For the past year, we’ve been home schooling our kids. Our eldest started off her formal academic career at a local school that has a long tradition of excellence. It really is a great place… a great community.
That being said, for a number of reasons, we chose to pull our daughter out for the past year. Is it a permanent decision? I doubt it. We just needed a break. Some of the reasons were fairly predictable, like the rising cost of tuition in a ‘tough economy’.
But, the number one reason we elected to remove our daughter from school was Nutrition-based. And the secondary effect that the nutrition issues were having on my stress levels!
I have the scientific view point that our nutritional choices DO matter. What we put in our mouths will have an effect physiologically, mentally, emotionally, academically… it matters. What we feed our children now most certainly does have a direct effect on their future.
Does this mean that I strictly feed our kids broccoli and Brussels sprouts for every meal? No! Does it mean that they never have “tasty toxins”? No! What it means is that we do our best to feed our bodies what they need as building blocks for health every day. We meet the innate genetic requirements for health.
We say, “fill up with Health first!”
Our bodies need real whole foods in their closest-to-naturally-occurring form, as opposed to fake factory foods. We need healthy protein and fats, vegetables, fruit, and pure water. According to many leading nutritional experts, we don’t genetically require grains or dairy, therefore these are not high on our list of things we fill up with first, or consume in excess.
We also need foods that are as pure as possible (and preferably fresh, seasonal and local), as opposed to toxic and tainted. These are the types of foods that we know create health. Pure and sufficient – meaning, our bodies genetically require them and we get enough of them in order to create health.
There’s a figurative “Scale of Health” at work all the time. On the far right is Optimal Health. On the left is Lack of Health. We are constantly moving in one direction or the other – towards health or away from it. What determines the direction of movement? Our lifestyle choices – how we eat, how we move and how we think.
When we make pure and sufficient choices in the types of foods we eat, for example, we move toward optimal health. When we make nutritional choices that are toxic and deficient, we move away from health. Every time. This is how we get sick and develop chronic illness over time, like cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, learning and attention deficits, digestive disorders, depression and anxiety, and so on.
Based on meeting our nutritional requirements for health, meals in our family, for example, typically include a healthy protein (usually grass-fed or free-range meat or poultry, or deep cold-water fish, or free-range eggs) and plenty of fresh veggies or fruit. The dairy we consume is organic, and raw whenever possible. Occasionally, we’ll have some ‘healthier’ grains, like wild rice or some sprouted bread. We don’t make these foods the center of our meals or snacks.
The greatest nutritional culprits that rob us – and especially our children – of the opportunity for vibrant health and function are the toxins like: high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and colors, trans fats/hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats, synthetic vegetable oils, soy, refined white sugar and flour, and of course, all the drugs and chemicals used in our conventional food supply (hormones, steroids, antibiotics, etc.).
These common toxins are found most commonly in conventional snack foods, junk food and candy, fast food, pop, juice, sports drinks, condiments, conventional meats, eggs, dairy, grains… and so on. Does this sound like the diet of any young person you know?
Here’s my sticking point. I really don’t care what other people feed their children. That’s their right as a parent – they get to make the decisions on behalf of their children until the children are old enough to competently do so for themselves. Where it crosses the line for me is when it affects MY child. I certainly don’t think it should be brought into the classroom and offered to all the kids.
We have no challenge understanding that when a child has a sensitivity to peanuts we need to keep the offending food away from that child. Do you not think that every child has a sensitivity to toxins like high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners (known neurotoxins), trans fats, artificial colors… even sugar?! We just may not see the full effects of those toxins as obviously or as quickly as an allergic reaction to peanuts. Although, ask any teacher how kids perform and behave after consuming sugar! What’s this garbage doing in our classrooms? And why is it the adults who are putting it there?
We would be appalled if we discovered that teachers or other parents were handing out drugs to our kids without our knowledge – like pain killers or antidepressants. Yet we forget that food affects us like drugs do: foods change our physiological function, as well as our mental, emotional and social function. For this reason, I don’t think we should be feeding other people’s children without their permission.
As a parent, I am responsible for the health and safety of my own children. Why is it socially OK to feed someone else’s child a known toxin? Strange times.
In the school setting (as well as other social settings, like sports and extracurricular activities), I can simplify things by saying, “Stop feeding my children, especially if you didn’t ask me first!” Look, this is good news! You can save your money – you don’t need to offer my kids any junk! I’m their parent, so I’ll provide them food! (And, quite honestly, if anyone’s going to feed my kids junk, it’s going to be me! I know them, I know their patterns, I know how to teach them about portions and samples, I know what has gone into their bodies earlier in the day… I’ll decide when they can handle a dose of toxicity!)
A school is responsible for the education and safety of my children while they’re there. I don’t expect – or want – a school (or other adults) to make my health decisions for me!
We’re (inadvertently) teaching our children about consequence-free living. They can make unhealthy choices, but since they don’t feel the symptoms of the precursors for chronic illness setting in, it must be OK. That’s dangerous thinking. That’s also why well over half of our population has been officially diagnosed with a chronic illness – this includes children. Countless more have yet to be diagnosed.
I certainly don’t believe that parents, teachers and grown-ups are purposely, maliciously making unhealthy decisions for our children. I believe that the average adult has very little understanding of proper nutrition. How could they? What we’ve been told to believe is inaccurate and unscientific… but highly profitable. Most adults are also so busy and stressed out that they don’t have the time or energy to perform careful cost/benefit analyses on the foods they feed their families.
If we knew the true cost of feeding our children toxic junk, the true cost of not feeding them healthy foods, and the lifelong benefits of correcting this pattern of eating, I believe more adults would make significantly better choices on behalf of children. We have to be willing to look at the true costs, though.
When it comes to all the sugar, sweets, fast food, kids’ cereals and snacks and so on, I hear, “It’s a normal part of childhood” and “You’re depriving them of something that’s fun and normal”. Since when is poison normal? How is limiting their toxic intake depriving them? Isn’t it the opposite? Offering an abundance of toxic choices on a regular basis deprives children of the opportunity for a fully healthy future.
I don’t say “You can NEVER have those sweets or that junk”. I do say you need to make certain that you give your body what it needs first, and understand that the toxic choices will move you away from health, so it’s not wise to make those choices with any regularity. There are limitations of matter, and we’re seeing what happens when we exceed them. Childhood diseases of lifestyle, like childhood obesity, diabetes and cancer are sky-rocketing.
So, we’re back to square one. Part of me would love to send our children back to the nurturing community of this particular school. But I simply can’t turn off all that I know. I can’t knowingly put my children in an environment, every single day, that fails to understand the consequences of unhealthy choices, and that regularly uses toxins as “rewards” and “treats”. That type of thinking is just too dangerous to accept.
Something pretty significant would have to change – like no junk without parents consenting. That seems simple enough. Then again, I may be setting expectations that a school shouldn’t have to meet. I just don’t feel that the school setting should be a place where kids go to get sick. It’s warped.
I’m fully aware that this is how the majority of our society thinks, too, “So how will your kids ever function in the ‘real world’?” you’re asking! I’m working on that! Let’s not conveniently overlook that the “real world” we’re so pressed to fit into has also produced devastating trends in sickness… so I’m not really enthused about forcing my children to fit into that unhealthy mold! There’s something not-quite-right about that line of thinking for me.
I’m doing my best to teach our children how to make healthy choices the vast majority of the time, even when mom and dad aren’t present, and how to enjoy their social settings responsibly. (In many ways, it’s no different than drug safety, gun safety, fire safety, sex education, childhood predator issues… all the other things we hope our children are making good choices about when we’re not there to guide them.) It’s a work in progress!
They’re “normal” kids in the sense that they’re aware of what’s out there and are convinced that the grass certainly must be greener on the other side. They’re pretty sure I’m the only mother on the planet who requires her children to eat healthy foods! “Just your luck!” I tell them!