Thursday, May 9, 2013

What does allergy research have in common with home education?

More than you'd think.

Most home school families believe that the old-fashioned way of learning works best.  They have turned their backs on government schools and the 'latest and greatest' trends in order to keep it simple, solid, stable and superior.

It is all too easy to get pulled in by enormous shifts in thinking and too few of us question the received wisdom of those in the education business.  

What does this have to do with allergies?  Read on ...

Recently, I was reading about the history of allergy research.  Important to note - nineteen years ago when I gave birth to my first, I was warned by doctors to keep him off solid food until he was one, especially peanuts and to be careful about what I ate, too.   Science had concluded that the staggering increase in peanut and dairy allergies in the US and the UK had to do with introducing these things too early in the infant diet.   Newsflash - they no longer think this.  

The new focus of allergy study is on the immune system, solely.  Here is the most interesting thing.  They are getting some intriguing and challenging information by examining people with (for lack of a better term) "hyper-hygiene" habits.  That is, they wash their hands A LOT, they use hand sanitizer A LOT, and they take anti-biotics A LOT.   Frequently, these also happen to be the folks with the worst allergies.    The conclusion is that through the hyper-hygiene trend, we have ruined our immune system by not allowing enough nasty stuff to pass through us.  Newsflash - a little dirt won't hurt.  In fact, it might help.  

I had a good chuckle when I was reading this.  Those who know me know that I am not terribly fussy about these things.  If one of my kids should drop his apple on the ground and then pick it up to continue eating it, I don't care much.  If  the youngest plays outside for 2 hours and runs in to woof down a piece of pizza without washing his hands, I don't bark.  Although I prefer clean hands, many years ago I had concluded that despite the fact that I did not insist on hyper-hygiene, my kids were actually sick much less often than the average kid.  So, I stopped fretting.  My two older boys row on the Cooper River many days out of the year and, yes, occasionally they fall in.  In this river, they've seen dead animals float by and other unmentionables.  No big deal.  They don't flip out.  My oldest use to put large Madagascar Roaches on his tongue .... for the fun of it.  It never really bothered me.  

So it looks like the world is coming full-circle when it comes to how we should live.  Maybe having dirt under our fingernails will be the "new cool"?  Maybe eating the peanut butter and jelly sandwich that sat in the car for 3 days will be advisable ...perhaps even prescribed?  As someone who generally ignores expiration dates, this puts a spring in my step.

This "hyper hygiene connection" to allergies is a fascinating idea, though.  I am very blessed - I do not suffer from allergies nor do any of my kids.  But just in my own life-span I have seen allergies skyrocket and this explanation makes sense from an environmental and evolutionary perspective. (Oh, and I do like that it conveniently fits the choices I've made....big smile.)

Back to home education ....what is the connection?  Well, it turns out that earthlings do not need a wildly over-engineered, complicated set of rules to live by.  Keep it simple.  Don't be afraid to be out of step with the mob.  Learning has not changed, but the so-called experts want us all to believe that it is hocus-pocus hard.    Books + inspiration = learning.  That's all.   Science is gathering evidence that hyper-hygiene is ruining our immune systems .  Our immune systems already know how to do the job naturally, without all the contrived help we offer.  Likewise, you already possess all of the skills to get a thorough education, for yourself and your kids, without all of the contrived help you are offered.