The following is a guest post from The Vegan Bee.
There are many different labels and categories floating around out there for homeschoolers to choose from – classical homeschooling, Charlotte Mason homeschooling, eclectic homeschooling, Christian homeschooling, secular homeschooling, unschooling. We might be purists, falling into only one category, or feel comfortable straddling several.
In our household, we are definitely straddlers. We also fit into another category – vegan homeschooling.
Because of the rise in popularity in the vegan diet (it seems it is all the rage, even Oprah tried it!), there is a misconception that it’s just that, a diet. Diet is only one part of the vegan lifestyle, though. Vegans strive to avoid animal products as much as possible – in the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the health and beauty products we use, the household cleaners we use, and even the entertainment we take part in.
As homeschoolers, life is education, so of course our vegan lifestyle plays a significant role. Our children’s learning experience is not limited to textbook learning, standardized tests, and early morning bus rides. While our school experience does include book learning, it goes so far beyond that.
Food is part of our homeschool. I am teaching my children (okay, maybe not the baby, yet!) to cook – we cook all vegan food here, so we do a lot of from-scratch cooking using all natural ingredients. Our five-year-old daughter is learning what foods we do and do not eat, what ingredients are okay for us to use, alternatives we can use, and most importantly, why we do not eat certain things. Eating a ton of processed foods is not her normal. She is learning what real food is and how to prepare it.
We also garden. She gets to see food growing in the dirt, she participates in watering, weeding, picking, and then she gets to eat the final product.
Navigating the social aspect of eating is also something that is a daily learning process for us. In our culture, food is a central part of birthday parties, holidays, social gatherings, etc. Because most of the food offered at these gatherings are not vegan, learning how to navigate the social implications of our lifestyle is necessary. This may be politely refusing an offer of non-vegan food, bringing a substitution when possible to gatherings (we try to bring a cupcake to birthday parties), or if necessary, doing without food when no other options are available.
Raising children with an understanding of why we don’t eat animal products is so essential here – our daughter understands why we sometimes don’t eat when others do, because the food contains animals. If we just gave her a laundry list of “NO” foods without an age-appropriate reason, she might be resistant or resentful.
We incorporate humane education into our homeschool curriculum. Our daughter understands that we do not eat animals because of the way they are treated and because there are plenty of other options. Treating living beings with respect is something that we stress in our household. We also stress living a gentler lifestyle and being mindful of our footprint on our planet.
Our humane education does extend to humans – we cannot come at people from a place of judgment and expect them to accept or embrace our lifestyle. Education, compassion, walking the walk daily – these are the ways that vegan ideals are passed on.
We have a mixed household – the children and I are vegan but my spouse is omni (that’s vegan-speak for omnivore, or sometimes-meat eater), so this is important. While we have a “no meat cooked in the kitchen (outdoor grill only)” rule, our children do see consumption of animal products on occasion by dad. Our daughter, while she does ask dad to not eat animals, is also learning to be compassionate and understand that some people do eat animal products, but that it is more productive to educate our friends and family than to pass judgment.
One very important part of our education is understanding the importance of the choices we make. As vegans, we sometimes do without certain things – food, health and beauty products, types of clothing. In homeschooling, our choices also extend to educational opportunities – we do not participate in homeschool days at Sea World or the local zoo, and pass on social outings to petting zoos, circuses and rodeos. Instead we find opportunities that are more in line with our ethics – we love the botanical gardens and children’s museum, and we have a wonderful farm animal sanctuary nearby.
Like most homeschoolers, we do a lot of reading. I try to include books that feature vegetarian or vegan characters, and cover topics such as kindness to animals, and living a more natural lifestyle. It is helpful to have reading choices where our lifestyle is encouraged, and reinforces our ethics. This is no different from seeking out books that feature homeschooled characters, so that our homeschooling lifestyle is not seen as anything but normal.
Our goal for homeschooling our children is to raise compassionate, educated, independent thinkers with a strong awareness of the world around us, and with a kind heart. I think that incorporating vegan ethics into our homeschool will help us accomplish this.
You can read about Vegan life and homeschooling at The Vegan Bee.
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CC Jen says
What a beautiful homeschool environment you’ve built! I wish I’d become passionate about real food when my kids were younger, I’m trying to change our diet now and they’re quite resistant.
Thank you for the comment. I can’t imagine the difficulty involved with changing the diet of older children. Good luck with changing your family’s lifestyle – it’s totally worth it!
Kathleen Keene says
Neat site you have here! We are a vegan homeschooling family. Hopefully your hubby will come around, mine did when he saw how he could help prevent health problems by going vegan.
Thanks for the comment! We have come a long way (with regard to the spouse) so I think he will be vegetarian at some point in the future. Always glad to see other vegan homeschoolers out there!
We have recently begun converting to a plant based diet….my husband is a cardiologist and he recently heard Dr.Esselstyn speak at a medical convention. He is the author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. I am reading that book along with The China Study. Also, I was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and underwent a double mastectomy. I had absolutely no risk factors (or so I thought)…..no family history, not overweight, I am a runner, I have 5 children and I breastfed them all for a long time, and I ate what I considered a “healthy diet”–full of organic milk cheese, beef, and chicken. I have since researched and found a link between a diet of dairy products and animal products and estrogen- causing breast cancer (my cancer was hormone positive). My husband is now convinced that he can prevent and reverse heart disease in his patients by having them eat a plant based diet. Also, I don’t want a recurrence of my cancer and I want my children to have the best diet possible…..so we are converting. My husband went 100% the first day! I am about 95%. I am struggling though…..I am spending hours in the kitchen! And I still have dr, appts. to juggle( follow up and reconstruction after my mastectomy–one more surgery to go!), 5 kids to homeschool, plus housework, laundry, etc. I am a little bit overwhelmed. I plan to visit your blog for ideas for food. I also ordered the Fire Engine2 book, and it should come in today. It includes oil free, vegan recipes too.
Thank you for this post. I am already stressing about what to do at potluck dinners, Bible studies, birthday parties, holiday gatherings, and simply eating at my parents or my in-laws’ houses. Plus some of my friends think that I am nutty! 🙂
Hi Roan, thanks for your reply. I hope you have a full and speedy recovery. I can’t imagine what you must be going through, all the “normal” stresses of life couple with a surgery recovery.
As far as learning about cooking plant based meals – get some cookbooks (I have heard awesome things about Engine2, but my cookbook collection got a little excessive so I am currently on a cookbook “diet”) and try what looks good. I have found slow cookers help a lot, and we eat a lot of stirfry meals around here. Not all veggie meals need to be elaborate – I know what a time drain it can be in the kitchen. I’ve had to limit how many new recipes I let myself try a month because really does put me in the kitchen for hours too. Nothing like getting dirty looks from the husband when dinner is two hours late 🙂 I am terrible about menu planning, but I am trying so hard to incorporate that into my routine as well. I am trying to plan for one new dish to try either once a week or once every two weeks, and stick to my “regulars” the other days.
And for what its worth, most of my friends and family think i’m a little nutty as well!
Wow, this is great. We are a vegitarian, buddhist family and we have found it very hard to find other homeschoolers that do not think we are nuts. We live in the bible belt and alot of the homeschooler’s fathers are beef farmers. It’s awful. One of the fathers came to a homeschool gathering and presented the children with a presentation of why beef is so great. Later he tried to have an ‘intervenion” and told me that I was putting my children’s health at jepordy. It feels so good to know we are not alone. We are not vegan just vegitarian. We have 15 pasture raised chickens from which we collect eggs and because we raise our chicks inside until they can go outside they always run inside the house if the kids leave the door open. It is not unusual to find 4 or five chicken walking around in the house or eating dog food in the sunroom. Although, we try to keep them out they think they are just part of the family. We do not buy store bought eggs or dairy because of the animal cruelness of the industry. We also have an organic orchard and vegitable garden. Also (not related), what is really funny is last playdate my three year old sat in the grass in meditated for a good 5 to 10 minutes completely unprompted (I think all of the caos of the other kids got to her and she need to feel centered). All of the moms thought we were so wierd ( I was so proud!). Anyways, I am looking forward to checking your website out.
thanks for the reply. we live in Texas where eating meat is very much part of the culture. we have been lucky to get involved with homeschoolers as well as non-homschooling families who have similar views on eating healthfully. while not all (or most) of our friends are vegan or even vegetarian, they have been so supportive of our lifestyle and I have not had to experience (yet) what you have described.