Oak Meadow middle school students submit their lesson work to their teachers with such variety! Some students neatly type most of their assignments, others handwrite each page, while most submit a combination of both. As a teacher with Oak Meadow I love seeing the little extra bits on these pages of lesson work. I’m referring to the egg stain from breakfast, the rips from the new puppy, the notes that the student did the assignment but lost it somewhere, and the special little doodles (designs or scribbles) in the margins! These little extra bits can be clues for me as to how a student may be getting assignments done. I’m especially fond of the doodles.
Recently a doodle caught my eye on a student’s vocabulary page. It interested me, not because of the doodled design, but because I was interested to know what she may have been thinking about when doodling the design. What vocabulary word made her stop and doodle? Did the doodling help her to concentrate? Why did she choose to use this design?
I’m a fan of doodling so doodles on pages fascinate me! Through my research I’ve found that there are different types of doodlers and many are quite famous. I’ve read that President Obama preferred to doodle faces, while Kennedy doodled words, and J.R.R. Tolkien doodled things from the natural world. Some doodlers just draw designs that are formed randomly as they doodle.
Very little research has been done on why people doodle as they are working or listening. There may be many reasons for doodling as you work, but I think that it helps us to concentrate. If you are looking for ways to concentrate, take a look at these 7. (Number 7 is doodle!) So, I’m all in favor of doodling if it helps with the concentrating on an assignment! Doodle away and you may find that you can pay attention better to what you are doing.
What types of doodles do you do? Share some with us!
On October 14, 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. won the Nobel Peace Prize. He was the youngest man to ever receive it. He was just 35 years old and so committed to his cause that he donated the prize money of over $50,000. to the Civil Rights Movement. His protests and his “I Have a Dream” speech are world famous, and his accomplishments are still celebrated today. You can learn more about the 1960s and the history of the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War, by watching the excellent video The Sixtiesfrom Annenberg Lerner. In Dr. King Jr.’s honor, the United States Congress designated a federal holiday in January each year to be a national day of service.
“I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.
‘We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,’
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.”
– Oliver Herford, I Heard a Bird Sing
Such a beautiful poem! I love to recite it every year around this time.
This year I’ve looked at it a bit differently because I have many students in the Southern Hemisphere. Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are tilted away from the sun and experience these darker December days while my students in the Southern Hemisphere are enjoying warmer days as they are tilted toward the sun. Here, north of the equator, the December solstice brings the longest night and shortest day of the year and the Southern Hemisphere experiences the longest day and shortest night. As I look forward to snow falling, students in the Southern Hemisphere head to the ocean for summertime fun!
I looked for a poem to share with my Southern Hemisphere friends, but couldn’t find one. If you know of one, please share it with us!
If you would like to learn more about what is happening on the Winter Solstice on the planet Earth, go to EarthSky.org and enjoy!
Banned Books Week is celebrated each autumn in the United States. This year Banned Books Week is September 24-30. There are many events happening during the week at your local library or bookstore. Check it out!
The American Library Association is the main sponsor of the event because it is an event that proclaims intellectual freedom and the right of all to have free and open access to information. It is a time to consider censorship and how it impacts our communities and society.
Banned Book Week promotes our freedom to choose, and the importance of the availability of books on all topics and about all viewpoints for those that want to read them. ALA: Banned Books
Check out the list. I’ll bet you’ve read some of these books such as The Hunger Games, And Tango Makes Three, or The Golden Compass.
This is from the ALA website today:
Banned Books Virtual Read-Out!
Readers from across the country and around the world will participate in a “Stand for the Banned Read-Out” during Banned Books Week 2017.
Visit our “Stand for the Banned Read-Out” playlists to view videos from past participants which include videos from Judy Blume, Chris Crutcher Stephen Chbosky and Dav Pilkey, as well as actors Jeff Bridges and Whoopi Goldberg!
Do you think that any book should be banned? Have you read a book that is on the list?
Why am I playing a Pink Floyd album as I write my blog? Well, I just couldn’t resist after reading about the newly found shrimp that is named after the band! The legend goes that Pink Floyd once played their music so loudly at a concert that the sound waves killed the fish in a nearby pond.
The shrimp has a very large pink colored front claw that it uses to kill its prey. It uses the claw by snapping the pink claw and creating a sound so loud that it can kill small fish. So the scientists (Sammy De Grave of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Arthur Anker of the Universidade Federal de Goiás in Brazil and Kristin Hultgren of Seattle University) thought it would be a great honor to name the new species of shrimp “Synalpheus Pinkfloydi” after the band Pink Floyd!
This little shrimp creates volumes of sound up to 210 decibels! If you are in the 8th grade physics course with Oak Meadow, you study sound waves, sound pressure, and sound power and the impact they have on wildlife and humans. You will also study decibels, the speed of sound, and the way sound travels. So when I write that the sound created by the snapping of the claw can reach 210 decibels, you know THAT IS LOUD!!!
Working from home while homeschooling at the same time, even with children who are older and fairly independent, can be a challenge. There are as many ways to work-and-homeschool as there are different kinds of families. Here are some tips and tricks:
Maximize flexibility in your work situation. When possible, organize your work around your family’s needs and child care opportunities. Save less critical tasks for times when distraction is likely, and reserve more high-stakes assignments for when you are distraction-free. If you share parenting and homeschooling responsibilities with a spouse, divide and conquer – one works while the other parents, and vice versa.
Embrace a relaxed homeschooling style. Roll with whatever each day might bring. Time often feels short when you’re working and homeschooling. If things don’t go the way you planned, make the most of what you are able to accomplish and pick up any dropped threads the following day.
Expect the unexpected. Take regular breaks from your work to check on your child and assess how things are going. Expect interruptions and unanticipated shifts in priorities. The hot water heater will leak and the dog will get sick and the entire bin of beads will get tipped over and you’ll discover you’re out of easy lunch options — all in the same day. A big deadline will get moved up, your wifi will mysteriously stop working, and your inbox will be flooded with “ASAP” requests. Breathe, prioritize, give your child a big hug, and do the best you can. Some days will be harder, but some days will feel easier, too.
Manage interruptions proactively. How can family members best communicate with you to minimize distraction while you are working? For older children, a spiral notebook can be turned into an “Ask Me Later” book, where questions and thoughts can be written and kept safe until work time is over and you are able to address them. Teach them your parameters for urgent vs. non-urgent situations, and give them a helpful way to remember when it is okay to interrupt you during a focused work period. Remind everyone of how you would prefer they get your attention if it is unavoidable. (Stand at the door and wait for your attention? Say “Excuse me…” Write a note on a slip of paper and hand it to you?) Of course, in a true emergency, all rules go out the window. Help your children understand how to tell when it really is a true emergency!
Offer your attention and presence whenever you can. When you are not working, be as fully present as possible with your children. Let them know that they are the priority during your non-work times, and make the most of it for everyone involved. Celebrate when you are done working for the day. Put away your phone and laptop, and go about the very important business of reconnecting as a family.
Communicate, communicate, communicate! Calendars, homeschool planners, chore charts, and reminder lists can help ensure that everyone knows what to expect each day. At breakfast or dinner, check in about the upcoming day’s plan so that everyone is on the same page about what needs to happen. Review the times when an adult will be available to help them and when they will need to be on their own. Discuss which tasks are expected to be done independently, without much or any adult help, and which may need a collaborative effort. Be clear about your expectations and encourage suggestions from all family members about how to make things go even more smoothly the following day.
Give your child tools to use when they must wait for your attention. Be clear about when you are working and not working. If possible, stick to predictable “work hours.” Set a timer or alarm so your children will know when you will be all theirs once again. Younger children might need a clear visual, such as a specific hat on your head when you are “at work.” Older children might appreciate a list of go-to activities (such as free-reading, art projects, or journaling) to do when can’t move forward without your help or when they are waiting for your attention. Let them know how much you appreciate their patience.
Help children learn how to help themselves. As soon as they have developed the ability to prepare food for themselves as needed, give them access to easy-to-manage breakfast, lunch, and snack food. No-cook options and healthy pre-prepped food are ideal; make them in advance with everyone’s help if possible. Set up routines and systems so your child can independently handle situations like replacing the toilet paper, sharpening a pencil, or feeding the family pet. Encourage siblings to help each other first before calling for your help. Responsive helping skills can take some time to develop, so start now.
Divide household responsibilities in a predictable, easy-to-follow way. Everyone can be responsible for something important in a way that balances their capabilities with the needs of the family. Routines and loving reminders help everyone get their jobs done. If something is falling through the cracks, have a family meeting to sort it out and find a solution. If an older child has responsibility for younger child while you are working, factor that in as you find a fair way to balance things.
Keep craft materials, games, books, and toys within easy reach as much as you feel your children can handle without supervision. Leave OUT the things you want them to access and use, and put AWAY the things you don’t want them helping themselves to or using without supervision. You will learn through trial and error which things need to be stored out of reach until you can help with them. Be sure to have plenty of clean-up tools and materials handy if your children like to create with wild abandon! Plan for family clean-up time each evening to tidy up anything that they weren’t able to handle on their own.
Work smart! Do your very best to be organized and efficient. Set some time aside each week to plan. Keep an effective planner and a working to-do list (such as a bullet journal). Minimize distractions in all reasonable ways. Plan more work time than you actually need to get the job done. Have a comfortable workspace and an efficient routine for getting back into your work if you’ve been pulled away.
Lean on others. Negotiate swaps and playdates with other parentsto help create some kid-free time each week that you can use for long stretches of focused work. Look for win-win situations. Two friends and I have a recurring arrangement where one mom teaches three children for a few hours while the others work. A tutor might be a helpful investment. Engage a “mother’s helper” for children too young to be left unsupervised. Drop-off activities for older children can help create pockets of work time. And, of course, naptime for younger children can be a helpful time to get work done.
Take good care of yourself. Put your own well-being high on the list of priorities. Working at home with children around requires a lot of patience and flexibility. Take care of yourself by getting enough exercise, eating right, staying hydrated, and making sleep a priority. Ask for and accept help from others. Take time off to recharge in whatever ways make sense in your situation. Give yourself due consideration!
Remember why you are doing this. You have undoubtedly made home learning a priority for good reasons. Revisit those reasons when you are tempted to reconsider. Working from home is not for everyone, but it can make learning at home possible in families where the at-home parent must also be a working parent.
Do you have experience with working at home while homeschooling? What would you add to this list?
“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.
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!
by Lawrence Williams, EdD excerpted from Living Education (October 1981)
As the Fall of the year arrives, we experience once again the familiar contraction of Mother Nature, reminding us that all things must pass, and even the beautiful expansiveness of Summer must recede to allow Winter to work its magic.
Children often experience this contraction as a desire to focus their energies, after a long summer of either relaxation or unharnessed exuberance. For those who have been homeschooling for a while, the seasonal extremes are usually not as pronounced. However, for those exploring home study for the first time, the Fall can be a time of difficult adjustments to a new situation.
Often our instinct is to establish firm schedules of “schoolwork” within the home, as a natural response to the seasonal contraction which we feel. However, though it is true that children seem to appreciate more of a focus at this time of year, we should look for ways to integrate this focus as naturally and warmly as possible, to avoid the inevitable reactions that arise from trying to maintain a strict form.
Use this time to seek a deeper understanding of your children’s changing needs — this understanding will be a tremendous asset as you progress through the course of the year.
This article first appeared in its original form in Living Education: The Monthly Journal of Oak Meadow School in October 1981. The early incarnation of Living Ed (as we fondly refer to it) provided a then-rare space for homeschooling parents and Oak Meadow staff to explore and share their thoughts about learning, parenting, and related topics.
What do you think of Oak Meadow founder Lawrence Williams’ thoughts in this article from years past? Do you agree with his recommendations? How do you approach the transition to Fall in your own family’s homeschooling rhythm?
As parents and educators, reading others’ thoughts, asking challenging questions, and considering new ideas will open up different opportunities for ourselves and our children. Our ideas continue to evolve as we move along our journey. How have your own thoughts grown and changed since your homeschooling adventure began?
“This is a new year. A new beginning. And things will change.”
It’s a new school year for some of my students and I was thinking about some tips to pass on about beginning a new grade. Here are some of my thoughts!
Think about last year: Reviewing the past year helps a lot! Take a look at last year’s lesson work to help you see the progress that was made from beginning to end. It’s fun to review and note the exciting lessons, the challenging ones, and the favorite activities. Where were you most challenged and what did you love?
Try using new stuff: Going over the materials used last year, cleaning out items not used any more, and making a list of new items needed helps to prepare you for the new year. If you can afford new pens and pencils, that’s great for starters! What materials are needed in the new curriculum you are using? Get a new space ready. Create a new workspace, clean off your desk, and organize your stuff. Try using a calendar or a planner for scheduling yourself.
Think of some goals for the new year: Looking at goals for the next school year is helpful. Maybe you want to become more independent in some areas? When will you need help or family support?
Make a display space: Let the work shine by showing it off! Find a place to display a certain page or project that was completed!
I hope these simple tips are helpful. Enjoy your new school year!
I’ve been a parent for almost ten years now and a homeschool mom for going on three. If you had asked me four years ago whether I would ever homeschool my children, I probably would have laughed out loud. I mean, only weird people homeschool, right? The people who can’t function in society, or are bullied and are not safe in a traditional setting, or [insert any number of scenarios that would never apply to MY family].
It wasn’t until my oldest son was actually in public school that we started to doubt the system. He is a smart kid, a really smart kid, who also happens to deal with Sensory Processing Disorder. We didn’t really think that mattered too much, as he’s been in therapy his whole life and was thriving in school. Until he wasn’t anymore.
He developed anxiety and was increasingly overwhelmed with the simplest of tasks. He was quick to tears and always tired. His school work was still perfect, though; he was at the top of his class, so it wasn’t a surprise at all when his teacher told us he had tested 3-5 grade levels ahead of his peers. We were thrilled! What parent wouldn’t be?
But then we realized, if he’s already so far ahead, what exactly will he be doing in school this year? His teacher said there wasn’t really anything she could do with him; he’d just be filling a seat. We approached his teachers and the administration about ways we could work together to help him grow and thrive, but we were unequivocally shut down. He no longer fit into the neat little boxes that they require kids to fit into, and not a single person within the school system was willing to help my son.
When my husband and I sat down and really thought about that, along with our son’s newly developed anxiety and personality changes, we decided to take matters into our own hands. Several friends of ours were homeschooling, and we loved their kids. We spent months researching what this change would mean for our family.
I was terrified, as the only homeschooling families we knew were religious, and we are very much not a religious family. Were we going to have to compromise our ideals in order to do this? Was I going to have to spend money on curriculum that I’d have to edit out most of the things we didn’t believe? I was increasingly overwhelmed and wondered if we’d made a mistake.
Because I had researched the importance of “deschooling,” I knew I had some time to decide. We had two full months of letting our son explore things he was interested in and spending time as a family reconnecting. Time was running out, though, so I sat down and scoured numerous homeschool pages on Facebook and stumbled across Oak Meadow. I immediately went to the website, where the word “secular” jumped out at me. Hey, we’re on to something here…
I kept reading, and it felt like a light went on over my head. Oak Meadow’s educational philosophy felt just right. It was nature based, with a relaxed approach to academics in the early years, a strong focus on emotional growth as well as academic, hands-on learning, and plenty of arts and crafts. This was literally everything I had been looking for, and here it was, all packaged up in a complete open-and-go syllabus.
I requested a copy of the curriculum guide immediately. The day it arrived, I handed it directly to my husband and told him our search was over. He agreed to give it a try, and I ordered the second grade curriculum the same day. We couldn’t wait to get started. I registered my new homeschool with the state; we lived in South Carolina at the time, so I followed protocol to keep things legal.
Our first day was spectacular. My son fell in love with the animal stories. He was excited about creating his Main Lesson Book and worked diligently without complaint. We began to see changes in him, changes we had been waiting his whole life to see.
Our little boy who was born afraid of textures and getting dirty was outside digging in the woods, bringing us the worms he’d found and the caterpillars he spotted climbing the trees. He woke up well rested every morning – when his body was ready to wake up and not when an alarm clock told him it was time. He spent endless hours outside, exploring, and taking notes in the nature journal he asked me to make for him. The anxiety disappeared, his confidence soared, and for the first time ever, I felt like he would have the opportunity to grow into the well-rounded and happy boy he was born to be.
When we saw how incredible Oak Meadow was and how life changing this curriculum could be, we knew immediately that his younger brother would love it just as much. We had already decided to “hold him back” a year because he has a late summer birthday. We finished kindergarten this past spring, and it was one of the most magical years we’ve ever had. He was six when we started, and even though he “knew” just about everything that was covered, we had seen the possibilities for growth beyond what can be measured with lists and bullet points.
And we were right. He was enthusiastic about his lessons every single day and eager for what came next. We scoured nature for letters and shapes, had scavenger hunts, and painted in the creek. We read stories in the shade of the trees outside, then relaxed in the grass and spied the clouds for anything recognizable. Our year was inspiring, building confidence in a way nothing else had up to that point, and a deep love for learning was instilled.
Our family has grown closer since we decided to homeschool, and we have numerous plans this year to connect with the lessons like never before. We plan to travel out west as we study westward expansion and have half a dozen trips to landmarks throughout our state planned for our state project.
We’re gearing up to start first and fourth grades in a couple weeks, and this begins our third year with Oak Meadow. We couldn’t be happier! We are thankful every single day that a curriculum as inspiring and wonderful as this one exists and that we are fortunate enough to make it happen.
We are extremely excited to see what this year holds and can’t wait to share our journey with other Oak Meadow families along the way!
Morgan Wiebke is a mom to three homeschoolers, ages 9, 7, and 3. Morgan says, “We LOVE to travel (that was very high on our list of benefits to homeschooling). I’m very crafty and enjoy all things related to creating something from nothing. I sew, embroider, draw, paint, DIY house projects and pretty much anything else you can think of. We recently relocated from the Carolinas to Delaware and are very excited to explore and learn about a new part of the country.”