Part 2 of Developing Self-Esteem

lawrenceThe following is Part 2 of Developing Self-Esteem: Appreciate Them, written by Oak Meadow’s co-founder, Lawrence Williams.

Appreciate Them

One of the most powerful techniques for building positive self-esteem in children is to let them know how much you appreciate them. Appreciation lets them know that you see them clearly, and that you like what you see. It also gives them the message that they are of value, and knowing that others value you is a great esteem builder. However, as with the quality of respect, we may agree in principle that children need to be appreciated, but how do we do this?

Honor Their Uniqueness – This sounds wonderful, but this often causes many parents problems, simply because the traits that make children unique are often traits that make them difficult to live with. For example, a child who is very active may keep a house in a constant state of turmoil. Nevertheless, a dynamic will is a wonderful quality to have, and if you try to eliminate that quality from the child you will be extinguishing what makes him or her unique. Thus, instead of trying to eliminate a quality that you find disagreeable, let them know that you appreciate that quality, then help them find constructive channels for its expression.

Look For the Good and Acknowledge It – Positive reinforcement is a very powerful motivator. When your children do something good, let them know that you recognize what they did and how much you appreciate it. This not only raises their self-esteem, but it also encourages them to do more of the same in the future. However, it’s important that your acknowledgement be genuine and heartfelt, and not just spoken from concept. Of course, this means you have to be watching for the good that they do, rather than just noticing the bad, but you will find that paying attention to the good that is in them not only makes you appreciate them more, but also improves your outlook on other aspects of life as well. The basic principle here is this: Whatever you focus upon increases. Thus, if you focus upon the weaknesses or problems that children have, they will increase. If you focus upon their strengths or virtues, they will increase. I once taught a little girl who was in first grade, and I was always impressed by the concern that she showed for the other children. If anyone was hurt, she was the first to offer help. We had a wonderful relationship and learned a lot together, but I noticed that she would often be depressed when she first came to school in the morning. One day I met her mother and realized that she had a very different view of her daughter than I did. In her eyes, her daughter was sloppy and obstinate. She failed to notice all the finer qualities in her daughter, but chose to focus upon something that was unimportant by comparison. True, the girl wasn’t meticulous, but that was only because she had such a big heart, she couldn’t be bothered with seemingly unimportant details! However, by ignoring all of the beauty in her daughter and focusing upon that one trait, her mother had caused her to become obstinate, simply in order to defend herself. And, to my amazement, when the girl was around her mother, she became sloppy and obstinate, and her finer qualities were almost obscured. By looking for the good in her daughter, that mother could have been enjoying a wonderful relationship instead of spending her days fighting an obstinate child.

Don’t Compare Them With Others – As I mentioned earlier, every child is unique, and deserves to be treated as an individual. By comparing one child with another, you give the message there is one “right” way to be, and if they don’t happen to be that way, they have no recourse but to feel that they are failures. There is no “right” way to be, any more than there is one “right “ color in the rainbow. Each color, just as each child, is equally important and “right”, and by each color affirming its uniqueness and being fully what it is, we have the entire spectrum of color, which makes the world a much more interesting place to live. Can you say red is a better color than blue, or that green is a better color than yellow? Of course not. Colors are simply different from each other, not better or worse. In the same way, children (or adults) are not better or worse than each other, they are just different, and these differences are something to be appreciated and celebrated, because they are what makes us individuals.

Stay tuned for next week’s Part 3Challenge Them!

When Your Child Is Struggling in School

We’ve all had our struggles, but when it’s your child struggling in school, what can you do? A negative school experience can disrupt your child’s learning, threaten your child’s self-esteem, and create stress for the entire family.

Photo Credit: Croft Family  (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo Credit: Croft Family
(Oak Meadow Archives)

If you’ve tried everything you can think of but things aren’t getting better, consider bringing learning home.

Homeschooling and distance learning are both very good educational choices for students whose social, emotional, physical, or intellectual needs are not being met at school. Home learning offers a more personalized and flexible approach that can make for a happier, more effective educational experience for both your child and you.

Do you see your child in any of these scenarios?


Photo Credit: Max Zimmerman (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo Credit: Max Zimmerman
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Students who have been the target of bullying can find it very challenging to feel safe or accepted on the playground, on the bus, and even in the classroom. Home can be a safer and more effective environment for learning and healing.

Mature, developmentally advanced students may have a hard time fitting in with their classmates. They may crave connections with older friends or adults who appreciate subtle references and sophisticated humor. Home learners have the flexibility and time to connect with people of many different ages and backgrounds.

Shy children and those who lag behind their peers socially benefit from developing friendships one-on-one or in smaller, handpicked groups of peers. Home learning provides shelter from social challenges and allows families to foster their own community with others who respect each child’s pace and personality.


Photo Credit: Robinson Family (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo Credit: Robinson Family
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Students who are easily frustrated in school can benefit from learning at home with one-to-one attention, loving support, and the flexibility to work through stressful moments in healthy, constructive ways such as taking a break, exercising, or calming themselves in whatever way works best for them.

Low self-esteem can make school a big challenge for those who need extra support and thoughtful guidance. With home learning, students and parents can maximize the chance of success and ensure a positive outcome. Children for whom comparison to their peers is traumatizing find that individual, at-home learning removes social pressure and allows them to focus on their own personal goals and progress.

Photo Credit: Kai Schatzman   (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo Credit: Kai Schatzman
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Children who are highly sensitive benefit from learning in a familiar environment with low stimulation. Removing the stress of home-to-school and classroom-to-classroom transitions allows students to focus their limited reserves on learning instead.

Some children resist authority and need a high level of autonomy to be able to engage in learning activities, which can lead to classroom disruption, noncompliance, and frustration. At home, learning can be as self-driven as the student and parent desire.


Photo Credit: Angelina Marsella (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo Credit: Angelina Marsella
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Students who need a lot of physical activity, such as highly active or kinesthetic learners, struggle in classrooms where students are expected to sit quietly most of the time and move around only on a set schedule. Learning at home is a welcome relief for active children who need to pace or hop while integrating new material or take frequent breaks to run around so they can focus effectively at other times.

For students with physical challenges, particularly those with conditions that involve fatigue, navigating a school environment can be exhausting. At home, resting is easy, and lessons can flex to take advantage of “up days” and minimize work on “down days.” Comfort can take priority, and adaptations are much easier to arrange when the parent is the home teacher.

Medical challenges can disrupt learning for a child who is in and out of class often or for long stretches of time due to doctor’s appointments, hospital stays, and periods of convalescence. “Homeschooling” can happen anywhere, not just at home, and how you define the “school year” is up to you.


Photo Credit: Caitlin Marsella (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo Credit: Caitlin Marsella
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Students who are academically gifted often yearn for breadth and/or depth beyond the limits of a typical classroom. Home learning has no such limits. These learners can indulge their curiosity as thoroughly as they wish and supplement their learning with hands-on, experiential activities.

The unique needs of intellectually challenged students are also well met at home, where learning can capitalize on their strengths and bolster their weaknesses. Students who haven’t measured up to their classmates in school often experience freedom and relief when they find themselves to be the norm in their own home classroom.

For students who are both gifted and challenged, home learning can bridge a gap that might otherwise be difficult to fit into a single grade level. Some are ready for a high level of academic challenge in one or more subjects but need remedial work in other areas. These needs, which might be cause for concern in school, can be easily met at home, where students can work at an individually appropriate level and pace in each area of study.


When public school options are weak and private school options are unaffordable, what choices remain? With distance learning, you can have a strong academic program without paying private school prices. Or you can choose to homeschool independently and set your own schedule and standards while enjoying as much flexibility as you wish.

Photo Credit: John Paul Huber (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo Credit: John Paul Huber
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Students who have a deep passion for an activity may find that neither public nor private school allows enough flexibility to fit in enough training, practice, and/or pre-professional preparation. Because home learning is flexible, portable, and individual, it allows the freedom for gifted athletes, artists, performers, and others to pursue their dreams without compromising their education.

Families that travel often or live “on the road” benefit from using a continuous family-friendly program that can travel with them wherever they might go.


Switching gears to learning at home can be a welcome relief. Removing stressors allows students to use their inner resources for learning and growing, not just managing to get through each day.

Photo Credit: Nielsen Family (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo Credit: Nielsen Family
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Begin by exploring an accredited distance-learning school or a highly respected homeschool curriculum program. Families transitioning from school to homeschool can find support from educational counselors, homeschool support professionals, distance-learning teachers, and others. Homeschool organizations and informal homeschool groups also provide connection and community.

When your child is struggling in school, remember that you have options! Home learning may be the perfect choice. Keep your expectations flexible, trust yourself to make good decisions, and let your heart guide you to do what’s best for your child and your family.

Part 1 of Developing Self-Esteem

During the weekend of the Oak Meadow Open House (Oct 1, 2016), there was also a Staff Retreat for all Oak Meadow employees. As one of the longest serving employees, I had the fortunate opportunity to lead a workshop on “Oak Meadow Roots”, in which I shared some history and “acorn wisdom” of my thirty-plus years with Oak Meadow. This workshop inspired me to look back in my personal archives when I returned home, and I found an amazing article in Oak Meadow’s Fall 1989 journal of “Living Education”, called Developing Self-Esteem, written by Oak Meadow’s co-founder, Lawrence Williams. It is well worth sharing in a three-part series. The following is Part 1 of Developing Self-Esteem: Respect Them

Lawrence Williams (Oak Meadow Archives)

“One of the primary benefits of homeschooling is the opportunity that it provides for the development of self-esteem in children. Homeschooling has the potential to offer a safe, supportive environment, one that quite naturally fosters the development of a healthy self-esteem in children. However, notice that I said potential. Like most things in life, homeschooling offers no guarantees. The opportunity is there, but whether that opportunity becomes a reality is the responsibility of the homeschooling parents. If you provide certain key elements, then your children’s self-esteem will increase during their homeschooling experience. What are these elements? There are many factors that play a part in the development of a child’s sense of self-esteem, but there are three that are of primary importance: respect, appreciation and challenges.

Respect Them

The most important thing that you can do to help children develop a healthy sense of self-esteem is to treat them with respect. Too often, we think of children as second-class people, simply because their bodies are smaller than most adults. However, what makes all of us worthwhile as human beings is not our body, but what we are inside. In this respect, children have every reason to be respected as much as adults, for they are just as big inside (sometimes even bigger) than most adults. Children can muster more will, more love and more ingenuity than a whole group of adults, and they can maintain it all day and well into the night, when most of us are exhausted and ready for bed. So, in terms of their inner nature, children are certainly worthy of our respect. We may agree with this in principle, but in our daily lives we often have difficulty doing it. How do we show respect for children in their daily lives?

Respect Their Sensitivity – Children are remarkably sensitive beings, but many parents see this as a sign of weakness, and try to expose their children to “the real world” at an early age. Often, the parents who do this feel that they have the child’s best interests in mind, but when this happens, children develop a number of defenses to protect their sensitivity, and these defenses often continue into adulthood, affecting the quality of their lives and the lives of those around them. Children who are forced to develop such defenses often appear to be self-confident, but that is only a superficial show of strength to protect themselves. By respecting the sensitivity of children, we give them an opportunity to express their own deeper nature, and ultimately that is the source from which true self-esteem arises.

Honor Your Agreements With Them – Don’t say you’ll do something and then later decide you won’t. When you arbitrarily disregard an agreement that you have made with them, you give them two very clear messages: that their concerns are not important, and that your word has no value. These messages damage the child’s sense of self-esteem and also weaken the bond that you share. Of course, there are always unforeseen events that occur which prevent us from doing some things we had planned to do, and when these occur you just have to explain the situation, apologize for not being able to keep your agreement, and make a new agreement. If the situation is valid, children will usually understand. But even if they don’t, as long as the reason is valid, you will have given them a good example of how to maintain your integrity while adapting to unforeseen circumstances, and this is a lesson that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

Listen To Them – When children are still infants, many parents get into the habit of telling them what to do, simply because children are still learning about the basics of the world, and need some guidance. However, as children grow older (4-5 years old) they have begun to develop their own understanding of the world and their relationship to it, and they have many things to say that are not only valid, but can also be quite remarkable. But by this time many parents have gotten so used to talking at their children that they can’t stop to listen to them. By listening to children from an early age, we let them know that what they have to say is important, and this builds self-esteem.”

Stay tuned for next week’s Part 2 – Appreciate Them!

Five Ways to Keep Your Balance in an Unbalanced World

by Lawrence Williams and DeeDee Hughes
reprinted from Living Education (Fall 2014) 
adapted from Living Education (Jan/Feb 2001)

I once admitted to a wise friend that, as a parent, I honestly didn’t know if I was being too strict or too lenient. She said, “That’s normal. That’s what finding the balance is all about. There is no static balance point. You are always tipping a little too far in one direction and righting yourself, or tipping too far in the other direction and righting yourself.” I found great comfort in this at the time, and I still do today.

Finding the balance in parenting and in life is an ongoing process. Am I working too much and forgetting to play? Am I being an overinvolved parent and not respecting my children’s abilities and independence? Am I trying to keep them from making mistakes? Am I letting them make enough mistakes? Am I investing enough time in my friendships but forgetting my self-care? Life can feel like doing yoga on a stand-up paddleboard while being rocked by waves. We’re constantly shifting and making adjustments, and there are lots of near-misses for getting dunked, but we’re doing it!

As a homeschooler, seeking balance is essential. If we’re out of balance and we try to teach our children, we diminish our effectiveness as teachers. We might miss the subtle cues in the learning process that enable us to be good teachers, or we might cause our children to become more imbalanced also, which reduces their ability to learn effectively.

Here are some tips to help you maintain a sense of balance in the midst of your busy, messy, wonderful life.

1. Reconnect with your source daily

What energizes you? What helps you feel centered and creates harmony within you? You might reconnect through prayer, hiking, yoga, meditation, journaling, gardening, running, art, or some other activity. Find something that works for you and do it every day. Even thought it may seem impossible, the most effective time is first thing in the the morning. Reconnecting with our personal power source first thing in the morning enables us to embrace the day with greater purpose and clarity.

2. Recognize your role as co-creator

Through our thoughts, feelings, and actions, we all create our lives moment by moment. When we work in conjunction with our children, with our partners, with our friends and neighbors, we become co-creators of the world around us. When unexpected events arise, we have a choice of how we respond. If we respond from an inner sense of balance, we can turn difficult circumstances into new possibilities for ourselves and our children. When we take responsibility for creating our world, we enter into a fascinating dance, an on-going improvisation that is one part strength, one part grace, one part compromise, and all heart. When we live with a sense of actively creating the life we want, we feel more content and centered.

3. Pay attention to your internal GPS

Envision a see-saw with mental activity on one end, physical activity on the other end, and feelings in the middle as the balance point. We all know how easy it is to overemphasize or ignore one or more of these aspects, and we know what happens to the see-saw when we lean too far in one direction. Check in with your internal GPS every now and then to figure out where you are. For example, if you’ve been engaged for long hours on a computer, you probably need to be active physically. If you have been running errands all over town with your children, you may need to sit for a bit and read a book. The same holds true for kids – remember to check in with where they are and strive for balance in the rhythm of their day. Being able to adapt to the needs of our children this way is one of the great benefits of homeschooling.

4. Allow yourself to feel

Our innate capacity to feel is one of our greatest tools in parenting and in teaching. It helps us to clearly perceive what is going on in ourselves and others, and to communicate effectively. When you are talking with your children, don’t just focus on the words they’re saying. Open yourself to what they are feeling and address that with as much attention as you give to their word.s If you are walking down the street, look at the trees, the plants, and the sky around you and appreciate their natural beauty. Soak it in on a feeling level. By opening your heart to simple acts of feeling as you experience the events of each day, you will find that your mind becomes quieter and you feel more stable and poised.

5. Recognize your triggers

It’s no surprise that life often feels unbalanced. Consider how we are bombarded by external stimuli: masses of information, constant sounds, demands of email and phone, social media updates. Sure, all parents have eyes in the back of our heads and three arms, but we can still become overwhelmed. By learning to recognize what triggers that sense of stress, we can help restore balance. If you feel you can never get anything done because you have to respond to every email as it comes in, maybe you’ll want to switch to checking email just two or three times a day. If you start to feel scattered after a morning of noisy activity, institute a one-hour noise-free zone in your house, or get outside where the only sounds you’ll hear are nature sounds. Give yourself a break by leaving your phone behind when you take a walk or work in the garden, or (if that’s too uncomfortable) just turn it off. Allow yourself to disengage from the hectic demands of global connection.

By following these guidelines, you can regain your innate balance, which will foster the expression of your natural intelligence. Many schools seek to develop intellect, so they spend their time focusing on mental activity. At Oak Meadow, we are interested in developing intelligence, and this arises from physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual balance. Intellect alone will never enable your children to be fulfilled, self-directed learners, and it will never enable them to become dynamic individuals who can have a positive impact upon the world. Find your own balance and you’ll be able to help your children find theirs.


Lawrence Williams is the co-founder and owner of Oak Meadow, and the author of Oak Meadow’s original curriculum. He and DeeDee Hughes have collaborated on a number of articles and curriculum materials, including the new 40th Anniversary edition of The Heart of Learning.

Calling All Bird Lovers!

For the Love of Birds!

Taking the time to watch the birds at a bird feeder can be such a relaxing and enjoyable activity. I’m in love with a blue jay that comes to my feeders at the same time every day. She arrives around 2:30 or 3:00 in the afternoon and she announces her entrance with lots of noisy tweets of “Jay! Jay! Jay!” She hops from branch to branch on a nearby tree, tips her head to each side, looks at the sky and at the feeders. It takes her a few minutes to announce that she has arrived and she repeats the behavior several times. I’ve noticed she doesn’t like the hanging feeder as much as she likes going to the platform one. She enjoys an occasional orange slice and she really likes to eat peanuts. (If you want to know what the birds in your area like to eat, go to: I know it’s her because I’ve been watching her for some time and I’ve learned to distinguish her features from the other jays that come to bathe and eat. I’ve grown accustomed to looking for her special colors, dark eye-line markings, and feather shades of blue. I can’t be sure she’s a female because I haven’t seen her nesting behaviors. I’ve read that is the way to tell the male and female apart from each other. I call her Pooli. I think that’s the Greek word for bird, but I’m not sure and I like it anyway. She’s like a member of the family and even my kids will ask if Pooli has been around lately.

If you need some bird guides or great bird books, the Audubon Society has put together this list. If you live in North America, you may also enjoy viewing the Audubon’s Guide to North American Birds online at:

Join Project FeederWatch!

Each year the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies of Canada join together for Project FeederWatch. I encourage you to participate! It is a lot of fun and you will get to know the birds in your neighborhood as though they are family members.

Learning to observe carefully and in specific details is the making of a good scientist! Why not learn this skill by falling in love with your birds?

It’s a POOH Day!

by A. A. Milne
(Now We Are Six)

When I was One,
I had just begun.

When I was Two,
I was nearly new.

When I was Three,
I was hardly Me.

When I was Four,
I was not much more.

When I was Five,
I was just alive.

But now I am Six, I’m as clever as clever.
So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.

As part of the Oak Meadow language arts reading course in Grade 3, seven classics are offered: Charlotte’s Web, Little House in the Big Woods, Peter Pan, Pippi Longstocking, The Velveteen Rabbit, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and the beloved Winnie-the-Pooh.

Anytime we travel into the Hundred Acre Woods with the whimsical Pooh Bear, we know there are many adventures that await us! So, let’s travel down time this week, and take a moment to adventure into the Hundred Acre Woods with that “silly old bear” and his highly characterized friends – the doleful donkey, Eeyore; the bouncy tiger, Tigger; the kind kangaroo, Kanga; Kanga’s baby, Roo; the fussy Rabbit; the wise Owl; and the shy Piglet.

650997d96e1296669bdeab34786882eeOf course, we cannot forget the boy character, Christopher Robin, because these story adventures started with the real Christopher Robin Milne, when his father, A. A. Milne, purchased a teddy bear for his son’s first birthday in 1921. More stuffed animals followed in the footsteps of Winnie-the-Pooh. Eeyore was next to come (as a Christmas present), then Piglet, Kanga, Roo, and Tigger arrived in this order as gifts from friends and family.

A. A. Milne became inspired to write stories about Christopher Robin, Winnie-the-Pooh and their woodland friends. The first Winnie-the-Pooh classic, illustrated by E. H. Shepard, was written and published in 1926; and on this Friday, October 14, Winnie-the-Pooh will be celebrating his 90th birthday! So Happy 90th Birthday, Winnie-the-Pooh! You are still one of the world’s most beloved icons of children’s literature!

PHOTO CREDIT: Illustrator, E. H. Shepard

How do you and your family plan to celebrate this splendiferous day? Perhaps by reading aloud a favorite chapter from Winnie-the-Pooh or a story or poem from one of A. A. Milne’s other books (When We Were Very Young, Now We Are Six, or The House at Pooh Corner). If you happen to be in New York City in the near future, there is a wonderful display of Winnie-the-Pooh and friends in the New York Public Library’s Children’s Room, You might even like to take a woodland walk with a red balloon, bake a cake for your own special teddy bear, or just eat a spoonful of honey from the honey pot!

Read for the fun of it!

“Teen Read Week™ is a national adolescent literacy initiative created by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). It began in 1998 and is held annually in October the same week as Columbus Day. Its purpose is to encourage teens to be regular readers and library users.”

It’s Teen Read Week! Support your local library!

I love this! If you have read any of these books vote for up to three that are your favorites. You have until the 15th of October to vote.

If you are in the 8th grade with Oak Meadow, you have the opportunity to choose a place to volunteer in your community as a community service project assignment. There are a variety of ways to provide service in a community. My students have done projects as simple as picking up trash in their neighborhood, walking their neighbor’s dog, or playing cards once a week with a grandparent. Others have reached a bit further into the community by volunteering at a local Red Cross, community kitchen, or recreation center. If you are wanting to do some community service and are undecided as to what to do, I encourage you to find the nearest public library and ask if you can volunteer. If the library doesn’t have positions for students your age, substitute your volunteering assignment with joining the teen club at your library. Most public libraries in the United States have teen clubs. Read for the fun of it!