Welcome back to our Becoming a Homeschool Baker series. Today is going to be shorter than usual. The concept itself is very simple and doesn’t require a whole lot of extrapolation, but it will also be short because I am also writing this post during my margin. My husband is currently taking our oldest to a concert and I am home with our younger three and we had a death in the family this morning so we are all still processing our emotions. Right now we are living in the rise. Later this evening there will be a need for me to be present and I cannot be editing or finishing this project during that time, not this week. So I apologize ahead of time for the roughness of this post.
In the last post we discussed the ingredients of a homeschool and the importance of each of those. Before that was a look at the importance of the yeast and the starter. The next two parts of the process are dependent on the outcome desired. Neither are important if you are making brownies or cookies or even sweet breads but both are absolutely necessary if you are baking bread. Today we will focus on the first of the two, rising time.
When it comes to baking bread rise time is necessary, even basic breads require time to allow the leavening agents to get to work and bring air into the dough. After the ingredients get mixed in, after you’ve measured and weighed the rest time is sometimes the part of the process that makes or breaks a recipe. Often the dough is left covered in a warm well greased spot. When you let it rise, you are giving it space to rest, to grow.
When I make a challah the recipe calls for multiple rises between kneading, but with an artisan loaf the recipe is left alone overnight for one long period of time without touching. Then there are quick breads that rest for about 20-30 mins and that’s all. In none of these cases are the doughs left alone to the elements of the air. All of the doughs are kept under a cloth and all are kept warm. Analyzing this in terms of homeschooling I notice that how often the dough is left alone depends on the recipe. The homeschooled child needs rest too. How much depends on the Child’s needs. Most children need regular intervals of work and rest, like the challah or sourdough. Some children thrive instead on long periods of rest that go on for longer than many consider necessary. In the case of the quick breads the shorter rest time still follows the template even it is not for as long.
The point then becomes that children need to rest. Not just to sleep which we know and are reminded of at every doctors visit, but to actually rest their minds. Children need to allow the information, they are consuming time to rest. Time to double, time to take hold, time to turn from separate ingredients into one solid whole.
In baking the environment needs to be covered, or protected so that they do not crust or their rest does not stagnate but also it needs to occur in a warm environment. Remember, that warmth is the equivalent of love, and in the case of a homeschooling child the environment needs to be one where growth is possible. A greased bowl means that there is room to grow. We are not abandoning a child to their own devices but instead fostering a loving space where breaks between curriculum or lessons are still periods of growth. Space, Warmth and Trust are a part of this rest.
Rest is a concept so often associated with sleep that we forget that there can be active rest too. When children are resting between lessons or seasons it is similar to the way a dough rests because it doing something, but we just cannot see what it is doing exactly. The dough is working. The yeast is eating and metabolizing and as the dough rests, it grows. For children it all happens inside too. When parents or teachers take a step back and allow them space to just be it may look as though they aren’t doing anything but they are processing the ideas and the lessons that they have learned along the way. This is why you may read a fairy tale on Monday and on Thursday see your child adding elements of the fairytale into their imaginary play when you are not around. It’s a process.
Your child may not come out and say that they are contemplating the commutative nature of multiplication but that doesn’t change that when they are counting out bites into equal pieces they are practicing the mathematical concepts that you discussed during a lesson maybe three weeks ago. When I say that we need the greased bowl, I mean that we need to allow these kinds of explorations to happen. we need to schedule breaks into the overall grand scheme of things, we need to recognize the need to play with the concepts and allow for free play, even with older students, we need to make space for the kinds of growth that are going to be happening.
Warmth is the love you provide during the rest periods. This is the loving guidance that reminds them that even when they are doing nothing they are still fun to be around and worth your time. When the atmosphere gets cold dough doesn’t rise as quickly or as well as it would in a warm space. Children are the same. They need that contact. They need the stories and the cuddles. even if it has nothing to do with lessons. They need the reminders that even though you are homeschooling now, you role will always be that of their parent and not just their teacher. They need the reassurances that acting out in frustrations over school work is not going to change how you feel about them away from school. The warmth of the environment is how you respond to them when you aren’t doing school. Do you check out because you need a break? Do you rush from school work at home to activities out and about? Is your every waking moment tuned in to look for a learning opportunity, to the point that you miss out on the fun of just being together sometimes?
It’s hard being a homeschooler. It is hard to juggle so many hats without leaving the same environment or people. Part of what makes it hard is that its easy to get wrapped up in the role of teacher, especially as the children get older, but lets not loose the unique role of mom or dad in the process. We get to really let go here. Sometimes when we let go of the teacher role we find that our children are more likely to jump into learning. This part of the rising process. The rest rejuvenates our relationships as well as our minds as we get ready to get going onto the next step of the recipe.
The same goes for the cloth. As the dough expands it releases moisture into the air around it. That moisture is a necessary part of the expansion process. If you forget to cover the dough and it gets hard and crusty then that means that the moisture was allowed to be released out into the greater atmosphere rather than into a controlled environment and back into the dough. For a child this process happens when they are allowed to come back to us after processing their information. They aren’t quite ready to jump back into learning again but they are ready to trust in our understanding or our thought process. Most parents relish this time of unwind, even if it does happen right before bed after the second cup of water. Sometimes though, our children catch us when we least expect them to and we interfere with this part of the process.
We all do it. Parenting is exhausting. Heck, Adulting is exhausting. Sometimes we say “yeah, sure” without actually looking or actually paying attention to what is said. And sometimes, we say that when they are trying to process a bit of information that they are working hard on and rather than help them finish processing that bit so that they can then internalize it and complete the learning process, they forget it. Because if it’s not important to you, it’s not important to them. We don’t mean to do this. We, parents, love our children and we don’t want to make them feel this way but sometimes we react too. The best way to deal with this is let your kid in on the secret. Hey, kiddos, we are people too and we need a break. Can we talk about that really interesting thing in five minutes? Can you write down your thoughts until then? Or as adults, can we just suck it up for another 10 minutes and help them process the thing? It is hard, and it requires real communication, but it is completely, possible and totally worth while. It really takes trust.
When all three are there we have an environment that fosters restorative rest. When we let it rise we are allowing space for deeper dives or curiosity to take place. We are letting the facts and ideas turn into life lessons that are integrated into who our children are and how they see the world. Learning to let it go and allow nature and environment to do its job is sometimes hard to do. We often rush through things. We are quick to push from one lesson to another in order to get to the next big idea but if we just keep adding ingredients and never let it rest, then how do we know if our yeast was ever alive? How do we know if our environment is too cold? How can we trouble shoot and save the bread if we are too quickly going through the motions?
How you schedule your rests or how often is going to be different. After all we each need different things and there are so many possibilities! Just remember that the important aspect of this part of baking is to just do it, just Let it Rise.
Next Saturday I will be back with the next part of the series, Kneading Takes Effort. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and enjoy your family and food.