Intention – Part One

Photo Credit - Sarah Justice

Photo Credit - Sarah Justice

Whenever a group of people are united in their intention and move forward together, manifestation is the natural outcome. By working together with your children, step by step, day by day, you will manifest the greatness that is within your children and yourself, and you will create new opportunities of growth for your family. – Lawrence and Bonnie Williams

Autumn is near and soon we will enter into the month of September. Many of your children have begun (or will soon begin) their Oak Meadow coursework. As you begin to guide your children in the next step of their educational journey, it is important to take a moment to reflect upon what it is you, as the home teachers, are providing for them. At the most basic level, you are helping your children with the learning process in the areas of language arts, mathematics, social studies and science, as well as in the creative arts. As we all know, offering these subjects as learning tools are very important. However, if you wish to make the most of this school year, you will need to recognize that you are doing more than just helping your children become knowledgeable in these areas. At a deeper level, you are enabling them to express their inner potential. The academic and artistic subjects are just the focal points you will use in the process.

What do I mean by “expressing one’s inner potential”? I am referring to how we take what is inside – what is not visible – and express it outside of ourselves, so that the whole world can see it. The process of transforming the inner into the outer is called manifestation. Oak Meadow believes that in order to manifest our children’s education successfully, certain steps must be followed. We need to have clear intention with our process and our goals. We need to clear time and space for focused learning. We need to give attention to the process. We also need to assess our progress daily and make adjustments.

For those of you who are in your first year working with Oak Meadow’s K-3 coursework, you have been provided with the book, The Heart of Learning, written by Oak Meadow’s founder, Lawrence Williams. If you have not yet begun reading this wealth of information, I highly encourage you to start now. For those of you have read it in previous years, I recommend that you reread it, particularly chapter 8 (“Working with Creative Tension”), chapter 10 (“Focus, Process, and Relationship”), and chapter 12 (“Creating Boundaries and Clear Communication”).

Rhythm is also an essential part of the learning process. We each have our own unique rhythm; however, this unique rhythm is but a minor embellishment upon the major common rhythms that we all share as human beings. The major common rhythms are a result of many factors that originate from within our bodies, such as our heartbeats or sleeping patterns, as well as from our external environment, such as the day/night rhythm and the seasons. If we are to be effective teachers, we must understand these rhythms and know how to use them in the learning process. Oak Meadow’s former Social Media Coordinator, Amanda Witman, posted a lovely article on “Rhythms, Routines and Rituals” in Oak Meadow’s blog. If you have not yet read this selection, you might like to add this to your beginning-of-the-new-year readings.

An Appreciation of TEACHERS!

The mediocre teacher tells.

The good teacher explains.

The superior teacher demonstrates.

The great teacher inspires.

William Arthur Ward

Last week, May 1-5, was Teacher Appreciation Week, but it certainly should not be recognized and celebrated for only one week out of the year. Therefore, I would like to show my deepest gratitude for the very important role all of you are performing. Whether you are the main home teacher, a co-teacher, or a provisional teacher, you need to be acknowledged, honored and thanked. You are sharing an amazing gift with your children/students!

Photo Credit: Leslie Ann Daniels

Parenting and teaching children may be two of the hardest jobs ever experienced. It’s not always easy to share knowledge with enthusiasm. It’s not always easy to provide guidance with inspiration. It can be difficult to promote self-confidence when we may not be feeling completely confident in ourselves. It can truly be challenging to instill the love of learning and to offer wisdom while helping to prepare children for living to their fullest potential.

Journeys are never completely easy. We will be challenged with hard times and frustrating moments. However, amid the challenges, we will also experience those shining moments of complete joy and satisfaction. If we approach our teaching skills by developing a quality relationship with our students, then we will be approaching our teaching as a positive, transformative journey for all who are involved.

Photo Credit: Erienne Novak

Not only do we need to honor our role as teachers, we also need to honor our children, for children can be our greatest teachers. They allow us the opportunity for personal growth. Children help us to remember our dutiful role in continuously providing the best and offering the most we can in every learning moment. We need to find that crucial balance between a loving heart and a determined mind. Being the best teacher is not the goal, because we are all humanly imperfect and incapable of such a title. However, if we strive to do the best we can, then we are being the best teacher possible in that moment. This striving is a strong testimony to the Oak Meadow’s educational philosophy of the process vs. the goal.

In all my years of teaching and guiding students, I have discovered that the most important lessons we can instill in our children is the joy of learning, the balance of life, and to never give up just because it’s hard.

I was recently reading through Oak Meadow’s guidebook, The Heart of Learningwritten by Oak Meadow’s co-founder, Lawrence Williams. It offers such amazing insight, inspiration and guidance. If you haven’t read it lately, I highly recommend perusing it. If you don’t own a copy of the newly revised and updated 40th Anniversary edition, it is available through the Oak Meadow Bookstore.

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!

 

Winter, Contraction & Frustration

“Every moment and every event of every man’s life plants something in his soul. For just as the wind carries thousands of winged seeds, so each moment brings with it germs of vitality that come to rest imperceptibly in the minds and wills of men. Most of these unnumbered seeds perish and are lost, because men are not prepared to receive them. For such seeds as these cannot spring up anywhere, except in the good soil of freedom, spontaneity, and love.” ~ Thomas Merton

For those who live in the northern hemisphere, the months of January and February bring us to a midpoint of the winter season, where we find ourselves experiencing drastic changes in weather and with focus. It is a time of contraction, in which we turn inwardly and reflect within. Often times, this season can also initiate a sense of tiredness and discouragement. Even our children’s attitudes can begin to disintegrate, and the enthusiasm during the first few months of school starts to wear off.

Lawrence WilliamsSince 1986, I have had the great honor and privilege to know and work with Oak Meadow’s co-founder, Lawrence Williams. Over the years, I have developed an amazing respect for his boundless wisdom and timeless energy in providing a quality education for homeschool families. I have also collected a plethora of articles written by Lawrence. So, “from the archives”, I have the pleasure of offering his timely article on:

Winter, Contraction and Frustration

Now that we are in a new year, and in the midst of winter, let’s stop for a moment to consider what effect this is having upon our children, the learning process, and us.

The learning process has two phases: expansion and contraction. These same phases are also apparent in the seasons of the year. The season in which we are presently immersed, winter, is the season when the forces of contraction are prevailing.

The predominant effect of the contractive phase is the feeling of being closed in, and the feeling that nothing is moving. In terms of the learning process, we often feel that our children are not making any progress, and we begin to doubt our effectiveness as teachers. Of course, this closed in feeling is much more apparent in the extreme northern latitudes, where the temperature is much colder, and snow covers the ground for most of the year. However, even if we are living further south, we still experience this sensation, although its effect is modified somewhat, and it tends to become a more subtle inner experience, rather than an outer obstacle.

Another effect, which is most fascinating, is that during the contractive phase, things do not appear as they really are. The same thing is occurring in nature. If we didn’t know any better, and just arrived on this planet without an instruction manual (a familiar feeling?), we would look at the barren trees and the frozen ground and would suspect that everything was dead, with no chance of revival. However, since we’ve lived through many winters, we know that things are not as they appear. Underneath the surface of the earth wonderful things are happening and in a few months life will spring forth again, and everything will be green and growing profusely.

So the most important thing to remember while teaching children in the midst of the contraction of winter is that, while it looks as if nothing is happening, it is only because everything is happening under the surface. However bleak it may look, however hopeless your children’s progress may seem, however many times you feel as if you are totally frustrated, just remember that it is not really that way. Within your children, just as within nature, marvelous things are happening at this moment, and in a few months the growth that is occurring will become apparent, as we move into the phase of expansion, when all things become visible.

The best way to handle the contractive phase is to accept it as an opportunity, not an obstacle. There are many ideal learning experiences available at this time of year. Take advantage of them. Don’t stay indoors, trying to complete academic work with everyone irritable. Go outdoors and look for animal tracks in the snow. Even if you are living in a more temperate climate, and there is no snow, watch for the events that happen in nature only at this time of the year, such as various animal migrations. By cooperating gracefully and joyfully with the opportunities available within this cycle, you will be teaching your children one of the most valuable lessons in life: how to find opportunities within apparent limitations.

In Lawrence William’s book, The Heart of Learning, Chapter 7 offers additional information on “Rhythm and Learning: Expansion and Contraction”. If you haven’t read this chapter recently, it might be a good time to add it to your reading list.

Random Acts of Kindness

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“I suppose the thing I most would have liked to have known or been reassured about is that in the world, what counts more than talent, what counts more than energy or concentration or commitment, or anything else – is kindness. And the more in the world that you encounter kindness and cheerfulness – which is its kind of amiable uncle or aunt – the better the world always is. And all the big words: virtue, justice, truth – are dwarfed by the greatness of kindness.” – Stephen Fry

This quote is from the fabulous ToyMaker site on the “Kindness Cards” page.

Marilyn Scott Waters is an incredibly talented artist that shares her work freely on her website. This month’s “Kindness Cards” caught my eye! I love them!

This is a great time of year to show kindness as Valentine’s Day comes around! Print and give out the cards and see what happiness you can bring to others! You may also find that you feel pretty good also. Acts of kindness often bring us a feeling of happiness whether we are receiving or giving. Reaching out to others, lending a helping hand, comforting a friend, inviting someone to do something; whatever you choose, it will surely be something that will make you feel good! images

If you are using the 8th grade Oak Meadow civics course, you will find an assignment that asks you to do some random acts of kindness. These cards would be awesome to use as you complete that assignment!

Have fun with this and know that you may be changing lives in a simple and very sweet way!

 

Love and Education

“Every heart that has beat strong and cheerfully has left a hopeful impulse behind it in the world, and bettered the tradition of mankind.”

Robert Louis Stevenson

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I have always appreciated how the month of February refocuses our attention on the most valuable gift we could ever give or receive. What I am referring to is, of course, the gift of LOVE.

hearts-of-love

I often wonder what this world would be like without love. I honestly feel that all would cease to exist. Without love, we could not maintain a healthy, supportive relationship with one another. Without love, we could not communicate in a rational, constructive manner. Without love, there could be no real understanding of one another’s inner feelings or outer expressions.

In a family centered education such as Oak Meadow, it is extremely important for us to keep our focus on the role that love plays in our lives. Throughout my course of parenting, I have sometimes asked myself, “Do I share my love in a manner that is truly felt by my family? Do I express love through my heart, or am I too much in my head and unable to express love in a tangible manner that my children can feel?” I have learned that the more warmth and love I share with my children, no matter what their ages, the easier it is to develop and deepen our family relationship.

Other questions I sometimes ask myself are the following: “Does each member of my family have an understanding of one another? Do we share points of agreement in order to bring forth a greater harmony in the family unit?” Creating harmony in a diverse family is not always an easy task! When my family enters into a disharmonious situation, and it can’t seem to be worked through on its own, I have often found that sharing a family activity together has been extremely beneficial. For example, we find pleasure in taking walks together or playing games together, whether it be charades or a board game or even magic tricks. When my children were young, there was nothing my family loved more than to snuggle under the covers after a long, tiring day and read a good storybook together. Whether it be exploring in nature, singing and playing music, reading aloud together, etc., it is the harmony that brings forth a deeper, more bonding relationship.

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One thing we need to keep in our mind and in our hearts is that, for relationships to grow, we must nurture them by giving acceptance, support and affirmation of the goodness in each other. We must not be be bothered by or too focused on the temporary ups and downs of our personalities. Communication, both verbal and nonverbal, is an important aspect of developing healthy relationships. Every drawing or painting we receive from our children, every conversation we engage in, or every touch we share, is an opportunity to communicate from the heart. If we want to form deep, loving relationships, we need to grab these opportunities before they pass by!

Oak Meadow’s co-founder, Bonnie Williams, once imparted words of wisdom that I would like to share with you. She wrote, “If we can convey that life is a journey that we undertake with others, and the most valuable part of the journey lies in the relationships that we share, we will have done a lot to help the family unit. As we learn to open our hearts more fully, we will be able to experience the fullness of life. The resolution of polarities cannot come about through ideas or the mind, but through the heart. Exploring the ways in which we can share more of our hearts with those around us is very important.”

LOVE is the essential element of life, and in my personal opinion, it is the greatest treasure on Earth. I have always told my children that love is also like magic. If we simply give a little away, it will come back to us doubled. Truly it will!

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Homeschool Rhythms

1f92e050d1d92acc194774307894663acWhat do you think of when you hear the term, homeschool rhythms? It could mean many things, but for each family, the homeschooling rhythms will be unique as they segue into personal school lessons and extracurricular activities. As you establish a rhythm for your family, keep in mind that it should never be a burden, nor end up as a forced schedule. It is meant to be a sequence of simple activities that is beneficial and frees the home teacher from constant decision making. The most significant goal in creating a homeschool rhythm is to use it as an aid in bringing quality to your family life.

Rhythms within each day, week, month, season, and year are an important aspect of the homeschooling family. The daily rhythm could be as simple as doing morning chores, eating breakfast and engaging in circle time activities before diving into schoolwork; taking a daily walk after lunch, before beginning the afternoon lessons; setting the table and helping with dinner preparations; and settling in for the evening and reading a chapter book together as a family. Weekly rhythms could consist of painting on Mondays, baking bread on Tuesdays, visiting extended family or friends on Wednesdays, enjoying family game night on Thursdays, and helping to clean the house on Fridays. 15037919424_1f629f7f2a_oThe monthly rhythm might include taking a full moon walk with the family or choosing a specific day each month to do a service for others in need. The yearly rhythm might focus on seasonal festivals, holidays, birthdays and other special events. Perhaps your family enjoys sharing seasonal poetry or songs together, or reading stories and books that correlate with the yearly holidays and festivals.

As a homeschooling family, it’s important to live fully in the moment. However, maintaining a balance between the present moment and the scheduled activities is the key to a vibrant and healthy family life. An essential part of this balance exists between active and quiet times. It offers times alone and times to share with others. It also provides times to focus on the family, as well as work at building community with other families and community members who share similar values.

13172heart of learningThere is so much valuable information that has been shared on the In the Meadow blog regarding rhythms and homeschooling. In Amanda Witman’s most recent post, she referred to an article on her Part One post of “Organizing Your Homeschool Day”, called “Rhythms, Routines & Rituals”. This post referred you to another previous article (written by Liz Gardner), “How Do We Create a Rhythm That Works For Everyone?”. If you would like to read even more about homeschool rhythms, Part One and Part Two of “Crafting Your Homeschooling Rhythm”, written by former Oak Meadow teacher Amy Fredland, shares some incredibly insightful ideas and invaluable suggestions on the subject. To learn more about the rhythm of the learning process, I also highly recommend reading The Heart of Learning (particularly chapter seven on “Rhythm and Learning: Expansion and Contraction”), written by Oak Meadow founder Lawrence Williams. 

Let us know:

What homeschool rhythms do you like to share with your family?

10 Ways to Include Heart in Your Homeschooling

1. Maintain your focus when giving your attention to your child.

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

In today’s world, most of us find our attention divided, scattered in all directions. Giving your full attention to your child is one of the best ways you can support his or her learning.

2. Use humor as much as possible. “Be silly, tell jokes, let your children know you delight in their laughter and smiles!” says Michelle Menegaz, Oak Meadow teacher and homeschooling mother.

3. Understand your child’s individual learning style. What kind of learner is your

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

child? Does he or she process information best in a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic way? Do you have multiple children with different learning styles? Figure out how you can make learning most easily accessible to each child.

4. Establish rhythms that are comfortable for you and your child. Rhythms and routines encourage a predictable and comforting flow to life and learning.

5. Slow down. Allow time for spontaneous discoveries, whim-driven creations, and heartfelt conversations. Remind yourself and your child that life is worth taking time to savor. Homeschooling allows us the flexibility for that, so why not?

6. Practice good self-care. Expect your children to do the same. We are most ready and able to do our job (as parents) and learn new things (as students) when our fundamental needs are well met. Make sure you and your child both have enough sleep, physical activity, healthy nourishment, emotional support, and opportunities for relaxation and rejuvenation.

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

7. Be gentle with your child and yourself. Ride out the challenges with grace and optimism. Understand that some days will be easier than others.

8. Stay sensitive to your child’s perspective. Even wishes that cannot be accommodated can still be validated. Your children may have insights into their own selves that can help you better understand how best to support them on the journey.

9. Do your best and let that be enough. There is no such thing as “perfect”

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

homeschooling! Lead by example as you accept yourself and your shortcomings. Show your child that making mistakes and rising up to try again are essential parts of learning.

10. Let love lead every interaction you have with your child. Let your love for your children be unconditional, so that they are free to explore and experiment as they learn, without fear of rejection. Let your homeschooling journey begin and end with love.

A Seed of Love

A seed of love, when planted in the tiniest of hearts,

Can grow to lead a life to that which happiness imparts. 

It is important to recognize that one of the major tasks for a home teacher is to create an atmosphere in which real learning can occur. Such an atmosphere exists where the children are nurtured and supported to explore their own personal interests, as well as the world around them. As we are all well aware, this best happens where there is a warm, loving relationship between the child and the parent.  1-seeds-of-love-grow-web

Sharing love is like sharing a treasure. Whether it be through expressing warm thoughts towards one another, opening up and sharing feelings with each other, or just spending some pleasant moments together, it is the essence of the learning process. In a loving relationship, we also discover that communication becomes greatly enhanced. When communication comes from the heart, be it verbal or nonverbal, it allows the opportunity to better understand and accept the thoughts, ideas and actions that are shared with each other. This form of communication may come through a special hug, a quiet conversation, a wonder-filled nature walk, or even in the sharing of a favorite art exercise or baking activity. Whatever the form may be, grabbing these wonderful opportunities will truly aid in deepening the bond in our relationships. 

1-seeds_of_love1When we are sharing these treasured times together with our children, we are spending true quality time with them. Quality time certainly does not mean planning a special activity at a particular time, but rather means experiencing quality moments that are unscheduled and spontaneous. All of us, as parents, have had our children rush to us with enthusiasm and bright faces saying, “Come quickly! I have to show you something!” How do we respond to our children’s excitement? Do we reply, “In just a minute.” Or do we say, “Later, I’m really busy right now.” Or do we not even hear them because we are so absorbed into our own work? If we could just keep in mind that, when we give our complete attention to these unexpected and unplanned moments, we are also acknowledging how important they are and how wonderful it is to be a part of the joy in their lives. If for some reason, you can’t drop everything and attend to your child’s request at that very moment, you can still express your eagerness: “I can’t wait to see it! First, just let me _______ (finish making your sandwich, hang up the phone, take the sleeping baby to bed, etc.) and then I’ll come right away.” Of course, then you have to do that, as quickly as possible. Happy Family Hugging Each Other

I once asked my sweet little seven year old friend, Anna, “What do you think of when you think of love?” She replied without any hesitation, “My family.” This immediate response would be the same answer for most children. Family plays a very integral part of life for the child, which is certainly another valid reason why family-centered education will flourish most in a healthy, happy environment.

As your family ventures through homeschooling, please remember to keep in your heart that when you clear time and space to focus completely on your child’s lessons, when you teach the lessons with personal interest and enjoyment, and when you introduce the new material with sensitivity towards your child’s skill level, you are sharing love that will provide not only a sense of fulfillment for your child, but will also give you great satisfaction for your own teaching endeavors. 1-march2012_tulip_01