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.

 

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!

Flat Stanley

“People should think twice before making rude remarks,” said Mrs. Lambchop. “And then not make them at all.” ― Jeff Brown, Author of Flat Stanley

Author Jeff Brown created the beloved character of Flat Stanley as a bedtime story for his sons before it was first published in 1964. If you or your children have ever read the Flat Stanley books, then you will know that Stanley Lampchop had a mishap that made him famously flat. Rather than viewing his new physique as an unfortunate circumstance, this paper-thin boy turned his life into an amazing adventure of sliding under doors, flying like a kite, and traveling by mail.

In 1994, Canadian Dale Hubert created The Flat Stanley Project. He encouraged children to create their own Flat Stanley paper cutouts and mail them to friends and family members around the globe. His original idea was shared with his class of third grade students to help foster literacy activities and to introduce creative writing. Hubert also suggested that other teachers participate by hosting Flat Stanley visitors who arrived by mail. Now children (and adults) from all over the world are making their own versions of Flat Stanley from templates and mailing them to friends and family during their travels.

Photo Credit: Leslie Ann Daniels

I took The Flat Stanley Project a step further and photographed the bright cheerful faces of my local home school students. They then each created their own Flat Me. We had a great time creating colorful outfits and then sharing with friends and families by talking, tracking, and writing about their flat character’s journeys and adventures.

May 8 celebrates Flat Stanley’s fifty-third birthday. So, enjoy this world-famous story character by reading one of Jeff Brown’s books or creating and sending your own Flat Stanley or Flat Me to someone special!

Photo Credit: Danielle Drown
Photo Credit: Danielle Drown
Photo Credit: Danielle Drown

Knitting with Needles

In through the front door
Running around the back
Out through the window
Off jumps jack.

In the Oak Meadow grade one coursework, knitting with needles is introduced to the students. However, some first graders find it challenging to knit with needles. For the home teacher who is an inexperienced knitter and for students who find it frustrating, the K-4 team of Oak Meadow teachers have offered some suggestions and simple alternatives that will help to meet the “heart” of the activity.

Meg Minehan: My suggestions are to first try finger knitting, the knitting mushroom, or the wooden knitting star. My children loved those “tools”, and the process was simple, repetitive and soothing (just like knitting should be). ​For what it’s worth, my son, Ian, didn’t really take to knitting when it was initially introduced in first grade. However, he picked it up again this year (at age 9) and loved it.

Michelle Menegaz: I agree that teaching knitting as an inexperienced teacher can be challenging. I suggest offering the “pre-knitting” activities and really encourage the home teacher to find a knitter to help them, if possible. Also, Sunny’s Mittens is a great book with a story that contains knitting directions right in the events of the tale. I would read a bit of this and knit along with the story. The child would also knit along, if interested. We would read a bit, knit a bit, stop and get our knitting sorted or show what the written directions in the story meant. Very satisfying!

Photo Credit: Brandaw Family (Oak Meadow Archives)

Lesley Arnold: I highly recommend the DVD, The Art of Knitting 4 Kids  If a tutor isn’t available for knitting, then this video is great! Be sure to also check your library, for many libraries have knitting clubs.

Leslie Daniels: Another site that I absolutely adore and share with my Oak Meadow families is called “Knitted Bliss“. It includes story books to inspire future knitters for three different age groups: ages 2-4, ages 4-6 and ages 6-9. The title of each book is a joy in itself!

Meg Minehan: Shall I Knit You a Hat is one of our favorite Christmas books for 6-9 year olds!

Andy Kilroy: My friend Clare, a long-time kindergarten teacher, loves to take yarn into her classroom and just let her kids play with the yarn – wrap it, wind it, tie bows with it, braid it, touch it – just to get the feel of fabric/yarn in their skin. Then when it comes time to knit, they already have the awareness of yarn as a material. I taught my granddaughter to finger knit the other day (she had never done it), and she is very excited at all the possibilities that opened for her! Long live fiber arts – let’s not give up on them!

Anna Logowitz: My micro-schoolers have gotten a great start by making their own knitting needles. They sanded chopsticks smooth and glued wooden beads to the ends: nice and simple. It gives them a sense of ownership over their work before they begin knitting that, so far, seems to be increasing their frustration tolerance, too!

Photo Credit: Estelle Giannakopoulos

Women's History Month

In the United States, March has been designated as Women’s History Month, and it can be a great time to spend time learning about important women who have made, and are making, contributions to our world.

In celebration of the contributions of women in the United States, our blog post this week is written by Deb Velto, a teacher with Oak Meadow. She shares a special interest in the contributions of a woman named Temple Grandin. Thanks to Deb!

Temple Grandin is an animal scientist who was recently inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame because of her work to improve the welfare of animals in the meat industry. Temple has a special ability to understand the animals she observes. Because of this gift, Temple was able to design a method of holding animals at a slaughterhouse that was more humane and would reduce the stress the animals experienced. She could see the stress the animals were experiencing and understand what would help them. Today, her methods are used by the meat industry throughout the world. Temple Grandin’s mind works differently than most scientists because she has autism. Although she has had to overcome many challenges related to being autistic, she attributes the way her mind works with her ability to understand animals.

Temple Grandin eventually became an important advocate for people with autism because she was one of the first people who was able to explain to others what it was like to be autistic. Her insights have helped parents and teachers learn to improve the way they interact with and teach autistic children. She invented something called a “squeeze box” which is still used today to comfort children and adults who have autism. Because her parents and others took the time to learn the way her mind worked, Temple was able to succeed. Today, Temple works to help people better understand autism through her books and lectures. She also continues her work for animals as a scientist and professor at the University of Colorado. Temple Grandin believes that the world needs all kinds of minds.  Do you agree? Do you know anyone like Temple, who may have a special gift, but also faces challenges because of the way their mind works? How do you think we can help people better understand and appreciate these kinds of differences?

If you would like to learn more about Temple Grandin try:

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery

Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals by Temple Grandin

The Temple Grandin website: http://www.templegrandin.com/

http://the-art-of-autism.com/temple-grandin-named-to-the-national-womens-hall-of-fame/

Iditarod

Iditarod public domain photo

The 2017 IDITAROD will start on March 4 in Alaska. If you haven’t yet heard of the Iditarod Race, let me tell you it is one very exciting 1,150 miles! Men and women race with teams of dogs and sleds to see who will arrive in Nome, Alaska first. (There are two starting points, Anchorage or Fairbanks, depending on the year, the weather, and the snow coverage.) The race is based on true events that occurred in 1925 when the children in Nome, Alaska were ill with the deadly disease of diphtheria. They were in need of a special medicine and they needed it quickly, as many children were dying. That medicine was far away in Anchorage, Alaska, it was January with freezing ice blocking the ports and grounding airplanes. The race was on to get the medicine to the children as quickly as possible and it seemed the only way to do that was to use the mushers and their faithful dogs. A relay of the best sled drivers and dogs was arranged and after five and a half days of grueling weather, the last sled driver and his dogs arrived in Nome. Many children in Nome were saved and an epidemic was halted all thanks to the amazing teams of dogs that each man had cared for. One special dog team leader was a dog named Balto.

The famous sled dog Balto with musher Gunner Kaasen.

You can read more about Balto, his bravery, and the events in The Great Serum Race: Blazing the Iditarod Trail by Debbie Miller. The first Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race was held in 1973 and has been raced ever since in honor of the first race to save children’s lives.

In the past years, while the race is on, children and families have taken up the challenge of spending the same amount of minutes outdoors as the mileage of the Iditarod. That’s 1,150 minutes! Why not take up this challenge with friends and family members? Keep a record of your time outdoors and what activities you did!

By the way, when the Oak Meadow group was at a conference in Alaska last May, they contributed to a fundraiser for the 34th annual Yukon Quest, writing messages on the protective booties that the dogs wear in the race (they need a LOT of them!). One of Oak Meadow’s booties was on team #3!

Here are some books that you might enjoy for further reading:

Mush! The Sled Dogs of the Iditarod
by Joe Funk

Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod
by Gary Paulsen

The Great Serum Race: Blazing the Iditarod Trail
by Debbie S. Miller

 

Snow!

“Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated. When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind.” Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley 1925

One of my favorite stories to share with children during the winter is Else Beskow’s book, Ollie’s Ski Trip. Ollie goes on a snowy adventure and discovers King Winter’s palace where he finds him sitting on his icy throne with sheer pride and pleasure. Ollie also meets King Winter’s spritely right hand man, Jack Frost, as well as Mrs. Thaw, who shows up with her broom to sweep away the last of the winter snow in preparation for the entrance of Lady Spring.

The season of winter goes hand in hand with the wonder of snow, which brings to mind a man by the name of Wilson Bentley, better known as the Snowflake Man. Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley was a farmer who grew up and lived in Vermont. As a young boy, he was home schooled. He had a natural affinity with nature, and with snowflakes in particular. He received his first microscope on his 15th birthday (in 1881) and began examining snowflakes. He soon discovered that no snowflake is like any other. At the age of 19, Bentley took his first micro-photograph of a snowflake, and this was the beginning of a passionate hobby. He spent his entire adult life photographing snowflakes, and by the time he died in 1931, he had photographed over 5,000 images. Imagine that!

William Bentley’s official home site also provides an assortment of books for all ages on this marvelous “Snowflake Man”. If you are fortunate to live close to or pass by Jericho, Vermont, you can visit the Bentley Museum to view his photographed snowflakes and to learn more about his fascinating life and the captivating beauty of snow!

The Oak Meadow syllabus in kindergarten and in first grade offers the artistic project of making paper snowflake designs. Oak Meadow’s fourth grade coursework offers a block on poetry, which involves creating a portfolio of freestyle, rhyming and acrostic poems. Student Maren Doughty wrote a lovely acrostic poem on “SNOWFLAKES”…

Smelling hot chocolate
Now winter is here
Outside we go!
Wind howling
Freezing fingers and noses
Lots of snow angels shaped in the snow
All the gournd is covered white
Kids building snowman
Everyone is excited
Seeing snowflakes falling

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!

Happy Groundhog Day!

Today is the traditional Groundhog Day that arrives every year on February 2nd. It began as a European tradition that was brought to the United States in the 1880’s. It has been celebrated every year since then! How is the weather in your area today? It is sunny or cloudy? Will spring come early or late? Now, let’s do some math magic with a calendar. Whether we have six more weeks of winter or six more weeks until spring, what month of the year and what day of the week is spring predicted to arrive?

Oak Meadow’s second grade science coursework (with the focus on animal characteristics) suggests making a card game to teach children about familiar animals. On one side of the card, the student writes a question about a particular animal’s character qualities. The name of the animal is written and illustrated on the other side of the card. Since the groundhog is not included in the science lesson’s list of animals, a new card could be added for the groundhog with questions such as: What animal is also known as the land-beaver, marmot, whistle-pig or woodchuck? – or – What mammal hibernates in the winter and is famously known as the prognosticator or weather forecaster?

To learn more about the history of this furry rodent, Canada.com offers a wealth of information in their article and video on “Roots of Groundhog Day Cast a Shadow Back to Medieval Europe“. Puxatawny Phil in Pennsylvania is the main weather forecaster in the United States. Canadians celebrate Groundhog Day with their special furry friend named Wiarton Willie, who is featured in a delightful National Geographic Kids production video on “Kids Love Groundhog Day“. For all you book lovers, “Family Education” suggests a selection of “8 Groundhog Day Books Kids Will Adore“.

Happy Groundhog Day!

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – A Special Day and a Special Man to Honor

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

― Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and it’s a perfect time to explore and discuss the qualities and characteristics of a good leader. It is also a good time to delve into history and focus on what it takes to make a difference. If you are interested in sharing the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. to your children, A Picture Book of Martin Luther King Jr. by David Adler is a good book for elementary level students. The Reading Rockets website also offers a wide variety of books for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I was delighted to find one of my favorite books on the list: Miss Rumphius, which is beautifully written and illustrated by Barbara Cooney. It easily relates a young child to the dreams and legacies that each one of us can offer.

The quality of good citizenship and leadership is exemplified throughout Oak Meadow’s social studies lessons. In first grade, stories of Abraham Lincoln, John Chapman, Clara Barton, and George Washington are presented. The second grade curriculum provides specific lessons that focus on individuals who made a difference in fairness and equality, such as Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony, and Martin Luther King, Jr. In the third grade curriculum, a lesson block on civics offers awareness towards the development of laws, the importance of governing for protection, and the characteristics of a good leader. The list goes on and on, for the topic of civics and quality leadership is displayed throughout every level of the Oak Meadow coursework.

In the “Let’s Grow Leaders” website, Karin Hurt wrote an inspiring article on “Children’s Books on Leadership– Questions to Inspire Young Thinking.” It includes many suggestions for books that are categorized by the various qualities of leadership.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is dedicated to celebration and remembrance. It is an excellent day to educate and pay tribute to his dreams and visions of a world that embraces the values of courage, truth, justice, compassion, dignity, and humility. It is also a day to offer service and volunteer to help the less fortunate.

Calvin Lawrence Jr. (Coordinating Producer at ABCNews.com) wrote an excerpt on “5 Ways to Honor the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.” He lists them as:

Give Something

Learn Something

Teach Something

Commit to Something

Dream Something

What way do you and your family honor this special day? Share one of your dreams of service. It could be an offering to your family, to your community, to the environment, or to the world as a whole. Encourage your children to think about their own dreams or visions of helping something or someone. Encourage them to complete the sentence… “My dream for the world is…” Then, draw or paint a picture of this vision. Oak Meadow teacher/blog writer Lesley Arnold also composed a “Dear Martin” post in the Oak Meadow blogsite that encourages students to write a letter to Martin Luther King, Jr. This could be another inspirational activity you could offer to your children.

Martin Luther King, Jr. strove to achieve these goals as often as he could. These honorable actions are something we can also strive to do every day of our lives, not just on this one particular day of recognition for such a noble man.