by Joseph Grayhaim
Homeschooling affords some of the best real-life academic lessons one can imagine. One of the great benefits is that your child learns applications of concepts that would otherwise only be held in the pages of a book . . . where they have little meaning or significance.
One of the best classrooms in your homeschool environment is the kitchen. Besides being significant as a means to adulthood self-reliance and responsibility, cooking lends itself to a variety of topics and skill development.
- Math, especially fractions, in measuring ingredients and adjusting for more people than the recipe calls for. This is one of the most useful skills one can learn. Cooking for potlucks of various sizes or dinner parties of varying numbers of guests can vex many cooks. Teaching this skill to your child early will enhance math knowledge as well as his/her entertaining skills.
- Organizing, planning and prioritizing. Learning how to cook a complete meal of many dishes and having all of them “come up” at once – be ready to serve within a few seconds of each other – teaches a child how to plan and prioritize according to which dishes take longer to cook, etc.
Planning a large dinner for family and/or friends, requires the overview skill of a film director or field general. It teaches sequential thinking, which is a very important skill in Life. One has to plan what logically must be done first, second, third, etc. . . . planning what to cook and for how many; making shopping lists of necessary grocery items; assessing what equipment – both kitchen and dining area — you may have to jerry-rig or borrow ahead of time; knowing how to properly plan and prepare the raw ingredients ahead of time . . . dicing the onions, celery and slicing the mushrooms for sautéing for rice pilaf; washing the potatoes to prep for boiling for mashing; before you take a boiling pot of pasta off of the stove, make sure you have a place to put it so you aren’t standing in the middle of the kitchen risking burns . . . these details are all essential in producing an enjoyable cooking and serving experience.
• Cultural Geography: Discovering how other people eat and prepare their food is one of the most consistently fascinating subjects one can study. This also affords the opportunity to read in-depth about the culture and then prepare some dishes of that locale. For instance, the differences between Eastern European cuisine and Mediterranean, is a worthwhile study in itself, considering the different vegetables available to each group and what they have done with their raw materials – sauerkraut, cole slaw, potatoes cooked in many ways in countries like Poland, Czechoslovakia and Ukraine, compared to hummus, tabbouleh salad, falafel, kibbe and gyro of the warmer climates of Greece, Lebanon and Israel.
Manual dexterity — knives and kitchen utensils: Mixing, stirring, blending, folding, kneading . . . cooking is a very active procedure and your child will gain increased manual dexterity by learning and practicing all of the functions of the culinary art. Even 7-year-olds can be taught how to properly handle a small chef’s knife and to have respect for its sharpness. Learning to be comfortable with the tools of the trade affords a child a feeling of accomplishment and self-confidence that is foundational. There are many kitchen machines that are significant and valuable, including the Ninja blender, bread machines, pasta makers and food dehydrators. Visit www.kitchenmixers.com for an array of such tools.
Final Note, for boys, too!
Many households erroneously think of cooking as woman’s work, and therefore only teach the daughters to know their way around the kitchen, but nothing makes a boy more self-reliant and mature than having the skill to cook pasta, oatmeal, rice, prepare and steam vegetables, etc. Grown men who have cooking skill – even rudimentary enough to shop and cook for themselves – possess awareness and confidence that non-cooking men lack. If you want a valuable Unit Study topic for a long-term study that will last “forever”, consider cooking as the ideal academic centerpiece! J.G.