One of the benefits of homeschooling our children is the opportunity to teach them the nitty gritty of home management. A very useful lifelong skill.
This is especially important in the kitchen. Thanks to Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and others who are sounding the alarm, we’re becoming aware of how little the average child knows about food – where it comes from and how to prepare it.
As homemakers and homeschoolers we have the power to create a healthier reality for our children. The time we spend in the kitchen with and around our children is not a distraction to their learning but an important part of it.
But let’s be real. Preparing three healthy meals (don’t forget snacks) each day and homeschooling is not always easy.
Both home education and eating well take time and though it may seem these two are in competition with each other, they aren’t.
I’d like to share some of my strategies for maximizing time in the kitchen. These methods enable me to both teach my children the importance of good food and spend time on their other educational needs.
1. Menu planning is your friend.
I menu plan early in the week as part of my household chores. This coincides with when I also buy the bulk of our groceries.
As homeschoolers my goal is to teach these skills to my children so I seek their input about what they’d like to eat. I will ask for their ideas but often have to spread them out through the weeks because they choose lots of starch, and as the mom I need to include veggies too!
Photo by Renee Tougas
2. Involve the kids as much as possible.
The beauty of homeschooling is living, cooking and eating together–not just teaching our children at home instead of sending them to school.
My kids have been “working” with me in the kitchen since they were old enough to toddle next to the dishwasher and slobber on the clean dishes in the bottom tray.
Have your kids help with whatever tasks are age-appropriate (they can probably do more than you think).
Jamie wrote this great post about involving younger children in the kitchen. My seven-year-old now has enough experience to wash the veggies, chop with real knives, stir the soup, fetch from the fridge and dump scraps in the compost.
My ten-year-old can cook a meal almost unassisted, though we’ve learned she prefers to have us with her for company–It’s more pleasurable to cook together.
Take the time to train your children in the kitchen with you. It’s worth the extra effort; it’s an important part of their education.
Photo by Renee Tougas
3. Schedule your working time in the kitchen.
Each homeschooling family has their own approach to daily homeschool life. But regardless of your methods, educating your children at home takes time.
We don’t have all day to spend in the kitchen so I need to maximize the time we do spend. To do this I designate specific times for focused kitchen work.
I schedule this time around our three daily meals. Some homemakers may prefer batch cooking or other concentrated work times.
On-task time in the kitchen is for planning, food preparation and clean up. This is not the time for answering e-mails, cleaning the house or doing laundry.
Staying on task helps us get out of the kitchen and onto other activities like morning math lessons, backyard science or reading together.
Please note that my children are no longer wee ones. When I had littles I scheduled longer periods of time for kitchen work so I was available for the inevitable interruptions. Conversely my children’s schooling needs were minimal so I had more time for distractions in the kitchen.
4. Accept your limitations.
In this season of life I am choosing to keep things simple in the kitchen–though that doesn’t mean I feed my family from packages.
I specialize in one pot wonders. Soups, stews, meal salads, stir-fry recipes, and noodle dishes. Beans, rice, grains and vegetables cooked up together in interesting and healthy ways to nourish body and soul. This is not my life season for gourmet meal preparation.
Other homeschooling families use crockpots, get Dad on board with meal prep or batch cook for homemade and quick weekday suppers.
If cooking is your thing, by all means go for it (with gusto).
But it’s okay to keep things simple if cooking is not your passion. Simple does not have to mean unhealthy. It can be uncomplicated meals of basic nutritious ingredients, lovingly put together.
Photo by Renee Tougas
Teaching our children to menu plan, peel vegetables, follow a recipe, set the table and wash dishes is part of the curriculum, not separate from it. Raising a generation of healthy children with food knowledge and skills is worth all the time spent together in the kitchen.
What strategies do you use to feed your family and homeschool your children at the same time?