When I graduated from high school in 1994, I had a 4.0 GPA, was a member of the National Honor Society, and shortly afterwards received a complete scholarship to a local university.
I had never made a full meal for myself or anyone else. I hope to give my children a more holistic education, one that’s relevant both in the classroom and in real life.
That’s why a few years ago I invited my kids to begin a formal baking class as part of their homeschool.
I wrote about our experience on the blog, and it became one of the most popular posts at that time. The following year I also documented Jonathan’s graduation from his baking class, and how the entire experience had been a positive one.
Since that time, my daughter Trishna also graduated from her baking class. Some of her closest friends came to celebrate her hard work and sample all the goodies she had learned to make:
Baking is a perfect first step of independence in the kitchen–after all, what kid can resist the idea of creating their own treats?
It’s also natural to continue from there to cooking full meals. And that’s why after my kiddos finished their baking class, they received an invitation to begin cooking in the kitchen with mama.
Helping or Cooking?
For the first time we grew our own pumpkins this year, then processed them with the help of a favorite cookbook!
My kids have grown up spending time in the kitchen, watching (& later helping) while the work happens. Hanging out, chatting, chopping, stirring, sautéing.
But the difference between kids “helping” in the kitchen and these formal cooking lessons is the goal–it isn’t just to get dinner on the table. My goal is to transfer these skills to them so they make them their own (plus we get dinner on the table, too!).
How I structure our cooking lessons
When a child in our family has completed their baking lessons, I invite them to learn to cook.
If they show interest, I print off a new document to insert in their adult skills binder (take a peek at their binders in the baking post).
Here’s an overview of that document:
Course Description: Learn how to cook ten different dinners. Become such a great chef that you can do it without any help!
How: Learn how to prepare all of the items on the list below. Make each recipe once with Mom teaching you, once with Mom there to help as needed, and once all by yourself. Have Mom date and initial your sheet when you have completed each lesson.
When: You may cook once each week – Mom will arrange the schedule with you.
What: Learn to cook the following ten items. Mom has chosen the first eight dinners, and after successfully learning to make them you may choose items 9 and 10.
Note: I chose common meals that we make often, including basic pasta and sauce (a simple first meal), curry and rice, pesto pasta, lasagna, mexican lasagna, chili, pizza from scratch, and black bean burritos.
Both Trishna (12) and Jonathan (11) have been working on their cooking course for more than a year now.
We don’t stress out about making the lessons fit into our schedule, so there’s been no rush to get them done. We’ve taken time off here and there as needed, so the process has stayed fun and not become a burden.
The “final exam” of Martin Cooking 101 is to plan an entire multi-course meal for the family, go with Dad to the store to buy the needed ingredients, and prepare it on your own.
Just last week Jonathan reached this milestone, and we had a fun night celebrating!
He even designed his own menu:
The rest of the family dressed up in our Sunday best to honor his hard work and accomplishment.
Steve printed off a certificate to present to him and I gave him this book as a gift. I get chills thinking of him having this for the rest of his life, pulling it off the shelf as he cooks for wife and little ones someday!
Now that he’s a graduate, he’s considered responsible enough to prepare dinner one night each week for the family. On the nights he makes dinner, he’s excused from clean up–which makes it a win-win for him as well!
Want to design your own cooking course? (A free printable!)
Remember, this is the way I was inspired to tackle cooking with my own kids. To me it sounded fun, not like another “should” on my already well-worn shoulders.
There are many ways to pass on life skills to our littles, so don’t feel guilty if this concept doesn’t resonate with you. But if you would like to try creating a cooking course for your children, I put together a document (based on our own cooking curriculum) you can start from!
It contains our basic template to get your ideas flowing, and I left it as a Word doc so you can easily edit and make it your own! Enjoy and have fun in the kitchen.
But I can’t organize all that myself!
If the idea of teaching your kids to cook matters to you, but organizing it all yourself like this sounds overwhelming–you must check out my friend Katie’s e-course Kids Cook Real Food.
It’s a video curriculum that you watch with your kids (& the video lessons feature other kids!) that teaches them step-by-step how to cook, no matter their age (2 and up).
Check out the curriculum map here – Registration closes in just a few days!
Do your kids enjoy being in the kitchen? Do you think this sounds like something they would have fun with?
Originally published on October 19, 2015. Contains affiliate links; thanks for your support!