Some of you may have noticed the slow down in new articles on this site. The reason for this is that school has started and we are home-schooling this year.
We have four years of home-schooling experience under our belts, but things are different this year because we are using a publicly-funded home-education program which has a specific set of assignments and standards that must be met. The time we spend each day on these tasks is very consuming, unlike the more free-structured, independent home-schooling we’ve done in the past. It may sound like we were slacking off before, but the reality is, my son was far ahead of his class both in his first and second grade years at regular, public school. First grade we were dual-enrolled which means that half our day was spent at home and the other half he was in the classroom.
My motivation to home-school stemmed from my own dissatisfaction with school as I was growing up. I often felt either isolated or unhappy – a sentiment felt by many people. I felt unchallenged by my classes. When I finally had a child of my own, I looked back at my experience and wished there was something better for him to look forward to. I hoped to foster a love of learning at a much earlier age than what appeared in me during my childhood.
When second grade came around, I thought a change might be good to allow him to make friends in the neighborhood and become accustomed to being in an environment that was essentially away from home without ever really being too far away (the school is only one block from our house). I hoped he’d make friends, gain independence, and have a good “at-school” experience that would enrich his life. The school is a small, neighborhood school with an intimate, close-knit group of people. I wanted him to be a part of this and have the benefits of knowing children from around the neighborhood so that he’d have kids to play with and grow up with.
In his first grade year, he became close friends with a little girl in his class. They were inseparable and shared the same love of creativity and imagination. My son often commented that the activities and games the other children played at recess were dull and uninspiring to him – dodge ball, tag, and soccer. He and the little girl had a special connection. I began to understand that while he intensely disliked organized sports, he loved being active and moving around. His favorite physical activities are climbing, bicycling, and swimming. I made efforts to cultivate those interests and skills by enrolling him in gymnastics and swimming outside of school and taking advantage of our close location to the Boise foothills, by hiking and biking frequently.
During the entire year spent home-schooling half time, it became apparent that my son and I were butting heads a little too often. I wondered if it was time to enroll him in public school full-time, just to see what would happen. I assumed this would be a positive change for him, and that maybe he and I were spending a little too much time together – we were arguing about school work a lot. He had at least one good friend at school as a foundation, and he would have the opportunity to become close with other children as well.
But what happened over the course of the year was really quite disappointing. Most days I had to drag him out the door to go to school. Often we’d spend more time arguing about being late, and he’d end up in tears (sometimes me as well), and he wasn’t making the friends I’d hoped he would. As with most of the kids at school, the little girl he’d spent all his time with during first grade was starting to play only with other girls. I observed the boys and girls to separate out into groups, which left my son alone with no one to play with since he had not formed any type of connection with any of the boys in his class. Children were not seeking him out to be their friend on the playground or in the classroom. Instead, my son was spending most of his time wandering around at recess trying to find children to play with (he claimed that no one would play with him).
I’d ask him if he ever made attempts to ask the other children to play or join him in one of his favorite games. His response was always that everyone else was already engaged in some activity and wouldn’t break away to play with him – that no one wanted to do anything besides an organized sport or a game he didn’t like. I explained that sometimes in order to find friends you have to compromise and play something you are not especially fond of, but then later you could suggest a game or activity that you like to your new friend. Another problem was that he was being bullied by a girl in his class, who from my own observations was always nasty and negative to everyone she came into contact with – and the teacher never seemed to notice nor do anything about it, even when I brought up the subject.
I thought for certain this episode would pass. His persistence in the idea that no one wanted to play with him did not wane over the course of the whole year. I continually reminded him he needed to stay in school for the rest of the year to see if anything changed, and then at that time we’d assess the situation and decide what to do. Many times I had conversations with the teacher and the counselor to try and remedy the problem. The responses I received were mostly that he was doing just fine whenever I was not around, and that a great deal of his problems were likely due to the fact that I was basically around too much and not allowing him to gain badly needed independence.
Finally at the end of second grade, it became evident to me that we needed to do something different. My husband maintained that our son should just go back to school and deal with the hardships, and that it was just part of life. I reminded him that he did not have to deal with our son’s bad mood and negative attitude everyday as I was the one taking him to school, picking him up, and delivering his lunch. Each and every day our son was developing a more negative attitude toward school and school lessons. It was evident that what was occurring was detrimental to his outlook about education.
Choosing to home school
For several weeks we discussed available options. Enrolling in another school away from our neighborhood didn’t seem to be a good solution. In the end, I decided to return to home-schooling because I wanted to give our son something to look forward to again – to not feel left out everyday, isolated, and bullied by those who weren’t being policed for their bad behavior at school. I wanted him to love learning and be in a loving environment where he felt valued and cared for. I knew he did not feel the way he should in the public school where he had spent his first and second grade year because he was inherently unhappy about all the experiences he’d had since his first day of school. As an added bonus, two of his dearest friends (two sisters) were already enrolled in the state program we wanted to become involved with – and we could spend time with them doing activities and lessons.
I had some feelings of ambivalence about starting to home school again – for one, I knew this time around it wouldn’t be as easy as he was older and the curriculum would be more challenging both for him and me. I also had resentment about the negative experience my son had gone through at school. Why couldn’t my son have friends and fit in like the other children? After all, he is bright, has a good sense of humor, and is very social. So what was the problem? What was happening was essentially this – a child that was once fearless, gregarious, and willing to take chances in social situations had now had his spirit squashed by other children to the point that he was beginning to develop issues of self-confidence and doubt – emotions he had not been acquainted with at all at the start of his first grade year.
What’s going on in public schools?
Some years ago my mother used to talk about the children at the school across the street from her house and how they’d run around and scream like animals on the playground all during their recess period. I figured my mother, being retired, was bored and just had too much time on her hands. But one day as I was out in the yard watering the plants, I listened to the sounds of the kids at the school one block away as I had often done so many times before. In the past I had heard those sounds and thought nothing of it. But this time it occurred to me as I stood there remembering all those times my son had cried and lamented about how much he disliked school that maybe there was a reason for the screaming and tearing around at such speed.
From being a food-conscious parent I know first-hand how under-nourished and poorly fed most children are. At one time, my own son was in that category because I was ignorant and didn’t know any better. I now know that many behavioral, social, emotional, and physical problems occur as a result of poor nutrition, and that this factor is one of the most overlooked in our culture. I realize that children like to run and play and have fun; that’s just part of being a kid. But it dawned on me that maybe the reason the kids are so hyped-up on the playground and exhibit some of these outwardly aggressive and malicious behaviors was due to the fact that they are going into the lunchroom and getting loaded up on industrial food - high in refined carbohydrates and unhealthy fats, and then are being sent out to play. Let’s not forget that in general, the food they consume outside of school probably isn’t much better.
My son actually doesn’t display much of the kind of behavior I see in these other kids. He is very sensitive and emotional, but he also has a very highly-developed sense of justice and fairness, and has a low tolerance for other children not playing fairly or nicely. I’ve also noticed another startling difference – my son doesn’t really get hungry between meals. He likes snacks here and there, but mostly he eats his breakfast, lunch, or dinner and gets full. I believe it’s because the meals he’s eating are nutrient dense and satisfy his hunger and nutritional needs.
You’ve heard parents complain that their kids are eating the house down and are always hungry, right? Maybe it’s because they are not making every meal count with nutritious food, and are eating nutritionally-empty foods that don’t satisfy or satiate hunger. Once again, we are reminded that food has an enormous impact on our well-being, emotionally and physically. It’s something that simply cannot go without affecting all facets of our lives.
How does all this affect health and health care?
Which leads me to the next subject of health care reform and the food industry. I can’t help but think how greatly impacted our children will be by the decisions made in Congress and the local legislatures about health care reform and its intrinsic connection to the food industry. When law-makers leave out the critical components of health care reform:
1) preventative measures
2) education about prevention
3) insurance coverage of preventative health services, and most importantly
4) changes in the way our food industry is allowed to grow, manufacture, distribute, and sell food
they are overlooking the most significant issues that are affecting health care and our health – and any changes made to the system that don’t include these will be for naught.
The way our food is grown and processed and the food we eat makes an impact – socially, physically, spiritually, and
environmentally. Ask yourself, would you make a conscious choice to eat meat from a facility like the one in the picture?
Or would you rather know the food you are eating and feeding your children is raised in a healthy, wholesome environment? What are the repercussions of eating food raised from industrial sources?
So, I urge everyone reading this article to contact your local legislature and congressperson be contacted and communicated with about these issues. They are so important! Even if you don’t have children, please consider the impact a health care reform plan without these critical components will have on our future. It starts with the lifestyle people maintain and the foods they eat – plain and simple.
If children are eating garbage at school every day and then going home and eating more garbage, what possible chance do they have of looking forward to reasonable health as they grow up and continue on into adult life? The answer is, our health care system will continue to favor surgery, drugs, and expensive procedures all because it is not actually geared toward preventative measures that work and actually change the condition of health of the individual. The way we do things now lines the pockets of the drug and industrial food industry – and they are making billions upon billions of dollars off our ignorance and lack of education.
To the current system, preventative measures include things like screening for breast or colon cancer with a mammogram or colonoscopy – two dangerous procedures that can actually be harmful to your health. If cancer is found – what’s the solution? Normally it’s toxic drugs and invasive surgery. If the cancer is removed and the person survives, what’s to say it won’t recur?
Ultimately, cancer can return again and again unless something fundamental is altered – lifestyle habits. But how often do you hear of someone’s doctor telling he or she to eat a truly healthy diet replete with traditional, nutrient-dense foods or to be certain to get enough sunshine and outdoor exercise? All the advice I hear about is usually involves some artificial replacement for real health maintenance – taking synthetic vitamins, going to a health club, eating low-fat foods, or being remiss about emphasizing real, sustainable-produced foods.
If you really want to make changes in our health care and food systems, for ourselves and our children, it all starts with us as individuals – spreading the word, maintaining web sites, contacting our decision-makers in the government and letting them know how we feel and that we won’t accept a health care reform plan that doesn’t tackle the real issues and make an impact on what’s been going on for so many years.
Republican, Democrat, Independent, Libertarian, Green Party, or to whatever affiliation you belong, it’s your duty as an American Citizen to stand up for what’s ethical and moral – make a difference and help to change our health care and foods systems – which go hand in hand, on the basic levels. As with many other things, it starts in local communities and in our schools. Make your voice heard!
For more information about health care reform and preventative measures, read Is Reactive Medicine Cheaper than Preventative? and ACTION NOW! An Open Letter to the President and Other Decision Makers Regarding Preventative Health Care.
For more information about school lunch initiatives, read Changing the Face of School Lunches and Your Voice can Make a Difference in the Way Children Eat School Lunch.
For more information about the food industry, visit the Food Inc. web site.
This article is part of Food Renegades’ Fight Back Fridays Carnival. Please visit this wonderful site and read all of the real food posts there.