National Get Outdoors Day

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” Rachel Carlson On Saturday, June 10th, the Defenders of Wildlife organization will celebrate their 10th annual National Get … Continue reading "National Get Outdoors Day"

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.”

Rachel Carlson

On Saturday, June 10th, the Defenders of Wildlife organization will celebrate their 10th annual National Get Outdoors Day. This national event encourages families to go outside, visit a park or refuge, and renew a personal connection to nature, as well as regenerate a commitment to leaving a healthy planet for future generations. There’s nothing better than introducing your children to the wonders of nature, especially since it’s only a matter of time before the future rests in their hands. Here is a list of all 198 National Get Outdoors Day locations. There might be one near you!

“What do parents owe their young that is more important than a warm and trusting connection to the Earth…?”

– Theodore Roszak, The Voice of the Earth

Every grade level in Oak Meadow’s k-4 coursework suggests environmental awareness activities and exercises. We also feel it’s important to introduce and teach young children about the natural environment. So, go ahead! Make summer plans, get outdoors, and let Nature be your teacher!

“As a child, one has that magical capacity to move among the many eras of the earth; to see the land as an animal does; to experience the sky from the perspective of a flower or a bee; to feel the earth quiver and breathe beneath us; to know a hundred different smells of mud and listen unselfconsciously to the soughing of the trees.”

-Valerie Andrews, A Passion for this Earth

 

Celebrating the School Year – Part Two

Read Part One of this article here.

The US Memorial Day holiday has now passed, and I hope everyone who celebrated enjoyed a safe and happy weekend. Those of us who are adding the finishing touches to the end of the school year are now back to focusing on a productive, successful and positive conclusion of the coursework, as well as beginning new adventures throughout the season of summer.

Last week, I shared ideas for completing the school year. Regarding a successful end to the school year, this is what I tell my k-6 home teachers: It is very important that you and your children take the final week to fully embrace the magic of the school year. It is an opportunity to celebrate all that has been learned and accomplished. How you complete the school year will carry you and your children into the new school year, so PLEASE finish the school year on a positive note! You will feel much self-gratitude in doing it this way, and so will your children.

This Part Two blog includes ideas from other Oak Meadow teachers. Enjoy what they have to share!

Lesley Arnold: I second Leslie’s advice and would also add that reading over the teacher’s comments for the year brings to light all the progress that has been made throughout the year. Reading a writing assignment from the beginning of the year and then reading one from the end of the year is great to do! “Reliving” books read over the course of the year is also a fun activity.

Sarah Antel: All wonderful ideas! Going through the MLB and picking out favorite pieces to share at a “show” for relatives could be fun too. They could make it a special event with finger sandwiches and lemonade perhaps!

Andy Kilroy: I used Oak Meadow Kindergarten curriculum to home school my granddaughter Julia for one year. It was a delightful and eye opening experience for me, after teaching 30 years in a brick and mortar setting. At the end of the year, Julia and I made up a song and dance to celebrate her work. She had such a sense of accomplishment when she finished and she loved writing poems, so this seemed like a fitting end to all her hard work. The song was about her accomplishments – learning the ABCs, learning numbers, learning to love nature, and of course, her special tree!

Michelle Menegaz: We have had a share day with a few close and trusted, appreciative, sensitive friends who homeschool in the same way we do. We lay out the main lesson books or other written work, display any art, have a few physical activities from the year (writing with one’s toes, trying some balance activities, putting on togas, some years a background slideshow of photos from the year, solving a puzzle related to lessons, a simple science activity, etc.), maybe share music but not performance style, and often have a cookout campfire or picnic. Very low key but I feel, even though it is sometimes a bit hard to be “the center of attention”, it is important for homeschoolers to be celebrated – especially not just by their parents, if possible. And besides, I am proud of MY work as the teacher, too, and yes, it feels good to have that recognized. Most years this feels impossible to pull off and I really have to grab myself by the bootstraps and try. It is always worth it.

Last year we had our weekly homeschool group here to practice donning togas, eat Greek food, and play the VT version of Olympic games…the fire log throw, the long driveway jump, clown fake fighting instead of wrestling, something with the sprinkler, making Heracles Knot bracelets out of copper wire, cooking on a campfire, and trying NOT to reread all the Rick Riordan books about ancient Greek mythological figures! We let the kids run the show for the most part while we sat back and ate hummus and celery and basked in the glow.

Gwendolyn Trumbull: I have a 6th grade student who had a similar fun end of the year event with her family and grandparents. She hung samples of her work throughout the house, made and served food from all the different countries she had studied and set up and played games from ancient cultures for all to try. She and the family were blown away by how much she had produced and learned. The party and reflection made her feel very proud and accomplished – which she certainly should have.

Last week, I recommended reading Amanda Witman’s post on “10 Ideas for Making the End of the Year Special”. This week, I also encourage you to read “14 Tips for Surviving the Summer With Kids From Homeschooling Parents”

Happy Summer!

Celebrating the School Year – Part One

Memorial Day was first established as a United States holiday for remembering the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces. It is also a benchmark for the end of another school year and the beginning of summer break – not only the US, but also for countries in Europe, Asia, and South America. The reasons for summer vacation has changed and evolved throughout history, yet the more popular 180 day, 9-month calendar was firmly established and has been mainly utilized since the beginning of the twentieth century.

Oak Meadow honors enrollment periods year-round; however, most families still follow the normal schedule of beginning school in August or September and completing the school year by May or June. This means that many Oak Meadow families are currently in the process of completing the final lessons and preparing for a long summer break.

The end of the school year can often be a time of exhaustion for both the student and the home teacher.  It is very important that you and your children take the final week to fully embrace the magic of the school year. It is an opportunity to celebrate all that has been learned and accomplished. How you complete the school year will carry you and your children into the new school year, so PLEASE finish the school year on a positive note! You will feel much self-gratitude in doing it this way, and so will your children.

Photo Credit: Leslie Ann Daniels

One of my favorite ways to celebrate the end of the school year is by decorating my home with fresh garden flowers, performing a student play for family and friends, singing favorite songs learned throughout the school year, viewing the main lesson books, and making special treats. This year, my strawberries were ripe at the completion of the school year, so we made star-shaped fruit cookies. We used our favorite traditional whole-wheat sugar cookie recipe, spread the cookies with cream cheese icing, and decorated them with our favorite fruit. Be sure to include your children in the preparations of the festivities for it makes it extra special and exciting to share the success of their school year.

Last year, our main Oak Meadow blogger, Amanda Witman, posted a very helpful article on “10 Ideas for Making the End of the Year Special”. It includes many wonderful ways to conclude an industrious and productive school year.

Read Part Two of this article here.

http://oakmeadowblogs.com/blog/2016/06/12/10-ideas-for-making-the-end-of-the-year-special/

National Inventors Month

Every child has a dream, to pursue the dream is in every child’s hand to make it a reality. One’s invention is another’s tool…

– Samuel Morse

National Inventors Month is a month-long event in May that celebrates invention and creativity. The verb, invent, means to be an originator that creates or designs something that has never existed. To invent can also mean to make up a story or idea. There is no doubt that children love to use their imagination and creativity, including inventing things from whatever is in front of them. Thomas Edison once stated: “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”

One of Oak Meadow’s final fifth grade science lessons teaches “Technology and Design”. The student is encouraged to creatively problem solve, research inventions, and then design an invention from mainly recycled or repurposed items. The kindergarten through fourth grade coursework also encourages students to construct and create with art materials, natural materials, recycled goods, and toys. It is an important educational tool that applies both the hand and head, helps the students to develop skills that can be applied to future creative problem solving situations, and thus, fosters positive growth and development in a young child.

Many children are even inspired to share their inventions with others. There are several sites that welcome home educators to participate in their programs, activities, and/or special events. Perhaps working on an invention could be a great summer project for your child. Here are some helpful resources for you:

The services of the US Patent Office offer a “kids” link:

Kids Invent! is a great online resource for both educators and homeschoolers.

Invent Help helps young inventors patent and submit their ideas to companies.

If your children are interested in an informative book that provides ideas for inventions, an excellent choice is Kids Inventing! A Handbook for Young Inventors, written by Susan Casey. For those children who are in the beginning stages of learning about the exciting world of inventions, there are several storybooks that may inspire the “inventor” in your child. The “Fatherly” website lists nine books that can be found in most public libraries.

For those children who love to enter contests and competitions, Kid Inventors’ Day provides links to a variety of ongoing contests and competitions.

For a bonus history lesson that may inspire your children’s innovative minds, the article “10 Great Inventions Dreamt Up by Children”, is a great reference source.

INNOVATE YOUR CHILD’S IMAGINATION AND INVENTIVENESS!

YOU MIGHT BE SURPRISED WHERE IT LEADS!

An Appreciation of TEACHERS!

The mediocre teacher tells.

The good teacher explains.

The superior teacher demonstrates.

The great teacher inspires.

William Arthur Ward

Last week, May 1-5, was Teacher Appreciation Week, but it certainly should not be recognized and celebrated for only one week out of the year. Therefore, I would like to show my deepest gratitude for the very important role all of you are performing. Whether you are the main home teacher, a co-teacher, or a provisional teacher, you need to be acknowledged, honored and thanked. You are sharing an amazing gift with your children/students!

Photo Credit: Leslie Ann Daniels

Parenting and teaching children may be two of the hardest jobs ever experienced. It’s not always easy to share knowledge with enthusiasm. It’s not always easy to provide guidance with inspiration. It can be difficult to promote self-confidence when we may not be feeling completely confident in ourselves. It can truly be challenging to instill the love of learning and to offer wisdom while helping to prepare children for living to their fullest potential.

Journeys are never completely easy. We will be challenged with hard times and frustrating moments. However, amid the challenges, we will also experience those shining moments of complete joy and satisfaction. If we approach our teaching skills by developing a quality relationship with our students, then we will be approaching our teaching as a positive, transformative journey for all who are involved.

Photo Credit: Erienne Novak

Not only do we need to honor our role as teachers, we also need to honor our children, for children can be our greatest teachers. They allow us the opportunity for personal growth. Children help us to remember our dutiful role in continuously providing the best and offering the most we can in every learning moment. We need to find that crucial balance between a loving heart and a determined mind. Being the best teacher is not the goal, because we are all humanly imperfect and incapable of such a title. However, if we strive to do the best we can, then we are being the best teacher possible in that moment. This striving is a strong testimony to the Oak Meadow’s educational philosophy of the process vs. the goal.

In all my years of teaching and guiding students, I have discovered that the most important lessons we can instill in our children is the joy of learning, the balance of life, and to never give up just because it’s hard.

I was recently reading through Oak Meadow’s guidebook, The Heart of Learningwritten by Oak Meadow’s co-founder, Lawrence Williams. It offers such amazing insight, inspiration and guidance. If you haven’t read it lately, I highly recommend perusing it. If you don’t own a copy of the newly revised and updated 40th Anniversary edition, it is available through the Oak Meadow Bookstore.

April Showers Bring May Flowers

May by Adele Abrahamse

In the month of May, the world’s at play outside.

The magic of the spring’s before my eyes.

A seed begins to stir from where it hides.

A plant springs up with others by its side.

The young plant knows it’s good to be alive.

In the month of May, the world’s at play outside.

 

Welcome to the merry month of May!

I hope you and your family are taking the time to enjoy this beautiful season of the year. May is certainly one of my favorite months in the springtime. The world is alive and fresh, and everything is bright and colorful. I love watching the children as they bounce and skip and dance about with laughter and merriment. It is just as if they have springs on their feet, for they are filled with their own kind of renewed energy and spirit.

Photo Credit: Leslie Ann Daniels

Planting a garden is a great way to take care of the earth and make it a more beautiful place. Children love digging in the warm soil, planting seeds for the butterflies, and watching their tiny green plants grow into fruition. Singing a little garden song or reciting a poem makes planting time even more joyful! One of my favorite songs is the “Garden Song”, a popular children’s song and American folk song written by David Mallett. A springtime poem I like to share with early elementary children is “The Little Plant”, written by Kate Louise Brown.

Photo Credit: Sowers/Woodward Family

We all know that April Showers bring May flowers, so if it’s a rainy day, then a craft project might be a delightful way to bring more color into your home. Oak Meadow’s Kindergarten Coursebook (Lesson 24) includes the art of making paper flowers. Hands can make a beautiful springtime garden, too, so perhaps you might like to handprint a flower garden. What you will need is tempera paints (green & bright colors) and a large sheet of white paper. Make green stems with a stroke of the finger, and add green leaves with the side of your palms. Then, make colorful handprint blossoms. Another enjoyable art project is making a seed mosaic. You will need a variety of seeds, construction paper, and glue. Seeds come in different shapes, sizes, and colors. Try the many different ways to sort the seeds. Then, glue them on your paper to create different patterns or designs.

Creative Writing

“I kept always two books in my pocket, one to read, one to write in.”

– Robert Louis Stevenson

In a recent Oak Meadow blog, I wrote about the book character, Flat Stanley, and how author Jeff Brown initially created this funny fellow as a bedtime story for his sons. Creative writing, especially for the younger grades, often begins with oral and artistic expression. In Oak Meadow’s early elementary language arts lessons, the students are introduced to the art of storytelling by listening to stories and then practice retelling story events with detail and in sequential order. They compose simple story summaries and draw story scenes showing specific details. Puppet shows and play acting are also encouraged in the retelling of stories or in creating imaginative scenarios.

As the students mature and develop, creative writing is introduced through detailed story summaries, short stories, and original poetry and rhyming compositions, along with descriptive and opinion paragraphs. By the time the student reaches grades three and four, creative writing is generated through brainstorming story ideas, identifying story components (character, setting, story problem, conflict, and resolution), expressing thoughts and ideas in informal journal form, and completing other free writing exercises.

For some students creative writing flows with ease, while for others information research projects are much more appealing. As American novelist and non-fiction writer Anne Lamott once wrote, “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.”  When I work with my local home school students on creative writing projects, we often tell stories together. It’s kind of like a Round-Robin storytelling session, where we sit in a circle and I (or one of the students) begin the story with a few sentences or a short scenario and then pass it on to the next person  to continue with a few more sentences. It goes all the way around the circle until the last person gives the story an ending. It’s not only a great activity for oral participation, it also provides a nice segue into writing ideas in story format.

Photo Credit: Leslie Ann Daniels

When my students and I learned about Flat Stanley and each participant made a “Flat Me”, we created adventurous settings and stories for our characters. Perhaps we visited a jungle or a deep enchanted forest, or we climbed atop a mountain or visited the deep blue sea. The stories that were written to accompany the activity included questions that helped in composing the imaginary stories:

 

 

1 – Who went with you?

2 – Why did you go?

3 – How did you travel?

4 – What trail did you follow?

5 – How long did it take?

6 – What did you see?

7 – Who did you meet?

8 – What special memories did you bring back with you?

No matter how you approach creative writing, it can enrich the student’s imagination. Knowing where to begin or what to write about allows the activity to flow easier, naturally, and more creatively. Inspiring the student to write with their own passion and excitement allows a new freedom to write about many things.

Flat Stanley

“People should think twice before making rude remarks,” said Mrs. Lambchop. “And then not make them at all.” ― Jeff Brown, Author of Flat Stanley

Author Jeff Brown created the beloved character of Flat Stanley as a bedtime story for his sons before it was first published in 1964. If you or your children have ever read the Flat Stanley books, then you will know that Stanley Lampchop had a mishap that made him famously flat. Rather than viewing his new physique as an unfortunate circumstance, this paper-thin boy turned his life into an amazing adventure of sliding under doors, flying like a kite, and traveling by mail.

In 1994, Canadian Dale Hubert created The Flat Stanley Project. He encouraged children to create their own Flat Stanley paper cutouts and mail them to friends and family members around the globe. His original idea was shared with his class of third grade students to help foster literacy activities and to introduce creative writing. Hubert also suggested that other teachers participate by hosting Flat Stanley visitors who arrived by mail. Now children (and adults) from all over the world are making their own versions of Flat Stanley from templates and mailing them to friends and family during their travels.

Photo Credit: Leslie Ann Daniels

I took The Flat Stanley Project a step further and photographed the bright cheerful faces of my local home school students. They then each created their own Flat Me. We had a great time creating colorful outfits and then sharing with friends and families by talking, tracking, and writing about their flat character’s journeys and adventures.

May 8 celebrates Flat Stanley’s fifty-third birthday. So, enjoy this world-famous story character by reading one of Jeff Brown’s books or creating and sending your own Flat Stanley or Flat Me to someone special!

Photo Credit: Danielle Drown
Photo Credit: Danielle Drown
Photo Credit: Danielle Drown

Extreme Weather

Here she comes again. April is her name.

One of twelve children, they all call her Rain.

All around the world, weather events are happening in every corner of the globe. In Oak Meadow’s coursework, observing seasonal weather and its effect on plants and animals is a significant part of the kindergarten, first grade and second grade science lessons. In the third grade science curriculum, weather conditions are studied by tracking weather and clouds, learning about lightning and thunder, and engaging in educational activities and artistic exercises in relation to tornadoes, blizzards, and hurricanes (or typhoons). According to econet.com, the definition for extreme weather is weather on a larger, more serious and devastating scale.

For additional information on weather, meteorologist Crystal Wicker created an informational site for children called Weather Wiz Kids. Kids Discover also created an interactive iPad app for kids, which displays the most extreme forms of weather on Earth. It includes an interactive cross-section of a hurricane, HD videos of tornadoes and lightning, and the science behind extreme climates.

In addition to the serious side of extreme weather, you might like to read the book, Thunder Cake, written by Patricia Polacco. It is a heartwarming and beautifully written story about Patricia (the author) when she was a young girl, and how she overcame the fear of storms with the help of her grandmother. You can also introduce some fun ways we use the weather through idioms and phrases, such as under the weather, weather the storm, or fair-weather friends. It might be a great time to include a spelling and vocabulary exercise on the difference between weather, whether and wether.

The wonders of science are wonderful!

 

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