Blissfully Informed Hippie Chick

Encouraging people to think critically about everything.

Radical Unschooling and Food

on May 1, 2015

I’ve read a lot of posts in unschooling groups and on unschooling websites that say you cannot have any rules for your child (other than life-or-death safety rules) in order to call yourself a “radical unschooler”. You must allow them to watch however much TV they want, sleep whenever they want, eat whatever they want, etc. Personally, I think these can be life-or-death situations, just not in the immediate way we usually think of them. I think there are peaceful, respectful solutions to moderate these (and other) situations, without encroaching on the rights of your children as humans with free will. You don’t have to set arbitrary limits to guide your children to make choices that won’t be detrimental to their health, physically or mentally; whether the detriment is effected immediately or over the course of many years. I will get around to addressing the other issues at some point, but for now, let’s talk about food…

First off, if you’re like almost everyone, you have at least an idea of how much money you can spend on food per paycheck. Let’s face it, your funds are limited. You only have so much left after rent/mortgage, utilities, gasoline, insurance, and toilet paper. I have 4 kids to feed. That’s a lot of mouths! And they eat a lot.  If I let them choose what to buy at the grocery store, I have no doubt I’d be buying at least $100 worth of junk food each week. At least. I simply cannot afford $400 extra per month for crap. And that’s just what it is, crap! The problem with junk food (chips, candy, ice cream, etc.) is that it’s all full of empty calories.

Empty calorie foods offer no fiber, vitamins or minerals that our bodies need to feel satisfied and perform properly. When foods are processed, they are stripped of nutrients and high amounts of sugar, salt and fat are added…If our diet consisted solely on soda, white bread and candy, we would constantly feel hungry. Highly processed foods are often over eaten because they have no fiber and satiety. Fried foods, chips and candy may temporarily fill you up but just an hour or two later you will be hungry again because they offer little protein, fiber and nutrients that the human body needs.

This is why so many people say “but I can’t afford to buy a bunch of fruit and vegetables!” Well, no, you can’t afford to buy both junk food and fruit and vegetables. Because if you are supplementing a mostly processed food diet with some fruit and vegetables, you’ll still eat a whole lot of dollars worth of empty calories every day, with nothing to show for it except poor health. On the contrary, if you cut all the processed food from your diet and only buy whole foods (fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, meat, etc.), you will feel full with much less quantity, and you will be healthier!

Now, that’s not to say that I just buy whatever I like and my kids have to deal with it or starve! I am always thinking of what meals and snacks I can make that they will be happy to eat. I can’t please all of them all the time, but I do always have snacks around. And I never force them to eat anything I make. I encourage them to try everything, but I don’t try to coerce them into it if they don’t want to. I don’t mind if they pick out just the meat or rice or whatever to eat. I will readily list alternatives if they say they don’t like what I’ve made, or are still hungry. I never force them to eat if they aren’t hungry and I never disallow them to eat when they are. If the food I’m making will be ready soon, I communicate that to them and let them decide whether they can wait or not. And when we go grocery shopping, if they say they want something like yogurt or cereal or cheese, I almost always oblige. I even ask them what we need when making my shopping list. I feel that this is no different than I would treat guests staying with me for a time. I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy them junk food, but if they expressed to me that they had certain food preferences, I would seriously take those into consideration when making my purchases.

I might add that my older kids have had ongoing discussions with me about food for a couple years now. Ever since I began researching food, processed food in particular, I have been honest and open with them about the changes I’ve made. I’ve told them what certain ingredients really are. I’ve told them what’s in fast food. I’ve told them what “artificial” and “natural” flavorings could be (since those are trade secrets, no one really knows for sure, besides the people who concoct them…and they sign oaths of secrecy). We’ve watched documentaries about food together. They’ve watched me read labels in the store and do research online. And now, they read labels, too! They don’t want me to buy certain things. However, they have their own money that they earn or are gifted. They are allowed to spend it on whatever they choose. My nearly 9 year old chooses to buy candy often. She knows full well what’s in that candy. But it’s her money, so it’s her choice to make. At least I know it’s an informed choice! But that’s part of my original point…the money I spend on food isn’t their money. Ultimately, it belongs to my husband and I; and while I am considerate in how I spend that money, it’s still my decision in the end. I have read recently that some radical Unschoolers give each of their kids some “free money” to buy whatever food they choose, and I have considered implementing a similar system. Although, I don’t see anything wrong with our current one at this point, so we’ll see.

Now, as for the reason I say that allowing children to choose to eat whatever they want is actually a life-or-death situation, consider this: nutrient deficiency is a very real problem. When people fill up on empty calories, devoid of the vitamins and minerals our bodies need to not just survive, but thrive, they are most certainly suffering from more than one nutrient deficiency. Poor immune system, memory problems, muscle aches…these are just a few of the negative health effects that can be traced back to nutrient deficiencies. ( Yes, your kids could survive eating nothing but packaged cookies and chips. They may even appear to be healthy. Eventually, though, that diet would lead to serious health conditions, and possibly even kill them. ( I wouldn’t let them drink chemicals from under the kitchen sink, and I won’t let them put the poisonous nutrient-deficient, chemical-laden “food” they crave into their bodies, either.

At the risk of an outcry of “that’s not radical unschooling!”, I’m going to go ahead and say again, you can moderate food choices and be a radical unschooler!


4 responses to “Radical Unschooling and Food

  1. We have a very similar approach. Sometimes when I feel a bit of conflict of wills, I try to think of how I would feel if the situation were reversed. If I was unable to buy or prepare my own food, I would want the person who takes care of me to respect my feelings and preferences, but I wouldn’t expect them to cater to my every whim either. Reminding myself of this converse of the relationship I have with my children helps me to remind myself how to respond to requests.
    Another way I feel one can be consistent with radical unschooling while also insuring a healthy diet is simply not to bring things into the house that you aren’t ok with your kid eating. For example, my kids have never had Doritos, not because I am always refusing them Doritos, but because I have never brought them into the house, so they’ve never asked.
    I am with you that it is a life or death issue. As children, they are forming their tastes and relationship with food that they will carry with them through their life and that are very hard to change later on.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re exactly right, we stopped bringing certain things into the house, as well. Unfortunately, we used to eat very unhealthy diets, so they know what all those junk foods are. And they got a lot of them at grandparents’ houses, too. So in our case, education is essential.


  2. Your thought is clear and original. It stands on its own, without needing approval from Unschoolers or anyone else. So, I wonder why you would seek to have your thinking labeled as belonging to or identified with a codified movement. True and radical thinking and behavior is beyond any established concepts, labels, programs, causes or movements. True and radical thinking explores information and ideas from all of these, then dives within for information and guidance from Universal Source-Intelligence and uses all information received in the creation of completely new ways that are uniquely adapted to the situations to which they are applied. True and honest, radical thinkers will always pay homage to the sources from which they have learned valuable lessons with acknowledgment and gratitude. They will also acknowledge with gratitude the sources for successfully disseminating valuable knowledge, not because it is new to them but because they believe it is knowledge that serves the conscious evolution of humanity. For this, I acknowledge the Unschooling movement with immense gratitude. However, I choose to refrain from identification with the name Unschooling, as I do from any other labels and names of movements, because I prefer communion with Universal Source-Intelligence and living at the leading edge of conscious creation. – With love from a thinker riding the light-waves on the leading edge of the infinite ocean of creation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your very well-thought out comment! I generally would agree with you on all the points you have made. The one caveat I have is that in eschewing all labels, we are less able to communicate our ideas with the rest of humanity. I feel compelled to share my ideas with others via this blog, in order to inspire them to think for themselves and always actively seek information, rather than accept what is handed to them. I feel that in order to do this most effectively, I need to be able to at least identify the labels which are actively used to describe the things I write about.
      This post was a response to others I have read regarding “radical unschooling”. For those who seek that label, I wanted to open their minds to the idea that what “all” radical unschoolers say it “should” look like doesn’t have to be the only way.

      Personally, I don’t live in the box. I do, however, occasionally reach inside and try to help others find their way out of it 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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