Cooking is a skill that any grade, age or gender can participate in and enjoy. A crucial part of your homeschool curriculum should be cooking classes (why not have one of the kids take over making lunch or dinner one day of the week?) Here are some ideas and resources to get you started.
The goal of most homeschool parents is to give their children a well-rounded education that equips them for the future. While academics are important, parents shouldn't neglect basic skills such as cooking. Many families include cooking as part of their day or integrate it with other subjects. If you want to count it as a full course credit, and be sure your student is fully prepared to provide meals for themselves, a planned course of study comes in handy. You can also purchase a curriculum for a child who is interested in a career in the culinary arts.
What to Include
When planning your lessons, you want to be sure to include some basic educational objectives to measure your student's success. You will need to adjust them to the age and ability of your student. It's also valuable to keep in mind that cooking isn't just a skill for girls. Boys need to learn their way around the kitchen too.
Students should develop and demonstrate sanitary and safe work habits. This skill will benefit them in every area of their lives. This would include knowing how to organize a kitchen, wash dishes, sanitize a work space, operate a dishwasher, scrub a pot and even sweep and mop the floor after food preparation.
Learning the names and uses of kitchen equipment should be a part of your student's culinary education. It is helpful to know when to use a sauce pan versus a frying pan. Being able to identify a whisk and spatula is vital. As with all jobs, being familiar with the tools involved is crucial. Teach your students how to use and maintain a food processor, blender, microwave, mixer and other common kitchen appliances.
Another valuable aspect of a cooking class in your homeschool is the chance for your students to use their math and science skills in a practical way. Students will measure, learn to double recipes, and develop menu plans for various size groups. A good kitchen chemistry book will help them understand why certain reactions between foods occur. Why does yeast make bread rise? What causes the fizzling when baking soda and vinegar are mixed? Integrating other subjects with cooking will inspire your students to want to learn more.
Make sure your child learns how to take inventory of the pantry, read a recipe, and prepare a menu and shopping list. A field trip to the grocery store will provide a wonderful lesson in comparison shopping and how to choose the best meats and produce. Knowing how to double or divide a recipe will exercise their math skills and provide a useful life skill.
The actual cooking is what will get your children really excited about this course. Projects in your curriculum should cover a wide range of cooking techniques. You can start with salad preparation, sandwiches and no-bake snacks. As you progress to really cooking, be sure to review the cooking vocabulary. You can cover sauteing, braising, blanching, chopping, dicing, mincing, and more.
Food presentation is another fun area to include in your course. A beautifully decorated cake or lovely table setting really makes the food something special. Be sure to take photos of your culinary masterpieces.
Don't forget to include a lesson on nutrition in your lesson plans. Unfortunately, more and more people are not wise when it comes to what they eat. Give your students the information they need to make healthy choices. These habits can contribute to their long-lasting wellness.
When to Begin
Teaching students to cook can begin at any age; start with some age appropriate kitchen activities. Even preschoolers can help with simple tasks such as washing fruits and vegetables, rolling things out on cookie sheets, cutting out biscuits or cookies with cookie cutters, helping get out supplies, cleaning off the table or countertop, kneading bread dough or stirring ingredients in a bowl. Just getting them comfortable and involved in the kitchen should be your goal.
As children grow so do their abilities and they can take on more involved tasks. Elementary age students can read recipes and create shopping lists, measure ingredients, grate cheese, cut soft foods with supervision, beat eggs and help prepare menus. Older elementary students can handle working on the stove top with medium intensity heat under adult supervision. That means they can begin making grilled cheese or scrambled eggs and boiling pasta. Eventually middle school and high school children can learn to cook on high heat, baking, frying and sauteing.
Kitchen Safety Rules
No matter what age the students are, be sure to go over kitchen safety rules so that they don't get injured. You can never review safety and sanitary practices enough.
Here a just few basic safety rules that should be included in your cooking lesson plans. It is not an exhaustive list and you can add more safety education as the student progresses.
- Wash your hands with warm, soapy water before food preparation.
- Keep counters and cooking areas free of debris and dirt to avoid contamination.
- Turn pot handles into the middle of the stove so no one hits them and is burned.
- Turn off stove burners when not in use.
- Use safe techniques when using a knife such as cutting away from you and using a cutting board.
- Always pick up knives by the handle and not the blade.
- Make sure you don't lick your fingers or the spoon you are using when cooking.
- Always use dry potholders or oven mitts. The heat from a hot pan will go right through a wet mitt or potholder.
- To avoid being burnt, do not ever mix hot grease and water.
- Never immerse electrical appliances in water, and keep cords away from water or hot stove elements. Keep wet hands away from electrical outlets.
You might want to take your students on "safety tour of the kitchen." Ask them to find the unsafe areas in your workspace. Older children can be taught the dangers of food contamination and the importance of refrigeration.
Available Published Materials
There are a few published homeschool cooking curriculums available on the market. Some of them also include sections on sewing and family. Christian Light Publications offers Home Economics I through Rod and Staff Publications. It is geared toward girls and written from an Anabaptist worldview. The information included is thorough and includes worksheets that can be included in a homeschool portfolio. The first four units cover cooking, the next three cover sewing and the last three discuss different aspects of running a godly home and raising children.
You can also use some cookbooks that provide hands on cooking recipes for children. Many of these titles are available at Christian Book Distributors, Amazon or Barnes and Noble.
Kid's Fun and Healthy Cookbook by Nicola Grimes - This cookbook features step by step instructions and lots of photographs
Fix It and Forget It Kid's Cookbook by Phyllis Pellman Good - The recipes in this book allow kids to prepare meals in a crockpot. There is no heat or open flames to deal with, just delicious slow cooked recipes.
The I Can Do It Myself Kid's Cookbook by Laurie Goldrich Wolf - This cookbook is unique because it contains recipes that the average four-year old can prepare themselves.
Science Experiments You Can Eat by David Cain - Turn your kitchen into a laboratory and have fun learning why certain foods react the way they do. You'll have a delicious time learning to cook and do chemistry together.
Get cooking with your students and enjoy the results. You might get some evenings off from the kitchen as a result.
Tallman, Cheryl and Akers, Joan, "Teach Your Child to Cook," http://www.justmommies.com/articles/teach-cooking.shtml#ixzz1Qb9I1ppU
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