The most memorable moments from our homeschooling have usually included cooking or eating. Yummy or not (one time we ate a fried bug, not so yummy) eating brings in more of the senses and increases the ability to learn.
When I asked my boys what they wanted to learn this past summer I was not shocked when they shouted, “Cooking!” The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I should know. I live with four of them. But food happens to also be the way to his brain.
It was a great idea. Cooking checks many boxes; life skills, math, reading, nutrition, mess making, etc.
But I, on the other hand, really wanted to continue further into U.S. geography after a year of studying US elections and early American History. Therefore we compromised and decided to cook our way across the USA!
Cooking Your Way Across the USA!
Step 1: Learn to Name the 50 states
According to Cliff’s Notes, 49% of Americans less than 25 years old can’t find New York on a map. 11% can’t even find the U.S. on a world map! My husband and I never had to memorize the states.
If someone had given me a list of 100 choices, I probably could have circled the names of all fifty states, weeding them out from places like Loompaland and Gotham City. But if given a blank page and asked to list them, I may have stalled out somewhere around a mid west cornfield.
But my eight year old can! He can name every state in alphabetical order and tell you the capital city of each one.
5 Reasons Your Kids Should Learn to Name All 50 States:
- All the cool kids are doing it.
- So they can stand up and recite them for the next family get-together and prove you do actually do something school-ish.
- They will get picked first for teams in Trivial Pursuit!
- Kids in other countries can name all 50 states, and we cannot have them showing us up on our own territory.
- The function of the US government will be easier understood when they know from where its limited powers originated.
How to Memorize the 50 States Alphabetically
All you have to do is sing.
We memorized all 50 states singing a silly song called The Fifty States that Rhyme. (See awesome video below).
When it rhymes and is set to music, information is so much easier to memorize. Allow me to demonstrate: “For the best night’s sleep in the whole wide world visit ________________.”
Tips: I recommend learning 4 states at a time and singing them several times a day. For example, we began with just the first phrase, “Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas…” and sang it in rhythm repeatedly.
Practice just that bit for two or three days before adding the next 4 states or phrases to the first, “California, Colorado, and Connecticut and more.”
Sing all together. Take turns going solo. Use your opera, jazz, or blues voices! The more fun you have with it, the more you will all want to practice and the more memorable it will become.
Step 2: Locate Each State on a Map
Now you can wow friends and family with your new musical skills. But don’t stop there. Do your kids know where Ohio is located? What states border Canada?
To learn the locations of each state I purchased a magnetic map of the states and a set of 50 states flash cards from RainbowResource.com. (They are available on other sites as well.)
We studied around four states a week learning their shapes, capitals, regional location, products, famous people from the state, and the symbols for what each state was best known.
Using a small blank passport book, we all helped to record interesting facts from each state under a sticker of the states flag (also purchased from Rainbow Resource).
We continued to sing our song while pointing at the states to see how fast we could go. And I randomly quizzed the boys on state capitals game-show style while eating lunch, swimming, or in the car. It got quite competitive!
Step 3: Cooking Across the Country
Finally we get to the meat of the matter. And the “EAT” of the matter. Time to get cooking!
If you have studied early American history no doubt you know what nationalities and cultures settled in different areas of the United States. These early settlers brought with them there native foods and ways of cooking and serving.
But often times new Americans had to tweak their recipes to use what products were available to them. When more than one culture met up in an area, their methods and foods were blended to create new dishes that today’s states are known for, such as Texas chili.
Eat Your Way Through the USA by Loree Pettit is a cookbook with a recipe for a meal from each of the 50 states. Listed in alphabetical order, each state includes easy to follow instructions and interesting food facts from each state.
Some of the recipes from certain states called for ingredients that were harder to find or were pricey. Other states had well-known main dishes we wanted to try that were not in the book. In both instances we went online searched for the best recipes.
For example, for Pennsylvania we wanted to make something using Hershey’s cocoa, and for Louisiana we chose to make Jambalaya instead of gumbo.
We disagree with book’s audacity to make chili the entree for Oklahoma instead of Texas!
Did We Actually Cook A Meal From Every State?
We did not have time to cook for every state. Still, throughout the summer the boys took turns preparing a meal from the state of their choosing. From chopping, to stirring, to baking, and frying, they had a blast proudly serving their family.
Yes, they destroyed my kitchen at times. (FYI: never turn the mixer on high with only flour and firm stick butter in the bowl.) But the learning and memories was more than worth it!
Each time we sat down to eat we talked about the interesting food facts from each state.
Do you know chewing gum was invented in Bangor, Maine in 1848?
We also continued our trivia game of state capitals, which allowed Dad to get in on the fun as well!
Our Favorite State Recipes and 50 State Learning Moments
- D1 enjoyed making and eating his Jambalaya most of all. And I must say, it was 5-star restaurant worthy!
- D2 pan sauteed a savory fillet of flounder from Florida, but it was neck and neck for his top pick with his blueberry crumb cake from Alaska!
- Lil D claimed dibs on cooking for Maine from the start. His Maine lobster chunks sauteed in garlic butter were amazing!
- My favorite of all the recipes we tried was Lil D’s Dark Chocolate and Prickly Pear Tarts. But the best part of our whole experience was getting to teach my boys how to cook, and see and share in their excitement when they realized they could.
If you are looking for an extra special, fun and tasty way to learn the 50 states, I highly recommend giving this experience a shot. You may ruin a few spatulas and have a light dusting of flour on every surface in the house at times, but so what?
Whether alongside a study of the U.S. government, American history, or just for a reason to get the kids working in the kitchen, cooking across the country will excite your homeschool and make lasting memories for you all.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or hints on how we pulled off this scrumptious study of the states!