LAST YEAR, ONLY two Washington-area cooking teachers offered classes for children. This year, that number has jumped to seven. Just as kids' computer classes may spare them the dread of the impending obsolescence many adults feel, so may many of our childen never feel inferior to the French culinary masters.

Of course, there's still the full range of adult education courses available for late bloomers--from oriental to occidental, from appetizers to desserts--plus some intriguing new back-to-the-earth classes in natural foods, preserving and canning.

A good teacher will teach you not just recipes, but methods that will prepare you to take on a project that might once have seemed impossible. Often, learning to cook is a matter of overcoming one's inhibitions, the feeling that something is too difficult.

Most cooking schools, however, are leery of the word "overnight" in connection with cooking. Some of these culinary institutions offer courses that require one's full-time attention for several years.

But cooking school is not just for those who require a professional level of expertise. If you've been cooking for your family almost every night for 20 years, perhaps a quick course in dim sum or phyllo would be just the thing to rekindle your interest in the daily ritual.

Unfortunately, there is not enough space to give all the details of the many classes on the list, so telephone inquiries will be necessary. A call will tell you where the classes are being held, what the class will cover and the teacher's approach.

So, shop around, but do not call up the night before the class is due to start and expect to find an open slot. The most popular courses fill up quickly, and most teachers ask that students register at least one or two weeks in advance.

This is the only complete list of cooking schools The Washington Post will publish this season, so save the list if you are interested in cooking classes.

One last word: It would have been great fun to try out all of the classes, but that project would probably take several lifetimes. So we regret that we can't offer recommendations. For more specific recommendations and information on classes outside the Washington area, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the Washington-based International Association of Cooking Schools, 1001 Connecticut Ave. N.W., Washington D.C. 20036. Be sure to specify the region of interest. The association has more than 780 members in the United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico, France, Italy, England, Germany, Spain, Greece, Australia and China.