Do we need to teach our kids table manners?

O A and Gingy

We tend to talk about the table manners across the table. We sometimes bark. I say bark because we are not perfect and we have been saying the same thing about eating nicely for a while now. We talk about it. We talk about if one of the kids went on a date to an Indian restaurant for example and their table manners were really bad, the date might be over at the first poppadom. Unless they went to one of these restaurants where they would be totally free to eat with their hands. I go on to talk about India and explain to them that, in India, a lot of people eat with their fingers. In fact, to counterbalance our possibly over-controlling nature around their eating habits on New Year’s Eve, we all sat on the floor and ate Indian food with our fingers. They loved it. I wondered why I was so uptight about the way they eat. Considering the vast majority of the world do eat with their fingers. But they are in the Western world where cutlery will be most likely following them throughout most of their adult lives.

That is a funny image.

Then I question that barking bit, if it is not going in by talking about it constantly, will it ever go in? Do they learn by watching us? Are we repeating our childhood? The tense times when we were shamed or glared at for attempting to put our over-filled forks in our mouths at some ungodly angle? Unschooling begs the question: Can’t we just let them be? But there is also the responsible parent in me that says, I want to equip the kids with basic skills that will help them ease into their social lives, I want them to be able to eat comfortably at a table and not have half the table move away because they are not eating nicely and those skills never went in. I know, as with reading, it will go in but it also takes practice to eat well at the table, like it takes practice to be able to read. The girls dressed up as Edwardian’s for this shot and one of them said this prior to me taking the picture. ‘Mum, why do we have table manners and where do they come from anyway?’ We looked it up on the internet.


As for chores, we have a list and it is clear. There are chores to do. I don’t like charts, stickers and lists (they remind me of school) but I have realized that, as we are together all the time, there is a lot to do and in the same way that I want my kids to be able to eat well I want them to be aware of what it takes to run a household. That cooking takes time, and that clearing up, unfortunately, is inevitable. That bins have a limit and the rubbish needs taking out. That the compost needs emptying. But if the jobs always fall to an adult i.e. me or Anthony, we get fed up and exhausted, so we share jobs and the kids cook. Our youngest child, Jahli, is getting there and he makes a mean scrambled eggs. The girls are good cooks too.

I think that one of the most wonderful parts of unschooling, is that they have the luxury of having the time to learn these skills. it is possibly an overlooked, unschooling blessing. Unschooled kids really do have the luxury of time. To me, equipping our kids with life skills, like eating well at a dinner table and being able to cook, clean and really look after themselves is an important part of education and it is not something that can be learned in school.















I find this talk really interesting.