One of my favorite places to teach (and learn alongside) my son is in the kitchen. There are practical reasons for this of course—tile floors and a source of water make this a good place to make messes. There’s usually good lighting and plenty of surface space too. Sometimes it’s a matter of necessity—dinner has to be put on the table but my son still needs help with math so he has to be in the room where I’m working. But let’s face it, the kitchen is often the heart of the home so why not build some more memories there. The pictures I’ve included are both of my son, so you can see we’ve been incorporating homeschool in the kitchen for years.
Even the youngest of children can participate in kitchen projects, you just need to assign them tasks they’re capable of carrying out. On the day this particular photo was taken we were making laundry soap. I had everything grated and all he had to do was dump and stir. I can’t really explain the robot arm made out of roller coaster parts…let’s just say life is never dull in our home. More importantly, we were keeping things fun. My first goal in homeschooling is to develop a love of learning. Even though we’re in the kitchen I’m not necessarily talking about Home Ec. classes, although there’s nothing wrong with simply teaching your kids to cook—they’ll have to feed themselves someday. This is more about trying to incorporate more of our senses, especially taste and smell, into the learning process. I like to think of it as adding a “you were there” experience to our studies. Let’s look at a few examples….
In our first kitchen adventure we celebrated Dr. Seuss’s birthday with green eggs & ham and buttered toast (from The Butter Battle). My son could add green food coloring to our scrambled eggs and spread the butter on the bread. Later we couldn’t help but notice all the references to food in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books, especially Farmer Boy. Why not try making long twisted donuts and see if they really do turn themselves over in the oil or find a recipe for Almanzo’s favorite fried apples and onions. Oliver Twist is famous for holding out his bowl of gruel and saying “Please, sir, I want some more.” Try making some of your own and see if your kids ask for seconds.
Every culture, everywhere in the world, and at all times people have had to eat! Nothing brings that “you were there” feeling better than cooking and sampling some of the same dishes. That’s why I’ve always loved that the Time Travelers studies by Home School in the Woods include recipes on their project days. We’ve made hard tack for our Civil War study and scraped by with chipped beef on toast while learning about the Great Depression.
The library is chock full of cookbooks for different cultural cuisines or you can find recipes on the internet. During our study of the Middle Ages, I came across a Medieval Cookery website. Recipes are organized by country of origin, course, and other categories. In addition to modern measurements and cooking instructions, you can try reading the original recipes.
The kitchen is the perfect place to practice fraction math—just pull out those measuring cups and you’ve got 1/4’s, 1/3’s, 1/2’s, etc. (a stick of butter will show eighths). Try doubling or tripling recipes to practice multiplication.
Recipes are also a great way to demonstrate pure science. Want to demonstrate how salt lowers the freezing point of water? Sounds like a perfect excuse to make ice cream. Baking is really a chemical reaction, mixing various substances to create carbon dioxide gas (and then trap it to create light, fluffy treats). The Food Network Show Good Eats explains the science of cooking in ways everyone can understand.
Our most memorable day in the kitchen came during our study of anatomy. You can read more about it, along with complete instructions in my post A Trip Through the Digestive System. We took a humble cup of juice, a banana, and a PB&J sandwich and followed it through the whole process!
Still not inspired? In 2013, as part of our 5 Days of Teaching Creatively, the Homeschool Crew devoted a whole day to Schooling in the Kitchen. You can check out more than fifty posts bringing homeschool in the kitchen.
Beth B. lives in rural Missouri with her husband of 13 years and their 12 year old son. She’s been blogging about their life and homeschooling adventures since 2009. Come visit her at Ozark Ramblings.