It's the time of year when everyone starts thinking about warmer weather and sunshine, and my mailbox fills with catalogs from seed companies. I'm always a fan of involving the kids, so I got to thinking...
Homeschooling isnít all academic. In many regards, itís a lifestyle choice, with parents also teaching their kids the practical how-toís of daily life. Years ago, it was expected that children would learn to cook, sew, feed the animals, chop wood, etc. These days most kids are locked indoors with stark fluorescent lighting and ďtaughtĒ what they need to know from books. Living life is something to be done later, after school hours. Homeschooling is different, because while kids can learn from books, they can also learn by doing. And learn they do!
Such a basic life skill as growing food ought to be taught to everyone. If you donít garden yourself, itís time to learn along with your kids. You wonít need a nutrition curriculum
because one of the best homeschool resources is right in your backyard!
Something is Terribly Wrong
Letís face it: our food supply is less than perfect. Itís full of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). Much of our food is transported long distances, even from other continents, to be sold in our stores. These transportation costs add to the prices we pay at the grocery store, and pollute our environment in the process.
Weíre feeding our most precious resource, our children, meats and dairy products that are commercially-raised on grain, hormones, and antibiotics. Our kids eat genetically-modified produce drenched in pesticide and eggs from chickens raised in giant buildings, never seeing the outdoors. And itís taking a toll.
The kids of this generation are the first whose lifespans are expected to be less than their parents. There are record numbers of overweight and obese kids in this country, and type II diabetes has reached epidemic proportions. Our kids consume excessive amounts of sugar each day, most of it from soda and processed foods. Autism rates are incredibly high, and food allergies, which were once a rare occurrence, are now quite commonplace among Americaís children.
Clearly, weíre doing something wrong. Clearly, our children deserve better. Surely food isnít causing every problem our children suffer from, but just as surely, it isnít helping our situation either.
Whatís the Solution?
Itís really a Back-to-Basics approach. The best way to know what youíre eating is healthy is to GROW IT YOURSELF
. Think about that for a minute. If you produced your own food, youíd know there were no pesticides on the lettuce leaves, and that your eggs came from chickens that spent their days happily pecking in the grass. It may not be possible for each of us to grow everything we eat, but every little bit helps.
The next best thing is to know the farmer who raised your food, whether itís milk or beef or a bushel of tomatoes. Buy from farmerís markets and build connections with farmers in your area, or join a CSA group (community supported agriculture) to get fresh produce at the best prices. Start a community garden in your neighborhood Ė it works!
Other options would include planting a fruit or nut tree, or berry bushes in your yard. If you donít want to plow up your suburban lawn, or if you live in an apartment, consider growing a few container plants on the patio or in a sunny window. Compost your kitchen waste. Share your extra zucchini this summer with the neighbors. Teach sustainability by doing it, and most importantly, explain to your kids why this is important, because it IS important.
Itís not magic. There is no secret. All you need is time and patience, and a willingness to learn. Teach a child to garden, and theyíll never go hungry!