“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!
Hello! Here in New England we have had a good summer and it isn’t over yet! There are still weeks to go in August of lazy summer days and cool nights. Here at Oak Meadow one event we are all looking forward to is the upcoming eclipse on August 21, 2017. The following is a quick blast of great information from DeeDee Hughes, our Oak Meadow colleague:
We are all a little eclipse-crazy here in Corvallis, Oregon since we are in the “zone of totality” for viewing the total solar eclipse on August 21. I did some research and found this cool interactive map that shows the path of eclipses for years to come. I found a page where you can type in a city name and see what the eclipse will look like from there–I couldn’t resist checking out where friends and family members live. It’s fun to compare different places:
Seems like everyone in the country will be seeing something cool. Oh, and this article has good info about the solar eclipse glasses and how to tell if you have safe ones.
I was wondering why the upcoming eclipse is being called “Eclipse of the Century” when they happen all the time, so I dug deeper. A total solar eclipse is different than an annular eclipse, but both have the moon lined up exactly in between Earth and the sun. In an annular eclipse, the moon moves fully in front of the sun but because the moon is further from the Earth at that time, there will be a “ring of fire” seen around the moon, rather than having the moon block the sun entirely the way it does in a total solar eclipse. The difference between an annular and a total solar eclipse is the distance between the moon and Earth. Here’s an article with a cool “ring of fire” photo.
That’s my two cents on cool eclipse fun! DD
I’ll also add that EARTHSKY has a very good “Eclipse Day” checklist for getting ready for viewing. Be prepared, have fun, and enjoy the “Eclipse of the Century” with family and friends!
Take it slow. Resist the urge to speed things up, even if others around you seem to be doubletiming things trying get to summer faster. Even homeschoolers can get a little end-of-the-school-year-itis. Build in some cool, fun activities to balance things out and allow the summer season to unfold when it is ready.
Be flexible. If your homeschooling workload is holding up the start of summer fun for your family, maybe it’s time to revisit your plan and adjust things a bit so that summer doesn’t have to wait until everything is done. You might stretch lessons out over more days to make more time for play, or see if any nonessentials can be cut. The flexibility of home learning can’t be beat!
Reflect on what went well this past year and what you’d like to do differently going forward. How did each person in your family grow this year? What sorts of things were accomplished? What is each person most proud of? What felt like it could have gone better? Take notes so you can remember and incorporate that feedback when planning for next year.
Tidy up your homeschool supplies. Leave them neat and organized so you won’t have to go looking for them in the fall. Retire any supplies that have reached the end of their useful life, and make a list of what needs to be replenished. But don’t pack everything away completely — you never know when your child might suddenly have a creative need for something in that stash!
Stay on top of requirements. If your state or district requires an end-of-year assessment, test, or portfolio, plan ahead so you will meet the deadline. Don’t leave it to the last minute. If things are jumbled and hard to sort through, now is a great time to make a plan for staying organized next year.
Consider making a portfolio with a few representative pieces and/or photos of each student’s work even if your state or district doesn’t require it. Store portfolios together in a waterproof container so you can enjoy looking back on them in future years.
Dream big! What would you and your family most like to explore together in the coming years? Brainstorm all of the things that come to mind. You may not be able to do all of them, but it’s fun to think about possibilities.
Do you still need to submit next year’s enrollment forms to your state, district, charter, or distance learning school? Do you know the deadlines and requirements? Do it now, or at least get forms and information in order so you won’t have to hunt for it when the time comes.
Write your future self a letter. When autumn comes, you might find that your school-year memories have been overwritten with thoughts of summer fun. Have everyone person in the family write or dictate a friendly letter to themselves to open at the start of the next school year. Say something in your letter about what you want most to remember about the past year, along with your dreams for the coming year. You might forget the details over the summer, but those letters will remind you!
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.
“The 2016 December solstice will come on the 21st at 10:44 UTC. That’s 4:44 a.m. on December 21, for those in the central time zone in North America. It’s when the sun reaches its southernmost point for the year. This solstice marks the beginning of the winter season in the Northern Hemisphere, and the start of the summer season in the Southern Hemisphere. And, no matter where you are on Earth, it marks the beginning of your shortest season.” http://earthsky.org/tonight/years-shortest-season-starts-with-december-solstice
Best wishes for a happy and healthy winter or summer season wherever you are on Earth!
I’ve had so much fun watching the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro this week! I’m amazed at the talented athletes and their determination to reach their goals. It is fascinating to see the results. I’ve also been fascinated with the Olympic logo and the font, so I decided to investigate how it came to be the official logo and font. The investigation was just as much fun as watching the Olympics! I was again amazed at the talent and the determination to reach the goal of having your design and font chosen. I learned that Frederico Gelli, a creative design artist in Rio and director of Brazil’s Tátil Design de Ideias, was at first put off by the amount of entries competing to win. With the same “never give up” determination of the Olympic athletes, Gelli was motivated to give it a try and worked hard for two months with his design team to come up with their entry. I loved reading how the the inspiration for the logo came to him:
“I had the idea of the 3D logo when I was swimming at Ipanema Beach,” says Gelli “I was under the water, and when I came up, I saw Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers Hill, above). And I said, we are in the middle of sculpture city, we need to make a harmonizing logo. All of the curves of the logo shapes come from the mountains in Rio de Janeiro — not only the main one Sugarloaf Mountain, but all of the the mountains.” (http://99u.com/articles/53580/how-the-2016-olympic-logo-and-font-were-created)
And then the really cool part is that they worked with a British typeface firm, Dalton Maag to create the font. The company’s creative director Fabio Haag and his team created a whole new alphabet of 500 letters and characters. What an amazing collaboration!
Read more here about the process, how the colors were chosen, and how the designers came together to create the logo and font we’ve been seeing everywhere during the Olympic games!
School’s out! The kids are home for the summer, and suddenly your world has been turned upside down. How will you survive ten weeks with children home all day?
Homeschooling parents do it year-round. But when you’re not used to having kids home all day, it can certainly feel like a shock to the system. Here are fourteen strategies from homeschoolers to help you get through the summer:
1. Free your children from boredom by encouraging independence. At the start of the summer, ask them to brainstorm a list of things they could try if they get bored. Post it in a handy place. When they complain of boredom, refer them to their list. Create a dog agility course in the backyard! Make a kitty condo by taping boxes together! Set up a cozy reading nook (indoors or out). Build a fort. Learn about ants, find an anthill, and watch them at work. If all else fails, suggest that they lie flat on their backs, look up at the sky or the ceiling, and wait there until a more interesting option comes to them — something always does.
2. Find a new rhythm during the day. If you live where summers are hot, the sun’s pattern may shape your daily rhythm. Spend time outdoors in the morning and late afternoon. During the middle of the day when the temperature is at its peak, do restful activities in the shade or the cool indoors. Evening can be a lovely time for a daily family walk.
3. Let your children follow their own bodies’ individual patterns for sleeping, waking, being active, or resting. Encourage them to listen to how they feel after a late night or an early morning. Challenge them to figure out their own most comfortable daily rhythm and follow it during the summer months, even if the schedule will be less flexible come September.
4. Balance outings with unstructured time at home. During the summer, day camps and other activities can have a big impact on the shape of your days. If your family is extra busy, be sure to make room in your schedule for regular unscheduled time at home as well. If you’re usually at home without much structure, consider designating one or two regular days each week for outings.
5. Lean on the village. Connect with other compatible families and plan regular playdates where one parent gets a break while the other supervises children from both (or multiple) families.
6. Make regular time to play together as a family. Plan a set time in your day or week when everyone sets aside work responsibilities and obligations, and do something fun that you can agree on. If agreement is hard to come by, take turns choosing a family activity. Make a habit of being present with each other without distractions or multitasking.
7. Set things up so everyone in the family can be as independent as possible with meals and snacks. It’s nice to have one meal a day together as a family, but perhaps breakfast, lunch, and/or snacks can be a help-yourself venture. If your children are capable in the kitchen, ask them to regularly take a turn making dinner for the family during the summer. Or make dinner prep a family project once in awhile so the primary cook isn’t doing it all alone.
8. Keep bags or bins of interesting things handy for children to play with and explore. Stock up on puzzles of different kinds; Mad Libs, crossword puzzles, and Sudoku books; and interesting materials for experiments and crafts. Check the public library to find out if they have a “busy box” collection to lend out. Save these items and pull them out as a last resort when you need a few quiet moments to yourself.
9. Gather plenty of basic craft supplies, and set up an area in your home or yard for artistic exploration where children can be as independent as possible and clean-up is relatively easy. For craft ideas, visit our Pinterest boards.
10. Take midweek field trips! Enjoy local museums, historical sites, libraries, parks, hiking trails, and beaches. Go on a weekday morning when crowds are most manageable. Your local library may have free or discount passes that families can borrow.
11. Give your children extra responsibilities – and extra benefits, too. A child who is around more can help out more. Use this opportunity to help them learn how to do useful, routine tasks around the house. Those who prove capable of cleaning up the kitchen might be allowed to experiment on their own with new recipes or culinary inventions. Turn wood-stacking into a fun race, and end with a bonfire when the stacking is all done. Have the kids speed-clean the common areas of the house before sitting down to watch a family movie. Make a post-lawnmowing swim a routine perk of the job. Give your children the opportunity to feel useful, develop skills, and then celebrate a task well done.
12. Limit screen time. Send your kids outside to play creatively in nature every day if you can. If they’re reluctant or it feels challenging to you, read this article for some ideas on how to get kids outdoors.
13. Take breaks from each other. Adults and caregivers need time “off the clock” where they can turn off their parental radar and recharge. Children benefit from relationships with different adults. If your child’s needs do not allow for separation, invite other adults to come and share the load.
14. Enjoy your time together. Take advantage of opportunities to connect throughout the day. Those moments may happen unexpectedly, so be on the lookout and make the most of them. If your children are more independent, putter around the house or yard occasionally just to find and say hello to them. If they are at an age where they want to be with you every moment, give in to their need and keep them close. September will be here all too quickly, and these moments do not last forever (even if it sometimes feels that way).
What other suggestions can you add for an enjoyable summer at home with children?
Summer is officially here! For most Oak Meadow families, it is the time when the school year has come to its completion. As we begin the new season without a prescribed daily lesson plan, we begin to wonder about the activities in which we should engage our children. Should we keep up the academics for fear they will forget much of what they learned? Or should this time be a true school break for our children? I would like to share with you some thoughts on what I feel is the true purpose of a summer break.
Life offers us many experiences through our minds and our bodies. We dive in, immerse ourselves, and engage with our hands, head, and heart. Most importantly, life offers us an opportunity to learn about balance. During the school year, we have placed much emphasis on developing skills in focusing, processing, developing and learning. For many of us, this has meant spending several hours each day with our children engaged in the Oak Meadow coursework. For others, the school year has been an opportunity to develop a schedule conducive to our children’s individual learning styles. Whatever the method that’s used, the enrollment period has been about completing the required schoolwork. In other words, a certain focus, process and relationship has been maintained.
Summer is a time to take a break from this structured focus. It is a time for the child-initiated, non-academic type of exploration and discovery. Since children naturally desire to grow, a significant amount of learning will continue to go on; however, the subject matter will be different. Summer may be the time that your child will learn to swim, ride a bike, build a fort, or learn five new bird calls. Summer is an expansive time when children have an opportunity for an unscheduled, unhurried learning experience.
Summer is an opportunity for children to assimilate the information they have been working on throughout the school year. Factual learning can sometimes provide stress to the body and to the mind. In order for learning to really take hold, a child needs to have ample opportunity to reside in an environment that is stress free. Children need to have a lot of time to play, to create, and to imagine.
Summer also provides an opportunity to do all the things we wanted to do with our children during the school year, but just didn’t have the time in our schedule. Summer is our chance to relate even more deeply and warmly with our children and to nurture the love we share. Just as importantly, summer is an opportunity for home teachers to take time off from teaching. Burnout can be a real factor in homeschooling and every home teacher needs to have some time to pursue personal interests that rejuvenate the spirit.
The learning that takes place during this period of relaxation is as important as the multiplication tables, spelling and history. Often children will have a growth spurt during this period and are able to return to their structured schoolwork in the fall feeling refreshed and with newly acquired abilities and interests. So, take time to share in a magically wonderful, joyful and restful summer. May you delight in ample free play throughout your family’s daily activities, and may each one of you find joy in discovering new expansive doors to freedom and love.
Is yours one of the many families whose “school year” has a beginning, an end, and then a break before the next year begins? Schooling at home is something to celebrate, and when the end of the year arrives, it presents an opportunity for joyful recognition and reflection. Here are some ideas for ways to make it memorable and special for your family.
1. Celebrate growth! Have everyone in the family make a list of some of the things they are glad they learned or ways they have grown over the past year. This exercise is especially helpful for parents, who may have overcome many challenges without realizing it. Compliment each other on your efforts and accomplishments.
2. Reflect as a family. The school year may be over, but learning never stops. Together as a family, discuss the things you are most interested in learning over the summer and perhaps during the next year. How can you support each other’s goals and wishes? Show your child by example that adults are perpetual learners, too, and talk with them about what you’re most interested in exploring and learning.
3. Make testing fun. If your distance learning program, homeschooling curriculum, or state requirements involve end-of-year testing, make it an extra special event! Decorate the room where the test will be taken, plan some healthy treats to enjoy during snack breaks, throw a five-minute dance party to get the wiggles out and energy up between tests, and celebrate in style when the testing is done.
4. Revisit Main Lesson Books. Are Main Lesson Books (MLBs) a part of your Oak Meadow experience? Spend some time together with your child looking back over their MLBs or notebooks for the past year. (For extra fun, pull out MLBs from years past and marvel together at how far they’ve come!) If you or your child have a favorite MLB page, take a photo and send it to us. We love seeing the beautiful work that develops in student MLBs, and we would be grateful for the chance to share examples with others who are just beginning their Oak Meadow journey.
5. Make a memory collage. This is another project that is a lot of fun to do together as a family. Did you go on any memorable trips or outings this past year? What were some of the funniest moments? Do any particular words come to mind that can be woven into this tangible reminder of what this year meant to your family?
6. Have children evaluate themselves. Let each child write an end-of-year report on their own progress. What did you do really well this year? What areas would you like to keep working on improving? Include this report in their file, portfolio, or record for the year. When the new year rolls around, revisit it to remind yourselves about things your child would like to continue to work on.
7. Give silly awards. Some children are motivated by competition and love getting recognition for their accomplishments. In the spirit of a collaborative learning environment, keep it light and make it funny. Best ice-cream cone eater! Most devoted user of the color purple! If you have multiple children, have them secretly nominate each other for the “best…” and create fancy certificates or ribbons for each other. Have a mock awards ceremony complete with pomp and circumstance.
8. Share your child’s work with others. If you are both comfortable with it, plan a “show and tell” gathering and invite people who would enjoy seeing and learning about the wonderful work your child has done over the past year. You might have your child display their favorite projects or creations, share their Main Lesson Books, mark favorite lessons in their curriculum books, show photos of memorable events, offer a performance, and/or give a little speech about what they have most enjoyed learning. Be thoughtful in limiting your invitations to close friends and family who are supportive of your educational choices and who will be more appreciative than critical.
9. Write your child a keepsake letter. Describe what you have witnessed in their growth over the past year, in academics and other areas of their development. Keep it positive. Point out some of the things you have enjoyed most in working with them this year. Perhaps you recognize important accomplishments that may not be seen by the outside world. Give them the gift of words handwritten on sturdy paper that they can keep, treasure, and reread when they need a boost of confidence.
10. Celebrate their way. Rites of passage are important in children’s development, and the transition from one phase to the next can be very meaningful. Let them tell you how they would like to mark this transition. This may feel especially important after the first year of learning at home, at a time when their peers are marking a similar transition (such as the end of elementary or middle school, the beginning of high school, or high school graduation), and at the end of their homeschooling or distance-learning journey.
Above all, remind your child (and yourself) how proud you are of their willingness to approach learning in a creative, heart-centered way. This requires a leap of faith on everyone’s part, and it is so gratifying to reach the end of the year and look back on the things that went well. Congratulate yourselves, and look forward to whatever the new year will bring when the time comes.
How do you celebrate the end of the (home)school year? What are your family’s traditions? Do you have any new or different ideas to add to the above list of suggestions?
Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are heading into summer and many are looking forward to growing vegetables in their own gardens. In my state we have a Cooperative Extension Service that provides lots of information and offers activities about farming in my area. Since I’m in the city, I’ve started small this year with a few tomato plants in big pots, and some spinach and onions in a small bed. I look forward to my tiny harvest to make some spaghetti sauce!
We know that the planet’s climate may change on its own, and we also know that humans do pollute the environment that can cause climate changes. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is one way of helping to limit climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by growing your own food so that you don’t drive so often to the market. Many of you using the Oak Meadow curriculum are exploring types of soils in your science lessons. Here’s a fun game to play to try and maintain a sustainable farm that grows healthy crops and reduces emissions!