Thursday, November 02, 2006

Sensibly Fussy, the Home Ed Way

With yet more news of the disaster that is the attempt to bring healthy foods to state schools, it's difficult to resist the temptation to link this subject to another ongoing thread in this blog, ie: (as mentioned in the last post,) the problems that stem from the lack of adult input.

The thing is, it takes an awful lot of effort, adaptability, creativity and imagination to provide a healthy diet to kids. Of course Jamie Oliver probably thinks he is very capable in all of these departments, but one thing he perhaps hasn't considered is the hypothesized explanation concerning the increased sensitivity to new food stuffs which children develop as they become more mobile and independent. It is argued that this phenomenon has an evolutionary basis, since all those children who wandered far and wide with indiscriminating taste buds are no longer genetically with us. It sounds like a convincing argument, but it makes for a problem for the take-up of nutritious school meals since it suggests that a continuity of provision of very specific healthy foodstuffs is required - the superfoods with which the child has become familiar before being sent off to school are statistically unlikely to turn up on his plate in a Jamie Oliver-inspired meal.

I find that the healthy foods my children enjoy are highly idiosyncratic and often unpredictable: a high consumption of pomegranates and boiled eggs for example, or ten kiwi fruits in rapid succession, then not much interest for a about six months. Juice containing two carrots, or a juice with 3/4 of a carrot, apparently fiddly, but actually easily managed when only cooking for two children. And we can plan together and shop together, which means we don't waste much - things which again are not easily possible with school meals.

Clearly the solution (yet again) is more adult input the Home Education way, for not only does it solve the problem above, but I also find that it isn't just a question of talking about healthy eating just the once. It is a lesson that occurs and is reiterated daily. Abandoning children to the melee of the canteen will mean that they aren't getting this important information, the incentive or the inspiration to eat healthily.

Personalised learning, personalised eating! We don't expect adults to learn a vast range of subjects that they will never use again in their entire lives and we don't expect them to consume food they can't stand. Yet this is precisely what we ask of our children. Why do we imagine that enforced curricula and enforced consumption of certain foods are a good preparation for adult life? In tailoring to specific needs, we don't abandon children to ignorance or gluttony. It is simply that grown-ups are actually on hand to provide good information and facilitate informed choices according to the specific needs of the individual child.



Clare said...

I don't like the 'healthy eating' message at all - it just really grates with me that they can put programmes on tv with silly children's characters singing about how wonderful it is to eat healthily and to get lots of exercise - if you just left children to it they'd do all that of their own accord! As if a cuddly bear on tv saying 'healthy food is nice' is going to convince a child that it likes healthy food! Why label food as such anyway - if you're children are at home with you, you can stock whatever you want in the house and let them take their pick. My own children will choose a carrot stick as soon as they would choose a chocolate biscuit because they like them both the same and no one has ever made a distinction between the two- it's just not an issue for them!


Carlotta said...

This is exactly my experience when Ds was young...he would eat more or less anything I provided for him, bar minced brocoli. But come about aged 6, I think, he suddenly became very, very particular and would only eat foods with which he was very familiar.

I can't help suspecting that there is some sort of genetic basis for this, given that so many children, (myself previously included), who seem to go through this patch.

Clare said...

Actually, I think there's some research somewhere that suggests exactly what you say. It's a protective thing that once children reach an age where they are more likely to be coming across foods when they are not with their parents (ie. late toddler-hood), they instinctively avoid all foods that they are not familiar with. Some are happy to eat foods that their parents are eating, but most become what we modern parents describe as 'fussy' until they are old enough and experienced enough to be able to evaluate the safety of new foods. It is a protective instinct and a very sensible one when you view it in that light!


ps. Didn't want to reply to comments on my blog post as didn't want to start a debate! But what I was trying to say in my post was that even babies that are 'unattached' will automatically get more of the human contact they crave and need if they are bfed than if they are artificially fed - I see I didn't make that clear enough in my OP now, but can't be bothered to risk a row by reiterating it on my site!

Carlotta said...

Oh you would!

re: Clare's last post re hers...I think you are probably almost inevitably right re the increased level of contact with bfing. My only outstanding fear is that if one did what I did at the beginning, which was to believe that a baby should be trained to wait four hours before the next feed, it may actually have been slightly better to have bottle fed, given the theory that bottled milk sits in the tummy much longer so that at least the poor infant isn't starving and crying out for attention all that time.

These are odd and exceptional circumstances, I know. Just ones that happened to apply to me!

So sorry we didn't make it today. Dd now completely fine, though bicep HUGE!

Anonymous said...

hmm, this is so difficult. I'm often astounded by the very limited choice of foods that children are offered by parents who then expect schools to offer same.

In some parts of Uk 1/3 children are obese. I'm struggling here but if you saw the qulaity of food offered by schools and sent in packed lunches by parents, well it's no choice at all, just processed pap, really

ooops ranting a bit but I have to say I'm with jamie for the most part.

apart from he doesn't seem to understand that his experience of growing up in his parent's gatropub and learning his trade in the kitchens from a young age is so untypical (although a good h.e. experience!) comapred with many people's can't cook won't cook experience. My mum and her sisters in particular seem to associate eating well/cooking with oppression and gave it up for good!

sarah f

Carlotta said...

I agree it is clearly a hugely difficult problem to solve. I personally would hate to have to pack a lunch for Ds and Dd every day, since they don't really like packed lunch type foods much. By the time you've left a ham sandwich squashed in tin foil for a bit, and a fruit salad wallowing about in a tupperware, it just doesn't have the same appeal somehow. I suppose since good fresh food has a tendency to go off quickly, I guess it is quite tempting to pack the processed pap since it probably won't deteriorate so quickly.

I vividly remember having to eat school food that made me want to vomit more or less every meal time, (bar the days they served cheese pie).

Just not an easy problem to solve in school, I think.

Anonymous said...

I think the issue with bad food habits are mostly:

1. Good food is very very expensive in the UK.

2. Cooking traditions are in decay.

3. Candy and other so called junk food is associated with parties, rewards and approval from adults. Kids will want more of that and less of the "nagging" food.

4. The birch is out of fashion, but parents don't know how to share their best theories with their children. There is not much knowledge around in how to do this. Most of the time they are sharing their worst and they don't even know.

Anonymous said...

It is a significant factor that good food is too expensive for many. Quite a lot of families couldn't even afford to risk trying a pomegranate/passion fruit or even peaches (in case were wasted) let alone buy them selves adequate quantities of fruit and veg!

If the government really wanted to help they could subsidise these foodstuffs - items that are due to be even more expensive because of the bad summer - and make it not only a healthy option but an economically sensible one for the supermarket trolley.

D x