Google The Unplanned Homeschooler: Did bad school lunches really turn us into homeschoolers?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Did bad school lunches really turn us into homeschoolers?

One of the questions I have been asked the most over the years is why I decided to start homeschooling. Of course, there were all the usual reasons, such as giving my kids a better education than I believe they could get in public school, keeping them away from bad influences and bullies, and avoiding having our kids possibly fall through the cracks in overcrowded classrooms. But when my husband and I were weighing the pros and cons of homeschooling, one surprising factor figured heavily in our decision: school lunches.

Can school lunches really be that bad?

I know you're probably thinking, yes, school lunches can be pretty disgusting, but can they really be bad enough to make a family choose to homeschool? A lot of kids would say that lunchtime at school is one of the worst parts of their day, but that's just part of growing up, right? 

Unfortunately, as we discovered when our twins were in public school, the problems with lunch in today's schools can actually jeopardize your child's health. That's exactly what was happening to our daughter, and it was becoming a serious problem. What were we going to do?

Making the decision to homeschool

My twins had just finished kindergarten when we made the decision to homeschool the next year. Of course, part of that decision was based on the fact that we'd just moved to a new school district, which was overcrowded. Realizing that our kids would have to go to an elementary school across town instead of the one just blocks from our house, we started thinking about other options.

We had also become very concerned about the fact that our daughter had lost weight over the course of her year in kindergarten. She and her twin brother were born preemies, and she was barely hanging on at about the 10th percentile in weight. It was dangerous for her to go a whole year without putting on at least a few pounds and even her doctor was growing concerned.

What did school lunch have to do with it?

I had tried hard during my twins' kindergarten year to help my daughter get enough healthy nutrition so she could grow. I packed her lunches, and made sure to send along snacks that she would like to eat in the afternoon. That helped to eliminate the yuck factor that was keeping her from eating the school's hot lunches.
But there was little I could do to help with the main problem, which was time. There just wasn't enough time at the lunch table, and what time there was came way too early in the day. 

Because the school had a burgeoning population of students, the kindergarten classes had to eat lunch at 10:45 in the morning. That was too early for most of them to be hungry enough for lunch, and left them starving by the end of the school day.
This problem was compounded by the fact that the kids got just 15 minutes to go through the serving line, find a seat, eat, bus their own tables and get in line for recess. I did not know at the time, but the USDA and many medical groups have recommended for years that students should get at least 20 minutes at the lunch table. Mine were getting less than half that.

Homeschooling made such a difference

Bringing my daughter home made a huge difference in her health. She was able to take her time and finish hearty meals at breakfast and lunchtime. She was also able to go to the kitchen and get a healthy snack whenever she got hungry midmorning or in the afternoon. Her energy levels were higher, and she began to gain a little weight.
We were leaning toward homeschooling anyway, but the problems with school lunches really were a significant part of why we finally made the decision to go for it. Now my twins are teenagers, and they're both healthy, vibrant, and although we hadn't originally planned to go this direction, very happily homeschooled.

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