A day off from homeschool…

Is not really a day off from school. 🙂

The other day, we took a day trip with our homeschooling group. I suppose in public school, it would be called a field trip. There were about twenty children, ranging in age from 4 years old to 14. We met in the farmhouse at the Queens Farm Museum. This farmhouse was built in 1773. There we were, sitting in the kitchen where daily meals were prepared more than 200 years ago. I don’t know about you, but I love historical buildings like that. That’s why places like Gettysburg, Williamsburg, Plymouth and others like it will always get my attention.

But at the farm, the children were told all about the original owners of the property, and since this class was called “Colonial Cooking”, they were given enlightening information on making butter, collecting eggs from around the farm, what chores the youngest among us would have had and what chores the older children would have had. They all gaped and laughed nervously, realizing, even if only for a few seconds, how fortunate they are in this day of electronics and parents-as-friends. They gasped audibly when they were told laws protecting children did not exist back then. If a child was told to gather eggs and that child hesitated or… dared to say, “no”, well, there were no laws preventing that child from getting whooped. So… if your mama told you to do something, you clicked your heels and said, “yes ma’am!”

More than a few anxious glance were exchanged, I must say.

The best part was getting to cook. Each child took a turn chopping vegetables for the soup and measuring cornmeal, sugar and other ingredients for the cornbread. They learned about where the ingredients came from – and how they differed for simple farm folk as opposed to the wealthier city folk. For example – city folk would use cane sugar for their cornbread, whereas farm folk used the less expensive molasses.

The vegetable soup and the cornbread were cooked in the hearth. The amazing part is that the soup took on the flavor of the smoke from the fire as it swirled around the cauldron. It’s not a flavor you can easily duplicate at home. I know. I tried. And the cornbread… now, this I found amazing… cooked in 20 minutes. They used what’s called a ‘spider pan’. It’s a cast-iron skillet with a cast-iron cover and cast-iron tri-pod legs. A few of the burning embers from the central fire as brushed over to the side of the hearth and the legs of this spider pan are set right into them so the contents cook from below. THEN… burning embers are shoveled onto the lid of this pan and left there until the desired time.

This cornbread came out of the pan perfectly. Not one spec of it was burnt. Not one crumb of it uncooked. It was spongy, sweet and hearty. And aside from having to chase chickens for their eggs, milk the cow, churn the milk into butter, stand – with risk of death – inches from a blazing fire, and lifting cast-iron cookware, it seemed a fairly easy recipe.

What I love so much about homeschooling is the opportunity to experience this kind of thing as often or as infrequent as I’d like. I’m still learning about homeschooling, but the more I discover about it, the more in love with the process I am. And my pleasure is only a tiny measure of the pleasure my daughter gets from the process. What a great way to spend the younger years of my child’s life.

7 Responses to A day off from homeschool…

  • I didn’t homeschool my daughter, but we did take her out of school whenever we went on business trips and had lots of learning opportunities. The cornbread and soup sounds yummy – and I just finished dinner. Oh no. :-0

  • Indeed it was yummy – so yummy all the kids ate it! How many kids eat vegetable soup and ask for seconds? 🙂 Didn’t you help organize a school for your child and others? It’s not exactly homeschooling, but it’s certainly a major and unconventional step, and I admire it. I was always so afraid to ‘break the rules’ so I put off the homeschooling process until my daughter was in 6th grade. By then, I knew I had to do something drastic. Who knew it would be so easy and so wonderful?

  • Wow…sounds as if you and your daughter had a great time, Debora! 🙂 Thank you for sharing that account of a day in the life of…


    PS: Love the pics of your kitties and puppy!

  • I have friends who write historical mysteries who are re-enactors and have cooked over an open flame like that. I, on the other hand, only approach a flame to cook over a gas grill. Still, there’s a flavor you get from an outdoor grill that a Foreman grill — as convenient and healthy as those are — can’t come near.

  • I love to think of the expertise of pioneer women who cooked amazing meals over the fire and gave a whole new meaning (at least for us) to the idea of making something from scratch.

    Thanks for sharing.


  • The kids should gasp and shudder… lets face it, they have it sooo easy. Sounds like you had a fun trip!

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