In Part I, we explored some essentials to include in your homeschool routine. Here we take a look at some ways to approach ongoing planning and create a helpful academic routine.
With household and family routines and the less flexible activities in place in your schedule (even tentatively), the next step is to make regular time for academic planning.
Some parents prepare their academic plan monthly or even yearly, but it is important to revisit it regularly and to include your child in the process. Set aside a dedicated time each week to look over your homeschooling materials and curriculum and figure out what needs to be accomplished in the coming week. Make a list of materials needed and gather them together. Set things up so that you feel as prepared as possible before the week begins.
As children get older, consider sitting down with them once a week to look at the coming week’s plan and discuss what needs to happen and when. Sometimes our children have insights into their own habits and capabilities that will help ensure a successful plan. In time, students who are in the habit of a weekly planning session may be able to manage it on their own, or at least begin a to-do list themselves before finalizing it with a parent.
Visual tools can be very helpful. Some families create a weekly assignment sheet with checkboxes so that each student can easily see what needs to be done and mark things off as they are completed. For others, a large chalkboard or whiteboard is the best tool for listing daily or weekly assignments, along with reminders of other important weekly responsibilities or events.
Preparing your schedule is like laying out a custom patchwork quilt. Continue moving the pieces around until they fit together just right. Over time you’ll hone and create a good flow for each day.
When the fundamentals are in place in your schedule, and you’ve included time for planning and outside activities, it’s time to work out in detail how academic time will be spent.
Identify regular times for focusing on academic learning and practice. It may take some trial and error to figure out how much time you need to block off for academics in each day or week. If you are unsure, start by reserving more time than you think you need, particularly if you’re still figuring out each family member’s inner rhythm.
In the younger grades (K-3), many families start their day with Circle Time. This can become a wonderful ritual that everyone looks forward to. It is an opportunity for sharing a verse, poem, song, or story as a family. Some families also integrate yoga, dance, a thought question, or the cultivation of gratitude. Circle Time can be as long or as brief as your child can tolerate – just long enough to be a positive experience. If it’s not working well, change it!
For older children who have outgrown the concept of Circle Time, devise another way to connect each morning. Use that opportunity to discuss the plan for the day. This might be as simple as chatting over breakfast or checking in with each other en route to a scheduled morning activity. Make it a point to touch base with your child in some way each morning to go over the day’s plan and affirm your connection with each other.
Each Oak Meadow curriculum lesson is designed to be completed over the course of one week and contains an assignment summary in each subject, which can be used to create a checklist for each lesson.
Some families choose to do something in every subject every day. Other families prefer to use block scheduling, focusing exclusively on one or two subjects for a day or more at a time, or “loop scheduling,” where you attend to subjects one by one in a chosen order, returning to the top of the list once you’ve completed the loop. You can read more about these different approaches here. You might come up with another approach that will work even better for your child.
Consider how long your child can focus before he or she needs a break. Students and parents both benefit from the opportunity to switch gears when needed. Academics can be strategically woven around active play and down time to make learning time as efficient as possible.
If you believe you will need more time for academics than you have in your schedule, consider ways to multitask. Depending on the ages and abilities of your children, you may be able to overlap different kinds of activities.
For example, you might have a period of time during which a child is working on academics in the kitchen while you prepare a meal. Or you might have a focused academic session with an older child while a younger one naps. If you have multiple children with various needs, consider engaging extra hands — a neighbor, grandparent, or friend — to help you succeed.
One of the great joys of homeschooling is having the opportunity to follow a custom-fit schedule. There are many good possible ways to organize your homeschool time, so go ahead, make a plan, and give it a try. Do the best you can, allow for flexibility where needed, and trust in the process. You’ll soon figure out what works best for your family!
This week my father turned 91 years old. (Happy Birthday, Dad!) We always enjoy birthday parties with my Dad! We have a tradition of having him tell us what he was doing at the present age of each member of the family. This year the youngest among us was a great grandson just 13 months old. It was fun to hear my father speak about what he was doing when he was 13 months old! The oldest at the party was 68 years and that too was amusing!
We decided this year to list many of the things that had been invented since our father (grandfather or great grandfather) was born. Each family member brought a description of the invention to the party. Wow! He has certainly seen many, many inventions in his lifetime!
I think we take for granted some of the inventions he saw in his lifetime, such as the color TV or the black box flight recorder. Lithium batteries and the pocket calculator surprised all of us as just being invented in the 1970s.
All this talk about past inventions got me wondering what is being invented (and patented) right now! I found out about The Lemelson-MIT Program which strives to celebrate “outstanding inventors and inspires young people to pursue creative lives and careers through invention.” It is so interesting to read about the most recent inventions that are being awarded!
What do you think of when you hear the term, homeschool rhythms? It could mean many things, but for each family, the homeschooling rhythms will be unique as they segue into personal school lessons and extracurricular activities. As you establish a rhythm for your family, keep in mind that it should never be a burden, nor end up as a forced schedule. It is meant to be a sequence of simple activities that is beneficial and frees the home teacher from constant decision making. The most significant goal in creating a homeschool rhythm is to use it as an aid in bringing quality to your family life.
Rhythms within each day, week, month, season, and year are an important aspect of the homeschooling family.The daily rhythm could be as simple as doing morning chores, eating breakfast and engaging in circle time activities before diving into schoolwork; taking a daily walk after lunch, before beginning the afternoon lessons; setting the table and helping with dinner preparations; and settling in for the evening and reading a chapter book together as a family. Weekly rhythms could consist of painting on Mondays, baking bread on Tuesdays, visiting extended family or friends on Wednesdays, enjoying family game night on Thursdays, and helping to clean the house on Fridays. The monthly rhythm might include taking a full moon walk with the family or choosing a specific day each month to do a service for others in need. The yearly rhythm might focus on seasonal festivals, holidays, birthdays and other special events. Perhaps your family enjoys sharing seasonal poetry or songs together, or reading stories and books that correlate with the yearly holidays and festivals.
As a homeschooling family, it’s important to live fully in the moment. However, maintaining a balance between the present moment and the scheduled activities is the key to a vibrant and healthy family life. An essential part of this balance exists between active and quiet times. It offers times alone and times to share with others. It also provides times to focus on the family, as well as work at building community with other families and community members who share similar values.
There is so much valuable information that has been shared on the In the Meadow blog regarding rhythms and homeschooling. In Amanda Witman’s most recent post, she referred to an article on her Part One post of “Organizing Your Homeschool Day”, called “Rhythms, Routines & Rituals”. This post referred you to another previous article (written by Liz Gardner), “How Do We Create a Rhythm That Works For Everyone?”. If you would like to read even more about homeschool rhythms, Part One and Part Two of “Crafting Your Homeschooling Rhythm”, written by former Oak Meadow teacher Amy Fredland, shares some incredibly insightful ideas and invaluable suggestions on the subject. To learn more about the rhythm of the learning process, I also highly recommend reading The Heart of Learning (particularly chapter seven on “Rhythm and Learning: Expansion and Contraction”), written by Oak Meadow founder Lawrence Williams.
Let us know:
What homeschool rhythms do you like to share with your family?
Many parents wonder how best to organize their time when using Oak Meadow or other homeschooling curriculum. There is no one right way to approach homeschool planning, so go at it with an open mind! Try something that appeals to you, then fine-tune your process as you discover what works well for you and your children.
It can be helpful and calming for children and parents to have a predictable daily routine. Start by sketching out a typical week. First lay down the daily basics. When does your day begin?
When do you and your children normally rise in the morning, eat meals, and tuck in at night? Do you have specific habits that help your children “get ready” when they wake up in the morning or wind down before bedtime? Time for meal preparation and cleanup is also important. Be sure to preserve space for these important daily rituals.
Plan sufficient time in your day for necessary housework. What daily tasks are needed to keep your household gently humming? Can some be done by or with the help of a child? Are there responsibilities that can only be handled by an adult while children are otherwise occupied?
Setting aside time for these things in your routine helps ensure that they will not get pre-empted. When enough time is available for housework and other essential tasks, academic learning can then proceed in a relaxed and unhurried way.
Perhaps you are already aware of a default rhythm as you and your children go about the day. If not, tune in for a few days and observe any patterns. When thinking about your schedule, consider the default rhythm that is already happening as well as any changes or habits that you’d like to foster.
Remember that you can choose how firmly or loosely to adhere to your routine. Some children need by-the-clock structure to feel calm, safe, and centered. Some families need an element of flexibility in every single day to accommodate regular moving pieces or unknowns, but having a default schedule helps even very flexible families stay on track with their priorities.
Having a well-thought out daily routine lays the foundation for success in all other daily endeavors.
Activities and Down Time
After you have mapped out the daily basics, think about your family’s outside commitments and how they fit into the week. Be sure to factor in travel and transition time before and after out-of-home activities.
If an activity conflicts with the fundamentals already in place in your schedule, consider whether it would be best to shift the timing of a basic component on that one day, or in general across the entire week. You might find that as long as dinner happens within certain range of time each day, nobody complains. Or it may make sense to have dinner or naptime happen at the same time every day to cement the routine.
Some scheduling adjustments are best avoided because the change upsets the family’s routine enough to cause more stress than the activity justifies. This can bring up challenging questions about priorities and how to best meet the needs of everyone in the family at once. Keep in mind that a great plan on paper is sometimes not a good fit in practice, and this may not become apparent until you’ve given it a try. Homeschool scheduling is an ever-shifting process. You’ll make adjustments along the way as you discover what each person in the family needs most.
Exercise, fresh air, and expansive time in nature help tremendously to balance the focused attention that is often needed for academics. Plan daily time for free play or other unstructured activities, ideally at the same time each day.
Down time is also very important. Many families find that a daily mid-day period of quiet time helps both children and adults recharge and recenter themselves, so do your best to set aside time to make this a habit.
There are many possible ‘right’ ways to organize your homeschool day, week, month, and year. Your family’s schedule will reflect its uniqueness and individuality. With a solid approach to planning and scheduling, homeschooling doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
Next time, in Part II, we’ll look at how academics can fit naturally into your homeschooling day.
This blog post is brought to you by our Oak Meadow teacher, Michelle Menegaz. I think you’ll enjoy it!
Hello Middle Schoolers!
This is a very important alert about the shark-infested waters of the Plagiarism Sea into which many middle school students dive at one time or another. It always starts out as a search fortreasure…the quick path to a wonderfully phrased and well-edited essay or report, but quite soon, the unsuspecting student becomes tangled in strands of broken copyright seaweed and the sharks begin to circle!
As an Oak Meadow teacher, I often notice that some of a student’s writing is almost word for word the same as parts of material in the sources used. (This, by the way, is one of the reasons for including citations for all sources. If no sources are cited, I can not be sure the work is original.) It’s really important that you always write in your own words and not copy sentences or paragraphs from other sources. Copying from other sources is considered cheating, and is taken very seriously at Oak Meadow. The first time it happens teachers give a warning, and if it happens again, it will more seriously affect grades.
Please take time to read more in the Oak Meadow Parent Handbook in the section called “Original Work Guidelines.” This can go a long way towards ensuring that you avoid the weeds and sharks on the way to the true treasure…an original, well-crafted piece of writing or research. I can also recommend the following: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/589/01/ . This has some very good content that you could use. (For enrolled Oak Meadow students, you may receive from your teacher a write-up on bibliographies called Citing Your Sources that you may be sent as an attachment. Ask your teacher for it if you haven’t yet received it!)
Plagiarism is a very tricky thing to define at times, since excessive paraphrasing can also be considered copying of a sort. There is definitely a learning curve about plagiarism in all its forms, especially with use of the internet. There are many reasons that students plagiarize their work. Using three reliable sources at all times and taking very brief notes from these sources can be enormously helpful. Another possible path to try would be to do the work in your own handwriting, in your own words of course, so there are not cut and paste errors.
It is extremely time consuming for an Oak meadow teacher to verify plagiarized work. Once the first warning is given, any further work that is plagiarized will need to receive a failing grade. Let’s avoid this!
In summary, here is what to do:
*Review the Original Work Guidelines in the Oak Meadow Parent Handbook
*Read the bibliography piece called Citing Your Sources
*Discuss with your parents how to use your own words
*Check over the work to see that you are not plagiarizing.
AND remember to avoid the sharks and go for the true treasure!
One of the most valuable benefits of homeschooling is flexibility. Flexibility to dive deeply into one topic. Flexibility to develop a passion. Flexibility to travel, take advantage of unexpected opportunities, and just slow down and enjoy family time. Many families tell us that this flexibility is the reason they able to “live their learning” in a way that just wouldn’t happen if they were enrolled in traditional school.
Some parents have an instinctively flexible approach to home teaching. Others naturally choose a more structured and measured approach. Neither is inherently better, as long as it is working for you and your child.
But no matter who you are, sometimes homeschooling can feel overwhelming, and when that happens, flexibility can come to the rescue.
What do you mean by flexibility?
Some families begin the homeschool year, dutifully follow all instructions just as they are presented in the curriculum, and soon find themselves overwhelmed. They may not realize that Oak Meadow curriculum is designed with the assumption that parents and home teachers will adapt it to fit their family’s needs, picking and choosing from the options offered in each lesson.
As a general rule, it is a good idea to be deliberate and thorough in your approach to home teaching. Resisting the urge to plow ahead quickly in the curriculum will help you and your child establish the habit of a healthy, unhurried pace to learning.
But at times, it will be appropriate to speed up or slow down in response to your child’s needs. A student who is struggling or is new to a concept may need more time, more attention, and more practice before being ready to move on.
On the other hand, some learners will grasp concepts more readily than others, and they will be capable of moving onto the next lesson faster and with less repetition than a student who needs more time and practice to understand a given topic. If a given lesson covers something that your child has already encountered, perhaps even mastered, you can choose to review that material quickly, do only selected assignments, or even skip the lesson altogether.
In the lower grades, it is especially important to keep things developmentally appropriate for students even when they are academically advanced. Some younger students may need supplemental material to keep them engaged with the lessons at a developmentally appropriate pace.
And of course, if you find that an assignment leads to investigating a compelling tangent, you can take the time to explore it before moving on. If your family gets very excited about something else you’ve encountered — investigating local history, or seasonal science projects that make sense to do right away — you can postpone the next lesson until you are ready.
How will I manage it?
For those who prefer a measured approach to planning, there is a default structure inherent in Oak Meadow’s curriculum format. Each lesson is designed to be completed in one week. Planner pages are available to help in mapping out what needs to be done and when.
There are also other less regimented approaches that can work well. Some families prefer block scheduling, in which students focus on one or two subjects only for multiple lessons before switching to a different subject. For students who find transitions challenging, this approach can help them maintain focus and accomplish more in a shorter time. For some, block scheduling means assigning one subject per day in the course of a week. For others, just one or two subjects might be the theme for a month or longer before moving on.
Others use a loop scheduling approach, where some or all subjects are placed in a loop rather than a weekly schedule. With loop scheduling, you move through the list one item at a time, addressing the next item whenever time allows instead of by the calendar. If one subject needs more frequent attention than the others, you include it twice in your loop. If some unforeseen event means you aren’t able to get anything done for a day or so, you simply pick up where you left off in the loop as soon as you can.
Even the most organized parents sometimes find themselves off track, whether because of a family crisis, an unexpected illness, travel, or a very exciting spontaneous learning opportunity. This is one of the beautiful gifts that homeschooling gives us – the flexibility to allow life to get in the way sometimes without upending the academic year as a whole.
How will we get everything done?
If you are someone who enjoys taking a relaxed approach to when the “curriculum year” starts and ends, you may feel just fine going with the flow and letting all things happen in their own time. If you take summers off, you might pick up where you left off when fall comes around again, or you might just keep going year-round through the years.
But if your goal is to finish all of one grade in a year, particularly if you are obligated to a traditional school schedule with mandatory reporting, you will want to keep an eye on the overall arc of your progress through the curriculum. If you expand in some areas, you may need to find a way to contract in others to complete a year’s worth of material on time.
However you approach the year, be clear about your priorities, and refine your goals throughout the year as you get a better sense of what is realistic to expect from yourself and your child at each stage of development.
How will I know what my child needs?
You are the expert on your own child’s needs, and your instinct will guide you well if you pay attention to it. Children tell us in many ways when they are overwhelmed or confused and need to slow things down; likewise, they have ways of telling us they are done with a lesson and ready to move on.
Plan some buffer time in your days and weeks so that you have room for lessons that take a little longer or lead to unplanned learning opportunities. Make sure everyone, parents included, gets enough down time to balance out focused academic time. Plenty of active play outdoors can help get the wiggles out – at any age – to ensure better focus during lesson time.
If your child is enrolled in Oak Meadow’s distance learning school, your Oak Meadow teacher can help you adjust the lesson plan to best fit your child’s needs. If you need more flexibility than distance-learning can offer, using our curriculum independently may be a better fit for your family. If you’re not sure whether to choose distance learning or independent homeschooling, Oak Meadow’s enrollment counselors can help you sort it out.
If you continue to feel overwhelmed and unsure about how to make the most of flexible planning, or if you want help tailoring specific Oak Meadow lessons to meet your child’s needs, an hour or more of homeschool counseling with an experienced Oak Meadow teacher can be very helpful.
Enjoy a flexible approach to homeschooling!
Be open to expanding and streamlining your homeschooling plan as needed throughout the year. Listen to your child’s cues and adjust your plan as needed. A flexible approach to homeschooling helps to keep enjoyment high and stress minimal. Flexibility is one of the most helpful tools for happy, healthy homeschooling.
Corn (also known as maize) is amazing! It is one of the most versatile vegetables and was originally cultivated in Mexico over 7,000 years ago. According to the Department of Agronomy at Iowa State University, the Europeans first discovered corn in 1492, when Christopher Columbus and his sailing crew discovered this new grain in Cuba.
Fresh corn on the cob is a summer favorite for many corn lovers; however, corn can also be enjoyed any time of the year in soups, salads, salsas, breads, muffins, fritters, pancakes and casseroles. It can be used as cornmeal, cornstarch, corn syrup, corn silk tea, corn oil, and popcorn. Did you know it is also used in glue, ethanol, whiskey, and penicillin? Even decorating with colored corn, creating cornhusk dolls, weaving cornhusk baskets, and making corncob toys can be fashionable artistic activities. You can find cornhusk craft projects throughout the Oak Meadow curriculum.
In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, corn mazes became another featured aspect of corn usage. These popular configurations are currently found in every state in the US. The biggest maze in the country is the Richardson Adventure Farm, located in Spring Grove, Illinois. Along with enjoying fall festivals and viewing the beautiful fall foliage, you might like to make plans for packing up a picnic and visiting a farm near you to enjoy some old fashioned family fun meandering through a corn maze. Here is a list of corn mazes for each state in the US.
As school begins for many in the northern hemisphere, it’s time to get school supplies in order for the school year. For those of you in 7-8 grade, I hope you have your very own dictionary and thesaurus! Both will become your best friends as you go through the year. If you are looking for a good dictionary that will last you through the junior high years, find a Merriam-Webster’s Intermediate Dictionary. Also recommended is the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary. (Try to get the most recent addition.) For a good thesaurus, try Merriam-Webster’sCollegiate Thesaurus.
Also really useful will be a good atlas for discovering new places in the world. I like Rand McNally’s Goodes World Atlas, but look through a bunch at the bookstore or library until you find one you like. These three items will serve you well for many years to come!