I've been so enthused by something that's been happening recently in the kitchen.
First, over the past few weeks, the boys have been emptying the dishwasher for me over half of the time...and sometimes without even being asked! They're all good at clearing their dishes, and at setting the table when asked, but the dishwasher help has been a real bonus.
Second, I continue to have very enthusiastic volunteers for pretty much every dinner prep time (more often than I want the help, truth be told!), and I see both skills and knowledge slowly starting to increase about how meals are put together...more so even for Matthew than for the others, but that's because he's a little older. When Seth asked me the other day if he could help "make the roux" for a sauce, I laughed out loud...my eight year old boy asking to help make a roux! I also find that, although all three kids are pretty great eaters, helping with prep has broadened even further their willingness to try new things - if their hands have been involved in preparing it, I'm guaranteed that they'll voluntarily try at least a few mouthfuls...and by that time, they're usually liking (or at least tolerating) whatever it is! It's been great.
Third, we've been cooking together as a family over the past week. A few nights ago, in preparation for brunch at a friend's house the following day, the kids pitched in with Geoff and me to make a large french toast casserole. Matthew cubed all of the french bread with an electric knife and Lizzie arranged the bread in the casserole dish; Seth washed the apples that I chopped for the dish, and he helped me with the egg/milk mixture that got poured over top of everything; and Geoff cubed cream cheese and puttered around doing clean up. It was great. I'd also put a little extra effort into the evening by making a nice dessert that we all sat down to enjoy after we'd finished assembling the brunch dish. All in all it was a really nice way to spend an evening together and it actually, tangibly helped me because I didn't have to all of the prep by myself...and it was just more fun to do it with others around than by myself!
Then, this past weekend, Matthew was a real, and enthusiastic, helper as we got ready for Thanksgiving dinner at my parents' house last night. I took him with me to my parents' house on Sunday afternoon to help get a few things ready for the big dinner the next day; while I puttered around chopping onions and the like, Matthew cubed (again with the electric knife!) all of the bread that went into the stuffing. Later that evening, after Seth and Lizzie had gone to bed and as I prepped the dishes that I was going to bring to our thanksgiving table, Matthew peeled three pounds of carrots while Geoff chopped them. Then he chopped up a bunch of sweet potatoes, crushed cracker crumbs for me for one dish's topping, helped me layer the ingredients of the carrot casserole, and was still asking for more jobs to do. I was so impressed.
I've felt excited all week about these little, but significant changes. In the process of planning for an unschooling kind of year, I had hoped that we would see these kinds of life skills being practiced and it just feels exciting that it seems to be working!