Saturday, January 10, 2009

Teaching "Health" to Children

Probably most of you know that I teach my two youngest boys using the Calvert School curriculum. They're in 4th and 7th grades, and it's a delight to teach using these well designed courses. All of the books they use, whether Calvert designed or published by other companies, are child friendly, colorful, in depth, and just plain nice. One of the things I like about these courses (aside from the fact that they give me manuals telling me how to teach the information, which I really need!) is the parent forum, in which parents ask questions and give each other ideas. Invariably, each summer, when the majority of people are ordering their courses for the next year, there is great discussion over "Why doesn't Calvert have a stand alone health course?" Well, well.

Personally, I've never thought schools were supposed to teach health to children, and I've held this opinion since I was in school. Once they taught me the "4 basic food groups", I was good to go. I understood that larger people need more food, and smaller people need less food. Gee, what a concept!

Anyway, Calvert
teaches basic health and nutrition in Science. Each year, they teach a little more, in a bit more detail. But really, the child learns his health information at home. I'm not referring here to the function of muscles, for example, which this textbook covers very well, or the organ systems. I am referring to personal health and nutrition, and I think these belong in the home. I have always had a rule: dinner must include meat, complex carbohydrates and two veggies, one of which must be green. My children routinely recite, when asked to select two veggies, "One of which must be green!" And, other than on rainy days, I have always thrown them out in the yard for hours on end. Indeed, my little guys will go out after breakfast, come in to collect a picnic basket full of food for lunch (including some for Thor), and just spend the day outside if it's not absurdly cold. Balanced diet and exercise program which is just "having fun". What else is there to teach? Hygiene? Again, not the school's job.

I do overall like Calvert's approach. As the child gets older, the information in the Science book becomes mo
re in depth. And I agree with Calvert's unstated position that they teach the basics, but it's really a parent's job to teach the child to live right.

I dislike the fo
od pyramid. Really, that thing says "You have to eat stuff. We won't tell you how much." What's wrong with 3 servings daily of meat, fruits and veggies, starches and dairy products? If we remember that Daddy eats more than Mommy because he's a foot taller and weighs 90 pounds more, then everything is good. In my trusty old Reader's Digest cookbook, from a tag sale when I was 14, there are charts for how many calories males and females of various ages and heights should consume, and that's the best information anyone can have.

Well, I've ranted. What do you think?


Paula said...

Oh my gosh, Marjie, I just posted a thing related to the food pyramid myself. Great minds think alike! :-) I'm not a fan of the pyramid, especially the way they promote grains which are unfortunately modified and fortified to the hilt. I prefer the plate method which is basically the same thing that you were talking about ... meat, greens, fruit, carbs. Some things cooked and some things raw (like salad and fruit). Regarding schools teaching such things, I like a balance between home and school. I like the kids to learn the textbook science of why things are good for you, plus the common sense and actual application taught at home. Sadly, more and more kids spend less and less time at home and also eat the majority of meals away from home. It's just so obvious that if you eat healthy, you give you body a fighting chance to stay healthy! :-)

Lakeland Jo said...

at school my teenager gets something called life skills, or some such. It teaches them about sex,drugs, health and safety, ethics, nutrition, weight management, interpersonal skills, global warfare, the environment, diversity....... end result: he knows more about life than mum and dad.
He even says: 'mum are you watching your units?' when he sees me uncork the wine. Sigh.

Tatersmama said...

Do you really want to know? Because some of this may offend someone...

It's not up to our schools to teach manners and brushing your teeth and how much of what you should have for breakfast, lunch and dinner... because that's a parents responsibility. Yes, the schools can give general info and some reinforcement, but I think that too many parents are relying of the school system to provide ALL the information and knowledge that children need and they're(the parents) taking less and less responsibility themselves.

I know a woman who asked the local minister, "when are they going to bring back religious instruction in the schools - because the f***ing little bas***s need to be taught some manners!"
And this was in FRONT of the congregation!!

I was going to go on and on... but I'm afraid this could turn into a rant, so I'll shut my mouth here.

Anonymous said...

I have always been against the food pyramid and feel it is some government program that ensures grain farmers get their share. It's bizarre, I mean the amount of grains they want is too much. Grains are used to fatten animals...gee and I wonder why this country is obese.

La Cuisine d'Helene said...

I'm glad I teach my teenage boys how to eat good food and healthy.

Congrats for teaching your kids.

pam said...

I kind of like the Mediterranean and the Asian food pyramid, but I don't much care for the USDA one. We have health at our school, and unfortunately, I think alot of kids don't get taught the basics of health and hygiene at home.

Breezy Point Mom said...

Oh, and this country is obese because high fructose corn syrup is cheap and ubiquitous!

Breezy Point Mom said...

Oops - somehow I deleted the entire first part of my comment to you, and now I am too tired to reconstruct it. Good night!

Unknown said...

You are very right. When I was raising kids, we explained all those things at home: manners, activity, good balanced food. In fact, when the girls were little, they used to think yogurt was dessert! Hope you guys had a happy birthday celebration. g

Naptime Seamstress said...

Rant on!! :) I agree, Marjie. That's just one reason I want to homeschool my cherubs, too.