3 Chefs and a Proud Mum
by Beverley Paine, Nov 1999
How's this menu for a feast?
I thought it was pretty ambitious too, but my three wonderful children took over the kitchen and in two and a half hours produced this magnificent feast for their parents 20th wedding anniversary!
At 2 o'clock April brought home 6 cookbooks, and they leafed through the pages selecting the recipes. The idea was to find something none of us had eaten before, something different,healthy and appetising. At 3oclock April and I went shopping and although the price at the checkout was much higher than I'd anticipated for dinner, April consoled me with the knowledge that a meal out for the five of us would cost well over $100, and we wouldn't have leftovers to make up the next day's meals, nor would we have food in the cupboard to go on with. Besides this was a special occasion and couldn't be done cheaply. They insisted on style!
Robin and I stayed out of the kitchen and relaxed, while they busily prepared the food. It was hard not to listen in though. April is a born organiser, but kept her bossy tendencies well in check and the three worked amazingly co-operatively. This was testified by the speed with with the feast evolved. It usually takes me four hours to prepare a dinner party of similar magnitude, with help!
Thomas was delegated the role of general help, Roger put together the magnificent chicken and avocado salad and other dishes, and April worked on the fritters and pastry dishes. Getting the timing right in any dinner party situation is the hardest thing to achieve, but these kids just walked through that. Robin and I sat down to our tarts minutes before the children could sit down to theirs, but that was simply a function of the small oven, no more.
I am still blown away by the skill shown by my children. At eighteen I was never this prepared or skilled to put together a restaurant class menu. At twelve I could cook a cake, or make baked beans on toast. At sixteen I could knock a basic three veg and meat meal for the family, but only because my mother worked and I was designated replacement. Nothing special, nothing gourmet... Robin rarely cooks anything out of the ordinary and his cooking skill has mostly evolved as an adult.
So it made it all the more special recognising this wonderful skill in our children. Knowing that the educational and parenting path we have chosen for them has produced this wonderful result. There are few things more important in life than being able to prepare nutritious food for the body, except perhaps the skills to grow it!
Nowhere in our educational and parenting plan have we conciously produced budding chefs. We never began with that aim. As a tiny tot, due to April's finnicky food habits, we began a policy of each person taking from central dishes on the table those food they were prepared to eat. By the age of four April was helping herself to breakfast and lunch. Those meals became the children's responsibilities. They could chose from whatever was in the house, generally good, nutritious food. Cakes and biscuits were treats, usually consumed the same day they were bought or made. Robin and I usually made dinner, but as the children have moved into their teen years (younger for Thomas) they help out with meal preparation almost every evening.
At the age of fourteen I 'tested' Roger's kitchen ability by asking him to make a cake. It was a packet cake, and we all decided that his cakes were better than anyone elses! At the age of fifteen I could confidently ask Roger to cook a meal, although this only happened a couple of times. April has always been confident in the kitchen, although she tends to cook biscuits, two minute noodles and cans of soup!
We haven't instructed or taught the children to cook - no they have simply absorbed the skills - naturally. I often have my doubts about natural learning - thinking, even nowadows, that teaching is the only way to learn. But this way of thinking is wrong. Children do not need to practice to become experts - it does have its place and is useful, but not essential. Once again my three wonderful children have proven this to me.
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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