On fish and schooling

Welcome to September!

With back-to-school fever rampant even among those without school-aged kids, we figured it apt to provide some food for thought on the education front.

So without further ado, here’s this month’s dose of what we’re chewing on. ;)

What we’re eating

Fish sauce. Yes, this is on the kids’ menu! In case you didn’t know it, this flavorful condiment can work wonders on picky eaters. Skeptical?

Research shows that the amino acid glutamate lends food a savory flavor called umami that most people find pleasant. While you’ve likely heard of monosodium glutamate (MSG, a neurotoxic food additive that enhances flavor and makes processed foods more addictive), many fermented and aged foods, like fish sauce, contain natural glutamates that offer similar satisfaction without the detrimental side effects. Glutamate produces a positive response that then makes the food more acceptable and likely to be consumed again. As a result, in a type of flavor conditioning, people may come to appreciate the food served with a glutamate-rich condiment, even if later exposures don’t contain the triggering amino acid.

This creates a potentially powerful learning tool for kids, like training wheels of sorts for picky eaters. Add a spritz of fish sauce—enough to make a dish tasty, not fishy—to novel foods or heretofore unappreciated ones. (You know, the foods that come right back to you, get hurled to the floor, or snuck to the dog.) Any savory dish can be a vehicle for fish sauce. In fact, while Southeast Asian cuisines, like Thai and Vietnamese, are most well known for its lavish use, fish sauce was a staple in ancient Greek and Roman cuisine, appreciated for its medicinal value. Who knew this millennia-old condiment could be an antidote to today’s circumspect young eaters?

Want to take your fish sauce experiment one step further? Turn your search for the prized condiment into an organic learning adventure! Rally the kids and plan a trip to your local Asian market or ethnic neighborhood to procure fish sauce from its source. Just make sure it’s free of the bad stuff, like sugar, oils, preservatives, artificial coloring, or MSG. The real deal, in contrast, is just fish—salted and slow-aged, the traditional fermentation way. (Curious about fermentation? If you missed our post about fermented foods, get up to date here!)

When trying new foods is laced with adventure, kids are more likely to partake. In this season when learning is on our minds, why not transform eating and procuring food into an educational experience? Give fish sauce a try and let us know how it goes!

What we’re reading

Instead of Education: Ways to Help People Do Things Better. We’re full of questions when it comes to education. Is the status quo working? Are students learning? Could there be a better way? No human system is so sacrosanct as to render it immune from potential improvement. But improvement isn’t possible without first asking the hard questions. Author John Holt does just that with this eye-opening and thought-provoking read.

After years teaching in American schools, Holt began to write about his experience, emerging as a formidable force in elucidating how children learn (and how they don’t) and becoming a pioneer in alternative education credited with fueling the growing homeschooling and unschooling movements. Like us at P2P and others, he dared to ask the big questions about education—and whether our current practices are serving our children or a self-perpetuating system.

Bold and visionary, Holt braves deep waters when he defines education as “something that some people do to others for their own good, molding and shaping them, and trying to make them learn what they think they ought to know”—and plants himself ardently against it. Instead, he is a staunch advocate for self-directed learning in the context of creative living. He infuses his writing with practical ideas for learning apart from formal structure and testimonies to the amazing opportunities that educational freedom can afford. Not for the faint of heart, “this is Holt’s most direct and radical challenge to the educational status quo and a clarion call to parents to save their children from schools of all kinds,” as the official summary itself attests.

We don’t purport to know what’s best for you and your kids, but we do encourage you to learn widely and think outside the proverbial box before embarking on a specific educational path. Holt’s trailblazing manifesto for the redefinition of education does just that: it will undoubtedly challenge the way you view your own education and upbringing—and the way you educate and bring up your kids.

What we’re pondering

In this book I feel myself speaking mostly to that minority of people, including parents, teachers, would-be teachers, and students themselves, who believe that children (like all people) will live better, learn more, and grow more able to cope with the world if they are not constantly bribed, wheedled, bullied, threatened, humiliated, and hurt; if they are not set endlessly against each other in a race which all but a few must lose; if they are not constantly made to feel incompetent, stupid, untrustworthy, guilty, fearful, and ashamed; if their interests, concerns, and enthusiasms are not ignored or scorned; and if instead they are allowed, encouraged, and (if they wish) helped to work with and help each other, to learn from each other, and to think, talk, write, and read about the things that most excite and interest them. In short, if they are able to explore the world in their own way, and in as many areas as possible direct and control their own lives.
—John Holt, Instead of Education, page 7

And what we love…

Connecting with new moms! Are you having a baby this fall? Do you know someone who is? We’d love to support you!

Postpartum care—for both mom and baby—is a topic very close to our hearts. Whether you’re anxious or excited, overwhelmed or as ready as you’ll ever be, the postpartum period can be the most peaceful and empowering experience of your life, especially if you don’t weather it alone. Invite us into your journey for tips and tools to last your family a lifetime. We’re here for you, whether this is your first baby or your umpteenth!


To deep thinking, education beyond four walls, and the joy of spontaneous learning, together we are “Preparing to Parent: Growing Families with Purpose…on Purpose.”

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