Are you still baking bread? At the beginning of the world-wide shutdown, everyone was baking bread and cookies and their own pizza. We are still doing this – we were doing this before. We’ve slowed down a bit because it’s been too hot to turn the oven on. But yesterday I made some bread and today my daughter is baking cookies.
She wants to do this all by herself. I have a recipe that’s meant to be easy for children to follow, and she has a lot of kitchen experience for a 9-year-old. She’s only needed help so far with the “1 slash 2 cup” of butter. We’ve talked about 1/2 dozens of times but it still eludes her. I showed her how to use the markings on the butter to figure out 1/2 of a cup. She then needed help with 1/2 cup of honey. Partway through pouring she realized she had the “1 slash 4” cup and thought it was going to be too much because she only needs “1 slash 2”. We’ve talked about this a bunch too, but in the moment she was confused again. I coach her through it. “1/4 is 1/2 of a 1/2. So if you have 1/4, you have 1/2 of what you need. So what do we need to do?” She figures it out, I pour her another 1/4 cup of honey, and she’s back to working on her own.
I’ve been thinking a lot about baking and the learning that goes along with it. Little of it actually shows up in our curriculum. There’s problem solving, some collaboration (her brother doesn’t like chocolate so this is always part of our conversation when making cookies), communication, following instructions and, of course, measurement and fractions. At home this type of learning is very important to me. I want my children to head off to university with the ability to cook more than Kraft dinner, grilled cheese and scrambled eggs. The curriculum connections are a bonus. At school I cook or bake with my class maybe twice in a school year (less if there are students with allergies or special dietary needs in the class.) I learned to cook at my grandma’s house, at my parent’s house, in Home Economics classes, and in neighbourhood 4H clubs.
If I was in charge of the curriculum, I’m not sure what I would eliminate in order to make space for cooking in the elementary grades. I’m not sure there is anything we should exchange for cooking time. Secondary students still have the option of doing catering courses so they can learn to cook. Mostly I feel like learning to cook is part of how we pass our family and cultural traditions and values down to our own children. I know some parents don’t teach their children to cook, but maybe that needs to be up to them. Maybe this is one thing the schools have let go of for good reason. If I cook with my class it’s because we have a connection to something we’ve read about, or it’s a snow day and we need to fill the time with a worthwhile but fun activity. I don’t feel compelled to teach them life skills like cooking or sewing.