Prior to 2020, the notion of home-schooling was a concept so foreign most parents would raise their hands with ease to readily admit they knew little about it.

Yet, here we are, almost one year on from our first introduction to this way of teaching our children, and home-schooling is slowly becoming a part of normal life. In my house, I’ve had the opportunity to experience it at many levels, as I have one primary school child, two secondary school-goers and one studying a third level course.

Day-to day interaction and levels of enthusiasm can vary, but overall, each have become accustomed to this new routine and I’m proud of the effort they’re putting in. However, even if most days seem to be taken in their stride, the daily drudge of work and learning without the chance of a face-to-face chat with a friend or maybe a game of ball at lunch can’t but bring with it a heaviness of heart.

Flexible workload

During these stressful times, some mindful breaks from regular schoolwork and spending quality time together is much needed. Arts and crafts or a ‘nature’ walk are good ways to keep a little one interactive, while cooking or baking together is an activity most children will gladly embrace, and it brings with it a wealth of benefits.

If children become involved with food preparation from an early age, it gives them a much better sense and appreciation of where their food comes from. It introduces them to the idea of nutrition, while also teaching an important life skill.

The simple weighing out of an ingredient, such as tomatoes, is a wonderful hand-eye co-ordination exercise for a toddler; while other aspects of cooking, such as mixing, sifting, rolling, chopping and sprinkling can help with the development of fine motor skills.

Young children can benefit from the numeracy aspect of cooking, as they check the weights needed for a recipe and gauge how much they will need to empty from a bag of flour.

Older children, once they become comfortable with reading a recipe, will gain valuable experience in the department of procedural writing, and this is something all children from fourth class up will be familiar with as it’s part of their school curriculum.

Tool to build confidence

It’s especially rewarding to see how beneficial cooking or baking can be as a tool to building a child’s confidence. It’s impressive to witness a child’s progression in the kitchen, especially if you choose with them a few basic recipes, such as soda bread or scones, and see how they become more confident each time they bake.

Learning to cook is a skill to be cherished and something parents and guardians should encourage whenever possible. Home schooling, for all its stresses and woes, might just give us the opportunity needed to concentrate on the importance of this vital life skill a little bit more.


Roast tomato soup

The youngest of kitchen helpers will be able to assist in the preparation of this nutritious and tasty roasted tomato soup. It’s packed full of nutrients and is great served with a few savoury scones or a toasted sandwich. This soup recipe could also double up as a mild-flavoured pasta sauce.

750g fresh vine tomatoes, cut in half

1 red pepper, roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

½ tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp sugar

Salt & pepper

500ml vegetable stock

Handful of basil leaves

  • 1 Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas 5.
  • 2 Place the chopped tomatoes, red pepper, garlic cloves and onion in an ovenproof dish. Drizzle over the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle over the smoked paprika and sugar, and season with a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground pepper.
  • 3 Using a wooden spoon, combine all the ingredients together.
  • 4 Roast in the preheated oven for 25 minutes.
  • 5 In a large saucepan, heat the stock, stir in the cooked roasted tomato mixture and simmer over a low heat for 15 minutes.
  • 6 Add the basil, saving a few leaves for serving. Using a liquidiser or blender, blend the soup until smooth.
  • 7 Divide between four bowls and top with a few basil leaves.
  • Cheese and chive scones

    Scones are a great example of a suitable introductory recipe for a novice baker. Once the basic method is perfected, they can go on to make many different variations of choice. For a sweet scone alternative, simply leave out the cheese and chives and add an extra tablespoon of sugar to the mixture.

    450g self-raising flour

    1 tbsp caster sugar

    100g cold butter, cubed

    50g white cheddar cheese, grated

    Fresh chives, approx. 2 tbsp, finely chopped

    1 egg

    250ml milk

  • 1 Preheat the oven to 220°C/fan 200°C/gas mark 7.
  • 2 Sieve the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the caster sugar and mix well with a wooden spoon.
  • 3 Add the cubed butter to the bowl and rub it in gently, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • 4 Add the cheese and chives. Stir to combine.
  • 5 Crack the egg into a jug and whisk gently. Add the milk to the jug.
  • 6 Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients. Pour most of the egg and milk mixture into the middle, but save about a tablespoon of the liquid to use as a glaze.
  • 7 Mix together with a wooden spoon, then use your hands to bring the mixture together to make a soft dough.
  • 8 Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Wash and dry hands. Knead lightly- not too much as the scones would become tough. Gently, roll out the dough and cut out using a small-medium circular cutter, making between 16 and 18 scones, depending on the size of the cutter.
  • 9 Brush the top of each scone with a little of the reserved egg and milk mixture.
  • 10 Bake in the preheated oven for 14-16 minutes, until golden brown. Remove and cool on a wire tray.