Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Schooling Three Little Piggies

Welcome to the September Carnival of Natural Parenting: We're all home schoolers

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how their children learn at home as a natural part of their day. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


My three boys aren't actually little piggies, when it comes to food. They love to roll around in the dirt and make noise, but they don't eat like pigs. In fact, my older two were particularly picky eaters for quite a few years and I was at a perpetual loss as to how to spark some interest in the joys of food.

And, although my children attend public school, I consider myself and their father to be their main teachers in life. Some of the values we want to instill in our kids include a sense of connectedness with the origins of food, an appreciation for preparing food, and the type of family connectedness that grows when we eat together.

I stumbled across a way to spark interest in and teach about food purely by accident. I had a conversation with another mom about how, in order to tame the chaos in her house while she prepares dinner, she involves her young children in preparing the meal. When I first heard this, I thought to myself, 'That sounds like something I would classify as a holy, bad idea..." By which I mean: the idea is so Supermomma it has divine holiness written all over it, but it sounds like torture. But at the time, I was just learning how to cook, and the thought of involving the kids was pretty overwhelming. One night when I was making a recipe I felt confident about and my boys were running around my legs like tasmanian devils at war, I decided to try it. Not only did they love helping me, stirring things and pouring things and setting the table, but Ayden actually put a small slice of red bell pepper inside his mouth during dinner, because he had helped slice it.
While we cook, natural questions evolve.

"Mommy, are peppers plants or animals?"
"Why do you like mushrooms?"
"Do you have to kill the cow to get its milk? How about to get its cheese?"
"Why do you make brown pasta, and gramma makes yellowish white pasta?"

The kids also learn how to wait patiently, take turns, avoid a hot stovetop, which are the hot and cold taps on the faucet, the importance of washing our hands, the existence of germs, the need for a variety of whole, healthy foods, how to use a paring knife safely (after a certain age), and how to clean up after cooking and eating. While we cook, we don't usually talk about the origins of food, but when we pick lettuce from our garden, go grocery shopping, or pick berries on a local farm, the kids make the connections between our dinner plates and the farms and factories our food comes from.
I have to admit, this isn't the most relaxing way to cook. If I am particularly tired or distracted or rushed, I shoo the little piggies out of the kitchen. I know I should invite them to help me cook more often, because they learn so much by doing an activity alongside me. But it's hard! There are spills and messes and dropped measuring cups, and squabbles and chatter and it takes a lot of talking on my part. But when I do it, I'm usually surprised by how much they enjoy it, and how I can teach tidbits of math--"See this line here? It tells you the measuring cup is one cup full. That is the same as 250 milliliters, see?" Or counting. "Riley, we need two eggs. Can you give me two eggs? One, two?" Or keeping our hands out of the way (that's Matthew!) "Don't touch please, use your words if you want to stir the pot." Or patience (that's me).

Trying to teach my three roll-in-the-mud, make-lots-of-noise boys about food with language alone is pretty futile. But letting them help me cook, teaches us all.

Riley helping me scrub jars for canning--I also had him wash tomatoes
and measure and pour lemon juice into each jar


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated September 14 with all the carnival links.)


Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

I love this post. It's totally the same with me — whenever I let Mikko help in the kitchen, I feel it enriches us both so much. But when I'm feeling rushed, it's the first thing to go. I need to find ways to budget more time (and more patience!! always more patience!) into my day so I can include him more often in these important daily tasks. That proud grin on your son's face really says it all!

amy frances said...

I need to write a song for you. Here's what the refrain would be:

Melissa is the best momma, the best momma in the world.

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

What a great list of everything they are learning while helping in the kitchen! You sound like me - I really value a clean work space, even while cooking. So when Kieran helps me, I have to continually bite my tongue and keep my neat freak in check to improve his learning experience. But when I do? It's totally worth it!

Summer @ FindingSummer said...

I love letting kids help me, even though it seems to add hours to a meal. LOL They helped me make raspberry jam a while back and now it's all they want on their toast. Love it!

Denise said...

Hmmm, maybe I should encourage my extremely picky eater to help out more. So far, he's not very interested in helping me make anything but cookies!

Getting my not-so-little piggy to eat healthy food without coercion is my biggest parenting challenge.

Mindful Life Shop said...

What a great post! My four year old has recently been learning a bit more skill in the kitchen, and in preparing some of her own food. I was even able to help her to understand that if she is making a pb&j for her and for her food sensitive brother that she has to make his first so that the crumbs from her bread don't make him sick.

It is amazing what kids are capable of when we let them try!

Jessica - This is Worthwhile said...

Another perfect example of how much we take for granted about what we know about our world. You listed about a dozen things I wouldn't have been able to think of to discuss with my son!

Andrea!!! said...

I can't wait for Ella to participate in the kitchen. Most meals these days are done with her on my hip and me explaining what I'm doing. I think she likes to watch and learn :)

ms emili louann said...

you are a sweet, sweet mama :o) and you have one sweet little boy there!

Dana said...

This post was beautifully written!