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Teach your children the basics and beyond

Beyond scrambled eggs and sandwiches, I was pretty much lost in the kitchen of my first apartment in college. When I realized I was responsible for preparing dinner once a week for my roommates, I felt completely overwhelmed.

Mom got the 911 call, and sent a couple of favorite family recipes she could talk me through. With time, patience, a few inedible dishes, and the cooking wisdom bestowed upon me by my savvier roommates, I ultimately learned to churn out decent and healthy meals.

During this learning process, I decided that my yet-to-be-born children were going to know their way around the kitchen. But as the years passed, sports, lessons, and friends always seem to interfere with my intentions to teach my two children the kitchen basics. My chance finally came during my son's senior year of high school.

Mom 101

My son managed to talk his way into early release his final semester of high school. This time is actually designed for internships or work-related experiences, but neither would work for Andrew because of his tennis team matches and practices.

We settled on an 18-week curriculum titled "Mom 101." Here was my opportunity to teach him all the life skills I knew before he left for college (well, almost all). After scouring bookstores, libraries, and the Internet in a vain search for a book to guide me, I decided to develop my own curriculum (I keep threatening to write a manual for parents who want to prepare their children before they leave the nest, and I may actually do it now that my daughter is college-bound).

Every afternoon, my son (and a few years later, my daughter), and I enjoyed quality time together as we went over an extensive list of kitchen skills, along with laundry basics, first aid, money management, car maintenance, planning for college, and the all-important parental expectations while away from home.

Each child kept a notebook to write down tips, recipes, and reference information they could use and build on later. Our first field trip was to the grocery store, where I showed them how to read labels, select fresh produce and lean cuts of meat, pick out fresh seafood, and understand expiration date codes.

They also learned simple techniques such as the best way to navigate a grocery store: first, hit the center aisles where the nonperishable items are usually located, followed by breads, produce, dairy, and last, frozen foods.

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