The best school day ever for my 10-year-old daughter involved, of course, lots of frosting. Is there a 10-year-old girl out there who doesn’t like to bake? I don’t think I have met her.
My daughter Meredith’s project—on this “best school day ever”—was to make a replica of a medieval castle. She immediately imagined a large castle cake.
Cakes are special to all my kids because, despite the complete absence of creativity in pretty much every other area of my life, on their birthdays, I make them a themed-cake. All of my ideas are stolen from the internet, of course, but my kids don’t care about that. They always look forward to their cake.
In fact, once my second child said, “We know dad loves us because he plays with us. We know mom loves us because she makes us cakes!”
What I learned from this comment is that I should never stop making cakes!
Meredith is an Ideas Queen. She is one of the most creative people I know. When she was imagining her cake, she sputtered off words like fondant, Rice Krispies and turrets in a single breath. Part of me worried that her grand expectations would not be met in the finalized project. But, I let her hope.
That’s what we moms should do: encourage the dreams. Right? Right.
Meredith has enjoyed studying The Middle Ages this year in history. She read Robin Hood and The Story of King Arthur and His Knights. She was thrilled when we went to our children’s museum several months ago and a new exhibit featured a real knight’s armor from Germany in the 1500s. The tapestry hanging near the knight’s armor was a replica, but was one depicted in her history book. She was so excited to see these things in real life.
I love when these true-life connections are made, bridging what kids have learned in their books. That’s one of the best things about homeschooling, I think. Parents who home educate are optimally primed to integrate our kids’ book learning with real life experiences, because we are intimately aware of what they are studying and when they are studying it.
So, Meredith made her Castle Project cake, let it cool, and then decorated her cake.
Except for me helping her stuff dyed, hot Rice Krispie treats into tall drinking glasses to mold them, she pretty much did everything herself.
And…viola! The cake met her expectations after all! She was thrilled.
Now that the cake preparation was over, the hardest lesson of the day needed to be learned: cleaning up a massive baking project mess!
Of course, cleaning up is a mundane lesson that kids have to learn, and re-learn, every day, but on this day it was especially hard.
Meredith surveyed the flour that was sprinkled on counters and floor, sticky egg goo and shells, and pots with burnt marshmallow ooze caked to the sides.
It was not a pretty sight.
I helped her for a few minutes but then told her that, since it was her project, she should do the bulk of the clean up. When you make a mess, you need to clean it up! (I say this a lot. Is that your mantra, too?)
While Meredith cleaned the kitchen, I took the younger kids for a walk. We passed an older woman on our walk, a friend and neighbor, and she asked where my oldest child was. I told her that I had left her to clean a big mess. She laughed and said, “Good for her!” She continued: “My kids turned out pretty great, but that’s the one thing I really wished I’d done more of. I wished I’d made them work harder!”
It is good to bear the yoke in one’s youth.
Perseverance and a work ethic are even more important to learn than medieval history! Just not as fun.
But, despite the clean-up, I still think Meredith would say it was the best school day ever!
Photo Credit: First image graphic design by Charity Klicka; all other images by Amy Koons.