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Unschooling Cooking

I was recently updating some articles on my LeapingFromTheBox.com site and had to smile when I worked on my Chocolate Cake! article. In that article I share an afternoon that our youngest child Charles and I experienced in the kitchen, trying to bake a chocolate cake together. It was one that was not soon repeated. Cooking with my children just never seemed to pan out, no pun intended. I am not sure if it was the too small kitchen, our different learning styles (and subsequent communication issues), or just that I did not have enough patience, but cooking lessons were few and far between in our house. There were occasions when I would try to remedy this, but they were usually short-lived and everyone involved experienced a welcome sigh of relief when any lessons ended.

My step-mother must have been a good teacher, because when I left home I was able to cook meals for large numbers of people. In fact, my husband and I ate a lot of leftovers until I learned to cook for two (after cooking for eight for so long). She would have been sorely disappointed in me that I did not pass along to my children the cooking skills I learned from her, but the truth is, I did not. A homeschooling failure, right? Probably so, but maybe, just maybe, an unschooling success, at least for one of my children.

The Right Incentive?

After our daughter and granddaughter moved back in with us a couple of months ago, I asked our son David to help out a little bit more around the house, maybe cooking some meals or helping with Miss Munchkin’s care during the daytime. I had half thought that might prove to be the incentive needed for him to go get that part-time job, but instead, it seems to have been the incentive to get him cooking. Not quite what I had in mind, but I am not complaining. Well, not much. He still needs to get that job. But I am certainly enjoying the welcome break from meal planning and preparation. In the last two months, I have cooked maybe five suppertime meals! It is wonderful!

I am not completely off the hook, since David had had so little previous cooking experience. I have to be on hand while recipes are consulted, grocery lists are planned, and most especially during the actual cooking process. But I try to stay out of the process as much as possible, just nearby enough so that he can quickly ask a question or I can throw out a suggestion if I see an impending disaster. And amazingly enough, we have had some very good meals. David has been quite adventurous, choosing for one of his very first meals a Japanese fried rice recipe off the Internet, a dish that I have never attempted. After several meals of that, his sister decided he needed to branch out and she has been finding him recipes from other continents. Tuesday night we had Yabbie or Crayfish Fettuccine, an Australian dish. Only it was more shrimp fettuccine and while the shrimp and the fettuccine was great, the sweet potato based sauce was not a hit. Tonight we are doing Africa with some sort of baked meat pie and green bean salad.

What is truly remarkable, though, is how much easier, calmer, less stress-inducing the cooking experiences are now, versus what they were years ago. At that time my children really did not want to learn to cook, but I felt that it was something they ought to know how to do. The end result was a dread on my part and an avoidance of all things cooking on their parts. This time around, I rarely have to ask David what he’s making or if he is going to get started. He has truly taken it upon himself to have a meal served up at around the same time every evening (except for an evening here or there where we eat leftovers or order out pizza). Every now and again it is nice to have an unschooling success smack me upside the head and remind me just why I love unschooling so much!

1 comment to Unschooling Cooking

  • Since I have no desire to cook, and a great willingness to avoid cooking altogether, my kids have begun to think of the kitchen as their domain. This is working out well as they’re learning to cook from cookbooks, classes, and online lessons – and it’s totally interest-led learning. I only wish they had more interest in ethnic cooking, rather than making deserts! I’m not sure if it’s their stomachs or a kitchen of their own that’s providing the right incentive, but I’m not knocking whatever works.

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