Knitting Suggestions

Photo Credit - Brooke Hampton

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

In last week’s blog post, rhythmic handwork in Oak Meadow’s coursework for grades one through three was the main topic of discussion. This week, the K-8 Oak Meadow teachers teamed up and offered some suggestions and simple alternatives that will help to meet the “heart” of handwork, specifically in teaching the technique of knitting.

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 last 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!

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 on 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 (she had never done it), and she was very excited at all the possibilities that opened for her! She has also enjoyed exploring loom knitting from kits. Long live fiber arts – let’s not give up on them!

Anna Logowitz: My micro-schoolers got a great start by making their own knitting needles. They sanded chopsticks smooth, and then glued wooden beads to the ends: nice and simple. It gave them a sense of ownership over their work before they began knitting, which also seemed to increase their frustration tolerance!

Handwork in Winter

knitting needles and yarn

Knitting

Hand (Unknown author)

Take my hand, imagine
What it will be someday
A hand that’s strong, a hand that’s kind
Is this what you forsee?

A hand that’s skilled, a hand that’s sure
A hand that someday may,
Take another little hand
and guide it on its way.

Oak Meadow’s kindergarten coursework introduces the art of finger knitting, the first-grade coursework introduces knitting with needles, and the second-grade coursework introduces crocheting. The main purpose of teaching children these creative, yet practical skills at this level of development is to refine and strengthen fine motor development and eye-hand coordination. It also aids in the preparation for learning math, reading and writing with more ease and less fatigue.

Sometimes a student will find these craft skills challenging to acquire. Perhaps it is because the home teacher does not know how to knit or crochet and finds it difficult to teach, or perhaps it is due to a child’s hands and fingers not nimble enough to handle working with yarn and/or needles. When the students are introduced to the handcraft at the beginning of the school year, it is often when they are still actively involved in outdoor play; therefore, learning this skill may be even more difficult for an active child to sit still for a time to master the skill. If you have experienced this with your own child and decided to set it aside, then the winter season may be the perfect time to reintroduce the suggested handwork. You might be surprised at the willingness and readiness in your child to try it again!

Photo Credit – Estelle Giannakopoulos

It’s important that that your child starts out with something comfortable, so if your child has never been introduced to finger knitting, you might try starting with the basics of finger knitting before working with needle knitting and crocheting. Taking time in developing the skill, even if it means knitting or crocheting only for a short time each day, is still providing the tools for healthy physiological development. Working alongside with your child, listening to quiet background music or a story tape, or even telling a handwork story to accompany the project could encourage more enthusiasm. Here’s a little video with a story that might help introduce finger knitting.

Any other type of activity that includes repetition and rhythm in movement will work well, too! If you have already re-visited the suggested Oak Meadow projects and discover they are still frustrating or uninteresting to your child, then keep in mind that developing fine motor control, no matter what the activity, should be the main focus of the student. Perhaps knitting with a fork or with a spool might be excellent substitutes.

Other craft activities that offer rhythm and repetition include beading, weaving, sewing by hand, lacing cards, stringing popcorn and cranberries (including for the winter bird residents), and building patterns with various materials. Be creative and work with something that creates enjoyment, for it is the joy of the process that furthers the healthy development.

The Benefit of Traditional Tales – Part Two

Photo by Cindie Young

“I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream.” – Sleeping Beauty

Fairy tales and other traditional stories offer children many chances to witness the struggle of “good” versus “evil”. By introducing this in oral story form, children can connect with the parts that are important for their individual development at that point in time. When told in a matter-of-fact way, and from an adult who believes in the story’s merit and its place in child development, children will naturally relate to the underlying, archetypal themes of the stories. With this approach, the child’s imagination will not be taken to a place that is too frightening or disturbing, or be forced to focus on elements that are emotionally-charged in the adult perspective.

Fairy tales provide a reference for all the fears conjured up in a child’s world. Facing these fears at a young age can help the child to move through different challenges in later years and stages of life. Fairy tales are a way for the child to imagine—in the safety of the mind’s eye—what it feels like to be scared, honorable, brave, selfless, selfish, frustrated, wicked, embarrassed, silly, giddy, left out, confused, and more. This is one of the ways in which social and emotional intelligence is fortified. Many parents feel the need to sanitize stories to remove all the challenging elements, and yet stories that are grounded in archetypal themes can help children grow into strong adults.

Photo by Brooke Doughty

Parents can often be at odds with the fairy tales because the characters are narrowly defined, known for their beauty, cruelty, foolishness, cleverness, or other singular attribute. Their actions are also, to the adult mind, frustratingly stereotyped: a princess waits for her prince, a simpleton loses his way, a wicked person tricks an innocent. While it’s tempting to attach these characters to their genders, orientations, or race, it is important to remember that archetypes speak to the universal traits that all human beings have within: the valiant solider, the trickster, the loving nurse, the wicked witch, the noble prince, the sweet and caring mother, the beautiful maiden, the knowledgeable father, and the lonely hero. We all are every character inside.

Fairy tales and traditional stories show that good overcomes evil, and provide children with an unconscious sense of empowerment when they face their own personal struggles. It is important for children to have an inner sense that good will prevail. We want young children to believe and embrace that the world is good.

Of course, not every story will resonate with every student or every parent. For this reason, Oak Meadow parents are asked to read the tales before telling them to their child and to modify or substitute when necessary. In addition, you are encouraged to read and choose stories that will meet the needs of your individual child. That’s the challenge of teachers in any educational setting: to meet the children where they are and to encourage them forward from there.

This post was co-written by Leslie Daniels and DeeDee Hughes, Oak Meadow’s Director of Curriculum Development. 

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.

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!

 

Dr. Seuss Day

The more that you read, the more things you will know.

The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.

Dr. Seuss

Curling up with a good book and reading a story with children is often considered a family’s favorite pastime. Whether it is a picture book for the younger child or a chapter book for a more advanced reader, sharing stories is not only a delightful experience but also aids in the development of independent reading.

For the young child, rhyme and repetition are the precursors for early literacy and reading readiness. In the Oak Meadow kindergarten and first grade coursework, the practice of rhyme and repetition are emphasized as critical skills in the preparation of reading. The student is encouraged to listen to books with repeated phrases, along with listening to and reciting short rhyming poems, verses and tongue twisters. The student is also encouraged to retell stories, as well as act out stories with puppets and other props. Oftentimes a child will even imitate what the parent has read by pretending to read books, which can also aid in the development of memorization. These types of activities provide the child with a sense of mastery and accomplishment, which naturally enhances the joy of literacy and the desire for reading.

A favorite American children’s author, illustrator, and co-founder of Beginner Books is Dr. Seuss. March 2 marks his 113th birthday and is now celebrated as Dr. Seuss Day. Did you know his real name is Theodor Seuss Geisel, but he used the pen name Dr. Seuss? Did you know his very first book (published in 1938), And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, was rejected by the first forty-three publishers he showed it to? Since that time, forty-four of Dr. Seuss’s children’s books filled with zany rhymes and repetition have been published and are now available worldwide.

It’s a good week to visit the library and enjoy perusing the classics of Dr. Seuss. You might also like to visit Seussville or have fun testing your knowledge with the following Dr. Seuss book trivia quizzes:

https://www.familyeducation.com/quizzes/dr-seuss/dr-seusss-books

https://www.familyeducation.com/quizzes/dr-seuss/dr-seuss-book-trivia

My favorite Dr. Seuss book is The Cat in the Hat Comes Back. Which one is your favorite?

Snow!

“Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated. When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind.” Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley 1925

One of my favorite stories to share with children during the winter is Else Beskow’s book, Ollie’s Ski Trip. Ollie goes on a snowy adventure and discovers King Winter’s palace where he finds him sitting on his icy throne with sheer pride and pleasure. Ollie also meets King Winter’s spritely right hand man, Jack Frost, as well as Mrs. Thaw, who shows up with her broom to sweep away the last of the winter snow in preparation for the entrance of Lady Spring.

The season of winter goes hand in hand with the wonder of snow, which brings to mind a man by the name of Wilson Bentley, better known as the Snowflake Man. Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley was a farmer who grew up and lived in Vermont. As a young boy, he was home schooled. He had a natural affinity with nature, and with snowflakes in particular. He received his first microscope on his 15th birthday (in 1881) and began examining snowflakes. He soon discovered that no snowflake is like any other. At the age of 19, Bentley took his first micro-photograph of a snowflake, and this was the beginning of a passionate hobby. He spent his entire adult life photographing snowflakes, and by the time he died in 1931, he had photographed over 5,000 images. Imagine that!

William Bentley’s official home site also provides an assortment of books for all ages on this marvelous “Snowflake Man”. If you are fortunate to live close to or pass by Jericho, Vermont, you can visit the Bentley Museum to view his photographed snowflakes and to learn more about his fascinating life and the captivating beauty of snow!

The Oak Meadow syllabus in kindergarten and in first grade offers the artistic project of making paper snowflake designs. Oak Meadow’s fourth grade coursework offers a block on poetry, which involves creating a portfolio of freestyle, rhyming and acrostic poems. Student Maren Doughty wrote a lovely acrostic poem on “SNOWFLAKES”…

Smelling hot chocolate
Now winter is here
Outside we go!
Wind howling
Freezing fingers and noses
Lots of snow angels shaped in the snow
All the gournd is covered white
Kids building snowman
Everyone is excited
Seeing snowflakes falling

World Read Aloud Day

The Commission on Reading stated in a report, Becoming a Nation of Readers, that “THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT ACTIVITY for building knowledge for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”

This year, World Read Aloud Day is celebrated on Thursday, February 16. Whether your children are babies, toddlers, preschoolers, kindergartners, a primary school students or beyond, reading aloud provides a perfect opportunity to value the world of literature. It allows the child to become inspired and motivated to read independently, to strengthen reading and listening comprehension skills, and to learn new vocabulary words. It offers an introduction to new books and different types of literature that children might not discover on their own, such as the classics, poetry, short stories, biographies, etc. It offers the ability to use their imagination (and beyond personal experiences) to explore people and places from around the world, as well as events that occurred in the past or might occur in the future.

One of Oak Meadow’s primary focuses of the language arts in the early years is to build an appreciation for the richness of language, to emphasize the value of reading, and to attain strong foundational skills in reading. Reading aloud to young children is known to be one of the best reading readiness activities there is and lends a cozy closeness to your time together. You can read outside in a hammock, or under the table in a makeshift fort, or in a tree house. You can sit on the steps and read while your children are eating their snack. You can read anywhere, anytime. Read when your children are a bit too wild and need settling down, or when they are tired and just want to relax. Choose books that have themes your children are interested in and choose books that expose them to things they might not otherwise experience. Reading classic tales you remember from your childhood is a wonderful experience and often exposes children to language that has richness and depth that modern literature often lacks.

Story and book suggestions offered in Oak Meadow’s Grades K-4 language arts coursework, with intentions to form a foundation for rich and effective reading, include fairy tales and other archetypal stories, bedtime stories, poetry, tongue twisters, fables, folktales, world cultural stories and children’s classics. So now is the time to curl up with your little bookworms and celebrate World Read Aloud Day by reading books and sharing stories, not just on February 16, but each and every day!

Butterfly Art Project

Fly, fly butterfly.

Whither lies your way?

I fly to the sun

On this lovely spring day.

Fly, fly butterfly.

With wings of colored hue.

From the sun please bring us

A message or two.

Author unknown

I have discovered that watching butterflies is a delight at any age. I am in awe as I watch the butterflies emerge from their winter sleep or return home from their long migration. Butterfly watching is fast becoming a popular hobby. Did you know there are more than 650 species of these colorful winged insects in the U.S. alone? Did you know that people who study them are called lepidopterists?

Butterfly conservatories are a great way to observe many different species of butterflies, but most of you don’t even have to leave your backyard before you’ll notice them flitting about. If you are enthusiastic about attracting even more butterflies, you can plant particular varieties of flowers, such as Butterfly Bush, Butterfly Weed, Zinnia, Bergamot, Day Lily, Black-Eyed Susan, and Purple Coneflower, as well as herbs like Tansy, Garlic, and Chives.

1519fg78jCuL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Oak Meadow’s science courses in grades k-4 include various studies of the butterfly. In addition to the suggested lesson activities, you might include a guidebook, such as Robert Michael Pyle’s book, National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies. Or perhaps you would enjoy sharing a butterfly story, such as Alan Madison’s Velma Gratch and the Way Cool Butterfly or Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar or Bruce Coville’s The Prince of Butterflies.

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Photo Credit: Leslie Daniels

If it’s a rainy day, and no butterflies can be observed, then you and your children might like to make a butterfly template, paint it with watercolors, and then create your own butterfly kite or wind waver. Before painting,  you might like to view pictures of butterflies to study the symmetry of their patterns. They truly are amazingly beautiful insects!

 

Tips for Playing the Recorder

Music plays a very positive role in your child’s development, whether it is through listening to music, singing songs, or playing an instrument. In the first grade, Oak Meadow offers an introduction to the soprano recorder as a musical instrument to play, along with additional, more advanced tutelage offered up through the fourth grade.

The first grade curriculum introduces the recorder with the Beginning Recorder course book; the second grade curriculum follows up with Intermediate Recorder; the third grade curriculum offers advanced lessons in the Advanced Recorder course book; and the fourth grade curriculum completes the recorder coursework with Recorder Duets.

blog -renaissanceThe recorder is a very old European instrument that dates all the way back to the 14th century, possibly originating in Italy. It’s an appealing and appropriate modern-day instrument for young children who are just beginning to unfold their musical abilities and potential. The recorder is also a simple and versatile instrument to learn that allows the player to practice attention and focus, to help train and develop the ear, and to further aid in reading and composing musical notation.

If you, as the home teacher, are also new to playing the recorder and feel that a guided tutorial would benefit you in teaching your child to play this instrument, I suggest watching the Recorder Basics – B A G video. The instructor in the video, Mr. Barnes, demonstrates how to hold the recorder, as well as how to play “Hot Cross Buns” with the notes B, A and G. “Hot Cross Buns” is one of the first songs introduced in Oak Meadow’s Beginning Recorder guidebook.

If your child is more advanced in playing the recorder and has already worked through all the songs in the recorder books offered in the Oak Meadow coursework, Woodstock Chimes provides a lengthy list of familiar songs to play on the recorder. Each song includes its own fingering chart, as well as words to the songs for additional singing pleasure.

playing_recorders

As a collaborative effort, Oak Meadow’s staff offered some additional tips for helping to play the recorder:

1mmenegazMichelle Menegaz – 

Before you begin to practice, do some quick stretches…shoulder rolls, finger wiggling, etc. Then stand tall and imagine you are being suspended by a string from above. Relax the shoulders and lengthen the body. Please consider standing as often as you can when practicing. It really helps!

When you perform, there are special but simple skills you can practice to make your gift of music or poetry or any other presentation more enjoyable for your audience. Try looking toward the back of the room just above the heads of the people farthest away. Smile, smile, smile if you can remember  – either while playing or before or after if you are using a wind instrument. Remember to introduce yourself and your piece before you begin and bow with gratitude when you finish.

1OM-sarahSarah Antel –

One of the things that stuck with me from music lessons as a child was belly breathing. You can stand in front of a mirror to practice breathing. Additionally, it helps if you stand sideways so you can see your belly go in and out. You should take a deep breath through your nose and imagine you are filling a balloon in your belly and focus on filling your belly with air rather than making your chest rise. In a similar fashion, when releasing air, or breathing out, exhale through the mouth. You should focus on squeezing all of the air out using your stomach. Your chest should not be moving at all. Looking sideways in the mirror, you will see your stomach pull in. This type of breathing allows you to take a deeper breath and have a stronger sound when playing.

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Lesley Arnold –

Instruct your child to sit up tall (with a straight back) and toward the edge of the seat in order to take full breaths. After finding the right breath for blowing into the recorder, have your child try to imagine gently blowing on a candle flame just so it flickers, but doesn’t go out. The fingers should be curved and relaxed completely covering the holes. The left hand should always be on top! Have your child press firmly to seal the finger holes completely. Lips should cover the teeth lightly. Make sure your child separates the notes by touching the tip of the tongue to the roof of the mouth or to the tip of the recorder. Clap and count the rhythm, speak, then sing the name of the notes. Then the tune is ready to be played. 

1AmandaxpW8nOnU_400x400Amanda Witman – 

“Find a place where you can practice comfortably and without distraction.”

“A little bit of practicing every day is better than a lot of practicing once in a while.”

“Listen to the sounds you are making and experiment with ways to make them pleasing to you.”

“Take a moment to relax your hands and your breathing before you start to play.”

“Share your music with others. If you can’t find anyone to play for, stand in front of a mirror and perform for yourself. Smile and take a bow at the end of your performance!”