How do you cultivate the joy of cooking? 7 Ideas to Help Raise a Kid that Cooks.

Cultivating the Joy of Cooking, 7 Ideas to Raise a Kid Who Cooks at

Q: Wow, Dale cooks. How did you do that?

How do you teach your kid to cook so they love it an keep on cooking?

I get this question a lot. Especially from folks who have seen Dale happily take a turn cooking at a gathering, hosting a dinner party,  or posting a photo of something he just cooked. Parents of teens, especially teen boys,  or new parents thinking ahead, often ask what did you do? What can I do?

A: Have fun and get creative with cooking. Establish the routine of cooking together. Make it delicious and joyful and heartfelt.

Mealtimes offer daily powerful times to connect and build communion and celebration of everyday life and expressing gratitude.  You can choose to make meals and meal preparation and adventure.  Meals made with love and laughter and fresh ingredients taste better.

How and when did we start to cultivate the joy of cooking?

dale-learn-by-doing-cookingAs soon as Dale was born, he was in the snugli or perched beside us when we cooked. Even though he was too young to actively participate, I chatted about the food, tastes and smells. I talked about how delicious it would be, and how much daddy, or guests, would love the meal. 

Dale’s internal alarm clock went off around 4:30 am. It was cold and dark. We were trying to let Daddy get a little more sleep before heading off to work, so what could we do? We cooked breakfast.

We baked to warm up the house and to create something delicious and beautiful.

We figured out what to make with the ingredients on hand in the amount of time we had so that Pierre would be able to eat before driving off to work. We met the challenge of doing everything quietly in our open, echoing kitchen.  We experimented and set the table to make it beautiful.

I know you are thinking,  she’s crazy! Table decoration at the crack of dawn?  

Why bother?

Because, when you are a sleep deprived grumpy mama who does not want to poison the atmosphere and ruin the day by complaining, if you focus on making love visible and getting the creative juices flowing, you can often flip the switch from grumpy to gratitude.

Instead of grumbling I could be grateful for:

  • quality time together to connect.
  • quiet moments to share my love and values with my child.
  • a roof over our heads, our working oven, and food on the table.
  • my ability to choose to enjoy a cooking adventure


Cooking and creativity: Cultivating Joy of Cooking with Kids www.lisanalbone.comCooking and Creativity: Inventing, Improvising and Problem Solving

First we turned on the oven. Then we grabbed a cookbook or two and snuggled on the couch. What should we make?  We would turn the pages looking for inspiration. We use recipes not as a formula, but as a starting point for creating and improvising.

Once we had the idea we moved back into the kitchen, put on our aprons, yes aprons for both of us, I love aprons, and set out the ingredients. If we were missing something we talked about how to compensate. Sometimes we just wanted to experiment – how about if we add _______? What will happen if we _____________? We are out of eggs, what can we use instead? What do you think? Let’s see!

Dale either sat on the counter or stood beside me on a stool. He loved dipping into the flour jar with the measuring cups and pouring the ingredients into the mixing bowl. Managing the measuring spoons was trickier, trying to get just the right amount of baking powder in the spoon and smoothing it off with a dull knife.  Often we got too much of something in the bowl, no big deal. If I was really concerned about a recipe being exact, then I had Dale measure into a smaller container first, before adding the ingredient to the main bowl. Stressing about exact amounts and mess can spoil the camaraderie which is just not worth it.

Stirring, pounding, rolling, greasing the pans, getting the dough into the muffin tins or cutting the scones to size were all things a child can do.  Was it messy? Yes. Could I have done it faster by myself? Yes. Did that matter? No.

What mattered was learning that you can have fun making your own food and food for someone you love.

We slid the pans into the oven.  Is it time to wake Daddy? Not yet. Let’s get the table ready. Hmm, how do we want to make it look today? Another potential “lesson” in creating atmosphere and ambience.

If it was a holiday, well, then we went with whatever the special day was. We would find or make something to decorate the center of the table and then choose which dishes, napkins or glasses to use according to our mood and design. Just for clarification, it’s not that we had lots of different sets of dishes, just that we had an eclectic collection of crockery found in thrift stores or received as wedding gifts.

We squeezed juice from our oranges and put it into fancy wine glasses. Or we made hot cocoa and used the crockery mugs. If it was summer, and there was a hint of light we went into the yard to gather a bouquet or berries if they were ripe.

We tried to make our world even more beautiful than it already was.

“MMMMM’ smells good. Now it’s time to wake Daddy! We put the butter, homemade jam, and other supplies on the table.  By now our mouths were watering. 

Once everything was one the table and we were all sitting together we sometimes took a moment for a blessing or to give thanks. We toasted with our juice or mugs: Cheers! Here is to a wonderful day.

After we ate, we all cleared our places and got to work. Pierre made his lunch and headed out the door. Dale and I put on the tunes danced as we cleaned up our cooking mess.

This is how our cooking together started. It wasn’t just breakfast and it wasn’t always ceremonial, but it was always a celebration of creativity, sustenance, and love.

7  Ideas to Help You Raise a Kid Who Cooks

Cooking is a creative process. And creativity is often improved with constraints. So we had the constant constraints of our budget and what was ripe in the garden.

What else can you do to help?

1. Play with your food! Be silly with the food on the plates, food as table decorations and presentation.

2. Have contests and games to see how many new ways you can cook a  __________.

3. Use cook books and recipes as ideas starters rather than missals that had to be followed exactly. Invent new recipes name them, and write them down. 

4. Check out new cookbooks from the library for inspiration.

5. Try new foods, flavors and recipes from different cultures.

6. Let kids cook with you and learn new cooking skills together.

7. Let kids cook and create on their own.

One year my mom gave us a subscription to the magazine Family Fun. It had a monthly column called “Kids Cooking Class” that was set up for the child to independently follow the directions and learn how to cook meals. Once it was a recipe for calzones, another time crepes, another time Chinese beef. Dale looked forward to trying each new recipe and his confidence with cooking soared. He eagerly awaited the magazine and turned directly to the Kid’s Cooking Class recipe. Then he would check for ingredients and make a shopping list. I had to remind myself not to interfere, and let him do it himself.

Pierre usually took  over cooking on camping trips, took over the BBQ and was always part of preparing meals for holidays and guests. So Dale had plenty of time to cook with Dad, too.

In fifth grade Dale was responsible for preparing one dinner a week. He decided what he wanted to make and took care of the process from start to finish.  On Sunday evenings we talked about our schedule for the week, and roughly planned out the meals. Everyone had a chance to offer suggestions or hankerings. We tried not to get in too much of a rut.  Dale cooked on the night that was best for him, the crock pot meal was slotted on the busiest day, and leftover party was near the end of the week. Planning included checking for ingredients so shopping could happen once. I am not a fan of extra trips to the store.

Dale often made his favorite, homemade macaroni and cheese with 3 cheeses, with sides of tomatoes, broccoli and salad. This recipe is still a hit and what we all consider comfort food.

Dale loved socializing, and food was always the  centerpiece of gatherings with friends or family. We typically cooked our own meals for holiday celebrations, casually inviting people to dinner, and even for our wedding and large anniversary parties. Figuring out affordable, delicious, sanity saving food prep for more than 100 was another creative cooking challenge.

Learn how to cook, Julia Child Quote at

Key Takeaways:

Cooking together on a daily basis was a habit that helped our budget and provided connection and a jumping off point for many areas of learning.

Raising a young adult who cooks started with spreading the joy of sharing and preparing meals for those you love, and continued by forming the habit of cooking.

Let the kids cook. Don’t stress about mess or mistakes.

Make it a habit and make it fun. Enjoy the whole experience because meals made with love and laughter and fresh ingredients taste better.

Do you cook with your kids? Do you have favorite blogs, books or resources you use for cooking?

I would love to hear your ideas to add to the list in the comments, Lisa.


Cookbooks We Loved:

Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer and  Marion Rombauer Becker

Williams Sonoma,  Holiday Cooking with Kids

Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at home by the Moosewood Collective

Celebrate by Sheila Lukins

195 Recipes From Every Country In The World – 195 Signature Dishes – Julie Hatfield

Websites new to me that look great:  CookSmarts. com with printable infographics and video tutorials

Here is the page with infographics

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7 Ways to Use Math Everyday: Tips and Resources

Q: How did you approach math with Dale? What programs did your husband want Dale to use as the math became more advanced?

A: Find ways to use math everyday and make math meaningful and fun!  Here is a sampling of  things we did while Dale was growing up and when we were homschooling.

7 Ways to Use Math Everyday: Tips and Resources to Make Math Meaningful and Fun

7 wasy to use math everyday and make math meaningful and fun: Tips and Resources

Avoiding Math Anxiety

Pierre and I liked to approach math as a problem solving process and an interesting puzzle. Pierre is much quicker at math and more advanced and accurate in math skills than me. So he brought the knowledge and application to the table.

I believe one of my saving graces is being curious about learning new topics and viewing learning, difficult learning, as a challenge that helps me grow rather than a yoke of shame about what I’m not naturally good at.  My self-esteem wasn’t ruined because I’m much better at grasping the concepts than getting the right answer. Thank goodness my high school calculus teacher gave credit for showing my work.  I could add my sense of enjoying math even though I’m no whiz.

I’ve worked with a lot of people with math phobia and knew we didn’t want to create math fear. I’d seen that using math in real, meaningful situations to accomplish something a child wants to do is extremely helpful for cementing concepts and connections, sometimes allowing the aha moment for something a child struggles with on paper or pencil. Even before we began homeschooling my husband and I tried to do lots of hands on things with Dale that used math. We didn’t spoil the fun with a lecture, but we might notice and talk about the math involved. We tried to make math fun, a game and social which had worked for me when math was difficult to grasp. I have very fond memories of making art and silliness out of calculus homework with my  wonderful group of nerdy high school friends.

We are nerdy. Kinda like characters in Big Bang. We always enjoyed doing activities together, being curious about how things work, and learning new things for fun. My husband and I enjoy math and see the math and science that are embedded in so many activities of everyday life. We gave Dale numerous positive natural, applied math experiences before looking at math from a formal learning standpoint.

7 Ways to Use Math Everyday:

Art:  Drawing, Painting, sculpting. Proportion, geometry, there are so many ways math is embedded in making art. When planning an art project there are often many math applications that will be needed, Dale framed and sold his photos, figuring out proportions for displays and what would look good.

Carpentry:Dale helped his Dad build a play house in the backyard that we wanted, build small projects like a birdhouse, make gifts out of wood. Of course this required measuring, fractions, computing as needed to calculate materials needs and using algebra concepts.

Cooking and Gardening: We cooked and altered recipes everyday, halving, multiplying, lots of different forms of measuring and conversions from metric to our system, depending on the recipe we were using. Weighing, measuring, planning, bed sizes, nutrient needs, harvest.

Games: We used logic puzzles, strategy games and brain teasers for fun. We had puzzle and books  and games that sat near the dining table and we often played/solved as a family or more often, Dale and Pierre as an activity after or even with dinner. Pierre is not a big talker, so he loved to play games at a meal. Pierre liked to play mental math games when they were driving in the car together.

Money: Using real money to pay at the store, make change, pay bills, calculate  percentages and discounts, figuring out savings for a wanted item, budgeting, learning about finance and investing and interest. Since we often did not have enough money for everything we wanted, Dale became interested in earning money for things he wanted that we couldn’t afford. He used his math skills when calculating profits/loss, materials costs, how much he should charge and keeping track of his earnings.

Music: Getting your body dancing and fingers playing an instrument is a great way help the brain develop pathways that will assist math understanding.  Rhythm, tempo, note values, harmonics.

Quilting and Sewing: I enjoy quilting and we used fabric to make gifts or things we needed. Dale decided he wanted to make a quilt for his room. Sewing and quilting are fun, creative and offer lots of opportunities for using geometry, fractions, measurement and algebra.

Tips on a Few Math Resources We Used

Math Curriculum:

When Dale was in fourth grade, at about 9 -10 years old, he attended a very small private school for one year where they used CPM’s foundations of algebra course Dale loved it’s concept, and application activity driven approach. The lessons gave the big picture reasons behind WHY you would want to learn a concept, problems related to real world examples and incorporated group talking, discovering and playing with concepts.

Since Dale loved it and wanted to continue, when we began homeschooling we went to a used curriculum shop to find the books. We also found the website and resources. The tricky part was creating a group of learners interested in learning pre- algebra and then algebra and get together on a regular basis, since this particular curriculum was devised to have kids work together and discuss as they learned concepts. Dale liked the social aspect but got frustrated when the other kids weren’t as interested in moving through the curriculum. When Dale wanted to learn something he liked to go as fast as he could. We ended up skipping the group and having me act as the partner in the activities. I  had to work hard to allow him to discover and not turn into a teacher.

I offered a math games group one summer and invited kids interested in math to come to the house for a couple of hours once a week. The Family Math Books are a great resource.

We looked for more programs with a focus on concepts and real world application. My husband and Dale liked the Harold Jacobs books Geometry, and  Math a Human Endeavor. Here is a link to some reviews I saw.

Key Curriculum Press has easy format one-concept-at-a-time series of workbooks, called “Keys to “ that Dale liked for review and that I used with students I tutored.

One homeschool Dad in our group offered a Trigonometry class and a Calculus class for a small group of kids. Since his children were participating in a school based homeschooling program he used text books provided by the school provided and added lots of discussion and hands-on, application activities that made it interesting to Dale. Dale really enjoyed the social time and snacks that were part of the math group.


I’ve already written about how much I love museums.  And making tricky math (or science) concepts visible and interactive is something museums do really well. The Lawrence Hall of Science, the Exploratorium,  The Tech and the MIT Museum and Boston Science Museum the had outstanding displays for stimulating math learning.


Other people  are a great resource!

It is good to remember that our child’s approach to learning may at times be very different than our own and there is nothing wrong with seeking outside help or searching for the right kind of teacher that is a good fit for an individual.

My husband is very strong in math/engineering  and very accurate and meticulous. It wasn’t always easy for him to accept that Dale was not as strong as dad in this area and was not always as patient as he could be. Pierre prefers to learn on his own from reading a book. He has no trouble grasping even very spatial concepts from reading text and viewing a two-dimensional diagram. Dale learns more with wrestling with concepts in a social setting, talking, and often needs to see or work with physical objects.

One homeschool Dad in our group offered a Trigonometry class and a Calculus class for a small group of kids. Since his children were participating in a school based homeschooling program he used text books provided by the school provided and added lots of discussion and hands-on, application activities that made it interesting to Dale. Dale really enjoyed the social time and snacks that were part of the math group.

Even though Pierre had the knowledge, Dale preferred going to the other homeschool dad for the advanced math instruction because it was more fun for him and suited his learning style better. 

Remember to play to your strengths, whatever they may be. When Dale wanted to take the exams, called the SAT and ACT, for applying to college, he and Pierre went to a book store and selected some test preparation books. Pierre was a perfect SAT math scored kinda guy. Dale was not. Dale worked through the books, asking for help when needed, and took the practice tests. He took both exams and found that he performed better on the ACT. He decided to maximize his score on that exam.

Math Mantra and Growth Mindset

Math is FUN! I can learn what I want to and need to if I am willing to do the work.

It helped a lot that at my first homeschool conference I attended a session with a panel of grown unschoolers and their parents. It was amazing how many math worry questions were asked. One mom told a story of her child doing no formal, traditional math until age 16 when he became fascinated with a science topic and wanted to enroll science program being offered that had several higher math pre-requisites. He was ready, he had his interest and a goal. He packed 12 years of traditional public school math into 4 weeks of intense learning and passed the entrance test to be allowed into the program. Okay, I thought, we can do this.

Overall, reduce anxiety, use math naturally in many ways each day, lead with interest and curiosity and approach math as a wide open learning adventure.  Explore lots of creative options and resources.

Over to you: What resources do you love for learning and enjoying math?

Some other people’s articles you might find interesting:

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I Worry: What if I Don’t Know How to Help My Child?

I talked with a mom of a sweet 17 month old thinking ahead about homeschooling or unschooling. I think her question will resonate with many of us so I put the answer on the blog.  She said she felt sure she wanted to make the choice, but she still worries about whether she will know what her child needs and how to help her learn.

Focus on Love, Not Fear at

Dear J,

After we talked I felt as thought I didn’t give you enough reassurance and didn’t really get to the most important piece of the puzzle. So I wrote this for you.

You said you worry. I hear you. I worry, too. I know you might be worried about her education and her future and doing all the right things so that she will reach her potential. There is fear tapping at your mind. The best thing I know how to do is answer with your heart and focus on love.

Love. It begins and ends with love. And love is important every day.

Yes. We parents worry from the day they are born, and often the nine months previous. that we might not be able to do the right things, be a good parent, and help our children get what they need.

When you follow your convictions which are out of the box in nutrition, health, or education – there are new layers of worry added.

am i doing the right thing?

will I be able to know and supply what she needs?

and maybe an underlying whisper of

how can i do it all?

how will i have time for me and my other relationships and commitments or my dreams?

or paying the bills?

Breathe. Come on, take deep breath and let it out slowly.

Stop those worries and fears from spinning out of control. Don’t let fear and worry  suffocate your dreams or siphon off your energy.

You can do it. You can figure it out.  You are enough.


Focus on love.

Unconditional, overflowing, unlimited love.

For your child.  Your family. Your friends. Nature. Your community. The World. Yourself.

Start with love. Keep yourself grounded in love, decide what is most important, and then take one step at a time.

Love can be felt by everyone Unschooling Q&A

You don’t have to be perfect, or know it all, or be the ONE to do everything.

You can shower them with love, feed their curiosity and surround them with wonder.

You can choose to walk beside and support your child and introduce them to the beautiful world of love and the chance to learn to find possibilities and overcome obstacles with confidence and courage.

We can’t see the future or control it. We can’t protect our babies from everything life will bring their way. We have to deal with our own fears and uncertainties so they don’t end up  undermining our relationship with our babies.

We don’t need to pretend that we have it all under control. Or that we know everything.

We need to show them how to dream and do.  We can show them how you can ask questions,  choose to joyfully learn what you need to learn, and figure things out.

We can teach them, by modeling, how to do what matters.

You can choose to mindfully meet their needs and not drive yourself to distraction trying to  fulfill their every want.  You can lovingly show them how to know the difference between wants and needs and how they can meet them for themselves.

You can immerse them in the language of love and emotions and give them tools for a life of learning, communicating, and building great relationships with all kinds of people in their personal and professional lives.

Sounds like a big job? It is.

Sounds kinda scary? It can be.

Can you do it?  Absolutely.

Will it be easy? Probably not.

Will be fun? Yes, if you choose the adventure mindset and stay grounded in love.

Life is an adventure. Enjoy the ride.


With much love,


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How do you raise a writer? Make writing meaningful and fun.

Here is a recent question from a homeschooling mom of a 6 and 8 year old.

“ I think I have the other subjects figured out, but how do I work on writing? They really don’t like writing.”

How do you raise a writer? Make writing real, meaningful and fun.
My take:

First: Relax and make writing meaningful and fun!

At these ages all you really need to do is have writing be real, meaningful and FUN!!!! Think about playing with writing rather than teaching writing.

One of our favorite ways to play with writing was making clue hunts. Dale loved to find things, so we would hide a treasure and write clues, a little kind of riddle – sometimes they rhymed – that would lead to the treasure. There might only be 5 clues total, each clue leading to the next clue and the final clue leading to the hiding place. I wrote them for him, we wrote them together for friends and family, and as he got older, he could write them for me. I can’t remember if this started as a rainy day game or a way to make having just a few presents seem like more fun. We would hide the birthday cake and party favors, or the breakfast ingredients on easter morning. We used a small basket and hid all the things to go in the basket rather than having it be filled to begin with.

We loved to play with writing riddles, jokes, silly poetry, Haiku, alternate song lyrics, rhymes for inside of cards and letters, and love notes to hide in a lunch or under a pillow.

Second: Stay present and focus on writing strengths and purpose

Focus on thinking about where they are now instead of the future and whether they will ever be writers. Don’t worry about judging and measuring or comparing their writing.

BTW Dale did not like to write when he was in school, and there were times when he hated writing – which usually corresponded to me pushing it in a “you’re not doing it right” way.

Start a daily writing practice that is fun and meaningful: a gratitude journal. You can have a family journal, but there is great power in each person having their own and writing in it once a day as a daily ritual all at the same time.   [Read more…]

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How Can I Teach my Kids if I’m Not a Teacher?

But what if I’m not a teacher?

I often hear this question from parents.  When we began homeschooling, even though I HAD a credential,  people constantly asked, “But how will you teach high school when you are only an elementary teacher ?” I know how intimidating it feels.  Don’t let it stop you.

how can I teach my kids if I am not a teacher?
photo credit: Suzie, @unschool

Breaking news: Like it or not, if you are a parent you already are a teacher.

Becoming more aware of what you are teaching and improving how you do it will make you a better parent and help your child learn. It’s kind of scary once you understand that how you live and interact everyday is what you are really teaching your child.

It’s okay. Breathe.

I am not trying to denigrate teachers. But I would like you to consider a few points:

  1. There is no reason to teach the way you were taught, and many well documented reasons from brain research to help learners in new ways.
  2. At one point all teachers were not teachers yet. They started somewhere.
  3. The best “teachers” in our lives are not  always a person or necessarily some one person with a degree in teaching.  
  4. Supporting the learner’s needs and the processes of exploration, growth and connection is more important than teacher training skills or subject matter expertise.
  5. The most important quality of a great teacher is the willingness to be learning all the time, along with and from the student.
  6. One of the most important things we can teach someone is to love learning and how they can learn for themselves, without needing us to plan, manage or direct learning.
  7. We teach the most by how we live our lives.

You may have lots that you want to learn. That’s a good thing.

You may need to have courage to stand up for yourself and kids and go against the grain. This is a great lesson to model for your kids.

There will always be challenges. Just because you make the decision to unschool or homeschool doesn’t mean issues, difficulties and challenges will disappear. They may change, They lessen. But life is full of challenges and opportunities. Every problem is an opportunity for learning and adventure. Showing our kids how to deal with difficulties, determine our priorities, and make decisions in line with our values is some of the most important teaching we can do.

I assure you, if you pay attention, are honest, reflect, and are willing to learn, then you can figure it out.

I give you permission to teach.

But what is most important is that you give yourself permission to learn.

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