When my son was turning one, we went to Iowa to visit my family. While staying at my sister’s house, my husband brought a Subway sandwich home for lunch one day. He removed some of the vegetables and placed them on the tray of the high chair which my son occupied. My sister walked by as our child’s chubby little hands reached out to enjoy his lunch, and in astonishment said, “I can’t believe how he just eats those vegetables!” Ah, but his nutritional education had begun nine months before, when he was only three months old! As I conducted a cooking demonstration at our church, he slept in his car seat that was placed on the floor beside me, hidden by the table. It was a surprise to the attendees when he suddenly awoke towards the end of the class and let everyone know it with a cry! He may have been the youngest one in the audience, and he may have slept through most of the presentation, but I think the principles of good eating had stuck!
In our home, we subscribe to a plant based diet and try to live healthfully. We believe that God has given us instructions for better living. The acronym NEWSTART sums these up in eight healthy laws of health. Let’s start today with the letter N, which stands for nutrition. As homeschoolers, we can take better charge of what our children eat, because we are with them most of the time. But even better than that, we can teach them the reasons for and benefits of our food choices and how they can pass this knowledge on.
Here are some ideas for incorporating good nutrition into your homeschooling days.
Of course, the obvious way is to feed our kids good food. Our days are busy, but taking a little time to plan and shop for healthy meals is well worth the effort. Attitudes, behavior, learning, physical health, and relationships with God will all improve. Including your children’s imput on the menu plans, letting them help with the grocery shopping, and having them assist with meal preparation are good ways to show them the importance of eating right. My son was only three or four when he asked me to stay in bed and proceeded to make pancake batter by himself, remembering the recipe by heart because we had made it so many times together. Now his favorite way to help in the kitchen is to mix up exotic sauces of his own creation to go with egg rolls, stir fries, etc.
Planting a garden and reaping the harvest makes trying new foods fun. If space isn’t available, some towns have community gardens where one can rent a plot and grow their own vegetables. Even shopping at a local farmer’s market makes produce more appealing. We used to walk to ours each Tuesday, and all the way home my little boy would eat ground cherries, popping them out of their papery skins. Shopping at neighborhood and ethnic markets is always intriguing. Bring something home you have never tried before!
I mentioned my son’s early involvement in my cooking class. Later on he would participate by demonstrating recipes of his own as part of his Pathfinder Cooking honor. This not only reinforced good nutrition, but gave him opportunity to spread the message and gave him good practice in public speaking and interacting with the audience. He would also hold bake sales at my classes. The classes were free for the participants, but he raked in more than $50 with his vegan goodies! His handmade sign with prices was not only a good lesson in writing and math, but a keepsake I cherish.
These days we are planning how to get to the next Pathfinder Camporee in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Those of you who are involved in Pathfinders know there are funds to be raised in order to attend this exciting event. We are thinking of selling homemade food as one of the ways to achieve our goal. My son is helping with ideas of what foods to include in our sales. He has also helped figure out how much our costs and profit margins will be so we will set our prices accordingly — good lesson not only in math, but again involving him in good nutrition, because of course we want to sell only the best food to people, thereby selling our health message along with it.
Measuring ingredients, figuring out serving sizes and costs: all wonderful math lessons. My son loves to check serving sizes on food packages to see how much he can have of a certain food to meet the requirement. It has become his personal joke when it’s something sweet, and he wants to make sure he gets to the serving size to obtain all the sweetness he can!
Letting your child leaf through your cookbooks, gazing at all the beautiful food pictures is a great way to whet his/her appetite for good food. Books or videos from the library explaining how food is grown or made are excellent resources. Field trips to food businesses are even better! Bakeries, grocery stores, farms, food processing plants, etc., usually offer tours. Even the tours that don’t necessarily apply to your lifestyle are informative and fun, a good learning experience. For us, these have included a dairy farm, a potato chip factory, and a candy factory. Apple picking in the fall is a great experience. Look around, and you might find a variety of food festivals. In our area we have an annual veg fest touting the vegetarian lifestyle. We have even attended a garlic festival with friends who live in a small town.
There are so many ways to incorporate good nutrition into homeschooling days. You will be giving your child a great start in life, plus handing him the tools to teach others the wonderful diet plan that God has provided for us. Nutrition, the N in NEWSTART: start with it today in your lesson plans!