Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool, also blogs about motherhood at Steady Mom
Last autumn I shared in detail about how and why I started formal baking lessons as part of our homeschool.
If you missed the post, here’s a brief recap: Each child over the age of eight in our family receives an “invitation” to study with me and learn how to bake. If they choose to enroll in the class, I present them with a binder and a syllabus of ten recipes we’ll learn to make together.
When the student can make all ten items independently, they “graduate.” Their graduation celebration (and final exam, I guess) is to host a party for friends where they bake all the goodies themselves.
We reached a new milestone in June when our first baking student graduated! Jonathan (age 8.5) completed his lessons last month (it took him eight months in total). Trishna will finish in the fall and Elijah is just getting started after turning eight earlier this year.
Jonathan’s baking party was a proud moment for him–and for his mama, too. One of those times when you think “this grand homeschool experiment is working!” and you file the image away to revisit when doubts arise. (Consider this post my public filing away to come back to later. ;))
As I watched my son busy with party preparations, it gave me a chance to reflect on the growth, in both academics and character, that I’ve seen our baking lessons provide for the kids:
Reading aloud – Looking at a recipe and reading the upcoming step offers a natural opportunity to practice reading aloud. It stands in contrast to the artificial “Come sit by me and read for 15 minutes” style of practice that children never see replicated in the “real” world.
Math – Through our baking lessons we’ve covered basic fractions, measurements, and doubling recipes–the type of math that kids need (& want!) to know.
Chemistry – Kitchen chemistry at its finest! Cooking is science that young kids understand–the mixing and coming together of different substances to determine how they combine into something new.
Handwriting – Though handwriting wasn’t a key component of our weekly lessons, Jonathan was in charge of writing and sending the invitations for his graduation party. He also wrote name cards for each of the items he baked.
Public Speaking – As part of Jonathan’s graduation, he wrote (with help), rehearsed, and delivered his first speech. (Warning, Mama gush to follow: It was totally adorable.)
Confidence – When kids learn a valid and important real-life skill, their sense of mastery and achievement is a huge confidence booster.
Independence – Jonathan made all of the baked goods for his party without any help. To know that you’re capable of doing something for yourself makes anyone feel independent and proud.
The belief that school is relevant – Those of us who grew up in traditional school probably remember thinking “When am I ever going to use this (task, information, skill) in the real world?” Baking lessons (or any similar adult skill) inspire the opposite reaction.
Like Jonathan said in his speech, “I wanted to learn to bake for two reasons: 1. I need to learn to bake for my family when I grow up and 2. It sounded like fun.”
Enthusiasm for study – Jonathan is now eager to learn something new, so we’re making plans to begin a cooking class soon.
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A mama’s perspective
Our baking lessons have been fully worthwhile, but they have not been all fun and games. Plenty of days spills and messes hit the floor and counters; plenty of days it took twice as long to bake a simple recipe as it would if I just made it myself.
Plenty of days this mama prayed for patience through the process. Like any good thing we invest in, there is hard work, endurance, and perseverance required. And those have been the character growth lessons this mama has learned through baking with my kids.
Summer can be a good time to do a modified version of baking or cooking lessons, if you can’t fit it in during your regular school year.
To learn more, here’s some further reading:
- Teaching kids to bake–the whys and hows (My original post–includes a printable of our baking syllabus)
- Recipes to bake with your kids (A follow up post)
- How to cook with kids…without the frustration (For those wanting to bake with your younger children)
- Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning by Oliver and Rachel DeMille (This book outlines our family’s philosophy of education in detail, which explains why we focus less on academics and more on love of learning at this stage in our children’s lives. The DeMilles’ work inspired me to begin our baking lessons.)
So watch out world: Jonathan’s got a spatula, and he’s not afraid to use it! We’re super-proud of you, sweet boy of mine. Can you go whip up some brownies, please?
Have your kids shown an interest in helping in the kitchen?
Originally published July 15, 2013.