Thursday, August 15, 2013

food choices and unschooling

I downloaded the pictures off of my camera from the last few days and realized that at least 90% were about food.  Growing it, harvesting it, cooking it, playing with it, eating it.  Food!  (The rest were mostly pictures of owl poop.  I'll save those for a different post :)

My children have a wide range of choices, and very few limits, when it comes to food.  Finances are a natural limit, and the ability to drive to the store or farmer's market or restaurant, but I don't expect them to eat what, when, where, and how much food that I put in front of them.  They are huge participants in the process and decision-making and enjoyment surrounding food.  We talk about nutrition and food sources and bees and hand-washing and spices and refrigeration and soil health and all manner of topics that directly and indirectly impact food choices.  

We plant and harvest veggies, fruits, herbs, and grains from our organic gardens.  We have apple, pear, and cherry trees and a raspberry patch and chickens. We often purchase local, organic food as well, but we also aren't afraid to eat hot dogs or marshmallows or fast food french fries or a doughnut or candy from the gas station on occasion. It's entirely possible to maintain a healthy respect for foods that fuel our bodies and still not demonize 'junk food'.  That seems to set up a weird dichotomy that makes these foods even more desirable, and also to have shame attached to desiring them.  

My eldest daughter chooses to eat gluten-free at least 95% of the time and I support her by keeping lots of g-f options on hand.  She doesn't like the way she feels if she eats gluten, and she can be hard to be around when she feels that way, but she isn't restricted. She has options.  It was, and continues to be, her choice to avoid gluten the vast majority of the time. 

Sharing food with children doesn't need to be about control and limits and stress and struggle.  It can be about choices and taste and beauty and joy.  It can be an integral part of learning about the world at large.

If you're curious about why we don't control our children's food intake, there is a lot of information and links and anecdotes from radical unschoolers about food here on Sandra Dodd's Unschooling site.

The following pictures are all from the last three days.
almost ripe

joy in the garden

nasturtiums, or 'spicy flowers' as Ayla refers to them

digging up potatoes

potatoes and yellow and green beans from the garden 
with local, organic bacon

purslane, one of the many edible weeds in the garden

 squishing and rolling another batch of date 'energy balls' 
with dried cranberries, almonds, flax and sunflower seeds

Besides food, we sometimes play with electricity at the dining room table.

 yogurt with banana, mango, and blueberries

   All of that food energy has to go somewhere.

 We brought friends with us on our third trip to the local blueberry farm this season.  
One way that we can afford to eat well is by buying in bulk and picking our own!

 Sylvia made a huge salad on her own.  Many of the ingredients she harvested from the garden.  Some of the salad was enjoyed at a tea party between a princess and a unicorn.

 three-year old salad eater
 salad and sun drop candies, that is

 Sometimes when the girls are busy, I bring them monkey platters.

 Besides edible garden weeds, my girls have gained quite a bit of knowledge of foraging.
Sylvia knows the difference between edible sumac and poison sumac.

 In this random picture, Sylvia is eating frozen blueberries, tart sumac, and sun drop candies. 
She has a falafel patty by her elbow and organic apple juice on ice.  
Oh, and there's backyard tea in that tiny tea pot 
(pineapple weed, red clover, and mint, this time).

 yellow pear tomatoes in the garden

  Camille was so excited to get a package in the mail.
She had to open it right away.  What could it be?
 She used some of her birthday money to buy a Hydro Dome
(a kit for growing lettuce hydroponically).

 We grew black beans in the garden for the first time.

 nasturtiums, awaiting a soak in apple cider vinegar

 Ayla helped me make honey sweetened whipped cream to go with our wealth of blueberries.

 Camille had a craving for cheesecake.  I happened to have on hand:
gluten free graham cracker crumbs (from her grandma)
organic cream cheese and butter (from the Organic Valley outlet store)
eggs (from the chicken coop)
and vanilla (from the farm market store)
Love it when that happens!  She made it herself.

Camille sliced (and peeled) garden potatoes for home fries and mashed potatoes tonight.
Mmmm, carbohydrates!

Our days are not always this home-lovin' and food-centered, but we all seem to enjoy it when they are.

And, yes, my kitchen is a giant mess right now, but it can wait until tomorrow.  


  1. Love it! We are very into learning about and eating real food here as well :)

    That cheesecake looks fantastic!

  2. We love to grow and eat healthy food, but we also eat and enjoy food of all kinds. After eating part of a box of rainbow Nerds, one of my girls happily picked green beans out of the garden, ate them raw, and said they tasted like candy they were so sweet. I love that without arbitrary limits on food, kids can make great choices and feel good about them!

  3. Wonderful garden! I love the photo of your daughter looking at the nasturtiums. Beautiful!

  4. Replies
    1. Oh and we use muffin tins to hold our pick-your-own lunches, but I never knew it was called a monkey plate!


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