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.
I love this idea! So many children come out of school not having any life skills. I also love that your son wanted to learn to bake for his future family, so sweet! The girl who gets him will be very lucky!
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I’ll tell him you said that, Jessica. He’ll be thrilled. 😉
I have this thing about baking with kids – I just don’t enjoy it! My personality and the crowded mess it makes just don’t mesh, but I’m working on it. 🙂 I recently requested Leadership Education from our local library, so hopefully I will be able to read that soon.
I don’t think this is something that is a must, Cheryl. I really enjoy it, so that’s what makes it work. I’m sure you could take the same principles and incorporate them into a lesson based around something you love.
I agree- we’re doing this but with cooking (and a few other modifications but overall based on Jamie’s idea).
When I was a teacher in training, one of my mentors used to take me to various good classroom settings to learn about good education. I vividly remember one amazing kindergarten classroom she took me to. There was a corner there set up where these kindergarten children would cook ON THEIR OWN. It was set up perfectly suited to the kids heights. There were picture recipes and all utensils were color coded and on display.
Even though when I taught I couldn’t go this far, I always had great picture recipes that allowed the kids to really learn reading and math skills from the large recipes. It’s a great way to extend the learning you get from cooking and baking.
What made up his speech? Did he talk about the recipes? Family history behind them? his experience with the class? The reason you chose more natural ingredients for most of your recipes? or was is just a welcome to my party, please enjoy my food, and let me know which one you like kind of thing?
Great question, Lisa! He greeted everyone, talked about the format of the class, how he learned the recipes, what was his favorite and least favorite, and why he wanted to learn to bake. He also went over the menu with everyone and explained everything he was serving that night. It was just a couple of minutes total–a good introduction to public speaking!
Jamie, you never cease to amaze me. What a great idea! Love this, definitely going to copy this! Thank you! Mahalo! 😉
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Thanks, Kari! Copy away!! =)
Jamie I love what you have done with your children – wow especially that idea of having an achievement to look back on. Well done Jonathan! I have contributed to the Minichef series at http://www.yuppiechef.com/spatula (with my little chefs’ help). Cooking has given us many special experiences.
Love it! Congrats to your boy 🙂
My daughter, who is 4 LOVED helping in the kitchen. She follows directions really well and can make many a simple salad just by adding lots of different things. 🙂
There have been days where I’ve started dinner earlier than normal and she is upset to find that I am all done! A good problem to have, I suppose. 🙂
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Great article! What I most love is that by teaching the children, you are also helping them to help you on those days when you’re sick or overwhelmed.
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We are about to move overseas to a place where we won’t be able to do any baking like we could here at “home”, but you have totally inspired me to incorporate my older children in cooking lessons in our new home abroad!! Thank you so much for sharing, and in such a detailed and organized way. I grateful and my children will be as well! 🙂
You’re so welcome, Lindsay. Enjoy!
Love, love, love this idea. I will be presenting this to my kids in the coming days. Some of my kids do help in the kitchen but not all of them like to and are only willing to make sandwiches. haha Maybe with the spin of it being a “class” they will go for it. I know some of my kids will for sure. Plus it will motivate me to work with them a little more regularly.
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This is such a lovely idea! I might copy it, even though my 2 oldest daughters are 14 and 13 (they cook and bake…but a little formal instruction would be smart)
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This is a wonderful idea and format! I am going to copy it verbatim and I will post about it when my first one graduates. It will be a choice, I think that is key to having willing participants. I will need to whip up a cooking one as well…oh, the possibilities! I’ll share this on my local homeschool group’s list, thank you!
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I absolutely LOVE this idea!!! Can I just say that you are an inspiration to me?! I have two daughters who are 6 & 1. We took all of last year to research, pray & plan to home school this year (2014-2015) for her first grade year. I am excited & terrified all at the same time! But when I read posts and ideas like this, it restores that feeling of “this is why we want to home school” We want to teach our daughters real life skills at the same time of learning and having fun. I my self never learned how to cook not until I was in my 20’s!! And I do not want to do the same to my girls. Thank you for sharing!
I’m so glad it encourages you, Alicia! Like you, I never learned to cook either and was clueless in the kitchen until my 20s and really until my kids came along. I want them to feel a bit more empowered and it’s fun to see it working!
I love this! I’d love to see other life skill lessons that you plan on teaching broken down-I think you mentioned sewing and maybe cooking lessons??? This year is my first year homeschooling, so I don’t think I’ll start it immediately, but perhaps on my oldest 9th birthday this spring. I’m thinking a “Things I Should Know Before I’m Double Digits” binder.
Congratulations, Jonathan! Way to go!
I printed out your baking program last year and will implement it this year with my 8.5 year old son when we (formally) start school in a couple of weeks. He’s been assisting me for a while, but your program will help us stay on track and keep me organized. Thank you for sharing!
You’re welcome, Carol – I hope you enjoy it like we have!
We start our cooking classes when the boys turn 4. We use pictures and very simple words. Their first few recipes are things like cutting a banana with a plastic knife, spreading nut-butter and raisins on celery, measuring ingredients for trail mix, etc. My oldest is now 9 and is taking cooking level 5, but my middle boy chose not to take the classes until he was 5.
Neat post! My daughter (who is nearly 4) loves to help in the kitchen. What a neat idea to help her learn (in about 4 years) to be confident in the kitchen! 🙂 My son too, though the same age, doesn’t show a ton of interest…yet ;). Thanks for the ideas…definately pinned for later! 🙂
I always make it a point to have my kids, and students, spend time in the kitchen atleast once a week. There’s just something about kitchen and coking in general that helps kids learn a lot, from discipline, following instructions, thinking about safety, creativity, and in most cases team work. I would definitely recommend cooking sessions as a regular activity.
Not sure if you’re still checking in on this or not, but if I want to do the baking course with my two boys, do I need to do 2 batches of brownies each time, for instance? Is that how you did it? If so, that’s cool. I am sure there are tons of places that would accept a pan of extra brownies. 🙂
Good question! I would usually do two different baking lessons on different days of the week and have them working on different items (one brownies, one cookies, for example.) That way we weren’t overloaded with constant treats! And of course tweak it to make the concept work for you!
I love your approach, both the syllabus and the adult skills binder! I’ve been pretty scattershot with teaching my own daughter to bake and found your blog as I was casting about online for an example of a more structured approach. Found it! 🙂
I know this is an old post but I’m very intrigued by the adult skills binder. That’s one of the reasons we want to home school! Did you do more adult skills lessons, if so what were they? Thank you, I am finding your page very inspirational.