Saturday, May 15, 2010

Radical Unschooling, consumerism, sustainability and toxic food.

I am absolutely an academic unschooler. But am I a Radical Unschooler? I guess kind of sort of (you can read the difference here) but I struggle with giving my children total autonomy in a few areas.

Food is a big one. My daughters have total control of how much and when they eat. They have "non breakfast" foods in the morning if the mood strikes them. I can fill their requests for sweet, hot, crunchy, salty food etc. But I will not regularly bring toxic food into my home. I am not comfortable with setting an example that eating a lot of there sort of pretend foods (I mean highly processed food that is void of nutrients)are an OK way to treat your body. When we are at someone else's house or at a party where that sort of food is available then I don't stand in the way of their choice. It's been hard to do that too. I used to and I still make alternate suggestions (especially to Willow who has trouble processing all that junk without tantrums). We also eat processed food here from time to time and there is choice in how much and when to eat it.I can't come at watching them poison their bodies daily with "food" that is designed to be addictive and that I personally think their bodies have no chance of natural self regulation. We also boycott Nestle. An explanation of The baby milk boycott is here but they also are still know users of palm oil in their products which is causing the destruction of orangutan habitat. We as a family are not going to support Nestle-we explain to the kids why we don't. Tannah recently saw a small piece of footage on the plight of the orangutan and was upset by it. This led to a discussion about palm oil.

I'm not OK with commercial television. My children have access to DVDs (I think the whole TV issue is another topic for another day). I don't think sexualized music videos (check out the latest Miley Cyrus or lady Gaga) or ads aimed at young children telling them they need this new thing or that beauty comes in one shape and look is appropriate. Watching "The Story Of Stuff" changed my life. I think keeping young children away from advertising until they are old enough to have the themes and tactics explained to them is helping them become conscious consumers. We are a family that tries to tread lightly on the earth. We try to buy as much as we can second hand or hand made and try to avoid toys and clothes made with toxic materials, often by children about the same ages the companies are selling to.

I don't feel I need to fit the RU label. I do feel disappointment when I read books or blogs by authors and families I admire when sustainability doesn't seem to factor into their RU lifestyle. I think it is more important than ever to be aware of things like food miles, hyper-consumerism, GE foods, insidious marketing to children, sexualizing children and factory farming. I think I can offer my children plenty of autonomy and self direction in their lives without compromising our beliefs, health or our way of life.


Flowerchild said...

I'm a fairly new reader, but I'm really enjoying your blog! This one was very informative. I've been trying to make similar changes to our family's lifestyle before my son gets too old and we have more children. It's really hard with a husband who comes from an extremely materialistic family. We're getting there though.
Sometimes it's really overwhelming, all the changes I want to make. I'm trying to do it one step at a time.

jonni said...

Yes, I agree - I think it comes down to knowing the difference between control and guidance. I was very controlled as a child, yet received next to no guidance. Control takes less effort and forethought.
My kids are now 11, 9 and 6, so they need even less control but a whole stack of guidance!!

anastasia_wolf said...


Mary Beth said...

"I think I can offer my children plenty of autonomy and self direction in their lives without compromising our beliefs, health or our way of life."

wow, I could not have said that better!
We also do not provide toxic food in our home but like yesterday, at a bridal shower, I let them eat what they wanted and I am always so surprised and pleased to see what my 4 and 6 yo choose to eat, they skipped the junk for bowels of fruit salad :)

We also do not do TV, but they do watch DVD's and netflix...

We are unschoolers, but not really radical either.

Sarah said...

I was so happy the day that I realized that I didn't feel compelled anymore to give myself a label. When pushed, I call myself an unschooler because that is the most used term, but I like 'Whole Life Learners' better, even if it does sound a bit pretentious.

Then, in the world of unschoolers, you're expected to narrow yourself down even farther. When pushed on that, I'll say we're 'radical unschoolers', but feel no shame if I don't fit the mold of a 'pure' radical unschooler.

I'm with you on the food thing. Completely. We let our kids try things that they want to try, but processed foods are not a regular item in our house. When the kids *do* try out new things (whether processed or not) we talk about what's in them, where they come from, what their likely effect on the body is ... knowledge is power.

We don't have tv because we simply don't have time for it, so it's a non-issue.

I have seen some things come across my radar that I would limit or refuse if my children were older - those horrible Twilight books being one. I have a 13 year old niece that has some messed up ideas about love and romance from those books because her mother loves them and saw nothing wrong with letting her little girl read them.

I just found your blog and I really enjoy it

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