Floating On a Cloud

From: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cloud_sky_over_Brest.jpg

The autumn in New England is a beautiful time!

I live in the state of New Hampshire and fall is one of my favorite seasons. The sky seems to be such a crystal clear blue on sunny days, and the fall leaves glow with their wonderful colors.

On one of these beautiful autumn days I found myself observing the sky. Within the crystal blue of the sky, clouds were slowly floating overhead. I watched them for some time and was in awe of their beauty. I wished I could paint them, or even write a poem, but my mind led me to another place; the science of clouds! I’ve learned that in looking at clouds I can pretty accurately predict the weather. (I think I learned this from my father. He was a pilot and had to know where an approaching cold front might be lurking.) The clouds I was watching were white wisps of cirrus clouds sailing to the southeast. They told me that there would be a change in the weather, but probably no rain.

Long ago there was no National Weather Service in the United States. Weather information was passed from person to person, and then later telegraphed from army base to army base. Today the weather forecasts warn us of the coming weather. Pilots, farmers, sailors, teachers, all have access to warnings, forecasts, and radar maps.

In the Oak Meadow curriculum students study the clouds and learn to categorize them by where they are in the sky, and to identify them by their shape. Students learn what the clouds may predict about the coming weather. Students also have the chance to let their minds wander as mine did! Mine ended up in the science of clouds, but lots of students complete poetry, painting, or music projects about the clouds. So the next time you are observing something outside, let your mind wander! Maybe you will find a poem, a song, or a scientific fact wandering with you.

One of my favorite poems is by Percy Bysshe Shelley. He must have been observing the sky and clouds for a long time so as to complete the poem The Cloud. It begins:

I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,

From the seas and the streams;

I bear light shade for the leaves when laid

In their noonday dreams.

From my wings are shaken the dews that waken

The sweet buds every one,

When rocked to rest on their mother’s breast,

As she dances about the sun.

I wield the flail of the lashing hail,

And whiten the green plains under,

And then again I dissolve it in rain,

And laugh as I pass in thunder.

(Go to The Poetry Foundation website to read the complete poem.)

 

 

Creative Writing

“I kept always two books in my pocket, one to read, one to write in.”

– Robert Louis Stevenson

In a recent Oak Meadow blog, I wrote about the book character, Flat Stanley, and how author Jeff Brown initially created this funny fellow as a bedtime story for his sons. Creative writing, especially for the younger grades, often begins with oral and artistic expression. In Oak Meadow’s early elementary language arts lessons, the students are introduced to the art of storytelling by listening to stories and then practice retelling story events with detail and in sequential order. They compose simple story summaries and draw story scenes showing specific details. Puppet shows and play acting are also encouraged in the retelling of stories or in creating imaginative scenarios.

As the students mature and develop, creative writing is introduced through detailed story summaries, short stories, and original poetry and rhyming compositions, along with descriptive and opinion paragraphs. By the time the student reaches grades three and four, creative writing is generated through brainstorming story ideas, identifying story components (character, setting, story problem, conflict, and resolution), expressing thoughts and ideas in informal journal form, and completing other free writing exercises.

For some students creative writing flows with ease, while for others information research projects are much more appealing. As American novelist and non-fiction writer Anne Lamott once wrote, “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.”  When I work with my local home school students on creative writing projects, we often tell stories together. It’s kind of like a Round-Robin storytelling session, where we sit in a circle and I (or one of the students) begin the story with a few sentences or a short scenario and then pass it on to the next person  to continue with a few more sentences. It goes all the way around the circle until the last person gives the story an ending. It’s not only a great activity for oral participation, it also provides a nice segue into writing ideas in story format.

Photo Credit: Leslie Ann Daniels

When my students and I learned about Flat Stanley and each participant made a “Flat Me”, we created adventurous settings and stories for our characters. Perhaps we visited a jungle or a deep enchanted forest, or we climbed atop a mountain or visited the deep blue sea. The stories that were written to accompany the activity included questions that helped in composing the imaginary stories:

 

 

1 – Who went with you?

2 – Why did you go?

3 – How did you travel?

4 – What trail did you follow?

5 – How long did it take?

6 – What did you see?

7 – Who did you meet?

8 – What special memories did you bring back with you?

No matter how you approach creative writing, it can enrich the student’s imagination. Knowing where to begin or what to write about allows the activity to flow easier, naturally, and more creatively. Inspiring the student to write with their own passion and excitement allows a new freedom to write about many things.

Extreme Weather

Here she comes again. April is her name.

One of twelve children, they all call her Rain.

All around the world, weather events are happening in every corner of the globe. In Oak Meadow’s coursework, observing seasonal weather and its effect on plants and animals is a significant part of the kindergarten, first grade and second grade science lessons. In the third grade science curriculum, weather conditions are studied by tracking weather and clouds, learning about lightning and thunder, and engaging in educational activities and artistic exercises in relation to tornadoes, blizzards, and hurricanes (or typhoons). According to econet.com, the definition for extreme weather is weather on a larger, more serious and devastating scale.

For additional information on weather, meteorologist Crystal Wicker created an informational site for children called Weather Wiz Kids. Kids Discover also created an interactive iPad app for kids, which displays the most extreme forms of weather on Earth. It includes an interactive cross-section of a hurricane, HD videos of tornadoes and lightning, and the science behind extreme climates.

In addition to the serious side of extreme weather, you might like to read the book, Thunder Cake, written by Patricia Polacco. It is a heartwarming and beautifully written story about Patricia (the author) when she was a young girl, and how she overcame the fear of storms with the help of her grandmother. You can also introduce some fun ways we use the weather through idioms and phrases, such as under the weather, weather the storm, or fair-weather friends. It might be a great time to include a spelling and vocabulary exercise on the difference between weather, whether and wether.

The wonders of science are wonderful!

 

World Read Aloud Day

The Commission on Reading stated in a report, Becoming a Nation of Readers, that “THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT ACTIVITY for building knowledge for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”

This year, World Read Aloud Day is celebrated on Thursday, February 16. Whether your children are babies, toddlers, preschoolers, kindergartners, a primary school students or beyond, reading aloud provides a perfect opportunity to value the world of literature. It allows the child to become inspired and motivated to read independently, to strengthen reading and listening comprehension skills, and to learn new vocabulary words. It offers an introduction to new books and different types of literature that children might not discover on their own, such as the classics, poetry, short stories, biographies, etc. It offers the ability to use their imagination (and beyond personal experiences) to explore people and places from around the world, as well as events that occurred in the past or might occur in the future.

One of Oak Meadow’s primary focuses of the language arts in the early years is to build an appreciation for the richness of language, to emphasize the value of reading, and to attain strong foundational skills in reading. Reading aloud to young children is known to be one of the best reading readiness activities there is and lends a cozy closeness to your time together. You can read outside in a hammock, or under the table in a makeshift fort, or in a tree house. You can sit on the steps and read while your children are eating their snack. You can read anywhere, anytime. Read when your children are a bit too wild and need settling down, or when they are tired and just want to relax. Choose books that have themes your children are interested in and choose books that expose them to things they might not otherwise experience. Reading classic tales you remember from your childhood is a wonderful experience and often exposes children to language that has richness and depth that modern literature often lacks.

Story and book suggestions offered in Oak Meadow’s Grades K-4 language arts coursework, with intentions to form a foundation for rich and effective reading, include fairy tales and other archetypal stories, bedtime stories, poetry, tongue twisters, fables, folktales, world cultural stories and children’s classics. So now is the time to curl up with your little bookworms and celebrate World Read Aloud Day by reading books and sharing stories, not just on February 16, but each and every day!

Election Day & Leadership

Tuesday, November 8, 2016 marks the historic day for the 58th quadrennial US Presidential Election. For many citizens in the United States (as well as around the world), it’s an exciting day for each community and state, and especially for the nation! It’s Election Day!

Although US citizens cannot vote until they reach the age of 18, the Presidential Election is still a valuable lesson to share with young children by getting them involved and helping them to feel an important part of the election process. Sarah Coyne, who writes writes about life and motherhood in her personal blog offers activity and discussion ideas for teachable moments with your children in her blogspot, Sarah Coyne: Use the election to connect with kids.

If you prefer to include interactive sites to aid in teaching about Election Day, the following sites offer opportunities for voting and other activities centered on the 2016 presidential election:

PBS KIDS: The Democracy Project

Scholastic: Election 2016

Kids.gov: How to Become President of the U.S.

TIME For Kids: Vote for President

In Oak Meadow’s second grade social studies coursework, the students learn about the importance of a being a good leader, and Oak Meadow’s third grade social studies course includes a study block on the founding of our country and the importance of great citizenship/leadership. If you are inspired to share some ideas on leadership, “Let’s Grow Leaders” Karin Hurt contributed a list of children’s books that I highly recommend. She categorizes them in separate topics for more personal interest: Authenticity, Perseverance, Creativity/Problem Solving, Servant Leadership, Empowerment/Process, and Teamwork.

It’s a POOH Day!

THE END
by A. A. Milne
(Now We Are Six)

When I was One,
I had just begun.

When I was Two,
I was nearly new.

When I was Three,
I was hardly Me.

When I was Four,
I was not much more.

When I was Five,
I was just alive.

But now I am Six, I’m as clever as clever.
So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.

As part of the Oak Meadow language arts reading course in Grade 3, seven classics are offered: Charlotte’s Web, Little House in the Big Woods, Peter Pan, Pippi Longstocking, The Velveteen Rabbit, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and the beloved Winnie-the-Pooh.

Anytime we travel into the Hundred Acre Woods with the whimsical Pooh Bear, we know there are many adventures that await us! So, let’s travel down time this week, and take a moment to adventure into the Hundred Acre Woods with that “silly old bear” and his highly characterized friends – the doleful donkey, Eeyore; the bouncy tiger, Tigger; the kind kangaroo, Kanga; Kanga’s baby, Roo; the fussy Rabbit; the wise Owl; and the shy Piglet.

650997d96e1296669bdeab34786882eeOf course, we cannot forget the boy character, Christopher Robin, because these story adventures started with the real Christopher Robin Milne, when his father, A. A. Milne, purchased a teddy bear for his son’s first birthday in 1921. More stuffed animals followed in the footsteps of Winnie-the-Pooh. Eeyore was next to come (as a Christmas present), then Piglet, Kanga, Roo, and Tigger arrived in this order as gifts from friends and family.

A. A. Milne became inspired to write stories about Christopher Robin, Winnie-the-Pooh and their woodland friends. The first Winnie-the-Pooh classic, illustrated by E. H. Shepard, was written and published in 1926; and on this Friday, October 14, Winnie-the-Pooh will be celebrating his 90th birthday! So Happy 90th Birthday, Winnie-the-Pooh! You are still one of the world’s most beloved icons of children’s literature!

winnie-the-pooh
PHOTO CREDIT: Illustrator, E. H. Shepard

How do you and your family plan to celebrate this splendiferous day? Perhaps by reading aloud a favorite chapter from Winnie-the-Pooh or a story or poem from one of A. A. Milne’s other books (When We Were Very Young, Now We Are Six, or The House at Pooh Corner). If you happen to be in New York City in the near future, there is a wonderful display of Winnie-the-Pooh and friends in the New York Public Library’s Children’s Room, You might even like to take a woodland walk with a red balloon, bake a cake for your own special teddy bear, or just eat a spoonful of honey from the honey pot!

Butterfly Art Project

Fly, fly butterfly.

Whither lies your way?

I fly to the sun

On this lovely spring day.

Fly, fly butterfly.

With wings of colored hue.

From the sun please bring us

A message or two.

Author unknown

I have discovered that watching butterflies is a delight at any age. I am in awe as I watch the butterflies emerge from their winter sleep or return home from their long migration. Butterfly watching is fast becoming a popular hobby. Did you know there are more than 650 species of these colorful winged insects in the U.S. alone? Did you know that people who study them are called lepidopterists?

Butterfly conservatories are a great way to observe many different species of butterflies, but most of you don’t even have to leave your backyard before you’ll notice them flitting about. If you are enthusiastic about attracting even more butterflies, you can plant particular varieties of flowers, such as Butterfly Bush, Butterfly Weed, Zinnia, Bergamot, Day Lily, Black-Eyed Susan, and Purple Coneflower, as well as herbs like Tansy, Garlic, and Chives.

1519fg78jCuL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Oak Meadow’s science courses in grades k-4 include various studies of the butterfly. In addition to the suggested lesson activities, you might include a guidebook, such as Robert Michael Pyle’s book, National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies. Or perhaps you would enjoy sharing a butterfly story, such as Alan Madison’s Velma Gratch and the Way Cool Butterfly or Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar or Bruce Coville’s The Prince of Butterflies.

3
Photo Credit: Leslie Daniels

If it’s a rainy day, and no butterflies can be observed, then you and your children might like to make a butterfly template, paint it with watercolors, and then create your own butterfly kite or wind waver. Before painting,  you might like to view pictures of butterflies to study the symmetry of their patterns. They truly are amazingly beautiful insects!

 

Tips for Playing the Recorder

Music plays a very positive role in your child’s development, whether it is through listening to music, singing songs, or playing an instrument. In the first grade, Oak Meadow offers an introduction to the soprano recorder as a musical instrument to play, along with additional, more advanced tutelage offered up through the fourth grade.

The first grade curriculum introduces the recorder with the Beginning Recorder course book; the second grade curriculum follows up with Intermediate Recorder; the third grade curriculum offers advanced lessons in the Advanced Recorder course book; and the fourth grade curriculum completes the recorder coursework with Recorder Duets.

blog -renaissanceThe recorder is a very old European instrument that dates all the way back to the 14th century, possibly originating in Italy. It’s an appealing and appropriate modern-day instrument for young children who are just beginning to unfold their musical abilities and potential. The recorder is also a simple and versatile instrument to learn that allows the player to practice attention and focus, to help train and develop the ear, and to further aid in reading and composing musical notation.

If you, as the home teacher, are also new to playing the recorder and feel that a guided tutorial would benefit you in teaching your child to play this instrument, I suggest watching the Recorder Basics – B A G video. The instructor in the video, Mr. Barnes, demonstrates how to hold the recorder, as well as how to play “Hot Cross Buns” with the notes B, A and G. “Hot Cross Buns” is one of the first songs introduced in Oak Meadow’s Beginning Recorder guidebook.

If your child is more advanced in playing the recorder and has already worked through all the songs in the recorder books offered in the Oak Meadow coursework, Woodstock Chimes provides a lengthy list of familiar songs to play on the recorder. Each song includes its own fingering chart, as well as words to the songs for additional singing pleasure.

playing_recorders

As a collaborative effort, Oak Meadow’s staff offered some additional tips for helping to play the recorder:

1mmenegazMichelle Menegaz – 

Before you begin to practice, do some quick stretches…shoulder rolls, finger wiggling, etc. Then stand tall and imagine you are being suspended by a string from above. Relax the shoulders and lengthen the body. Please consider standing as often as you can when practicing. It really helps!

When you perform, there are special but simple skills you can practice to make your gift of music or poetry or any other presentation more enjoyable for your audience. Try looking toward the back of the room just above the heads of the people farthest away. Smile, smile, smile if you can remember  – either while playing or before or after if you are using a wind instrument. Remember to introduce yourself and your piece before you begin and bow with gratitude when you finish.

1OM-sarahSarah Antel –

One of the things that stuck with me from music lessons as a child was belly breathing. You can stand in front of a mirror to practice breathing. Additionally, it helps if you stand sideways so you can see your belly go in and out. You should take a deep breath through your nose and imagine you are filling a balloon in your belly and focus on filling your belly with air rather than making your chest rise. In a similar fashion, when releasing air, or breathing out, exhale through the mouth. You should focus on squeezing all of the air out using your stomach. Your chest should not be moving at all. Looking sideways in the mirror, you will see your stomach pull in. This type of breathing allows you to take a deeper breath and have a stronger sound when playing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lesley Arnold –

Instruct your child to sit up tall (with a straight back) and toward the edge of the seat in order to take full breaths. After finding the right breath for blowing into the recorder, have your child try to imagine gently blowing on a candle flame just so it flickers, but doesn’t go out. The fingers should be curved and relaxed completely covering the holes. The left hand should always be on top! Have your child press firmly to seal the finger holes completely. Lips should cover the teeth lightly. Make sure your child separates the notes by touching the tip of the tongue to the roof of the mouth or to the tip of the recorder. Clap and count the rhythm, speak, then sing the name of the notes. Then the tune is ready to be played. 

1AmandaxpW8nOnU_400x400Amanda Witman – 

“Find a place where you can practice comfortably and without distraction.”

“A little bit of practicing every day is better than a lot of practicing once in a while.”

“Listen to the sounds you are making and experiment with ways to make them pleasing to you.”

“Take a moment to relax your hands and your breathing before you start to play.”

“Share your music with others. If you can’t find anyone to play for, stand in front of a mirror and perform for yourself. Smile and take a bow at the end of your performance!”

Doodle4Google

The Oak Meadow coursework in all grade levels (particularly in grades k-4) highly emphasizes the integration of artwork with the academics. Throughout the coursework, students are encouraged to complete artistic activities and projects in the form of drawing, painting, and/or making crafts in all the main subjects. Main lesson books are made by the students to preserve their ideas and knowledge of the content for each lesson, which includes the combination of written work and creative expression.

1DoodleThe students are also encouraged to express themselves artistically through freestyle form. One of the most enjoyable freestyle forms of artistic expression is doodling! Doodling runs the gamut of personal creations to adding color to created forms, such as The Original DoodleArt Flowers Coloring Poster or The Original DoodleArt Fairy Tales Coloring Poster.

If your child likes to doodle, then I highly recommend participating in the 8th annual Doodle4Google art contest (for grades k-12). The theme for this year is “What Makes Me…Me”. The contest is open for entries from now until December 7, 2015. If you are interested in seeing a gallery of past winners, you and your children might get some great ideas! 

1doodle art 3

So, doodly doo your way into a winning “doodle4google” day; and if you need some added inspiration, you can always take a break and enjoy the Doodly Doo song with hand actions!

Doodly Doo Song (Wadally ah cha)

Lyrics

Please sing to me 

That sweet melody

Called the doo, doodly doo

I like it so wherever I go

It’s the doo doodly doo

CHORUS

It’s the simplest thing

There isn’t much to it

All you got to do is doodly doo it

I love it so

That wherever I go

It’s doodly, doodly, doodly, doodly doo

Come on and…

Wadally ah cha, wadally ah cha

Wadally oh, wadally oh

Wadally ah cha, wadally ah cha

Wadally, wadally oh

Action

pat knees twice

clap twice

stay in clapping position and click to the right then the left

take right hand put on nose then on shoulder same with right, start the actions when you get to the line: come on and…

Summer Reading!

Throughout each grade level, Oak Meadow offers a wonderful supply of classics and other cherished books for you and your children to read throughout the school year. However, free reading should also be encouraged during the summer months. Do you need some summer reading ideas? Here’s a good reading list provided by Common Sense Media. This site also provides a section on Wonderful Wordless Books that offers a list of “wordless books” you might like to share with your children. They are perfect for using as story writing prompts, too.

1Summer-Reading-Image-2014The Bookworm for Younger Kids booklist for June is also available to peruse for good reading materials. However, if you would like to subscribe for each month’s group of booklists, you can sign up for free by visiting the Bookworm for Kids official website.

 

HAPPY SUMMER READING!

1summer_reading.jpg__631x0_q85