I wanted to write about babies and toddlers and unschooling, and although I know exactly what I want to say, the words won’t flow out in the right order. All I can think about is food…. delicious food like creamed filled sponge cakes. Perhaps this is because I have just written Why I’m Not Celebrating the Queen’s Birthday on my other blog.
I’m sorry, Shannan. Would you like to hear about a family passion instead of babies? Can I talk about food?
First, I will have to start with a story that happened about ten years ago. Andy was playing touch footy with a group of homeschooling fathers and children. It was a cold and damp day and after the game, everyone eagerly returned to the shed for a hot cup of coffee. All except Andy…
After some time, I became anxious and went looking for him, only to discover he’d been abandoned by mistake on the field. He’d slipped on the wet grass, injured his leg and could only watch as the other players ran off in search of refreshment, unaware he was lying on the ground unable to move.
Andy had broken his leg and he spent the next 7 weeks on crutches unable to walk, unable to drive, even unable to put on his own socks. It wasn’t long before he became completely frustrated and fed up.
Then one day Andy discovered the cookbooks. He had a plan. He called for Felicity and then propped himself up on a stool next to the kitchen bench. Soon he was shouting out his orders. And soon Felicity was sprinting from one end of the kitchen to the other, bringing meat, onions, a knife, a bowl… whatever Andy needed. And soon a delicious smell was wafting around the room. That day a new passion was discovered: Andy discovered he could not only cook, but that he enjoyed it immensely. So Andy became the family cook, and like all great unschooling dads, he shared his interest with all our children.
Have you ever noticed how children want to do exactly what we’re doing? You don’t have to ask them if they’d like to learn. They just stand and watch and then say, “Can I help, Dad?” Before we knew it, we had a whole line of sous-chefs, all eager to join Andy every time he entered the kitchen.
Now cooking with Andy is not ordinary cooking. He puts on his apron and all of a sudden he is a TV chef, full of life and fun. He puts on a French accent or maybe an Italian one, flings out his arms pointing at this and that as he directs the action. He adds salt from a great height, Jamie Oliver style. and his accent changes as he says, “Wicked!” And all the while he is chatting, telling the most delightful stories, cooking up a feast and…  sharing. He is sharing all his skills in a most entertaining manner. All our children have taken their turn alongside Andy. And they have all learnt to cook.
While Andy was still on crutches, before anyone had discovered his cooking talents, we were invited to a homeschooling camp. Because Andy had limited mobility he ended up in the kitchen, volunteering his services to Helen: camp cook and organiser extraordinaire. He had a ball and by the end of the week, his secret was out: Andy Elvis can cook. Word went out and he has been in demand ever since: homeschooling camps, dinner parties, parish events… But Andy is not a one man show. He needs his sous-chefs. So wherever chef Andy goes, his helpers follow. And he has taught them, not only how to prepare food for a crowd, but also how to serve out carefully and attractively, and clean up afterwards. Andy's helpers are multi-talented. Duncan has got quite a reputation as a dishwasher. He can even wash his way past the most talented of CWL ladies.
Now that Andy is back at work (after a period at university), he doesn’t get much time for cooking. He hasn’t done any catering for a while. And at home, the girls and I have taken over the family meals.
A month or so ago, I bought a new cookbook from Aldi. All the ingredients for the recipes can be bought from the one shop and I thought, “What a great idea. That’ll make shopping easier.” But the book lay on the shelf for a couple of weeks without me even opening it, until I had my bright idea.
“Would you girls like to choose two recipes each for this week’s menu? You can then cook your own choices.”
“Can I cook as well?” asked 7 year old Gemma-Rose hopefully.
“Of course! When you know what you want to cook, make a shopping list of all the ingredients.”
That afternoon, Charlotte and  I took a trip into town to the Aldi supermarket and stocked up with all the necessary items. Then the fun began.
Every morning since that shopping trip, the girls have had a consultation. They decide what new recipe is going to be on that day’s menu and who is going to cook it.
Some time during the afternoon, the girls disappear into the kitchen and begin chopping and browning, adding and stirring. They don’t need my help. They have been trained by an expert. And soon…
“Dinner’s ready!”
“Wow! This is delicious. Who cooked dinner today?... Gemma-Rose? You did all this by yourself?”
“Imogen just told me what to do,” says a little girl with a big satisfied smile on her face.
I haven’t had to cook dinner in a long time. The girls are planning to make another menu and another shopping list. They want to continue being in control of our family meals.
All Andy did was share his passion, his love of cooking and now the kids are competent cooks. We have lots of family passions we share together. There have been lots of opportunities to teach our children just by involving them in what interests us. I shall have to tell you of others.
I am sure our family is not unusual. Sharing family passions is just the unschooling way. Please tell us about the talents your children have been able to learn from you.
And I will have to find the right words to tell you how we managed to unschool when our home was busier and more chaotic, that time not so long ago, when our home was blessed with the presence of beautiful babies and toddlers.

Post a Comment

  1. Wow what a great story!! So inspired! It often amazes me how much the children learn just from watching, and how confident they are at trying. I think that surprises me the most, they are not afraid of failure. But then I don't think they really see it that way. Mm our passions and talents, here is one story to start with,
    http://sevenlittleaustralians.blogspot.com/2011/02/computer-triage.html
    I was totally amazed with their confidence and ability.

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  2. Hi Erin, I think you have knocked the nail on the head: "they (children) are not afraid of failure". How many times have I not even attempted something new because I might fail and look foolish? I must be missing out on so much.

    Thank you so much for sharing a link. I will enjoy reading about your family's passions!

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  3. Isn't it interesting how our children follow our own interests? It makes it easier when we don't have to fake interests just for the sake of teaching something we think they ought to know, don't you think? And, easier for them, too, to learn by hands-on observation, rather than from books or a lecture:)

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  4. Yes, Vicky it is interesting how children will follow the interests of a parent. I can see how your children are learning art from you, just by standing at your elbow and observing and then wanting to do it themselves. Do you give them special instruction when you see they need it, or do you wait until they ask you a question about technique?

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  5. I've tried not to interfere directly with their art, Sue, because I was afraid of discouraging them (this happened with Megan's music teacher - her daughter felt intimidated and gave up music, even though she still loved playing).

    I have tried to offer constructive criticism but I consciously try to make it sound positive eg. 'I really love the way you've done that part - if you deepen the contrast now, I think it'll really finish it off', etc. This has worked better than giving lessons, probably because the initiative comes from them.

    Now, you've got me thinking about doing a post on their art and how stealthily they picked my brain!

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  6. Yes! Write a post, Vicky. I'd love to hear more.

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  7. Your children have obviously loved their special time in the kitchen with dad! They will hold on to those memories forever! Plus, they've learned a valuable life skill for their own adult years.

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  8. Lovely to see you here, Noreen! Have I given you a better idea of what unschooling is all about yet?

    I wonder what interests you and your husband share with your son. Yes, spending time together makes great memories. The kids are always saying, "Do you remember when we cooked...?"

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  9. Donny will help me in the kitchen if asked. He will also help with housework and taking care of our dog. My husband has been teaching him how to use tools and fix things. In fact, last night my son helped his dad fix our washing machine. So, when he grows up he can have some basic handy man skills.

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  10. What a blessing to have a husband that likes to cook! Awesome!

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  11. It certainly is a blessing, Dana! Should I tell you Andy is good at cooking but hopeless at handyman jobs? Oh well, he'll never read this!

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  12. Thanks for an inspiring post. While children do tend to take up parents' passion more naturally, does that then in anyway limit them to only a parent's interest? Obviously a parent can't be jack of all traits.o

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    Replies
    1. Wei Yun,

      My children share many of my passions such as writing and Shakespeare, sewing and knitting, blogging and running. But they also have interests of their own. I don't sing or play the piano or enjoy swimming. I can't ride a mountain bike, or animate or edit a movie. I know hardly anything about first aid or bushfire fighting. However my children know lots about these topics and so have many passions I don't share. (I am interested in all they do though!) I strew lots of interesting resources and experiences in my children's pathways, and sometimes they discover new passions this way. Sometimes they come across things entirely on their own.

      No, parents can't be jack of all trades but they can share what they already know, and help their children experience new things. And sometimes both children and parents discover new passions together. This is great fun!

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    2. Thanks for the reply. Yes I like your idea of strewing very much. I will start doing that. Contrary to popular belief, I think unschooling is not passive at all and requires a lot of work. Then again. I suppose parenting itself requires a lot of work :).

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    3. Wei Yun,

      I think you've hit the nail on the head: unschooling is not passive at all! It took me a long time to realise that. Unschooling is not about doing nothing, like a lot of people believe. But like parenting, all the effort is really worth it, and just like I love being a parent, I also love unschooling my children.

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