Category Archives: Unschooling Food

Dreaming of Colder Weather

This week has been all about coping with the extreme heat we have here in London.  We’ve been wistfully thinking about cool autumnal days and snuggling under blankets ;).

We even got our Christmas tree down from the loft this week (I can imagine your horrified faces).  We had good reason though: M is hand-felting a fairy for the top of the tree and we need to measure the top branch.  The fairy is coming on – she’s spending about an hour a day on it and has so far finished the head and is halfway through the torso.  As with most of M’s projects, she cries every time she does it but continues to plough on anyway…  She’s one determined girl!

We’ve been playing Minecraft together a lot: I have yet again made the huge wooden house from the Minecraft Construction book for D – this must be the 5th time I’ve made it now!  D keeps calling me in to her new house for ‘meetings’.  They’re very formal and don’t have a lot of point.  M has started a new world in survival mode (the much loved ‘Babbaville’ has got a bit boring now) and we’ve all been helping out in it.  I think she loves it mainly because she found a snow biome in it which reminds her of Christmas. 🙂

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We had our friends over for 2 days this week.  Apart from a bit of playing in the pool, there was much more indoor play this time due to the heat.  They had a great time playing Terraria together. 🙂

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We’ve watched Maleficent a few times this week and it’s now M’s favourite film.  D was unsure at first and watched with half an eye while listening to Stampy, but she watched it properly yesterday and seemed to enjoy it.  There were lots of questions from both regarding the motivations and feelings of the characters.  I love how they learn this way.

I’ve been wondering lately whether M is eating enough iron as she complains of being exhausted so often.  She did try eating more iron-rich food but we both kept forgetting.  Then a friend recommended a natural iron supplement so I suggested it to M and she said she’d rather change her diet.  So I’ve put a list on a kitchen cupboard of all the food she loves with the iron content alongside and she chooses what to eat to reach the 8mg she needs each day.  It’s working very well!

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Unschooling Food – Our Progress

I’ve been struggling with food lately, having a bit of a wobble about it in fact.  I find it very hard to juggle all this strewing I need to do in order to be an effective unschooler.

It’s easier (apart from the dinner battles) to dictate meals and restrict sugar intake but it didn’t really work for us: M has always had just a few meals that she appreciated but they seemed so limited (think pasta and pesto and fish fingers 5x a week!); and D was similar with her limitations – she would eat lovely balanced meals but very few of them.  But my biggest issue was how much they both revered chocolate and would place that above all other food!

So my plan is/was to place chocolate on the same plateau (pardon the pun) as other foods.  It’s been about 6 months or so since we began unschooling food and so far it’s been partially successful.  M’s diet is slowly expanding to include different kinds of meat, a couple of fruits, almond milk and other wonders.  D is the reason for the wobble: she must have eaten chocolate wafers for 90% of our recent French holiday (the other 10% was olives, phew).  When we got back from France her diet has been 90% Cadbury’s Flake and 10% Nutella on toast.  I had hoped we’d be out of the chocolate bingeing phase by now but it seems not.

I want the sausages to be totally in touch with their bodies’ needs.  I can teach them all there is to know about nutrition but if they want chocolate, they want chocolate.  I am not going to tell D not to eat so much chocolate as I think she’d probably want it even more.  I don’t want her to feel guilty about eating it either.  I’m trying to remove all emotion associated with food (except joy!) so that the sausages grow up without any dietary issues that so many people have.

As is the way with unschooling, you have to unpick a lot of your own issues for it to be really effective.  I’ve found it really helpful to mentally remove all guilt from my chocolate eating habits.  Strangely, I found it very easy!  I can now eat chocolate in front of the sausages at any time of day, rather than sneakily stuffing it in my gob after they’d gone to bed. 🙂  And now I feel less guilty about it, I actually eat less of it!  Recently, I went on a ‘cream binge’ and I must have got through 3 or 4 pots of it (poured over strawberries) in a fortnight until my appetite was satiated.  I like to think that my body was telling me this is what I needed so I went with it… and it felt good!

So I’ve been working on making other food more attractive: I’ve bought some brightly coloured party platters which I plan to leave out in the lounge for the girls to graze on; and I’ve been putting platters out near where they’re playing.   Over the past few months I’ve become quite lax about monkey platters, partly because I ran out of ideas and partly because I don’t seem to find the time to organise them.  So I’m trying to get myself and the girls enthused about their food again by providing them with a range of easily accessible food, that looks tempting to eat.

One of D’s major food issues is that she won’t readily try new foods.  I’ve been baking various goodies to tempt her into a bit of home made food (even chocolate based food!) but although she’s happy to help me bake, she won’t eat the finished result.  I hope that by putting various foods out that she might not necessarily ask for, she’ll get used to the sight and smell of them without any pressure to try.

I am confident that we’re on the right path, but when you wander down a road that not many travel on, I guess it’s only natural to have a wobble now and then.

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Our First Monkey Platter

OK, so if you don’t know what a monkey platter is, imagine a buffet of various foods, all on one plate – that’s what it is.  It was named and devised by Sandra Dodd after she saw monkeys being fed in a similar way while she was at the zoo with her family.

I hadn’t really paid much attention to monkey platters until someone mentioned it on Facebook the other day and it got me thinking of how it might encourage the sausages to eat/try a wider variety of foods.  Since beginning our unschooling of food 6 weeks ago, their appetite for Nutella has most definitely waned and they now seem at ease with the chocolate supplies (they can eat it whenever they want, and however much they want) so there is less gorging.  Now we’re at a strange phase where they might be hungry but quite often they haven’t got a clue what they want to eat!

I was mulling over how if I combined the sausages into one, they would have the most perfect, balanced diet you could wish for – D eats a whole range of dishes but is very suspicious of new things, whereas M is very limited in what she eats but will try anything new put in front of her!  As always… chalk and cheese :).  So I thought a shared monkey platter might encourage them to look each other’s food choices and perhaps eat something different.

So when we got back from pottery class today, I didn’t even ask them if they were hungry, or what they wanted to eat, I just rustled up a few things with each girl in mind, put it all onto one plate and announced it with a ‘ooh, who wants to come and see what I’ve made?’.  That was it.  Gobbling for the next 10 minutes.  The first thing D did was put a vegetarian frankfurter into her mouth and say ‘actually they’re quite nice’ (she’s been refusing to eat them forever) and M ate most of the chicken which I’d actually put out with D in mind and ate all of the peanut butter on toast!  Wowsers.  Next time I do one I will double the quantities I think.

Before… (corn on the cob, vegetarian frankfurters, breaded chicken, tuna mayonnaise and peanut butter on toast)

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After…

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A great success, non?!

In other news… the sausages took great pleasure in beating me at Ludo this evening…

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And apart from going to pottery today which they still LOVE, they were busy making birthday cards for their favourite Aunty S!  M did an absolutely stunning collage with some fabric scraps that I bought her from Ebay but unfortunately I forgot to take a picture before sending it off.  Ahh well, enjoy it Aunty S!

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Life Got In The Way

Sorry for the lack of posts recently but life got in the way!  We’ve only been doing the usual activities but my evenings have been spent doing other activities (reading Kids, Carrots and Candy, for one) and I have been decorating our hallway and landing every weekend for the past six or so weeks (nearly finished, but starting on kitchen next).

Our days have been spent in our usual routines.  I do wonder how I ever did semi-structured home-ed as again, life seems to get in the way!

Lots of cards to various friends and family members are frequently being written and drawn (as I write they are both beavering away preparing cards for our builder who is here today).

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The girls continue to enjoy their weekly pottery class in Clapham.  D brought home her first creations last week and here’s a photo of them.  The bottom piece is a comet!  The teacher was praising them both last week, particularly commenting that D is wonderful at story telling as she works.  I have a feeling that for D it is all about the process whereas for M it is all about the end result (chalk and cheese as usual :)).

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With our unschooling approach to the girls’ education, they are given a free reign to play as long as they like on computers and watch as much telly as they like too.  M’s particular favourite game at the moment is Minecraft which she is probably spending 1-2 hours a day on.  D is also quite interested in it and M is very generous with her time: advising her sister how best to build things and ideas on what to do next.  They both prefer the ‘creative’ rather than ‘survival’ game as it’s a bit less stressful!

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Our unschooling approach has already spilled over into food, which is why I’m reading ‘Kids, Carrots and Candy’.  I’m learning to ask if they are ‘hungry’ rather than ‘what would you like for dinner?’;  We don’t have meal times anymore – they eat only when they are hungry; and they can eat ANYTHING (within reason, I’m not going to start making Bolognese at 6am) at ANY time of day.  They are learning to recognise when they are hungry and what their body is asking for.  I am also learning to listen to my body too!  For the past two days my body has asked for a fresh fruit smoothie rather than dinner and it has been extremely satisfying to give it what it’s asking for!

So far I have resisted letting the unschooling approach spill over into bedtimes (i.e., letting them decide when to go to bed) because I value my alone time in the evening so much.  I only get half an hour to an hour in the evening anyway but it is very precious to me!  However, you’ll see in the previous picture that it is rather dark and the two sausages are refusing to go to bed because they are doing something ‘extremely important’.  When they are playing so nicely together it seems a shame to spoil their fun!

We went to Garson’s Farm a few days ago and met our friends there from  3 Kids and a Gluestick.  The girls especially loved picking raspberries and strawberries but the heat got too much for them eventually and we had to leave earlier than planned.

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M has decided to continue doing ballet classes with her school friend, T, and they’re currently rehearsing for a show in October of Alice in Wonderland. D decided she didn’t want to do ballet after all so she sits with me and does an activity book while the class is on.

We’ve been to D’s swimming class (M didn’t even want to get in the water this week so it was a short visit) and D swam her first length unaided!!  M and I were whooping and punching the air on the side :).

One of the many perks of HE is that you can get discounted entry rates to most attractions.  So yesterday, J took the day off work and we all went to Legoland!  We had such a lovely day and the weather was perfect.

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There have been lots going on inbetween all this of course, including chess; draughts; making a clock; drawing; learning about the world; learning about mucus in ‘The Sound of Mucus’; reading book 2 of ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’; listening to The Enormous Crocodile and Matilda audio books in the car; watching various films including The Artist, Tinkerbell & The Pirate Fairy, Peter Pan and Coraline; and playing outside in the garden!

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Minecraft

M is hooked!  And unfortunately so am I…

I’ve been hearing the benefits of Minecraft for a while now but I wasn’t totally convinced until I overheard an HE boy chatting about how you make tools and bronze and lots of other things.  I assumed he’d been working on a pre-historic project at home his knowledge was so indepth.  I tried to get the girls interested in the stone age but to no avail so I was listening intently to this little boy.  Turns out, he had learnt it all from Minecraft :).

Since we’ve been unschooling I’ve learnt not to place some learning resources above others (learning from the telly is just as valid as learning from a book, for example) so I figured Minecraft might be an interesting way forward.

Since I don’t have a very powerful laptop, I installed the Minecraft Pocket Edition onto my tablet and let M loose on it – she loves it!  She isn’t confident enough with computers to click around and figure things out by herself so I’ve been trying to figure it out alongside her which has been alternately infuriating and engrossing!

We also did some baking yesterday and made a delicious Malteser Fridge Cake, which we ate for coffee time.  The girls haven’t eaten Nutella for 2 whole days now!!  They both got very excited about boiled eggs at lunch yesterday (?!) and were intrigued by the different colour shells and yokes.  I have even moved all the chocolates and sweets from their hidden, inaccessible places to a shelf they can reach and NOTHING has been touched!!  I think the chocolate spell may have been broken after 1 week of food ‘unschooling’?!  Could it really be true?!

This is what D requested for her dinner last night :).  M had custard for dinner but she had chopped hazelnuts with it so really not too bad at all.

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A few other things before I go, I gave the girls a little game to play while I ate my breakfast yesterday – how many drops of water can you get onto a penny:

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D also had her swimming class and we all went for a swim together too – I didn’t last as long as the girls though and had to get out after half an hour because I was so cold.  Luckily I can sit on the side in a towel and get on with some work – the girls would stay there all day if they could! We also did our workbooks beforehand.  M is still happily enjoying MEP and D is working her way through some Biff Chip and Kipper activity books.  She’s also asking to do Reading Eggs again – hurrah!

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Why is the Sky Blue?

This was the question D asked at 7am yesterday morning!  Luckily, we had our latest Aquila magazine on hand to answer the question.  This pointed us in the direction of this link here.  Where Brian Cox explains the answer in 6 minutes – wonderful!  Definitely worth a watch.

We tried to replicate the experiment and managed to make a lovely sunset but couldn’t get the blue sky working at all.  Ah well, D then wanted to play with the torch and we began making shadow shows from behind the closed curtains, inspired by this video here.

We were quite hungry by this point so we had some breakfast.  While eating porridge, D started saying the beginnings of the 3 times table!  She got a bit stuck at 4 x 3 so I got some chick peas to help her out.  Honestly, that girl is the most unschooled of the lot of us.  I love the way she sees no difference in playing with Lego to ‘playing’ with her times tables.

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Then she wanted to put the chick peas into odd-numbered groups.

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And this was all before 9am!  M appeared downstairs at that point so we decided to make our own chocolate mousse.  While we were waiting for it to set the sausages had a play in the sunshine.

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The chocolate mousse wasn’t much to write home about but I was impressed that it had one raw egg per serving so it was pretty good nutritionally!

The girls’ eating habits are really not too bad at all.  Nutella is still eaten a lot of the time but there are quite a few other bits and bobs being eaten too.  Yesterday I decided to do a chicken roast dinner but to serve it buffet-style rather than loading their plates up beforehand.  D ended up eating TONS of everything – broccoli, roast potatoes, chicken and yorkshire puddings whereas M ate two yorkshire puddings and said she was full.  I find it fascinating how erratic their appetites are throughout the day – so far I haven’t spotted any pattern to it.

As we were in Wimbledon this morning, we had a look around M&S to see if they fancied choosing anything for themselves – D was more interested in pretending to be a puppy but M chose a couple of veggies.

When we got home D asked for more of yesterday’s chicken while M had a sausage and tried a spring onion.  She ate most of it with some Pizza Express dressing and then said she didn’t like it!

A couple of interesting observations – I am eating more since starting the buffet-style dinners, and I’m eating more variety, and eating more puddings!; Also, I think I must have had quite tight control on the cupboards before as now the girls can see what food is available to eat, they’re definitely eating more and my cupboards are emptying faster! So, unschooling diet = bigger food bill = bigger waistline (mine) = happier children.  All good… 🙂

We’ve had a MASSIVE shift in deschooling this week for M!  She is now reading to herself for 1-2 hours every evening after I’ve said goodnight to her at 9pm!  I am SO pleased because it’s taken her a year to want to read (to herself – I read to her everyday) since leaving school!!!  If both the sausages become enthusiastic readers I will be one happy Mum.

Just a last note to say we had a great time at the Science Museum with friends on Tuesday.  We were there for quite a few hours and only managed to see a small amount – we all want to go back soon!

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Little things: I’ve been reading Where Did I Come From? to D recently and I forgot to add in my post about the LEA visit that D was loudly telling the man how she was born: “And I came out of my Mummy’s…” and there was a long pause while she thought and I was silently WILLING her NOT to say ‘vagina’ but thankfully she said “…tummy, head first!”.  PHEW.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trust Sausages…?

If you have been reading this blog for a while you’ll know that over the past few months we’ve changed our educational style from semi-structured (with me teaching) to autonomous (with me facilitating).  It’s working rather well I think, the sausages are engaged, the desperation for things which may have been restricted a little before (telly/tablet) is starting to wane and I’ve subsequently found myself becoming more intrigued by unschooling methods and wondering whether they could be applied in other aspects of our lives, namely FOOD.

This weekend I decided (after discussing with J)  to do a MAJOR overhaul of the sausages’ diets.  Their diets aren’t the worst in the world: D has quite a nice range of food throughout the day although she eats Linda McCartney sausages and potato waffles 5 nights a week; M has a VERY limited diet and eats the same 5 foods for weeks on end (currently peanut butter on toast, cornflakes, salami and breadsticks) until she gets sick of something and starts eating something new for the next few months.  M’s saving grace is that she will taste almost anything new, most of the time it is rejected as disgusting but she is brave to try anyway.

I (almost) never ask them to eat something they don’t want to eat (I slip up when feeling desperate that no veg has been eaten in a while); I never say ‘eat this and I’ll reward you with this’; and I don’t use food to comfort them.  All pretty healthy ways to view food?  But still, I get groans if I restrict chocolate/biscuits/crisps and groans if they get a vegetable on their dinner plate.  That is not what I want for them: I want them to be so in touch with their bodies that they can think “what do I feel like eating today” and know that they’re eating what their body needs.  I want them to view eating chocolate in the same way as they might view eating an apple, for example.  I can’t help feeling that if chocolate/biscuits/crisps aren’t restricted then they will lose some of their appeal, in the same way that the telly and my tablet has.

I’ve been reading John Holt’s How Children Learn recently and something he said really struck a chord with me:

“Trust Children”

I do trust the sausages to a certain extent, I now trust them to know what they need in terms of their education.  So how about trusting them to know what their bodies need?  Over the next few months J and I will be giving the girls the freedom to choose what they want to eat.  And by that, I mean total freedom.  I have been given a few ideas after posting a question about food and unschooling on Facebook.  The ones that I think will work for us are:

  • Take the girls food shopping and let them choose a few items for themselves
  • Have a range of food out ready for them to choose and graze from
  • Let them forage for food (a bit far fetched for me but I think they’d love a ‘pick your own’ farm
  • Cook and bake more
  • Give them a ‘stash’ of their own food, perhaps a space on a shelf, with a range of food to choose from including some junk food (eek!)
  • Offer food I would normally restrict, as well as what I would normally offer

I have also been recommended to read a couple of books:

I have to say, I am more than a little scared by this new strategy and I feel it’s an enormous leap of faith, much like deciding to home educate.  I will be posting regularly on our progress so if you wish to see how we’re doing please follow me or link up on Facebook!

On another note, but linked to trusting them more – I let them both help with the decorating today – they did really well for their first attempt!

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