My other blog gets so much traffic that I receive 5-10 emails every single day offering to write a guest post for my blog. The pitches are so terrible that I usually delete them without reading them.

This homeschooling blog, on the other hand, is so new to me, that the offers to write guest posts still intrigue me. I usually learn something from considering the proposed post.

Take this pitch, for example:

I found your fun and very informative homeschooling blog and noticed that you accept guest posts. I would love to help contribute to your blog, if you’re interested of course. How about an article that discusses how using the kitchen as a classroom can help in different topics such as health, science, math, and social studies.

I looked at the signature file to see if the person is famous. You never know. Not that famous people write popular posts. They don’t, actually. I have had big-shot guest-bloggers, like AJ Jacobs. He writes totally amazing bestselling books and all magazines would die of happiness to have him write for them. (In fact, I just read his upcoming book, Drop Dead Healthy, and it”s super fun. You should buy it.) Anyway, AJ wrote a blog post for me and you know what? People didn’t really like it.

I wanted to scream: “What was wrong with everyone here?!?!!? Do you not know that AJ Jacobs is the god of turn-of-our-century humor?”

But it just shows that not every good writer can write a good blog post.

Anyway, this guest post offer comes from a woman named Debbie Lawrence. I look to see if she is famous, and she has two domains in her signature file, and Online That is impressive.

So I think to myself: Would her topics work on my blog? Maybe she’ll be good.

But I realize that I can think of about 12,000 lessons I could do in the kitchen. But they would all take my time and concentration and be annoying to me. I am not the kind of mom who is going to teach her kids why oil and water don’t mix. It bores me. And, on top of that, I don’t actually know why they don’t mix.

Anyway, if I wanted to do fun experiments in the kitchen I’d get out the chocolate making kit I’ve had on the special fun projects shelf in my closet for more than a year because I know it will not be fun.

I would like a guest post about stuff my kids could do alone in the kitchen. So I could have some time to myself. I wouldn’t even care if there were a lesson. I’d just be happy they were doing stuff alone.

Now that I think about it, the reason I don’t want tips for an educational kitchen is because I get it: everything is educational if you are interested. A kid who loves cooking does not need me to tell him fun stuff he can learn in the kitchen. He’ll experiment himself in the kitchen. And this is true of everything. I don’t need tips on how to make education fun for my kids. I need tips on how to have the strength to stay out of my kids’ way and let them learn what they want to learn when they want to learn it.

19 replies
  1. Greg
    Greg says:

    Is that good goat wrangling technique? It seems like good technique because most people wouldn’t try to push a goat in that way naturally.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Haha! Yeah, the goats come into the house if we aren’t careful. The goats are a lot like dogs. They just want to be with people.


  2. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    Cooking is something I unschooled for myself. No one forced me. I started at eight years old with the kid basics like pancakes and brownie mixes. By my teens I was into baking bread, trying things from the dessert section (Divinity, anyone?) and “low-fat” selections since that was supposed to be the healthy way to eat (in the 90s).

    I spent a lot of time at both grandmothers’ houses since Mom was divorced and working full time.

    Watching my grandma cut cabbage from her garden, pull onions and carrots from the ground, and take them inside to make coleslaw stays with me as the WAY coleslaw should taste. That deli stuff is overdone.

    My other Gramma’s baked apples with cream–not fake, whipped, cream-like substance–is recalled as culinary revelation.

    The women in my life canned foods; they froze food; they each had a flavor to their foods that no one could replicate. (My theory: the smell of one’s house is experienced in the food as well, which is why grandma’s potato salad never tastes like “hers” now that she is gone and her house is occupied by someone else).

    Love of the kitchen came on its own. Forcing my kids into one will not create cooks. They’re becoming cooks when they eat what I have grown and prepared. They’ll become cooks watching me (or not).

  3. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    Guest posts are like spam. I like, am comfortable with, and look forward to reading the writing style of the writer who’s in my feed. The fact that the writer I like to read likes another writer and their style doesn’t necessarily translate to me liking the other writer’s style. However, there are times I’m pleasantly surprised and will look for other pieces of the guest poster. This guest poster who is new to me will appear on my screen. The question is whether they will stay there or not.
    Education – make it fun, “stay out of their way”, and encourage experimentation. I agree with all of these endeavors. However, I would somehow try to add inspiration to the mix to see if it’s possible to ignite a spark that may lie hidden beneath the surface. And if it’s not there, make note of it, accept it’s not there and move on.
    P.S. – Don’t stop publishing your writing. :)

  4. MichaelG
    MichaelG says:

    These comments to the effect that “kids will learn if they are interested” make me wince. Kids can walk through a kitchen a thousand times and never even imagine learning to cook. Only when they see someone else really enjoying it will they become curious.

    I’m sure there are exceptions — kids who see it on TV and want to learn, or who just spontaneously develop a passion for cooking, but most kids do the things they see others doing.

    I think you are taking the “unschooling” thing a bit too far.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I can see how “kids will learn multiplication if they want to” would make you wince. But cooking????

      I can name 100 adults who went to school and never learned to cook. I think the idea that cooking is a necessary part of education was gone when home economics as a requirement was gone.

      I am certain that adults who want to learn to cook figure out how to cook. I don’t think they need to be told they have to learn.


  5. Mark K
    Mark K says:

    Cooking is pretty special. It’s making art that you can eat, and when you share that art, people are nourished as well as gaining pleasure from it. For me it is an art that always has the same message: “I love you.”

    The only art I can think of that is higher is the art of creating life and gently working with the materials at hand to bring into existence a new person who shines with inner beauty–parenting.

    For this art, useful tips are hard to come by, because it’s only through long and painful struggle–hard work–that one grows and develops character attributes like “strength” that are the tools you need.

    Hard work is made easier by faith in something higher than yourself, and it is made more bearable by having encouraging friends. It’s made easier by a commitment you make to a purpose that can only be achieved through that work. But it never gets so easy that it is not still hard work.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I totally agree! I never learned how to cook until I moved to the farm, and then I gave myself a crash course. I had a whole cow cut up in the freezer in the basement and I’d cook three or four dishes a day teaching myself how to cook the meat without recipes. I was more about learning than serving. I kept freezing everything.

      Eventually we ate it all.

      I am reading this book now. I wish I had had it when I was cooking all day long: The Improvisational Cook


  6. Mary
    Mary says:

    Right on. I’d love my kids (now 3) to learn more on their own too. Because it develops more of an autonomous approach they can use when older to learn anything and in the future maybe let me more time for doing my stuff too.

    So I use an unschooling + Maria Montessori approach. Maybe most of you know about her but if not, this doctor analyzed how kids learn faster and better on their own in a facilitated place for them, like reading before 6 if they are insterested. The teacher watches from afar, guiding when necessary.

    Later, they develop how to learn about the world on their own or in team, and getting the right expertise. She built schools on those principles but I find it could be even more fitted at home. I just read “Montessori at Home” (mostly for 3-6 y. o. though) and it was inspiring. I find this method more natural for kids and less time consuming, learning them a lot of skills.

  7. karelys
    karelys says:

    It’s hard for me to think clearly how to make things better: church, education, career moves. Because everything I know stems from the experience I have with what is normal, what is common. And then being dissatisfied with it and trying to change it. Looking for new info and coming across people writing about their experiences charting new territory. But we all are the product of the dysfunctional school system, church organizations, ho hum career paths and myths and such.

    I learned about the oil and the water. I was so hungry to learn as a kid and I was, I think, in an environment where everything was interesting. But I look at my brothers, my cousins who grew up with me, and they all seem to have grown by my side with blinders.

    I don’t know what makes the difference.

    But I only knew that you go to school to learn. And I just couldn’t wait to go to school. Some days it was hard. Like math. If I didn’t get something basic I got lost in the more complicated stuff. School was a lot of fun before I moved to the States.

    I don’t want to say that it was ideal in Mexico. But I think there were a lot less rules. Or maybe I was king of the hill so it seemed fun to me. When I moved here I went to the back of the line in Academics. Then I kept earning awards for doing great to the point the principal thought I was cheating in tests or homework because I couldn’t speak English very well. He didn’t understand it’s easier to write or read than to speak for some people. But I still looked like an immigrant in the way I dressed, my accent, the look of being lost and without confidence in my eyes. So none of the awards matter to anyone who saw me and didn’t know me. No one wanted to spend time getting to now the immigrant who probably comes to dry out national resources.

    There are lots of things I am happy to be away from Mexico. But I got interested in cooking because of the environment; everyone celebrates cooking there. My 5th grade teacher made us bring recipes to the classroom exemplifying homogeneous and many other chemistry concepts.

    We learned about the environment, geography, about solar system and planets and all that with things we saw and touched everyday. And to me it was incredibly interesting. Ya, the stress of tests and having to do well was overwhelming but I do remember positive things about being in school. The competition of wanting to be the earliest reader or this or that.

    If I remove that completely from my kids life is it going to turn into something positive or not? I am really not sure. I think for me it has become better because I took what is defunct and sought to make it better.

    I go back and forth in this issue and I hope someone tells me what they think.

    • Meg
      Meg says:

      I loved reading your reply. I was like that too, in school: always wanting to learn, even when it meant I flunked a class because I wasn’t willing to just memorize things that made no real sense to me, like everyone else. About homeschooling/unschooling, I can say this: take a look at your life and your kids’ lives, how it is now, before (it is before, right?) they go to school. Do you like it?
      If you think they are learning well, growing well, and you like it, there is no need to change all that by sending them to school. They will still grow and learn.

      Their learning will become more sophisticated, their interests more varied, and you may have to bring them places where they can feed their desire to experience and know more. But if you like this life now, there is no great transformation going to happen, where your kids’ brains turn off, unless you send them to school.

      If, down the line, you suddenly see that life isn’t working out for some reason, you can change your mind. It’s not all or nothing.

      The idea that kids are better off segregated by age, not interacting with older and younger, not interacting with adults much, not being out in society but rather, institutionalized? That is a commonly accepted idea, but more of us are challenging it every day. Not sending your kids to school is not the lonesome thing these days, that it was a few decades ago.

      Hope this helps!

  8. Meg
    Meg says:

    I think it’s cool to see how things pan out. I for one, know all about why oil and water don’t mix. One is polar, and one is nonpolar, that is to say, molecules with a negative end and a positive end, are polar (like water, and are water-soluble) and ones without a negative and positive end, are nonpolar (like fats). There are things that can get them to blend into an emulsion (called Liason in French cookery) such as lecithin, and glycerine.

    But I find it interesting.

    The nice thing about being able and willing to own up to what you are interested in and not, in terms of your kids, is that you aren’t trying to be their everything. You give them access to info, access to other mentors, if their burning passion leaves you cold.

    Those who believe learning must be poured into passive human brains waiting to be filled with knowledge, are just not questioning what they have been conditioned to see as reality.

  9. Julianna
    Julianna says:

    I learned to cook at 8 when I was put in charge of dinner (for 6) twice a week.

    I dont really know how or when or why a kid would ever experiment with oil and water. It’s a bit about knowing about what you don’t know. Why pull those two things off the shelf and not rosemary and thyme — which mixed in a bowl is not that interesting in and of itself.

    • Colleen
      Colleen says:

      I was thinking exactly what Julianna said as something the kids could do in the kitchen while you do your own thing–put them in charge of a meal once a week. They could make whatever they wanted and you all have to eat it. I think many things aren’t chores to kids if you just tell them to do it, and then later in life it’ll continue not being a chore, whereas if you never did it as a kid it’s a pain in the ass (I never cooked as a kid and I dislike cooking as an adult).

  10. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    Magic potions require no adult supervision. It’s probably better if the adults aren’t around.

    P.S. I love that big farm table. It is my dream kitchen table look, and has been for several years now…

  11. Melody
    Melody says:

    I’m late to the party here, but I had to mention my biggest tip for an educational kitchen: Alton Brown. Good Eats has fourteen seasons’ worth of shows to pick from, covers all kinds of cuisine, and I swear I get flashbacks to watching Bill Nye at indoor recess every time I see it.


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