You’re the Expert!

Have you ever wondered how homeschooling works for ordinary parents? It’s true: Most of us do not have advanced degrees in education or child development. Most of us are just ordinary people who went to school like every other kid we knew and never imagined we’d be homeschooling our own children someday. How can an ordinary parent possibly be qualified to be a home teacher?

Photo Credit: Nevada Wolfe
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Good news! You certainly can successfully teach your children at home. You are already doing it. Home teaching is a natural extension of parenting. You’ve been a teacher since the moment your children arrived to join your family. You’ve simply followed your instincts to figure out what they need and figure out how to best meet those needs, whether the solution is something you do on your own or seek outside help with. This is what teaching is all about.

As you go about your daily life, you teach through example and by explaining what you are doing and why. You answer questions and challenge your children to come up with some of the answers themselves, sometimes, too. You pay close attention to them as you explain many things and support them as they try things on their own. You bolster their courage as they grow in new ways. You know more about them than anyone else in the world!

Photo Credit: Neil Family
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Although you may not have an advanced degree in education, you do know how to tell when your children are open to learning something new and when they are not ready. You know when they are feeling confident and when they need extra support. You know how to tell when something really isn’t working for them, and you know just when to switch gears when that happens. You can read their signals better than anyone else can. And using a packaged curriculum can give you the peace of mind that, pedagogically, you are offering an optimal learning experience.

Photo Credit: Kelly Weiss
(Oak Meadow Archives)

As a homeschooling parent, you are an educational coordinator, especially if your family takes advantage of teaching resources such as in-home tutors or classes outside the home. If you don’t feel capable of teaching French or Calculus because you never learned it yourself, you can engage a local or distance learning teacher to handle that subject with your children. If you are afraid your lack of confidence with math will interfere with their ability to develop a love for it, don’t worry – just get some help from someone who really does enjoy teaching math. If your children are learning primarily at home, even if they are also taking classes or lessons here and there, you’re their home teacher – and in the best position to support their learning.

Photo Credit: Szmodis Family
(Oak Meadow Archives)

For a homeschooling parent, sometimes a little boost of confidence can go a long way. Seeking outside help when you need it is important. If you would like to learn more about tools and techniques that can help you be more confident as a home teacher, Oak Meadow’s Foundations in Independent Learning course is a great place to begin. One or more homeschool support sessions or the ongoing support of an accredited distance learning program can also be a great help. Most homeschooling parents do not have a teaching certificate or an education degree, and yet most homeschooled students learn what they need to learn and grow into capable adults.

Consulting outside experts who might be helpful to you doesn’t mean you aren’t qualified to be a home teacher, but that you are capable of being a very effective home teacher. And as the home teacher, you are the one who most aware of what your children needs. You are the primary expert on your own children, and you are capable of homeschooling them!

Knitting with Needles

In through the front door
Running around the back
Out through the window
Off jumps jack.

In the Oak Meadow grade one coursework, knitting with needles is introduced to the students. However, some first graders find it challenging to knit with needles. For the home teacher who is an inexperienced knitter and for students who find it frustrating, the K-4 team of Oak Meadow teachers have offered some suggestions and simple alternatives that will help to meet the “heart” of the activity.

Meg Minehan: My suggestions are to first try finger knitting, the knitting mushroom, or the wooden knitting star. My children loved those “tools”, and the process was simple, repetitive and soothing (just like knitting should be). ​For what it’s worth, my son, Ian, didn’t really take to knitting when it was initially introduced in first grade. However, he picked it up again this year (at age 9) and loved it.

Michelle Menegaz: I agree that teaching knitting as an inexperienced teacher can be challenging. I suggest offering the “pre-knitting” activities and really encourage the home teacher to find a knitter to help them, if possible. Also, Sunny’s Mittens is a great book with a story that contains knitting directions right in the events of the tale. I would read a bit of this and knit along with the story. The child would also knit along, if interested. We would read a bit, knit a bit, stop and get our knitting sorted or show what the written directions in the story meant. Very satisfying!

Photo Credit: Brandaw Family (Oak Meadow Archives)

Lesley Arnold: I highly recommend the DVD, The Art of Knitting 4 Kids  If a tutor isn’t available for knitting, then this video is great! Be sure to also check your library, for many libraries have knitting clubs.

Leslie Daniels: Another site that I absolutely adore and share with my Oak Meadow families is called “Knitted Bliss“. It includes story books to inspire future knitters for three different age groups: ages 2-4, ages 4-6 and ages 6-9. The title of each book is a joy in itself!

Meg Minehan: Shall I Knit You a Hat is one of our favorite Christmas books for 6-9 year olds!

Andy Kilroy: My friend Clare, a long-time kindergarten teacher, loves to take yarn into her classroom and just let her kids play with the yarn – wrap it, wind it, tie bows with it, braid it, touch it – just to get the feel of fabric/yarn in their skin. Then when it comes time to knit, they already have the awareness of yarn as a material. I taught my granddaughter to finger knit the other day (she had never done it), and she is very excited at all the possibilities that opened for her! Long live fiber arts – let’s not give up on them!

Anna Logowitz: My micro-schoolers have gotten a great start by making their own knitting needles. They sanded chopsticks smooth and glued wooden beads to the ends: nice and simple. It gives them a sense of ownership over their work before they begin knitting that, so far, seems to be increasing their frustration tolerance, too!

Photo Credit: Estelle Giannakopoulos

10 Things Parents Give Up When They Homeschool

1. quiet days, whether at home or at the office

Photo Credit: Barker Family
(Oak Meadow Archives)

2. packing brown bag lunches or scrambling for lunch money every morning

3. the morning ritual of making sure nobody goes back to sleep after their alarm sounds

4. sending your child out running to catch the bus (and driving them to school when they miss it)

5. parent/teacher conferences (unless you count walking around and muttering to yourself as a teacher conference!)

6. all-school concerts and other mandatory evening events

7. providing a doctor’s note when your child misses school due to illness

8. mandatory parent-teacher commitments and fundraisers

9. the evening homework saga

10. before- and after-school transitions (in which you’re sure your child’s best behavior is being saved for their teacher)

Photo Credit: Vannucci Family
(Oak Meadow Archives)

What others can you add to this list?

 

Seed Sprouting Suggestions

In the Oak Meadow course books, growing seeds and rooting plants are two of the science projects offered in the lesson plans. Sometimes, due to external variables, experiments are not always successful; and observing no changes can certainly lead to the disappointment of an innocent, wide-eyed, hopeful child. In the kindergarten and third grade coursework, rooting an avocado pit and sprouting a sweet potato are suggested science experiments. Several of the Oak Meadow K-8 teachers provided helpful hints for more successful results, along with alternative activities to try:

Sarah Antel: The sweet potato must be organic as standard sweets are sprayed with something to prevent sprouting.

Andy Kilroy: You know what works well – a regular white potato put into a pot of dirt. I always plant one on St. Patrick’s Day (old Irish superstition) and it always comes up with beautiful green leaves. The home teacher will need to buy the potato a month before they want to plant it so it can start eyeing out. The avocado will grow again if you put it in dirt. Somehow the dirt seems to be the key, but again, you must leave it plenty of time. Avocados are sensitive and dry out and can die quickly, if not enough water is applied. I did both projects with my granddaughter last year and she loved it – especially when we dug up the tiny taters and ate them for lunch (takes about six weeks). Also mung beans!! You can get those any time in a good farmer’s supply store, wet them, put them in a mason jar under the sink and wait for a couple of days. We did this all the time when my kids were little to have bean sprouts in our stir fry. Alfalfa works, too.

Leslie Daniels: I’ve planted sweet potatoes in garden pots. The student may not be able to view the root growth, but the vines are SO pretty! I have also suggested sprouting wheat berries. The roots and sprouts are fun to watch grow, because it is a speedy process, and they are wonderful edibles, too.

Meg Minehan: My kids also do soil sprouts  http://www.thedailygardener.com/sprout-kits/

We use sunflower, radish, buckwheat, peas… they are fun and really tasty. This is a great time of year for them, too.

Michelle Menegaz: I remember as a kid being totally fascinated with the greens that eventually shoot out of the top cut off a carrot when it is placed in a shallow dish of water.

Lesley Arnold: Me too! I loved watching that carrot top sprout. When I was student teaching in a kindergarten…40 some years ago…the teacher had put bricks into water (about half way up the sides) and sprinkled wheat berries on top. The bricks sprouted greens! (Maybe a precursor to chia pets?)

Decluttering the Homeschool House

A place for everything, and everything in its place. Charles A. Goodrich

Homeschoolers usually spend a significant portion of their days at home. The many hours of projects, crafts, meals, experiments, and exuberant learning that happen every day in a homeschooling house can add up to a significant amount of clutter and chaos. What are some ways to keep your home and your family from getting overwhelmed by this?

Photo Credit: Sarah Justice
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Consider the favorite spaces that your family uses for various activities. Set things up so it is easy to clean up and start over when space is needed for another project. Make sure there is a storage area nearby for works in progress and a safe spot for anything that might need to air-dry.

Observe the patterns in your house. How are family members using the space? Where do piles of things usually grow? One of the biggest challenges in any house is keeping things up off the floor. Where do things most often get dropped? If you have a perpetual pile that grows unbidden in a particular place, it’s a sure sign that those items need a permanent home nearby. Put baskets for hats/mittens near where coats are hung. Unfinished works of art may need a shelf near the crafts area.

Who is responsible for tidying up and when? Setting aside regular time once or twice each day for routine clean-up can help keep the clutter from growing. You may find it helpful to assign a container to each family member – a basket, bin, or box – where anyone can deposit items belonging to the owner. Put trash/recycling containers in every room where trash is generated.

Photo Credit: Sky Hawk
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Make it a habit to weed out and discard unwanted items on an ongoing basis. Things that are broken should be fixed or discarded. Papers can often be recycled. If you feel overwhelmed, just deal with the pile or item that you bump into first — then repeat, repeat, repeat.

If your children have a hard time decluttering, play a fun family game of “Keep or Don’t Keep?” See how fast you can sort through a pile together. Start with two containers for sorting things into – one “keep” bin and one “toss” bin. Hold up each item in turn and ask dramatically, “Keep? Or don’t keep?” Encourage your child to respond as quickly as possible for each item. Time yourselves if it adds to the excitement. When the pile is gone, you can whisk the “toss” pile out of sight to quietly dispose of later.

Here are some things to consider adding to your home in areas where clutter collects:

  • Hooks to hang things on
  • Shelves to put things on
  • Bins and drawers to put things in
  • Baskets, containers, crates to organize things
  • Furniture with doors and drawers to help to keep clutter hidden

Make sure that storage is at the right height for the people who will use it. If you have young children, store off-limits items on the highest shelves or behind cabinet doors and “help-yourself” items, such as toys and basic drawing supplies, within easy reach. Storage that is too difficult to access will not be used; same for storage that is not in the area where its items are most likely to be abandoned. Try to make it as convenient as possible.

Photo Credit: Lugo Family
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Consider turning a closet or cabinet into a storage space for art/craft supplies and other homeschooling materials. Sort by category and assign one bin or box to each category (crayons, ribbons/string, paint, knitting, etc.). Label everything clearly so that everyone can see what to store in each bin without having to open it to check. Use pictures or symbols if you have family members who are very visual or not yet reading.

Cozy nooks for reading and relaxing are important but can invite a state of ongoing disarray. What are your nooks like? Are there pillows? Soft blankets? How do you want things arranged when not in use? What does that look like? Show your children how to stack pillows, fold blankets, and leave things tidy for the next person.

With a proactive approach and some practice, managing clutter can become a regular part of your family’s homeschooling routine. Involve everyone in the family in the process and the results will be worth the effort as you enjoy a calmer, less cluttered home.

March Equinox

http://www.clker.com/clipart-equinox.html

Happy Equinox Everyone!

Long ago astronomers imagined a great dome over the Earth’s sky and called it the celestial sphere. They imagined the celestial equator as being in the middle of the north and south poles and right above the Earth’s equator. During the March equinox, when we have twelve hours of daylight and twelve hours of darkness, “the sun crosses the celestial equator, to enter the sky’s Northern Hemisphere. No matter where you are on Earth (except the North and South Poles), you have a due east and due west point on your horizon. That point marks the intersection of your horizon with the celestial equator, the imaginary line above the true equator of the Earth. And that’s why the sun rises due east and sets due west, for all of us, at the equinox. The equinox sun is on the celestial equator. No matter where you are on Earth, the celestial equator crosses your horizon at due east or due west.”

Reprinted from EarthSky, written by Bruce McClure: http://earthsky.org/tonight/equinox-sun-rises-due-east-and-sets-due-west

Pi Day and Albert Einstein

“Wherever there is number, there is beauty.” – Proclus (410-485 A.D.)

Today, March 14, is Pi Day! It’s a notable event that is celebrated all around the world. Pi is a Greek letter and symbol that represents the famed irrational number 3.14 – the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.

March 14 also happens to be the birth date of Albert Einstein, one of the most renowned physicists and mathematicians in history. Because pi is 3.14159…, many math lovers begin their Pi Day celebrations at exactly 1:59 p.m. You can make the day an extra special one by planning math challenges and creating math fun with your children. Here are some activities to help celebrate Pi Day.

Don’t forget to make your favorite pie (or pizza pie) in celebration of this special day!

Women's History Month

In the United States, March has been designated as Women’s History Month, and it can be a great time to spend time learning about important women who have made, and are making, contributions to our world.

In celebration of the contributions of women in the United States, our blog post this week is written by Deb Velto, a teacher with Oak Meadow. She shares a special interest in the contributions of a woman named Temple Grandin. Thanks to Deb!

Temple Grandin is an animal scientist who was recently inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame because of her work to improve the welfare of animals in the meat industry. Temple has a special ability to understand the animals she observes. Because of this gift, Temple was able to design a method of holding animals at a slaughterhouse that was more humane and would reduce the stress the animals experienced. She could see the stress the animals were experiencing and understand what would help them. Today, her methods are used by the meat industry throughout the world. Temple Grandin’s mind works differently than most scientists because she has autism. Although she has had to overcome many challenges related to being autistic, she attributes the way her mind works with her ability to understand animals.

Temple Grandin eventually became an important advocate for people with autism because she was one of the first people who was able to explain to others what it was like to be autistic. Her insights have helped parents and teachers learn to improve the way they interact with and teach autistic children. She invented something called a “squeeze box” which is still used today to comfort children and adults who have autism. Because her parents and others took the time to learn the way her mind worked, Temple was able to succeed. Today, Temple works to help people better understand autism through her books and lectures. She also continues her work for animals as a scientist and professor at the University of Colorado. Temple Grandin believes that the world needs all kinds of minds.  Do you agree? Do you know anyone like Temple, who may have a special gift, but also faces challenges because of the way their mind works? How do you think we can help people better understand and appreciate these kinds of differences?

If you would like to learn more about Temple Grandin try:

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery

Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals by Temple Grandin

The Temple Grandin website: http://www.templegrandin.com/

http://the-art-of-autism.com/temple-grandin-named-to-the-national-womens-hall-of-fame/

12 Strategies for Staying Connected to Your Child

As we move through the years of parenting and homeschooling, maintaining our connection with our children is essential. Nurturing this connection is the most important thing we can do as parents. We sometimes hear parents lamenting that they feel they’ve lost the connection with their child and are not sure how to get it back. Sometimes, especially when transitioning from school to homeschooling, we want to deepen the connection but aren’t sure where to start.

How can we as parents invite and strengthen a healthy connection with our children at all stages of development? Here are a dozen suggestions to foster a strong connection with your child:

  1. Listen to your child with the attention and focus you would give another adult. Be fully present – make eye contact; stop multitasking; concentrate on what they are trying to say. Show with your body language that their words and thoughts are your priority in that moment. If they have a hard time getting words out, let them take the time they need, without giving up on the conversation. Attention is a big part of connection.

    Photo Credit: Amy Alexander
    (Oak Meadow Archives)
  2. Let your child take the lead sometimes. It may mean things will be slower, messier, or less efficient. Give your child the gift of your patience and the opportunity to spread their wings and feel your trust in them. As their confidence grows, so will their effectiveness. Believe in them and they will believe in themselves.
  3. Have fun together. What brings you both joy, makes you both smile, leaves you both feeling great afterward? Find shared interests and spend time doing them together. If you have a hard time finding common ground, start by sharing things that one of you enjoys and hopes the other might like. Ask your child for ideas, and be open-minded about trying them out. You might be surprised by the things you enjoy together!
  4. Support your child in their passions (even or especially when you don’t share them) and invite them to honor yours. Each person in the family is a unique individual, and passions may vary widely among family members. Even if you’re not interested in something for its own sake, learn to appreciate how it is important to your child. In this same way, give them some insight into the passions you have so that they can gain an appreciation for differences in relationships, not just similarities.
  5. Photo Credit: Adam Hall
    (Oak Meadow Archives)

    Create opportunities for conversation. Car rides can be great for this when children are old enough to ride up front. Working quietly side by side at dishes or yardwork, or a leisurely walk outside, can also set the stage for talking and listening. Allow for quiet and potentially long pauses as you wait for each other to fill the space with thoughts and feelings. If nothing is forthcoming, ask an open-ended question and listen to your child’s response without interrupting or overriding their viewpoint.

  6. Be humble. When you make a mistake, recognize it and own it. Show your child the side of yourself that is a lifelong learner. Embrace the opportunity to show them ways to make things right when you’ve erred. Apologize gently and thoroughly, and allow them to see that nobody is perfect, not even the most capable, experienced, confident people. By inviting our children to connect with the less-than-perfect side of ourselves and see us recover from a setback, we reassure them about their own vulnerabilities and their capacity for recovery.
  7. Be accountable. Hold yourself to the same standards that you expect your child to meet. Hang up your coat and put your shoes away. Clear and rinse your dishes after a meal. When everyone in the family shares and participates in the work of the household, it is clear that everyone’s contribution is valuable. Working together for the good of the group is a bonding experience and helps to keep family members connected with each other.

    Photo Credit: Cloud Family
    (Oak Meadow Archives)
  8. Allow your child to disagree with you. Children need to feel secure in having their own opinion, and they may need to experience this over and over as they grow. You may need to help them learn to express their differences appropriately, and practicing this with them helps them grow into young adults who can remain connected and secure even through difficult conversations.
  9. Make time for one-on-one. Spend individually devoted time with each of your children, no matter how many you have. If you have many, particularly small ones, this may be quite challenging. Think creatively. Perhaps an older child can ride along with you to an appointment, or one child at a time can walk with you to the mailbox and back each day. Or plan a simple “date” to read a favorite book in a comfortable chair together without interruptions from other family members. Any length of undivided attention lets them know they are important as an individual. That time is precious to a child, and it’s most effective when there are no other pressures or distractions. It is in these moments that a child will be able to open up their heart and connect with you in a way they ordinarily cannot.
  10. Learn your child’s Love Language and find ways to use it regularly. Does your child need physical touch or words of affirmation? Do they thrive on one-on-one time or have a deep-rooted need to receive gifts? Are they most affirmed when someone does something helpful or thoughtful for them? Discovering the nature of your child’s need and how they best “hear” love from others can help you facilitate connection most effectively.

    Photo Credit: Schuurman Family
    (Oak Meadow Archives)
  11. Encourage developmentally-appropriate independence. Every time your child heads off on their own, they will feel the pull to return to you, thus strengthening your connection with each other. Sometimes a little time apart, especially in the case of older children and young adults, helps both child and parent find new perspective to appreciate the other’s strengths and contributions.
  12. Be a thoughtful role model. We model how we wish our children to connect with us, whether we are aware of it or not. If we are present, respectful, supportive, and open-minded in our interactions with our children, they will reflect those things back to us as well.

Staying connected with children throughout their childhood and into adulthood takes commitment, patience, and an open mind. It is worth the effort and will go a long way in making your family’s homeschooling experience enjoyable for everyone involved.

Iditarod

Iditarod public domain photo

The 2017 IDITAROD will start on March 4 in Alaska. If you haven’t yet heard of the Iditarod Race, let me tell you it is one very exciting 1,150 miles! Men and women race with teams of dogs and sleds to see who will arrive in Nome, Alaska first. (There are two starting points, Anchorage or Fairbanks, depending on the year, the weather, and the snow coverage.) The race is based on true events that occurred in 1925 when the children in Nome, Alaska were ill with the deadly disease of diphtheria. They were in need of a special medicine and they needed it quickly, as many children were dying. That medicine was far away in Anchorage, Alaska, it was January with freezing ice blocking the ports and grounding airplanes. The race was on to get the medicine to the children as quickly as possible and it seemed the only way to do that was to use the mushers and their faithful dogs. A relay of the best sled drivers and dogs was arranged and after five and a half days of grueling weather, the last sled driver and his dogs arrived in Nome. Many children in Nome were saved and an epidemic was halted all thanks to the amazing teams of dogs that each man had cared for. One special dog team leader was a dog named Balto.

The famous sled dog Balto with musher Gunner Kaasen.

You can read more about Balto, his bravery, and the events in The Great Serum Race: Blazing the Iditarod Trail by Debbie Miller. The first Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race was held in 1973 and has been raced ever since in honor of the first race to save children’s lives.

In the past years, while the race is on, children and families have taken up the challenge of spending the same amount of minutes outdoors as the mileage of the Iditarod. That’s 1,150 minutes! Why not take up this challenge with friends and family members? Keep a record of your time outdoors and what activities you did!

By the way, when the Oak Meadow group was at a conference in Alaska last May, they contributed to a fundraiser for the 34th annual Yukon Quest, writing messages on the protective booties that the dogs wear in the race (they need a LOT of them!). One of Oak Meadow’s booties was on team #3!

Here are some books that you might enjoy for further reading:

Mush! The Sled Dogs of the Iditarod
by Joe Funk

Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod
by Gary Paulsen

The Great Serum Race: Blazing the Iditarod Trail
by Debbie S. Miller