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Kale leaves and other things homeschoolers eatPosted Friday, October 19, 2012, at 2:51 PM
Yesterday at co-op while I was eating my loaded baked potato, I noticed that the lady sitting next to me was eating dried leaves out of a baggie and drinking a bottle of brown liquid. A little girl at our table asked what it was and she jokingly told her it was pond water. I would have believed it. She went on to explain that the leaves were dried kale, and the drink was her own special brew of algae and other organic ingredients.
I returned to the kitchen for dessert, and saw a plate of brownies. One of the other moms had a container of brownies and was transferring them to a plate. I started to reach for one and then hesitated. "Wait," I asked. "These aren't gluten-free, are they? These are actual brownies?"
It seems like almost everyone in our group is on some kind of special diet. I've noticed it in other homeschool groups as well. Nut, soy, and wheat allergies. Milk intolerances. Diabetes. We even homeschooled with some kids a few years ago that had phenylketonuria, a rare condition where kids are born without the ability to break down certain amino acids. These kids could never eat meat because it literally causes brain damage. They had to eat a highly specialized diet or they could become very sick.
There are three reasons why I think there are more homeschoolers on specialized diets than there are in the general population. The first is that homeschoolers tend to gravitate towards the home-grown. Many are enamored with all things natural and suspicious of what industry has messed with. Homeschoolers often raise their own chickens, grow and preserve produce, etc. in order to provide a healthier, more natural diet for their families.
The second reason is that homeschooling is a very attractive option for those who have special diets since parents can better control what their children are eating. If a child has a peanut allergy, for example, just being in the same room with another kid's peanut butter and jelly sandwich could be a disaster. Although some public schools have become nut-free zones, it is much easier to create a safe environment and prevent accidental exposure to allergens in a homeschool environment. This may lead to a higher percentage of homeschoolers on special diets as families with allergies gravitate towards homeschooling.
The third factor is that certain fads tend to come and go. Homeschoolers aren't immune to fads. Right now gluten-free is huge--not just in our group, but everywhere. Even Miley Cyrus is doing it. I've noticed that restaurants and grocery stores are offering gluten-free options, too. There have been plenty of other specialized diets that have turned into fads (fat-free, sugar-free, low-carb, etc.) and I believe gluten-free is no exception.
Here's how it works: Mom #1 tells Mom #2 that little Jimmy has behaved so much better since they figured out that gluten was causing him problems. Mom #2 recalls that little Suzy can't seem to sit still and is having trouble reading, so she decides to give gluten-free a shot. A few months later, little Suzy is doing so much better. Now, it could just be that the whole reading concept has finally clicked for Suzy, but the gluten-free diet gets the credit. In an environment where moms have already made great sacrifices for the sake of their children's education, ideas such as this spread quickly. These moms are willing to do whatever it takes to help their children succeed, even if it means drastically altering the way the family eats.
I will admit that sometimes I joke about gluten-free being a cult. I'm not the only one, either. My kids reported that they saw a cartoon (or maybe it was a YouTube video) where one kid says to another, "You're homeschooled? So does that mean you are gluten-free?" I laugh, but I also realize that some kids genuinely do have a problem with gluten. I'm sure they don't think it's funny when they have to eat potatoes and beans while everyone else is eating pizza. So I try to be sensitive.
Oh, and for the record, gluten-free brownies are actually very good. The sugar content will blow your mind, but they are quite tasty. The dried leaves and pond water, though...I think I'll pass.
Homeschooling -- The Next Generation
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