The Late-Awakened Heart

So I’m reading The Heart of Learning and love it, but I’m also left with a feeling of failure. I feel like I failed my 9 and 5 year olds. My 1.5 year old, too, but I still have time with her. Anyone ever feel like this?

Can you relate?

On your way to a heart-centered approach to learning, has the journey has been long and complicated? Have you have spent years trying different approaches to parenting and/or education before finding one that really feels right? Have the many twists and turns left you, and perhaps your children, feeling frustrated and exhausted?

Photo Credit: Yoko Hirano
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Start by giving yourself credit for where you are and how you’ve gotten there! You’ve worked hard to navigate the complicated path of parenting. You’ve followed your heart to the place where you are now. Your children benefit from your courage when you open your family to new possibilities. You are not failing — you are succeeding!

It’s never too late to adapt your parenting style in response to new ideas and inspiration. Even partway through childhood, your child continues to benefit from your growing confidence and experience. Parenting skills evolve over time. When your first child arrived, you had no choice but to learn on your feet. Maybe later you had other children whose needs were nothing like your first, which meant you needed to develop new tools.

You tried whatever came to you along the way. Perhaps you followed the model of other parents, the suggestions of relatives, or the advice of professionals. Or maybe you stayed with what felt familiar and made choices similar to those your own parents made. You made use of the resources you had and made the most of whatever was available at the time.

Photo Credit: Lacey Grim
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Maybe those approaches worked, at least for awhile, or maybe they taught you that your child needed something else. Or maybe your instincts were tugging at you to take a different path from the start. Every parent has had the experiences of making a choice that turned out to be less than perfect. Every child is unique, and it can take several tries to figure out how best to meet a particular child’s needs during a particular phase or circumstance.

Even when you’ve discovered an approach that feels like the perfect fit, you may have mixed feelings about switching gears – and your child might, too. Here are some suggestions for navigating this transition:

Explain the changes. One of the most valuable things we can do for our children is to model what it means to be a lifelong learner. If you are making a change that your child will notice and wonder about, affirm their experience and share your reasons for moving in a new direction. If you feel regret that your older children did not benefit sooner from such a shift, acknowledge this, but also make sure they know you tried your best given the information and support you had at the time. Let them know that everyone can learn from their experiences.

Include your child in the process. If a big change is in the works, such as a switch from public school to home learning, ask your children what matters to them. Give their input careful consideration and let them know that their opinions and insights are important to you. Do your best to foster and maintain connection with your children, especially if your earlier approach was less connection-oriented.

Photo Credit: Litteken Family
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Take good care of yourself and one another. Remember that significant transitions can be stressful even when the result will be positive and healthy. Find ways to create and maintain balance for yourself and your children. Spending time in nature can be restorative and healing for the whole family. Finding and following a rhythm in your days and weeks can help keep everyone grounded, especially when new adventures are beginning. Stay present with your child; you are on this journey together.

Take time to feel. If you need to grieve the way things might have been, give yourself (and your child) space for that important process. Be gentle with yourself and allow the transformation in your life the time it deserves.

Acknowledge growth. Your journey will not be like anyone else’s – embrace its unique lessons and gifts.

Remember that the heart is at the center of the parenting journey. It awakens to new ideas in its own time. You can trust that your heart is leading you well. You can do this!

 

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

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

  “Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”

by Shel Silverstein

May the New Year bring you happiness!

 

Exploring Science through Illustrations

“A natural science illustrator is an artist who works in the service of science, creating images of animals, objects and complex processes that teach, inform, and create understanding of our world.” Guild of Natural Science Illustrators: https://www.gnsi.org/

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From the Oak Meadow Archives

I’ve become fascinated with the illustrations my Oak Meadow students did this year in conjunction with their science lessons. Many were exceptional in the intricate details of the drawings and I could tell that a lot of effort, time, and research was put into them. In the 7th grade Earth Science, a student researched the structure of a leaf, found which part was responsible for transpiration, and drew a diagram of the leaf showing the process. Another student created an illustration of the ecosystem in which she lives that included the various habitats within her ecosystem. In 8th grade Physics I am continually amazed with the details students include in their sketches of wet cell batteries! In the study of color, 8th graders discover the shortest and longest wavelength of the colors of the rainbow and I receive the most beautifully illustrated and colored rainbows! Through artistic exercises students clearly depict scientific concepts in their intricate drawings.

As you explore and observe the natural world around you, take some time to illustrate what you see! It can become a most wonderful pastime, or even a career! The website of The Guild of Natural Science Illustrators explains: “The principle task of the scientific illustrator is to prepare accurate renderings of scientific subjects. These illustrations are designed for reproduction in professional or popular journals in the field of natural sciences, textbooks, as museum exhibits, web sites, and many other applications. Scientific illustrations in both traditional and digital formats provide a visual explanation and aid the viewer by clarifying complex descriptive information. The function of a scientific illustration, therefore, is essentially a practical one: to inform, to explain, and to instruct — in short, to communicate.”

 Below is a wonderful example of a scientific subject illustrated and then put into digital format. ENJOY the Metamorphosis of the Butterfly from http://artorium.com/:

http://www.metamorphosis.urban-parks.org/

Summertime Poetry Challenge!

A Summer Challenge! (For my Northern Hemisphere Friends!)

When I was in kindergarten, my school had one requirement in order to move on to first grade. Each child had to memorize ten nursery rhymes before “graduating” from kindergarten! I recall that this wasn’t such a hard thing for me to do since I delighted in the joy and rhythm of the nursery rhymes. Little did I know that not only was I enjoying the beautiful rhythmical patterns, but I was also building my memorization skills, my vocabulary, and my language comprehension skills at a very young age.

Memorizing a poem can just be so satisfying! The poem’s lines can come to you when you least expect it. Just this spring I saw a group of daffodils and the lines of William Wordsworth’s poem, “I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud” sprang into my mind:

“I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze”

And truly, when geese fly overhead in the autumn at my house, I quickly say the first lines of Rachel Field’s poem “Something Told The Wild Geese”:

Something told the wild geese
It was time to go,
Though the fields lay golden
Something whispered, “snow.”

This summer, why not challenge yourself to memorize at least 6 poems? (You might also enjoy memorizing the lyrics to favorite songs!) You can choose some of your own liking, or try the ones listed on the Mensa For Kids website. There are 12 poems listed there and each one has an explanation of the idea of the poem, definition of specific vocabulary words in the poem, and then great ideas to help you memorize the poem more easily.

The National Moment of Remembrance

imagesMemorial Day, celebrated in the United States on the last Monday of May, is a day in which we honor those people that died while serving the country in the United States armed services. The day actually started as a way to commemorate those that died during the U.S. Civil War. In 1868 it was established and it was called images-1Decoration Day. At that time it was on May 30th and was a day to decorate the graves of those that died in the Civil War. In 1967 Memorial Day became a national holiday. In 1971 the holiday was moved to the last Monday in May. On the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs website, it states: “In December 2000, the U.S. Congress passed and the president signed into law “The National Moment of Remembrance Act,” P.L. 106-579, creating the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance.” The law actually requires that U.S. citizens pause, for one minute at 3:00 p.m. on Memorial Day, and honor those that have died in service to our country.

 

Getting Involved by Volunteering

“Those who can, do.

Those who can do more, volunteer.”

~Author Unknown

This week our blog post is written by Abigail Wilson-Kageni. She’s been doing some very special volunteer work in her hometown of York, Pennsylvania and her Oak Meadow teacher suggested that she spread the word and tell other students about her project. I invited her to contribute to our blog post and I’m delighted that she did!  images-1My name is Abigail Wilson-Kageni and I am a student with Oak Meadow. I live in York, Pennsylvania. I have many interests and the opportunity to express myself creatively through the arts is especially dear to me.
The creative arts are an art form that allows people to express themselves through varying art mediums. Many things can fall under the category of creative arts. Dance, music, poetry, and painting are just a few. It’s been proven that children often do well when schools incorporate the creative arts in their curricula. However, in inner-city schools, budgets are a factor that usually decides if creative arts programs will be included in the annual budget. In most cases, schools in under served areas often fall victim to funding cuts which means the arts is excluded from the curriculum. This leaves students from financially challenged homes at a disadvantage. A variety of creative arts is needed to help students develop a love of learning. It is the inspiring base students need to succeed in school.

When I discovered this, I felt that I wanted all students to be supported and inspired by the opportunity for creative expression. After months of brain storming sessions with my mother, Tiered Innovations Initiative was born. This program has been evolving through different experiences that I have been privileged to part take of. For the past three years I have been a member of TeenSHARP, a college discovery program that meets every Saturday through the school year. I also just completed my tenure as a member of Scholastic Kids Press Corp. I was given the wonderful opportunity of covering Mrs. Michelle Obama and her Let’s Move Campaign at the White House, on two different occasions. I was also a member of El Sistema, a music program in which I spent three hours each day of the week perfecting my skills for playing the violin. It is these opportunities that have helped me to expand my curiosity and love for learning through the years.

This year, on February 24th, I officially launched the program. My local library, Martin Library, which is where I volunteer once a week, hosted the event and the event had a two-fold purpose. A local art store, Prime Art Supply Co, was running an art supply drive to donate city elementary school art materials. I decided to help the owner with this cause by inviting my guests to donate toward the drive. I titled the event ‘Encourage Creative Arts in Our Children’ and asked that our guests bring one item of any art supply to be donated the art drive. Monetary donations were also accepted toward purchasing a projector for one of the schools. It was a great success!
The city’s Mayor, Kim Bracey, was gracious enough to deliver a keynote speech while a noted artist and lecturer, Ophelia Chambliss, spoke about the importance of encouraging the youth to tell a story through their art. We were also celebrating Black History Month and as such, three area poets were on hand to commemorate the African American heritage through poetry recitals.
Tiered Innovations Initiative is a youth program that nurtures teens toward global citizenry through the creative arts. I will be offering workshops, facilitating summer camps, and inviting guests to continue to inspire the youth. I was humbled that people came out to support my efforts. I am delighted and excited for the good things that are ahead of me.

 

Ellis Island

New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The sonnet written by Emma Lazarus that is on the base of the Statue of Liberty

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about immigrants. In the 8th grade Civics course with Oak Meadow you will study about the early immigrants that came to the United States to have freedom from political oppression and a new life of opportunity. People from other countries have been coming to the United States since its founding and in the beginning there were no laws or regulations about who could come. People of all nations were welcomed. Immigrants brought farm workers to work the soil, artists and craftsmen to supply communities with resources previously unavailable, and many special customs. Our experiences tell us that when many people of different cultures gather together to create communities, there may be challenges that arise because of differences. Around 1880, laws were passed preventing people with mental or physical problems from entering the United States. From that time on, many considerations, rules, and laws about foreigners entering the United States have been passed.

Today the United States has very strong immigration laws and policies that impact people wanting to cross our borders and live in the United States. There is a rigid screening process and a strong background check procedure that has been set up to protect our citizens. I feel proud that we have the values of opening our doors to people that are willing to enter the United States and become upright, responsible, and valuable workers and citizens.  Referring to Syrian refugees, in November of 2015, a Senior Administration Official said, “Slamming the door in their face would be a betrayal of our values. Our nation can welcome refugees desperately seeking safety and ensure our own security. I recently read that Iain Levine, Deputy Executive Director for Program at Human Rights Watch said, “Yes, governments need to bring order to refugee processing and weed out militant extremists, but now more than ever they also need to stand with people uprooted from their homes by ideologies of hatred and help them find real protection.”

The New York Library collection of photographs of immigrants that passed through Ellis Island can give one an idea of how many people from so many different cultures and backgrounds found their way to the United States. Perhaps you have a relative that came to the United States. I do! My grandparents came through Ellis Island as farmers from Hungary. They courageously found their way to farm land in New York state and worked hard to become successful cherry farmers. I feel so grateful that they had the opportunity to come into the United States and start a new life!

 

10 Ways to Include Heart in Your Homeschooling

1. Maintain your focus when giving your attention to your child.

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

In today’s world, most of us find our attention divided, scattered in all directions. Giving your full attention to your child is one of the best ways you can support his or her learning.

2. Use humor as much as possible. “Be silly, tell jokes, let your children know you delight in their laughter and smiles!” says Michelle Menegaz, Oak Meadow teacher and homeschooling mother.

3. Understand your child’s individual learning style. What kind of learner is your

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

child? Does he or she process information best in a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic way? Do you have multiple children with different learning styles? Figure out how you can make learning most easily accessible to each child.

4. Establish rhythms that are comfortable for you and your child. Rhythms and routines encourage a predictable and comforting flow to life and learning.

5. Slow down. Allow time for spontaneous discoveries, whim-driven creations, and heartfelt conversations. Remind yourself and your child that life is worth taking time to savor. Homeschooling allows us the flexibility for that, so why not?

6. Practice good self-care. Expect your children to do the same. We are most ready and able to do our job (as parents) and learn new things (as students) when our fundamental needs are well met. Make sure you and your child both have enough sleep, physical activity, healthy nourishment, emotional support, and opportunities for relaxation and rejuvenation.

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

7. Be gentle with your child and yourself. Ride out the challenges with grace and optimism. Understand that some days will be easier than others.

8. Stay sensitive to your child’s perspective. Even wishes that cannot be accommodated can still be validated. Your children may have insights into their own selves that can help you better understand how best to support them on the journey.

9. Do your best and let that be enough. There is no such thing as “perfect”

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

homeschooling! Lead by example as you accept yourself and your shortcomings. Show your child that making mistakes and rising up to try again are essential parts of learning.

10. Let love lead every interaction you have with your child. Let your love for your children be unconditional, so that they are free to explore and experiment as they learn, without fear of rejection. Let your homeschooling journey begin and end with love.

10 Ways to Encourage Creativity in Your Child

As loving parents, we want our children to develop their creative potential. But sometimes we may get stuck in worrying about what our role should be in that process.

Sometimes the most helpful thing we can do is offer a starting point with many possible outcomes and allow the situation to evolve on its own.

Here are ten starting points for encouraging creativity:

  1. Let your children get bored. Do not rescue them from their boredom by giving them something to do; instead, let them rescue themselves. This is one of the best opportunities for a child to be creative! “Know that this means that your child has an opportunity to discover something about what and who they are, what they like to do and can do, and how to manifest ideas into reality,” says Oak Meadow teacher Amy Fredland.
  1. Get outside! Go for a walk or just sit outside and observe. Sometimes the best creative play opportunities arise when there is nothing around but nature. Changing the environment can give us a new perspective on ourselves and all sorts of other things.
  1. Invite your child to tell a story, compose a poem, make up a song, create a play, or invent a dance. Give them your attention when they are ready for an audience. If they ask you for a topic, invite them to come up with one on their own. Make it a family tradition to tell stories, sing songs together, and entertain with funny, made-up jokes.
  1. Consider that freedom follows form. Help your children learn established techniques which they can later experiment with. Help them gain confidence with craft tools and methods. “If we give a child some structure, but not too much, it opens more doors for creative expression,” says Oak Meadow teacher and former homeschooling parent Julia West.
  1. Keep appropriate supplies handy. Got crayons? Cardboard? Paper? Tape? Clay? Paint? String? Scissors? With safety and age-appropriateness in mind, make it easy for children to access materials when the creative urge strikes.
  1. Provide natural and recycled materials on an ongoing basis. The more varied, the better. A jumble of odds and ends can spark a series of creative ideas. What can you make? What can you build? What does this remind you of? What could someone do with this? The stories our children tell and even their most impossible ideas can be as important to their creative development as the things they actually make.
  1. Start creating something and invite your children to join in. Make a card, decorate something, or create art just for the joy of it. Make up a silly song, tell a funny joke, try out a new craft idea. Do you have creative hobbies that you can share with your children? Leading by example is one of the best ways to encourage our children to be courageously creative people.
  1. Allow things to get messy, disorganized, and cluttered. Creativity can be messy. “Don’t allow your need for cleanliness to take over your life! Many of us parents develop a feeling that it’s our job to keep things clean and ‘fight the mess’ continually. You could inadvertently be sending a message that kids are being inconvenient to you by playing or creating art,” says Oak Meadow teacher Sarah Boggia. But at the same time…
  1. …set the stage for clean-up success. Keep a plastic tablecloth, aprons or smocks, and old newspapers in a handy place, and help your children learn to prep and protect the area where they are working. Keep a trash can, a recycling bin, and some rags or paper towels in the area where arts and crafts most often take place. If extra-messy projects make you nervous, consider setting them up outside. It’s okay to encourage a balance between expanding creativity and keeping the cleanup job manageable.
  1. Offer possibilities and let things happen organically. Once your child’s creative juices are flowing, step out of the way. Be quietly available for support if it’s needed, but let them do the rest. If the end result is nothing like you thought it would be, congratulations! You did a great job encouraging your child to own his or her creative process and allow it to be separate from your own.

What are some other ways to foster creativity in yourself and your children?