A Day to Remember: Memorial Day

Memorial Day, celebrated in the United States on the last Monday of May, is a day in which we honor those men and women (and service dogs) 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 “Decoration 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.



  “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!



“The 2016 December solstice will come on the 21st at 10:44 UTC. That’s 4:44 a.m. on December 21, for those in the central time zone in North America. It’s when the sun reaches its southernmost point for the year. This solstice marks the beginning of the winter season in the Northern Hemisphere, and the start of the summer season in the Southern Hemisphere. And, no matter where you are on Earth, it marks the beginning of your shortest season.” http://earthsky.org/tonight/years-shortest-season-starts-with-december-solstice

Best wishes for a happy and healthy winter or summer season wherever you are on Earth!

The Thanksgiving Holiday

Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way. 

Native American saying

For those of you who celebrate the upcoming holiday… Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is a thumbprint in history which offers a vast pool of historical information that dates to the beginning of our nation and continues on today with well established traditions that are embraced with thankfulness and gratitude.

If you would like to sharpen your knowledge of this holiday, History.com presents a family friendly educational “Bet You Didn’t Know” video on the history and timeline of significant events surrounding Thanksgiving. You might also have fun testing your knowledge with an eleven question Thanksgiving quiz.

We can feast, we can be merry, and we can enjoy the full company of family and friends. Giving thanks is the most cherished part of this holiday event. A recent “Family Education” article offered a family Thanksgiving activity, “Pass the Talking Fork!”, which allows everyone the opportunity to express their thanks.

A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues. Cicero

Tyrannosaurus Rex, the Velociraptors, and Turkeys? HUH?


I’ve been thinking a lot about turkeys lately! If you are in the United States, you might be celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday. It is a celebration of thanks commemorating the first harvest feast the Pilgrims had in 1621. Today families often gather to have a big feast of foods and that meal might include a roasted turkey.  So, I’ve been thinking about turkeys.

One of my first thoughts led me to wonder where the word “turkey” originated. Why are they called turkeys? An article in the Atlantic Monthly had a good explanation. You can read it here. I was pretty surprised to find that the origin of the word is debated by etymology experts.

Then I was wondering if turkeys can really fly and I started to investigate. Sure enough, they can fly! This investigation led me to thinking about the wishbone in the turkey at our family Thanksgiving celebration. It’s the “wishbone” that is the bone that connects the wings of birds allowing them to fly.

So what do Tyrannosaurus Rex, the Velociraptors, and turkeys all have in common?  I was amazed to find out that many dinosaurs, including the newly found “Mud Dragon” had wishbones. Yep! The wishbone is actually called the “furcula” and is found in birds and in DINOSAURS!

Next time you eat a turkey and find the furcula, remember that scientists have found that the wishbone dates back more than 150 million years!


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.


As the New Year Begins…

Close your eyes and take a deep, slow breath in. Now gently exhale.

Take a moment to reflect on how far you’ve come on this journey.

Photo credit: Brenda Massei (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo credit: Brenda Massei
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Think about this past year. What growth opportunities did the year offer up, for yourself or your child? What have you or your child learned to do that stumped you or seemed impossible just one year ago? Did anything happen that you could not possibly have predicted?

Last year at this time, what were your biggest parenting concerns? Were you grappling with decisions about how best to support your child’s needs? Was your confidence about your educational path strong, or was it faltering? Were you puzzling out the logistics of the components your life and experimenting with the best fit for yourself and your child? Or were things falling easily into place?

Photo credit: Charlie Siegel (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo credit: Charlie Siegel
(Oak Meadow Archives)

What twists and turns has your family’s path taken over the past year? What discoveries have you made?

What things were going smoothly at the start of last year? Have they continued to go well? Were you at a point where your hard work seemed to be making a difference, or were you just beginning a new leg of the journey? Were there challenges ahead that you had not yet encountered?

Now think about how those same things are going now as you begin the new year. What challenges do you anticipate in the months ahead?

What do you wish you had known a year ago? If you could go back in time and talk with the person you were then, what would you tell them about what lies ahead? Would you offer reassurance? Would you be able to give them some insights to save time and energy and heartache by making a different choice?

Photo credit: Vanessa Rappolt (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo credit: Vanessa Rappolt
(Oak Meadow Archives)

What did you learn about yourself this past year? Did you find that you are more courageous and capable than you realized? Did you become aware of weaknesses in a way that opened up possibilities for new and perhaps better ways of managing things? What challenges have you been able to turn into growth opportunities?

What did you learn about your child? Were you surprised, delighted, frustrated by anything you discovered over the course of the year? Did you become aware of weaknesses that need to be addressed or strengths that can be celebrated? Who is this older child that he or she is becoming? In what ways do you think your child might grow between now and the end of the next year?

What are your hopes and wishes for the year ahead? What are your fears? If you could talk with the person you will be in one year, what do you hope he or she might say to reassure you?

Now take another deep breath in. Exhale gently.

Photo credit: Adam Hall (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo credit: Adam Hall
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Tell yourself what a good job you’ve done over this past year. The year was not perfect, but no year is. Affirm the ways in which you honored your child and yourself through some of the choices you made. Acknowledge the challenges you faced with courage, the things you weren’t expecting that showed up anyway, the personal marathons you bravely ran without knowing for sure where they would end. Give yourself credit for excellent effort, a job well done, and a life well lived.

You have made another year’s worth of progress on your journey. Celebrate the satisfaction of that accomplishment!

Now take one more deep breath…

…and face the new year’s journey.

Crafting with Children at the Holidays

Photo credit: Amanda Witman (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo credit: Amanda Witman
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Holidays offer such a wonderful opportunity for crafting and creating. Thoughtfully handmade decorations and gifts always seem to have a willing recipient or admirer. There is something special about creating something that will be seen and enjoyed by others. Whether you are someone for whom crafting comes naturally, or someone who wants to find a way to make more creative opportunities for your children, there are many ways to weave crafts and activities into the holiday season.

Some of us are naturally inclined to such projects and craft with our children as easily as we read to them or engage them in other daily tasks. But some of us have a harder time with it. Here are some ideas for crafters old and new.


Start by amassing some basic craft supplies in seasonally appropriate colors. If you are decorating for Christmas, you might choose red and green. If you celebrate Hanukkah, blue and white might be more appropriate. Or maybe you love the idea of pastel snowflakes for winter. For Halloween, orange and black. Valentine’s Day, pink and red. Silver and gold add nice sparkle to any holiday. Whatever the holiday might be, a general color theme helps to unify even the most wildly divergent pieces of homemade art.

Provide open-ended craft supplies in the best quality you can afford. Offer construction paper and cardstock, beeswax crayons, colored pencils, and paints. Keep scissors, tape, and glue or paste handy. You might find it helpful to make a straightedge and a hole punch available. Other interesting things to offer could be collections of buttons, bits of ribbon and yarn, magnets to be reused, scraps for collages, googly eyes, beads, pipe cleaners, or glitter. Don’t forget things found in nature, such as feathers, pine cones, shells, nuts, acorns, twigs, etc. Fabric scraps in various colors and patterns, pieces of ribbon, and other colorful “bits and bobs” can be good seeds for creativity. A plastic tablecloth or some newspaper to keep the table safe from glue and paint is also a very helpful thing.

Photo credit: Colleen Bak (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo credit: Colleen Bak
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Lay out some piles of paper and some crayons or pencils in the color of the current season or holiday, and see what your child makes of it. Start out with just a small offering of supplies so as not to overwhelm anyone. Be present to supervise and provide support when it is warranted. “Mom, do we have any glue?” “I need some scissors!” “Can I stick buttons on this?” “I can’t cut this by myself!” You will know what they need because they will ask for it.

You might be surprised at how creative your children can be when they’re given free rein with materials that feel good in the hands and are attractive to the eye. If they ask you, “What should I make,” turn it back to them with, “That’s your job to figure out. What do you think would be good to make with these things?” If they need a little help getting started, sit down with them and start sifting through the materials. Once they get going, they may not even notice when you quietly leave the table.


How do you decorate your home at the holidays? Do you have flexibility built into your expectations of how your house should look? With homeschoolers in the house and perhaps younger children at home as well, the reality probably looks nothing like minimalist magazine photos and Pinterest pins. Don’t let that bother you! Let your home reflect the people who live there.

Photo credit: Amanda Witman (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo credit: Amanda Witman
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Start your child off with some appealing materials in seasonally appropriate colors, take some time to review holiday themes and concepts, and give them your approval to create whatever they feel moved to create in honor of the season. It doesn’t have to be complicated: Providing young children with strips of colored paper, tape or a stapler, and some instruction can easily result in the longest paper chain imaginable. It can also help develop fine-motor skills and bring a lasting sense of pride when the project is done and hung up for all to see.

Now comes the fun part — deck(orate) the halls! Get some removable double-sided tape or adhesive putty. If your children are happy to help, ask them what should go where. If their art is somewhat difficult to interpret, let them help you make labels so you can explain each piece to others. If you are faced with a mile-long paper chain, decide together where to drape and stick it, and consider dividing it into smaller lengths if the maker is willing. Then invite some friends over to your “gallery” and enjoy the festive atmosphere.


Another wonderful way to encourage and showcase children’s creativity at the holidays is to have them create handmade cards that can be sent to friends and relatives. Some children enjoy mass-producing holiday-themed art, and what better way to honor it than to give it to others who will appreciate it? Make sure you have the artist’s permission first.

Photo credit: Amanda Witman (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo credit: Amanda Witman
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Start with plain cardstock, either whole or cut in half lengthwise, and fold it in half. For children who often tend to “mess up and start again,” you could cut pieces of regular paper and give them a stack of these to create their artwork on; the ones that meet their approval can later be pasted onto the fronts of the folded cardstock cards.

You can purchase rubber stamps with a variety of holiday greetings to add a polished touch to the inside of the card, or encourage your child to practice writing a holiday-appropriate greeting or a short poem. Also have them put their name or initials on the back of each card along with the year. Consider including a photo and a personal note. Recipients often will treasure handmade cards for many years.


Homemade gifts do not have to be complicated. What could we make with the things we have at hand? Invite your children to invent some possible ideas for gifts. They could even create a made-up “invention” for each recipient and write or dictate a story to go along with it.

Talk also about what each person on your list might like to receive that your child could make. You might find, as I have, that one or more of your children has a flair for crafting that far surpasses your own. Among other treasures, I have received (at various times) an embroidered pillow, a full-length skirt, a walnut shell baby, and a sleep mask from an enterprising child who had a clever idea and some materials at hand.

If you or your child need an outside source of ideas, Oak Meadow’s Pinterest boards contain links to ideas and instructions for many fun, wholesome crafts. You might find that just looking through some of these possibilities gives rise to a new creative craft that you can make with materials you have at hand.

You might be impressed with what your children create when given materials and encouragement! But at the end of the day, if all you end up with is a collage of paper scraps and bits, don’t fret. Just smile, hang it up on the wall, and enjoy the way it authentically reflects your child’s creativity. Happy holidays!

Winter Reading

Books have a life of their own

and are born in the mind

and given birth to by a writer

into its full-grown life as a book.

Louise Moeri

Photo credit: The Cassell Family (Oak Meadow archives)
Photo credit: The Cassell Family (Oak Meadow archives)

For those of us who live in the northern hemisphere, the season of winter is fast approaching. It is the perfect time to nestle in and share additional reading time with your children. Your choice of books could even be centered around the theme of holidays and wintertime.

When my children were in their elementary age level of learning, one of my favorite books to read aloud during this time of year was Star Mother’s Youngest Childwritten by Louise Moeri and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. Another favorite was Vivian French’s abridged version of the Charles Dickens story, A Christmas Carolbeautifully illustrated by Patrick Benson. However, there is a wide assortment of both unabridged and abridged books of this classic for children. At this time of year, your local library will most likely feature several selections from which you can choose.

If your weather is too inclement for traveling or your library is closed for the holidays, the StarWalk KidsMedia site offers a lovely selection of holiday and winter-themed ebooks. Reading books together on a cold winter’s night might just be the perfect way to bid adieu to the old year and ring in the new year!


Shedding the Schedule Shackles

1Mama in the stocks

It’s that time of year when many home teachers feel overtaxed in balancing home schooling with holiday events and activities. Oak Meadow’s K-8 teacher, Michelle Menegaz, shares whimsical words on beating the over-scheduled blues. So read on… and don’t get shackled by your homeschool schedule!


Ever feel shackled by the stockade of your child’s schedule? Do you feel locked up by all the appointments and lessons and experiences you so lovingly planned? Has the sweet scent of the spicy and free autumn air been replaced by the smell of your car’s heater? Do you wonder if you have traded the freedom of homeschooling for the incarceration of enrichment? Are you becoming a prisoner of your own choices?

I have. I do. I am!

So, well, hmmmm…how interesting. What to do? You could just blog about it and present some answers you have no intention or ability to implement. You could revamp your entire curriculum, choose a different path, or just decide that you might as well send the kid to school since you are tied to the school schedule with all those after school lessons anyway. You could just accept it and carry on.

Or…you could try this. Slow down. I did not say give up your activities (though that would be the logical, but not pain-free choice) and stay home.

Just slow down. Take longer over the basics. Remember when parenting was about feeding, comforting, and wiping…lots and lots of wiping? Guess what – it still is. If you can find even one or two times a day to sink more deeply into cooking breakfast with your child at your side, or ponder the weather with your children as they careen around the kitchen, or wipe with purpose and pride while deftly handing your child a rag so he can wipe pridefully, too, you may find that time actually ssssstttttrrrrrretttttches a bit. Just a bit, but in that short sweet moment, you may catch a whiff of holiday spice. Breathe it in and savor it before you rush off to whatever is next. There is magic and power in that small piece of time, which can sweeten the rest of the day.

Do this as often as you remember, but not more.