FAQs: Homeschooling

How much time per day should we spend on homeschooling?

This varies with each student and each family, and will change as the child gets older. In the early grades, the parent is completely involved in the learning process, but as the child moves through the grades, more and more work is done independently.

In first grade, you might begin the day with a 15 minute circle time followed by 45 minutes of reading and writing. In the afternoon, a one hour session is suggested: 45 minutes of either math or science and 15 minutes of reading. In the early grades, much of the learning time is spent actively engaged in hands-on projects, and you might expect another hour or so to be spent on projects, bringing the total up to three hours a day. As the student progresses more time is spent doing more focused “desk work”: reading, researching, and writing.

By the time students are in middle school, you can expect them to work at least one hour per day, per subject. Of course, some students will need more time to do their work well, and others may be quicker in certain subjects. Every student is different but this gives you a general idea of what to expect.

Throughout all the grades, most students work best having a specific time of the day that is dedicated to doing school work, and a healthy mix of concentrated, focused book work and artistic, experiential projects. Including an element of physical activity during each school day is also vital to a healthy, happy student. We often find that students quickly discover a rhythm to their school day and week that works well for them.

How old should my child be when starting Oak Meadow kindergarten?

In general our kindergarten curriculum correlates developmentally with ages 5 – 6 and grade 1 with ages 6 – 7. Therefore, we encourage families to wait until age 5 or 5 ½ before beginning kindergarten.

However, every child’s development is unique, and so there really is no one-size-fits-all recommendation. Families following a Waldorf pedagogy often don’t start first grade until their children are 6.5 or 7 years old. The idea behind waiting is to let the children mature into their physical bodies and abilities so that the rigors of formal education (including learning to read and write, and being comfortable working quietly and focused for a span of time) come to them more easily.

We encourage parents to read our FAQs on curriculum and grade-placement and then call the office (802-251-7250) to speak with an educational counselor for help determining the appropriate grade placement for each child.

It is also very important to remember that our curriculum is designed to follow nationally accepted educational standards for each grade level so the academic level of children using Oak Meadow will be comparable to their peers at that same grade level. This means that a child who leaves public school at the end of one year, then completes the next grade in Oak Meadow the following year, should be able to re-enter public school at the next grade level without being held back. Of course, that is always at the discretion of the school, and how thoroughly the family works through the curriculum will make a difference in the child’s readiness for the next grade.

One last consideration regarding developmental readiness is that starting children in kindergarten at 4 years old (which seems to be more and more common in public schools today) may put them at a disadvantage in future grades when curriculum content addresses issues that are appropriate for a more mature audience. Also, if children who are on the young end of the spectrum enter a school or group educational setting later, they may be a year or more younger than their grade-level peers, which can sometimes make social connections challenging.

Looking at each child’s development on all levels (physical, social, emotional, and intellectual) can help parents determine when to start formal schooling. Sometimes a child will excel in one area while being developmentally aligned in all other areas with a specific grade or age. In that case, parents can add extension activities or other challenges in that one area to enhance the grade-level curriculum. If a child who has completed kindergarten at a young age does not seem ready for the challenges of first grade, repeating the kindergarten year may be a gift that yields benefits far into the future.

I can’t wait to start homeschooling! Is your preschool curriculum appropriate for two year olds?

While it’s tempting to jump into homeschooling with young children, we encourage families to give their two and three year olds lots of unstructured playtime and a stable routine they can count on. That’s the best preparation they can have for the educational journey ahead. If there are older siblings in the house, the young ones can be included in the homeschooling routine but little should be expected of them in terms of focused academic work. They benefit most from imitating practical work and exploring nature and materials on their own—this provides a solid educational foundation without any formal lessons.

At about age four, many children are ready for a little more structure to their learning. Our preschool curriculum is designed to help parents introduce arts, music, physical games, and stories in a gentle way that still respects and honors the freedom and joy of childhood. At Oak Meadow, letters and numbers are not formally introduced until kindergarten. Of course, through stories, games, songs, and nature explorations, young children may begin to become familiar with abstract academic concepts like letters, phonics, numbers, time constructs (before, next week, etc.), and scientific classification. When children absorb these things in the course of their daily explorations, the knowledge is anchored in experience, context, and relevance. Trying to teach these concepts intellectually in the early years often backfires—children are quite capable of repeating back things they have memorized but if they lack experience of the concept in the real world, the knowledge is meaningless.

For these reasons, and because children are constantly inundated with intellectual stimuli from the wider world, we urge parents to relax and enjoy the early years with their children. Turn a deaf ear to critics who worry your children will “fall behind” if they aren’t learning to read when they are three. Protect the freedom and wonder of childhood. When your children turn four or five, they will be wonderfully equipped to embrace the world of conscious learning.

In the meantime, books like All Year Round Seven Times the SunA Journey Through Time in Verse and RhymeA Child’s Seasonal Treasuryand The Rhythm of Family are just a few of the excellent resources that are available for families of young children.

I want to make sure my child is doing the work correctly. Are Teacher Manuals available?

Teacher Manuals are available based on grade level and whether a family is enrolled or purchasing curriculum only.

K-3: The K-3 teacher guides include The Heart of Learning and the Oak Meadow Guide to Teaching in the Early Grades. These are sold separately from our K-3 coursebooks because they are a one-time purchase (they can also be purchased as part of the complete K-3 Teacher Enrichment Package). You can purchase them together or individually through our Bookstore. For our enrolled students, the K-3 Teacher Manuals are provided with the curriculum materials at no additional charge.

The K-3 teacher guides provide both the inspiration and practical advice that many homeschooling parents are looking for. Although both books are optional, we highly recommend them for families using our K-3 curriculum. The Oak Meadow Guide to Teaching in the Early Grades contains a wealth of information on the learning process and teaching tips for art, music, storytelling, and handcrafts, as well as an extensive list of songs, verses, fingerplays, and poems. It is a wonderful source of practical guidelines and ideas for implementing the essentials of the K-3 curriculum. The Heart of Learning provides ideas for setting up a learning environment and home routine that supports and nurtures the child’s natural rhythms, curiosity, and zest for learning. It explains the foundation of the Oak Meadow philosophy of education and considered by many to be an invaluable resource.

Grade 4: The 4th Grade Teacher Manual provides additional information that supports you in assessing your child’s work for detail, depth, and accuracy. Answers for the math tests are included in the back of the Grade 4 Math syllabus.

Grade 5-8: The Teacher Manuals for Grades 5-8 contain evaluation keys for the English, Social Studies, and Science assignments for each grade (answer keys are included with the Math syllabus for each grade level). The Teacher Manuals contain extensive responses to the assignments in the curriculum, additional information about the topics in each lesson, and strategies and suggestions to support the home teacher. For our curriculum-only families, the Teacher Manuals can be ordered in our Bookstore. For enrolled families, teacher manuals for grades 5-8 are included with the curriculum materials at no additional cost.

High School: High school Teacher Manuals are available for most courses, only for families who use our curriculum independently (non-enrolled). They can be ordered in our Bookstore. Enrolled high school students and families should contact their Oak Meadow teachers directly for questions regarding course work.

I would like to include more Waldorf influences in our home and school life. Do you have any suggestions for creating a home environment that is conducive to learning?

There are so many ways that families set up their homes to create a learning environment that encourages effective, enjoyable learning. One important aspect of the Waldorf philosophy is to honor childhood by respecting each developmental stage and allowing the child the time and space to mature at his or her own pace. With this in mind, here are some suggestions that might be helpful.

Some families actually create a school space by having a room in their home that is just for school time, while others are seated around the kitchen table. Some use a large chalkboard to put lesson work on and/or have a colorful seasonal drawing. A seasonal nature table displaying a few well-chosen, beautiful objects can be set up anywhere and it will set the mood for the season as well as the space you are in.

Eliminating visual clutter from the child’s school space and play space can be quite calming. Rotating items for play eliminates having everything out at once and frees up space for creative uses. Some toys might be put away for many seasons and only brought out for a few weeks before they are put away again. Toys that are used year round (like blocks and dress-ups) can be neatly stowed each afternoon or evening. Even very young children can get into the habit of helping to “put the toys to bed” when play is over for the day.

Keeping noise to a minimum can also make a big difference. During school time try to eliminate background noise like music, television, or computer. Transitions from one activity to another can be easily made by singing a song. You can make up your own simple songs or find new ones in the library, online, or in our Bookstore under K-8 Resource Books.

The daily schedule for home-based students is as varied as the students themselves, and each family finds what works best for them. That said, most children benefit from a regular schedule and from knowing when they are “doing school” and when they have free time. Beginning and ending the school day with a regular verse or song can set a lovely tone and bring focus and intention to the work you do together.

I’m concerned that my child will be isolated and miss out on socialization while we are homeschooling.

This is a very common concern we hear from families new to homeschooling, and it is a question homeschoolers hear from other people on a regular basis. Experience has shown us that most children who homeschool spend plenty of time interacting with others. Since homeschoolers generally have more free time to be involved in community activities than children who attend “regular” school, there is no end to the socialization opportunities for them.

Homeschooled children learn how to get along with and enjoy the company of peers, elders, younger children, parents, and grandparents while going to art and music classes, scout troop activities, volunteering in the community, participating on sports teams, and playing with neighborhood kids. They regularly interact with a wide range of people from different backgrounds, cultures, and professions. Most homeschooling families take advantage of the flexibility of homeschooling to include field trips and travel as well.

Sometimes the hardest part about homeschooling is staying at home because there is always so much to do and enjoy! Many homeschooling families report that their children become better socialized than their school-going peers because they are not limited to peer-group interactions, which are not always healthy, but are surrounded by people who model positive ways to communicate, problem solve, and resolve conflicts.

In addition, there are opportunities for socialization built into the Oak Meadow curriculum. In the lower grades, projects and assignments often take students into the community for science and social studies projects, or to do research in the neighborhood or at the library. In 8th grade civics, students participate in a community service project. Our 7th – 12th grade students are invited to join Oak Meadow’s online class discussions and collaborative projects. In high school, there are more opportunities for socialization through our Life Experience Elective Credit, our Advanced Study project, and our partnership with The Experiment in International Living.

My child is dyslexic. How does your curriculum address special learning challenges?

Homeschooling allows many opportunities for families to tailor their child’s education to his or her unique learning abilities and needs. Our curriculum is designed with multiple learning styles in mind, and offers a variety of projects and assignments to choose from in each lesson. This helps students find ways to successfully engage with the material, which can build confidence and overcome obstacles to learning. As a homeschooling parent, you have the freedom to adapt and modify lessons as needed to help your child get the most out of the material without being overwhelmed.

While our curriculum does not have specific recommendations for students with special needs, many families have used it successfully for children with all types of learning challenges. With its imaginative, artistic approach, the curriculum often sparks the interest of those who have struggled with their schooling in the past, and allows them to express themselves creatively while developing academic skills. Many mental health professionals advocate the use of the arts and creative expression, and find it particularly curative for those with special needs.

Our child needs a tutor to help him at home. Can you suggest someone?

We get many requests for tutor referrals from families all over the country, but we are not able to maintain an extensive database of qualified candidates. However, many families have had great success using local tutoring companies such as Kaplan or Sylvan Learning, and you can search online or in your phone book for options in your area. Another option is to contact your local high school or community college to see if they can recommend anyone–often college students or older high school students make excellent tutors. You can contact the English department, Math department, Science department, etc. to find subject-specific tutors.

For enrolled students, your Oak Meadow teacher can often make recommendations as well. Homeschooling groups in your area may be another good resource for families, as well as the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA). As a national member organization, there is a code of ethics to which IECA members must abide. Educational Consultants may not necessarily act as tutors, but they can usually supply parents with reputable tutors in their area.

We’ve just received our materials, and aren’t quite sure what to do first. Where do I start?

Receiving a box full of curriculum materials is exciting but can be a bit overwhelming if you are new to homeschooling. We suggest that you take some time to look over each book to familiarize yourself with what you have. Many parents find that as soon as their Oak Meadow box is opened, their children eagerly reach inside and start reading–they instinctively want to get to know their new books!

Give yourself a few days to get to know the books and get a sense of what it will be like to homeschool using Oak Meadow curriculum. Read the introduction to the syllabus, scan any supplemental books, and get oriented to the amount of work presented in a single lesson (which is designed to be completed in one week). If you are using K-3 material, plan to begin reading your teacher guides, The Heart of Learning and Oak Meadow Guide to Teaching in the Early Grades, before you begin your school year. By reading the introduction in the coursebook, reading your K-3 teacher guides, and familiarizing yourself with the layout and structure of the curriculum, you will feel more prepared to begin your homeschooling journey.

Most families find their stride after the first few weeks of adjusting to homeschooling. If you have questions, the experienced homeschooling community on our Facebook page is always willing and able to provide supportive advice, ideas, and answers. The Oak Meadow office staff is also happy to answer any questions.