Ready for Learning

Dictionary

Dictionary

Welcoming a new school year is exciting! Here in New England I think I can actually feel the excitement in the cooling air of autumn. Getting ready for a new school year can mean finding the best spot for studying, getting your supplies in order, and setting up your desk space. Setting up your own “work space” allows for you to separate work from play. Look for a quiet, comfortable space with few distractions, and good lighting. Looking ahead in the curriculum to see what supplies you may need is a great way to set yourself up for successful learning. Get out your favorite pencils, pens, crayons, and notebooks!

For those of you in the middle grades (ages 11-14), if you don’t yet have your very own dictionary and thesaurus, now is the time to find them! Both will become your best friends as you go through the year. Printed book versions are great to just have next to you as you read and write. With a book at hand you won’t be distracted by your device (computer, kindle, phone, ipad) and you can mark up the pages any way that you like! You can often find used ones at second hand book stores. If you are looking for a good dictionary that will last you through the junior high years, look for Merriam-Webster’s Intermediate Dictionary. Also recommended is the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary. (Try to get the most recent additions.) For a good thesaurus, try Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Thesaurus.

Also really useful is a good atlas for discovering new places in the world and helping you illustrate maps. I like Rand McNally’s Goodes World Atlas, but look through a bunch at the bookstore or library until you find one you like. These three items will serve you well for many years to come!

Have a wonderful beginning!

10 Reasons Why Oak Meadow May Be the Perfect Fit for You

How can you tell if Oak Meadow will be a good fit for your family? Choosing a homeschool curriculum or a distance learning school may feel like a very big decision. There are many options available, and it can feel challenging to sort through to find the best fit.

What are you looking for in a home learning program? Would Oak Meadow be a good match for your family? See if any of the following points resonate with you.

1. Being actively involved in your child’s learning feels right to you. You appreciate your child as an individual and enjoy spending time with them. You value the deep connection between you and your child, and you trust that because you are a loving parent, you are naturally well suited to be your child’s home teacher.

An Oak Meadow education means that you, the parent, are your child’s primary teacher. As an Oak Meadow parent, you remain closely involved in every step of your child’s learning. When they need help conquering a challenge, you are right there to help them in a way that honors their unique personality. Your loving connection to your child qualifies you as the best expert on their needs.

2. Your child is keen to engage in creative, hands-on learning – and you like it, too. Learning by doing comes naturally to them, and you enjoy supporting their curiosity and efforts. 

Oak Meadow encourages students to learn experientially through real-world experiences. Take math skills out into the garden for a carpentry project, visit local historic sites, or go hiking with a sketchbook in hand. The small scale of home learning allows for one-on-one assistance with a wide range of projects. Experiments and creations can be spread out and returned to over and over. Depending on your child’s needs, you can be closely involved, or step back and allow their creativity to bloom with support as needed. The world is your classroom!

3. Your mind is open to a range of effective ways to approach education. You are eager to figure out how to help your child thrive, even if the solution is unconventional.

Perhaps traditional school hasn’t worked out as well as you had hoped, or maybe you just have an intuitive sense that it won’t be a good fit for your unconventional learner. Homeschooling and distance learning can be very helpful options for students who learn outside of the box, and Oak Meadow is easily adaptable for learning differences.

4. You believe nature should be a central theme in children’s learning. The natural world provides a multitude of catalysts for learning and growing, and it also provides a healthy environment for playing and living. 

Oak Meadow’s curriculum encourages students to keenly observe and develop a relationship with the natural world. Frequent outdoor play and exploration are encouraged and valued. The relationship between nature and the student is so important that it is a key theme throughout Oak Meadow’s curriculum.

5. You appreciate having the flexibility to adapt lessons to your child’s unique learning needs and interests. If something isn’t working for you or your child, you will modify it. You use curriculum as a starting point, then let your child’s passions guide your choices within and beyond the given material.

We know that every child is unique, and that’s why Oak Meadow’s curriculum is full of various possibilities for all kinds of learners. It’s up to you (and your child’s teacher, if you enroll in distance learning) to pick and choose from the options presented in the lessons. You might need to try different things to figure out what works, but in time, you and your child will both have a better understanding of how they learn best.

6. You believe that learning is a lifestyle that best involves the whole family. You recognize that the needs of all family members are interwoven, and you choose to create a home life that supports healthy learning and growth for everyone in the family.

Students who learn at home have the benefit of a holistic lifestyle where living and learning are totally intertwined. Siblings learn with and from each other, and the bond between family members of all ages is developed and strengthened.

7. You feel that education should address the whole child, not just academic growth. You honor the importance of your child’s passions, talents, strengths, weaknesses, and insecurities and honor the role those things play in your child’s learning.

Many educational programs focus on academics without acknowledging the many other important facets of a child’s being. Oak Meadow’s philosophy is all about nurturing learning in a comprehensive way, weaving together the many different kinds of growth and development in a balanced, holistic approach.

8. You have a good sense of when to ask for support, either through enrollment or through our homeschooling support service. You are willing and able to reach out to others in your community and beyond to widen your child’s learning support system and make use of helpful resources. 

You know that nobody has all the answers. You trust that you’ll learn what you need to know along the way. The most successful Oak Meadow families are proactive and persistent in reaching out to those who can help them out in various ways on their homeschooling journey.

9. You appreciate the idea of a secular (non-religious) academic curriculum. If your family opts for religious education, you supplement with faith-based religious curriculum or design your own course of religious instruction that honors your family’s beliefs.

Oak Meadow is one of few providers of complete secular homeschooling curriculum. Many families come to us because they are looking for an alternative to the many faith-based programs that are available. Some families choose to supplement our materials with faith-based lessons in order to incorporate spiritual education into their homeschooling experience. Oak Meadow supports the freedom of parents to choose the best way to support their child’s religious and spiritual education.

10. Whether you are looking for a comprehensive homeschooling curriculum or an accredited distance learning school, you value the wisdom Oak Meadow offers from over 40 years of experience in supporting home learners

Oak Meadow’s founder, Lawrence Williams, began with a thoughtful vision for home education that remains an inspiration to all of us at Oak Meadow. Our teachers and counselors are carefully chosen to support Oak Meadow’s philosophy. Many of us have used Oak Meadow materials and services with our own children. We hold ourselves to the same standards we would demand for our own families. Through the years, our program has gone through countless revisions to provide families with the best possible homeschooling and distance learning experiences, and we continue to revise and update our materials on an ongoing basis.

Is Oak Meadow a good fit for your family’s needs? Hopefully you’ve already begun to gain some insights into the possibility. Our website offers comprehensive information about our company, our philosophy, our homeschooling curriculum, and our distance learning program. The educational counselors in our office are available online or by phone at 802-251-7250 to answer your questions. Contact us and let us help you find your family’s unique path to organic learning!

_________________________________________________________

This article originally appeared in home|school|life magazine in May 2016.

When Your Child Is Struggling in School

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

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

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

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

Do you see your child in any of these scenarios?

SOCIAL NEEDS

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

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

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

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

EMOTIONAL NEEDS

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

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

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

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

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

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

PHYSICAL NEEDS

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

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

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

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

INTELLECTUAL NEEDS

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

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

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

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

SCHOOL CHOICE

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

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

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

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

HOME EDUCATION

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

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

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

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

How old should my child be when starting Oak Meadow kindergarten?

In general, our kindergarten curriculum correlates developmentally with age 5 and grade 1 with age 6. Therefore, we encourage families to wait until age 5 before beginning kindergarten.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Hendrickson   (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo Credit: Rebecca Hendrickson
(Oak Meadow Archives)

However, every child’s development is unique, and so there really is no one-size-fits-all recommendation. Families following a Waldorf pedagogy often don’t start first grade until their children are 6.5 or 7 years old. The idea behind “waiting” is to let the children mature into their physical bodies and abilities so that the rigors of formal education (including learning to read and write, and being comfortable working quietly and focused for a span of time) come to them more easily.

It is also very important to remember that our curriculum is designed to follow nationally accepted educational standards for each grade level. With that in mind, the academic level of children using Oak Meadow will be comparable to their peers at that same grade level. This means that a child who leaves public school at the end of one year, then completes the next grade in Oak Meadow the following year, should be able to re-enter public school at the next grade level without being held back. Of course, that is always at the discretion of the school, and how thoroughly the family works through the curriculum will make a difference in the child’s readiness for the next grade.

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

One last consideration is that starting children in kindergarten at 4 years old (which seems to be more and more common in public schools today) may put them at a disadvantage in future grades when curriculum content addresses issues that are appropriate for a more mature audience. Also, if children who are on the young end of the spectrum enter into a group learning situation later, they may be a year or more younger than their grade-level peers, which can sometimes make social connections challenging.

Looking at each child’s development on all levels (physical, social, emotional, and intellectual) can help parents determine when to start formal schooling. Sometimes a child will excel in one area while being developmentally aligned in other areas with a specific grade or age. In that case, challenges in that one area can be added to enhance the grade-level curriculum. If a child who has completed kindergarten at a young age does not seem ready for the challenges of first grade, repeating the kindergarten year may be a gift that yields benefits far into the future.

We encourage parents to read these FAQs and then call the office (802-251-7250) to speak with an educational counselor for help determining the appropriate grade placement for each child.

Finding Community as a Homeschooler

At first, particularly if you are new to homeschooling, it may seem like there are no homeschoolers around at all. But chances are very good that they are just hidden in plain sight!

Photo credit: Hickman Family (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo credit: Hickman Family
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Families in many areas have established homeschool groups that meet for field trips, projects, playtime, and even parent-run classes. Finding them can be the hardest part. Some homeschool groups maintain a low profile to respect or protect the privacy of their member families. So it can be challenging to make that first connection. But homeschoolers, in general, are very resourceful and well-connected, and once you’ve found one local homeschooling family, you may soon hear about others.

Have you wondered about how best to find other homeschoolers in your area? Here are some suggestions for where to look.

Ask at the library. Most homeschooling families develop an active relationship with the local librarian. He or she may be able to connect you with other families.

Put up posters at the community center, grocery store, town office, or other places where homeschooling parents and children are sure to see them. Your poster could say something as simple as, “Do you homeschool? We’d love to connect!”

If your community has an online bulletin board or a local newspaper, you might be able to publish a classified ad or notice. Advertise a playgroup, potluck, or not-back-to-school picnic and see who responds.

Photo credit: Laura Nance (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo credit: Laura Nance
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Go to the park, indoor playground, or other local kid-friendly venues during school hours on a school day. If you see another family there with school-aged kids, ask them why theirs are not in school. With luck, their reason will be the same as yours!

Although homeschooling is more mainstream than ever, it has roots in the alternative and natural parenting culture. So if you are a secular homeschooler, you might see if you can find likeminded parents through the local natural foods store or parenting groups such as La Leche League. if your homeschooling focus is religious, your faith community is a great place to start.

Sympathetic local or state school officials are sometimes empowered to connect homeschooling families with each other. Inquire with whomever is in charge of homeschool enrollment or registration for your locale.

Seek out regional homeschooling organizations and homeschool conventions, if there are any near you. Attend any local events you can until you’ve made enough connections to sustain you for awhile.

Photo credit: Nevada Wolfe (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo credit: Nevada Wolfe
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Visit local learning centers and attractions such as museums, environmental education centers, aquariums, historical sites. They often have special rates or visit times for homeschoolers, so ask their recommendation on how to connect with other homeschooling visitors.

Put out the word! Let supportive friends and family know that you’re in search of homeschooling connections. They may not know of any local homeschoolers, but they may know someone whose Aunt Martha has a neighbor whose son homeschools in your town. It’s worth a try.

Look online. There are many groups, boards, pages, lists, and websites devoted to homeschooling. (Oak Meadow’s Facebook page alone has over 27,000 followers.) Some homeschooling support boards are for members only; others are public. Some focus on particular regions. You may find one local to you, or you may need to post something specific asking for responses.

Jump right in and talk with people wherever you go! You never know where you might make a connection or get some helpful information.

Don’t be shy about seeking connection, and be persistent if you don’t find it right away! Being proactive is the best way to find community quickly. What resources are there for connecting with homeschoolers in your area? Tell us about the best resources you know of and where to find information. Other families near you will be grateful! How did your family find other homeschoolers to connect with?

 

Addressing Concerns About Homeschooling

Photo credit: The Hendrickson Family (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo credit: The Hendrickson Family
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Homeschooling is a big step for many of us. It requires the conviction that we know better than anyone else when it comes to our children’s needs (or our own). We may have already had courageous exchanges with teachers, school officials, and other experts whose job requires them to look out for the well-being of our children and whose thoughts on how best to meet those needs may be at odds with ours.

We may not want to defend the details of our educational choices to everyone we meet. Nevertheless, friends, family, and strangers on the street often feel entitled to comment on, critique, or even assess the effectiveness of our homeschooling efforts.

Do any of these sound familiar?

“Is it a day off from school?” asks a well-meaning cashier at the supermarket (at 11:00 on a Wednesday morning). “They don’t go to school,” you say. Your children giggle. The cashier gives you a disbelieving look.

At a family gathering, the grandparents smother your child with kisses, hugs, and an impromptu quiz about the state capitals, leaving your child stammering and squirming.

At ballet class, you overhear your preteen’s friend say, “I don’t know how anyone can possibly learn anything if they’re not in school. Do you even know what a square root is?” Your child is embarrassed and doesn’t respond.

At your child’s annual checkup, the doctor chats with your child during the examination. “What grade are you in?” says the doctor. Your child says, “Uhhhhhh….”

A well-meaning friend looks at you doubtfully. “Homeschooling — I don’t know,” says your friend. “You’re not a teacher. And what about socialization?”

Sometimes it can feel like every social interaction brings the risk of an uneasy exchange about homeschooling. Here are some things to keep in mind when you encounter someone whose comments make you uncomfortable:

Homeschooling is not a familiar concept for most people. Yours may be the first homeschooling family they have seen up close. Most people are unaware that homeschooling is even an option, or they may have heard of it as something that only certain subgroups of people engage in. It may feel confusing for them to find homeschoolers in their family, neighborhood, or community. Let them know you’re in good company! “We’ve been so happy to find a supportive community of homeschoolers close by and online.”

Homeschooling challenges widely-held social values. Some people may not feel at ease with the questions that homeschooling brings to mind. They may see homeschooling as an implied judgement about the quality of public schools. Many of us were raised with the belief that all children must attend public school for their own good and/or the good of society. Times are changing, and schools are not what they used to be. We learn more all the time about how unconventional approaches to education can be better for some children. “Aren’t we lucky to live in a country where parents can choose the best educational path for their children?”

It may be difficult to imagine how homeschooling can be both flexible and successful. Perhaps their only experience of education was classroom-based, competitive, and institutional. Many of us were taught not to question that model, believing either that it was the best way or the only way to become educated and successful. But now there are alternatives, and that is a beneficial thing for many students. It might help to mention that there is also plenty of support available. “I’m so impressed with the great homeschooling resources that we’ve found online. It’s wonderful for families like ours to have professional educational support.”

Mass media perpetuates the idea that homeschoolers are freaks. The people who get the media spotlight are often the ones who are so far outside the norm that their stories make for good entertainment. It is true that some homeschooling families have over a dozen children, are religious extremists, or send their kids to Ivy League colleges ahead of their peers. Those are interesting stories, but most homeschooling families are relatively ordinary. Your family is also a good example of a homeschooling family. If the person knows you well, remind them that you’re still the same; you’re just taking a new educational path. “We’ve met some very nice local families who homeschool.”

Others want the best for your child. This is especially true for friends and relatives, but it can be equally true for the stranger at the supermarket. Where the perceived health and safety of children is concerned, many people do consider it their business and feel they have a socially-sanctioned right to offer advice. You do not have to share the details of your choices; simply thank them for their concern and redirect the conversation to more comfortable ground. “I really appreciate how much you care about my children’s education. Thanks for sharing your ideas.”

Our society places its faith in experts. We have been culturally conditioned to look to experts for the answers. So it may be helpful to invoke mention of one. “We are working with the school superintendent to meet all of the established requirements.” “We’ve enrolled in an accredited distance learning school and have the support of certified teachers.” Or even, “Our pediatrician is supportive.” The point is not to devalue your primary role in your child’s homeschooling experience, but to help conclude the conversation on a positive note and in a truthful way that meets the other person’s need for expert reassurance.

Your decision to homeschool is not about them. It is about you, your child’s needs, and the overall needs of your family. You are the expert on your own child, and you are empowered to make these decisions without defending yourself. You might say, “Public school works for some families, but we’ve found that homeschooling is the best fit for ours.”

Neither you nor your child owes anyone an explanation. Be upfront with adults who try to quiz your child to prove that homeschooling is “working” — it’s not acceptable. Your child does not have to prove anything to anyone except you, and it is not appropriate for anyone to put your child on the spot with such questions. You might coach your child on how to politely decline if someone tries to verbally test them. Keep it light! A younger child could laugh and say, “Silly, you’re not my teacher!” Older kids might respond with, “Homeschooling means I don’t have to take pop quizzes anymore!”

Remember that people with concerns about homeschooling usually speak from a place of caring. Respond gently and compassionately. If they persist in challenging you about homeschooling, consider turning it around and asking them to tell you more about their children’s education or their own experiences in school. They may just want to make sure you hear their side of things.

With time, patience, and practice, you’ll become adept at responding to questions from people who comment critically about your homeschooling. Acknowledge their perspectives, thank them for sharing, and move the conversation along. In time, they may surprise you with their support and approval.

Photo credit: Shelley Schmidt (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo credit: Shelley Schmidt
(Oak Meadow Archives)

 

Adjusting to Homeschooling Mid-Year

Making the decision to switch gears and begin homeschooling partway through the school year takes courage and faith. Whatever you were doing before wasn’t working, and whatever you are beginning hasn’t had time to feel routine yet. Here are ten suggestions to ease the way, whether you’re homeschooling independently or enrolling in Oak Meadow’s distance-learning program:

  1. Different philosophy; different approach. Students who have been in school have likely become accustomed to an institutional approach where work is prescribed to the class as a whole and the teacher’s attention is divided among many students. Shifting to a creative thinking approach can be challenging for a student who just spent last semester trying very hard to figure out how to succeed in an institutional setting. In contrast, Oak Meadow’s approach is flexible and creative, and homeschooling can often allow for one-on-one support between parent and child. Switching gears to this degree is quite an adjustment and might bring stress or frustration. Be understanding and acknowledge those differences as needed.
  1. Commit to riding out the transition. There is a progression in learning as your child adjusts, but it may take a few weeks or more to be able to look back and clearly see the progression. Don’t expect to see results right away. Trust the process and really commit fully to seeing it through for six weeks or so before you assess whether it is working for your child. Learning really does take place, even if it might not feel that way in the moment, and a few weeks’ perspective can make all the difference in understanding.

    Photo credit: Cindie Young (Oak Meadow Archives)
    Photo credit: Cindie Young
    (Oak Meadow Archives)
  1. Go easy on yourself and your child. You’ve just left behind an educational environment that wasn’t working for some reason, and now you’ve switched to an entirely different approach. During this adjustment phase, don’t get too caught up in whether every single item was done properly in each lesson. What’s the main concept or what are the key skills being addressed? What is most important for your child to grasp before moving on to the next lesson? Make that your focus, and give everyone points for effort as you navigate this new way of learning. Students beginning mid-year may need to go back to previous lessons if they aren’t understanding something in the current lesson.
  1. Consider downshifting or deschooling. Your child might need to ease into the new model slowly, and some children, particularly those who experienced trauma in their previous school experience, will benefit from a period of “deschooling.” This can be like an extended vacation from school, with plenty of nourishing rest, time to daydream, healthy activities of the child’s choosing, and supported emotional processing. It can be very helpful for some students to have a buffer like this between leaving their old school and beginning homeschooling. Often they will let you know when they are ready to jump back in again.

    Photo credit: Kim Bessent (Oak Meadow Archives)
    Photo credit: Kim Bessent
    (Oak Meadow Archives)
  1. Keep good boundaries with those in your life who resist the idea of homeschooling. Even well-meaning loved ones can undermine confidence by demanding evidence or reassurance that your new educational plan is “working.” It is fine to say things are going well without elaborating. Let your child know that you will be keeping his or her educational details private. This allows your child to relax and focus on learning without worrying about what the relatives or neighbors might be thinking.
  1. Structure and support are key. Set up a solid daily and weekly routine as a starting point. You may need to adjust it many times, but begin with a strong plan. It is easy to get sidetracked, so do your best to stick to the plan. Set aside focused time each day for academic work. Find a good place to work with your child where you can both be comfortable. If you are feeling overwhelmed, consider consulting with one of Oak Meadow’s experienced teachers, enrolling in our distance-learning program, using a tutor, or asking an experienced friend for help.
  1. Be resourceful and independent. Reach out to others. Make friends with your local librarian; it’s a great way to find out what resources are available and connect with other homeschooling families or groups in the area. Explore online resources. Oak Meadow’s social media offerings are a good place to start. Our Pinterest boards offer many inspiring hands-on ideas, and Facebook is a great place to connect with other homeschooling parents and find validation for this journey. There are many online groups for homeschooling parents. Seek support from like-minded people wherever you find it.

    Photo credit: Brenda Massei (Oak Meadow Archives)
    Photo credit: Brenda Massei
    (Oak Meadow Archives)
  1. Go outside! Oak Meadow’s organic approach to learning encourages families to learn out in the world. This means spending plenty of time outside in nature and interacting with others in your local neighborhood or community. Fresh air and the soothing sights and sounds of nature are a good antidote for stress of any kind, including the positive stress of the important transition from school to homeschool. Schools tend to be very social places, and you will want to be mindful of how your child’s needs for social interaction are met while homeschooling. You might find this benefits you as well as your child.
  1. Be patient. It takes a few weeks or more to settle in. It will be a little while before you get your bearings and find a good rhythm for your homeschooling days and weeks. Don’t panic! It’s okay if things aren’t perfect. There is a lot to be learned from trial and error. Have fun with the process!

    Photo credit: Ruby Enge (Oak Meadow Archives)
    Photo credit: Ruby Enge
    (Oak Meadow Archives)
  1. Trust yourself. Remember that you are the expert on your own child. The decision to begin homeschooling was made in response to something your child or family needed enough to warrant such a significant change. Why did you choose homeschooling? Remind yourself of these reasons often. Continue to nurture your connection with your child, especially during this vulnerable time when he or she is weathering such a big transition. And remember to take good care of yourself as you adapt to your role as home teacher.

Do you have experience with switching to homeschooling mid-year? What was your experience like? What insights and suggestions would have been most helpful to hear during that time? If you’re going through it right now, what do you most want to know? Please comment with your thoughts so that others might benefit!

What is Distance Learning?

This week is National Distance Learning Week. Oak Meadow has been a resource for independent homeschooling families for 40 years, but did you know that Oak Meadow is also a distance learning school?

Photo credit: Sarah Justice. (Oak Meadow archives.)
Photo credit: Sarah Justice.
(Oak Meadow archives.)

Distance Learning at Oak Meadow means that enrolled students (and parents) have an ongoing relationship with one or more experienced Oak Meadow teachers, who guide them through the year. On a regular basis, students are expected to submit academic work to their teacher, who provides feedback, evaluation, and support for their progress through the year’s lessons.

Most teachers and students do not meet in person, but they get to know each other well through letters, photos, emails, phone conversations, and video calls. Some families choose to travel to Oak Meadow’s yearly Open House, where they have the opportunity to meet with faculty and staff in person. Distance learning allows teachers to work easily with students around the world.

Oak Meadow encourages independent thinking through supported learning. Oak Meadow parents (and sometimes other caregivers) are essential in their role of home teacher. Success with Oak Meadow requires the loving involvement and support of a home teacher. Students may work independently according to their ability, while the home teacher is present and available to help support the student in his or her learning.

The home teacher is also the critical link between Oak Meadow teachers and their students, especially in the elementary grades. It is essential for parents to communicate well with the Oak Meadow teacher about the student’s needs throughout the year. With good communication that fosters a clear understanding of the student’s needs, Oak Meadow teachers can adapt curriculum and assignment expectations to better fit an individual student’s strengths and weaknesses.

It is the home teacher’s responsibility to maintain an ongoing connection with the Oak Meadow teacher and ensure that work is submitted on time. Home teachers work closely with their children to help them stay organized, understand their lessons, complete work within the expected time frame, and understand and incorporate their Oak Meadow teacher’s feedback.

In the elementary grades, students work with one teacher for all subjects, and it is often possible to remain with the same teacher for multiple years. In high school, Oak Meadow teachers specialize by subject but often collaborate to understand the most effective approach for students they have in common. Oak Meadow teachers get to know their students well through their interactions with the student, the parent, and Oak Meadow staff and faculty who have had interactions with the family.

Oak Meadow is an internationally accredited distance learning institution and provides full academic credit to enrolled students. We have a full-time registrar who ensures that all records are complete and meet current standards. Our students receive academic transcripts and can earn a high school diploma from Oak Meadow School. Thorough documentation of our rigorous program has helped many of our distance learning students make the transition to more traditional secondary and/or post-secondary schools.

In some areas, homeschoolers struggle to satisfy strict state requirements regarding the content and/or delivery of education. In more locales, enrollment in an accredited distance learning school is accepted as the educational equivalent of independent or private school enrollment, making it easier to file the necessary documentation for homeschooling. (Check with your local school district or Department of Education for more information on the requirements that apply to your situation.)

Oak Meadow’s faculty and staff meet regularly and work together to ensure that all enrolled families’ needs are being met as well as possible. Our enrolled high school students enjoy the benefits of our staff guidance counselor, Keri Arsenault, who is available for support services. We also have a college counseling program for students who are interested in pursuing post-secondary education.

The structure, connection, and support provided by Oak Meadow’s distance learning program make learning at home possible for some students and families who might not otherwise homeschool. Distance learning with Oak Meadow allows families to enjoy a highly-regarded, accredited education with the help of supportive teachers — at home or on the road.

Organizing Your Homeschool Day – Part II

In Part I, we explored some essentials to include in your homeschool routine. Here we take a look at some ways to approach ongoing planning and create a helpful academic routine.

Planning

With household and family routines and the less flexible activities in place in your schedule (even tentatively), the next step is to make regular time for academic planning.

Photo credit: Lucy Enge. (Oak Meadow archives.)
Photo credit: Lucy Enge.
(Oak Meadow archives.)

Some parents prepare their academic plan monthly or even yearly, but it is important to revisit it regularly and to include your child in the process. Set aside a dedicated time each week to look over your homeschooling materials and curriculum and figure out what needs to be accomplished in the coming week. Make a list of materials needed and gather them together. Set things up so that you feel as prepared as possible before the week begins.

As children get older, consider sitting down with them once a week to look at the coming week’s plan and discuss what needs to happen and when. Sometimes our children have insights into their own habits and capabilities that will help ensure a successful plan. In time, students who are in the habit of a weekly planning session may be able to manage it on their own, or at least begin a to-do list themselves before finalizing it with a parent.

Visual tools can be very helpful. Some families create a weekly assignment sheet with checkboxes so that each student can easily see what needs to be done and mark things off as they are completed. For others, a large chalkboard or whiteboard is the best tool for listing daily or weekly assignments, along with reminders of other important weekly responsibilities or events.

Preparing your schedule is like laying out a custom patchwork quilt. Continue moving the pieces around until they fit together just right. Over time you’ll hone and create a good flow for each day.

Academics

When the fundamentals are in place in your schedule, and you’ve included time for planning and outside activities, it’s time to work out in detail how academic time will be spent.

Identify regular times for focusing on academic learning and practice. It may take some trial and error to figure out how much time you need to block off for academics in each day or week. If you are unsure, start by reserving more time than you think you need, particularly if you’re still figuring out each family member’s inner rhythm.

Photo credit: The Ross family. (Oak Meadow archives.)
Photo credit: The Ross family.
(Oak Meadow archives.)

In the younger grades (K-3), many families start their day with Circle Time. This can become a wonderful ritual that everyone looks forward to. It is an opportunity for sharing a verse, poem, song, or story as a family. Some families also integrate yoga, dance, a thought question, or the cultivation of gratitude. Circle Time can be as long or as brief as your child can tolerate – just long enough to be a positive experience. If it’s not working well, change it!

For older children who have outgrown the concept of Circle Time, devise another way to connect each morning. Use that opportunity to discuss the plan for the day. This might be as simple as chatting over breakfast or checking in with each other en route to a scheduled morning activity. Make it a point to touch base with your child in some way each morning to go over the day’s plan and affirm your connection with each other.

Each Oak Meadow curriculum lesson is designed to be completed over the course of one week and contains an assignment summary in each subject, which can be used to create a checklist for each lesson.

Some families choose to do something in every subject every day. Other families prefer to use block scheduling, focusing exclusively on one or two subjects for a day or more at a time, or “loop scheduling,” where you attend to subjects one by one in a chosen order, returning to the top of the list once you’ve completed the loop. You can read more about these different approaches here. You might come up with another approach that will work even better for your child.

Consider how long your child can focus before he or she needs a break. Students and parents both benefit from the opportunity to switch gears when needed. Academics can be strategically woven around active play and down time to make learning time as efficient as possible.

If you believe you will need more time for academics than you have in your schedule, consider ways to multitask. Depending on the ages and abilities of your children, you may be able to overlap different kinds of activities.

Photo credit: Lindsey Obliskey. (Oak Meadow archives.)
Photo credit: Lindsey Obliskey.
(Oak Meadow archives.)

For example, you might have a period of time during which a child is working on academics in the kitchen while you prepare a meal. Or you might have a focused academic session with an older child while a younger one naps. If you have multiple children with various needs, consider engaging extra hands — a neighbor, grandparent, or friend — to help you succeed.

One of the great joys of homeschooling is having the opportunity to follow a custom-fit schedule. There are many good possible ways to organize your homeschool time, so go ahead, make a plan, and give it a try. Do the best you can, allow for flexibility where needed, and trust in the process. You’ll soon figure out what works best for your family!

Homeschool Rhythms

1f92e050d1d92acc194774307894663acWhat do you think of when you hear the term, homeschool rhythms? It could mean many things, but for each family, the homeschooling rhythms will be unique as they segue into personal school lessons and extracurricular activities. As you establish a rhythm for your family, keep in mind that it should never be a burden, nor end up as a forced schedule. It is meant to be a sequence of simple activities that is beneficial and frees the home teacher from constant decision making. The most significant goal in creating a homeschool rhythm is to use it as an aid in bringing quality to your family life.

Rhythms within each day, week, month, season, and year are an important aspect of the homeschooling family. The daily rhythm could be as simple as doing morning chores, eating breakfast and engaging in circle time activities before diving into schoolwork; taking a daily walk after lunch, before beginning the afternoon lessons; setting the table and helping with dinner preparations; and settling in for the evening and reading a chapter book together as a family. Weekly rhythms could consist of painting on Mondays, baking bread on Tuesdays, visiting extended family or friends on Wednesdays, enjoying family game night on Thursdays, and helping to clean the house on Fridays. 15037919424_1f629f7f2a_oThe monthly rhythm might include taking a full moon walk with the family or choosing a specific day each month to do a service for others in need. The yearly rhythm might focus on seasonal festivals, holidays, birthdays and other special events. Perhaps your family enjoys sharing seasonal poetry or songs together, or reading stories and books that correlate with the yearly holidays and festivals.

As a homeschooling family, it’s important to live fully in the moment. However, maintaining a balance between the present moment and the scheduled activities is the key to a vibrant and healthy family life. An essential part of this balance exists between active and quiet times. It offers times alone and times to share with others. It also provides times to focus on the family, as well as work at building community with other families and community members who share similar values.

13172heart of learningThere is so much valuable information that has been shared on the In the Meadow blog regarding rhythms and homeschooling. In Amanda Witman’s most recent post, she referred to an article on her Part One post of “Organizing Your Homeschool Day”, called “Rhythms, Routines & Rituals”. This post referred you to another previous article (written by Liz Gardner), “How Do We Create a Rhythm That Works For Everyone?”. If you would like to read even more about homeschool rhythms, Part One and Part Two of “Crafting Your Homeschooling Rhythm”, written by former Oak Meadow teacher Amy Fredland, shares some incredibly insightful ideas and invaluable suggestions on the subject. To learn more about the rhythm of the learning process, I also highly recommend reading The Heart of Learning (particularly chapter seven on “Rhythm and Learning: Expansion and Contraction”), written by Oak Meadow founder Lawrence Williams. 

Let us know:

What homeschool rhythms do you like to share with your family?