Happy Holidays!

Out with the old, in with the new.

Sweet dreams of the past, new adventures for you.

For all of you who participate in the upcoming seasonal holidays, I wish you a bright and beautiful finale to 2014, and an even brighter and more beautiful beginning to the new year of 2015. Oak Meadow’s Social Media Director, Amanda Witman, composed a very lovely and highly practical article that was recently posted in Oak Meadow’s “In the Meadow” blog site. If you haven’t yet read it, I highly recommend perusing the “10 Ways to Keep the Holidays Simple“.

Here’s to hoping this season of the year will be filled with meaningful activities that help bring your family closer. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year! Please look for the “In the Heart of the Meadow” blog posts to be continued in January of 2015!


10 Ways to Keep the Holidays Simple

For many of us, December is a month of holiday planning, activities, and celebration. Even outside of our own family’s traditions, there is a bustle all around that can sweep us away while we do our best to keep ourselves and our children grounded.

How can we resist the pull of the holiday frenzy that surrounds us? How can we help our families enjoy the simple joys of the holidays even while there are so many complicated distractions competing for everyone’s energy and attention?

1. Focus on the traditions you love most. If you could only choose a few traditions to honor, what would they be? Ask everyone in the family what few things they most enjoy atIMG_2627 the holidays. Come up with a list of “essentials” particular to your family. Make sure your own wants and needs are taken into account, too. And then let go of the traditions and opportunities that feel less central. Keep your traditions within your means — time, money, energy.

2. Plan ahead where possible. Some people love a last-minute flurry of shopping, baking, crafting, and wrapping. Others find it overwhelming. Think ahead and plan to do what works best for you and yours. If you are reading this when the holidays are already underway, take notes for next year so you’ll remember what worked best and what you wish had been different about the way things flowed this year.

3. Keep expectations realistic. This goes for both parents and children. Remember that your child will follow your lead, even if it seems that outside pressures are competing mightily for their attention. “In our family we do it this way…” Those are powerful words.

4. Account for varied social needs. There are always abundant social opportunities at the holidays, and there is more pressure than at other times of year to participate in such things. Remember that not all family members have the same capacity for social engagement. Are you an introvert or an extrovert? What about your children? Do some of you crave crowds and excitement while others prefer to hide behind a good book at home? Seek balance; everyone’s needs are important.

5. Value simple gifts. If your children are old enough to participate in gift-giving, encourage them to make gifts with their hands and from their hearts. Don’t worry about setting them up with complicated crafts, and don’t distract them from the process of creation by focusing on the finished product. Simple is fine. Homegrown gifts, especially those made by children, can be the most treasured gifts received by loving friends and relatives. Hand-decorated cards, bits of made-up poetry, coupons for helpful things they can do themselves, framed drawings, photos, bits of colorful handwork — these can make lovely and much appreciated gifts, enjoyed by both the maker and the recipient.

6. Cultivate appreciation. Pause periodically for moments of gratitude, and invite your children to join you. Voice your appreciation for the efforts of others, no matter how small. Encourage your child to find reasons to thank others. There are many ways to show appreciation, so if thank-you notes stress you out, model other ways. Appreciation helps us feel good about the extra work we put in around the holidays, and hearing it from our children helps keep us going during this potentially depleting time of year.

7. Preserve routines. Honor the normal rhythms of your home. EvenIMG_4217 while you weave holiday fun into your schedule, keep the basic structure of your day intact where you can. It is comforting to children to have a familiar routine, and comfort helps to keep stress levels down. Make sure to plan some down time and time for unstructured play, as well as some restorative time for you, the parent.

8. Capitalize on flexibility. For most families, homeschooling allows for extra flexibility. Plan outings in the mornings when most children are in school and adults at work. The roads are less busy and the stores and sidewalks are less full. If travel is part of your tradition, plan it for times when others are not likely to be traveling.

9. Give yourself comfort and joy. Make self-care a high priority. Eat well, stay hydrated, get enough rest. Take quiet moments for reflection — a cup of peppermint tea, a walk in the crisp outdoors. Light a candle and play soft music to help center and calm everyone in the family. For many of us, the holiday season tends to coincide with winter illness season. Plan plenty of unscheduled time at home for everyone to relax, and cancel less critical activities if you find you are starting to feel run down. Take preventive measures and care for yourself as lovingly as you do your children.


10. Make space for recovery. Once the holidays are over, it can feel like everything has suddenly come to a full stop. Plan some extra down time in the days following your biggest celebration to allow yourself and your children to recover. Even happy, wonderful, exciting stress is still stress. Take a break and restore your energy so that you’re ready to start the new year with full attention and commitment.

When in doubt, keep it simple! Happy holidays.

December 16, 1773

tea_party_Boston_HarborDisguised as Mohawk Indians, the Bostonians, on December 16, 1773, destroyed all the chests filled with tea on three British merchant ships in Boston Harbor. The people of Boston were angry that King George III made them pay heavy taxes on the tea. This “party” was one event that led to the American Revolutionary War. Those of you that have studied with the fifth grade Oak Meadow curriculum know why the conflict took place on this December morning. In the end, the conflict actually made matters worse because Britain was very angry with the tossing of the tea. The British Parliament set out to punish Boston and closed the port. Parliament demanded that the citizens of Boston pay for the tea. They also took away land that the colonists had claimed as their own. As a result, the First Continental Congress was formed and they began to organize their revolution. In just six short months after the Boston Tea Party, the American Revolution began.

It’s fun to answer some trivia questions on this December 16th day! Here goes:

1. Who were The Sons of Liberty?

2. The people against the British were called “__________.”

3. Did Paul Revere help with the Boston Tea Party?

4. What were the names of the three British ships in Boston Harbor that had tea aboard?

5. What was the “Tea Act” and who was responsible for making it?



Oak Meadow in the News!

If you are interested in reading a fantastic and inspiring interview with our amazingly innovative Oak Meadow Executive Director, Michelle Simpson-Siegel, please click onto this link. The interview was conducted by Rebecca Pickens and shared in the “Steam Powered Classroom” .

2More interesting Oak Meadow news can be found in the Green Child Magazine. There is currently an Oak Meadow Full Homeschool Curriculum Package Giveaway, with up to a $510 value.

4oakmeadowYour choice is with any of the curricula between kindergarten and eighth grade. The giveaway runs until December 31, 2014, so don’t miss your opportunity! Or you can tell your friends who are also interested in home schooling!




As the winter approaches here in New England, I long for a good book to read while I sit by a warm fire. I like to read a real book. I like the feel of it in my hands. I like the way I can put it down anywhere and pick it up anytime I want. I like that I can put a favorite book mark on the last page I read, and I like that I can fall asleep holding it. Some people I know are using their devices to read books on. I do have one book on my phone that I read if I’m at a loss for something to do while I’m waiting, or riding the train or subway. For those of you that would like suggestions of books to read, I’ve found Bookworm 4 Kids to be a terrific site for suggestions. I subscribe to the monthly newsletter that describes new books each month. For those of you that would like to read a book on a device, try StarWalk Kids Media for free access to over 500 books from December 24-January 5.

By the way, I’m currently reading Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson. It’s an amazing account of an historical event.


Gifts come in Strange Packages

“Be thankful and joyful.
Be content with life.
Make the most of every situation.”
? Lailah Gifty Akita

Well, I had an interesting Thanksgiving week last week. A huge snowstorm came barreling into New England and the snow was so thick and heavy that I heard tree branches snapping all night. By morning we had no electricity. The whole street was without power. I do have to say that I really like days like this in the winter! The fallen snow makes the whole city white and it’s also quieter because no cars are going anywhere. There’s a wonderful silence when the electricity is out because all appliances and devices shut down. There is a calm throughout the land that creates a lovely peace in the neighborhood. So ordinarily I would love days like this, but it was Thanksgiving day! I had pies to cook, potatoes to bake, a turkey to baste, and the house began to take on a chill that I knew wasn’t going to go away despite the woodstove being stoked! I couldn’t take a hot shower, the toilets couldn’t be flushed, and opening the refrigerator or freezer was out of the question. What to do? We decided to shovel ourselves out and escape to Massachusetts where there was electricity, family, food, and fun!

Our drive to Massachusetts allowed me some space to think about all I am thankful for. Despite the snowstorm, it was a wonderful gift to not have electricity on Thanksgiving day! I doubt that my list of things to be thankful for would have included electricity and all the ways I need it if the storm hadn’t shut down all power to the house.