What’s for Lunch?
Homeschoolers are learning all the time and lunch is an excellent opportunity for teaching kids, when many won’t even realize they are learning!
Cooking opens up creativity. All of the senses are challenged in the kitchen – taste, touch, sight, smell, hearing. Through participation in the smallest of kitchen tasks to the multi-step family meal, kids can learn an enormous skill which will serve them throughout their lives. From physics to biology, science to math, reading, spelling, and even history – you can find ways to incorporate cooking with curriculum.
Here are some suggestions for connecting lunch with your curriculum.
In math and science, lunch is an easy fit. All cooking is chemistry, and allowing the kids to experiment with new combinations and tastes makes for fun times and a chance to discuss the chemistry behind the food. This is also a great time to discuss healthy eating habits and the different nutrients we get from foods.
Lunchtime and fractions go together very well. Halving and doubling recipes gives kids the chance to learn about multiplying and division in a concrete way. This also helps with understanding mixed numerals, a tough concept for many to understand. Factoring and common multiples is a big part of fractions. It’s not a good idea however, to teach a child who has not mastered multiplication and division how to do fractions.* All fractions involve division in some way.
Linking lunch to language arts and history can be as easy as experimenting with foods and cultural flavors for the era in which you are studying. There are many recipes to be found online and in cookbooks which link directly to literature. You can even have your child create a cookbook to coordinate with specific unit studies.
Jen Savoy, homeschooling mother of 4, found a whole cookbook with recipes from a book series she read with her children. “When we read the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, we made a lunch from The Little House Cookbook by Barbara M. Walker and Garth Williams. Our lunch included parched corn, bird’s nest pudding, apple and onions, salt pork, fried parsnip, and stewed pumpkin. It really brought the books to life for the kids and helped them to understand how life was different then.”1
Food is a huge part of cultures, both past and present, and a great way to bring culture and history alive for kids.
Marcia Kelly-Rossup, who homeschools 3 children, used lunch to connect her children to their ancestry. “We did a unit study on Jamaica, my native homeland, and we made ackee and salt fish, our national dish. That one meal turned into a study of Jamaican culture as well as botany when we researched how the ackee fruit is grown and processed. It really helped them understand my country.”1
Christine Cox, who has homeschooled for more than a decade, involved relatives in her lunchtime lesson. “One Christmas, my brother-in-law taught my kids how to roll sushi. Not only did he explain to them the ingredients, but the spiritual meaning behind the rituals of rolling the sushi. That really increased their understanding of Japan far beyond what they could get from reading a book.”1
Since the Cox family homeschools, they are not restricted from teaching their children the spiritual aspects behind food. If their children were in public school, the family member would not be able to talk about the spiritual meaning behind the ritual if he were demonstrating in their classroom – someone might be offended and a lawsuit could ensue for the district. But homeschooling opens up a world for exploration unrestricted by human fears.
These are just a small sampling of how lunchtime can be used to enrich whatever curriculum you are using. Cooking also teaches non-academic skills such as cooperation and sharing. It helps to bring families closer together which is always a goal of any home educator.
How have you used cooking as a learning tool in your home?
*For a complete list of the correct order in which math should be taught, join HECOA as a free member, and look in the member Toolbox under the math section.
1. From an article published in "Today's Home Educator" magazine, Sept. 2009. HECOA acquired republishing rights and permissions in 2010.