Good Parenting Makes Good Pasta. Or is It the Other Way Around?

In this blog, Daneale, a veteran to RiL teaching strategies, shares her wonderful hard-won insights into teaching! My comments will follow . . . 



What in the world does cooking have to do with struggling learners you may ask?

Well, two of my kids are taking a cooking class at their co-op. Every other week they have a formal cooking project to complete as their homework. This week the assignment was . . . PASTA! My son learned how to make pasta using a pasta-making-thingy (yes, that is the technical name, LOL) at co-op, and he was so excited about it that I bought one for our home. Now, you can make pasta by hand with no tools, but I figured what the heck, we'll get this tool anyway. And for the homework, they were assigned to make fresh pasta from scratch, along with a homemade pasta sauce. We waited till the weekend because I knew we would need loads of time. (And let me tell you, it took loads of time!!) We started this project on a Saturday morning. 


To make the dough, you first measure ingredients, mix them, knead them, and then wrap it all up into a ball and just let it sit. After the 30 minutes of sitting, you cut the ball into four chunks and process them through the pasta-making-thingy to make it flat. Once you flatten all of the pieces, you then process them through the machine again to turn each piece into strips of noodle. Then you let the strips dry for about an hour (we used a noodle drying rack). Then (OMG . . . I'm starving by now and I feel like this is taking forever), you boil the noodles like regular pasta, add sauce, and cook whatever else you want to add to your meal.


Let me tell you, the WHOLE time we were making the meal, I was in the kitchen with him. He had the printed directions that he could read, but I backed him up. I was there to hold his hand and answer questions as he needed.  I was his support in any way he wanted to use me.  For example, he got tired of kneading the dough, so I took a turn. The pasta-thingy was not a one man job, so we worked together.  I was in constant clean-up mode, putting things away, or washing dishes.  He wanted blackened chicken with the pasta, so I cooked that.  I wanted broccoli . . . so yeah, I cooked that too. And the whole time he was working, I was there.  I was cleaning or just lending support.

When it was all said and done, the pasta meal was absolutely amazing!  And he was definitely proud of himself when we finished, too. After I cleaned up the kitchen from the whole ordeal, he came and found me, and said thanks for helping him to make pasta, AND he gave me a hug!  

I am sharing this story because I think that sometimes I forget the value of giving helpful support to my kids when they do school—but I never forget to give it when they are working in other areas of interest. Yes, I may consider my kitchen my personal sanctuary, and I don't want my kids to destroy it (and that may be why I am super quick to help in there LOL), but it always feel completely natural to lend support in every area of regular living.  I almost feel like I am passing on my momma-know-how, which I want to give to my kids—similar to an inheritance—so they can then share this knowledge with their kids.  


Yet isn't this the same as helping kids in reading and writing? Sometimes I feel so frustrated because I think, "I already taught you blah, blah, blah. Why don't you get it???? Why am I helping again???" But then I look at cooking.  My son's been in this class for almost a year now.  I literally have no expectations of him going at it alone. And even though I helped my son create this monster of a dish, now every homework project he works on, he continues to need less and less of my support.

I guess as I was finishing up this cooking project with him, it hit me that this is a beautiful illustration about my need to support all of my kiddos in every area of life—school included! Supporting in life skills feels absolutely natural, and therefore, so "should" supporting them in school. The value of support is exponential! Kids feel more confident, more willing to try, more willing to give it their all.


Just like passing on general life skills, passing on the skills of reading and writing is such gift, too. But I sometimes struggle because one of my kids is a struggling learner, and he just needs more from me. But struggling learner or not, I will continue to invest in each of my kids and be the support they need. I am grateful for constant reminders (like making pasta) that life is a marathon, not a sprint. Just as I'm helping to grow my kids in the kitchen, I am helping to grown them as readers and communicators. I am so grateful for the time I have to give and invest in them. I am grateful that Rooted in Language gave me the resources to help each of them grow. As I write this story, I guess my heart overwhelmingly says, I am grateful!


I love Daneale's realization that we, as parents, need to take the life-long, patient view of supporting our kids in learning—much the way we do in life skills. As a new grandmother, I certainly have been supporting my daughters as they navigate the waters of caring for their newborns. It is a joy to be a part of their lives and hold their beautiful little babies! Like Daneale's cooking time, we are doing dishes, making meals, vacuuming, running errands, and encouraging. My husband and I marvel that we are needed just as much now as always, although in very different ways.

I watch my daughters, as new mothers, excitedly begin to teach their children, building into their development. As parents it feels natural to be "all-in" until age 6 or so, and then we begin to switch to presenter mode, rather than supporter mode. We can forget that "telling" a concept is not the same as engaging in learning a concept, side-by-side. No matter our school choice, the most learning happens when we are shoring up our kids, giving each one the individual attention and support they need, whenever we can.

Like Daneale, I am grateful to have spent endless years teaching my kids to read and write, even though not every moment was fun. All through their ages and stages. I have edited college papers and proof-read resumes. At Rooted in Language, we all edit each other. There is no end to becoming a better reader and writer, and support is needed every step of the way!

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