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Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Kimi & Shaun - On Top of the World!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Living with our Unschooling Principles

It's one thing to say "we're radical unschoolers", but how do we live our day-to-day lives with those principles?  It can get tricky - we all have those triggers, those "lines that shall not be crossed" in our minds.  Remembering to use our unschooling principles can get lost in the scripts that run in our heads.

Here's an example from my life.  I prefer to buy organic & locally-grown food whenever possible.  When I first started feeding Kimi solid foods, I either made it myself or purchased organic baby food.  It was extremely important to me that she eat the safest, purest food possible.  And so long as I made the grocery shopping decisions, it was never an issue.  But a funny, & predictable, thing happened on the way to Whole Foods - my kids started to choose their own food that they wanted to buy.  And it very often wasn't organic, or local, or even all that nutritious.  Doritos, Cheez-Its, Yodels & Pop Tarts suddenly graced my pantry shelves.  I didn't like it.  I didn't want them there.  They were polluting my sweet children's bodies with strange chemicals & preservatives.  I really wished the kids didn't want them.

So, I would "subtly" ration them - "let's just get 1 box...we'll get more next time" (& then I would conveniently forget to get more the next time.  And guess what happened - the kids began to value them, hoarding them & fighting over how much each child got.  It wasn't pleasant.

Then, as we learned more & more about radical unschooling, I realized that I had to stop making a big deal out of the food choice our family made.  After all, I sometimes eat "junk" food - & I certainly wouldn't appreciate someone telling me I really shouldn't be eating that.  I started saying "yes" in the grocery aisle more & more.  The kids were free to try different snack foods without judgement or arbitrary limits on quantity.

At first, they had a field day - lots of things got purchased & eaten, yet, they didn't stop eating the healthier foods, too.  They just ate a variety of things.  Sometimes they would binge a bit - eating several candy bars in an afternoon, for example.  But they didn't like the bloated feeling that followed - no more excessive eating of chocolate!

Today, my kids eat a healthy, varied diet that they self-select.  Kimi loves going to the local farmers market with me to pick out local & organic foods.  I continue to fill the fridge, freezer & pantry with lots of healthy yummies.  I also continue to happily buy the ice cream, Doritos & Cheez-Its.  Interestingly, when I buy, say, fresh raspberries they don't last the night, while the boxes & bags of snackie foods last much longer.

When we were interviewed by Good Morning America, Juju Chang expressed disbelief that the kids would choose healthy food if we didn't make them eat it, yet when we were in the Green Room at the studio, Kimi reached right past the chocolate croissants to get some fresh melon.  Look - non-coerced healthy eating!  It really happens!

My kids are healthy teens, rarely sick, & of normal weight.  They don't have any unhealthy attitudes about food or misconceptions about nutrition.  I don't think they would be as knowledgable about their own needs if I had prevented them from exploring food choices for themselves.  Trusting them was the best thing I could have done for them.

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