Thursday, September 24, 2009

Nutrition 101: Choose Life! (TOS Review)

Growing Healthy Homes homepage

U.S. Prices:
CD-ROM version, $79.95 (good if you want to make multiple copies of some pages)
Book version, $99.95 (no need to bother printing things out)
Combo (book and CD-ROM), $129.95

If you climb up here regularly, you'll have noticed that I mentioned Growing Healthy Homes's book Nutrition 101: Choose Life!: A Family Nutrition and Health Program as one of the resources we're using this fall. This is a big, ambitious book, co-authored by "homeschool mother Debra Raybern, N.D., M.H., C.N.C., I.C.A.; homeschool mother and researcher Sera Johnson, B.MU; mother and writer/editor Laura Hopkins, B.S.; and mother, grandmother and former Home Economics teacher Karen Hopkins, B.S."

From the website:

Nutrition 101: Choose Life! is a three-in-one family nutrition and health program for all ages that presents the major body systems, how they function, their common health issues, the benefits of good food and the consequences of bad food. Its 448 pages include into six units: 1) The Brain and Nervous System; 2) Digestion and Elimination; 3) Respiration and Olfactory; 4) Muscular and Skeletal Systems; 5) Cardiovascular and Immune Systems; and 6) Endocrine System and Emotions. Biblically based and packed with hands-on activities, science and art projects and nearly 80 family-friendly recipes, this program teaches and reinforces the why’s of what we should eat, not just “because I said so.” Containing a complete reference guide filled with nutrition facts, charts, practical tips and an exhaustive index, Nutrition 101: Choose Life! will serve as a constant resource for improved health and abundant living.
What I like about this program: it combines a logical progression of anatomy topics with practical activities, nutrition information, research projects (divided into elementary and high school levels), and shopping and cooking projects using specific ingredients discussed in the week's chapter. We're up to Chapter 3, working on the nervous system, and this week's recipe is for a potato salad that uses flax seed oil in the dressing--trying to get those Omega-3's in there.

We printed it out as tightly and economically as we could (black and white, two pages to a sheet), and it still fills a big binder. And this book is not only big, it's thorough, and quite current in its approach to health and nutrition issues (including the question of whose food groups you follow). My sister-in-law, a nutrition consultant, looked at it and said she thought it would be pretty heavy going for most kids. There are whole pages devoted just to different kinds of amino acids.

So if there's a downside to the book, aside from the price, it would be this: it's too packed. Family-friendly as it first appears, you probably can't just open it up and teach from it. If you're used to the chatty style used by many homeschool science and geography writers--a story or analogy, something to introduce the lesson in a very kid-friendly way, and then narration prompts and activities--you may find this book as frustrating as the Miquon Math teacher's manual. The concepts are there, and the activities, but you're going to have to figure out yourself how you want to teach them. (Reminds me a bit of our VBS experience this summer.) There is a basic schedule suggested--starting a new lesson a couple of days before you go shopping, doing the first set of activities, then doing the cooking activity, the recipe-related questions and activities, and any followup discussion (possibly over a family meal) on subsequent days. But where you start that new lesson can be puzzling.

For instance, chapter 3 begins with a Bible verse and then this:

"Like other systems in the body, the nervous system is composed of organs, principally the brain, spinal cord and a huge network of threadlike nerves. Together with the endocrine system, which we will learn more about in Unit 6, the nervous system is responsible for regulating and maintaining homeostasis--a normal state of the body."

Then we get into the various function of neurons (sensory, integrative, motor), the glial cells, the parts of the nervous system and what they do, what reflexes are, and the "fun fact" that "because nerves connect the spine to all body parts and end at the hands and feet, massage and reflexology are very effective in alternative healthcare."


Honestly, Crayons (elementary) and even Ponytails (middle school) aren't going to get a great deal out of that.

The discussion questions for that unit are also pretty heavy. "Name some receptor organs." "Name some effector organs."

But the Activities section--there's where we get into tapping knees for reflexes, drawing the nervous system, putting ice in our hands, tickling people with feathers--the fun, hands-on stuff. When I went to one of the "Additional Resources" websites at the end of the chapter, I found a whole kid-friendly article to print out about the brain and nervous system, along with a brain diagram to label. That's what I was looking for in the first place, something to read through rather than just a list of functions. So I printed that out, along with this week's recipe (that we'll make on the weekend after we go shopping) and the list of feather-and-ice activities, and that will be our lesson today. But I had to go looking for that material outside the book, and then print it out in addition to the chapter we already printed; and that's more work than some people would expect to put in after they'd already spent the money on the textbook.

As I said, I like the overall concept very much. Too much of the way we often teach about the body is disconnected from the nutrients that make it function, and how we choose and prepare those nutrients. But with all that information, all those charts and lists and appendices, it's somewhat overwhelming and, as I said, it's not always obvious how to use it most effectively. If you like designing your own lessons, you'll be glad to have all this information at hand. But if you're looking for a step-by-step curriculum, you may find yourself feeling a bit lost. Like taking your kids to a big fair, it's probably best to zoom in on a couple of rides and exhibits, and let the rest go. In chapter 2, we focused mostly on the list of "good brain foods," and didn't worry about the ratio of Omega-3's to Omega-6's. Instead of preparing a Greek salad (which, like the guacamole in Chapter 1, had too many things in it my family wouldn't eat), I adapted one of the high school challenges and had the kids come up with their own salad ideas using the list of "brain foods."

The good ideas are in there, and there are lots of them--but it can take a bit of time to dig them out and make them work for our family. We'll continue to use this through the year, so watch for updates as we go on.

(If you buy the book and want to use it with a co-op group, the other families will need permission to use it with you--see the website for details.)

For other reviews of this product, see the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew website.

Dewey's Disclaimer: This product was received free for review purposes. No other payment was made.


Molytail said...

I saw this reviewed on another blog recently, and I'll say the same thing here as I said there:

Goodness, that's expensive! :-o

It sounds interesting ~ but I suspect I'd pass unless I could get a second hand copy somewhere.

It's just...pricy...

...or maybe I'm cheap :-P

Mama Squirrel said...

One word: yup. Some sticker shock here.

But to be fair, there are quite a few homeschool textbooks--especially in the upper-years math and science areas--that make me gulp just as much. (So far I haven't had to buy many of them...)

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