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.

 

Dr. Seuss Day

The more that you read, the more things you will know.

The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.

Dr. Seuss

Curling up with a good book and reading a story with children is often considered a family’s favorite pastime. Whether it is a picture book for the younger child or a chapter book for a more advanced reader, sharing stories is not only a delightful experience but also aids in the development of independent reading.

For the young child, rhyme and repetition are the precursors for early literacy and reading readiness. In the Oak Meadow kindergarten and first grade coursework, the practice of rhyme and repetition are emphasized as critical skills in the preparation of reading. The student is encouraged to listen to books with repeated phrases, along with listening to and reciting short rhyming poems, verses and tongue twisters. The student is also encouraged to retell stories, as well as act out stories with puppets and other props. Oftentimes a child will even imitate what the parent has read by pretending to read books, which can also aid in the development of memorization. These types of activities provide the child with a sense of mastery and accomplishment, which naturally enhances the joy of literacy and the desire for reading.

A favorite American children’s author, illustrator, and co-founder of Beginner Books is Dr. Seuss. March 2 marks his 113th birthday and is now celebrated as Dr. Seuss Day. Did you know his real name is Theodor Seuss Geisel, but he used the pen name Dr. Seuss? Did you know his very first book (published in 1938), And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, was rejected by the first forty-three publishers he showed it to? Since that time, forty-four of Dr. Seuss’s children’s books filled with zany rhymes and repetition have been published and are now available worldwide.

It’s a good week to visit the library and enjoy perusing the classics of Dr. Seuss. You might also like to visit Seussville or have fun testing your knowledge with the following Dr. Seuss book trivia quizzes:

https://www.familyeducation.com/quizzes/dr-seuss/dr-seusss-books

https://www.familyeducation.com/quizzes/dr-seuss/dr-seuss-book-trivia

My favorite Dr. Seuss book is The Cat in the Hat Comes Back. Which one is your favorite?

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!

Fact or Opinion?

The Oak Meadow curriculum offers many opportunities to learn how to research and write reports. Note that I wrote LEARN, because most middle school students are just beginning to learn how to find appropriate resources for a topic and how to organize the information into an interesting, cohesive, and fact-filled report.

Finding a reliable source can begin with a trip to the library for magazines, encyclopedias, newspapers, biographies, and lots more! Some students don’t have a library nearby and so they use the internet for their research. Reliable sites are usually ones that end in .org, .net, or .edu. I like to use the Great Websites for Kids as a starting point. Their website notes that the site is an “Internet guide of child-safe sites selected by a committee of the American Library Association.” You can choose a subject such as “sciences” and then choose a specific subject of interest. Give it a try!

There’s a lot in the news these days about what is fact and what is opinion. When I read reports by students I often write, “Make sure you back up your opinion with a reliable source that explains the facts that you are basing your opinion on.” Some students are learning that an opinion can be based on fact, and they’re backing it up with a quotation from a reliable source. For instance, I received a research report on sound frequencies for an 8th grade physics lesson. I was impressed with the three sources and the examples that the student used for his research. However, most impressive was the use of quotations from his sources that added strength to his examples. Convincing a reader that what you’ve written is true, rather than just your opinion, is pretty important! When you use a quote from a reliable source you give your opinion validity. It allows the reader to trust that your opinion is based on fact.

Making facts louder than opinions is evident in this video from The Weather Channel. 

Read for the fun of it!

“Teen Read Week™ is a national adolescent literacy initiative created by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). It began in 1998 and is held annually in October the same week as Columbus Day. Its purpose is to encourage teens to be regular readers and library users.” http://teenreadweek.ning.com/

It’s Teen Read Week! Support your local library!

I love this! If you have read any of these books vote for up to three that are your favorites. You have until the 15th of October to vote.

http://www.clipartkid.com/teen-school-cliparts/
http://www.clipartkid.com/teen-school-cliparts/

If you are in the 8th grade with Oak Meadow, you have the opportunity to choose a place to volunteer in your community as a community service project assignment. There are a variety of ways to provide service in a community. My students have done projects as simple as picking up trash in their neighborhood, walking their neighbor’s dog, or playing cards once a week with a grandparent. Others have reached a bit further into the community by volunteering at a local Red Cross, community kitchen, or recreation center. If you are wanting to do some community service and are undecided as to what to do, I encourage you to find the nearest public library and ask if you can volunteer. If the library doesn’t have positions for students your age, substitute your volunteering assignment with joining the teen club at your library. Most public libraries in the United States have teen clubs. Read for the fun of it!

An Oak Meadow Homeroom!

If you are enrolled in the Oak Meadow 7th or 8th grade and you have an Oak Meadow email address,  you can join the Oak Meadow Homeroom Group.

A “homeroom” is a place where students in schools gather together before school starts to share ideas, have conversations about the day or a specific subject, and basically check in with each other.  Since at Oak Meadow we don’t have an actual place for middle school students to gather, and our students all over the world are waking up at different times and studying at different times, that makes it a challenge to gather together. Still, the teachers really wanted to form a group that might serve the same purpose even without an actual room. Thanks to the internet, we can do this!

If you’ve received your Oak Meadow email address, you’ve noticed that you can share emails with other students in the group. One conversation is about where they live and why they are homeschooled. One is enjoying talking about their pets. Another conversation has been suggesting good books they’ve read. These are books they’ve been reading for pure pleasure. I’ve posted the titles here so that you might try some of their favorites.

Thanks so much to all for your contributions of good books and if you haven’t joined the Homeroom yet, give it a try! It’s fun!

These are their favorite books so far. They’re not in any special order:

Series they like:

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Land of Stories by Chris Colfer

Heroes of Olympus by Rick Riordan

The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare

Books they like:

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

Counting by 7’s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard by Rick Riordan

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling

The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman

 

Outdoor Adventures of a Literary Kind

From the Archives – Living Education (Winter 2014)

Literature often inspires nature activities, and it’s fun to carry literary themes into the outdoors. My Side of the Mountain (Jean Craighead George) tells an amazing story of a boy who decides to live in the wild, and he finds a hollowed out tree to make his home. In Pippi Longstocking (Astrid Lindgren), the inimitable Pippi uses a hollowed out tree trunk to hide goodies for herself and her friends to find. Maybe you can find a tree hollow to find goodies in, or a hollowed out trunk to claim as a play space or picnic spot.

Photo credit: The Lugo family. (Oak Meadow archives.)
Photo credit: The Lugo family.
(Oak Meadow archives.)

Older readers may have been intrigued by Call of the Wild (Jack London) or Hatchet (Gary Paulsen), both of which describe in great detail survival skills. Such literary prompts can lead to grand outdoor adventures and the development of important practical skills, including fire building, archery, woodcraft, camping, orienteering (using map and compass), tracking, wildlife identification, and other winter survival techniques.

One great survival skill that’s fun to practice anytime is building a temporary shelter out of leaves and sticks, often called a debris hut. These shelters are easy and quick to build and surprisingly snug and warm. Simple instructions follow. For more detailed instructions and information, check out these two articles from Boys Life and Wildwood Survival.

Building a Debris Hut

The most basic debris hut consists of piling leaves and pine needles into a pile three feet high and longer than your height. Cover the top with branches. Burrow into the mound feet first (or head first, and then turn around so your head faces outward). The forest debris will provide a layer of insulation that traps your body heat and keeps you warm.

ou can build a temporary shelter by using a fallen tree as a supporting framework. Prop branches onto the tree trunk in a tent shape, and then cover the branches with pieces of bark or more branches. Pile leaves on top of the branches and inside the hut to provide a layer on top of the ground. Depending on how big your shelter is, you might be able to invite several friends inside for a snack and a story.

If you have a large rock or boulder nearby, you can use it as the “back wall” of your shelter, propping long sticks or branches against it in a teepee formation. Cover this structure with branches and leaves, and pad the floor with more leaves and pine needles. If you build your shelter against a rock, it will not only provide a sturdy backbone; if you build a fire in front of your shelter, the rock will absorb and reflect back the heat.

Fun fact: Snow shelters are called quinzee.

Writing a Biography

“When you can do the common things of life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.”  George Washington Carver

A portrait of Marie Curie, taken about 1903 when she was awarded her first Nobel Prize. Credit: Public domain - See more at: http://www.livescience.com/38907-marie-curie-facts-biography.html#sthash.UKoZIRqm.dpuf
A portrait of Marie Curie, taken about 1903 when she was awarded her first Nobel Prize.
Credit: Public domain

I love reading biographies! I find it really amazing that people can do such constructive and creative things in their lives and in doing so make a huge impact on their surroundings. I found this interesting BBC website that has a “Famous People Index” which lists some very famous people from history. As I was scanning through and reading about the different people, it struck me that each entry is written in a way that I am often commenting on in a student’s writing about a person’s life and accomplishments. Why is the person famous? Where did he or she live? What did the person do? What time period did the person live in? Use the writing as a good model when you write a biography next time!

Let us know:

Is there a famous person you’ve especially enjoyed reading about?

Books for Kindergarten Students

As many of us are winding down the school year, it is encouraged to continue reading stories and picture books to our children throughout the summer season. This is especially important for the preschool and kindergarten aged students, so the Oak Meadow teachers teamed up and shared some of their favorite books for this age level:

Michelle Menegaz: Our family loved the very repetitive but very soothing Milly Molly Mandy stories by Joyce Lankester Brisley. There really is something magical about this story of a little girl and her family doing very normal things in an old English village from somewhat long ago.

Another one with plenty of adventure that starts off seeming to be in the most nothing-ever-happens-here kind of place is Twig, written by Elizabeth Orton Jones.

If you want a rollicking very high adventure, very high language read aloud, and the child can sustain through long complex storylines, then The Borrowers, written by Mary Norton, is a treat and a half, but no easy ride for sure.

Another long-time favorite of ours forever and ever is Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm… very understated humor and delightful drawings accompanying tales of real animals living with a real family in a real and imperfect old farmhouse. This is just one of many that Alice and Martin Provensen wrote.

Regarding the letter activities, the book LMNOP and All the Letters A to Z looks at the poetic nature of letters with beautiful block/beeswax crayon drawings.

Your children may delight in a deeper approach to the alphabet. Maybe they can come up with their own ways to blend the letters into a picture, or make them from pretzel dough, or act them out with their body.

And have you ever read On Beyond Zebra?  It is about the letters AFTER Z, written by classic, hilarious Dr. Seuss.

Claudine Kaplan: For animal stories with valuable morals, Thornton Burgess’s Old Mother West Wind books are great stories that were first published in 1910.

Sarah Antel: Tasha Tudor wrote some sweet animal stories.

What about Robert McClosky’s Blueberries for Sal and One Morning in Maine?

I have memories of my parents reading me The Wind in the Willows no matter how old I was; it was my favorite story growing up.

Shannon Miller: My boys and the kindergarten group I just worked with loved the whole series by Julia Donaldson (The Gruffalo, A Gold Star for Zog, etc.) They feature great rhyme schemes so younger kids who aren’t quite reading can “read” along. The author does an excellent job featuring female characters in different roles. (For example, one character refuses to be a princess because she really wants to be a dragon doctor.) They are fun and usually cheap to obtain!

Leslie Daniels: One of my favorites for a kindergarten student is Adrienne Keith’s book, Fairies From A to Z. The drawings are colorful and delightful, and the book is formatted in poetry style. This book also includes special “fairy words” for each letter that are found along the borders of the pages. In addition, there is a fairy box (home) to construct at the back of the book. My own children at this age level loved this book – and they also loved making their own fairy boxes.

Also, we can’t forget the wonderful books written by Margaret Wise Brown, Elsa Beskow, and Barbara Berger. They are perfect for kindergarten students!

Meg Minehan: In addition to some already mentioned, here are a few of my kids’ kindergarten favorites: My Father’s Dragon series, Jenny Linsky series, Pierre The Truffle Pig, and for a newer book – the Tumtum and Nutmeg series, which are contemporary but with that charm and adventure of The Wind in the Willows, etc. They are fabulous to read aloud.

Andy Kilroy: My kindergarten-aged granddaughter is already reading pretty easily, so I have been spending my time with her on Explode the Code books. I have also been doing poetry with her, as she loves to make up rhymes. We are both rhyming straight up and she is writing songs, which she loves to do. When we do read, we do books in the “easy reader” genre, so they vary. I have not hit upon any that she likes as much as she likes the rhyming books. I have been trying to do some longer stories with her; she likes Mo Willems books that are written in the non-rhyming format, and she loved Angela and Her Alligator, which is a “chapter book”. She also liked the Berenstain Bears series, which includes great morals and values. My granddaughter also loves Gruffalo and Where the Wild Things Are.

Michelle Menegaz: Choosing which books to share with your kindergartener is where the home teacher can use intuition and knowledge of the child to branch out and get creative!

The Great Depression and Children's Literature

In the 1930s an economic depression took hold of the world. It started in the United States, but soon spread throughout the world. Those of you using the 7th grade social studies with Oak Meadow  study about the events and have the opportunity to interview someone that may have experienced this time in history. My own father was a young boy during this time and he has lots of stories to tell about lines at soup kitchens, and people losing jobs. His father was a farmer and survived mainly by planting and selling his crops. Interviewing and talking to people about their experiences can give one a strong connection to a period of time in history. The American Experience website, has remarkable stories and photographs from people. On the site, search “an American Experience” such as the Dust Bowl, and many options to look at will be presented.

If you are interested in reading stories from this time period, I’ve found some terrific books for you to enjoy!

Curtis, Christopher Paul Bud, Not Buddy

Hesse, Karen Out of the Dust

Koller, Jackie French Nothing to Fear

Peck, Richard Year Down Yonder

Peck, Robert Newton Arly’s Run

Phelan, Matt. The Storm in the Barn

Taylor, Mildred Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry