by Danna Lockerby

Recently, my 10-year-old cooked some scrambled eggs and toast for himself for breakfast. He cleaned up the mess and left the kitchen completely clean. He then found me and reported that he, “made breakfast and left no trace.” It’s those moments when we get a glimpse of the results of the hard work of parenting and our children’s growth and maturity.

Like many of your kids, my 10- and 12-year-old sons are very creative. They love making things and they get a real sense of accomplishment from creating. Our boys also love cooking shows, particularly cooking contest shows like Cupcake Wars and Worst Cook in America. These shows have entertained them, and have inspired a desire to cook and bake.

As we watched a season of Worst Cook in America, my husband and I took the opportunity to use the show to teach our kids to analyze where the contestants were going wrong with their dishes. I mean, come on, we’re homeschool parents! We can’t let a learning opportunity like that pass by!

It quickly became apparent to our boys that the three biggest things that caused contestants to have poor results with their dishes were:

  1. Failure to read the recipe all the way through
  2. Failure to do their “mise en place”
    (a French term used in cooking loosely meaning “everything in place.” In cooking, this means to have all of your utensils gathered and ingredients prepared and ready to go before you start cooking.)
  3. Failure to understand the vocabulary used in the recipe

We also noticed that the contestants were being constantly reprimanded for having a dirty cooking station. These observations led us to implement the 5-STEP PROCESS FOR COOKING at our house.

5-Step Process for Cooking

  1. Wash hands
  2. Read the recipe and instructions all the way through
  3. Look up any words you don’t know
  4. Mis en place
  5. Clean as you go

We’ve found that the 5-step process leads to success and confidence for our kids in the kitchen. Our boys now routinely cook their own breakfasts, lunches, treats, and often make dinner for the family. And I almost always find a clean kitchen when they are done.

The 5-step process has been so successful in our home that we’ve expanded it to be used for art projects, building projects, science experiments, crafts, and many other applications. That success let us to develop other stepped processes such as the 5 STEPS OF LAUNDRY:

5-Step Process for Laundry

  1. Gather and sort
  2. Wash
  3. Dry
  4. Fold
  5. Put away

Developing and teaching a process gives kids a framework for measurable results that leads to success, confidence, and teaches them to break tasks down into steps. Kids become confident to try new things because the process and framework is familiar. We’ve found it super helpful in teaching life skills, and it is applicable in many areas.


DANNA LOCKERBY is a native of Seattle who moved to Litchfield Park eight years ago to care for her aging in-laws. She has been married to Brooke, the smartest, funniest man she’s ever met,  for 24 years. Before having her sons, Danna worked as an executive & technical recruiter and HR consultant for 15 years. She has one adult step-daughter and two sons ages 10 and 12. She and Brooke have always homeschooled their sons. Danna considers herself an eclectic homeschooler. She loves a great read aloud and teaching homeschool science.

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