Hello! Here in New England we have had a good summer and it isn’t over yet! There are still weeks to go in August of lazy summer days and cool nights. Here at Oak Meadow one event we are all looking forward to is the upcoming eclipse on August 21, 2017. The following is a quick blast of great information from DeeDee Hughes, our Oak Meadow colleague:
We are all a little eclipse-crazy here in Corvallis, Oregon since we are in the “zone of totality” for viewing the total solar eclipse on August 21. I did some research and found this cool interactive map that shows the path of eclipses for years to come. I found a page where you can type in a city name and see what the eclipse will look like from there–I couldn’t resist checking out where friends and family members live. It’s fun to compare different places:
Seems like everyone in the country will be seeing something cool. Oh, and this article has good info about the solar eclipse glasses and how to tell if you have safe ones.
I was wondering why the upcoming eclipse is being called “Eclipse of the Century” when they happen all the time, so I dug deeper. A total solar eclipse is different than an annular eclipse, but both have the moon lined up exactly in between Earth and the sun. In an annular eclipse, the moon moves fully in front of the sun but because the moon is further from the Earth at that time, there will be a “ring of fire” seen around the moon, rather than having the moon block the sun entirely the way it does in a total solar eclipse. The difference between an annular and a total solar eclipse is the distance between the moon and Earth. Here’s an article with a cool “ring of fire” photo.
That’s my two cents on cool eclipse fun! DD
I’ll also add that EARTHSKY has a very good “Eclipse Day” checklist for getting ready for viewing. Be prepared, have fun, and enjoy the “Eclipse of the Century” with family and friends!
Take it slow. Resist the urge to speed things up, even if others around you seem to be doubletiming things trying get to summer faster. Even homeschoolers can get a little end-of-the-school-year-itis. Build in some cool, fun activities to balance things out and allow the summer season to unfold when it is ready.
Be flexible. If your homeschooling workload is holding up the start of summer fun for your family, maybe it’s time to revisit your plan and adjust things a bit so that summer doesn’t have to wait until everything is done. You might stretch lessons out over more days to make more time for play, or see if any nonessentials can be cut. The flexibility of home learning can’t be beat!
Reflect on what went well this past year and what you’d like to do differently going forward. How did each person in your family grow this year? What sorts of things were accomplished? What is each person most proud of? What felt like it could have gone better? Take notes so you can remember and incorporate that feedback when planning for next year.
Tidy up your homeschool supplies. Leave them neat and organized so you won’t have to go looking for them in the fall. Retire any supplies that have reached the end of their useful life, and make a list of what needs to be replenished. But don’t pack everything away completely — you never know when your child might suddenly have a creative need for something in that stash!
Stay on top of requirements. If your state or district requires an end-of-year assessment, test, or portfolio, plan ahead so you will meet the deadline. Don’t leave it to the last minute. If things are jumbled and hard to sort through, now is a great time to make a plan for staying organized next year.
Consider making a portfolio with a few representative pieces and/or photos of each student’s work even if your state or district doesn’t require it. Store portfolios together in a waterproof container so you can enjoy looking back on them in future years.
Dream big! What would you and your family most like to explore together in the coming years? Brainstorm all of the things that come to mind. You may not be able to do all of them, but it’s fun to think about possibilities.
Do you still need to submit next year’s enrollment forms to your state, district, charter, or distance learning school? Do you know the deadlines and requirements? Do it now, or at least get forms and information in order so you won’t have to hunt for it when the time comes.
Write your future self a letter. When autumn comes, you might find that your school-year memories have been overwritten with thoughts of summer fun. Have everyone person in the family write or dictate a friendly letter to themselves to open at the start of the next school year. Say something in your letter about what you want most to remember about the past year, along with your dreams for the coming year. You might forget the details over the summer, but those letters will remind you!
“The word ‘philatelist’ means a person who practices philately or stamp collecting. It comes from the French word ‘philatelie’, which was derived from the Greek words ‘philos’, meaning loving, and ‘atelia’, meaning exemption from tax which also came to mean ‘postage is prepaid.’.”
When I was little and traveled with my family, we didn’t have computers for emailing and so we wrote lots of letters to family and friends. We also made a tradition of mailing ourselves letters to our own home! We would go to a post office in a country or town that we were visiting, and purchase a special stamp. (You can ask the post master to show you what stamps he/she has available.) Then, using the stamp, we would mail the letter home to ourselves. It was fun to see the letters and the stamps when we arrived home. I don’t have a very big collection of stamps, but the ones that I do have hold some wonderful memories for me.
This year a really cool stamp is going to be offered! A first of its kind! Some background first:
You may have read that there is going to be a total eclipse of the sun across the United States this summer. (Monday, August 21, 2017.) People from all over the world will be coming to different spots in the United States to witness this solar eclipse.
What does a solar eclipse have to do with a stamp? Well, the Postal Service will be offering a first-of-its-kind stamp! It changes when you touch it! The Postal Service announcement says: “The Total Eclipse of the Sun, Forever® stamp, which commemorates the August 21 eclipse, transforms into an image of the Moon from the heat of a finger.”
You can read the story of how the stamp was designed here.
If you would like to view other stamps that have commemorated eclipses, you can view them here.
So, as you travel to new places, or even stay in your hometown, take a look at the many stamps that the post office has to offer!
“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!
by Deb Velto, K8 Program Director, Oak Meadow School
Summer is a time for rest and rejuvenation, and a time when our schedules often switch from education to relaxation, as families embark on vacations and other fun activities. Some parents wonder if taking a break from academics will cause a gap in their child’s learning. Going on an adventure, whether it’s a local day trip or a week-long vacation, is full of healthy, unstructured opportunities to practice existing skills and build new ones in an informal and fun context. Here are some ways to encourage continued learning while you’re enjoying summer adventures.
Where will you go on your adventure? Why does this place feel important to your family to visit? How will you get there, what will you do when you are there, and what will it cost? Do some research to find out some interesting facts about your destination. Learn about its history and cultural significance. Together, find out about its natural resources or key features of the local landscape, and then have each family member choose one thing to see or do. Even if you can’t do everything, getting the whole family involved in the planning stages lets children flex important brain muscles. What can you learn about this place before you go that will help you appreciate it more when you are there,
Get ready for it
Give children the opportunity to get ready for the trip on their own. What will they bring? How will they pack? If these skills are already a habit for them, perhaps they could help get a younger sibling ready with the items they need, or help gather the items that the family will need as a whole. Involve your child with making shopping or packing lists. Is any special equipment needed on your adventure? If you are going away for several days or more, how do you prepare your home before such a trip?
Use an atlas or other map to plan your trip. Where will you stop for breaks? How long will it take? What cities or towns will you drive through? Are there places of interest that you would like to see? Make a copy of the map and trace your route with a marker or highlighter. Depending on the size of your family, you might need two or three maps. If your child asks, “Are we there yet?” ask them instead, “Where are we now? How far do we have yet to go?”
Talk about it
Many students today are lacking practice with oral communication. The availability of email and texting has reduced the frequency that people communicate through speaking. Days off provide a great opportunity to talk with each other. Travel by car, train, airplane, or boat offers endless hours to talk about plans, experiences, memories, literature, goals, and life in general. Once you arrive at your destination, encourage your children to ask questions. They may enjoy calling up a grandparent or friend and tell them all about your trip once you get home.
Pay for it
Vacations can be a perfect time to practice money skills, when the moment comes to buy food or souvenirs on your journey. Have a younger child practice making change or counting money at a store. Older children might be encouraged to budget a larger amount of money ahead of time for the whole trip and make choices about what they purchase. Offer them the opportunity to interact with the cashier on behalf of the family, growing confidence and social skills while practicing math.
Write about it
Create a family trip journal! Get a blank sketch book to pass around during your travels. It can be a great way to pass the time in the car or pull it out for some relaxed down time once you get where you are going. Draw pictures, tape in small artifacts, and write about your trip together. You will end up with a great keepsake from your trip!
Bring a camera along to document your experiences. Print the pictures once you get home and create a memory book, or add them to your family trip journal. Arrange the pictures chronologically and write captions so you won’t forget the details. Such books are treasures and can be used as a prompt to tell the story of the day over and over. Older children might enjoy making a slideshow or photo montage of the trip.
Vacations can be fun times to collect natural materials or artifacts that might not be available at other times of the year. Bring home some shells, pretty stones, or sea glass from the beach, or some flowers from a hike that can be pressed in your journal. Then, in the winter, pull out these summer reminders to help create holiday gifts or use for other crafts and art projects.
Practice storytelling and memory recall skills by bringing out mementos to show friends and family once you are home again. Use your family trip journal or photo memory book to remind you of fun stories that are worth telling and retelling.
Summer is a welcome break for everyone, and it can also be a time for learning opportunities hidden within a great adventure. So don’t worry that your “break” will lead to a loss of learning, but instead embrace the chance to watch your child grow through the free-spirited atmosphere that summer provides.
School’s out! The kids are home for the summer, and suddenly your world has been turned upside down. How will you survive ten weeks with children home all day?
Homeschooling parents do it year-round. But when you’re not used to having kids home all day, it can certainly feel like a shock to the system. Here are fourteen strategies from homeschoolers to help you get through the summer:
1. Free your children from boredom by encouraging independence. At the start of the summer, ask them to brainstorm a list of things they could try if they get bored. Post it in a handy place. When they complain of boredom, refer them to their list. Create a dog agility course in the backyard! Make a kitty condo by taping boxes together! Set up a cozy reading nook (indoors or out). Build a fort. Learn about ants, find an anthill, and watch them at work. If all else fails, suggest that they lie flat on their backs, look up at the sky or the ceiling, and wait there until a more interesting option comes to them — something always does.
2. Find a new rhythm during the day. If you live where summers are hot, the sun’s pattern may shape your daily rhythm. Spend time outdoors in the morning and late afternoon. During the middle of the day when the temperature is at its peak, do restful activities in the shade or the cool indoors. Evening can be a lovely time for a daily family walk.
3. Let your children follow their own bodies’ individual patterns for sleeping, waking, being active, or resting. Encourage them to listen to how they feel after a late night or an early morning. Challenge them to figure out their own most comfortable daily rhythm and follow it during the summer months, even if the schedule will be less flexible come September.
4. Balance outings with unstructured time at home. During the summer, day camps and other activities can have a big impact on the shape of your days. If your family is extra busy, be sure to make room in your schedule for regular unscheduled time at home as well. If you’re usually at home without much structure, consider designating one or two regular days each week for outings.
5. Lean on the village. Connect with other compatible families and plan regular playdates where one parent gets a break while the other supervises children from both (or multiple) families.
6. Make regular time to play together as a family. Plan a set time in your day or week when everyone sets aside work responsibilities and obligations, and do something fun that you can agree on. If agreement is hard to come by, take turns choosing a family activity. Make a habit of being present with each other without distractions or multitasking.
7. Set things up so everyone in the family can be as independent as possible with meals and snacks. It’s nice to have one meal a day together as a family, but perhaps breakfast, lunch, and/or snacks can be a help-yourself venture. If your children are capable in the kitchen, ask them to regularly take a turn making dinner for the family during the summer. Or make dinner prep a family project once in awhile so the primary cook isn’t doing it all alone.
8. Keep bags or bins of interesting things handy for children to play with and explore. Stock up on puzzles of different kinds; Mad Libs, crossword puzzles, and Sudoku books; and interesting materials for experiments and crafts. Check the public library to find out if they have a “busy box” collection to lend out. Save these items and pull them out as a last resort when you need a few quiet moments to yourself.
9. Gather plenty of basic craft supplies, and set up an area in your home or yard for artistic exploration where children can be as independent as possible and clean-up is relatively easy. For craft ideas, visit our Pinterest boards.
10. Take midweek field trips! Enjoy local museums, historical sites, libraries, parks, hiking trails, and beaches. Go on a weekday morning when crowds are most manageable. Your local library may have free or discount passes that families can borrow.
11. Give your children extra responsibilities – and extra benefits, too. A child who is around more can help out more. Use this opportunity to help them learn how to do useful, routine tasks around the house. Those who prove capable of cleaning up the kitchen might be allowed to experiment on their own with new recipes or culinary inventions. Turn wood-stacking into a fun race, and end with a bonfire when the stacking is all done. Have the kids speed-clean the common areas of the house before sitting down to watch a family movie. Make a post-lawnmowing swim a routine perk of the job. Give your children the opportunity to feel useful, develop skills, and then celebrate a task well done.
12. Limit screen time. Send your kids outside to play creatively in nature every day if you can. If they’re reluctant or it feels challenging to you, read this article for some ideas on how to get kids outdoors.
13. Take breaks from each other. Adults and caregivers need time “off the clock” where they can turn off their parental radar and recharge. Children benefit from relationships with different adults. If your child’s needs do not allow for separation, invite other adults to come and share the load.
14. Enjoy your time together. Take advantage of opportunities to connect throughout the day. Those moments may happen unexpectedly, so be on the lookout and make the most of them. If your children are more independent, putter around the house or yard occasionally just to find and say hello to them. If they are at an age where they want to be with you every moment, give in to their need and keep them close. September will be here all too quickly, and these moments do not last forever (even if it sometimes feels that way).
What other suggestions can you add for an enjoyable summer at home with children?
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.
Summer is officially here! For most Oak Meadow families, it is the time when the school year has come to its completion. As we begin the new season without a prescribed daily lesson plan, we begin to wonder about the activities in which we should engage our children. Should we keep up the academics for fear they will forget much of what they learned? Or should this time be a true school break for our children? I would like to share with you some thoughts on what I feel is the true purpose of a summer break.
Life offers us many experiences through our minds and our bodies. We dive in, immerse ourselves, and engage with our hands, head, and heart. Most importantly, life offers us an opportunity to learn about balance. During the school year, we have placed much emphasis on developing skills in focusing, processing, developing and learning. For many of us, this has meant spending several hours each day with our children engaged in the Oak Meadow coursework. For others, the school year has been an opportunity to develop a schedule conducive to our children’s individual learning styles. Whatever the method that’s used, the enrollment period has been about completing the required schoolwork. In other words, a certain focus, process and relationship has been maintained.
Summer is a time to take a break from this structured focus. It is a time for the child-initiated, non-academic type of exploration and discovery. Since children naturally desire to grow, a significant amount of learning will continue to go on; however, the subject matter will be different. Summer may be the time that your child will learn to swim, ride a bike, build a fort, or learn five new bird calls. Summer is an expansive time when children have an opportunity for an unscheduled, unhurried learning experience.
Summer is an opportunity for children to assimilate the information they have been working on throughout the school year. Factual learning can sometimes provide stress to the body and to the mind. In order for learning to really take hold, a child needs to have ample opportunity to reside in an environment that is stress free. Children need to have a lot of time to play, to create, and to imagine.
Summer also provides an opportunity to do all the things we wanted to do with our children during the school year, but just didn’t have the time in our schedule. Summer is our chance to relate even more deeply and warmly with our children and to nurture the love we share. Just as importantly, summer is an opportunity for home teachers to take time off from teaching. Burnout can be a real factor in homeschooling and every home teacher needs to have some time to pursue personal interests that rejuvenate the spirit.
The learning that takes place during this period of relaxation is as important as the multiplication tables, spelling and history. Often children will have a growth spurt during this period and are able to return to their structured schoolwork in the fall feeling refreshed and with newly acquired abilities and interests. So, take time to share in a magically wonderful, joyful and restful summer. May you delight in ample free play throughout your family’s daily activities, and may each one of you find joy in discovering new expansive doors to freedom and love.
Spending time in nature is a fundamental part of learning, development, and healthy living. At Oak Meadow, we encourage families to spend as much time as possible outside and learning in nature. As Oak Meadow founder, Lawrence Williams, says, “Being immersed in the natural flow of plant and animal life cycles, weather patterns, seasons, and the intricate dance connecting everything helps us find our own balance in the flow of life.”
For some children, unstructured outside play is naturally very compelling, with sticks to brandish, mud to stir, rocks to pile, dirt to dig in, flowers to pick, bugs to identify, water to splash in, and trees to climb. But for others, these activities do not come as easily or may even be overwhelming.
Embracing nature may also be challenging for children who are new to homeschooling and have become accustomed to spending most of their day indoors, either in school or at after-school activities. Some schoolchildren spend very little or even no time outdoors, as recess is cut back to make room for more academics in the school day. Children who are used to spending lots of time with electronic devices can find it challenging to turn their attention to outdoor activities. It can take extra effort and energy to break out of a familiar habit and adapt to something very new and different.
Some children have personality or sensory challenges that cause them to feel overwhelmed by the outdoors. The brightness of a sunny day can shock our sheltered eyes. The sensation of the wind blowing on us can challenge every pore. We might experience powerful smells and sounds that are very different from those inside our homes. Adjusting to the outside temperature might demand a significant amount of bodily energy. These challenges may be true for parents and caregivers, too.
For some parents, wanting our children to spend more time outdoors presents us with a challenge to adopt a new way of approaching life and learning. We may have spent a number of years going back and forth between climate-controlled homes and climate-controlled offices. Some of us grew up in families where television was central to daily life and most, if not all, of our waking hours were spent indoors. It may take some extra effort to develop a habit of spending time outside, for both parent and child.
So what can we do?
You, the parent, must lead the way, but at the same time remember that you are also learning and growing alongside your child.
For children who are reluctant to go outside, make a gentle transition.
If the outside world feels too big, too loud, or too bright, create a sheltered space where your child can be comfortable outside. A lean-to, tarp, or fort might be just the right kind of transitional space.
If your child has fears about what they might encounter outside, try turning anxiety into curiosity. What are they afraid of? Will information and some gently led encounters relax their fears?
Develop the habit casually. If it’s possible to walk or bike a short distance instead of driving, do it as often as possible. Make a regular “outside playdate” with a friend whose children are comfortable playing outdoors, and perhaps your children will join right in.
Don’t make a big deal out of it. Spending time outside every day is healthy and desirable for children and adults. It may help to just go outside without a plan or a formal agenda. “Just being” is enough, and it will allow them to be free to observe all sorts of things that might not otherwise have come into view.
If your home is more urban than rural, scout out some nature-rich locations nearby. Parks, nature preserves and sanctuaries, public gardens, and hiking trails can provide good opportunities to explore. Choose natural areas with trees and rocks for climbing, rather than manufactured play areas.
Consider the outdoors an extension of your living space and move indoor tasks outside. Handwork, schoolwork, art, reading, playing with toys, food prep, snacktime, mealtime… Arrange an outdoor space that can substitute for the kitchen table or the playroom floor. Lead by example and encourage your children to be outside with you while you go about your daily work.
Make note of anything your child finds particularly interesting outside, and foster their interest in that thing. If a family of birds is making a nest on your porch, keep checking it — at a secure distance — for eggs and hatchlings, and do some research on birds and their life cycle. If your child absolutely loves berries, plant some, tend them, and enjoy the fruit when it is ripe. If your child is very active and needs a lot of space to run around without the critical prying of neighbors or passersby, find that sort of space and let them run free.
Give them ideas and materials for fun, open-ended outdoor play or projects. Mud, water, sand, and a variety of containers can be a good starting point. If you need ideas, check out Oak Meadow’s Pinterest boards for loads of fun suggestions.
Ask your child what stops them from going outside. Make a list of their complaints and brainstorm ways to ease them.
“It’s too sunny and bright.” Would sunglasses or a special hat help? Make the most of times when the sun is low or the sky is cloudy.
“I don’t like to get wet.”Would head-to-toe rain gear or a fancy large umbrella help make it easier? Having a comfort routine for drying off and warming up after playtime can be helpful.
“It’s too hot outside.”Water and mud play are fun ways to cool off outdoors. Make sure they can easily duck out of the sun into a shady spot. Create shade for them if it’s not readily available, perhaps with a portable pop-up tent or large umbrella.
“It’s too cold out there.” Do they need more or different clothing to compensate for temperature? Lightweight woolen long johns make a helpful base layer for maintaining body temperature.
“I don’t like the wind.”Can you find or create a semi-enclosed area to provide shelter from the wind? If there are no natural windblocks in your yard, homemade wind-walls can be made using sturdy fabric and pipe.
“It’s too loud outside.” Can you find an area that is more quiet and/or private? Ask your child to help you scout out their own special nature sanctuary or a comfortable sit-spot where they can sit quietly, surrounded by nature. Read more about Sit Spots in the Spring 2013 issue of Living Education.
“I don’t want to stop what I’m doing.” Does your child have trouble transitioning from an indoor activity to an outdoor one? Routine can help. Set a consistent time of day for going outside. Some children are more open to challenging experiences in the morning; others do best after rest time in the late afternoon. Develop a particular sequence of steps that are followed before you go out. (“Here we sit to put on our shoes; here we put on our outerwear; here we choose a hat; now you open the door and walk out, and I close it behind us; now we look at the bird feeder to see if there are any birds, then we look to see how things are growing in the garden, then we ask ourselves what we’d like to do next…”)
“I don’t like the spring/summer/fall/winter.” Is your child happy outside in some seasons but not others? Make the most of the time of year or type of day when they are most comfortable outside.
“I want to be all by myself” or “I don’t want to be alone.” Would they prefer to have you outside with them – or not? Honor their wishes for support or solitude as much as possible. If they only want to be outside when you are with them, plan regular times in your daily or weekly rhythm to make that possible. If your child is too young to be unsupervised but wants to feel independent, establish an activity for yourself away from their play space. Maybe your garden will get extra attention from you this year!
What about older children who may not have developed a relationship with nature when they were younger, or who may have left it behind once they learned to read or started using an online device? It’s not impossible to develop a love of being in nature as an older child or adult, as many parents can tell you!
Encourage them by making an inviting space for them to enjoy their usual pastimes outdoors, perhaps on a porch or in a hammock. Create one or more semi-sheltered outdoor nooks where they feel they have some space of their own. This can be especially helpful for teens in a large family with a small house. A tree house is always a favorite, and building one might make a great family project!
Set out a picnic with enticing assemble-your-own ingredients so they’ll be engaged longer than it takes just to grab a handful and run back inside. Perhaps it would be helpful to mandate that certain juicy or drippy snacks, such as watermelon or popsicles, are only allowed outdoors!
If you have a fire pit and feel safe doing so, allow older children to build and tend a fire — and then cook their own snack or lunch on it. Fire needs to be tended, and someone needs to be outside tending it if they want to have the fun of cooking on it!
If your child is still reluctant, be flexible in your expectations and consider any time outside to be a success. Be patient and persistent. The natural world is can be very compelling. Once your child develops the habit of being outdoors, they will carry that with them for a lifetime.