I went to get my hair cut Friday. My old stylist had moved and I had to use someone new which always makes me a little nervous. Not only about whether or not they will do a good job on my hair, but also whether or not our personalities will hit it off. Thankfully both turned out well, I liked my haircut and I liked the stylist. She’s a young mother of two with a blended family that includes two more children – so four kids all under the age of 11! During our conversation it came up that we homeschool, and that I teach nutrition classes. She’s already on board with the idea that kids should eat real food and not a lot of packaged foods or drive-thru meals. I told her the one thing that still surprises me when I talk to moms’ groups was just how many adults don’t know how to do anything in the kitchen beyond microwaving something out of a package. She got quiet for a little bit and then confessed “I do that a lot more than I probably should. It’s just that who has time to cook?” I agreed that time was a big factor for a lot of people and that the best thing I ever did was to teach my son to cook starting when he was very young so that by six years old he could scramble eggs and make toast and now, at age 15, he can make entire meals, even concocting new dishes (mostly spicy and involving onions and/or bacon). My stylist grew thoughtful and said “My older daughter is 8 and she keeps asking to help me, she wants to stir things when I’m cooking, but I’ve never let her do it yet. Maybe I should start.” um…YES!!
As soon as your children are old enough to follow simple directions they are old enough to begin helping out in the kitchen. My sister, Amy, has done a super job with this. My 16 yr old nephew and 13 yr old niece are both very handy in the kitchen, you can watch Lucy make guacamole in this video. The two younger girls are also on their way with the 2nd grader making scrambled eggs, cinnamon toast and emptying the dishwasher while the 3 yr old is ready to wash any fruits or vegetables, use a childsafe knife to cut things into cubes, and to help her big sister make muffins. Do our kids cook because we homeschool? I don’t think so because I know non-homeschooling families whose children can cook, do laundry and help around the house and the yard – but I find homeschooling families are often more purposeful about it frequently including these kinds of tasks in the daily lessons. “Life Skills” are vital for any young person.
As parents we are charged with the responsibility of raising up our children to be ready to enter the world equipped to be vital, useful members of society. I loved the story my friend, Nicole, told me about her then 9yr old son. They have a family tradition of Dad making pancakes every Saturday morning, and not from a mix either. Like us, they grind grain to make freshly milled flour (see more here). When they were preparing for a new baby the 9yr old said “Don’t worry, I’m going to make the pancakes now.” He’d been helping his dad all along and felt confident enough to take over the job, including using the grain mill, to make the Saturday pancakes for his brothers and sisters while Dad was helping with the new baby. It’s been his job ever since! And just this weekend Amy was able to take a friend on a surprise overnight birthday trip leaving her kids behind to cook all the meals, clean up, and take care of the animals (yes, Dad was still at home, but the kids kept the homestead running), without worrying too much about them burning the house down or eating pop-tarts three meals a day.
Sue Gregg, an amazing woman and author of at least eight real food cookbooks, has a page on her website called Cooking With Children where she shares more than 40 different cooking tasks and recipes parents can do with their children starting as young as 3 yrs old. As soon as kids can read they can follow simple written recipes and begin to cook independently. Encourage them to help you make out menus for the week’s meals that include foods they can prepare. Soon you can give them responsibility over one meal per week, and then one week per month. I think there should be a requirement for high school graduation that the child must be able to plan for, shop, and prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner for at least one week. They have to do it for real when they’re out on their own, why not give them the skills and knowledge of how to do it the right way? Consider it just one more investment in their future – and in the future of their family, their children (your grandchildren!)
Deuteronomy 6:7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
*Post Script to this blog: I’d like to give a shout-out to GNOWFGLINS Traditional Foods cooking courses. Both my teens are taking the Fundamentals I course as part of their weekly schooling this fall in our homeschool. There are several courses to choose from and they are self-directed so the children can move along at their own pace.
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