Thursday, September 24, 2009

TOS Review: Growing Healthy Homes

Nutrition is one of those areas where families--homeschooling or not-- make a huge impact on a child's habits for life. If you serve healthy foods, your child will eat healthy foods. If you save junk food for an occasional splurge, your children will learn to do that as well. If you yourself make healthy choices, your children will see and emulate.

But the next step, of course, is actually teaching your children the how and why behind the choices that you make--for yourself and for them.

I admit that this is an area where I've fallen short. Like my mother before me, I exercise fairly strict control over the diet of the household. I make the grocery lists. I control the menu. I prepare things the way I want them prepared. You will rarely see an avocado being served at our table because I don't like avocados. Likewise, you won't see soggy boiled vegetables, bags of potato chips, okra, or snacks that come without some nutritional impact (usually protein-based). That's just the way it is ... because I am the mommy. Fear me!

I realized this summer that while I've taken the time to teach Jo how to cook, I haven't gone very far in the area of passing on the deeper knowledge required to run a healthy, happy home. She knows that some families munch on pre-packaged cereal bars, cookies and go-gurts all the live long day and that we, as a general rule, don't. She knows that the aisles in our local grocery store are full of convenience foods that we never touch. But I've never really sat her--or the boys--down and told them why. And that why makes all the difference, doesn't it?

To that end, I am head over heels in love with Growing Healthy Homes' curriculum entitled Nutrition 101: Choose Life! Part anatomy lesson, part cookbook, part guidebook to healthier living, this massive (447 pages, including index!) course is an amazing resource that I have returned to time and again for everything for general information on the body, to the specific role of nutrients, to yummy recipes that my kids love to help prepare.

We are using Nutrition 101-- believe it or not-- as the backbone to an intensive study of the human body. Starting with the brain and ending with the endocrine system, this curricula provides students with a basic introduction to the systems and functions of God's design for us. The text is written as a readable, instructive outline and is followed by a series of questions aimed at both younger and older learners. This is narrative instruction at its best-- the questions aren't simple "Name that part!" quizzes. Rather, they are thought-provoking extension questions that will lead you and your children to google bike helmet safety, the invention of injectable insulin and other deeper topics that you otherwise would have never examined in depth.

Each of the six unit lists additional resources (books and websites) as well as activities, like checking facial peel products to see if they contain papaya enzymes. And this is where the hands-on stuff converges with the practical: not only do the units tell you about nutrition, they actually show you nutrition in action. In other words, activities you can eat. Yes!

Kid-friendly and still pleasing to the adult palate, the recipes here feature foods that focus on the body systems you're studying. Included along the way is a crash-course on cooking methods that will serve your kids their whole lives. I'm not kidding! Have you taken the time to teach your children how to blanch vegetables? I hadn't! But now, not only can Jo, Atticus, and Logan tell you what it means, they can also describe the texture and flavor of green beans that have been prepared via blanching.

This is good stuff. Life stuff. Skills that will serve children well into adulthood.

Nutrition 101 is a multi-age program, meaning that your entire family can benefit from it. I bet you'll learn something, too. It's pricey ($79.95 for a cd-rom or $99.95 for a hard copy) but I guarantee you will get at least a full year of actual instruction time out of it, if not more. That, of course, doesn't begin to allow for the many, many years of reference you'll find it serving when you start to wonder what the difference is between Vitamin D and Vitamin D3.

Some things are worth their weight. What they can teach your family is, simply, too precious to count in dollars. To me, raising children who eye canned soup with disdain and know how to fuel their bodies well and effectively is priceless. If it is to you as well, check out Nutrition 101.

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