Homeschool Mise en Place

The French term mise en place (pronounced meez-ahn-plahs) encompasses the idea of having all of your ingredients, tools and supplies ready to go before you start cooking.  Chefs employ this method to streamline their workstations.  The organizational system of  mise en place is so rigorous that chefs should be able to find the ingredients they need even while blindfolded.
Journalist and chef Dan Charnas explains that mise en place is more than just a system for getting things done well in the kitchen.  In a 2016 interview, he explained, “Mise en place is a personal code of ethics… It is a system of personal improvement, not about efficiency, but about excellence.”  In his book, Work Clean, written to apply the concept of mise en place to the larger world, Charnas emphasizes the superior results of the mindset.  “So many of us have convinced ourselves that because we are busy, we are working to the fullest extent of our abilities.  But chefs know that there is a big difference between working hard and working clean.”  Charnas identifies working clean as the central tenet of mise en place.  In his 2014 NPR story, Chanrnas quotes a sous-chef’s quintessential expression of this idea, “All my knives are clean. Clean cutting board. Clear space to work. Clear mind.”  This aspect of clean work means that you are ready to offer your full, undistracted attention to the task.  Mise en place allows you to invest your time wisely. 

Chef-inspired Homeschooling Tips

What would it look like to have bowls of premeasured toppings for your homeschool? Planning ahead and calendaring the year, certainly.  But, that can feel overwhelming.  Here are small steps you can take now to create more efficient pockets of learning for your students.* Keep it clean.  While teaching, it’s not just what you have, but what you don’t want have with you that makes the difference. Eliminate distractions before you begin.*Just as you would plan your meals, you can make and “freeze” key ingredients.  Then you can provide lessons on even the busiest of days.  Look for simple print-outs on topics you plan to study, or create a folder of crossword puzzles and logic games that are ready to go.*Create stations, fully prepped with all the elements necessary for a particular subject.  The math corner has all the counting bears, graph paper, and calculators your students need.  The scripture corner has the Friend magazine, the illustrated readers, and the storyboard figures.  You plant yourself in one spot and rotate your students in for brief, individualized tutoring.

  • Make time for daily planning.  Charnas encourages his readers, to develop “ a regular practice of planning, a 30-minute Daily Meeze.”  Give thought to the plan and rhythm of your day.  Before you are with your child, flip through upcoming pages to be more prepared for the discussions that will come up. 
  • Condense your lessons.  Try a daily ten minute burst for each of your three most important subjects.  This won’t allow you to dive deep into topics, but it will allow you to make small bits of progress in learning grammar rules, memorizing spelling lists, or ticking through the pages of a challenging textbook. 
  • Fill a small basket with the school supplies you usually need.  To make sure your lesson won’t be derailed by a broken pencil, place extras inside.  (Bring the pencil sharpener, too.)  Once you sit down to do the work with that child, you shouldn’t have to get up for any additional supplies. 
  • Find a “sous-chef.”  One teen’s senior project  was curriculum preparation for the youngest people in the co-op.  She planned out all the textbook choices and lesson plans for the year.  She felt satisfied with the work and the other families felt grateful for the gift.
  • Make it easy to put away the homeschool ingredients. Create a pattern of record keeping as part of clean up.  Immediately evaluate whether anything completed today needs to be included in the year-end portfolio.  If the work is particularly descriptive of their progress, snap a picture of it, and save it to a child-specific google drive folder. 

Time is Precious

Mise en place philosophy declares that time and resources are precious.  Charnas is unequivocating, as he quantifies the sacrifice. “Cooks can easily do six hours of prep for a three-hour dinner shift. Mise en place forces cooks to account for every minute of their time.”  By becoming a little bit more organized, you will have enough time to sit at the table with your child and fully engage in the learning process. 

Shawn Setaro,Shawn.  “Using Lessons From Great Chefs To Help Us ‘Work Clean’” (accessed July 24, 2017).Charnas, Dan “For A More Ordered Life, Organize Like A Chef.” (accessed July 24, 2017).
Work Clean: The life -changing power of mise en place to organize your life, work, and mind  by Dan Charnas 

originally published in LDSHE August 2017 Newsletter

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