Place and Space

In my high school journals, I often wrote about where I wanted to be when I grew up. Looking back on these entries with the distance of a decade, and the knowledge of what I’ve pursued in life, I am in awe that my essential self is still the same. It’s comforting, but it’s also empowering. It means that the person I became at 17 is still the person I am proud to be – just with more experience and more tools for how to accomplish the things I used to dream about from inside the decorated, forest green (my favorite color, then and now) walls of my high school bedroom.

From my high school journal: “When I think about ‘what I want to do’ when I graduate, I think of these things: I want to be the most approachable English teacher at an independent high school for unconventional young people, and I want to have a cabin on a lake with bookshelves everywhere filled with books, and I want to wake up every morning and find the passages I underlined in all my favorite books and remember what it felt like to be that age and read those words for the first time.”

Today, I live beside a river in a cottage full of books. I teach English at an independent high school for pretty cool young people (that’s you guys), and every morning, I wake up and flip through the passages I underlined ten years ago in my favorite books. I think about what it felt like to be 17 and reading those words for the first time.

In college, I learned about the concepts of Place and Space. Place was a physical location, while Space was an ambiance that could be evoked in a building or room. In a Place, one performed their public persona; in a Space, one could be their most private, interior self.

This reminded me of my high school bedroom – that place where I had engaged in journaling, daydreaming, painting, drawing, writing, singing, dancing – activities and rituals that gave the place a certain ambiance; that made it into a space.

I am writing these words in my office, the front room in my cottage. My desk faces the yard; the trees; the mountain. This is the room in which I design curriculum for the courses I teach through Oak Meadow; chat with students; communicate with my faculty peers; read submissions for my poetry journal; write these blog posts, and a hundred other outward-facing things.

Photo by Naomi Washer

On the ceiling of my office is a drop-down ladder that leads to a secret loft; intimate, with slanted walls. I can stand upright in the center, but otherwise have to crawl. Pillows and cushions line the floor. One wall is a balcony, overlooking the living room below. Against the railing are my bookshelves. Photographs of places I’ve lived and the people I’ve known line the slanted walls. On the exterior wall is a tiny square window looking out to the mountain and the yard, just above where I sit at my desk in my office below. Up here, I am curled into a nest; I am closer to the mountain; I have my books and mementos and journals scattered around me. Below, the office is light, bright, and open, inviting all the work I do that connects to the outside world. Above, I enter the interior space of my mind – the space where I dream up creative projects and muse over the big questions of life and the world, my beliefs, my values, and who I feel myself to be.

Photo by Naomi Washer

The place of my office and the space of my loft are both necessary for the work that I do as a teacher and a writer. But I have to wonder if I would have ever discovered that these were the best places and spaces for me if I hadn’t dreamed about them in high school.

High school is not only the time when you begin to state your goals and ambitions – it is also a crucial time to dream. It is the most important time in your life to ask essential questions about who you are, what you believe, and what kind of path you see yourself pursuing in life.

By “path,” I don’t just mean career. Careers are your public persona – your exterior self. You will accomplish great things in the public places of your careers – I’m sure of it. But if you allow yourself the space of interior dreaming, musing, and questioning, then you will also become a person you’ll be proud to be – someone who lives by the virtues you believe in.

Photo by Naomi Washer

You can’t know where you will be ten, fifteen, twenty years from now. If you did, that would take away half the fun of the discovery. But what you can do is think about the kind of place you want to be in; where you can be productive by offering your skills and knowledge to your community.

And you can think about the space you want to have around you: what kind of weather and landscape make you feel grounded and at home? Do you want trees and mountains around you, or skyscrapers? Do you want to live on the road, in a tiny house, an apartment building in a big city, or a rambling old country house on a farm? If you ask yourself these questions now, you’ll find out what kind of person you are, and the kind of person you’ll be down the road, when the dust has settled, and the air has cleared, and you open your eyes: what do you see?

Stamp Collecting!

“The word ‘philatelist’ means a person who practices philately or stamp collecting. It comes from the French word ‘philatelie’, which was derived from the Greek words ‘philos’, meaning loving, and ‘atelia’, meaning exemption from tax which also came to mean ‘postage is prepaid.’.”

American Philatelic Society

The American Philatelic Society is the largest, nonprofit organization in the world for stamp collectors.

When I was little and traveled with my family, we didn’t have computers for emailing and so we wrote lots of letters to family and friends. We also made a tradition of mailing ourselves letters to our own home! We would go to a post office in a country or town that we were visiting, and purchase a special stamp. (You can ask the post master to show you what stamps he/she has available.) Then, using the stamp, we would mail the letter home to ourselves. It was fun to see the letters and the stamps when we arrived home. I don’t have a very big collection of stamps, but the ones that I do have hold some wonderful memories for me.

This year a really cool stamp is going to be offered! A first of its kind! Some background first:

You may have read that there is going to be a total eclipse of the sun across the United States this summer. (Monday, August 21, 2017.) People from all over the world will be coming to different spots in the United States to witness this solar eclipse.

Solar Eclipse
Photo Credit: Public Domain

What does a solar eclipse have to do with a stamp? Well, the Postal Service will be offering a first-of-its-kind stamp! It changes when you touch it! The Postal Service announcement says: “The Total Eclipse of the Sun, Forever® stamp, which commemorates the August 21 eclipse, transforms into an image of the Moon from the heat of a finger.”

You can read the story of how the stamp was designed here.

If you would like to view other stamps that have commemorated eclipses, you can view them here.

So, as you travel to new places, or even stay in your hometown, take a look at the many stamps that the post office has to offer!

P. S.  Looking directly at the sun during a solar eclipse can be dangerous; here’s a way to enjoy the eclipse without hurting your eyes: http://hilaroad.com/camp/projects/eclipse_viewer/eclipse_viewer.html

 

Oak Meadow 2017 Poetry Extravaganza – Part I

At Oak Meadow, we celebrate student poetry during our annual Poetry Extravaganza. In April, we invited our enrolled students to submit their favorite original poems. We hope you will enjoy their poems as much as we do!

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Photo Credit: Melissa Lewis
(Oak Meadow)

Desserts

by Danica O’Donohoe
Oak Meadow Grade K

Sweet treats
Bake cake
Kids want to scream for ice cream
Yummy in my tummy!

 

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Photo Credit: Tracey Watts
(Oak Meadow)

An Angel and a Bird
by Carlos Checa-Sacasa
Oak Meadow Grade 3

Once there was a bird
who heard a whisper in the air
the bird flew towards the voice
and saw an angel there
Feathers, flowers and light
it was quite a sight
An angel and a bird in flight

 

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Photo Credit: Laura Kelly
(Oak Meadow)

Freddy Lives On
By Deanna Oakes
Oak Meadow, Grade 6

In front of the fire,
At the foot of the bed,
In the warm sun,
At the homestead,
Freddy is gone.
Freddy is gone, but his memory lives on.
He rode in the truck,
He played with his toys,
He snored real loud,
But he didn’t like noise.
Freddy’s memory lives on,
He will never truly be gone.

“Last year, my librarian’s friend was grieving the passing of her dog, who had recently passed away. Her friend was very sad, so Mrs. Hoffman, my librarian, asked me to write a poem in memory of Freddy, the dog. She told me a little about Freddy, and I used what I learned about him to write this poem. It was wonderful to gift this poem to her; she loved it.”

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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.

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 Ways to Foster Hands-On Creativity at Home (Even If You Don’t Feel Creative)

Does the idea that homeschooling parents need to be naturally artistic or compulsively creative stop you from trying? Don’t be fooled! Although there are plenty of parents who enjoy doing arts and crafts with their children, there are plenty who don’t. You can foster your children’s creative and artistic streaks even if you’re not sitting down at the table and eagerly leading the way. Here are some ideas to get you started and keep you moving forward:

1. Provide a variety of creative materials. Start by stocking up on basic, kid-friendly, age-appropriate supplies.

Photo Credit: Abbie L.
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Here are some possibilities:

Here are some other things that can be fun to have around:

  • wooden craft sticks
  • a hole punch
  • chalks, oil crayons, watercolor pencils, and other colorful drawing materials
  • fun patterned paper (origami paper, doilies, scrapbooking paper)
  • scissors with patterned edges
  • a straightedge or ruler
  • a stapler
  • play-dough, clay, beeswax, and other modeling media
  • wool roving
  • fabric scraps
  • random collage materials (feathers, sequins, beads, cutout shapes)
  • string, ribbon, embroidery thread
  • needles of various sizes
  • scrap cardboard and other reclaimed materials
Photo Credit: Warf Family
(Oak Meadow Archives)

2. Establish a comfortable, easy-clean area for creating. It’s ideal to have a separate area with a table and nearby storage if possible. But if you don’t have abundant space, a vinyl tablecloth can protect any table or floor area from creative messes. Just shake or wipe down the tablecloth and put it away for the next round of creativity. Good lighting is also very helpful.

3. Store most materials in an accessible, kid-friendly way, with the important exception of anything you want to supervise. Some materials, particularly messy ones, might be available to young artists only “on request” until you’re sure they can handle the responsibility that such materials require. Even more important than making materials easily accessible is making it easy to store them away when the creating is done.

4. Remember that you do not have to teach your children how to create! Children are inherently creative beings. If you are not the sort of person who wants to patiently teach the proper methods, it’s perfectly fine to explain any safety points, and then just get out of the way and let your children figure things out for themselves. You might be surprised by what they come up with.

Photo Credit: Lynn Nash
(Oak Meadow Archives)

5. Open-ended situations allow for the widest range of creativity. Offering a variety of basic materials that feel good to use can bring about much more creativity than a preassembled kit for making a particular end product. You might encourage your children to think up new ways to use what they have at hand by saying something like, “Lots of people only paint with a paintbrush; can you think of any other good ways to apply paint to paper?”

6. There is no wrong way to be creative. Keep your own preconceived ideas out of it! Your child should be the one to decide what they will create and then explain to you in their own way what their creations mean. When your child inevitably asks, “What should I make?” follow it with, “What do you feel like making?” or “This is your project, so I can’t decide for you. What do you think you should make?”

Photo Credit: Jennie Smith-Pariola
(Oak Meadow Archives)

7. Look to nature for variety and inspiration as needed. Go scavenging outdoors as a family, and bring natural materials back to your craft area. Encourage your children to incorporate them into their creations. Ask them to draw or paint or create a likeness of something they enjoyed seeing outside or make a mobile with their found objects.

8. Less can be more! One tool. One color. One type of material. Keeping it simple can help prevent everyone from feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes having all possible materials staring at you at once can stop you in your creative tracks. If that happens, let simplicity be your guide. “What could we make if we only had paper and tape to work with?”

9. Be proactive about managing stress. Messy projects can be stressful for those who have to help clean them up! Set up your creative space for easy cleanup by keeping trash/recycling containers, a broom and dustpan, and a sponge handy. Keep smocks and/or aprons nearby. Cafeteria trays can also be helpful for containing bits and pieces. For projects with huge mess potential, consider setting up a creative space outdoors for easier cleanup.

Photo Credit: Neigh Family
(Oak Meadow Archives)

10. Figure out your own challenges with creativity. What holds you back personally from feeling creative? Can you identify why you don’t feel like a creative person? Acknowledge your reasons, but don’t pass them on to your children. There is no right or wrong way to create. Be gentle with yourself, and if you feel inspired to pick up a piece of modeling wax or put crayon to paper yourself, go ahead and see what flows.

11. When in doubt, follow the rainbow. It’s helpful to own a rainbow’s worth of colors of materials when possible: paper, crayons, paint, modeling wax. Sometimes all colors will be used, but sometimes choosing just one color at a time to explore with your child can also be very freeing. “How many different ways can we think of to create with the color red?”

Photo Credit: Cindie Young
(Oak Meadow Archives)

12. Remember that the joy is in the process! Many decisions are part of a creative experience, from choosing materials and colors, to predicting the outcome of an action, to deciding how to respond to the results partway through, to deciding when a particular project is finished. Creating can also be a highly sensory experience, allowing a child to integrate sight and touch, and in some cases sound, smell, and/or taste. It can also be extremely imaginative – you may find your child narrating their creative process or creating a story about their creation. Be open to the value of the process itself, and don’t worry if the project gets abandoned before it is finished. One of the best rewards of fostering a creative experience is hearing your child say, “That was fun!”

FEEL FREE!

This is a quick note to all Oak Meadow students:

FEEL FREE!

Feel free to create your own responses to the many assignments you have in the Oak Meadow curriculum. FEEL FREE to create~

Use your creativity to complete some of your assignments. Just do it! Record a song, paint a scene, attend a lecture, create a chart, read a relevant book!

There are many ways to complete an assignment other than the way it is written in the text. I receive photographs, poems, videos, illustrations, and paintings for many science, English, and social studies assignments. The integration of your knowledge with your creative endeavors is well worth it! If you are concerned your teacher may not accept it, email the teacher and ask for permission to do the assignments the way you have chosen. I’m pretty sure your teacher will say,

“FEEL FREE!”

Click on the link below to watch how Nehemiah Mabry, an engineer, creates poetry to reveal his knowledge of engineering.

 https://www.insidescience.org/news/rhyming-engineer-makes-inspiring-students-career

 

Dots and Dashes

http://publicdomainvectors.org/en/tag/morse-code

It is so easy to send a message these days by way of cell phones or the internet that it is hard to imagine that at one time there was no way to communicate with other people a distance away unless you used the postal mail. When Samuel Morse invented a way to send messages that were a code of electrical impulses, our lives changed forever! Those dots and dashes could be sent and translated over a distance making it possible to send emergency messages to places throughout the country. Many Oak Meadow 7th grade students in the first semester of their world history lessons have the opportunity to learn about Morse and his code. I found this fun website that translates a sentence that you write into Morse Code. You can then click “play” and hear the dots and dashes of the message. Send something to a friend! Here’s the Morse Code Translator.

Creative Craft-Festive Lanterns

The sunlight fast is dwindling.
My little lamp needs kindling.
Its beam shines far in darkest night,
Dear lantern guard me with your light.

Song written by Margaret Meyerkort

The season of winter is a time of contraction. As the days grow shorter, we find ourselves inside more. It’s a perfect time for expressing our festive, artistic side. Making lanterns that shine from within and bring a warm glow to your home can help you and your children ready yourselves for the cold days and nights of winter.

You will need:

-heavy water color paper (9″X12″ or 12″X16″)

-watercolor paints and paintbrushes

-scissors

-tacky glue, white glue, or glue sticks

-paper fasteners

-warming candles, votive candles, or tea lights (the ones in metal containers)

-tissue paper

What to do:

1. Paint the paper. (Dark colors work best, such as ultramarine or cobalt blue.) Encourage your children to fill the entire paper with color.

2. After the paper dries, make a fold all the way across the length of the paper, approximately three inches up from the bottom.

3. Cut a fringe of three-inch wide segments all along the bottom folded section.

4. Cut several small shapes out of the top portion of the lantern. These are the “windows” that the light shines through. (Star and moon shapes are always fun!) Small pieces of colored tissue paper glued over the inside of the windows create a beautiful effect.

5. Form the lantern paper into a cylinder, gluing it from the top to the bottom. Fold the fringed edges in and overlap them to make the lantern’s bottom. Put small dabs of glue between the fringes to hold them together.

6. Add a fairly long handle (12-15 inches) 1/2 inch wide and attach to each side of the lantern with paper fasteners.

7. Use candles that come in individual metal cups. A dab of glue placed in the bottom of the lanterns holds the candle in place.

Important Note: These lanterns should be used only under close adult supervision.

Turning Chaos into Physics!

“An object at rest will remain at rest.”

If you are using the 8th grade Physics course with Oak Meadow, then you have, or will be, studying Isaac Newton’s Three Laws of Physics. Understanding the concepts of friction, inertia, velocity, acceleration, mass, and force can be daunting to say the least. I think my students are amazing in the different ways that they are able to comprehend these concepts. Sometimes a student needs a bit more help in order to fully visualize what is happening. For those of you that are interested in visualizing more about Newton’s three basic laws of motion, I’ve found a terrific website that I think you will find quite fun to investigate.  It explains Newton’s laws in terms of ice hockey! Give it a try here. Once there, click on the video titled Science of NHL Hockey: Newton’s Three Laws of Motion and enjoy!