For my 16-year-old daughter's junior/senior year, I put together a health and nutrition curriculum that includes hand-picked information covering a wide range of practical topics. By no means is it a standard health and nutrition curriculum, but it does cover the majority of topics covered by a typical high school health textbook (and many of those topics are covered much more in-depth!).
Below I've included the topics I chose for her to cover and what resources I selected. I also included any specific assignments for each section. By default there would be discussion over anything she reads or watches.
CPR & First Aid
Jerah took a course locally and got her certification for American Heart Association Heartsaver CPR with AED & First Aid (infant, child and adult). This was only a one-day course and the cost was minimal.
Our local police department offers R.A.D. classes (Rape Aggression Defense) for only $15. It's a 4-week, 16-hour course that includes both instruction and simulation. Jerah absolutely loved the class and is already signed up to take the advanced R.A.D. class next month.
The program website says: "The R.A.D. Systems of Self Defense offers programs for women, children, men and seniors. These offerings provide a truly holistic approach to self defense education." To see if there's a class in your area, check out the RAD program locator.
Food & Nutrition
I wanted Jerah to get a good overview of the basics of nutrition, but not just from the USDA perspective (i.e. the food pyramid). I chose a standard USDA-based book and then a competing perspective from Harvard so that she can see arguments and the pros and cons from both sides.
Nutrition for Dummies by Carol Ann Rinzler. This is definitely from the USDA perspective, and while I liked the topics it covered and how it didn't spend too much time on the chemistry aspect of everything, Jerah did not enjoy the writing style. She has read other "Idiots Guide" and "for Dummies" books before and enjoyed them, but she felt this author came across as condescending and patronizing. An alternative book choice for the USDA perspective might be American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide.
ASSIGNMENT: Take notes on each chapter, and then at the end, compile a single sheet listing all pertinent values for macro and micro nutrients for her age (although in this case, she's doing the requirements/recommendations for women 19yo and up).
Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating by Walter C. Willett. This is the anti-USDA perspective (the one which I agree with much more!). According the description "Dr. Walter Willett’s research is rooted in studies that tracked the health of dieters over twenty years, and in this groundbreaking book, he critiques the carbohydrate-laden diet proposed by the USDA." I definitely recommend this title.
Write out a realistic, sample one-week food plan that follows the recommendations.
Write an essay of 250-500 words that discusses any topics that DIFFER from this book and Nutrition for Dummies. Do they contradict each other at any point? What are they? And what perspective does she tend to agree with?
I wanted Jerah to learn about both sides of the organic food debate so she can make her own informed decision and think critically about the topic. I selected a number of articles for her to read online including the following. This is obviously not a complete coverage of the topic, but I think it covers quite a bit.
- Organic Foods: All You Need to Know: Understanding the Benefits of Organic Food and What the Different Labels Really Mean
- The Low-Down on Organic Foods
- Organic vs. Non-Organic: What’s the Difference?
- Organic Foods: The Safety Question
- Mythbusting 101: Organic Farming > Conventional Agriculture
- Monsanto Is Going Organic in a Quest for the Perfect Veggie
ASSIGNMENT: Write an essay of at least 500 words referring to all articles read. What does she agree with? What does she disagree with? Were any of the articles misleading? What is her conclusion about organic food after reading all the articles? Is she going to make any changes as a result?
Types of Diets
I wanted Jerah to be familiar with some of the major diets that currently exist. I don't expect her to be an expert on each one, but I want her to be able to articulate the basics of each diet so she can form her own opinions about it. I found various articles online describing each diet, but a lot of the information I took from this article about the eight most popular diets today.
Here are some of the diets I had her read about.
- The Daniel Plan
- The Atkins Diet
- South Beach Diet
- Paleo Diet
- Raw Foods Diet
- Mediterranean Diet
Documentaries on the Food Production Industry
I'm not a crunchy, organic-type of person, but I do think there is a lot of merit to be found in the organic, anti-big-food argument. I selected two documentaries for Jerah to watch, after which we'd discuss her reaction to each one.
ASSIGNMENT: Write an essay of at least 500 words referring to both videos. What does she agree with? What does she disagree with? What did she learn from the videos? Did any of the information change her mind on any particular topic?
Our family has never been very athletic, but I want Jerah to have a practical understanding of the value of exercise, something that she can realistically apply to her life. As a result of taking the R.A.D. class mentioned above, she was actually spurred to take up judo again, so that is fulfilling the activity part of this class (she does judo about 4 hours/week). I'm also having her read one book on the topic.
Move Yourself: The Cooper Clinic Medical Director's Guide to All the Healing Benefits of Exercise (Even a Little!) by Tedd Mitchell. I really like this book because it's immensely practical. It doesn't stress the necessity of 30 minutes of vigorous exercise every day; instead, it emphasizes the benefits of movement, even on a small scale. From the description: "Move Yourself offers an innovative, easy-to-follow prescription for infusing your daily life with just a few minutes of low-dose physical activity—and reaping big health benefits from the start."
Write an essay of at least 500 words about how she feels about exercise and its role in her life based on what she learned from the book. Was there anything she disagreed with in the book? How is she going to change because of what she has read?
Do a walk test for 3 days (one typical weekday, a Saturday, and a Sunday) using a pedometer. Record your results and discuss with Mom.
Dating & Marriage
Jerah already has a very mature perspective on dating and marriage, so I selected some books for her to read that will help her with the ins-and-outs of dating. While some of the books are from a Christian perspective, others are not but were recommended by Thomas Umstattd in his book Courtship in Crisis as good guides to traditional dating practices.
NOTE: Jerah won't be reading ALL these books as part of this course. I'm still in the process of reading them myself and have not actually selected which ones specifically will be part of Jerah's official curriculum. Consequently, I've listed them all below for now.
NEW NOTE: As I read through the books, I'm marking the ones I will have Jerah read as part of the course with an asterisk (*).
- *True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of your Life by Debra K Fileta (Christian perspective)
- *Love Factually: 10 Proven Steps from I Wish to I Do by Duana Welch (secular perspective)
- *Not Your Mother's Rules: The New Secrets for Dating by Ellen Fein (secular perspective)
- *The Five Love Languages: Singles Edition, by Gary Chapman (Christian perspective)
- The Sacred Search: What If It's Not about Who You Marry, But Why? by Gary Thomas (secular perspective)
- Boundaries in Dating: How Healthy Choices Grow Healthy Relationships by Henry Cloud (Christian perspective)
- Courtship in Crisis: The Case for Traditional Dating by Thomas Umstattd (Christian perspective)
- The Dating Manifesto: A Drama-Free Plan for Pursuing Marriage with Purpose by Lisa Anderson (Christian perspective)
ASSIGNMENTS: Lots of discussion and some list making!
This section covers women's health, birth control, fertility, puberty, sex ed, and STDs. Having her read about these topics doesn't necessarily mean I agree with their use (such as in the case of hormonal birth control), but I want Jerah to have a good understanding of everything. We aren't covering the topic of abortion as that's a topic she's already done a lot of research about.
Puberty & Sex Ed
Facing the Facts: The Truth About Sex and You by Stan and Brenna Jones. We've had ongoing discussions on this topic over the years, so this book is a catch-all overview/review.
I gathered articles on topics such as dysmenorrhea, PMS, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, and menopause. WebMd.com is a good source for these topics.
Birth Control, Fertility, and Infertility
She'll also read two articles by former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson titled "All the pro-life facts about hormonal contraception (that you probably don’t want to hear)" and "Sorry folks. Contraception access increases abortions. And here’s the proof."
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
I gathered articles on STDs from the MayoClinic website including specific articles on HPV infection, genital warts, gonorrhea, syphilis, trichomoniasis, HIV/AIDS, genital herpes , hepatitis A, B & C, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), and bacterial vaginosis. To find the specific articles, use the Mayo Clinic's A-Z disease guide.
ASSIGNMENTS: Write an essay of at least 500 words about birth control options from a biblical perspective. Discuss her feelings about the different types of birth control options available and how what she has read has affected her future choices as it relates to birth control.
DrugFreeWorld.org is a superb resource for drug education. They have well-written PDFs available for download on each type of drug as well as a 7-8 minute video to accompany each booklet.
ASSIGNMENTS: Discuss each video and pamphlet with Mom after reading and watching.