Homeschooling Is Like Cooking

Homeschooling Is Like Cooking


Today I’m pondering about Katherine’s reflection here, which was really beautiful:

I’m often asked to share what we did – what curriculum we used and how we finished the course, homeschooling a child from kindergarten through 12th grade. But I can’t write a how-to or a checklist. I can’t share one philosophy or curriculum that met all our needs. I can’t guarantee what worked for my first will even work for my second, much less for the child of another. I suppose it’s something you learn with years – to live more and speak less.

Put them first. It’s the only advice this veteran feels safe offering. Put them ahead of your plans, your philosophies, your projects, your expectations…your ego. Just do your best to meet their needs and enjoy the unfolding. It’s a joy to discover what they become. Just beautiful.

Now this post isn’t really about what Katherine wrote, that’s just my jumping off point, what got my wheels rolling. I’m just thinking out loud about homeschool blogging and why we share, what we share, how we share what we are doing with others, what is useful and what is not. I wanted to jot down some notes about my approach to reading about homeschooling.

In a discussion on Facebook where we jumped off of Katherine’s piece to chat about homeschool blogging, Kyra introduced the idea of a cooking metaphor:

I’m trying to work out this metaphor comparing homeschooling and cooking, but it’s not coming together well in my head. I read recipes the way I read homeschool blogs, looking for experience, techniques, ingredients, not specific formulae, because no matter how precise a recipe it isn’t the same as the experience of cooking….

I love the analogy and want to run with it.

I definitely approach homeschooling like I approach cooking. I like looking at a bunch of recipes to get inspired in the same way I like looking at a variety of curricula. But what actually ends up at the table is a bit of this and a bit of that, what suits my own tastes, my family’s tastes, the ingredients I actually have on hand, my skills as a cook, and how much time I have to cook. Often the final product of my schooling bears about the same resemblance to the curriculum as the dish does to the recipe: you can recognize the various ingredients, mostly.

And I love chatting about ingredients and techniques and meal planning and the history of cooking and cuisines of various places and what’s available in the markets where you live. It inspires me to hear about what everyone else is cooking. Likewise, I love chatting about curricula and techniques and pedagogy and books and school supplies. And I love to hear about what everyone else is doing in their schools.

But ultimately the final product is the result of the ingredients available to me and my personal preferences and those of my family and the way I learned to cook and my kitchen layout and the quirks of my stove and the season and the climate and all sorts of other factors including how tired I am. Just as the final product of what we do each day in the way of schoolwork is dependent on the personalities and preferences of both me and my kids and the books and supplies I can get my hands on and the layout of our house and all the various resources available to us. And probably the weather and climate and who knows what other factors.

I’m not attracted to box curricula in the same way that I’m not attracted to following a meal plan that someone else has made up. I like the freedom to adapt and change and tinker. And yet I know there are people who love following a meal plan made up for them and there are people who love boxed curricula. To each her own.

And who knows what the future holds. Sometimes, much as I love to cook, I’m tired, sick, or pressed for time and I need to set aside the cookbooks and elaborate recipes and get dinner on the table so we can eat. That might mean cooking unimaginatively or making prepared foods, or even ordering out. And you know spending less time cooking can very well mean more time enjoying each other’s company at the table. So I can totally see how as fun as curriculum design is, that it can become impracticable and you just need to focus on the end result.

And as kids get older I think they should take charge of their own education more and more. I hope that as time goes on I become more of a facilitator and less of a planner. Just as I hope my kids will start to help out in the kitchen and maybe even like Erin’s kids make dinner for the family, I also hope they will become their own teachers, seeking out their own curricula and taking charge of their own education.

As a reader I like reading about what other people are doing. Even if it’s less than perfect, it still might be better than what I’m doing and give me some ideas of other things I might try. I learned about homeschooling partly from books but mainly from blogs of people who were generous enough to share their work. I especially like to look at book lists and at nuts and bolts posts. I like to read about a day in the life to see how other people manage the school-life balance. I am so very grateful to all the homeschooling mamas who take the time to share what they are doing.

Right now I mainly write about homeschooling to keep a weekly record for myself of what I’m doing but also because I like having the ongoing conversation. Having other eyes helps me to see things I could possibly do differently. Erin suggests: have you tried this approach? Ellie says, you might like that. Scotch Meg says, oh have you seen this book?

I’m tired and rambling and this is pretty disjointed, so I’m going to leave it.

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  • I definitely homeschool like I cook. I plan the heck out of it in advance so that in the moment I don’t have to think about it, and I like making my own plans rather than using someone else’s. Every recipe is tweaked. But I like it to come together just so.

    • I always wish I were a plan the heck out of things in advance kind of person. But I’m not. Even when I was a college professor with a syllabus, I was a fly by the seat of your pants teacher.

      Katherine had a neat comment on her FB page that took up the cooking metaphor. She said in high school, you realize the kids are the cooks and you hand them the apron and move into a supporting role. I’d add that you spend elementary and middle school preparing them to be the cooks. It’s not a sink or swim thing, but a gradual turning over the reins.

  • I really like how you’ve extended the analogy to prepared foods and boxed curricula. I’m going to think about this conversation and see if I have anything left to add by blogging.

  • Oh, don’t worry. I reworked my thoughts and added some things. Posted this morning. I love the things you write, and I love how several people used my thoughts as a jumping off point.