9 Questions to Ask Yourself As You Consider Homeschooling

Photo Credit: Robyn Groth Oak Meadow Archives

  1. Why does homeschooling feel like a good idea? What needs are not being met well in other ways, and how might homeschooling help best meet those needs?
  2. What is my child expecting homeschooling to be like? What am I expecting homeschooling to be like? How do those two things line up?
  3. What areas of learning are easiest for my child? What areas are most challenging?
  4. What are my child’s passions and interests? How will they fit into our plan for homeschooling?
  5. What are my biggest worries about homeschooling? What are some strategies I could use to work through those things if they happen?
  6. What struggles do I predict we might have as we add homeschooling to our parent-child dynamic, and how can I anticipate and prevent them?
  7. How will I meet my own need for self-care so that I am able to give all that my child needs?
  8. What will I say to family, friends, neighbors, or strangers who are skeptical about our decision to homeschool? How will I prepare myself for such questions?
  9. Who are my homeschooling support buddies? Do I have friends, neighbors, or relatives who homeschool? If not, do I know where to find local and/ or distant homeschoolers to share experiences and ideas with?

Finding Nature in the City

Photo Credit: Julie Tower-Pierce
(Oak Meadow)

If you live in an urban area where nature is elusive, don’t assume that there’s no nature to be found! Go for a walk with your eyes wide open and see how many signs of nature you can “collect” along the way. Take photos or make sketches so that you will have a record and can try to identify plants, insects, and anything else once you are home.

(four kids on scooters in city)
Photo Credit: Julie Tower-Pierce
(Oak Meadow)

First off, cultivate a healthy relationship with the sun. If there are few trees to offer a shade canopy, a hat is a good idea. If you are surrounded by pavement and cement, the sun’s rays can reflect uncomfortably up as you walk. If you start feeling uncomfortable in the glare or the heat, stop in shady spots along the way. If there is no shade, use an umbrella to carry some shade around with you.

Can you find bits of moss or stray plants growing in a sidewalk crack? Look up at the sides of buildings and out along fences, retaining walls, train tracks, etc.. What types of plants seem to like to grow in different places?

Did you know that weeds can have flowers, pods, or seeds? Review the life cycle of a plant and see if you can find plants at various stages of the life cycle.

(small girl holding up two green leaves)
Photo Credit: Van Kleeck Family
(Oak Meadow)

Look up! The sky and the clouds are part of nature. There are often birds in urban areas. What might attract birds to your city? Where do you think they nest? Can you spot any nests?

When it rains, what happens to the water? Go outside and trace its path from the roof to the storm drain. Where does it go from there?

Is there a river in your city? Are there any signs of nature in or around the river? Some urban rivers are polluted, but some have been cleaned up by thoughtful, committed citizens. How healthy is your city’s river, if you have one?

One of the most impressive things about finding nature in urban settings is the number of plants that seem to be growing against all odds. What is the most unlikely place that you’ve found a plant surviving or even thriving?

(adult handing monarch butterfly to child)
Photo Credit: Cindy Wallach
(Oak Meadow)

See if you discover any rooftop or community gardens. What do you see growing there? Many city dwellers use containers to plant vegetables, herbs, flowers, and even tall trees. What can you find growing in containers in your city?

Is there a park, picnic area, or playground nearby with natural features? Can you tell which plants were placed there by humans and which ones moved in on their own? What are the clues that inform your answer?

How far would you need to travel to visit a nature preserve, public garden, or national park? What would you find there that you can or cannot find at home?

(child doing bark rubbing on tree with beeswax crayon)
Photo Credit: Lynn Nash
(Oak Meadow)

In what ways do humans intentionally help to encourage nature to grow and thrive in urban areas? And how do we unintentionally support certain kinds of plants or animals? What things could you and your family do to invite nature into your home life?

While walking, did you encounter any plants or animals that you had never seen before? Look them up and get to know them! They are your neighbors, too. Next time you go outside and see them, you can identify them by name.

Find out whether there are any groups or initiatives promoting nature in your city. You might be able to meet some people who are also interested in exploring nature in an urban setting.

Nature exists all around us, sometimes against the odds or in surprising places. Even if you have no backyard and your neighborhood is more gray than green, chances are good that you can find a bit of nature to enjoy. Try it and let us know what you find!

10 Reminders for the End of the Homeschool Year

Photo Credit: Kara Maynard (Oak Meadow)

  1. 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.
  2. Photo Credit: Ledahl Family
    (Oak Meadow)

    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!

  3. 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.
  4. 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!

    Photo Credit: Bessent Family
    (Oak Meadow)
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

    Photo Credit: Kara Maynard
    (Oak Meadow)
  9. 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!
  10. Celebrate! A year of homeschooling is a milestone worth celebrating. Here are 10 Ideas for Making the End of the Year Special and some more ideas from Oak Meadow teachers about Celebrating the School Year.

 

Stamp Collecting!

“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.’.”

American Philatelic Society

The American Philatelic Society is the largest, nonprofit organization in the world for stamp collectors.

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.

Solar Eclipse
Photo Credit: Public Domain

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!

P. S.  Looking directly at the sun during a solar eclipse can be dangerous; here’s a way to enjoy the eclipse without hurting your eyes: http://hilaroad.com/camp/projects/eclipse_viewer/eclipse_viewer.html

 

National Get Outdoors Day

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” Rachel Carlson On Saturday, June 10th, the Defenders of Wildlife organization will celebrate their 10th annual National Get … Continue reading "National Get Outdoors Day"

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.”

Rachel Carlson

On Saturday, June 10th, the Defenders of Wildlife organization will celebrate their 10th annual National Get Outdoors Day. This national event encourages families to go outside, visit a park or refuge, and renew a personal connection to nature, as well as regenerate a commitment to leaving a healthy planet for future generations. There’s nothing better than introducing your children to the wonders of nature, especially since it’s only a matter of time before the future rests in their hands. Here is a list of all 198 National Get Outdoors Day locations. There might be one near you!

“What do parents owe their young that is more important than a warm and trusting connection to the Earth…?”

– Theodore Roszak, The Voice of the Earth

Every grade level in Oak Meadow’s k-4 coursework suggests environmental awareness activities and exercises. We also feel it’s important to introduce and teach young children about the natural environment. So, go ahead! Make summer plans, get outdoors, and let Nature be your teacher!

“As a child, one has that magical capacity to move among the many eras of the earth; to see the land as an animal does; to experience the sky from the perspective of a flower or a bee; to feel the earth quiver and breathe beneath us; to know a hundred different smells of mud and listen unselfconsciously to the soughing of the trees.”

-Valerie Andrews, A Passion for this Earth

 

Celebrating the School Year – Part Two

Read Part One of this article here.

The US Memorial Day holiday has now passed, and I hope everyone who celebrated enjoyed a safe and happy weekend. Those of us who are adding the finishing touches to the end of the school year are now back to focusing on a productive, successful and positive conclusion of the coursework, as well as beginning new adventures throughout the season of summer.

Last week, I shared ideas for completing the school year. Regarding a successful end to the school year, this is what I tell my k-6 home teachers: It is very important that you and your children take the final week to fully embrace the magic of the school year. It is an opportunity to celebrate all that has been learned and accomplished. How you complete the school year will carry you and your children into the new school year, so PLEASE finish the school year on a positive note! You will feel much self-gratitude in doing it this way, and so will your children.

This Part Two blog includes ideas from other Oak Meadow teachers. Enjoy what they have to share!

Lesley Arnold: I second Leslie’s advice and would also add that reading over the teacher’s comments for the year brings to light all the progress that has been made throughout the year. Reading a writing assignment from the beginning of the year and then reading one from the end of the year is great to do! “Reliving” books read over the course of the year is also a fun activity.

Sarah Antel: All wonderful ideas! Going through the MLB and picking out favorite pieces to share at a “show” for relatives could be fun too. They could make it a special event with finger sandwiches and lemonade perhaps!

Andy Kilroy: I used Oak Meadow Kindergarten curriculum to home school my granddaughter Julia for one year. It was a delightful and eye opening experience for me, after teaching 30 years in a brick and mortar setting. At the end of the year, Julia and I made up a song and dance to celebrate her work. She had such a sense of accomplishment when she finished and she loved writing poems, so this seemed like a fitting end to all her hard work. The song was about her accomplishments – learning the ABCs, learning numbers, learning to love nature, and of course, her special tree!

Michelle Menegaz: We have had a share day with a few close and trusted, appreciative, sensitive friends who homeschool in the same way we do. We lay out the main lesson books or other written work, display any art, have a few physical activities from the year (writing with one’s toes, trying some balance activities, putting on togas, some years a background slideshow of photos from the year, solving a puzzle related to lessons, a simple science activity, etc.), maybe share music but not performance style, and often have a cookout campfire or picnic. Very low key but I feel, even though it is sometimes a bit hard to be “the center of attention”, it is important for homeschoolers to be celebrated – especially not just by their parents, if possible. And besides, I am proud of MY work as the teacher, too, and yes, it feels good to have that recognized. Most years this feels impossible to pull off and I really have to grab myself by the bootstraps and try. It is always worth it.

Last year we had our weekly homeschool group here to practice donning togas, eat Greek food, and play the VT version of Olympic games…the fire log throw, the long driveway jump, clown fake fighting instead of wrestling, something with the sprinkler, making Heracles Knot bracelets out of copper wire, cooking on a campfire, and trying NOT to reread all the Rick Riordan books about ancient Greek mythological figures! We let the kids run the show for the most part while we sat back and ate hummus and celery and basked in the glow.

Gwendolyn Trumbull: I have a 6th grade student who had a similar fun end of the year event with her family and grandparents. She hung samples of her work throughout the house, made and served food from all the different countries she had studied and set up and played games from ancient cultures for all to try. She and the family were blown away by how much she had produced and learned. The party and reflection made her feel very proud and accomplished – which she certainly should have.

Last week, I recommended reading Amanda Witman’s post on “10 Ideas for Making the End of the Year Special”. This week, I also encourage you to read “14 Tips for Surviving the Summer With Kids From Homeschooling Parents”

Happy Summer!

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.

 

Celebrating the School Year – Part One

Memorial Day was first established as a United States holiday for remembering the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces. It is also a benchmark for the end of another school year and the beginning of summer break – not only the US, but also for countries in Europe, Asia, and South America. The reasons for summer vacation has changed and evolved throughout history, yet the more popular 180 day, 9-month calendar was firmly established and has been mainly utilized since the beginning of the twentieth century.

Oak Meadow honors enrollment periods year-round; however, most families still follow the normal schedule of beginning school in August or September and completing the school year by May or June. This means that many Oak Meadow families are currently in the process of completing the final lessons and preparing for a long summer break.

The end of the school year can often be a time of exhaustion for both the student and the home teacher.  It is very important that you and your children take the final week to fully embrace the magic of the school year. It is an opportunity to celebrate all that has been learned and accomplished. How you complete the school year will carry you and your children into the new school year, so PLEASE finish the school year on a positive note! You will feel much self-gratitude in doing it this way, and so will your children.

Photo Credit: Leslie Ann Daniels

One of my favorite ways to celebrate the end of the school year is by decorating my home with fresh garden flowers, performing a student play for family and friends, singing favorite songs learned throughout the school year, viewing the main lesson books, and making special treats. This year, my strawberries were ripe at the completion of the school year, so we made star-shaped fruit cookies. We used our favorite traditional whole-wheat sugar cookie recipe, spread the cookies with cream cheese icing, and decorated them with our favorite fruit. Be sure to include your children in the preparations of the festivities for it makes it extra special and exciting to share the success of their school year.

Last year, our main Oak Meadow blogger, Amanda Witman, posted a very helpful article on “10 Ideas for Making the End of the Year Special”. It includes many wonderful ways to conclude an industrious and productive school year.

Read Part Two of this article here.

http://oakmeadowblogs.com/blog/2016/06/12/10-ideas-for-making-the-end-of-the-year-special/

Where'd Ya See That?

Photo credit: Lucy Enge
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Recently one of my students found it interesting to support her ideas about music by submitting some examples in YouTube videos that she found on the internet. I thought it was a great idea! It can be supportive of your thoughts and opinions in lesson work by including a YouTube video, an Instagram photo or video, a Ted Talk, Tweets, or any other video or photograph from a social media site.

Social Media has a lot to offer in the way of credible information. It may seem like a fun way to spend time for entertainment, but there are also times when a video, a photograph, or something on a social media post can be suitable for a research report or persuasive essay. These types of resources have to be cited in your written work, just as any resource used for research is cited in a bibliography. There is a special MLA form (which Oak Meadow uses) to cite these types of resources.

Based on MLA standards for other media formats, Oak Meadow asks that you use the following format. Make sure you include all the quotation marks, commas, italics, and periods in the proper places.

To cite YouTube videos:

Author’s Name or Poster’s Username. “Title of Video.” Name of Website. Name of Website Publisher, date of posting. Medium. Date retrieved.

Example:

“Lunch Hour NYC: Hot Dog Carts.” New York Public Library, 5 July 2012, www.nypl.org/audiovideo/hot-dog.

To cite an Instagram post:

Account holder’s Last name, First name or Username. “Photo Title or Description.” Instagram, Other contributors, Date photo was published, URL (without http:// or https://).

(If no title is available, create a simple description and do not place it in italics or quotation marks.)

Example:

National Geographic. Photo of Bering Sea. Instagram, photographed by Corey Arnold, 2 Apr. 2017,  www.instagram.com/p/BSaisVuDk7S/?taken-by=natgeo.

To cite an Instagram video: 

Poster’s Last name, First Name or Username. “Video Title.” Instagram, Other contributors, Date published, URL (without http:// or https://).

(If no title is available, create a simple description and do not place it in italics or quotation marks.)

Example:

@itsdougthepug. “I Climb All The Time…Into Bed.” Instagram, April 2, 2017, www.instagram.com/p/BSWo9-0j940/?taken-by=itsdougthepug&hl=en.

To cite a TED Talk:

Cite a TED Talk as you would a lecture:

Author. (Year, Month). Title [Video file]. Retrieved from URL

Cain, Susan. “The Power of Introverts.” TED. Feb. 2012. Lecture.

To cite a Tweet:

Last name, First name (Username). “Tweet Message.” Date posted, Time Posted. Tweet.

Tweet - MLAExample:

Timberlake, Justin (jtimberlake). “USA! USA!!.” 16 June 2014, 8:05 PM. Tweet.

Last name, First name (Username). “Tweet Message.” Date posted, Time Posted. Tweet.

All of the above examples were taken from the EasyBib site: http://www.easybib.com/guides/

If you are looking for a quick guide to help you cite a source, this may be helpful:

http://www.easybib.com/guides/citation-guides/how-do-i-cite-a/

National Inventors Month

Every child has a dream, to pursue the dream is in every child’s hand to make it a reality. One’s invention is another’s tool…

– Samuel Morse

National Inventors Month is a month-long event in May that celebrates invention and creativity. The verb, invent, means to be an originator that creates or designs something that has never existed. To invent can also mean to make up a story or idea. There is no doubt that children love to use their imagination and creativity, including inventing things from whatever is in front of them. Thomas Edison once stated: “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”

One of Oak Meadow’s final fifth grade science lessons teaches “Technology and Design”. The student is encouraged to creatively problem solve, research inventions, and then design an invention from mainly recycled or repurposed items. The kindergarten through fourth grade coursework also encourages students to construct and create with art materials, natural materials, recycled goods, and toys. It is an important educational tool that applies both the hand and head, helps the students to develop skills that can be applied to future creative problem solving situations, and thus, fosters positive growth and development in a young child.

Many children are even inspired to share their inventions with others. There are several sites that welcome home educators to participate in their programs, activities, and/or special events. Perhaps working on an invention could be a great summer project for your child. Here are some helpful resources for you:

The services of the US Patent Office offer a “kids” link:

Kids Invent! is a great online resource for both educators and homeschoolers.

Invent Help helps young inventors patent and submit their ideas to companies.

If your children are interested in an informative book that provides ideas for inventions, an excellent choice is Kids Inventing! A Handbook for Young Inventors, written by Susan Casey. For those children who are in the beginning stages of learning about the exciting world of inventions, there are several storybooks that may inspire the “inventor” in your child. The “Fatherly” website lists nine books that can be found in most public libraries.

For those children who love to enter contests and competitions, Kid Inventors’ Day provides links to a variety of ongoing contests and competitions.

For a bonus history lesson that may inspire your children’s innovative minds, the article “10 Great Inventions Dreamt Up by Children”, is a great reference source.

INNOVATE YOUR CHILD’S IMAGINATION AND INVENTIVENESS!

YOU MIGHT BE SURPRISED WHERE IT LEADS!