708: Letting Kids Lead the Way, Critical Thinking, and How Education is Changing With Lisa Jendza

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Letting Kids Lead the Way, Critical Thinking, and How Education is Changing with Lisa Jendza
Wellness Mama » Episode » 708: Letting Kids Lead the Way, Critical Thinking, and How Education is Changing With Lisa Jendza
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The Wellness Mama Podcast
708: Letting Kids Lead the Way, Critical Thinking, and How Education is Changing With Lisa Jendza
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I’m talking with Lisa Jendeza today, a former HP technology consultant with a background in business and network operations. After witnessing what she calls a decline in critical thinking she embarked on a journey to help others learn how to take their power back. She now teaches adult classes on how to detox and make healthier food choices and cooking classes for kids.

Lisa’s cooking classes help kids learn through experience how to create lasting change, use critical thinking skills, and allow them the freedom to explore. In her program, Freedom Kitchen, kids learn how to explore different ingredients and ultimately be leaders of their own health and happiness in a judgment free zone.

When I think back to what I learned growing up, the most important lessons were ones I learned through experiences. Getting kids in the kitchen and working with their hands activates both sides of the brain for a whole-body approach to health. We’ve often heard that actions speak louder than words, but experience trumps action! Kids can learn the importance of experiments, how to shift their mindset through food experiences, and so much more.

Our conversation went in a lot of different directions today and I’m excited to share it with you!

Episode Highlights With Lisa

  • How she shifted from IT into her current work
  • Action speaks louder than words but experience trumps action
  • How she teaches life lessons through kitchen skills
  • The importance of experiments
  • How to shift mindset through food experiences with kids
  • Kids are so capable of understanding and making good choices about food and about life
  • Her take on stem classes and their possible downsides
  • Right brain focused approaches to education with kids
  • How cooking is a great integrated whole brain experience with both right and left brain activities
  • Our kid’s futures will look different than we can predict and how to help them prepare
  • How to create more opportunities for right brain learning with your kids

Resources We Mention

More From Wellness Mama

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Katie: Hello and welcome to the Wellness Mama podcast. I’m Katie from wellnessmama.com and this episode is all about letting kids lead the way, about embracing critical thinking and the changing nature of education, all through the lens of kids cooking in the kitchen. And I really loved this interview that went in a lot of different directions. I’m here with Lisa Jendza, who was a consultant for HP and she witnessed what she calls the decline in critical thinking and embarked on a journey to help coach adults and now children on how to take their power back and think more critically.

And similar to her adult detox program, her cooking classes are an experiential way to create lasting change and more critical thinking and leading to more kids who are more empowered, respected and given the freedom to explore. She opens up dialogue around what it means to be a leader, how kids are affected by peer pressure when it comes to what’s considered normal in food and lifestyle choices, and much more in her programs called Freedom Kitchen, which is a judgment-free zone where she helps kids find the courage to explore different ingredients and ultimately, how to be leaders of their own health and happiness in and out of the classroom.

And this was a really fun interview. I think it’ll resonate for lots of families. We talk about her journey, how actions speak louder than words, but experience trumps action, how she teaches life lessons through kitchen skills, the importance of experiments, how failure and perfection are both not allowed, how to shift mindset through food experiences, how kids are so capable of understanding and making good choices about food and about life.

We talk about right brain-focused approaches to education, how cooking is a great whole brain experience with both right and left brain activities, how our kids’ futures will look very different than we can predict and how to help them prepare, how to create more opportunities for right brain learning in kids, and so much more. I very much enjoyed this interview, and so let’s join Lisa. Lisa, welcome. Thanks so much for being here.

Lisa: Oh, thanks so much for having me, Katie. It’s an honor.

Katie: I am very excited to chat with you because I think we have a lot of alignment in some of our beliefs and I think you have such a beautiful way of explaining and teaching it that is really relevant, especially to kids and the majority of the people listening are parents. So I think this is going to be very applicable to many, many of the people listening. And I think for some background for this episode, because we’re going to get to delve deep into the work that you do now. And I know this has not always been the work that you do, but that you also, what maybe what led to some of this, at least from researching your bio is noticing a decline in critical thinking and then looking at how to create solutions for that. And as a homeschooling mom and an entrepreneur, this is one of my first principles of life and of parenting is how do we actually nurture those skills that will serve our kids in whatever they encounter in adult life and creativity and critical thinking top that list in our house. And so I love that this was the impetus for you, but I would love to hear about some of your background and what led to that jump.

Lisa: Well, let me just say that I honor you and respect you and all of the homeschool parents out there. I did not homeschool my kids. They did go through the public school system. I was a corporate information technology consultant. For many years, I was in operations, network operations. Most years, GM being my client. So I was responsible for keeping assembly lines running and then keeping the OnStar application running. And so if you can imagine, I was on call 24/7 and with the demands of my job, I raised my kids on boxes and drive-throughs and I trusted the school system. I was a product of the school system and multiple college degrees.

And along the way, I definitely evolved. So I don’t think that there’s a right or wrong answer. What I like to do now is inspire conversation, provoke some thought around some of the choices we’re making because I think some of the choices we make are on autopilot because it’s just what we do, right? It’s just what society does. And that’s what I found as I was in my consulting career. The answers that I would get from people is, well, it’s just always been done this way. And I think I was put on this planet to actually challenge the status quo. So I moved from challenging the status quo and IT Consulting to really kind of all areas of life. And the way I look at it is now I’m helping to develop future leaders.

Katie: Well, and I love the work you do. And I’m so glad we’re getting to have this conversation because that was my journey as well. And the reason that I ended up homeschooling, I’ve talked about this a little bit before, but was when my oldest was five, trying to ask better questions. And I love that you brought that up. I think when we ask better questions, we obviously get better answers. But I looked at him at almost five years old and thought, what’s going to best prepare him for adult life? Realizing that what I do in adult life didn’t exist as a career option when I was five. So no one could have anticipated to directly prepare me for that. And realizing his future could be in who knows, directions that haven’t even been invented yet. So what best prepares kids for that?

And like you, I worked backwards and realized it was these foundational skills. It wasn’t knowledge down, it was skills up. And it was the mindset that they have as they grow up. It’s those foundational things that they can build on into whatever they end up pursuing in their adult life. And I think the way that you bring this in with kids is also really, really unique and also super applicable. Like you, I was also a product of the school system. So there was definitely some critical thinking that had to happen for me and some dismantling of assumptions that existed for me. But talk more about how you then made that switch and then what you’re doing now to really nurture that skill, because I think this is so foundational and important.

Lisa: Yeah, well, words don’t teach, experiences do. And that was something also I didn’t really understand when my kids were young. And we can tell our kids to do something different, but due to mirror neurons, they’re going to watch what we’re doing. So one thing we’ve all heard is, you know, actions speak louder than words, but what speaks louder than actions is experiences.

And so I actually moved into helping adults detox first. And so I ended up purchasing a wellness spa and I started teaching detoxification about 16 years ago. And as many lectures as I gave, I saw the same thing that I saw in Corporate America and people’s eyes would glaze over. Like they weren’t comprehending everything I was trying to teach them. And I recognized this has to be an experience. And so over time, I created a program that I would take people through, a three-month detox program that is an experiential process. Then they could have their own epiphany, their own awakening, come to their own conclusions. They didn’t need me to tell them. They needed to figure it out.

And I look at it like bumpers in a bowling lane, you know, like bumper bowling. So I put the program in place with the bumpers and I would let them bump up against the bumpers so that they could figure out what was right for them. Well, now that I’m teaching kids, which really was divine intervention, it’s really the same concept. I put together a program where they bump up against the bumpers, where we get in the kitchen and we experience, and I ask them questions. And the only reason I’m still teaching this program is because of the questions that they ask me. They have proven to me just how intelligent they are, how deep thinking they are. They’ve proven to me that they have leadership ability. And because of the questions that they ask me, I continue to teach this program.

Katie: I love that. And I love that you center it in the kitchen because I think with my background in health and nutrition as well, I think that also is a foundational skill and that many people make it to adulthood without knowing how to cook even. And I think that like any education and experiences to your point that we can give them at an early age, that also helps nurture how autonomous they feel and how able and capable they feel, which I think that skill translates into every area of life as well.

And I remember early on realizing with my kids too is that I started with the first principle that once they were capable of doing something for them, I was no longer going to do it for them because I felt like that was an insult to their ability, to their capability, and that was undermining their ability to grow within that realm. And so I’ve held on to that as my kids have reached all these various ages. And certainly there’s a lot of letting go on the mom side for that. And it’s amazing how fast they grow up.

But I would love some examples of how you do this with the kids, especially like what are some of those better questions that they’ve asked you? What are some of the ways you build that in for them? And what are some ways that families listening can start to take that approach in their own homes to start to give their kids the same experience?

Lisa: Yeah, well, first I would love to say that this is a judgment-free zone. I didn’t teach my kids how to cook, and I figured that out when my daughter went off to college. And so anyone who comes into my program, I always start with this, this is a judgment-free zone. And you will find that my kitchen is infused with love. and I have, I hold a very safe space energetically so that those coming into that space with me can learn and grow and experiment. We need to experiment. We have to try different things. It’s the only way that we learn and we grow. So there’s no such thing as failure and there’s no such thing as perfect.

So I tell the kids, I even record cooking videos, Katie, where I’ve made a mistake in the recipe and I keep it in the video and I say, oh, look, you guys, I made a mistake, but my streusel still turned out. And how about we make it a second time? And I say, you know, I might decide this time to use half the amount of sugar. And so I’m showing them how to experiment. Now, in every class are options. I talk to them about you could use this, or you could use this, or you could use this. And what the kids have said to me, I’ve had high school students that have come to me and said, this is the best class I’ve ever taken. Because you don’t just give us things to memorize. You show us all of our options, and you tell us to find what’s best for us. No one has ever done that. Which that is remarkable to me. I wasn’t trained as a teacher, and yet I have families and students coming to me saying that they’ve gleaned more or gained more from this class. Those types of comments, and then the questions that I get, I’ll have a student that will stop at a station. Every class is a little different, how I set it up, and look at me, I can tell the wheels are turning, and I’m like, what is your question? What are you thinking?

And so I just pull their questions out of them if they don’t blurt them out. And they say… Well, if making jell-o is this easy, why would we buy the instant stuff at the grocery store? And I say, oh my gosh, that’s such a good question. Why would we buy the instant stuff at the grocery store? So everyone go ask your families who knows how to make jell-o and teach them because I think we forgot. And the food companies would like us to think that it’s hard and that they have to do it for us. Um, we made lemon meringue pie and I teased the kids. We got done making our pies and I said, Oh my gosh, we forgot the yellow food dye. And they all looked around, looked at their recipe and they’re like, I followed the recipe and then they looked at their pies and it clicked. And they said, “Miss Lisa, our pie is yellow”. I know! So why would they ever put food dye, yellow food dye, in something that’s yellow? I mean, I’ve had nine year olds that have said to me, I’m never eating chemicals or food dyes again, and I’m going to tell all my friends not to. And literally made the connection that if they all stop eating food dyes, the companies won’t use food dyes.

These kids, these are things they bring up. These are realizations they have. So I bring a lot of little fun experiences into class and I just make it fun and funny. I mean, because… I’m pretty angry about our food supply. I’m pretty angry about where things are, Katie, but if we can’t make… I don’t want to say like make fun of it or make light of it. I just don’t know how to get through to the kids any other way than to have some satire.

Katie: Well, and I think you touched on something so important. And I’ve talked a little bit about this too, but I’m excited to go deeper on the mindset component of this because I, like you realize the value of experimentation and education and how capable kids are from often much younger than we think of understanding these things and actually making those decisions themselves. And so people, when they ask, you know, how do you keep your kids from eating whatever the food is or keep them from wanting to do those things? My answer is usually that I actually don’t. I believe in education and very open conversations and having them understand and have the tools to understand from a young age how the inputs they put in their mouth affects their body.

But I also don’t want to diminish their autonomy and making choices around that because I believe that if they are given the right tools, they will make good choices most of the time. And so I want, and to your point with experimentation, I also want them to have the freedom to make choices that I wouldn’t have made for them sometimes and feel the results of those choices. So if they’re not in my house, I’m not controlling what they eat. And I find that especially as they get older, they almost always make good choices because they’re allowed to make the choices and they feel the ownership of that. Whereas if we externally control that for them, they never get to step into the actual ownership and the understanding. And like you talk about the experimentation, and I love that you say there’s no failure and there’s no perfect. I think reframing that alone and taking away that aspect of failure lets them feel so much safer in experimentation. And I would guess your classes also feel so fun because of that, because it is an experiment, it’s an adventure, it’s not this rigid container that they’re living in.

Lisa: Yeah, yeah, we do a lot of experimentation even in class and we have mistakes in class, right? We have eggs on the floor, we have too much salt, we have… My class truly is a judgment-free zone, and the kids know there’s nothing that they can do that’s wrong. And almost always the food is still edible.

Katie: Yeah, I love that. I think from a parent’s perspective, it can be hard sometimes, especially at those young ages when they are so curious and actually so much want to do those things. It can be hard to hand over the reins and let them have those experiences. I love not labeling them as failures, but I know it can be frustrating for parents when the eggs fall on the floor or when ingredients get wasted. But I also feel like those are such investments because they pay dividends as the kids get older, first of all, in their mindset and how they feel about their ability to do things and to tackle challenges and to try new things.

But also having seen that play out with my kids, the fact that my kids made their own kitchen system and now manage the kitchen entirely almost on their own, and they cook most meals because they enjoy it. And my son will watch YouTube videos and figure out how to do reductions and how to make sure the wine has cooked off but that it activates the flavor profile and all these things. And I was like, I wasn’t doing that at 15, but they have this experimentation and they love it. And the result for me is that now I don’t have to cook dinner most days because my kids want to do it. I’m not forcing them to do it.

Lisa: Yes. Yeah, I tell people I have eight and nine year olds that cook dinner for their families. And I’ve had parents come to me and say, we thought we thought she was a picky eater, but now we realize we’re probably the picky eaters because she’ll eat anything and she wants to make everything she’s learned in your class. And so I do provide like a grocery list for the parents and I provide video, all of my classes are prerecorded every school year. So I provide video lessons and then also video messages to the parents to keep them on the same page because I already know their kids are going to want the healthier options. So I share with the parents all the ingredients we use because I say they learn in my kitchen but they live in yours.

Katie: I love that. Are there any tips for setting up this type of environment in a home? These courses are videos, so families can integrate them. Are there any tips for setting up the kitchen environment to be more kid-friendly or setting up the energy and the mindset around the kitchen that makes kids feel more included and able to step into that?

Lisa: I always encourage parents to have some utensils, their own cookbook, let them feel like they have their own space in the kitchen, maybe a drawer with their utensils. But more than that, it’s just really the mindset. And again, being completely transparent, I did not have patience when my kids were young. And so it was difficult for me. I didn’t want them in the kitchen with me. I rarely cooked anyways because of my career.

So I think it’s better to have someone else teach them. I tell families all the time, if you don’t have the patience for it, no worries. Send them to my class because at this point in my life, I do have the patience for this. And it seems like when they learn from someone else, maybe just in my case, because I didn’t have a lot of patience when my kids were young. But when they learn from someone else, it becomes more their idea and you don’t have the parent-child, you know, combativeness, they go home and they tell the parents like, I want to use coconut sugar because it’s half the glycemic index. And then the parents are calling me saying, okay, where do I find coconut sugar, when it’s the kid’s idea, when it’s the child’s idea. I think the best thing we can do is just give them space and support.

Katie: Yeah, I love that. And I think there’s also like the practical side as well. Like my kitchen has changed a lot over the years from the years when I only had little toddlers and I was doing all of the cooking to now the upper cabinets get used very rarely and the lower cabinets are packed with stuff because I want everything to be reachable for them.

And I also realized like, I wanted to not baby proof, but make sure everything was accessible to them. So I tried to make everything as durable as possible, minimize glass when they’re younger so that they don’t have those experiences of making a genuine human mistake of dropping something and then feeling bad about it. I wanted them to be able to interact entirely with the kitchen as much as possible.

I also think you’re right. You touched on something really important, which is that while parents may be the first and most important teachers of their kids, we’re certainly not the only teachers. And often, especially at different ages, they can hear something better from other people, especially people who are very passionate and have a lot of expertise in a particular area. And so I think this is one that I think you have a very valuable resource for because of that. And I’m noticing this with my kids at various ages, even my teenagers realizing, I think they do still actually listen and pay attention, but they’re at an age where they also pay more attention to their coaches or to other people they interact with. And I’m super grateful that I have this amazing network of these safe adults who help be great influences for them. And I think anytime we can bring in someone who is another great perspective, that’s just an asset to our kids.

Lisa: Yeah, I remember my kids coming home and telling me everything their friends’ parents said and putting way more stock into what their friends’ parents said. And likewise, those parents would say that their kids hung on every word I said. So there’s something about that age where they’re looking for validation outside of their parents. They need to hear it again from someone else and they’re really looking for their own independence.

So they’re looking for some type of validation and guidance so that they can become independent from their parents. So I always say, your child will never come home from my class as making you wrong. Let me be the other mom. What more than likely will happen is they’ll come home and they’ll validate something you’ve told them before.

Katie: Absolutely. I think that’s really such a valuable perspective. What ages do you find people at? Which ages of kids typically take your classes and do you have classes for all kinds of different ages, including like more advanced ones for older kids?

Lisa: Yeah, I teach ages 6 to 18. I start them in my kitchen in first grade. I have a lot of requests for four and five-year-olds. So I get the DK and the K requests. It’s a little challenging in my physical kitchen because most of my DKers or kindergartners need step stools and need a lot more supervision when it comes to sharp objects and heat. So I ask for them not to come to my kitchen until age six, but I do offer my at home videotaped courses for families to start younger than that.

And I do have a high school leadership program that is in addition to the cooking program where we’re actually talking about the source of our food. So it’s really a problem solution class where we’re talking about the problems in the food supply and in the ecosystem. Everything from food dyes or things that are done in manufacturing all the way back even to the source of our food and the chemicals that are sprayed on our soil killing the microbes and what’s killing the bees. And because Katie, I have found that through this class the kids are capable of thinking bigger and I am able to go deeper not only with the questioning and the thought provoking lessons but having them participate in the solutions.

Katie: Yeah, I think that’s so genius and that it roots it in something very applicable to them multiple times per day. That’s such an integral part of their experience as children in eating, but also, like you said, it connects to the wider world around them, which they’re wired to be so curious about. And I think that’s honestly the perfect time because like you, I feel like we need to raise innovators and solution makers and that’s going to be, and this is why I’m so grateful to get to talk to moms because I think moms are such a force of nature. And we not just have purchasing power, even though we are, of course, the biggest purchasing power, but we’re directly involved with the next generation, which gives us a really unique ability to help hopefully create solutions for the future by helping our kids become solution makers for the future.

And I think it’s so smart the way you do this with a food first approach, because that’s so applicable to kids at every age, every kid has to eat. And if you can tie in these important things to something they’re already experiencing and already doing and use it as a way to springboard them into understanding the wider world in a more intricate way, I think that’s going to pay dividends not just in families, of course, there too, but in society as a whole as these kids get older.

Lisa: Yes, and that’s really my goal. You know, you brought up a point early on that your career didn’t exist. You know, 20, 30 years ago. And I’ll say, I know I’m older than you, but 40, 50 years ago, health coaching didn’t exist. I had no intention of becoming a health coach. All of my degrees are in business and management. As a matter of fact, I was very specialized in technology and management. And I wanted to improve the world, I thought.

I feel like I’m improving the world more now as a health coach than I did in all those years in technology. Now, some people might beg to differ because they like that blue button in their car and they can call OnStar. But in a lot of ways that’s not really contributing to the evolution of our planet, of our species. And a lot of things have changed in my lifetime and they will continue to change in our kids’ lifetime.

And one of the things that I’ve been imploring a lot of parents to think about is that STEM classes may not be the best choice, when they cannot compete with a computer. We really need to engage. So a lot of STEM classes are very heavy on the left brain, analytical, logical mind. The way we innovate is to use our right brain, not our left brain. And our school system is set up to be very left brain analytical. Which is why I didn’t understand as they started reducing and removing the arts, why so many people were upset with that, which I understand now we need access to the right brain.

Cooking is a beautiful experience that is whole brain integrative. So we use right brain and left brain. So when I talk about having courage, confidence and creativity, I’m moving them on a continuum from something that’s logical, left brain, that’s what they’re used to, read this process and follow it. And then I take them on a journey to creativity. Now, what else could we do with this? What if we lose all the bees? Will we have this food? So we’re on a journey to create something new.

So I start them in the left brain and take them over to the right brain. And we really need whole brain activities for our kids. And I would even say we probably need a lot more right brain activities than we need left brain. They’re getting plenty of left brain activities. They’re not going to be able to write code better than artificial intelligence. So we are going to have to innovate. Their future will look different than what we can predict. The best thing we can do is give them the tools to be healthy, to be flexible, and then get out of their way, so that they can create something new, something that we can’t envision.

Katie: That’s such a good point. And I think that touches on one of the big conversations happening in society right now is as AI is becoming so much more prominent, how is that going to change all of our lives? And to your point, we will not be able to compete with computers on the things computers are designed to do better and that don’t have the slowdowns that human brains have. And I, like you, have shared that concern of them taking a lot of those right brain things out of schools.

So for parents listening, realizing the limitations if their kids are in schools. Obviously, cooking is a huge first step and I love that you explain that as a whole brain activity. What are some other ways we can create opportunities for more of that creativity and that right brain activity in our homes, in our kids’ lives? Any other suggestions for how we can help them with that?

Lisa: Yeah. You know, I’m going to say some of the obvious things that you’ve probably told your audience. Less screen time, less, less games. We have to get out and we have to connect with nature, but we need to be having conversation. It’s through conversation in my cooking classes. I always say there’s a benefit to taking my videotaped classes at home because the kids get to cook in their own kitchen from beginning to end. But there’s a benefit to being in the kitchen with me. And a lot of that comes down to conversation and community.

We need conversation and community because that’s where they hear the questions of the other students. That’s where they can ask questions, where they can explore. And we need to do that in more areas, not just cooking. There are plenty of areas where we can get involved. I think the kids can get out and actually do internships. So I’m bringing in a beekeeper who’s in his 20s who has said that he would love to help my students learn about beekeeping. The more experiential processes that they can do. Words don’t teach, experiences do. It’s the experiential processes that will provoke more questions and more exploration.

Katie: I love that you’re bringing in a beekeeper. I’ve been a beekeeper since I was probably 13. And that’s another area I think we’re obviously facing some difficulties with our bee population in the world. And so I think the more kids we have involved in understanding that, and I think kids also naturally tend to love learning about and interacting with bees. So I love that you’re bringing that in as well.

This podcast is sponsored by LMNT. I’ve loved this company for hydration and for electrolytes, and this is something I consume almost every day and also give to my high school kids who are athletes and my younger kids to help keep them hydrated in the hot climate that we live in and with as much activity as we’re doing. And I’m excited to announce that LMNT has made grapefruit one of their permanent options! This used to be a seasonal flavor and it was one of my favorites and now it’s available all the time, anytime of year.
Here’s the thing, optimal health and hydration really depend on minerals.
Did you know that drinking too much plain water without adequately taking our mineral content into account can actually cause us to be less hydrated, even if we’re drinking a lot of water? And that’s why I’ve really delved into the research around minerals and have made this a priority for me. I think this is incredibly important for not just hydration, but for mineral balance, including sleep, including exercise performance, including so much more. LMNT has lots of flavor options for this, including ones that my kids love like watermelon and grapefruit, also citrus, raspberry. They have a whole host of options to help you increase your mineral content and your availability in a delicious way. And you can check out all of their options and get a free sample pack with any order by going to drinklmnt.com/wellnessmama.

This podcast is brought to you by ARMRA, which is a new Colostrum I have been experimenting with and had to tell you about. Because you know I’m always on the lookout for new ways to improve immunity, gut health, fitness, metabolism, and enhance my skin and hair. And I have been liking this new Colostrum product.
Colostrum is the first nutrition we receive in life, and it contains all the essential nutrients our bodies need in order to thrive. But the ARMRA one specifically is a proprietary concentrate of bovine colostrum that harnesses over 400 living bioactive nutrients that rebuild the barriers of your body and fuel cellular health for a host of research-backed benefits. It strengthens immunity, ignites metabolism, and it has anti-inflammatory gut-fortifying properties. It can improve hair growth and skin radiance. I’ve been using it for fitness and recovery, and it also has a host of well-studied anti-aging benefits.
And this one is a premium one, unlike other ones I’ve tried. It’s natural, sustainable, and they’ve done research and testing from start to finish. Unlike most colostrums, which use heat that depletes their nutrient potency, they leverage their proprietary cold chain biopotent technology, which is an innovative process that purifies and preserves the integrity of the bioactive nutrients while removing things like casein and fat to guarantee that it’s highly potent and bioavailable and more so than any other one on the market. So they go above and beyond industry standards and they invest in expensive auditing and third-party testing to ensure that they always meet the highest demands of purity and efficacy and are glyphosate-free. And for you, for listening, they have a special offer just for you to receive 15% off your first order by going to tryarmra.com/mama15 and using the code “mama15” to say 15%.

You made me also think of in our family, we only have a couple of line items in the budget that are essentially unlimited. And that is if they want books, I’m always happy to buy them books, anything they want to learn about, but also any kind of creative experimentation. I always try to support that in my kids as much as possible, whether it’s they want to learn how to sew, whether it’s they want to learn how to speed solve a Rubik’s Cube, or they want to learn some new skill, or they want to build something. I always try to give them the tools to do that whenever possible because I remember how much I learned and how when I look back on my own childhood, I certainly don’t remember my best day of taking tests in school, but I certainly remember my best day of learning how to do stained glass, for instance, or learning how to sew for the first time or learning beekeeping. Like I remember those things so vividly and I can see now how they’ve shaped other areas of my life with the skills that crossed over, not even the direct experiences, but how much that’s rippled through.

So I love that you’re even in your cooking classes bringing in other disciplines as well so kids get that exposure and that experience. And I think maybe in those moments, that’s also might be those times when they find the thing they’re passionate about or that they love.

And I also really believe that kids are natural pattern makers. I got advice from a friend years ago that every morning the kids watched three TED talks on unrelated topics because he said kids are such natural pattern makers. And if you give them exposure to things that are not normally related, their brains will find and create patterns and connect dots. And I think that’s also a big step into that innovation and problem solving critical thinking adults that we need in the world. And so if you give them things that are not considered related already, they might find pattern that other people aren’t looking at and they might find a unique way to apply something they learn about robotics, maybe to the problem of plastic in the ocean or whatever it may be. But they just are so naturally wired for that at young ages. And so I love that you’re giving even more tools that parents can use to help give those kids those experiences.

Lisa: Yes, oh my gosh, I love that observation. It was a natural extension for me to go from teaching them how to make a cake with honey, to talk about what ingredients in this cake required us to have bees. Because most of them say honey, but we needed the bees for the oranges, the almond flour, the pistachios. We needed pollinators for more than just the honey. And so we can then have that bigger conversation.

And so in my classes, especially with my older kids, we’re really talking about the fear around climate change instead of being empowered to actually make a change. Where there’s a lot of fear and fear keeps us in survival mode. And so my goal is to really empower these kids to feel empowered, but safe and like a contributor and their ideas matter because everything seems to be minimized. You know, we hear that this problem is much bigger than any of us can address, but yet the kids could choose in their generation to get rid of lawns and to plant clover to feed the pollinators. The biggest killer of the bees is lawn. We all have a lawn. You know, I look around, I’ve lived in my house 30 years and I’ve planted a lot of bushes, none of them fruit bearing. Not until just last year we planted raspberries and I just planted edible bushes and a couple trees at my son and my daughter’s houses. But why did we plant non-edible, inedible landscaping? These are things that our kids can change and nature is abundant. And we’ve been made to believe it’s so scarce.

And so we’re addressing all of that in my classes, like, oh, these are so abundant. Can you grow these in your state? You know, I know we can grow these in our state. And so I bring in a lot of lessons about what does it take to grow a pear tree? Do you have to have a cross pollinator? Do you have to have two? How long before it bears fruit? So we’re talking about that as we’re making pear galettes. Because that is what solves the bigger problem and that’s what sets them free. And my message at Freedom Kitchen is really that they can set themselves free. I realized that there was a lot of control, corporatocracy. I come out of corporate so I could see it firsthand. There was a lot of control and we forgot. And probably not you because you’ve done so good homeschooling and you’ve taught your kids to be independent. But I think the majority of our society has become codependent and not independent. So my goal is to create independent kids and next generation.

Katie: Do you have any suggestions for maybe making that shift in mindset of parenting at different ages? Because I know as my kids have grown, I’ve certainly grown up with them and learned at each level. And I can look back so many times and think, oh, I wish I had known that when they were this age. But it’s all been a learning journey.

But for people who maybe have older kids and are maybe recognizing some of those signs, are there things we can do and shift even then that will help our kids develop that critical thinking and develop those foundational skills before they reach adulthood? Or even if they’re already in adulthood and we still have a relationship with them, things that we can do to help?

Lisa: Well, you’re going to make me cry because my kids are in their twenties. And so I think every parent looks back and says, I wish I would have known. I wish I would have done this better or that better. And so there’s plenty of things that I look back on and wish I would have known.

And so I really live by the phrase from Maya Angelou, when we know better, we do better. That’s why I say this is a judgment-free zone, because we can only do to the ability of what we know. So what we do is we start where we’re at today. You know the saying, the best time to plant an oak tree was 30 years ago and the next best time is today. So we start where we’re at.

Trying to make a massive change. Like we were a family that ate out seven days a week. So trying to shift, and my kids were in middle school when I made the shift in our household. I could not do that overnight. They would just rebel. And at that point they were already addicted. We were all addicted to fast food and junk food. There is a great program for anyone who’s interested on processed food addiction. And the research of Joan Ifland, and she has a textbook with 2,000 research studies in it of how we are absolutely addicted. And those foods were created to be addictive. So trying to change that overnight is not possible. So you start one step at a time and this is probably why health coach there’s so many health coaches because we coach people through changing that.

But it really is a phased approach. And I would just say, the more loving you can be with yourself and with your children through that process, depending on where you’re at and how much needs to change, give yourself some grace.

Katie: And I think the beauty there, I’ve heard this from so many families, is that kids are so much more adaptable too than adults that often when a whole family makes that switch, the kids will actually adapt faster and their taste buds will change and they are often able to listen to their bodies more quickly and realize what feels good in their body, what doesn’t, the things that their body needs and doesn’t. And so I think that circles back to the earlier parts of our conversation of when we are able to give them that autonomy and that ownership, they often switch to making good decisions, I feel like faster than adults can because often, I know I had that too, I had years of other eating habits that I had to un-pattern and being used to those processed foods that I had to un-pattern. Whereas kids, especially if they’re able to be raised that way from the very beginning, but even if they aren’t, I feel like they adapt so much more quickly.

And also that crosses over into everything else we’re talking about as well in that kids adapt in every area of learning, I feel like so much more quickly. And I’ve learned so much from my kids. Hopefully I’ve also taught them a lot, but I’ve learned so much from them. And it’s amazing to see how capable they are of understanding things and seeing patterns I don’t see and how quickly they adapt when they learn new things. So I always like to give that as encouragement for parents because I know it feels like it can be an uphill battle or very, very daunting if you’re making that switch, like you said, entirely from scratch. And I think the baby steps approach is so wise because it makes it feel like a much more gentle journey, but also don’t underestimate how quickly your kids may learn and adapt and take ownership for that themselves.

Lisa: Yeah, oh my gosh, so well said. The kids have taught me so much. I love hearing you say that. That was another, that was part of my evolution too, as a mom, was realizing how much my kids could teach me. I needed to be open to that, so I think I had some arrogance, and I was a very young mom. And so I really just wasn’t, I wasn’t observant enough until my kids were a little older as to how much they could really teach me.

But in my kids cooking classes now, I am just so amazed. The kids teach me constantly. It’s the only reason I’m still doing this. It truly was divine intervention. I wasn’t looking to do this. I’ve heard others say, like, I knew I wanted to work with kids. I can’t say that I was really looking for root cause and my focus is on fixing the food. And when I was asked to teach the kids cooking classes, I was so impressed by the depth of their questions, their attentiveness and their desire. And even when I lost my first location during COVID, I lost the location that I had been teaching in and the families asked me, please don’t go. And I said, well, you know, if it’s time for me to move on, I’ll, I’ll move on. And they said, please don’t go. We’ll find a location for you. You can use our houses. They, the kids want this education, and that’s why I continue to teach it. I do believe it’s their competitive advantage. We think about all the things to give our kids a competitive advantage in life. This is it. It starts in the kitchen. Their freedom begins and ends in the kitchen.

Katie: I agree. And I think that springboards also a little bit into the conversation of the shifting of education in a more broad sense, societally, which is certainly also well talked about. And I would love to get your take on that because I know I was like, you use the words a product of the school system. And I actually opted out at the very end, very close to graduating college, I decided I no longer wanted to participate in that and then started pursuing the things I was actually interested in. But it certainly led to a different approach with my kids.

So when I was growing up, I didn’t know that college was optional until I got there. I thought it was like 13th grade, and it was so ingrained that was the goal of childhood was to get into a good college. And I’ve taken such a different approach with my kids. If anything, I’m probably actively discouraging college and encouraging entrepreneurship or encouraging exploration and whatever they find interesting instead. But I would love your perspective on that because I think one thing parents are facing is we’re hearing, of course, that the education system is changing, that college is changing. We hear of people who have a degree and debt, but not a path and who maybe aren’t haven’t mastered some of those critical thinking elements now even as adults. So I would love any perspective you’re willing to share on that because I think this is really applicable and relevant to a lot of parents listening.

Lisa: Well, I love that you asked this question, because I do believe that critical thinking is going to be what sets them apart. They’re not going to be able to out think a computer. A lot of jobs are going to become automated. Now I’ll share with the audience that I graduated with my degree in ‘97 in management and information technology. And we were told that by 2017, everything would be automated, that you would order fast food at a kiosk. You would pay for it at a restaurant, at a kiosk. and that there would be robots making the food.

Now that was either predicted or predictive planning on someone’s part that everything would become automated. And we were told it was because the baby boomers would be retiring and that would be the last wave of the baby boomers retiring. However, 1999, I worked Y2K. So New Year’s Eve, 1999, I got to spend my evening checking all of our systems for the GM Truck Group. And right after that, I read Tom Friedman’s book, The World is Flat. And we were going to a global economy. Now we have people all over the world. I had strong circuits to engineers all over the world to check our systems. So we already knew that we were not dependent on the baby boomers. So we had been told something in 1997 that in 1999, I saw that wasn’t true.

So there’s a lot of things I started putting together as a consultant, right? So when my dad was in college in the 60s, he was told that the US would become a service-based economy. And its services aren’t as valuable. So we have offshored all of our capability. All of our products are made in China. We signed NAFTA and sent a lot of our manufacturing to Mexico. And people aren’t putting two and two together here, that what we’ve left for us here is less valuable. And we are now dependent on these other countries and they could change the price at any time. So it might be 10 cents on the dollar today and it might be $10 tomorrow. I mean, we are no longer in control of any of that. And we have left ourselves in a very vulnerable position. We also import most of our food. And the food that we grow here is all bought by the Processed Food Companies. So it’s very difficult to access like real food, all the grains that we grow, the wheat, the corn, the soy, that’s all bought by the Processed Food Companies. So then you’re really left with nothing more than processed food in this country.

There’s a lot of these data points that I throw out to string together because when they go to college, they’re going to be trained mostly in a service. And what we’re seeing is that is not fairing well for our economy if we look at our GDP and we look at our capability. So I’m not necessarily against college, but I’m not sure what the value, I don’t know how valuable that is. And so we get paid based on our value. You are paid based on your value, not your degree.

And I’d have this realization when my kids were in high school that I remember coming home from yet another personal development workshop. And I said, you don’t have to go to college. As a matter of fact, don’t go. And they both looked at me like I was crazy. And they’re like, we have to go to college. I’m like, no, you don’t have to go to college. So I have one that did because she wanted to be a social worker counselor and she has a calling, a massive calling. So she went that route.

My other one did not go to college and actually does very, very well doing what he wants to do. And it didn’t require any college. So I really think that critical thinking is necessary on all of our parts right now. When I talk to adults, I often say, I’ll sum it up with this brief story. I had a, when I had my Spa, I had a woman and her daughter both used to come to me as clients. And the mother was very unhappy. And she was like counting down her years to retirement, but she was so unhappy because her daughter didn’t go get a corporate job. And I said, why do you want her in a corporate job? She’s like, well, she needs the security and the benefits. I said, there’s no such thing anymore. And there’s no pensions anymore. And so you’re pushing on her an outdated model.

And I asked her one day, I said, are you happy? Because you say you want Alyssa to be happy, but you’re not happy. So we have to be really careful right now not to push our kids in any given direction because they’re the ones who will create the future. We don’t want them recreating our… existence. It’s outdated. And so it’s really difficult as a parent, I think, to step back and say, I’m just going to give you the tools that you need and you go figure it out.

Katie: Oh, so well explained. And I’m very much in alignment with you about that. I think we are in, like you’re talking about, a very unique point in history when things are shifting. And it certainly is a lot to navigate for parents. But I love things like your tools that make that. So it gives kids a concrete area of experimentation to learn that and to hopefully have the confidence and the autonomy within that to then transfer that into every whatever area of adult life they choose, whatever direction they choose.

And I would guess like you, I might have some that choose to go to college still for a very particular purpose, but also others that might forge their own path. And I think it’s very beautiful that we’re living in a time when those are both very viable options now. And a few questions I’m very curious for your answers on as we get close to the end. The first being if there is a book or number of books that have profoundly impacted you personally, and if so, what they are and why.

Lisa: Oh gosh, so I’m an avid reader, hundreds and hundreds of personal development books. I would say probably Think and Grow Rich is one of the first ones that comes to mind. because it helped me to see, and I also did that, the Millionaire Mind Seminar, and that’s when I just realized how conditioned we were in a lot of ways.

Katie: I love it. I will link to that in the show notes as well. Where can people find you and your classes and let their kids benefit from this as well?

Lisa: So my website, lisajendza.com, always has links to everything I have going on, including the kids site, which is freedomkitchenkids.com. And fall classes start in September, every semester is 14 weeks. And I am live on Zoom every Wednesday afternoon Eastern Time. But I do that so that I have an aspect of support regardless of where a child is or a parent. They can hop on Zoom with me every Wednesday.

Katie: Awesome. I will put links to both of those in the show notes for you guys listening on the go. Everything will be at wellnessmama.fm along with the books we’ve mentioned. And I know you have a lot of educational resources available as well. I’ll make sure those are all linked. Any parting advice for the parents listening today that could be related to one of the topics we’ve talked about already or unrelated advice that you feel is important?

Lisa: Yeah, let’s allow the kids to solve the problems. The same level of consciousness that created the problems can’t solve the problems. We have to bring a different level of creativity or energy. So I say all the time, a culture of convenience cannot be a culture of creativity. So quit looking for things to be convenient and allow them to create. And if I have one self-serving motive behind this is that I believe that our food supply is in a very dire place and will be the greatest challenge that the next generation will face. And I will be too old to do anything about it at that point. So if I can create leaders now, who are aware and who are part of the solution, then hopefully I can rest easy in my retirement years.

Katie: I love that and I love that quote, a culture of convenience can’t be a culture of creativity, that’s such a powerful statement and I love the work you’re doing. I’m so glad we got a chance to connect and I’m excited for my kids actually to get to take some of your courses. Thank you so much for your time today and for everything you’ve shared.

Lisa: Thank you, Katie, it was such an honor.

Katie: And thanks as always to all of you for listening and sharing your most valuable resources, your time, your energy, and your attention with us today. We’re both so grateful that you did, and I hope that you will join me again on the next episode of the Wellness Mama Podcast.

If you’re enjoying these interviews, would you please take two minutes to leave a rating or review on iTunes for me? Doing this helps more people to find the podcast, which means even more moms and families could benefit from the information. I really appreciate your time, and thanks as always for listening.

Thanks to Our Sponsors

This podcast is brought to you by ARMRA, which is a new Colostrum I have been experimenting with and had to tell you about. Because you know I’m always on the lookout for new ways to improve immunity, gut health, fitness, metabolism, and enhance my skin and hair. And I have been liking this new Colostrum product.
Colostrum is the first nutrition we receive in life, and it contains all the essential nutrients our bodies need in order to thrive. But the ARMRA one specifically is a proprietary concentrate of bovine colostrum that harnesses over 400 living bioactive nutrients that rebuild the barriers of your body and fuel cellular health for a host of research-backed benefits. It strengthens immunity, ignites metabolism, and it has anti-inflammatory gut-fortifying properties. It can improve hair growth and skin radiance. I’ve been using it for fitness and recovery, and it also has a host of well-studied anti-aging benefits.
And this one is a premium one, unlike other ones I’ve tried. It’s natural, sustainable, and they’ve done research and testing from start to finish. Unlike most colostrums, which use heat that depletes their nutrient potency, they leverage their proprietary cold chain biopotent technology, which is an innovative process that purifies and preserves the integrity of the bioactive nutrients while removing things like casein and fat to guarantee that it’s highly potent and bioavailable and more so than any other one on the market. So they go above and beyond industry standards and they invest in expensive auditing and third-party testing to ensure that they always meet the highest demands of purity and efficacy and are glyphosate-free. And for you, for listening, they have a special offer just for you to receive 15% off your first order by going to tryarmra.com/mama15 and using the code “mama15” to say 15%.

This podcast is sponsored by LMNT. I’ve loved this company for hydration and for electrolytes, and this is something I consume almost every day and also give to my high school kids who are athletes and my younger kids to help keep them hydrated in the hot climate that we live in and with as much activity as we’re doing. And I’m excited to announce that LMNT has made grapefruit one of their permanent options! This used to be a seasonal flavor and it was one of my favorites and now it’s available all the time, anytime of year.
Here’s the thing, optimal health and hydration really depend on minerals.
Did you know that drinking too much plain water without adequately taking our mineral content into account can actually cause us to be less hydrated, even if we’re drinking a lot of water? And that’s why I’ve really delved into the research around minerals and have made this a priority for me. I think this is incredibly important for not just hydration, but for mineral balance, including sleep, including exercise performance, including so much more. LMNT has lots of flavor options for this, including ones that my kids love like watermelon and grapefruit, also citrus, raspberry. They have a whole host of options to help you increase your mineral content and your availability in a delicious way. And you can check out all of their options and get a free sample pack with any order by going to drinklmnt.com/wellnessmama.

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.

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