Image Credit: http://www.sxc.hu/
While “official homeschool” is out for the summer in our house, education is not. Children are always learning, whether it be from a textbook or from real life. Now that many of the schoolbooks are closed, I decided to devote some time this summer to intentionally teach my oldest three children some life skills. One of our areas of focus is cooking.
The children already know their way around the kitchen. They have a good bit of experience following recipes and helping me prepare meals, but I would like to give them some more in-depth preparation for this important life skill. Cooking an entire meal from start to finish is a much comprehensive experience than just “helping” in the kitchen; I want them to know how to manage the process. I want them to know the basics of preparing a menu plan, efficient grocery shopping techniques, how to have multiple dishes going at the same time (the main dish, the sides, the veggies, etc). I want them armed with a good repertoire of meal ideas to choose from.
I have the basic plan of my “Cooking 101″ class in place, but I’m sure that those plans will morph and change as we muddle our way through it. In the meantime, though, I’d like to share my plans.
May: Month of Meals Chart
During the month of May, I had the children start some preliminary work on the upcoming class. I gave each one a “Month of Meals” chart (credit for this wonderful chart goes to Homeschool Oasis) to start filling in. The chart provides 32 spaces for students to fill in main entrée ideas, 16 spaces for side dishes, 8 spaces for veggies, and 8 spaces for accompaniments. A brief explanation of how to use the chart is at the bottom of the chart.
I asked our children to begin filling in the chart’s spaces with foods that they really want to learn how to cook. After they completed as much as they could, I helped them finish filling it in with foods that I believe they should know how to cook. I gave each child a simple file folder (color-coded by person) to put their charts in.
So what are we going to do with this meal chart?
June and July: Help and Learn
Throughout the months of June and July, I hope to teach the children how to cook every single item on their charts.
First, the children are learning how to plan a menu, by helping me plan our family’s menu each week. This process is greatly simplified by using the month of meals as inspiration to draw their ideas from!
Using the dinner charts and weekly menu plans, I am gradually printing out recipes to add to their color-coded cooking folders. I am adding other printouts to their folders as well, such as an “internal temperature” guide for cooking meats, and a “tips on shopping for fresh fish” guide. As I print these pages off for the children, I am printing them off for myself as well. In a few short years, I will likely repeat this class with some of my younger children, and having these recipes and guides in place will significantly shorten the preparation time!
Recipes and weekly menu plan in hand, I am teaching the children how to scan the recipes for ingredients to add to our shopping list. I consider this shopping list template to be indispensable in my kitchen, so I am printing out one for each child’s cooking folder as well. I typically print out a dozen of these at a time and hang them on the refrigerator with a magnetic clip. Through the years, this handy template has saved me countless hours at the grocery store.
Most importantly, and probably most obviously, the children will practice their cooking skills over these next two months. They will work with me during meal prep times, learning how to prepare each and every meal item from their chart, and learning to manage the process as they go.
After much learning and practicing in the months of June and July, the children will apply all this knowledge in the month of August with some serious life experience. This is the month where they will tie it all together and get to independently cook entire dinners from start to finish. I will assign each child one day of each week to be “the cook.”
For example, Writer might get Tuesdays, Handyman might get Wednesdays, and Cowgirl might get Thursdays.This means that every Tuesday in August, Writer will be completely responsible to prepare dinner. She will plan the meal, add the necessary ingredients to the grocery list, and help me shop for the ingredients, ensuring that she will have everything she needs before Tuesday. On Tuesday, she’ll make sure her meat is thawed in time, and she will calculate when she needs to start cooking each item in the meal in order to have it all hot and ready to eat at dinner time. Finally she’ll do the actual cooking. When August is over, each child will have planned and prepared four meals completely on their own.
Everyone is enthusiastic about jumping in to our summer cooking class. I think that this is going to be a fun and beneficial experience for all! I am encouraging everyone to hold on to their folders, because the contents will provide guides and inspiration that can help them the rest of their lives. I often say that the toughest part of cooking is the planning, so the “Month of Meals” alone will be especially beneficial. I hope that the printouts will also provide a reference for those cooking questions that they are most likely to need answers to.
What about you? Are you focusing on teaching any particular skills to your children this summer?