Tips for Teaching Gifted Students

One of the most wonderful things about homeschooling is that it can accommodate the needs of students across the full spectrum of ability. One-to-one attention from home teachers can encourage and expand on individual strengths, and curriculum can adapt to address individual needs.  However, parents teaching gifted students can sometimes feel unsure about how to best nurture their child’s special gifts. These are usually groundless fears! With the right attitude and approach, home teachers can lead their gifted child towards educational success.

Finding The Right Approach For Teaching Gifted Students

There are two basic ways in which an advanced student can be encouraged. The first approach is to accelerate learning, and the second is to deepen the learning. Each option has its benefits and supporters, and since every child is different, no single option will work for every situation. Parents usually know their child best and are in the best position to make the right decision regarding educational approach.

Accelerating Your Student’s Learning

Oak Meadow gifted student studying at kitchen tableIn the acceleration model, parents might choose to have their child work at a different grade level in a single subject, or to condense two years of work into a single year. For example, a sixth grade student might take a full year to complete sixth grade material in English, social studies, and science, but work through sixth grade math by mid-year, and jump into seventh grade math right away, completing that by year’s end. This is not uncommon and can work very well to keep a student challenged and engaged.

There are concerns, however, in allowing a child to advance far above grade level. The first is that the content itself will be aimed at an older audience, and may not be appropriate for a younger student. In addition, just because a student can read and comprehend advanced work doesn’t automatically mean the child will be able to respond to it in a mature, complex way.

The second concern regarding acceleration is that often students will rejoin their peers in later grades, and if the accelerated student is suddenly in a classroom with a social atmosphere several years ahead of her, difficulties can arise. This sometimes happens when an accelerated 16-year-old find themselves in a dorm with college freshmen. Again, this is not a merely a question of intellect. The ability to work successfully within a group of colleagues is just as important as the ability to succeed on your own.

Deepening Your Student’s Learning

Many educators favor the second approach to serving advanced students: deepen the learning experience within a grade level. Extension activities provide opportunities to link related topics or explore different facets of a particular subject. Students can be encouraged to “own” their assignments by finding a personal connection to the material or by proposing additional ideas for projects.

Oak Meadow family studying map by a riverFinding ways to enrich the student’s exploration of grade level material results in a more complete, nuanced understanding and often helps the student create relevant connections across disciplines. For instance, when studying the discovery of electricity in science, your student might also write (and perform!) a speech announcing Thomas Edison’s newly patented light bulb. Your student could list ways in which electricity changed life in the late 1800s, and draw sketches of some of Edison’s other inventions. Math could be worked into the lesson by having your student calculate the additional number of hours worked per year after electric lighting lengthened the work day, or estimate the increase in factory output with longer hours versus the additional expense of electricity. This multi-disciplinary approach encourages a flexibility of thought and develops creative problem-solving skills.

Project-based learning also gives advanced students the chance to explore a subject from many different angles. Giving students the chance to develop long-term projects—such as building and installing bat houses, and then studying the bat population and its influence on the ecosystem—also helps sustain their engagement over time, which gives them more opportunities for mature thought and individual interpretation of the material.

Regardless of which learning opportunities a parent offers, there is an innate human need to explore the world and challenge oneself and homeschooling allows students to follow their education impulses wherever they might take them. This inner drive, paired with the many options available to the homeschooling parent, practically guarantees that a gifted child is bound to soar.

Curriculum Cover Coloring Contest

Design Your Own Curriculum Cover! Coloring Contest

To celebrate the release of our new curriculum covers, Oak Meadow is holding a coloring contest! Download the blank coloring sheet below for your student’s upcoming grade level and let their imagination run wild. For students grades 4-8, students can design a cover to match their favorite subject.

The best part? Winners will receive an Oak Meadow coursebook featuring their very own illustrated cover!

Submissions for the 2019 Curriculum Cover Coloring Contest are closed. Congratulations to our winners!

Curriculum Cover Coloring Contest Winners

Click on the images below to download your coloring sheet

Kindergarten Curriculum Cover Blank

1st Grade Curriculum Cover Blank for Coloring

2nd Grade Curriculum Cover Blank for Coloring

3rd Grade Curriculum Cover Blank for Coloring

4th Grade Curriculum Cover Blank for Coloring

5th Grade Curriculum Cover Blank for Coloring

6th Grade Curriculum Cover Blank for Coloring

7th Grade Curriculum Cover Blank

8th Grade Curriculum Cover Blank for Coloring

Contest Rules

Prizes will be awarded in two categories: K-4 and 5-8. One winner from each category will win a custom copy of the grade curriculum they’ve drawn. U.S. winners only. Contest winners will be selected by the Oak Meadow staff.

Submit entries by uploading them full-size and best-quality to the entry form above. There is no limit to the number of entries you may submit.

Submitting your entry serves as your agreement to the following: You give Oak Meadow full permission to use submitted entries in our publications, on our website, sharing them through social media including Facebook and Instagram, and any other applicable display or use with no compensation or attribution (unless we have room–then we’d love to give you credit!) to promote Oak Meadow and it’s services and products.

Summer Reading List 2019 for Families & Students K-8

The unstructured days of summer offer a perfect opportunity for students to explore new works of literature outside the homeschool curriculum. This list is a compilation of suggestions from Oak Meadow teachers and enrolled students. Many of the books are newly published, while others are classic reads. While we order these books by grade level, keep in mind that these are just suggestions — your student should feel free to explore whichever of these summer reading books catch their eye based on their interests and individual reading levels. Happy Reading!

Grades K-3

Blueberries for Sale Book Cover

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey: A fun adventure as a little girl goes blueberry picking with her mother.

The Dandelion Seed Book Cover

The Dandelion Seed by Joseph Anthony: The Dandelion Seed is a story about a seed that is scared to let go, but the wind blows it away.

Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina: A hat salesman finds some monkey fun after taking a nap under a tree.

The Keeping Quilt and other books by Patricia Polacco: As a way to remember their home in Russia, Anna’s family sews a quilt from old clothes from their family. Remnants from Aunt Havdalah’s nightgown and Aunt Natasha’s apron become part of a quilt that is used in many ways, including as a Sabbath tablecloth and wedding canopy.

Pigs in the Mud by Lynne Plourde: It’s mud season, but there’s more than mud in the middle of the road: There are pigs, hens, sheep, and bulls in the way. That won’t do. For a car to get through, somebody’s gotta shoo!

If You Were My Baby by Fran Hodgkins: Fran Hodgkins describes a variety of animals rearing their offspring with encouraging words.

Grades 4-5

The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett: A 10-year-old orphan comes to live in a lonely house on the Yorkshire moors and discovers an invalid cousin and the mysteries of a locked garden.

The Redwall Series

Redwall Series by Brian Jacques: Redwall Abbey, tranquil home to a community of peace-loving mice, is threatened by Cluny the Scourge savage rat warlord and his battle-hardened horde.

The Bat Poet by Randall Jarrell Pictures by Maurice Sendak: There was once a little brown bat who couldn’t sleep during the day. Before long he began to see things differently from the other bats. The Bat-Poet is the story of how he tried to make the other bats see the world his way.

Chester and Gus by Cammie McGovern: Chester has always wanted to become a service dog. When he fails his certification test, it seems like that dream will never come true — until a family adopts him to be a companion for their ten-year-old son, Gus, who has autism. But Gus acts so differently than anyone Chester has ever met.

George by Kate Pavao: George is a book about a transgender fourth-grader who increasingly learns to be herself and to tell others about her secret. Along the way, she finds many supportive advocates, but her greatest ally is her best friend, Kelly.

Front Desk by Kelly Yang: Ten year-old Mia Tang moved to the US for a better life, but so far, it’s a life where she runs the front desk of a motel while her parents clean rooms. Based on author Kelly Yang’s real-life experience immigrating to America from China, this novel explores how one little girl overcomes language barriers, discrimination, and her own lack of confidence to find her voice — and use it to make a difference.

Artemis Fowl (series) by Eoin Colfer: Artemis Fowl is a series of eight science fantasy novels, starring teenage criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl II.

Primates by Jim Ottaviani: Primates is an accessible, entertaining, and informative look at the field of primatology and at the lives of three of the most remarkable women scientists of the twentieth century.

Because of Winn Dixie By Kate DiCamillo: The summer Opal and her father, the preacher, move to Naomi, Florida, Opal goes into the Winn-Dixie supermarket and comes out with a dog. A big, ugly, suffering dog with a sterling sense of humor. A dog she names Winn-Dixie.

Grades 6-8

The Truth as told my mason butte

The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor: Mason Buttle is a large, sweaty kid with learning disabilities. Mason also has a big heart. When his best friend dies under suspicious circumstances, Mason becomes the focus of Lieutenant Baird’s investigation.

Small Spaces

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden: Ollie Adler saves an old book from a distraught woman threatening to throw it into a river. The book leads Ollie into a dangerous, supernatural struggle for survival at a local farm.

The True Blue Scouts of Sugarman Swamp by Kathi Appelt: Raccoons, a twelve year-old boy, and a world-class alligator wrestler are some of the characters in this delightful story.

The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Braden, Ann: Zoey is a middle school student constantly taking care of her younger siblings, being bullied or ignored at school, and worrying about things like the power being turned off or not having enough food to eat.

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed: Amal dreams of being a teacher, but soon she discovers that for a girl in Pakistan, an education is not guaranteed. After a car accident, she is forced to be an indentured servant in the household of the village landlord.

The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman: Two sisters run away from an abusive homelife and find themselves living in the streets of Chennai (India) Full of both fun moments and harsh realities.

Out of my mind by Sharon Draper: An eleven year-old girl with Cerebral Palsy has limited bodily functions. Her mind works well, but she is unable to speak.

Girls Who Looked Under Rocks by Jeannine Atkins: This book portrays the youths and careers of six remarkable women whose curiosity about nature fueled a passion to steadfastly overcome obstacles to careers in traditionally men-only occupations.

These summer reading suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg — share your suggestions on Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #OMSummerSchool.

6 Ideas to Infuse a Little College Exploration into Your Summer

Summer is a great time to do some low-key exploration of colleges and the college admissions process, regardless of the age of your student. Here are some ideas for making the most of the summer months:

Oak Meadow High School student taking photos

  1. Visit college campuses. Start to get a feel for what campuses look like and see what gives you a ‘gut feeling’ of either YEA or NAY. Many schools will not be in session, but if you check in with the Admissions Office (look online, ahead of your visit) you can probably at least have a tour with a student and perhaps an Info Session.
  2. Start thinking about what you might want, in terms of areas of study and/or possible career fields. Use tools such as the College Board’s Big Future website to explore careers and majors, if not specific colleges.
  3. Research standardized tests and determine whether you will want to take them, and when. If you will, do some prep – free tools can be found at Khan Academy and on testing websites.
  4. If you haven’t already compiled a list of activities (“extracurriculars”), do so! Include sports, lessons, travel, community service, paid and unpaid work, summer programs, etc.
  5. If you won’t be receiving a high school diploma, start NOW to develop your homeschool transcript (courses, curriculum/books used, projects completed, etc.). Save (scan) samples of work.
  6. Check out the essay prompts used for college applications. The Common Application’s Essay Prompts, even if you don’t use the Common App, will give you a good idea of what to expect. If you’re headed into your senior year, draft a few essays this summer!

As you dive into the college admissions process, remember that you don’t have to go it alone. Every fall, Oak Meadow hosts a free College Counseling webinar series designed to guide homeschool students towards college admissions success. Plan to join us!

Oak Meadow 5-8 Newsletter, Spring 2019

Curriculum Activity: Make a Labyrinth

When studying ancient civilizations in Oak Meadow Grade 6, students have the chance to create a labyrinth like the one in the story of Theseus and the Minotaur. Follow the directions below for a classical, three-circuit labyrinth, or check out this video if you want to try a more complex five-circuit labyrinth. (Click on image below to download PDF.)

make a labyrinth instructions

Tips for Getting Through to the End of the “School” Year

For those homeschoolers who follow the traditional U.S. school calendar, integrate some extra fun activities to keep everyone (including you, moms and dads) moving forward.

  • Schedule extra museum trips, picnics, outdoor explorations, or field trips to spice up curricular/book work.
  • If you’re following a curriculum lesson planner, don’t be afraid to skip assignments if you feel the skill has been learned. Look for ways to combine or integrate lessons from different subjects into one project. Create a mural, make a video or slide show, put on a presentation or play, host a read-aloud; or create a model, timeline, or diagram as alternatives to written lesson assignments.
  • Know when to push through lessons and when to let go. Observe your students and yourself for interest and energy levels, and signs of stress or feeling overwhelmed. Don’t worry about getting to everything. Take a break and start up anew later–even next year!
  • Reflect on what is working well and plan to implement those methods for the rest of the year.
  • Sort through school supplies, books, clothing. Spring cleaning often give us more energy and brain power! For a fun family activity, have a tag sale and let the kids keep some of the proceeds.
  • Last but not least, don’t forget to sleep and relax, eat healthy, exercise, and spend as much time outdoors as you can.

Oak Meadow K-4 Newsletter, Spring 2019

Our favorite books for your favorite little people
Curriculum activity from Healthy Living from the Start: People Who Help
Cursive is alive and well!
What is a main lesson book?
It’s Spring! Build a bird nest supply box

Three young children reading on floorOur favorite books for your favorite little people

Here’s a list of favorites for kindergartners, from Oak Meadow K-4 teachers. Keep handy for your next trip to the library or used book store.

  • Milly Molly Mandy stories, by Joyce Lankester Brisley. There really is something magical about this story of a little girl and her family doing very normal things in an old English village from a time long ago.
  • Twig, by Elizabeth Orton Jones. Another one with plenty of adventure that starts off seeming to be in the most nothing-ever-happens-here kind of place.
  • The Borrowers, by Mary Norton. If you want a lengthier, rollicking read-aloud adventure, and your child can stay focused through complex story lines, then this is a treat and a half.
  • Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm, by Alice and Martin Provensen. Very understated humor and delightful drawings accompany tales of real animals living with a real family in a real and imperfect old farmhouse. This is just one of many the Provensens wrote.
  • LMNOP and All the Letters A to Z,  by Howard R. Schrager. This book looks at the poetic nature of letters with beautiful block beeswax crayon drawings.
  • On Beyond Zebra? by Dr. Seuss. This rhyming picture book introduces 20 new letters after Z. Seuss, of course, created zany creatures that are spelled with the new letters.
  • Fairies From A to Z, by Adrienne Keith. The drawings are colorful and delightful, and the book is formatted in poetry style. This book includes special “fairy words” for each letter that are found along the borders of the pages.
  • The Gruffalo, by Julia Donaldson. The whole series by Donaldson features great rhyme schemes so younger kids who aren’t quite reading can “read” along. The author does an excellent job featuring female characters in different roles.

Other favorites:
My Father’s Dragon, by Ruth Stiles Gannet (series)
Jenny Linsky and the Cat Club, by Esther Averill (series)
Tumtum and Nutmeg, by Emily Bearn (series)
Children of the Forest, Elsa Beskow (Waldorf-inspired)

stock image of emergency personnelCurriculum activity from Healthy Living from the Start: People Who Help

Oak Meadow’s health curriculum for K-3 provides a sequential guide through the grades to help families explore topics relevant to their child’s growth and development. Chapters include nutrition, the growing body, hygiene, community, emotions, and safety. Here are activities to try from Lesson 11: People Who Help.

Kindergarten: Police officers
The goal is to help your child appreciate the important work of police officers and to feel comfortable around them. Have your child greet an officer and introduce him- or herself. Prepare some questions:

  • How long have you been a police officer?
  • How long did you study and train for the job?
  • What do you like best about your job?

Afterward, have your child draw a card of thanks for the officer’s good work and deliver it to the local police department.

Grade 1: Firefighters
As with the activity in kindergarten, the goal is to help your child understand the vital work of firefighters. If possible, arrange for your child to meet a firefighter and have some questions ready:

  • How did you train to become a firefighter?
  • What safety gear do you wear when you fight a fire?
  • What equipment is stowed on the firetruck and what is it for?

Again, ask your child to draw a card of appreciation and hand deliver to the fire station.

Grade 2: Paramedics
In this activity, your child pretends to be an EMT (emergency medical technician) or paramedic. You are the victim, putting yourself in all sorts of imaginary difficulties; for example, you’re trapped in a car that has flipped or you’ve suffered a broken ankle while hiking. Next, have your child simulate the rescue protocol using a few supplies to add realism.

  • Check for breathing and control bleeding.
  • Check for injuries and immobilize them.
  • Transport injured person to the ambulance and radio in a report to the ER doctors.

Grade 3: Hospital staff
The hospital can seem a confusing, frightening place, but a visit to a hospital lobby can help your child appreciate the large number of health care providers involved in the smooth operation of a hospital and patient care. Find a comfortable spot to sit and watch the comings and goings.

  • Point out the different people who work there and describe what they do.
  • Observe the different styles of uniforms: scrubs, lab coats, volunteer jackets or vests.
  • Discuss the purposes of the various wings or departments of the hospital.

Cursive is alive and well!

boy at desk writingAs a result of the rise of technology and the need for keyboarding skills, the Common Core Standards for education (launched in 2009) omitted training in cursive handwriting, and cursive all but disappeared from curricula across the country. Thankfully, the practice of cursive is making a comeback, and states are gradually reintroducing the requirement.

For homeschoolers, including cursive in the curriculum may come as naturally as including woodworking, knitting, and other handcrafts. Oak Meadow introduces instruction in cursive handwriting in third grade, tying it to lessons in poetry, ancient cultures, and arts and crafts. At this age, children demonstrate a new interest in careful work; learning cursive can fuel this and provide a practice to build on, often opening up pathways to new explorations and disciplines in writing and the arts. There is a certain physicality to writing in cursive that appeals to children and connects to the tactile, sensory experience of reading print books rather than electronic screens: the hand moving across the page to make continuous strokes of interconnected letters, the balance and melodic timbre of the spacing, the individual flourish and artistry left behind.

What is a main lesson book?

a page from a main lesson bookYour young student is learning to write, read, observe, and draw! What is the best way to record all this wonderful creativity and growth? Following Waldorf education tradition, Oak Meadow suggests using main lesson books (MLB) to capture your student’s work. Throughout the year, the main lesson book fills with the student’s drawings and writing. It is used as a learning tool as well as documentation of the student’s work. The creation of a main lesson book nurtures qualities of thoughtfulness, intention, perseverance, and creativity. It becomes a showcase of the student’s work as well as a cherished keepsake. Click here to learn more about how to use main lesson books and to see actual pages created by Oak Meadow students.

It’s Spring! Build a bird nest supply box

They’re so so busy at this time of year, our beautiful feathery friends. Give them a hand with this bird nest supply box, from Oak Meadow Craft for the Early Grades. Click on the illustration to download and print instructions.

drawing of homemade bird nest supply box

Oak Meadow High School Newsletter, Winter 2019

Creating a homeschooling portfolio: tools for documenting work
All learning counts, and you can document that!
Discussion as an assessment tool
A clean and tidy study space = a happy, productive you
You’ve got this! (inspirational flyer)

Creating a homeschooling portfolio: tools for documenting work

Oak Meadow homeschooling plannersA homeschooling portfolio is a record of your student’s learning. The content of the portfolio depends on the purpose and who it is for.  Possible audiences are: you (for your own teaching purposes); a supervising teacher your student is working with; your school district or state; a college or transfer school admission team. What does the portfolio contain?

  1. Record of student work (quantity and scope): What was covered in a particular time period?
  2. Documentation of progress (quality): How are the student’s skills developing?
  3. Evidence of mastery (proof): Which skills and knowledge are consistently demonstrated?

Click here to download Tools for Documenting Work, a guide to help you create an effective homeschooling portfolio.

Oak Meadow citizen scientist students
Oak Meadow students collecting samples in the field.

All learning counts, and you can document that!

One beauty of homeschooling is the freedom to explore all sorts of learning experiences, and student interests and passions should be documented along with academic achievements in your homeschooling portfolio. Oak Meadow’s accredited distance school awards credit to enrolled students for many types of academic and life experiences. Here are examples to get you thinking as you and your student map out a high school academic plan.

  • At Oak Meadow we encourage students to participate in a wide variety of extracurricular activities for credit through our Life Experience Elective Credit program. Read about our LEEC program (under “Signature Programs”) and check out the application form to see how we evaluate a student’s experience.
  • Oak Meadow High School Science Teacher Julia West routinely encourages her students to get involved in citizen science activities. For ideas, read her article.
  • Oak Meadow has a long referred students to Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth online program (CTYOnline). Take a look at the rigorous Advanced Placement, computer science, and technology courses they offer for gifted and talented high school students.
  • Many enrolled Oak Meadow students have had fantastic travel experiences and earned Oak Meadow credit through study-away travel programs. One of our favorite partners is Gogi Abroad.
  • Dual enrollment is a great way for high school students to try college-level study or to dive into a specialized topic that may not be available through homeschool curriculum providers. We recently discovered Cornell University’s online course, Ornithology: Comprehensive Bird Biology for budding ornithologists. Explore offerings at your local community college or others that offer online courses.
Parent and teen having a discussion
Photo by Mael Balland on Unsplash

Discussion as an assessment tool

If your student is getting overwhelmed or just fed up with lots of writing assignments, consider choosing occasional assignments for discussion instead of writing. This discussion can be a debate (if there are two sides to it), an oral report, a teach-the-parent tutorial, or just a conversation. It can be recorded (audio or video) and reviewed together, or the parent can write a short summary and evaluation of the project for the student’s portfolio. Using discussion as an assessment tool brings learning achievements to life.

A clean and tidy study space = a happy, productive you

photo of a clean study spaceA messy study space does not inspire organization or workflow, so keeping the desk area clean and tidy is important. Here are some ways to spiff up before you get down to work.

A vinegar mix to shine your computer screen
Computer screens, especially with the touch-screen technology we have today, get fingerprints, food splatters, and dust that we don’t notice until the light hits it just right. Most computer screens can be cleaned with simple water. If that doesn’t do the trick, add some vinegar to the mixture.

¼ cup white vinegar
¼ cup distilled or boiled and thoroughly cooled water

Clean routine: It’s important to start with a computer screen that is cool, so power off and unplug your computer or laptop before cleaning. Mix the white vinegar and water together in a small bowl and, using a lightly textured cloth, clean the screen in a left-to-right, top-to-bottom motion, being sure to get the edges well. Let the screen dry completely before plugging in or turning on the computer.

A scrub to make your keyboard shine
The computer itself, including the keyboard and mouse, is likely just as dirty, if not dirtier, than your screen was, so why not clean both while you’re at it? Don’t spend money on compressed air, which also contains toxic chemicals. We’ll add a little alcohol to this mixture to really get some of the keyboard and mouse germs gone, and if there’s a texture to your computer facing, it will get into those crevices nicely, too. If you’ve already made the computer screen cleaning mixture, simply add the 2 tablespoons of rubbing alcohol and proceed to clean the rest of the computer.

¼ cup vinegar
¼ cup distilled or boiled and cooled water
2 tablespoons rubbing alcohol

Clean routine: Mix well in a small bowl. Again, only clean your computer or laptop when it is cool and unplugged.

  • Exterior of computer: Dip the edge of a clean rag in the mixture and clean well. If your computer surface has a grain to it, wipe with the grain.
  • Keyboard: Unplug or turn off your keyboard if necessary. Let it cool completely before proceeding. A straightened-out paper clip can be inserted around the base of each letter to get any lint buildup free. Then use a cotton swab dipped in cleaning solution to get around, between, and behind each key. Clean the rest of the keyboard with a rag dipped in cleaning solution. Let dry thoroughly before using.
  • Mouse: This mixture works for touchpads built into laptops and external handheld mouses. Be sure to unplug or turn off any external mouses and let them cool before cleaning. Use the paper clip and cotton swab dipped in the solution method to clean your mouse. Let dry thoroughly before using.

Control cord clutter
Cords are a breeding ground for messes, crumbs, and dirt, as well as a tripping hazard. While you’re tackling the tangle of cords, consider getting a smart power strip that doesn’t send any power to machines that are turned off. It’s a simple way to save money and energy. Untangle and UNPLUG all cords before cleaning them.

  1. Vacuum the area where the cords are, as they always seem to have dust bunnies, tissues, torn paper bits and dried plant leaves among them.
  2. Mix up a small dish of warm water with a drop of castile soap. Use a rag dipped lightly into the mixture to slide along cords. Be sure to get into the middle groove of cords. Do not clean the metal prongs with ANY water at all; only wipe with a dry cloth.
  3. Use recycled plastic bread ties (the flat kind that slip on) to label cords. Write in permanent marker on each tab, or use different colored ones, to know which cord at the power strip belongs to which machine on the desk.

Excerpted from: The Modern Organic Home: 100+ DIY Cleaning Products, Organization Tips, and Household Hacks

You’ve got this!

You’re more than halfway through the year! Print this flyer to hang in your study space when you need reminders to get you through your homeschooling days.

printable homeschool inspiration
Click on image to download.



Oak Meadow 5-8 Newsletter, Winter 2019

Thoughts on teaching writing
Earth Science: Make a terrarium
Motivating middle schoolers
Decluttering: It’s all the rage!

Thoughts on teaching writing

In addition to being a teacher for Oak Meadow, Lesley Arnold also works as a youth librarian. Being both a teacher (for over 40 years) and a children’s book librarian allows her to combine her love of children with her love of books.

Leslie Daniels has been an Oak Meadow teacher for over 30 years. She also created a program that offers educational activities to groups of homeschooled students, guiding children and their families toward the joy of discovery.

Lesley, you teach many middle school students. What are some of the most fun aspects of teaching writing to middle schoolers?

Lesley Arnold OM K8 teacher
Lesley Arnold

Lesley A: Middle schoolers that really love to write improve quickly even with the smallest amount of help. That’s the most fun for me—seeing the improvement and great strides a student can make.

What are some of the greatest challenges in teaching writing to 5th-8th graders?

Lesley A: I think the biggest challenge is getting a student to understand that writing is a process that takes years to get “good” at. From 5th to 8th grade is a long time and each year the student improves. My hope is that students, and their parents, learn that this is a practice time! Just like soccer or painting or playing an instrument, the writing skills need practice and will get better with time.

Many parents complain that their once highly-motivated children become complacent or disengaged in middle school. Can you talk a little about how writing can be used as a tool to help motivate students and sustain engagement?

Leslie Daniels OM K8 teacher
Leslie Daniels

Lesley A: The Oak Meadow curriculum offers many different kinds of opportunities for diverse types of writing and projects. With variety, flexibility, and creativity in different assignments, a student will be able to find something to be engaged in.

Leslie D: I’ve also found that having students do interesting assignments, like writing a dialogue between historical figures or writing the journal of a child who lives in prehistoric times, really sparks their imagination. They start to run with the idea, and suddenly it doesn’t feel like work anymore. Keeping a journal, writing poetry or song lyrics, or writing comic books or graphic novels are also great ways to revive an interest in writing.

What are some of the most important habits to instill in this age group, especially as they approach the high school years?

Lesley A: Note-taking, outline, first draft, second draft, final draft! The whole process should be a comfortable habit. I recommend spending time with reworking a rough draft. Read it out loud to check for punctuation and grammar errors. Then go over it again for spelling. Then again for content. Then read through it again and put in adjectives or adverbs that would add more detail to the sentences. I think that once a student can be comfortable and confident with reworking the rough draft, the final draft is easy!

In your experience, what are some of the most common writing challenges for children who are struggling with writing? What are some tips parents can use to help their children overcome each of these challenges?

OM student written poemLesley A: Most kids will say, “I don’t know what to write.” I like to tell students, “Write what you see!” Writing is like painting with words. If you have an image in your mind, you can create it in words. If you can’t get started, then paint it, draw it, find a photograph, or talk about it and the writing will be much easier. For example, if you are going to write about a tree, what type of tree do you picture in your mind? Describe it so that others can “see” it too! There’s a great book for students that describes this process really well: Show, Don’t tell! Secrets of Writing by Josephine Nobisso. The writing process takes time. Some kids need to spend a lot of time just jotting down ideas, or doodling, or walking around before they begin writing. Some need to spend a lot of time taking notes or correcting a first draft. Let each part of the process take its own time.

Are there any homeschooling strategies for teaching writing that you would caution parents not to pursue?

Lesley A: I have complete trust that when the tears start to flow or anger erupts, parents will sense that they are pursuing the wrong teaching strategy!

Leslie D: Good point! Don’t be afraid to try something new, or to let it go for a while and then revisit it a few days or weeks later. There’s no reason to push or rush.

Earth Science: Make a terrarium

The Oak Meadow Grade 7 Earth Science curriculum includes a chapter on the Earth’s water cycle, or hydrologic cycle. Students of any age can create a terrarium to observe the distinct phases of the water cycle: precipitation, evaporation, transpiration, condensation. While gardens lie dormant over the winter, it’s also a fun way to play in the dirt. Click here to download the instructions, straight from our Earth Science Lab Manual. (Image credit: Leighanne Sturgis)

Motivating middle schoolers

Middle schoolers—there’s so much to love about kids in this age group, but they’re not always the easiest bunch! As your child’s home teacher, you have the difficult position of being both parent and educator to a child who is quickly gaining independence and assertiveness. As former middle-school teacher and editor of Cult of Pedagogy Jennifer Gonzalez says: “One word could never quite capture the ridiculous, smelly, stubborn, fragile beauty of them all.”

Click here for some tips on how to connect with and motivate your middle schooler.

Decluttering: It’s all the rage!

Well, for parents, maybe. But wait! Now it seems teens are getting into the act, too. There are lots of articles out there for parents, such as How to Get Your Grumpy Middle-Schooler to Help at Home, but have you heard about the KonMari method of decluttering that’s gone viral on social media? Now the “celebrity of tidying,” Marie Kondo, has published a manga comic that seems to be motivating some teens to start neatening their endless piles of stuff. You can read about the phenomenon here, then head over to Oak Meadow’s Pinterest board: Getting Organized for some visual tips and ideas.

And just for fun…

Messy Room by Shel Silverstein

Whosever room this is should be ashamed!
His underwear is hanging on the lamp.
His raincoat is there in the overstuffed chair,
And the chair is becoming quite mucky and damp.
His workbook is wedged in the window,
His sweater’s been thrown on the floor.
His scarf and one ski are beneath the TV,
And his pants have been carelessly hung on the door.
His books are all jammed in the closet,
His vest has been left in the hall.
A lizard named Ed is asleep in his bed,
And his smelly old sock has been stuck to the wall.
Whosever room this is should be ashamed!
Donald or Robert or Willie or–
Huh? You say it’s mine? Oh, dear,
I knew it looked familiar!

Oak Meadow K-4 Newsletter, Winter 2018

Outdoor activity for winter: Make a colorful ice fort
Waldorf-inspired tip: The transformative power of storytelling
Curriculum activity: DYI puppet stage
Five ways to keep your balance in the midst of a busy life (printable PDF)
Holiday recipe: Pavlova!

Outdoor activity for winter: Build a colorful ice fort

In Vermont, where the Oak Meadow headquarters is located, outdoor activities don’t end when the weather turns cold and snowy! Here’s one way to make the best of shivery temperatures. Using colored ice blocks, build a colorful ice fort for a fun and beautiful outdoor play structure. This works best if you can freeze the water outside because you’ll be able to make more ice blocks at once.

OM student with colorful ice block fort
Photo credit: Main family

What you need

½ gallon paper milk or juice cartons
Food coloring
Freezer or freezing temperature outdoors

What to do
Rinse out the containers and fill them with water.
Put a few drops of food coloring in each one.
Allow to freeze. Once frozen, tear off the carton.
Stack the blocks to create a fort, igloo, or any other structure or sculpture.
If snow is available, use it as mortar between the blocks for sturdier construction.

Waldorf-inspired tip: The transformative power of storytelling

Waldorf style drawing of fox and turtle
Image credit: @wildspruce.waldorf

Fairy tales and other traditional stories are an essential part of childhood development, which is why they have lived on for centuries as a rich oral tradition and have remained in the Oak Meadow curriculum. Oral storytelling is a flexible art that allows stories to be adapted to the audience. Many stories that we know from our childhoods were adapted from stories our parents heard as children. In the same tradition, we encourage parents to tell the stories in their own words rather than reading them verbatim. This lets each parent make changes that reflect their own values and life situation. This is the true spirit of oral storytelling.

Telling the stories aloud with no pictures accompanying the story helps children develop listening skills as well as the ability to create the images in their minds. Repeatedly retelling the story allows opportunities for children to join in telling the story, which enhances the personal images and allows them to focus on story elements that have personal relevance. The home teacher can also incorporate into the stories nature, family members, friends, and neighbors as a way of making them more personal and meaningful. The underlying themes of a good story are never gender- or race-based, but embody archetypes that are part of the human experience. Changing superficial elements of a story to make it more relatable will not affect the archetypes of the Nurturer, Leader, Jokester, Hero, Mentor, Innocent, or Villain. Retelling stories, drawing pictures, acting out the stories, putting on puppet presentations, or creating dioramas offer opportunities for children to absorb and reflect the underlying themes.

Another tip for telling an archetypal story is to verbally share without too much of an emotional tone—especially the emotions in the home teacher’s voice that might instill fear, anger, resentment, etc. As an adult with a rich history and varied experiences, you will respond to the archetypes in a story very differently than a child will. Telling the story without adding layers of your own emotional expression of the story events will allow your child to filter it through a childlike lens.

It’s also invaluable to allow children to absorb the story without interruption, both during the storytelling and afterwards. Talking with a child about every little detail of a story is an established habit for many adults. In fact, it’s practically a cultural norm now for children to be asked to talk about their feelings, impressions, and opinions. This may originate from the belief that we need to encourage children to be more aware and continually teach and quiz them to “make them smart.” It might stem from the efforts to treat the child as an equal voice in the family to build self-esteem and confidence. When a parent is conditioned to “discuss” a fairy tale’s disturbing images with children, this focus on specific elements unnaturally emphasizes details over underlying themes. Discussing the tales afterwards only brings an adult perspective and awareness to story elements and prevents children from developing and using their own filters, based on their developmental stage. Letting the story rest in the child’s mind and heart, and then asking for the child’s interpretation of the story the next day will be of greater benefit.

Curriculum activity: DIY puppet theater

homemade children's puppet stage
Photo credit:

Making a puppet stage is very simple. There are many different methods. Here are five ideas to get your imagination working (from Oak Meadow Crafts for the Early Grades).

Idea #1
What you need: 
Large cardboard box (appliance boxes are great!), towel or fabric for curtain, dowel
What to do
1. Cut away one side of a large cardboard box. The is so the child can climb inside.
2. Cut a large square in the opposite side.
3. Drape a towel over the opening to be removed when the play begins. Or attach a dowel to the box which can support two light pieces of fabric. Draw open like curtains.
4. Your child can crouch inside the box (perhaps with the box elevated on a table) and present the puppet show from inside.

Idea #2
What you need: 
Small table or card table
What to do
1. Turn the small table on its side (a card table on its side with bottom legs open to support it works well).
2. Your child (or you!) can hide behind it and display the puppets over the top. If you have a couch that is easily moved away from a wall, it works too, giving your child a private space from which to display the puppets.

Idea #3
What you need: 
Curtain, dowel, or curtain rod
What to do
1. Make a special curtain, or use one you already have.
2. Attach it to a sturdy dowel. A tension rod (the type used for many shower or window curtains) would also work well.
3. Hang the curtain between two supports, such as hooks driven into either side of a doorway.

Idea #4
What you need: 
Curtain or beach towels, tension rod
What to do
1. Put a tension rod across the bathtub, at a height that would conceal your child sitting in the tub.
2. Make a special curtain or simply hang two beach towels over the rod.
3. Your child can use the bathtub as her backstage area, and present her puppet play from there.

Idea #5
What you need: 
Cloth for curtain
What to do
1. For an outdoor puppet play, a cloth draped over the porch railing can serve as a curtain, separating the puppeteer on the porch from an audience sitting on the lawn.

Five ways to keep your balance in the midst of a busy life

As a home teacher, seeking balance is essential, and it’s an ongoing process. If we’re out of balance and we try to teach our children, we diminish our effectiveness as teachers. We might miss the subtle cues in the learning process that enable us to be good teachers, or we might cause our children to become more imbalanced also, which reduces their ability to learn effectively. Click here or on the image to download our free printable with inspirational tips to help you maintain a sense of balance in the midst of your busy, messy, wonderful homeschooling life.

Holiday recipe: Pavlova!

illustration of pavlova dessert
Image credit: Onno Knuvers

Our southern hemisphere families who are enjoying summer weather won’t be building ice block forts this holiday season, but many in Australia and New Zealand will be constructing a puffy pavlova, a celebratory dessert of crisp meringue filled with whipped cream and fruit. Even the tiniest hands can help spread the meringue and add the fruit decoration. Click here for the recipe (PDF).