Family Time = Family Dinners?

I recently saw a post on Facebook that quoted this highlighted portion of The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined by Salman Khan

The poster and many of the commenters went on to praise the family meal as the best time to spend family time together. 

I agree that "When families actually sit down and talk - when parents and children exchange ideas and truly show an interest in each other - kids absorb values, motivation, self-esteem; in short, they grow in exactly those attributes and attitudes that will make them enthusiastic and attentive learners. This is more important than mere homework".  This to me is just common sense.  Time spent together as a family is vital. Talking with our kids about ideas, interest, morals and more is vital. 

But here's where I think the author, the poster, and even the commenters get it wrong, that this should be, has to be, or can only be done over family meals. 

What society says a family meal together looks like. 
Let me stop here and say, that I know for some the family meal is their family time for various reasons and if it's working great for you then wonderful! No need to fix what isn't broken. This post isn't to say that family meal as family time is wrong, just that it's not the only way. 

I don't believe that family time together spent as a family meal works best for everyone and I know for my family it doesn't work at all. Usually, my family is to busy eating to talk, unless they're talking with their mouth full and well that's a big no-no in my household. Also, family meals are usually over within 30 minutes and to me, that's just not enough time to really spend with the kids to really get to know what's going on in their heads. 

I also don't like the idea of teaching children that bonding needs to be done over food. I've struggled with food and weight issues most of my life.   A lot of that comes from the way I view food and the activities that surround it. Yes, I want my kids to know the joys of food but I also want them to be able to separate the joy of other things, like family time, from the thought that it has to be over food. 

For years I felt 'less than' because we didn't do as scientist and society recommends and bond over the family dinner by sitting down to eat together every night. I would force my family to sit down for meals together every night and everyone soon became miserable. I then realized that we were getting loads of family time and that the forced interaction every day wasn't the answer. 

Now it's much freer. We come together for about half our meals the other half we wander off and eat in sets or by ourself with a movie or a good book. 

A family gathering at my grandpas a few years ago. 

So what does work for us in regards to family time? 

We get out of the house. A lot.  Sometimes it's just for an hour or so and other times we are gone for the day or the weekend. 

We go get ice cream. 

Little girl big ice cream, big man little ice cream.

We go to sporting events together.

Kyla and Mike at the High school state championship football games. 

We go hiking.

A local walking trail we all love to visit. 

We go fishing.

Kyla catching her first catfish

We also:

  • go to parades
  • go to the park 
  • go to see grandparents often
  • play with the dogs
  • swim together
  • take walks together in the neighborhood
  • go to movies and then analyze our favorite parts after
In short, we spend time together as often as possible doing as many different things as we can. During it all, we talk. We discuss interest, what's going on in school, ideas, worries, politics, history, family... if it can be talked about we talk about it.  I find it amazing what kids have to say when we take the time to just stop and listen. 

So with all due respect to the author, the poster, and the commenters but the family meal isn't the final say in quality family time.


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