Summer Viewing!

The night sky in New England, June 30-July 4

from Sky and Telescope

Summer, in New England, is a great time for gathering friends on a warm evening and doing some star viewing. If you know there will be a clear night for star viewing, it’s a great time to HAVE A STAR PARTY! images

Send invitations, make “star” snacks, and put lots of blankets on the ground for friends to sit down on for good viewing. It’s fun to have some binoculars, a telescope, or one of the free astronomy apps available. Make sure you have flashlights for looking at books of constellations! images

Most towns in New England have astronomy clubs and the people in the clubs are usually very willing to come join in the fun and help answer star gazing questions. The Astronomical Society of Northern New England can be contacted for Star Parties!

So if you are thinking of having a party this summer, think about including some star gazing, too!




Summer Reading!

Throughout each grade level, Oak Meadow offers a wonderful supply of classics and other cherished books for you and your children to read throughout the school year. However, free reading should also be encouraged during the summer months. Do you need some summer reading ideas? Here’s a good reading list provided by Common Sense Media. This site also provides a section on Wonderful Wordless Books that offers a list of “wordless books” you might like to share with your children. They are perfect for using as story writing prompts, too.

1Summer-Reading-Image-2014The Bookworm for Younger Kids booklist for June is also available to peruse for good reading materials. However, if you would like to subscribe for each month’s group of booklists, you can sign up for free by visiting the Bookworm for Kids official website.




Learning and the Natural World

“Learning and the Natural World”
excerpted from The Heart of Learning by Lawrence Williams, EdD

Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.  ~ John Lubbock

There is something very magical about being outside.

When I was young, a child’s connection to the natural world was not something that needed special attention. It was…well, natural. Kids played outside all the live-long day, as much as possible, in all kinds of weather. Then came the TV generation of the 1960s and 70s, and parents were often reminding kids to “Go outside and play!” Being outside was still an integral part of growing up for most children, however, even urban dwellers.

As a child, when you were outside, your curiosity ruled your actions. Your play was self-directed and engaged. Playing outside meant using all your senses. It probably meant meeting up with your friends and running around. It meant using your imagination and, hopefully, getting really dirty.

Nature’s Classroom

The lessons that nature has to teach us are never ending. Being immersed in the natural flow of plant and animal life cycles, weather patterns, seasons, and the intricate dance connecting everything helps us find our own balance in the flow of life. It’s not surprising that children who play outside are healthier mentally, emotionally, and physically. Human beings have spent nearly the entirety of our existence outside. Our connection to the natural world is so profound that when we are deprived of it, it’s no surprise that we don’t fare so well.

Getting Back to Nature, Plain and Simple

If your child hasn’t spent much time outdoors, be prepared to start small. The crack in the sidewalk is always a good place to start. Collecting sticks and building a little teepee is another simple way to get a child who is timid outdoors to start getting his hands dirty. Collecting rocks, shells, nuts, or just about anything will appeal to most children, and it’s just a small step from there to building and decorating a tiny, magical fairy house or woodland dwelling.

Here are a few more tips for bringing the outdoors into your day:

  • Go outside early in the day.
  • Eat snacks or meals outside.
  • Devote a section of your yard to dirt or sand play.
  • Plant a bean teepee large enough to play inside.
  • Make a living fort by trimming the bottom branches from bushes enough to make a crawl space.
  • Make a row or circle of stumps (burying them in the ground partway makes them more stable).
  • Make a mud pit.
  • Create sculptures from natural materials.

Here’s a list of great materials to collect or make available:

  • rocks
  • dirt or sand pile
  • branches, sticks, and logs
  • seeds and seed pods
  • pinecones and nuts
  • leaves and bark
  • driftwood, shells, and seaweed
  • flowers and long stalks of grass
  • feathers

Child-Led Discovery

Sometimes it is tempting to become a bit too involved in a child’s outdoor play. There is something irresistibly appealing about a sand pile or a fairy house. However, just as it was important not to let our own creative process take precedence over our child’s, it is important to allow children the time and space to explore on their own. This self-directed, unstructured play often yields the richest rewards. Be mindful of your child’s process instead of trying to guide it in one direction of another. Let children make their own discoveries, and allow them to make their own mistakes. Just because they aren’t doing something in the most efficient manner doesn’t mean it’s not right. We all learn from experience, and faster is not always better.

The most encouraging thing you can do is express interest in your child’s play without intruding. Be available to show genuine awe or intrigue when a new discovery or creation is shared with you, but refrain from questioning, judging, critiquing, or praising. Even praise can change a child’s play — the focus may shift to doing things that will please you rather than letting the play evolve organically from the child’s creative impulse. Outdoor play has a naturally expansive element, and the use of praise to help maintain creative tension (as we talked about in the last chapter) is not necessary.

Be playful and curious, be interested and excited, but above all, respect the rich inner life of the child’s play. There is something very peaceful about creating a nature scene or just exploring the natural environment. Don’t force the conversation. Sometimes it isn’t possible or helpful to talk about a creative experience. Connecting with nature can be a very personal experience, and one that builds intricate and complex ways of understanding the world. By attuning to your child’s attitude, you will probably be able to easily feel when it is right to just let things be.

While educators (homeschooling parents and professionals alike) are perpetually open to the teachable moment, unstructured outdoor play is often a good time to let the teachable moment pass without comment. Trust that the learning process is in full sail without your guidance. There will be another time to give suggestions, instructions, information, and to ask leading questions. For now, just enjoy the beauty of nature’s classroom.

World Juggling Day!

imageWhat is World Juggling Day?

“To honor the founding of the International Jugglers’ Association in June 1947, the IJA annually declares a Saturday in June as “World Juggling Day.” This year it is inviting individual jugglers and juggling groups around the world to create events on Saturday, June 20, 2015, designed to spotlight juggling — a regional juggling festival, a teaching session in a school or park, a “Big Toss-Up,” juggling games or media related juggling stunts.

Teaching the art of juggling will also be a focus of World Juggling Day. Jugglers worldwide will be sharing their knowledge to teach the ancient art to as many would-be jugglers as possible.

Make your plans now to be part of something big in the world of juggling! Join up with your object manipulating friends across the globe for World Juggling Day!” IJA website

For Oak Meadow students looking for some new tricks or how to videos, be sure to check out the ezine eJuggle, the official publication of the National Juggler’s Association.

Transitioning from School to Homeschool

Sending your child off to school is a big transition. Making the shift to homeschooling when your child has been in school is another big transition. It may take some time to feel settled on the homeschooling path. Here are some things to anticipate as you make your way.

Photo credit: The Hendrickson family. (Oak Meadow archives.)
Photo credit: The Hendrickson family.
(Oak Meadow archives.)

This is a big adjustment for you and your child. It may be a relief; it may be a challenge; it may be both. Give yourselves and the rest of the family plenty of time to adjust. Be patient and gentle. Expect to fine-tune your plan throughout the year as you get to know your child’s learning style and your homeschooling style and how they fit together. Involve your child in decisions when possible, so that he or she feels invested in the outcome.

Do not doubt your qualifications. You do not have to be trained as a teacher to be a successful homeschooling parent! Parents of diverse educational backgrounds successfully homeschool. Let go of the myth that you need to be an expert at everything to be able to facilitate your child’s learning. Seek others to help your child in the subjects you feel less confident in. Use curriculum written specifically for homeschoolers that includes strong resource materials for parents. Consider teaming up with other homeschooling families to team-teach certain subjects. We hear from parents who tell us how much they enjoy learning new things along with their child. You can do this!

You will most likely need to file an intent to homeschool with local, state, or provincial educational authorities. Depending on where you live, you may need to cooperate with periodic evaluations or have your educational plan pre-approved. In the U.S., every state has their own requirements; some are more complex than others. (The HSLDA is a good starting point for finding out about your state laws.) In some cases, the timing of your submission is critical. You may find it simplest to register with a distance learning school to fulfill state requirements.

Photo credit: Elizabeth Rafferty. (Oak Meadow archives.)
Photo credit: Elizabeth Rafferty.
(Oak Meadow archives.)

Your child may grieve. He or she will be experiencing the loss of something central and familiar, even if the school experience was complicated and the reasons for beginning homeschooling were clear. Recognize that grief is not necessarily an indication that homeschooling is not working. Let your child tell you about what he or she misses most about school and work together to find new ways to meet those needs.

You and your child will likely spend more time together than before. If you have gotten used to having time to yourself while your child is at school, you may find that homeschooling feels very different. Consider your own needs as well as your child’s, and plan for support that will enable you to get some time to yourself when you need it.

if you work from home or outside the home, your work situation may need to be adapted if school previously filled the role of daytime caregiver. Consider all the ways in which your child is capable of being independent along with the things for which he or she needs support. Know that with dedication and creativity, many other homeschooling parents have made working-and-homeschooling work for them, too.

Photo credit: Brenda Callahan. (Oak Meadow archives.)
Photo credit: Brenda Callahan.
(Oak Meadow archives.)

If you have multiple children, the sibling dynamic may become more challenging, particularly if there are younger siblings at home who are used to having a temporary period of time when they lead the pack or enjoy being an “only.” They may need extra support as they adjust to sharing your attention for more of the day. Or if some of your children remain in school while one or more begin homeschooling, they may need reassurance that each person in the family is getting their needs met in the best way possible, even if the solutions look different.

You may find yourself in the role of public relations manager. Friends, neighbors, and members of the school community will have questions about your decisions and your experiences. Face them with confidence and do not feel obligated to explain. Feel free to say, “We needed a change,” or “We’re finding our way,” and leave it at that.

You will need support. You may find that friends and family don’t understand your experience as a homeschooling parent – or your child’s experience as a homeschooler. Connect with others who can relate to your experience. Oak Meadow’s Facebook page and our other social media channels are a good place to start. There may be a homeschooling group already going strong in your area, but if not, don’t be afraid to reach out and start one so that you can get to know some like-minded families.

Photo credit: The Peterson family. (Oak Meadow archives.)
Photo credit: The Peterson family.
(Oak Meadow archives.)

Your child’s social sphere will change. Social needs can vary greatly from person to person. What is your child’s social personality? How much and what kind of social interaction does he or she need? It may take some time for this to become clear, and it may happen by trial and error. Don’t worry about socialization! Do your best to connect with local homeschoolers during the school day or with old school friends after school is out.

Your family’s rhythms will change. Your wake-up time may no longer be dictated by the school bus schedule. You will have a chance to figure out when in the day your child is most receptive for learning and when they need unstructured time. Embrace the opportunity to revisit and revise your family’s routines and rhythms as you adjust to homeschooling.

Most importantly, trust yourself. Remember that you are the most qualified expert on your child. You will not be able to figure everything out before you start, and that is fine. In fact, it’s normal. Keep your expectations flexible. Be willing to shift gears if the first things you try are not quite right. You will make it through this transition. You are in good company, and one day you may be able to reassure another family who is beginning the process of transitioning from school to homeschool!

Your turn: Have you already made the transition from school to homeschool? What have you learned along the way that could be helpful to other families contemplating this leap? We would love to hear your thoughts! Share your suggestions in the comments below.

JUNE is National Rivers Month in the United States!


When you put your hand in a flowing stream, you touch the last that has gone before and the first of what is still to come.
– Leonardo Da Vinci

June is National Rivers Month! Who knew? I sure didn’t, but I’m glad I found out! It is giving me the opportunity to think about the beautiful river near me. I drive over the bridge that spans this great river whenever I go to the Oak Meadow office. It is such a beautiful river in all seasons! In the spring the waters often flow over the banks and rush along at a good speed for some fun canoeing! In the summer it smoothly glides one downstream and kids can be seen jumping into the water from long ropes attached to trees. They’re enjoying the cool relief from the summer’s heat. The fall is a glorious sight with the colors of the leaves reflected in imagesthe water. Winter brings ice and dangling icicles along the banks. The river is home to salmon, mussels, frogs, geese, ducks, eagles, and a whole lot more flora and fauna! It provides fresh water to farms and animals all along its long course. What river is it? It’s the Connecticut River!

I was thinking that it’s one of the longest rivers on the east coast. I wasn’t sure, so I investigated. Instead of going to my bookshelf, I went to the internet and found that, according to the Connecticut River Watershed Council, it is a watershed that covers “11,000 square miles and includes portions of four states: NH, VT, MA & CT.” I’ve heard the word “watershed” but I didn’t know exactly what it meant so I investigated that, too! I even found out that I can join a Connecticut River clean up day in June.

So I’m happy I found out that June is National Rivers Month here in the U.S.! It inspired me to find out new things about the river I love so much.

Interested in river facts? Try this site for lots of good information!

Strolling of the Heifers

Since 2002, Brattleboro, Vermont annually hosts the world-famous Strolling of the Heifers weekend festival that honors and celebrates family farmers, local food and rural life. In this year of 2015, it will be held on June 5 – 7. Once again, Oak Meadow will be participating in the Strolling of the Heifers festivities this year. If you live in or near Brattleboro, or if you will be visiting the area, we would love for you to join us! It is an eventful activity that all Oak Meadow families, friends, and supporters are welcome to attend and enjoy a festive time with the Oak Meadow staff and teachers, along with other home schooled families.


Here are the two main events that include Oak Meadow participation:

Friday, June 5, 5-8pm

Bubble wand making activity at the Oak Meadow table in front of Brooks House.

Saturday, June 6, 9:30 to approximately 11am

March in the parade with Oak Meadow! We’ll be towing wagons with a bubble machine and buckets of soapsuds. Along the way we will be using our new bubble wands and leaving a sky full of little and big bubbles. We will also be carrying signs and our new Oak Meadow banner, waving streamers, and whooping it up. Our theme: DON’T LEARN IN A BUBBLE.

For the parade, we will meet at the Church Building parking lot on Flat Street by 9:30am. If you have an Oak Meadow t-shirt, remember to wear it for the parade. Otherwise, you can just wear something colorful. We hope you can join us!

calf with flowers