The Role Diet Plays in Learning
© Beverley Paine, Mar 2002
My children never cease to amaze me. Not academically, not in any particular skill, ability or talent; but simply in how different their lives are to the one I lead as a child and young adult. When embarking on this great home education adventure my ambition was to help my children develop sound self esteems and strong self confidences. My kids are not bursting with self esteem or self confidence, but they aren't plagued by the crushing guilt, negativity and depression that dogged my early life.
I've always thought the reasons I had such a shaky start were due to the way I was parented, with all the 'bad' things reinforced by the school system. Both areas in my life convinced me grades were everything. If you could succeed in the artificial world of school you had it made! There were good things I pulled out of my first twenty years - the good and bad make the foundation upon which I am built.
I have found out more recently that allergies and food intolerances have a much larger role to play in determining the mood and pace of my life, and how I think about myself. Very few people understand that food is made up of chemicals, and the brain and body react to chemicals, in a way similar to drugs. Normal foods, like cheese, have a disturbing effect on me - mood altering affects. I get grumpy, disagreeable, then depressed.
So I am very careful to notice what my children eat and how it affects their day and their physical well being. I am not so quick to blame them, or their lack of ability, in any sphere of their lives, until I have looked at how the food they are eating may be affecting how they are acting. It isn't the whole story with problems that arise, but I have learned from my own experiences it is a start.
The weather, too, has a large part to play in determining my children's behaviour and responses. Hot, humid days, very windy days, overcast days... these all affect children's behaviour and ability to learn. Stress, in any form, physical, illness, emotional, over socialised or stimulated, tired - all of these can adversely affect learning. For some, allergies can play a large role, as can agricultural spraying of chemicals or high pollen counts, messy or untidy home or rooms, even the full moon (don't laugh - it does have an affect on behaviour), and other subtle influences that may not seem so obvious.
I also look at my parenting techniques - am I off base somewhere? Have I missed a cue, misread body language, am I letting my own emotional turmoil colour my responses to my children? Am I stressed? Is there something going on in their lives I don't know about - am I paying them enough attention at the right time, in the right way?
Thinking like this has made me more tolerant, and given the children a chance to be fully human, not automated skills acquisition machines or depositories for enclyopedic information like I was supposed to be as a child and young person! And life is a lot less stressful... and learning is more fun!
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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