I know I have no real control over my kids. Hell, my daughter has only worn footed pajamas for more than a year now continiously.  I embrace this. I just bought her ten new pair.  (Ironically she sleeps naked!).  I know the only one I have control over is myself.  But in some respects I have control over the food pantry.

 

thanks 

post #4 of 65

i have stopped hanging out at some other web sites for radical unschoolers because of the ideas about food. i consider processed foods addictive and my son is young like op's children. he is 3. i don't have junk food in my house. when we go out to eat my philosophy has always been he can have what he wants to eat and when he gets older he will get an allowance which he will be free to spend on whatever he wants and if that means he spends it all on candy well that's what he will spend it on.  but i also talk to him a lot about food. he was eating something like cake or some other very sweet not so healthy food recently not sure what and he said this is very good for you and so i said no actually it is not good for you or healthy but it does taste good. i explained some about what foods help to grow big and strong and what foods don't. he brought it up and so we talked about it and we have continued to talk about it. there are things he wants to do that he is not big enough to do yet or in some cases he doesn't have the strength and coordination to do yet and he wants to do those things so when i talk about what foods will help him to get that strength he gets excited about it.

 

not sure i have much advice op. i just have found that for me i do better not spending a lot of time discussing my views on nutrition with the radical unschoolers who let their kids have complete free range over food. i do let my son help pick out groceries but our grocery store int own sells very little junk food and since we don't eat it my son doesn't even think to ask for it at this age.

post #5 of 65

My older son will only wear cotton knit pants or sweatpants. I'm not going to force him into jeans or khakis to suit some fashion ideal when it will cause him a ton of stress. If he needs to "dress up" I'll gladly let him wear a pair of knit cargo pants and everyone is happy. Food is very different. Pringles and kool-aid have basically zero nutritional value and can therefore cause quite a bit of harm to a growing child's body. They're also quite literally addictive! A child doesn't know any of this, he just knows they taste good. I feel it's my duty as a parent to educate him and to set limits when he's not able to do so himself.   

 

It's not my job to "control" what my kids eat, but it is my job to help them understand that some food will make them strong and healthy (we call it "growing food") and some food tastes good but does nothing good for your body. They do not have the knowledge or life experience to make every food decision, and I don't think it's fair to THEM to ask them to do so. So I primarily keep healthier food in the house because if left to their own devices, both my boys would live on potato chips, apple juice (though they do let me water it down considerably) and chocolate.  Most of the time though, they try to live on fruit and (organic or at least nitrite free) deli meat. :)

 

Concrete advice - if you don't want your kids to eat it, don't expose them to it, or just don't bring it into the house. My kids don't drink soda. In our house it's a grown up drink, like wine or beer. I don't feel like we're depriving them of anything except long-term health issues. There is no joy in feeling like crap because of the food you eat.
 
Edit to add: My boys are 5 and 3 and we have major food allergy/intolerance issues. As they get older I'm sure we'll revisit this topic quite a bit, but I'm hopeful that with a strong knowledge base they will be able to make good food choices on their own.

 

post #6 of 65

So yeah, if you truly embrace this principle of trust and freedom then you let them eat pringles.  

 

You give them the tools and the freedom to make their own decisions.  Do you have to rush out to the convenience store and load up on junk food so they can experience that at age 3 and 8 months, uh no.  Is there a time or age in which you should do that.  No not really.  But you let life come your way and as their world expands, so do their experiences.  No reason to have a plan.  It more important for you to have your principles and allow your children to develop theirs.

 

So you do not want soda in the house, and you may not want to load your cart with it.  But one option might be that they have an allowance and they can choose to buy soda with their own money.  Or maybe they won't like soda.  Or maybe you can make natural soda at home that they like.  No reason to sort on the particulars right now.  If you try to find win-win solutions you'll be able to sort out these things as they arise.  

 

I would be careful about find value or redeeming qualities in things.  Measuring everything and applying rules or guidelines based on those judgement is simply more control.  

 

But all this said, I've haven't ever seen any unschooler, radical or not, apply these things the same.  You take what works and we all do what we think is the right thing.  For me it's letting go of control, and letting my child develop on her own terms.   And as you can tell I would rather talk about the big picture, because once you start doing that and applying it, the particulars sort themselves out pretty readily.  

 

post #7 of 65

NAK

 

i would think that you would only but good food and your children could free range eat as they like. in order for a child to eat only koolaid and pringles they would have to be supplied that by the parents.

 

i don't think there is any need to 'control' them they just eat from the choices they are given.

post #8 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by lurve View Post


At what age do I start exposing them to this? The people on the list said by my not exposing them to this I was depriving them of "joy."  I have a hard time with this.


 



thanks 





Hmmm. I think perhaps you are misinterpreting. We definitely unschool food, my children are 4.5 and 18 months and neither of them have ever tasted pringles or kool aid. It's just not (yet) in my family's culture to eat those things. Well, to be fair it's not really in my country's culture to eat kool aid, I'm not even sure where we could get it from. If they came across those things somewhere and then requested them well then we'd try to find them but there's no onus on me to introduce theto as much junk food as I can (my own chocolate habit is enough redface.gif)
post #9 of 65

I know I only have so much control but i don't buy processed foods because they are expensive.  My kids do eat some junk but they make it themselves-- mainly cookies and brownies-- and yes there are a few days where that seems to be the only thing they eat.  I just try to have the healthy things they do eat available too.

post #10 of 65

I think that you do not have to BE a "radical unschooler" if it does not feel right to you, or align with your personal beliefs about life.  It's OKAY to choose your own path.  :)

I think that I pay much less attention to "labels" now than I did in the past.  I'm not even sure we could accurately label our current lifestyle. Certainly not Radical Unschooling, as I am coming to understand it, although educationally, we do Unschool. 

post #11 of 65
Thread Starter 
I think I might take off the radical unschooling cape and just become a Naomi Aldort groupie. She just seems more in tune with food and media.
post #12 of 65

They are not talking about unschooling, they are talking about unparenting.

 

Sometimes, with these unparenters, I wonder if their child wanted to walk across a busy high way or jump off a cliff or rob a bank, if they would just sit back and let them. Seriously.

post #13 of 65

I agree with not being sucked in to the labels.

 

You don't want introduce your kids to Kool Aid and Pringles any more than you want to introduce them to cigarettes just because "you don't have control." If that makes you not an unschooler, fine. You are not, by the way, crazy. Some people may disagree with you, but you're not missing anything. You already have your own values on food and you should feel free to stand firm.

 

As for the unschooling group, I'd say either drop out or bite your tongue on food stuff. They already have their values and opinions, and they are just going to feel attacked by yours - you're not going to change their minds. There is already a culture on that group, and you decide if you like it enough to participate or if it just doesn't fit you. Likewise on MDC, people who come in and bash people's choices to homebirth (or whatever) are not being constructive, they just don't fit in. There's nothing wrong with not supporting homebirth, but there's just not much good that would come of someone criticizing a group that does support it.

post #14 of 65

I think even when you wander through most web pages of "unschooling gurus", there's a fair amount of reasonableness about what you decide to expose your kids to.  I think a lot of people get caught up into looking for and applying a dogma and really you have to feel out what works for you and your family.  I feel like I'm as unschooly as I can stand to be and aspire to keep moving in that direction as I manage to work through my own stuff.

 

What works for us at this moment (except when I have chewing gum freak outs shy.gif) is that the kids (2 and 4) have free range of what's in the house, which is super healthy.  However, anything that comes into the house from another person gets treated the same way.  When we are with other people, the same (however, I've asked my MIL not to go out of her way to offer jello and gummy candy... if the kids ask, it's cool).  When we go to the store lately, they know they can pick out a treat that is within our budget... just like I can't afford to totally go wild with great wines and seafood, they can't go nuts with chips, cookies, etc.  However, I do appreciate that they are curious and I can make room for a treat or two.  So far it hasn't been so difficult because they don't really recognize a lot of things that would be labeled junky.  I also explain frequently how their bodies need variety.... in terms of both food and activity.  This may not be very RU, but it's the way that works best to get them to check in with themselves, eg. "You've had a lot of banana.... does your body need anything else so it has all the things it needs to help you grow and learn?".  Same for activity.  And I think it's really important to walk the talk... if you don't want your kids to have a lot of exposure to something, don't indulge yourself. 

post #15 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by bobandjess99 View Post

I think that you do not have to BE a "radical unschooler" if it does not feel right to you, or align with your personal beliefs about life.  It's OKAY to choose your own path.  :)

I think that I pay much less attention to "labels" now than I did in the past.  I'm not even sure we could accurately label our current lifestyle. Certainly not Radical Unschooling, as I am coming to understand it, although educationally, we do Unschool. 



This.

 

Personally, I feel that the reason children have parents is because they need them as providers, guides, and protectors. So, no....I don't buy into the whole "complete freedom" thing that RU espouses. There is a whole gray area between "controlling" a child and "complete freedom." I don't care for extremism, no matter which way the pendulum is swinging.

post #16 of 65

 

Quote:
 I do not allow anything in the house that I wouldn't want my children to eat.  When we go out to eat or at other people's houses, I let my children eat what they want. We talk about the choices and how it affects their body.  And that these are treats.  

I have e no opinion on whether you are failure at RU winky.gif but I wanted to say that this is a very healthy approach to food!!

 

We do the same in our house.  No food is "off limits". Any and all food in our home is available to everyone at any time.We are all free to make whatever choice we want when we are hungry. I don't short order cook but make meals pleasing to all (ie: I love brussel sprouts and no one else does so I on those night I make 2 different veggie). And if you don't want it you are welcome to make yourself something else

 

However I don't sweat it when we are out and about.  If we go to party and there is food I wouldn't serve I keep my mouth shut and let my son make his own decisions. The occasional serving of Cheetos, processed sugar laden snake cakes, cola etc will not cause any immediate harm and are so not worth an argument/major discussion (to me). 

 

We do talk about the effects food as on your body, how you feel after you eat something, what companies do to make their food more attractive.  We do a lot of label reading in the grocery store.

 

Now that he is 9 he has own money to spend and he can spend it as he wants (I think I posted a while back that it took all my control to not say anything when he chose to buy bright orange Halloween sno-balls! grossedout.gif)  But I also managed to keep my mouth shut when he barely ate one of them and declared he wish he bought the Pokemon cards instead!

 

So i just want to say, IMHO, you are doing a great job!

post #17 of 65

I want to add that unparenting and unschooling are not the same thing, in that, you can send your child to school even, but refuse to parent your child at home and you are still an unparenter. Long ago, the only unparenters were generally drug addicts and such, people who just could not handle parenting because they were too strung out and such. Now days, though, I see a lot of people who just either do not know how to parent so they don't try, or they think that being their child's friend is better being a parent (although, they usually regret this by the time the child is 16).

post #18 of 65

My children were raised in an environment that allowed to  the food they wanted so long as we had it. (We often didn't have a lot over the years.) That means that we did not demonize or put foods in good or bad categories. What we *did* do was explain from day one what food's many purposes were in the ways that young kids could understand. So there was talk about how they saw us put fuel, water, oil, antifreeze, washer fluid in the cars. These were things that helped the car to run properly much the same way different foods contributed things our bodies needed to "run". We learned, mostly casually and sometimes more focused (as unschooling often goes!), about nutrition, sugar, natural vs non, fats, etc. Perhaps most of all I wanted to share that I believe it's fine to eat some processed and "junk" foods, but I shared that when those are the main part of your diet your body isn't getting enough good fuel and that's going to make the 'car" run rough in a number of ways.

 

 So when my children were 3 or 5 and they asked for chips or cookies I said, "yes" and handed them a bowl or a few cookies. Them asking doesn't mean you hand them a huge bag of chips or an entire bag of cookies. There's always a developmental component. I don't think it would be necessarily kind or respectful TO the child to hand them 35 cookies and call it good if they do not yet get why eating that much of almost anything at once isn't such a good plan. So you don't invite them to disaster so to speak.

 

Something cool we often did was make our own healthier versions of crap food. It was almost like a dare with my Ds. He was sure he'd never like the homemade version better, but he almost always did... or at least as much. Even now they will occasionally say, "I bet we can do that better...." 

Of course we also ate the real crap food too, so there's that...banana.gif

post #19 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lisa1970 View Post

I want to add that unparenting and unschooling are not the same thing, in that, you can send your child to school even, but refuse to parent your child at home and you are still an unparenter. Long ago, the only unparenters were generally drug addicts and such, people who just could not handle parenting because they were too strung out and such. Now days, though, I see a lot of people who just either do not know how to parent so they don't try, or they think that being their child's friend is better being a parent (although, they usually regret this by the time the child is 16).


Yes, there are people who send their kids to school and unparent. There are also unschoolers who unparent. That doesn't mean all unschooling is unparenting. It means that dysfunction and crappy parenting exists across the board.

post #20 of 65


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by 2xy View Post


Yes, there are people who send their kids to school and unparent. There are also unschoolers who unparent. That doesn't mean all unschooling is unparenting. It means that dysfunction and crappy parenting exists across the board.


I agree. And...I get really riled up when people try to substitute the word "unparent" for RU. Someone who is making an informed decision (which may or may not be the one we'd make, and may or may not end up being good for their children) is a far cry from someone who is so dysfunctional as to be unable to even consider their children's needs. I may not agree with letting a young child dictate the grocery list, but I have a lot of respect for those parents, who are making thoughtful decisions and truly trying to do what's best for their kids. Who am I to say it is or isn't working for them?

 

With that said, I happen to believe personally that kids cannot regulate their intake of junk food because we are not evolutionarily equipped to deal with a virtually unlimited supply of highly processed fats and sugars. I myself can easily polish off a dozen cookies in one sitting without even realizing it so I don't limit the stuff when it's around - that would be hypocritical. But I don't bring home junk food except on rare occasions (all things in moderation, lol), treats at home are almost always homemade, and we have regular conversations about nutrition, food marketing, etc.

 

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