Funny Troubles


After a number of years of experimentation, we have found an approach to education that works well for our family. The classical education approach is based on the work of Susan Wise Bauer and The Well Trained Mind. Erika is working with Math-U-See at the dinner table while listening to a story tape.

It’s funny the trouble a person can get into by doing something different from the crowd.

When my family started eating nourishing traditional food, we found sharing breakfast and a late lunch together, satisfied our hunger on a normal day. Eating this way, gives us nutrient dense food, which means we need to eat less often and are satisfied longer. Now, if my family were working all day at manual labor, we would need a third meal. But most days we are working at our desks or computers.

Eating nutrient dense foods doesn’t fit into the school system very well. Children are expected to eat one or two snacks and a full lunch each day. This makes sense if your diet is based on nutrient poor processed foods which are usually high in carbohydrates.

High carbohydrate diets make children hungry. There is a need to eat every few hours or a child’s blood sugar will drop. Unfortunately, eating more high carbohydrate snacks will cause a rise in blood sugar. The child’s pancreas will secrete insulin to protect the body from the dangers of high blood sugar. The child’s blood sugar crashes and the cycle begins again. During this cycle, children bounce between being hyped then sleepy. This may be the reason why type two diabetes, once a disease of old age, is now being seen in our children. It may also be the reason for increases in childhood obesity. Obesity is just a symptom of high insulin levels. If you want more information please read Diabetes: A Modern Epidemic.

My oldest daughter has had trouble with the school system because she is often not hungry at snack or lunch time. She is such a tall, slender girl that not eating worries caring teachers. In the morning, I remind her to bring something to eat, even if she rarely gets hungry during the school day. I can see on her face that I am a nag. I believe it is important that she has healthy food for the rare times she is hungry and to comfort the worries of the caring adults at school.

I would love to see a school meal program I could safely allow my children to eat. Most school lunch programs are poor. I find it ironic that as a culture we spend so much on corporate bailouts but cannot find the money for quality school lunch programs. When we think about saving our collective future, the health of our children should be a top priority.

I have a video about Chef Ann Cooper. She is the chef for Berkeley Unified School District and feeds over 9000 students a day. If she can do it, so can we!

I hope you enjoy this video by TED: Reinventing the School Lunch.

Updated Feburary 25, 2010: It was soon after I wrote this blog that the situation with my eldest daughter’s teacher started to become increasingly troublesome. I thought I was advocating for my child’s needs by explaining to the teacher about my family’s diet. I explained why my daughter might not be hungry like the other children. I don’t know what really happened but the teacher may have seen my advocacy for my child as questioning her authority. She contacted the Ministry of Social Services and we had a stressful home visit. My daughter was pulled out of class to be interviewed alone by the two Workers. My husband and I were not allowed in this private interview with my child. I asked if I could have an independent advocate for my child during the interview but this was not allowed unless I wanted a formal case opened. My daughter came back to class and her classmates asked what kind of trouble she was in. She told them she was being interviewed by Social Services. I’m sure this did nothing to improve her social interactions with her classmates.

Within a few weeks, my family was “cleared” by Social Services. I was given a warning not to generate any more complaints or they would have to revisit our file. (Even though we complied, we managed to generate a formal case file.) During this same time my daughter’s feelings of confusion and isolation increased in the classroom. By the end of the school year she had decided to leave the school system. I had never considered home schooling my children. I had a steep learning curve to find out about my legal responsibilities regarding home schooling and the options available in the province. This was a very stressful process mostly due to the reason why my daughter wanted to leave school. Both my husband and I were saddened and distressed by the whole situation.


Here is our home school work area. Sonja works on the left side and the right side is for Erika, but she never sits at the area unless she is working on crafts. Erika usually works at the dinner table. We located the work area on a north facing window for better working light.

I hope no one reading this post will think the teacher involved should be reprimanded. (A teacher is a pedagog, a slave to the master’s curriculum and rules.) The Government now requires teachers to report anything they see in the classroom. This system was originally put in place to protect children from abuse. The teacher is required by law to report or she may be held accountable for any negative outcomes. This is a high penalty for anyone, so it is easier for the teacher to report and let Social Services decide if there is a problem. Of course, this does not negate the negative consequences to my family. I would have appreciated a conversation with the school administrator before a government agency was called in. I haven’t updated this posting earlier because of being very upset around this issue. It has taken nearly a year to be able to write this update.

Both my girls are now home schooled through SelfDesign which is an online school. Our Learning Consultant is Frances Honsinger. We are using an autodidactic style of learning. Home schooling has turned out to be the best thing that has happened to my family. It is strange how funny troubles can transform into something wonderful.

Updated February 26, 2010: My youngest daughter also had trouble with the school system. Erika made it through kindergarten but “hit the wall” in grade one. Erika has a very strong personality. She is not a biddable child. Of course, these may be great qualities in an adult leader but these same qualities in a child are challenging.

Erika is on a special diet which “cured” her asthma. Erika is on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) also known as GAPS. She cannot tolerate any amount of candy, cookies, or processed goods of any type commonly used in schools as rewards for good behavior or treats for special events. If she gets any foods that are off her program she will become increasingly restless, irritated, and unmanageable.

Erika started having power struggles with her grade one teacher within the first week. Part of this problem was a food problem. I talked to the teachers and administrators about her problem with food and brought frozen snack foods and small gifts to avoid food treats. But people forget. In the classroom, it is hard to have the class celebrating while one child is held back because of health reasons. This “special treatment” can cause behavioral problems by itself.

By Christmas, we were getting mid-morning calls to pick up Erika because she had become unmanageable. We would find her in the special education room or in the hallway by the principal’s office. The special education teacher decided to test Erika’s grade one reading level after being kicked out of grade one for some act of insubordination. She tested at the 19th percentile.

This is where things started to get interesting. We had a informal meeting with the special education teacher, the grade one teacher, and the principal. Everyone was very concerned about Erika’s poor performance on this test. They suggested that we schedule a meeting with Erika’s Education Team, and decide on a plan of action to deal with Erika’s poor reading performance and get to the root of Erika’s rage in the classroom. They suggested that Erika talk to the regional psychologist about her rageful feelings.

Most parents hearing this assessment of their child’s learning performance and emotional difficulties would get into quite a state. But they were dealing with me. I was labeled with dyslexia and troubled as a child. I was put through the school system’s process for dealing with learning disabled and troubled children. I also had two parents that worked as teachers then upper level administrators, and both parents finishing their careers as Superintendents of Schools. So, being a child of The System, I knew what they had to offer and I wasn’t buying.

Erika’s rage? Well, I would become rageful too if someone was telling me what to do all day long. Reading at the 19th percentile? Well, she is in grade one and children start reading at different ages. Also, is it appropriate to test a child while she might be upset, irritated or confused due to being kicked out of class? It would not be the time I would test a child if I wanted an accurate assessment of skill. I started fantasizing that after the visit to the regional psychologist for Erika’s rage problem, we would soon be visiting the regional psychiatrist for a prescription of Ritalin. If you can’t make the child fit the classroom, medicate the child. It is the modern way.

My husband and I had a short conversation about this issue. Within a week we had pulled Erika from school and started researching schooling options. It took Erika over eight months to get over the trauma of those few months of school. I could not get her to look at letters or read with me for a year. Just a few weeks ago the breakthrough happened. Erika asked me to assist with making magnetic letters for the fridge. Erika and Sonja played around with the letters laughing at silly mistakes for about a week. Erika started reading Garfield comics herself. My biggest task is to just sit back and let my little leader guide us towards success.

I love to rise in a summer morn,
When the birds sing on every tree;
The distant huntsman winds his horn,
And the skylark sings with me:
O what sweet company!

But to go to school in a summer morn, –
O it drives all joy away!
Under a cruel eye outworn,
The little ones spend the day
In sighing and dismay.

Ah then at times I drooping sit,
And spend many an anxious hour;
Nor in my book can I take delight,
Nor sit in learning’s bower,
Worn through with the dreary shower.

How can the bird that is born for joy
Sit in a cage and sing?
How can a child, when fears annoy,
But droop his tender wing,
And forget his youthful spring!

O father and mother if buds are nipped,
And blossoms blown away;
And if the tender plants are stripped
Of their joy in the springing day,
By sorrow and care’s dismay, –

How shall the summer arise in joy,
Or the summer fruits appear?
Or how shall we gather what griefs destroy,
Or bless the mellowing year,
When the blasts of winter appear?

The Schoolboy by William Blake


Home schooling can lead into some strange directions. Listening to your children’s emerging fascinations is an important skill for home schooling parents.

Updated February 4, 2012: In November of last year, our family made the hard decision of leaving SelfDesign. I was grateful for the help I got from SelfDesign in the first few years. It really was a blessing to have someone hold my hand during those early years. But after a hard assessment of where I was spending my time I realized I was spending 20% of my time documenting for SelfDesign. It seemed to me, much of this documentation wasn’t of any use to my children. My children found some of the questions the Learning Consultants wanted to know, intrusive on their privacy. This became a big problem for me because I was fine with documenting the facts of learning outcomes but I was also becoming uncomfortable about questions around the emotional process of my children, especially because they didn’t want to share. Sonja actually said it was none of their business.

Yes, is was hard to say good-bye to $2200 of funding for the two girls, but in the end we are happy with the decision. We are now free to make the learning decisions, regarding money, whenever we see the need. Now, there is no need to try to fit ourselves into the SelfDesign funding box. It’s ironic that SelfDesign wants to help students design their own learning experience, but in the end, being a bureaucracy, they end up putting the students into a SelfDesign box.
Fraser Institute Study on Home Schooling

Updated December 17, 2012: There has been an involved conversation at the Weston A Price Foundation about the recent school shooting. Here is more information about the sometimes horrific consequences of medicating our children.

Diet plays a very big roll in mental health. Here is a lecture by Dr Russell Blaylock about how poor nutrition can bring a young person into a world of violence, crime, depression and suicide.