First Day of School

In which muffins become a metaphor for the way homeschooling works around here.

Brainy Muffins

You would think that making muffins for our back-to-school breakfast would be straightforward.  And you would think that homeschooling would be straightforward.  In both you choose a recipe, assemble the ingredients, and prepare with love and attention to detail.  For me, though, they both share another commonality: nothing goes as expected.

Last night I hurried around, trying to put the finishing touches on preparations for our first day of homeschooling, hoping to get them done quickly so that it wasn’t 11pm before Rainer and I sat down for a soothing pre-bedtime Buffy.  I opened three well-loved cookbooks and found a muffin recipe that would let me use our freshly made applesauce.  Good, I thought, the smell of baking muffins should be a perfect sensory note on which to start our day.

I did glance over the other ingredients, satisfying myself that they were pantry staples.  But I made assumptions.  Assumptions that we did indeed have honey and bran, for instance, even though I haven’t baked in this house in 4 months. I had to improvise at 7am.  Which I’m good at.  And they’re muffins, for crying out loud, the baked good of a thousand variations.

Then I got a little enthusiastic with the buttermilk, accidentally quadrupling it rather than doubling it.  So…a little more improvisation was called for.  I stayed calm and collected, intuited a solution, filled Ur-Oma’s teapot with hot water to prepare it for the tea, and kept on with the morning.

It struck me just how much like my homeschooling life thus far the baking process was.  I laughed.  In the past, I made glorious plans, tidy schedules, inspiring goals…and then crashed into a reality of some sort or other, Sandra’s vision problems or Matthias’ emotional immaturity, to name two.  I improvised and kept on trying to move along, attempting to keep at bay a cynicism that pretended to protect my heart.  Unlike the muffins I beat myself up for the way that reality didn’t match the golden gleam of the plan.

This year I have a sense of optimism.  This year the kids and I seem to be in good places.  My plans are tempered by years of crashing into obstacles and any golden glow is just the light reflecting off the recycling pile of discarded curricula and theories.  This year may just be the year I am allowed to have a homeschooling year like other people have: a normal year with normal problems and normal progress.  This may be the year I stop teaching reading and start watching them read.  This may be the year I get them up to grade level in their weak areas while watching their strengths soar.

This year might just turn out like my accidental muffins: rich and tasty and full of flavour.


I altered the recipe enough that I feel more than comfortable sharing it.

Metaphor Muffins


  • 1 c All Bran
  • 2.5 C whole wheat flour
  • 1 c sugar (could probably do 3/4 and still be sweet)
  • 1 TB cinnamon
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder

Add and stir til just moistened:

  • 2 c applesauce (homemade is heavenly and full of flavour, just sayin’)
  • 2 c buttermilk (or yogurt, or milk with 1-2 TB of vinegar)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 c oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp grated orange peel

Bake at 400 for 20 minutes.  Makes 24 muffins, or 12 big muffins + 5,894, 333 of those tiny muffins.


5 thoughts on “First Day of School

  1. Julie says:

    Was going to leave a comment about what a great and thoughtful post this was! About how I loved the parallels between baking and homeschooling… only I have just got really hungry and need to go bake muffins!!

  2. belknits says:

    🙂 Lots of buttermilk…:) Thanks for sharing!
    I once added baking soda instead of baking powder to a chicken dish and it turned flourescent yellow (and was completely awful to taste). I loved reading your post because I just made apple cheddar muffins with my 2 year old son today. It’s our fourth batch of the month!

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