Kitchen Chemistry – Building Family Relationships

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
 within your house,
 your sons, like young olive trees
 around your table.”— Psalm 128:3

The kitchen has the potential to be the site of some of the happiest waking moments for your family. This is where the fancy meals are prepared for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. It’s where the peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches are made day in and day out. And as your kids grow, they will be highly motivated to learn where all the ingredients are located so they can make their own favorite dish, whether that’s an omelet, salad, or dessert.

Of course, most of the families in your neighborhood probably don’t make or eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner together. The ninety-six percent of families who send their kids to public and private schools are more likely to grab a rushed bowl of cereal for breakfast or grab a Pop Tart to eat on the bus or in the car on the way to school. Lunch may be prepared by mom, but it certainly isn’t eaten at the dining room table with other family members. At best, their kitchens may see some group activity around dinnertime.

As the canteen for your homeschooling family, your kitchen gets a considerable amount of time and attention. And you are in control of the day’s timetable. So don’t rush past mealtime to the next activity. Make breakfast, lunch, and dinner intentional times of learning and relationship building.

We have several traditions in our family related to what gets made in the kitchen. Thursday lunch is usually leftover day. This is when we try to clear the refrigerator of all the remaining food from the past week. We spread everything out on the counter, and the kids grab their favorites like piranhas at a river feast.

Friday night is typically pizza night. A family favorite is the homemade variety. All the ingredients are laid out on the counter, and everyone makes a personal pie to his or her specifications. Some of my kids like mounds of cheese. Most avoid onions. And just about everyone includes some sausage and pepperoni. The key is to make the toppings look unique in order to find your pie when they start to come out of the oven.

Another longstanding sentimental favorite at the Carman household is pancakes on Saturday. This meal doesn’t get started until around 10:00 a.m., but everyone knows to show up to help with the preparations. We make sure the table is set with toppings of pecans, chocolate chips, strawberries, butter, sausage, and several flavors of syrup.

Plenty of deep and hearty discussion takes place as we sit and enjoy a meal together at the table. I’ll read from the Bible or practice the section of Scripture we are memorizing at the time. We’ll laugh, joke, and banter back and forth. Sure, there are times when a disagreement breaks out or harsh words are spoken. This makes for another unexpected opportunity to train our children to be careful what they say, think, and do in order to honor God and bring glory to Him at all times.

Cleanup also provides a fruitful opportunity to talk and work through the issues of life. This is especially true as the kids get older. Although we have a schedule for which team does the dishwashing after each meal, Rachael and I will often volunteer to stay and help when someone needs to continue an important conversation.

Let me share with you three suggestions for taking advantage of the opportunities provided by the kitchen in your homeschool castle.

1. Designate a fun meal on a certain day of the week.

I mentioned Leftover Thursday, Pizza Friday, and Pancake Saturday. A few other options include Omelet Monday, Taco Tuesday, or Salad Wednesday. Be fun and creative, but make sure the plan fits your family’s schedule. Include the kids. Part of the idea is to make this a fun, anticipated tradition, and the more the children are involved in the process, the more likely this is to happen.

Of course, the after-church meal on Sunday presents all kinds of possibilities. Some families like to go out to eat and treat Mom to a well-deserved break. But assuming you stay home, then may I suggest a meal of brisket, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, and soft rolls. Mmmm. That brings back memories of my own childhood!

2. Read a book and/or memorize a scripture.

One key to making mealtime memorable is to not rush through it. Take your time with the conversation. Try keeping a book by the table that you read at each meal. The Bible is an excellent choice. Read just enough to start a conversation, then ask a few discussion questions to help clarify the plot of the Bible story or the principle being taught.

We often work on a scripture passage we’re memorizing. When the kids were younger, the memory passage typically consisted of just one or two verses. Awana verses were commonly practiced and reviewed at dinnertime. Now that our kids are older, we find ourselves working on eight-, ten-, or twelve-verse sections of our own choosing. We will take turns going around the table, giving everyone a chance to practice what we’ve learned. After a few weeks, everyone has heard or said the verses hundreds of times.

When we begin a new passage, it can seem quite daunting at first. But after a few months have passed, it’s amazing how easily the words flow from our hearts and minds and out of our mouths.

Another idea is to read from a catechism book. This can literally be the Westminster Shorter Catechism or the twelve points of the Apostles’ Creed. I also recommend a helpful resource titled Training Hearts, Teaching Minds by Starr Meade. A good option from Apologia is a volume from the What We Believe series such as Who Is God?

3. Assign food-preparation and cleanup duties.

Teen girls love it. Even the guys in your house will have fun. We assign a day of the week for the girls in our house to prepare dinner. My girls like to get creative and make something fancy, usually with the nice dishes and cloth napkins.

So much education can take place in the kitchen simply by following the instructions in a recipe, doubling the amounts, learning that salt is not an appropriate substitute for sugar, and checking the results with toothpick and palate. Go for it and designate one full day of school to the culinary sciences (a.k.a. kitchen chemistry).

Of course, any adult or child working in the kitchen will generate a mess that requires cleaning. So assign cleanup duties and include yourself in the mix. Deuteronomy 6 conversations can happen naturally when you help kids with kitchen patrol. Ask your son what he learned or discovered that day. Did your daughter teach or serve a sibling today? If so, how did it go? Take this time to let your kids know you’re proud of them and love them deeply. Your words will be important. But the fact that you’re helping them with the cleanup duties will speak louder than any words.

Life truly take does place in the kitchen. Don’t miss all that this room has to offer in the shaping of your children’s lives.

What are some of your family’s kitchen traditions?

Walking by faith and enjoying the homeschooling adventure of a lifetime!



© 2014 Davis Carman

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