Crafting Your Homeschooling Rhythm – Part One

 Skills

by Paul King

The tool unused lies lost in dust,
The sword unused turns dull with rust,
The path unused grows clogged with weed,
The crop untended goes to seed.
Skills unused will soon decay,
Talents wasted, fade away.

I will work with a wish and I’ll work with a will,
And the task that life brings me I’ll gladly fulfil,
And unfolding new skills, many joys shall be mine.
Away dull rust! Let me shine!

afredlandAmy Fredland, one of Oak Meadow’s well-experienced k-4 teachers, offered her enrolled families some valuable guidelines for naturally fitting homeschooling into a family’s daily routine. The information is so well presented and seems befitting to share with all of you. Below is Part One of Amy’s advice:

During my 5 years of working with OM, I have heard many families express great concern about how to start and how to fit homeschooling into “life.” This particularly comes at the beginning of the school year, as there are so many variables to consider, plan and prepare for, and mull over. Some find this inspiring, while for others this can be intimidating.  

I hope that you and your child/ren will take this time at the beginning of the school year truly as a period of transition. Keeping in mind that transitions are not static points in time, but are dynamic processes, I encourage you to consider that many times the first few months of the school year end up focusing on getting into and/or remembering habits and strategies for school related tasks. This can be true for returning homeschoolers, as well as those completely new to homeschooling.

In order to support this transition I often recommend that you take time at the beginning of the school year to map out the activities and tasks that you need to do each week, both for your home and for your school, and that you want to do each week. In this way you are crafting a rhythm to your days and your weeks. Although this doesn’t need to be followed exactly each moment, it is a wonderfully supportive framework into which you can immerse yourself and your children. It allows you NOT to have to “recreate the wheel” each day. Phew! Much time and energy is saved this way!

This is particularly helpful when things get hectic or stressful, and you find that your creative energy is being directed towards other pressing needs. When this time comes around, you’ll find that your weekly rhythm is there waiting for you, and you can simply allow it to guide you and your child through the day.

You can begin to create your weekly/daily rhythm by first identifying important aspects of your days. You might choose to make lists, a sketch or brainstorming map, or a spreadsheet. You can really utilize any method of organization that helps you become clear about the things that are necessary for you and your child to meet the goals you have in mind for the  school year.

Examples of things you may want to include for your school activities are: a5229b2f_kid-16

Language Arts                       Social Studies

Math                                      Science

Circle Time                            Snack/Meal times

Art/Handwork                        Music

Field Trips                             Nature walks

Sports/Social activities          Rest/Quiet time

Reading time                        Free play time

Baking                                  Woodworking, etc.

In addition, it can be helpful to include regular household tasks/activities that will need tending each week. You may or may not include these on the actual schedule your children see each day, but it can be very helpful to give these activities a specific place in the overall family rhythm. You might find it useful to make a small schedule for yourself to refer to throughout the week that includes both these activities and the ones listed above.

These household activities may include such things as:Kid-Chores-by-Age

Meal preparation/Clean up

Laundry

Grocery shopping

Tidying up (dusting, mopping, vacuuming, etc.)

Specific chores your child might be responsible for

Errands

Parent work times

Once you have identified the areas that are important in your week, you may want to include your child/ren in on this conversation. What do they want to make sure there is time for each week or each day? You may be surprised to hear that they really want to have time for baking each week, or that it’s important that they have time for playing outside each morning before school begins or right after your first lesson of the day.

Learning-at-Home

Read Part Two here! 

Homegrown Halloween

Halloween is just around the corner, and with it comes a host of modern traditions and expectations that are exciting for some but may not be a good fit for all families. Creating wholesome seasonal traditions for our children can sometimes be challenging in this day and age. But with thought and care, it can be done.

There are many reasons why families might not choose to participate in trick-or-treating or other Halloween traditions. Some children are easily scared by Halloween imagery. Some families have religious or philosophical reasons to forego Halloween. Some children must avoid sugar or other ingredients present in candy traditionally given to trick-or-treaters. Some parents object to the act of collecting candy from neighbors. Some families are offended by the commercial twist on this holiday. Some live in locations where neighbors are scarce or unknown, and in some areas it’s not safe to go door-to-door.

misc-Halloween-002

For some families, foregoing Halloween altogether is the right solution. But some of us have a nostalgic attachment to Halloween that we’d like to share with our children in some way. The turning of the seasons from summer to fall, the shortening of days, the arrival of chill air, the falling leaves, and the enticing harvest colors invite us to celebrate this special time of year.

One possibility is to host an old-fashioned seasonal party at home for family, friends, and fellow homeschoolers. My children and I kept this tradition for a number of years, and it held the lure of trick-or-treating at bay until a time in our family’s growth when that felt appropriate.

Ask each family to bring something yummy (preferably homemade or homegrown) for a harvest potluck table. Apples, cider, corn muffins, pumpkin bread, popcorn… A simmering pot of stew or chili on the stove can round things out if your party happens to be around lunch or dinner time.

Invite your guests, young and old, to come dressed in not-too-scary costumes. Those who need help might borrow from your dress-up bin if it’s placed in plain sight. An adult might offer face-painting. Start off the party with a festive “costume parade” and the opportunity for each participant to tell about their costume if they wish.

My children enjoyed making crafts and decorating the house in advance of the party. With a simple color theme — orange and black — anything they chose to make fit right in. We also played our favorite Wee Sing Halloween recording in the background, and it has remained a nostalgic seasonal favorite.

Offer a generous pile of seasonally themed craft supplies and simple ideas. Orange paper pre-cut into pumpkin shapes can become decorated “jack-o-lanterns,”
black cardstock can be made into bats, black pipe cleaners can become friendly spiders.

A basket of mini pumpkins and gourds can be beautifully decorated with black beeswax crayons. Orange, yellow, brown, and black construction paper and crayons, scissors and glue, and other open-ended supplies can become whatever little imaginations fancy.

Prepare a number of old-fashioned games for those who want to participate. Keep the emphasis on the fun and the competition gentle.

Here are some ideas for games that have worked well over the years:

  • bobbing for apples: We found that soft apples such as Macintosh work best for this. If your crowd has a low tolerance for potential germ transmission, this may not be an appropriate game, but for those who find it acceptable, it sure is fun!
  • pin the tail on the cat: (nose on the jack-o-lantern? branch on the tree?) There are many possible options for this game. Create a poster with an incomplete picture of something (such as a cat missing its tail), and make up many loose identical tails. Have each player write their names on them). Stick a piece of tape on each tail. Blindfold the player (“tail” in hand) and point them toward the poster. See whose piece gets stuck the closest to its target! (Blindfolded older players can be turned around gently a few times before setting off toward the target.)
  • sack race: We got burlap sacks free from our local coffee roaster, but pillowcases work well, too. Set up start and finish lines using ropes. Participants climb into a sack and hop from start to finish. Usually at least some of the players fall over and hilarious laughing ensues!
  • three-legged race: Use the same start/finish lines as the sack race. Use playsilks or other soft cloths for tying teammates’ legs together so that two people have “three” legs. Teams must run from start to finish as quickly as they can. As with the sack race, there is often great fun when teams lose their balance!
  • spoon relay race: We found googly eyeballs to use instead of hard-boiled eggs, but anything spoon-sized that is ball-shaped or egg-shaped will do! Team members should divide themselves between the start and finish lines. Each team gets a spoon and a ball (or egg/eye) to balance on it while they walk or run toward the finish line. When the first team member reaches the finish line, they hand the spoon to the next member, who heads back toward the start line. Try not to let the egg/ball/eye fall off the spoon! If it does, pick it up and keep going.
  • doughnuts on strings: Hang plain or cider doughnuts on string from the misc-Halloweenlow-hanging branch of a tree. Place them at varying heights based on the sizes of the participants. (Hint: Hang only one doughnut per person.) Ask each player to stand in front of their doughnut, hold their hands behind their back, and on the count of “ready, set, go!” try to eat it using just their mouth. Speed can vary; everyone wins a doughnut!
  • mummy wrap: This is a great game for groups with a wide range of ages. Form teams so that ages are fairly represented across the teams and olders can help the youngers. Each team gets a roll of toilet paper and chooses one person to be their mummy. Each team must wrap their mummy completely with toilet paper; first team to finish wins.
  • fishing-for-fortunes: Create a fishing pole from a dowel or twig, string, and a magnet tied at the end of the string. Make up strips of paper with happy fortunes written on them; curl them up and attach a paper clip to each one. Players dip the fishing pole into the bowl. When the magnet firmly attracts a paper clip, they pull it out and read their “catch”!

All of these games are appropriate for a wide range of ages, and parents or older children can help the younger ones. In most cases our parties shifted from games and snacks toward running around the yard shrieking and laughing. A bonfire would be a great addition if space and safety considerations allowed.

My children and those who attended our homegrown Halloween parties have fond memories and stories of the fun they had. What are your family’s homegrown traditions around Halloween? Do you have any suggestions to add?

From the Archives – Homeschooling and Joy

Joy 3

The following article, “Homeschooling and Joy”, was written by Lawrence and Bonnie Williams and sent October 1991 in a newsletter to the staffed Oak Meadow teachers. After personally experiencing pure joy at the recent Oak Meadow Open House and Staff Retreat, I recognize the true value of the message in this article. Twenty-three years later, it is definitely worth repeating and sharing with all of you.

JoyOne of the best tools a homeschooling parent can use for successful teaching is Joy. Joy is as natural to a child as talking and walking. When there is joy and laughter in the home, children will quite naturally want to enter into learning relationships with their parents. Not only does laughter create an atmosphere of receptivity toward learning, it also triggers the productions of chemicals in the body which have positive health effects. 

Joy can be expressed through singing, dancing, funny stories, and poking fun at ourselves. It’s very important not to take ourselves too seriously. Life can be serious enough at times without adding our own weight to it. When we are able to poke fun at our own mistakes and idiosyncrasies, children will be more likely to admit their own mistakes and weaknesses – an important first step in the learning process. 

At times, however, the challenges of life seem to be too great, and joy seems out of the question. How can we experience joy in such times?

Joy 4First, it helps to put the affairs of our lives in perspective. Most of what happens to us is not nearly as serious as we make it out to be. What makes it seem so serious is that it shatters our concepts about how things should be. If we can let go of our expectations and just embrace the experience as it is, we can usually find joy hidden in the very heart of that experience. 

joy 5Second, we have to remember that joy isn’t something that happens to us – it’s something we create. Visitors to third world countries are often surprised to find children laughing and playing games in the midst of oppressive poverty and hunger. Even in the midst of the most crushing circumstances, joy is always alive within us, but it remains hidden until we make a conscious choice to express it. When we do this, not only do we bring it to those around us, but we experience it ourselves. 

As we experience more joy in the homeschooling environment, we will find that we have more energy as well. Researchers have found that laughter actually stimulates the adrenal glands and triggers the chemical production of endorphins in the brain. These endorphins act as tranquilizers, which leave us feeling calmer and less anxious about the events happening around us. So we can see that laughter is not only beneficial for us emotionally, but physically as well.

A healthy learning environment should be full of joy. Therefore, as each new day springs forth, we need to keep our hearts open to the gift of joy. The Renaissance pioneer, Fra Giovanni, once wrote, “The gloom of the world is but a shadow; behind it, yet within our reach, is joy.” Thus, take joy and enjoy…with joy!

Joy 6

Brower Youth Awards

If you are interested in environmental studies, you may be interested in reading about the Brower Youth Awards. The award is named for David Brower. You may not recognize his name, but you may recognize some of the organizations he has founded: The Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, the John Muir Institute for Environmental Studies, and the Earth Island Institute. He is quoted as saying, “I love to see what young people can do, before someone old tells them it’s impossible.”

Each year six students who are making strides in the environmental movement are recognized by the Brower Youth Award. They are students that have a passion for making the world a better place and have the will power to put their words into actions. The winners “demonstrate excellent leadership as well as a commitment to the communities their work serves. The recipients of the Brower Youth Awards receive a $3,000 cash prize, a professionally produced short film about their work, and flight and lodging accommodations for a week long trip to the San Francisco Bay Area. Youth environmental change leaders ages 13 to 22 (as of July 1, 2015) living in North America (including Mexico, Canada, some Caribbean Islands) and US Territories are encouraged to apply in our next cycle. Applications will re-open in early 2015. ” From the Brower Youth Awards website.

Here are the winners from this year (2014) and those from other years, too. If science is an interest of yours then I think you will enjoy reading the inspirational stories that brought these young people the awards.

 

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service

51kj6kPHswL._SL160_On October 14, 1964, Martin Luther King, Jr. won the Nobel Peace Prize. He was the youngest man to ever receive it. He was just 35 years old and so committed to his cause that he donated the prize money of over $50,000. to the civil rights movement. His protests and his “I Have a Dream” speech are world famous and his accomplishments still are celebrated today.

In his honor, on October 14th this year, start planning what you and your family may do to promote King’s values on January 19, 2015. It is the Martin Luther King Day of Service.

Each year I plan to mentor students in my community that experience challenges in school. It’s a service that I enjoy very much!

Oak Meadow Open House 2014

COME ONE, COME ALL!

Saturday, October 11
11am to 1pm
132 Main St., Brattleboro, Vermont

Each year families gather from all over the country to celebrate homeschooling with Oak Meadow at our annual Open House in Brattleboro, Vermont. It’s a wonderful chance to meet Oak Meadow teachers and staff, view curriculum and ask questions, meet other homeschooling families, play, sing, and munch on delicious Vermont treats. Last year over 130 visitors traveled from 12 states?our best Open House ever! Let’s do it again! All are welcome. 

If you’re traveling from afar, there are lots of other wonderful family-friendly things to do in Vermont during our beautiful fall foliage and harvest season. To help with your planning, here’s an idea of what a couple of days in Brattleboro could look like, a selection of local accommodations (you might also try airbnb or vbro for guest house rentals, or nearby Greenfield, MA or Keene, NH), and a list of other attractions and events.

36 hours in brattlboro scenic

I Am the World’s Greatest Traveler!

What is a riddle? It’s a little poem or phrase that poses a question, and often has a double meaning. It requires ingenuity and creative thinking for the solution. Riddles can often rhyme, but it’s not a requirement. As a Tuesday Tickler for language arts, here is a riddle for you and your children!

Riddles for Kids!I am the world’s greatest traveler. I have been transported by camel, dog sled, pony express, bicycle, train, steamship, automobile/car, airplane, airship, and rocket. I have portraits of presidents, kings, queens, princes, princesses, shahs, sultans, tribal chiefs, adventurers, explorers, patriots, martyrs, inventors, pioneers, artists, musicians, architects, poets, aviators, dramatists, novelists, painters, athletes, cardinals, saints and sinners.

riddles-300x225I have pictures of foreign beaches, rivers, lakes, sounds, waterfalls, geysers, mountains, monuments, castles, temples and ruins of temples, missions, bridges, harbors, docks, locks, locomotives/trains, balloons, rockets, zeppelins, windjammers, native canoes, modern seaplanes, and the world.

I am the World’s Greatest Traveler. WHAT AM I?

Riddles for children

Cursive Handwriting

Our Oak Meadow teacher, Leslie Daniels, wrote this post for the Oak Meadow Heart of the Meadow Blog. I think the upper grades will enjoy it, too! Thanks, Leslie!

 

Cursive Handwriting

cursive-writing Did you know that at least forty-one states in the US currently do not require public schools to teach cursive reading or writing? This is due to the fact that many of the educational institutions are swapping out old state standards for new Common Core academics, which include the dissolution of cursive handwriting. Instead, the Common Core program prioritizes the use of the computer and the introduction of keyboarding skills, even for the early elementary grade levels.

 

cursivewriting1The de-emphasizing of cursive writing is a very controversial issue among educators, and I am grateful that Oak Meadow still sees the value in teaching this art form, as well as implementing it into the third grade curriculum. If you live near Hatfield, Massachusetts, there will be an inspiring exhibit to view this Sunday, October 5, 2014 at the Hatfield Fall Festival. If you are unable to attend the festival, then I highly encourage you to read some of the articles about handwriting at the end of the post: The Lost Art of Cursive.

john_hancock

Make Stuff!

“Welcome to my odd, little world of paper toys, holiday cards, valentines, sun boxes,

baskets and bags, origami and ephemera… all for you to make.

My goal is to help grownups and kids spend time together making things.

It is my wish to amuse and delight.

Enjoy!

Marilyn Waters”

Marilyn Waters has created some wonderful things and it’s all free at THE TOYMAKER

If you love making things, you will love the paper creations from the Toy Maker! The woman that creates the items is so artistic and she generously offers her creations for free. We are planning to use some of her creative items at the Oak Meadow Open House. Drop by and try one out!

Cursive Handwriting

Did you know that at least forty-one states in the US currently do not require public schools to teach cursive reading or writing? This is due to the fact that many of the educational institutions are swapping out old state standards for new Common Core academics, which include the dissolution of cursive handwriting. Instead, the Common Core program prioritizes the use of the computer and the introduction of keyboarding skills, even for the early elementary grade levels.

 

cursivewriting1The de-emphasizing of cursive writing is a very controversial issue among educators, and I am grateful that Oak Meadow still sees the value in teaching this art form, as well as implementing it into the third grade curriculum. If you live near Hatfield, Massachusetts, there will be an inspiring exhibit to view this Sunday, October 5, 2014 at the Hatfield Fall Festival. If you are unable to attend the festival, then I highly encourage you to read some of the articles about handwriting at the end of the post: The Lost Art of Cursive.

john_hancock