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.

 

The Late-Awakened Heart

So I’m reading The Heart of Learning and love it, but I’m also left with a feeling of failure. I feel like I failed my 9 and 5 year olds. My 1.5 year old, too, but I still have time with her. Anyone ever feel like this?

Can you relate?

On your way to a heart-centered approach to learning, has the journey has been long and complicated? Have you have spent years trying different approaches to parenting and/or education before finding one that really feels right? Have the many twists and turns left you, and perhaps your children, feeling frustrated and exhausted?

Photo Credit: Yoko Hirano
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Start by giving yourself credit for where you are and how you’ve gotten there! You’ve worked hard to navigate the complicated path of parenting. You’ve followed your heart to the place where you are now. Your children benefit from your courage when you open your family to new possibilities. You are not failing — you are succeeding!

It’s never too late to adapt your parenting style in response to new ideas and inspiration. Even partway through childhood, your child continues to benefit from your growing confidence and experience. Parenting skills evolve over time. When your first child arrived, you had no choice but to learn on your feet. Maybe later you had other children whose needs were nothing like your first, which meant you needed to develop new tools.

You tried whatever came to you along the way. Perhaps you followed the model of other parents, the suggestions of relatives, or the advice of professionals. Or maybe you stayed with what felt familiar and made choices similar to those your own parents made. You made use of the resources you had and made the most of whatever was available at the time.

Photo Credit: Lacey Grim
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Maybe those approaches worked, at least for awhile, or maybe they taught you that your child needed something else. Or maybe your instincts were tugging at you to take a different path from the start. Every parent has had the experiences of making a choice that turned out to be less than perfect. Every child is unique, and it can take several tries to figure out how best to meet a particular child’s needs during a particular phase or circumstance.

Even when you’ve discovered an approach that feels like the perfect fit, you may have mixed feelings about switching gears – and your child might, too. Here are some suggestions for navigating this transition:

Explain the changes. One of the most valuable things we can do for our children is to model what it means to be a lifelong learner. If you are making a change that your child will notice and wonder about, affirm their experience and share your reasons for moving in a new direction. If you feel regret that your older children did not benefit sooner from such a shift, acknowledge this, but also make sure they know you tried your best given the information and support you had at the time. Let them know that everyone can learn from their experiences.

Include your child in the process. If a big change is in the works, such as a switch from public school to home learning, ask your children what matters to them. Give their input careful consideration and let them know that their opinions and insights are important to you. Do your best to foster and maintain connection with your children, especially if your earlier approach was less connection-oriented.

Photo Credit: Litteken Family
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Take good care of yourself and one another. Remember that significant transitions can be stressful even when the result will be positive and healthy. Find ways to create and maintain balance for yourself and your children. Spending time in nature can be restorative and healing for the whole family. Finding and following a rhythm in your days and weeks can help keep everyone grounded, especially when new adventures are beginning. Stay present with your child; you are on this journey together.

Take time to feel. If you need to grieve the way things might have been, give yourself (and your child) space for that important process. Be gentle with yourself and allow the transformation in your life the time it deserves.

Acknowledge growth. Your journey will not be like anyone else’s – embrace its unique lessons and gifts.

Remember that the heart is at the center of the parenting journey. It awakens to new ideas in its own time. You can trust that your heart is leading you well. You can do this!

 

On Poetry

by Antony Yaeger, Oak Meadow teacher

Photo Credit: Szmodis Family
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Having studied poetry with amazing teachers in my life, and having honed my own craft at Sarah Lawrence College, it is a joyful and enriching experience to teach poetry at Oak Meadow. What makes poetry so unique is something discussed in our poetry course: Poetry is a universal art form that can be found in all aspects of human life and can hold within it elements of all other art-forms. Poetry is not bound solely to the page. The famous phrase “poetry in motion” is a purpose of graceful fluidity, such that moves with tactful elegance throughout. Abstract, yet direct and completely beautiful to all 5 senses. We live with poetry every single day, even if we don’t have time to pick up a book.

To find poetry in the world, we often look to nature. To try to create an essence or impression of nature in art, we often turn to poetry. In my teaching, I try to teach in a way that takes into account my student’s developing mind as well as their heart, blending the two with their imagination. Poetry is one perfect way to do this. Each student brings their own unique perspective to analyzing a poem and their own special voice to the crafting of their own poems. Poems can be successful in any number of ways, but calling on the senses of our readers is crucial.

Photo Credit: Starkus Family
(Oak Meadow Archives)

What makes poetry even more incredible is that the reader is welcome to read between the lines, to string together their own meanings and ideas, to bring their own working palette of comprehension to the experience of reading. I feel this way with my students in this distance learning course and in the monthly poetry workshops we have created together. In these workshops, students celebrate their classmates’ poems and give them the gift of constructive feedback. It is amazing to see how perceptive each student becomes, how kind and selfless they are in making another poet’s poem better.

Poetry exists around us all, and you can read into that statement all that you want! For it’s not simply an abstract or ambiguous thought, but a truth waiting for us all to discover.

______________________________________________________

Antony Yaeger received his undergraduate degree in Poetry and Theatre from Sarah Lawrence College in New York, and his Masters of Science in Education and Waldorf Education from Sunbridge College, New York. Antony spent four years at the East Bay Waldorf High School in Berkeley, CA teaching poetry, photography, literature, and directing school plays. In 2009, Antony graduated once again from Sarah Lawrence College, this time earning a Masters Degree in poetry and creative writing. He encourages students to use writing as a tool for self-exploration and to gain clarity and perspective on world events by examining issues from new angles. 

For more information on enrolling in Oak Meadow’s semester-long high school Poetry course with Antony Yaeger, click here.

For more information on purchasing Word: The Poet’s Voice curriculum for independent use, click here (on sale for the month of April 2017 in honor of National Poetry Month!)

You’re the Expert!

Have you ever wondered how homeschooling works for ordinary parents? It’s true: Most of us do not have advanced degrees in education or child development. Most of us are just ordinary people who went to school like every other kid we knew and never imagined we’d be homeschooling our own children someday. How can an ordinary parent possibly be qualified to be a home teacher?

Photo Credit: Nevada Wolfe
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Good news! You certainly can successfully teach your children at home. You are already doing it. Home teaching is a natural extension of parenting. You’ve been a teacher since the moment your children arrived to join your family. You’ve simply followed your instincts to figure out what they need and figure out how to best meet those needs, whether the solution is something you do on your own or seek outside help with. This is what teaching is all about.

As you go about your daily life, you teach through example and by explaining what you are doing and why. You answer questions and challenge your children to come up with some of the answers themselves, sometimes, too. You pay close attention to them as you explain many things and support them as they try things on their own. You bolster their courage as they grow in new ways. You know more about them than anyone else in the world!

Photo Credit: Neil Family
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Although you may not have an advanced degree in education, you do know how to tell when your children are open to learning something new and when they are not ready. You know when they are feeling confident and when they need extra support. You know how to tell when something really isn’t working for them, and you know just when to switch gears when that happens. You can read their signals better than anyone else can. And using a packaged curriculum can give you the peace of mind that, pedagogically, you are offering an optimal learning experience.

Photo Credit: Kelly Weiss
(Oak Meadow Archives)

As a homeschooling parent, you are an educational coordinator, especially if your family takes advantage of teaching resources such as in-home tutors or classes outside the home. If you don’t feel capable of teaching French or Calculus because you never learned it yourself, you can engage a local or distance learning teacher to handle that subject with your children. If you are afraid your lack of confidence with math will interfere with their ability to develop a love for it, don’t worry – just get some help from someone who really does enjoy teaching math. If your children are learning primarily at home, even if they are also taking classes or lessons here and there, you’re their home teacher – and in the best position to support their learning.

Photo Credit: Szmodis Family
(Oak Meadow Archives)

For a homeschooling parent, sometimes a little boost of confidence can go a long way. Seeking outside help when you need it is important. If you would like to learn more about tools and techniques that can help you be more confident as a home teacher, Oak Meadow’s Foundations in Independent Learning course is a great place to begin. One or more homeschool support sessions or the ongoing support of an accredited distance learning program can also be a great help. Most homeschooling parents do not have a teaching certificate or an education degree, and yet most homeschooled students learn what they need to learn and grow into capable adults.

Consulting outside experts who might be helpful to you doesn’t mean you aren’t qualified to be a home teacher, but that you are capable of being a very effective home teacher. And as the home teacher, you are the one who most aware of what your children needs. You are the primary expert on your own children, and you are capable of homeschooling them!

10 Things Parents Give Up When They Homeschool

1. quiet days, whether at home or at the office

Photo Credit: Barker Family
(Oak Meadow Archives)

2. packing brown bag lunches or scrambling for lunch money every morning

3. the morning ritual of making sure nobody goes back to sleep after their alarm sounds

4. sending your child out running to catch the bus (and driving them to school when they miss it)

5. parent/teacher conferences (unless you count walking around and muttering to yourself as a teacher conference!)

6. all-school concerts and other mandatory evening events

7. providing a doctor’s note when your child misses school due to illness

8. mandatory parent-teacher commitments and fundraisers

9. the evening homework saga

10. before- and after-school transitions (in which you’re sure your child’s best behavior is being saved for their teacher)

Photo Credit: Vannucci Family
(Oak Meadow Archives)

What others can you add to this list?

 

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

 

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!

In Honor of Barack Obama

“What I’ve realized is that life doesn’t count for much unless you’re willing to do your small part to leave our children – all of our children – a better world.” – Barack Obama

Last week, our nation celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. This week, it’s important to honor former President and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Barack Obama. A proponent of higher education and an advocate of literacy in children, one of his major goals as President was to work diligently in doing what was necessary to give every child a chance to succeed. This included responding to letters written by children that were sent to him at the White House. Last year, a second grade Oak Meadow student sent an essay to President Obama (“If I Were President”). On January 8, 2017, during a very busy time before stepping down from his duties as President, he responded with the following letter:

Photo Credit: Checa-Sacasa Family

Dear Carlos:

            Thank you for writing. Letters like yours mean a lot to me, and they remind me why I ran for this Office in the first place.

            Being President has been the greatest privilege of my life, and while my term is coming to an end, that doesn’t mean I’ll stop fighting to make sure doors of opportunity are wide open for you and your generation. That is a promise I will never stop working to keep. And once I leave the White House, I’ll be counting on young people like you to step up and get involved – because we all share a lasting responsibility to bring about real and meaningful change that will make our Nation stronger.

            Wherever your talents and interests take you, always remember that nothing is beyond your reach so long as you are willing to dream big and work hard. America is depending on students like you to build a brighter tomorrow, and I know there are no limits to what you can achieve.

            Thank you, again, for your kind note. Your generation gives me great hope for the future, and I trust you’ll stay engaged in our democracy.

            Sincerely,

            Barack Obama

Like Martin Luther King, Jr. and many other great contributors to our society, Barack Obama is to be honored for all he contributed and accomplished during his eight years as President. Inspired by others, he also brought inspiration to the young and the old – both in our nation and all around the world.

If you and your children are inspired to read more about Barack Obama, there are several children’s books available about his life. This even includes the book he wrote, Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters, which was inspired by his own daughters, Sasha and Malia.

“I’m inspired by the love people have for their children. And I’m inspired by my own children, how full they make my heart. They make me want to work to make the world a little bit better. And they make me want to be a better man.”  – Barack Obama