Home School Update

Yes, yes, we put the kids in school. But I have mentioned before that this does not mean we are not still home schooling just about 24/7–as most parents do, without thinking of it in those terms.

One of the down sides of school for Nat, in particular has been that she is absolutely wiped out by school and we don’t have any time left to do much of anything else. That said, school is good. It about covers most of the things we want the kids to be doing anyway. It’s just that some of those things would be nice to do–or also do–at home, or otherwise within the family.

So. Weekends.

Cole signed the girls up for dance lessons on Saturday mornings and they do “creative movement” and “pre-ballet” and “hip-hop” for a total of an hour. I have to confess here, that if Selina were not the “Me Too!” baby sister of the family, I wouldn’t bother signing her up to continue. She wants to do what Nat is doing, but she really doesn’t seem all that interested in the dance classes per se. But it’s not a huge thing and so they go along with Cole and I sleep late on Saturday mornings. Sundays, one or both of them go to church with me and Cole gets the morning off.

So that has been about it as far as any official activities are concerned. Anything else you might call “home schooling” has been easy-breezy unschooling in the sense of just looking for chances to push their little brains a bit further in whatever direction they are wandering in at any given moment. Yesterday, Selina and I brainstormed jobs one can do when one grows up that involve spending lots of time with animals. We discussed being anything from a veterinarian to a rancher.

But lately I’ve been feeling guilty, given the importance food has in my parenting philosophy (which is the philosophy of MY parenting–not yours, so please do not misread here and think that I am being prescriptive for anyone else!), for not spending more concerted time in the kitchen with, at least, Nat, who is over six and a half now.

The recent BlogHer Book Club selection I’ve been reading and discussing (Lunch Wars)  has done nothing but deepen my chagrin. After reading about Jamie Oliver in Lunch Wars, I looked up Food Revolution on Hulu and Cole and I watched it obsessively. Now, it definitely has its shortcomings. Cole’s family is from West Virginia and the cultural and class aspects of the problem were, essentially, not discussed at all. But, it was network television, so they are hardly going to take on The Man, now are they? Otherwise, we found the thing moving and educational (if a little grand stand-y at times–but again with network television) and motivating.

Now, our poshy-posh-posh private Montessori school (for which we are exceptionally grateful every minute of every day) doesn’t do food service for most kids. But for the whole-day preschoolers, they cater in meals from a local company that provides all-organic, mostly locally-sourced food with a complete and attractive vegetarian option to schools and nursing homes and other institutions. I don’t know what it costs the parents at our school because we are not its market. But I pored over the website and discovered that the company won a grant to participate in programs to get food like theirs (and indeed their food) into the most underserved public schools in our area too, so that made me feel good about it. They are not just a luxury item for the wealthy, but a movement of a sort. Their food service also includes visits from a truck carrying veggies growing in pots and field trips for the school kids to visit farms, so it’s a very wholistic approach.

But it’s hardly a wide-spread phenomenon, and Jamie Oliver’s TED talk about this stuff suggested that every public high school graduate ought to be leaving school able to cook ten easy, healthy meals. That sounds wise to me. (Again with our poshy-posh-posh school–the 4th-6th grade room has a full kitchen where the kids cook meals for themselves and the staff and teachers on the reg.) I didn’t really learn to cook until Cole and I decided to adopt. Then I knew I wanted to give my kids a different food culture from the one I grew up with and I bought The Joy of Cooking and learned to boil an egg.

The upshot of my investigations into and thinking about all this is that I started feeling really guilty about not cooking with Nat.

So today we have started at the very beginning–”Get the colander” “What’s a colander?” Then we cleaned and chopped broccoli and cauliflower and potatoes (I helped her with the chef’s knife and am going to teach her to use it). We learned about how sometimes we put stuff into the compost, but sometimes (given our limited compost space and long winter) we put it down the garbage disposal. Yes indeed, we do. She and I are making a delicious soup.

The plan is to do this every Saturday.

Wish us luck.

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8 responses to “Home School Update

  1. Sounds like great fun. We continue to struggle with this, especially as after-school sports rehearsals and my going-back-to-school commitments have made life crazier than ever. But it’s definitely the ideal.

    I wish we regularly made ten different meals. I am so sick of pasta I could scream.

    • I have a couple of favorites among my carefully-curated cookbook collection (ha! alliteration much?) that have helped me make a list of thirty possible suppers (some are not from the books, but about half are) stuck to the side of the fridge. I also use that list to make my shopping lists and make sure the pantry is mostly stocked for a variety of possible meals. It’s not perfect meal-planning, but it helps a lot when my brain just isn’t working enough to think about what to cook.

  2. looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts on food and cooking with kids/family. i love good real foodies :)

  3. I’d love to learn more about the catering company you were researching, if you didn’t mind telling me their name. I know I’m not anywhere near you, but I’m interested in success stories in the food movement, especially ones that cross class boundaries. Thanks!

  4. Nat and I have cooked every Saturday so far–three in a row. Last week, we made pasta and home made marinara sauce. This past weekend, we made barbequed chicken on the stove and rice. She loves doing it. Selina can’t wait to be six, when I’ve told her she can do it too. I figure she’ll be helping here and there before then, but at six, I’ll start the regular Saturday cooking with her like I’m doing with Nat now. By then, hopefully Nat will have graduated to something new–maybe making supper for herself and Selina and the baby sitter on date night Sundays or something along those lines?

  5. I know this post is a couple of weeks old, but how is the cooking project going? It sounds fantastic!

    I think my older daughter is about Selina’s age, and she helps me cook most nights (although at this point “help” is still often hanging out at the counter tasting raw vegetables). I bought her a child-safe knife (the Kuhn Kinderkitchen dog knife — it’s great), and she has some regular jobs like measuring things, running the food processor, stirring, washing up prep bowls. She’s been doing this for a couple of years now, and since she also helps with the shopping and gardening, she is getting a pretty good education regarding all things food (and also some math and science along the way). Her baby sister usually joins us in a backpack, which is how P started out, so I am hopeful that we can keep this a family thing.

    My mom is a great cook but cooking was always her time alone, so like you I entered adulthood with no idea how to feed myself. I want to do better by my girls.

  6. It’s still going great, Beth! Nat loooooves her cooking time. It’s bonus special time with me, for one thing. Last Saturday we made pizza from scratch and she was so excited, she just about burst.

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