As homeschoolers, I love incorporating everyday tasks and real-life-learning into our children’s education. We are afforded a luxury of time together, and there is space for this kind of work, for them to learn the things that will serve them when they set off on their own into the world.
With this in mind, my kids have been stepping up to prepare meals since Sage was only 9 or 10 and Lupine was 6. Does it mean less work for me, since I don’t need to cook? Um, not usually. But is this piece of our homeschool an important one that will infuse them with life skills to carry with them into the world? Absolutely.
They research recipes, plan the meals, help with the shopping (when time permits), and prepare the food. I help as needed, more when they were younger and less all the time.
And each week when I ask Lupine what meal she wants to prepare (normally just a day or two before) she gives me the same answer: croissants.
I am not a pastry chef. The idea of making croissants is somewhat paralyzing to me (Croissants? People actually make those? At home?) And so each week I am a total downer and explain to her why croissants won’t work on a random weekday when we’ve had lessons or need to run to town or have other pressing tasks on our agenda. It’s just too much of a time commitment during an already busy week. If I’m honest, this answer is 3/4 of the truth. The other 1/4 is my fear of her attempting something that seems so epic and overwhelming (for both of us).
But this week, she was on duty for a weekend meal, something we don’t usually do. When she said croissants, I knew there was actually time!
And – at long last – I finally said yes.
You can imagine her excitement.
She set to work on Friday for her Sunday meal. (Ignore the fact that she’s wearing not only the same outfit but the same pajamas in every photo in this series. Ahem.)
There was a huge block of butter to bludgeon, something called a “poolish” (poo-leash) that I had never even heard of for her to make, a dough to create, and then so much careful folding, rolling, and refrigerating to tend to.
This went on throughout much of Saturday.
I did nothing to help besides buy all that butter.
And then, at long last, on Sunday it was time to bake! Triangles were cut, rolled, and egg-washed, and then the oven was haunted until they were baked to perfection.
The excitement was palpable.
Because honestly: how often do we – as adults or as children – take on a project that is utterly devoid of instant gratification, something that stretches us beyond our current knowledge and comfort zone, but something so worth the effort and the wait? Not often enough, I say.
And when we do take those things on? They transform us. We see what we are capable of.
(Almost as though we’ve been egg-washed.)
And with much jubilation, we sat down to a very French, very elegant lunch. (Pajamas were even exchanged for clean clothes for the occasion.)
And? These croissants were outstanding, you guys. They were something beyond my wildest expectations. Flaky and crisp and buttery and amazing and made by my favorite 11 year old.
She did that. On her own. At 11.
That’s what determination and hard work – when rooted deep within you – can do.
All of this, of course, got me to thinking about how interest-led learning works. Sure, I could have dreamed up a project such as this for her, but that, I expect, would have been a whole lot of hard work for her to endure rather than to savor.
Do you sense that difference? That’s the shift that comes when motivation is internal rather than external.
By creating this project, this meal, this masterpiece from her own heart and desire? Now that’s when the switch gets flipped and learning comes to life. That’s where we are lit ablaze with a love of life, of knowledge, and of discovering new parts of ourselves we haven’t explored.
That’s where learning truly happens.
For those with a budding French baker at home, get your PJ’s ready! I have recipes to share. Lupine’s croissants were made mostly with this recipe. However, due to our love of all things British Baking Show, we also dabbled in Paul Hollywood’s method as well. (Usually when the primary recipe was vague.)
Edited to add: In the true spirit of homeschooling, Lupine crunched some numbers this morning and would like to report that the six simple turns of her tri-fold dough resulted in a whopping 729 layers of butter in those glorious croissants! (6 to the power of 3.)
What about your family? What have you learned alongside your child, fueled by their own curiosity or passion?