Teach Kids to Cook: Indispensable Tools

A few months ago, I wrote about a blog post focusing on food and teaching kids to cook. Considering we all love a good meal, our family takes training in such matters very seriously.

Since that blog post was received so well, I thought I would write another one about it. This time I thought I would focus especially on the tools needed to teach kids to cook.

Teach kids to cook: the only 3 things you need

I am not a fan of Master Chef when it comes to cooking although I like watching it for occasional inspiration. Why, you may ask? For the simple fact that it turns what should be fun and experimental into something professionals do. Our everyday food is not gourmet. I seek to teach my children to feed themselves and their families, not enter competitions.

Aprons

With that said, I consider a good apron a necessity. And not just because I wear one. I see aprons as important because when they entered the kitchen first, my children were clearly very bothered by the fact that it was very hands-on. Never mind that they were just playing in the dirt outside. Aprons gave them the freedom to work without worrying about “getting dirty.”


Knives

A good junior knife set is also a great idea when it comes to kids. Although my daughter is extremely proficient with an adult chef’s knife, when it comes to teaching my two sons, I get nervous. There’s just something about the way they hold it that does not inspire confidence. So for kids like them, a junior knife set, either nylon or steel works great.


If you want to get into it, there are all kinds of other fun things like kitchen measures for kids and cookie making tools, but we tend to be minimalist in the kitchen. We don’t like clutter and we like to leave our counters clean, so we steer away from excess.

Recipe books

However, the third thing you should probably get are some great inspiring recipe books they can cook from. When we start out teaching, I have the kids help me make dinner or lunch – one by one, of course, not all at the same time in the kitchen. That’s a recipe for a disaster, pun intended.

But eventually, if they don’t do something on their own, they tend to lose interest. Having them create something from start to finish keeps them interested and learning. (A crockpot meal is usually the easiest first meal for kids to cook because there is no open flame.)


The most important thing while teaching kids to cook is to make it part of the everyday work / play routine and not treat it as something special. We cook, we clean, we read, we play, we sleep. Teach them with that in mind and make them self-reliant.

Happy cooking!

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Ogden Nash Poetry – When You Crave Whimsy

When we come back from our local public library, I can’t get my children to do anything but read. My daughter, especially, will have her head buried in her new discoveries, oblivious to the world around her. And she’ll be having a rip roaring time with the book, too. Laughing and smiling and thoroughly immersed in it.

I miss that. I miss entering a world of fantasy and whimsy. (and let’s admit it – for children learning something new, the whole world is full of fantasy and whimsy!) Oh, these jaded grown-up eyes.

But wait, as they say in those television commercials, there’s more hope.

Enter Ogden Nash Poetry

If picking up your kids’ fantasy literature and reading it is too much for you to imagine, try this on for size. Find some Ogden Nash poetry.

Ogden Nash was a rather prolific American poet who wrote over 500 pieces of poetry.

Here’s one gem.

Oh some people grieve for New Year’s Eve,

And some for the dog days fiddle;

My moment sublime is the restful time

When the month is at the middle.

I stumbled on Ogden Nash quite accidentally. I was reading The Tale of Custard the Dragon to my youngest child – a treat for your mouth, by the way and so fun! – and I began to wonder if this writer had written anything else. So off I went to Amazon to see what else I could find.

And I came away so much richer.



In the evenings, when I don’t want to commit to reading a big tome of a book, Ogden Nash’s poetry is the perfect antidote to tiredness. It’s possibly the only book of poetry I can say feels refreshing. My husband has often seen my laugh out loud while reading it. And I am not one of those LOL people. I’m more of smile-at-a-joke person.  

Here’s another quote to whet your appetite.

Does anybody mind if I don’t live in a house that is quaint?

Because, for one thing, quaint houses are generally houses where plumbing ain’t,

And while I don’t hold with fanatical steel-and-glass modernistic bigots,

Still, I do think it simplifies life if you live it surrounded by efficient pipes and faucets and spigots.

So if you catch yourself watching your kids gleefully enjoying a book and wish you had some good, light reading, pick up some Ogden Nash poetry. It’s just plain fun. And a lot of his books are now available for just a penny!


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8 Books to Make You Fall In Love With American History

In honor of President’s Day, I thought I’d share with you some of my current favorite books on American history. I absolutely detest textbooks – as some of you might know – but anything that can give me a sense of time and place without idolizing a person in history is my kind of book.

So if you’re jaded about reading history, chances are it’s because you’ve never read it like this.

First up, you have got to read everything by Michael Farquhar – especially Foolishly Forgotten AmericansIf your eyes glaze over at the mention of American history, this book is the perfect antidote. Farquhar makes it interesting and extremely enjoyable – to the point that you can’t but share some interesting trivia with the person next to you. All. The. Time. Just ask my husband.


Another book in a similar vein to the above is That’s Not In My American History Book by Thomas Ayres. This is a fun compilation of little known things about American presidents, wars and, hey – did you know there was actually a fourteenth colony that was not part of the Union? Ayres has also written A Military Miscellany: From Bunker Hill to Baghdad for the military buffs among you.

Daniel O’Brien’s How To Fight Presidents: Defending Yourself Against The Badasses Who Ran This Country is like watching a stand up comedian (oh, and not someone with clean language, in case you were wondering, talk about presidents. So if you’re not into that, stay away from this one. You’ve been warned. But if language doesn’t bother you, this book is incredibly entertaining. I finished it in one day. And now I’ll always remember the distinguishing characteristics of all the presidents. (He only writes about those that have died, no one alive.)

So far, I’ve mentioned books for you because I truly believe that you should be learning right along with your kids as you homeschool them (and some day I’ll have a curriculum to prove it) but for now, this next suggestion comes for the children. Get your hands on everything by Jean Fritz. So far, my children have read and loved George Washington’s Mother Why Don’t You Get a Horse, Sam Adams? , And Then What Happened, Paul Revere? and Shhh! We’re Writing The Constitution


Happy reading!

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Our Best Loved Books Hand-Picked By My Children

With Valentine’s Day having just passed and the air so full of love, I thought I would have a special treat here. I asked each of my children – ages 8, 7 and 4 – to list their favorite books for me. The only rule was that they had to have read the book and loved it. There was no other criteria.

Here are their personal recommendations.

Sierra’s (age 8) Best Loved Books

Graphic novels – This child loves every graphic novel everywhere. No exaggeration. Every time we go to the library, she heads straight to the area where the comic books are. I don’t mind. The recent explosion in graphic novels means she can read Shakespeare and other classics and also enjoy Asterix and Tintin.


Warrior Cats by Erin Hunter (anything about cats, really!) Because my daughter simply loves cats, I use them as a jumping off point for almost everything, but she picked this book series. It’s about a bunch of – get this – super hero cats. Ah, well. It’s fun, though. She started with the graphic novels and recently read a much larger book in the series.


The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis – One of our first read alouds and perhaps our best loved, apart from The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkein. If you haven’t read this aloud yet, you simply must.


Audiobooks by Jim Weiss – Jim Weiss has recorded so many audio books, it’s hard to listen to them all, but my daughter has almost set out to do so. Her favorites are Animal Tales, Greek Myths and Spooky Classics.


D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths – Knowing how much she likes fantasy and fairy tales, I should have known she would take to Greek myths. This book is amazing. I can’t say enough nice things about it. It has illustrations and all the Greek myths in one place. And also a family tree listing all the Greek gods. Indispensable when reading later Greek epics.


Hucksley’s (age 7) Best Loved Books

Minecraft Secrets – My middle son takes a very practical approach to life, as you will see. He likes to find things out if they profit him in some way. So these Minecraft secrets books that teach him how to maneuver and build things in the game were an immediate hit. Not only has he learned to read with these, these books have brought my kids closer together in collaboration. One reads instructions aloud, the other follows by following the directions. It’s a beautiful thing to watch.


DK Eyewitness Books – We do love these books fondly and by “we” I mean the entire family. If you have read my blog post on how to use strewing as a technique even in unschooling these books come in very handy for that purpose. Even as an adult, I find myself skimming through these books and picking up a lot of information. They’re colorful, they’re informative and just plain inexpensive. Our favorites.


Atlases – Hucksley loves maps of any kind. Period. My husband found it funny when I bought a globe for the kids but they loved it. And my middle child absolutely loves maps. So I highly recommend these map books and also the app Stack the Stateswhich he plays daily.


Tales from the Odyssey audiobook – While my kids never cared much for the Magic Tree House series, Mary Pope Osborne’s Tales From the Odyssey (the audiobook) read by James Simmons always gets loud cheers. We first listened to it in the car and since then my son will listen to it by himself before going to bed. It’s excellent.

Carver’s (age 4) Best Loved Books

The Early Bird by Richard Scarry – We’ve been reading this book to him since he was – what, 1? Not sure. Anyway, for a looooong time. It’s a fun story about early bird with lovely pictures so characteristic of Richard Scarry. I would recommend anything by him, really, and this book in particular has stood the test of time for us.


How Do Dinosaurs Clean Their Room? by Jane Yolen – Another one of those inexplicable ones. Oh, but how he loves it! And I bet you $5 I can recite it from memory. It’s a delightful book. One we’ve read over and over and haven’t tired of. Check out the entire series. It’s just fun.


The Tale of Custard the Dragon by Ogden Nash – You must, must, must read this book! It’s just delightful. It’s possible I enjoy this a tad more than my son. The entire story is written in rhyme and it’s like a party for your mouth to read this aloud. Take my word for it.

The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle – I don’t know what it is about this kid, but he loves seeds. Sometimes, when he likes a fruit he is eating, he will take the seed and “plant” it in the backyard. Of course we have no idea where he planted it, so it never gets watered or tended, but he claims he has planted avocado, orange and apple trees in the yard. This book is one he picked out as a prize in the library program for reading. It is wonderfully illustrated and talks about the life cycle of a seed.


The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson – Another enduring classic. I never tire of reading this one aloud to him. Also, check out other books by Julia Donaldson that are also great read alouds for preschoolers. Not as good as this one, but pretty close.


Happy reading!

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New Book Announcement

I’ve been holding on to something quite, quite huge lately.

Okay, okay… deep breath. Here goes.

I have a new book!

If you have read The Classical Unschooler, you should know it’s nothing like it. While The Classical Unschooler focuses more on homeschooling, the new one is part memoir, part Christian meditation on being a mother. 

Big Shoes to Fill: An Imperfect Mom Learns of God’s Perfect Love is available to buy now on Amazon. You can do so here. It is available as a paperback as well as an e-book.

I wrote this book when my oldest – now eight years old – was a toddler. I continued to write and edit it through the pregnancy with my third baby who is now four.

Why did I shelve it for so long? Well, for one, because the book is of a personal nature, it needed more editing. For the same reason, it also needed more courage to get out there.

But something has shifted inside me lately. On the cusp of turning 40, things change, I suppose. Perhaps it’s homeschooling or maybe the support and love of all you amazing people who read my blog. Or maybe I’m just crazy, who knows? Either way, I’ve decided to stop sitting on this book and send it out into the world.

My baby has to sprout wings. And this time, I’m not talking about the three I write about all the time.

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Four Books to Introduce Philosophy

A few years ago, I embarked on a quest. I realized I knew very little about philosophy. I decided to change that immediately.

Philosophy is a subject that is often ignored as unimportant or worse, boring.

While I am not suggesting that you need a four year degree in it to get the full value of it, a basic knowledge of philosophy is essential.


Why? For one, it makes you a better thinker. For another, it is like history – a general knowledge of what came before provides a good guide to the future. And let you think philosophy is just for adults, here’s an article that shows its benefits for children.

But what if you, like me, know nothing about it? Fear not! Here are the choicest books you can pick up to learn more.

(Don’t try to just search Amazon for “philosophy” and buy what comes up because then you’ll be stuck with a line of beauty products.)

So, first off, Richard Osborne’s Philosophy For Beginners is a fun little book to introduce you to the basics. This was given to me by a friend who knew I liked graphic novels. It’s written in comic book format, but that doesn’t mean it is simplistic. Great book for delving into the subject with no background.

If lighthearted introductions to serious subjects are not your style, you might like Bryan Magee’s The Story of Philosophy. This is a beautiful book with full color pictures and great information about how philosophy developed over the years. It gives you a general smattering of each philosopher and how he built on or changed what had gone before him.

My personal favorite is How Should We Then Live by Francis Schaeffer, which is an analysis of western thought down the ages, but it might need one of the other two books mentioned above as companion reads.

And of course Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder is a classic by now that has been recommended to me often. Full disclosure: I haven’t read it, although it’s been sitting on my bookshelves beckoning me for a while now. Someday soon! I just have to get through my Plantagenet history first. 😉

You can find this entire list here: http://amzn.to/2kqPAYj

Happy reading!
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JJRC Quadcopters Promotion! One Day Only!

If you have a kid always asking for RC toys (like I do!) at every birthday and Christmas, listen up!

The people at GeekBuying.com are having a huge sale for 24 hours only on JJRC quadcopters.
Like this Red Tumbling Hexacopter for $15.99 (regularly $44.99)
and this Waterproof Green Quadcopter for $29.99 (regularly $84.59)
As of today’s publishing, these prices are accurate, but be sure to check them before you buy.

This promotion is for 24 hours only.

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The Foodie Four: My Top Picks for Learning & Teaching About Food

(Because, seriously… who doesn’t love it? And isn’t January just made for cooking good, healthy food?)

A few weeks ago, I mentioned on my Facebook page that my daughter had made me breakfast. Here’s the original post.

It still makes me smile a bit when I think about it. I mean, The Child (which is what I playfully call her) had thought of everything. There was even a paper towel next to my plate with my fork on top of it.

*insert collective “Awww!”*

Because of the response that post generated, I thought I would, in typical classical unschooling fashion, share some of my favorite resources around food and cooking.

These are not just for teaching children to cook, but also for helping you dig deeper into the culinary arts and wherever else the rabbit hole you pick may lead.

After all, isn’t that the best way to learn something?

Books

The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science by J. Kenji López-Alt is hands down the best book for learning technique in cooking. Learn the skills, then share them with your children.

I have chicken dry-brining in my fridge as of right now, thanks to this book. I have learned to spatchcock a hen, what spice blends go well together and I know the perfect amount of time it takes to boil eggs for the yolk not to be overly boiled (9.5 minutes).

By the way, if you really wanted to know the answer to that last question, you really ought to get the book. The science in it alone can make it a great learning experience for the entire family.

Vegetables Every Day: The Definitive Guide to Buying and Cooking Today’s Produce With More Than 350 Recipes by Jack Bishop, although not as colorful and fun as The Food Lab is a book I refer to often for just ideas of how to cook any vegetable to make it taste great. 

It’s not exotic and it won’t send you searching for fancy ingredients, but it will give you an alphabetical list for cooking every vegetable you see in the store.

Videos & Online Courses

This one was invaluable to frugal me because it taught me not to be afraid of buying a whole chicken to cut into pieces. (YouTube video)

One of my favorite bloggers Katie Kimball, owner of Kitchen Stewardship currently has a FREE knife skills series online class for kids as a promotion. Check it out and see if it’s something you might want to take with your children.

Enjoy!

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