kids nature schoolAlmost no one’s happy with school these days. Kindergarteners are sitting in front of devices for 4-5 hours a day. Teens are dreading daily online meetings and getting prescriptions for “Zoom fatigue.” Some of this is growing pains—kids, teachers, and parents are being asked to completely change the way they do school on a moment’s notice, and change like that doesn’t come easily. But that’s not the only reason.

There just aren’t many great options left. Parents don’t want their kids stuck on the computer all day, nor do they want them in class masked up and unable to touch or play with their peers. There are big problems in every direction.

Change is in the air. People are fed up with the new way of doing things and realizing they don’t like the old way all that much either. I don’t have kids in school anymore, but I do have a grandkid who will be in school soon. Besides, everyone who lives in a country has a stake in the school system of that country. The schools shape the people who become the adults who shape the nation. That affects everyone. Something needs to change.

If I could wave a wand, how would I change school?

Here’s what I’d like to see:

Later start times

8:30, 9 AM. This would give kids extra sleep. Everyone needs sleep, but kids need it more than anyone. It helps them consolidate memories and recently learned skills.‘>2 for schools. as kids especially need a lot of sleep. Kids are staying up later and later than ever before. Particularly in studies using teen subjects, delaying school start times by 25-60 minutes can increase total sleep duration by 25-75 minutes per weeknight.‘>4 This is a travesty, not only because recess (and PE) increase physical activity and step count, but because physical activity improves learning and reduces acting out. In one Texas grade school, implementing four 15-minute recesses a day reduced bullying and tattling, improved focus and eye-contact, and even stopped the neurotic pencil chewing teachers were noticing among their students. The kids are testing ahead of schedule despite less actual classroom time and test prep. Recess improves academic performance, and physical play improves subsequent learning capacity. Give a kid a 15 minute play break for every 45 minutes of book learning and he’ll learn more than the kid who studies an hour straight.

Recess needs to be longer. The absolute daily minimum is 45 minutes (spread across 1-3 sessions including lunch), though I’d like to see the entire day spent outside with movement interlaced with learning/lessons.

Hold classes outdoors

The benefits are immense and irrefutable:

  • Kids with ADHD can focus better after exposure to green spaces.
  • Kids who frequently spend time outdoors get sick less often and show better motor skills and physical coordination.‘>6
  • For kids dealing with stress at home (who isn’t?), nature can act as a buffer.‘>8 Instead of giving five year olds an hour of paperwork to complete or 15 year olds four hours of work, give them open-ended suggestions.

    “Read a book with your parents and tell the class about your favorite part of the story.”

    “Find 7 leaves, each from a different tree, and bring them to class.”

    “Start a business. Come up with a business plan, a product, and marketing materials.”

    Enabling deep work and deep learning during the school day would make most “busy” homework pointless.

    Bring back “tracks”

    Only don’t limit these tracks to “academics.” It’s not that you split the kids up by “smart” or “dumb” or “advanced” and “behind.” You allow the kids to establish their own track based on interest and aptitude. You get more specific with the tracks.

    Someone wants to just do math all day? Let them focus on that.

    Someone shows promise as an artist? Let them draw and paint to their heart’s content.

    Someone’s obsessed with video games? Let them learn to make their own.

    Obviously, even a math-obsessed whiz kid should also read great literature, but I’m not sure the math whiz kid needs to be writing essays on “Brave New World.” Simply reading it is probably enough.

    More doing and playing

    Humans learn best by doing. Everyone accepts that we learn languages best by speaking it or being thrown into a foreign country, not by reading language lessons. But learning through doing works for everything. Learning the fundamentals matters, but only if you also practice them. I learned to write by reading and aping other writers. This even works in subjects like math. One American educator, Benezet, showed that children who delayed formal math instruction in favor of natural math instruction (doing) until 8th grade quickly caught up to and outperformed kids taught the traditional way.

    You could very well teach simple arithmetic by playing card games like Blackjack or Addition War or Subtraction War.

    You could teach (or reinforce) grammar by playing MadLibs. Or just giving kids cool things to read.

    What else?

    More trades

    Don’t just bring back the old woodshop and metalshop. Introduce full-blown apprenticeship programs. Paid ones.

    • Plumbing
    • Masonry
    • Carpentry
    • Electrician
    • Agriculture
    • Automotive
    • And so on

    Name a profession and you can probably figure out an apprenticeship program. Heck, this already exists in many states. Check out the listings for California apprenticeships for an idea of what’s possible. Many high schools can even set this up. I bet there are guidance counselors who currently do it, or have. But is it the norm? No. It should be.

    Lots of kids would really benefit.

    Teach basic competencies

    There are basic physical skills everyone should learn.

    • Swimming
    • Self defense
    • First aid
    • Physical fitness (running, sprinting, climbing, strength standards)

    And other “non-physical” core competencies:

    • Budgeting
    • Cooking
    • Cleaning
    • Laundry
    • Bill paying/taxes

    Home economics, in other words.

    Mixed ages

    Segregation by age makes little evolutionary sense (until the public school system arose, children had historically hung out with other children of all ages). As a kid, whenever we weren’t in school I’d rove around my neighborhood in age-desegregated packs. It was all very fluid. We’d have the bigger kids leading the way, the smaller ones tagging along, and because everyone pretty much lived in the same place their whole lives, kids would graduate into different roles and new kids would always be coming up in the ranks. Without age mixing children miss out on many benefits:, maslow's law, mediation, meditating, Mental Health, mind-body practitioner, mindful, mindfulness, multitask, Nature, nervous system, News, podcast, Podcasts, practice surrender, protect our brain, protect your nervous system, protecting our children, psychology of eating, psychotherapist, quarantine, rest and digest, safety, safety and security, security, social distancing, stress hormones, stress response, stressful, sugar cravings, survival, the fat burning man, The Wild Diet, top health podcast, trust, videos, vitamin d, walks, well-being, wild diet, wild superfoods, Yoga

When our survival and basic needs are threatened, our trust in authority figures broken and our human rights ignored, it’s pretty easy to lose your head. So how can we protect our brain and nervous system in these trying times? Well, I’m happy to say that returning to the show this week to help us out is Eliza Kingsford.

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how to get picky eaters to try new foodsAt my house, dinner often looks like grass-fed rib eye, grilled to medium rare with salt and pepper, and broccoli roasted with avocado oil and cooked ‘til crispy. It’s satisfying, satiating, and metabolically in line with the way I like to eat.

Dinner probably looks fairly similar at your place too. Only while grilling up your perfect cut of steak, you might also be firing up a big pot of mac ‘n cheese or popping some dino nuggets and waffle fries into the oven for the picky eaters in your household. Especially if your kids are used to conventional, Standard American Diet type fare.

Instantly download your free Guide to Eating Out

Aren’t Kids Supposed to Eat Kid Food?

This is a question I get a lot from my health coaching clients. And my answer typically sounds something like, “only if you want them to become part of the growing epidemic of folks struggling with obesity and type 2 diabetes‘>3 showed that children who were involved with food prep were more likely to make healthy choices at mealtime.

In the study, one-third of the kids surveyed said they helped their mom and dad up to 3 times per week, while one-quarter of them helped about once a month, and 12.4% didn’t help at all.

While the frequency of involvement differed (3 times per week vs once a month), the result was the same. Kids who helped their parents in the kitchen were more interested in eating healthy foods like vegetables than their non-helping peers.The data also showed that kids who participated in meal prep were more confident about the importance of making healthier food choices for themselves.

Does that mean that once you start cooking together they’re going to be begging for an extra serving of kale salad before bed? No. But they might start asking for full fat yogurt instead of ice cream. Or enjoying roasted chicken instead of the processed nugget variety.

My How-to Guide for Getting Picky Eaters to Eat

So, how do you do it? Check out these 9 strategies for turning a picky eater’s habits around. These are the same tips I use with my health coaching clients to make mealtime less stressful. Give them a try — I’m confident they’ll work for you too.

1. Don’t force it

No one likes to be pressured into trying new things, especially if they’re someone who already has a preconceived aversion to it. It might be tempting to force-feed your family, after all you are the parent, but there’s a good chance it will backfire. Studies show that kids who have a history of being pressured to eat continued to dislike those foods long into adulthood.‘>5 Dips and sauces are a great way to combine an unfamiliar food with something kids know and love.

5. Walk the talk

I’m assuming that you’re well-versed in the benefits of the Primal lifestyle, but if you’re doing more talking than walking, your kids could be getting mixed messages. Notice the foods you keep in the house and what your meals look like. Be a positive role model whenever and wherever you can.

6. Avoid being too strict

It’s easy to go overboard in the all-non-Primal-foods-are-evil department, so you’ve decided every processed food is off-limits, you might want to back off a little. Make simple swaps like fresh fruit instead of juice or an occasional treat made with better-for-you ingredients.

7. Try new things

There’s a correlation between the number of new foods you feed your family and your picky eater’s willingness to eat them, so keep at it. Repetition and continuing to reintroduce foods (without force or frustration) has been linked to an increased liking of those foods., orthorexia, Paleo, processed meats, Snacks

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week food inspections stall in government shutdown, snack drawers teach kids moderation, and the optimal diet for humans.

Next week’s Mindful Meal Challenge will start again on Monday. Sign up now to join us!

Too busy to read them all? Try this awesome free speed reading app to read at 300+ wpm. So neat!

I also share links on Twitter @summertomato and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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