Eating and Etiquette

I am teaching…(?)

no…

I am leading…

(kind of)…

I am supervising (better) an “Eating and Etiquette” class put on by a Homeschool Support Group in my area.

This group is made up of families who periodically get together for large events, like picnics and park days, and smaller events, like “Music and Me” classes or St. Patrick’s Day parties. Parents get together bi-monthly to plan events/classes/outings and share ideas and resources with one another. It is a really fun group, and I have met a lot of wonderful people through being a part of it.

This was the very first homeschooling group I ever joined. It took my 3 years to decide I was ready to even get involved with other homeschoolers. Not because I don’t like other people, but because I needed to figure out what and why and how I was going to do everything in my own way without following anyone else’s rules and schedules and timetables.

(I really, really like doing things my own way.)

However, the time had come to branch out a little. I felt comfortable enough to pull my head out of the sand and look around.

And as of today, 4 years into our little adventure, I am a part of 3 different homeschool groups, surprisingly none of them overlapping at all, all of them very local to my area, but all with a slightly different flavor. It kind of gets a little overwhelming sometimes. But I love that homeschoolers respect other people’s independence and time and schedules. I don’t HAVE to participate in the wax museum next month with group A, but I can if I want. And I don’t HAVE to go to the Half-Way Halloween Party in a couple of weeks with group B, but the option is there. There is a Mom’s Night Out with group A next week that I am going to try and slip in, but I know I can’t make the bi-monthly meeting two weeks after that with group C, and I know that everyone is ok with that. They don’t mind that I am hit and miss. Many of them are hit and miss also.

However, I DO have to supervise the Eating and Etiquette class for group C because I already promised I would do so. Plus we are already 3 weeks in and only have 1 week left: The Grand Feast!

Let me tell you all about it!

The class is for 8 to 11 year olds. We meet once a week for 1 1/2 hours to cook a portion of a meal together (main dish, side dishes, dessert) and then talk and practice proper etiquette as we sample our homemade deliciousness.

This is where I laugh.

I don’t like to cook. Because I don’t like food. You would think I would be skinnier, but somehow not loving food doesn’t equate to not actually eating food. (I do like chocolate and ice cream, after all.)

And I live with 5 little children (4 of which or boys) and husband (who is a man, duh), so the table manners at my house are less than stellar. You know it’s bad when you have to say “We don’t talk about things like that at the table… or EVER!” to your husband!!

Seriously!

I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to teach something as fancy as etiquette (it’s a french word for crying out loud!!!) to 8 to 11 year olds when I couldn’t even teach it to my husband!

But in the end, I think it is all working out.

Week One: Homemade Spaghetti Sauce (Hunt’s Meat flavored sauce with added browned Italian sausage, diced tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms and onions) and Spaghetti Noodles. We talked about the proper way to set a table. If you can spell FORKS (minus the R) you can remember the order for the place setting F = fork, O for the plate, no R, K = knife, S = spoon. We talked about the salad fork and fancy dessert forks and spoons, etc., and all the extra glasses. Plus we practiced “yes, please,” and “no, thank you,” and looking at people in the eye. Unfortunately, I underestimated the amount of time it would take to cook a bajillion spaghetti noodles, so I just sent a bunch of the sauce home with the kids and hopefully they had it for dinner and they liked it. My kids sure liked it!

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Week Two: Green Salad and Homemade Breadsticks (recipe at the bottom of this post – seriously, you need this recipe.) Three of the kids who couldn’t make it the previous week were able to come this week. This was nice because there are only 6 kids total in the class. We reviewed place settings. We reviewed “please,” “thank you,” and looking people in the eye. We also talked about putting things to the side of your plate if you are served something you don’t particular enjoy (like cucumbers in your salad – which apparently aren’t popular!) We practiced passing the breadsticks across the table politely, etc. The big winner, of course, were the breadsticks. But their only competition was the salad, so for kids that really isn’t much competition at all, is it?

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Week Three: Individual Open Pies (and a large blackberry pie that unfortunately didn’t get finished in time. If I had thought about it I would have brushed milk and sugar over the top of it, but honestly, these classes frazzle me out quite a bit so I didn’t think about it at the time – and I don’t have a pastry brush anyway – but it would have tasted better.) Etiquette lesson for week three? Um… well. We did a really good job cleaning up our mess together. That may not really be what the creative powers who envisioned the class had in mind, but that’s all I got for week three. We were really messy – pie dough is NOT like play dough as the kids found out for themselves – and in my kitchen, we don’t eat until the table is relatively neat. I’m going to give myself an E for effort.

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A couple of notes (before the breadstick and pie dough recipes) about things that are awesome about teaching this class.

  1. In our Homeschool Support Group two adults are required to be at every function. The president of all the Homeschool Support Groups in our state happens to live fairly close to me, so she popped down for the first two meetings. Remember that quote in my last blog post about not worrying about not being a “born teaching” because you can learn from experienced mentors? That is what Marlene is. She is an experienced mentor. It was really fun to be with her and watch her. I feel completely comfortable teaching my own children, and in some scenarios I feel comfortable teaching other people’s children, but I was way out of my groove with this group in this scenario. I learned some valuable things from just watching her. At the end of each “class” she asked the kids individually what they learned and what they liked best about the class. She has the air of a teacher about her, and they all gave her real and honest answers, whereas my kids would have just told me “the eating part.”
  2. It was fun to have other kids there who were not my own. I am very used to my children. And I love them dearly. But in the last little bit I have had multiple opportunities to be a steward over other people’s children as well (some of which I will talk about later on the blog.) It is fun and good for me in multiple ways to see the variety in all children. I have enjoyed every child in this little class, but all for different reasons. I wish I had them all for a longer amount of time – but maybe not all of them in a cooking class ;).
  3. It is really nice for my kids to get to know other children as well. Obviously public school kids are around other kids all day long. My kids have 4-h, choir, soccer, scouts, and Activity Days (which is like girl scouts, kind of) so it isn’t like they aren’t around other kids, but having these homeschool groups is another opportunity to meet and make friends. I am reading a book, which I haven’t decided whether I really like or not yet, where the author is explaining the origins of morality. In part of his argument he outlines the history of the study of morality. At one point (in the 60s through 90s or something) psychologists believed parents and teachers shouldn’t get in the way because children learn social norms and morality from each other – they learn how to treat others by how they are treated and how they would like to be treated. I can’t tell if he agrees with that argument or not or if that is still the current thinking of the day (I am assuming not on both accounts – and I certainly don’t agree with that thinking myself). However, there is a learning that takes place between children that is valuable to their development. I would never allow my kids to be raised by other kids or expect them to be taught values and morality from other children, but they certainly need to be and play and learn with and from other kids to help them understand the world and how they fit in it. This class has been good for my daughter (who was a member) to do just that.
  4. Bonus Point! My co-supervisor is a friend of mine who I met through this particular group. And although we haven’t really had many opportunities to hang out a ton, I really like her and it has been really fun to have some time to connect over breadstick and pastry dough.

Speaking of breadstick and pastry dough…

Breadsticks

1 ½ C very warm water

1 TBSP yeast

1 TBSP brown sugar

1 tsp salt

4 C flour

½ C butter, melted

2 TBSP Parmesan cheese

Combine yeast, water, and sugar. Let work for a few minutes. Add salt and 2 C flour. Mix. Gradually add flour until dough is not too sticky. Roll into rectangle and using a pizza cutter, cut into 16 strips. Melt butter. Pour ½ on jellyroll pan. Place strips on buttered pan. Cut in half crosswise. Pour on remaining butter and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake in 400-degree oven for 20 minutes. Do not over bake.

Pie Crust

1 C all-purpose flour (as fresh as possible)

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 C + 1 TBSP shortening

2-3 TBSP cold water

Cut shortening into flour/salt until flour “clumps” (use your pastry cutter until it is chunky – not crumbly. Crumbly is not nearly mixed in enough.) Add water all at once. Roll, shape, put in pie plate, prick, bake 8 to 10 minutes at 425 degrees. (The key is, of course, to handle it as little as possible once you have added the water.Tricky, but doable.)

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