Knitting Suggestions

Rhythmic handwork is part of Oak Meadow’s coursework for grades one through three. For this post, K-8 Oak Meadow teachers teamed up to offer some suggestions and simple alternatives that will help to meet the “heart” of handwork, specifically in teaching the technique of knitting.

Meg Minehan: My suggestions are to first try finger knitting, the knitting mushroom, or the wooden knitting star. My children loved those “tools,” and the process was simple, repetitive, and soothing (just like knitting should be). ​For what it’s worth, my son Ian didn’t really take to knitting when it was initially introduced in first grade. However, he picked it up again at age nine and loved it.

Michelle Menegaz: I agree that teaching knitting as an inexperienced teacher can be challenging. I suggest offering the “pre-knitting” activities and really encourage the home teacher to find a knitter to help them, if possible. Also, Sunny’s Mittens is a great book with a story that contains knitting directions right in the events of the tale. I would read a bit of this and knit along with the story. The child would also knit along, if interested. We would read a bit, knit a bit, stop and get our knitting sorted or show what the written directions in the story meant. Very satisfying!

Lesley Arnold: I highly recommend the DVD, The Art of Knitting 4 Kids . If a tutor isn’t available for knitting, then this video is great! Be sure to also check your library, for many libraries have knitting clubs.

Leslie Daniels: Another site that I absolutely adore and share with my Oak Meadow families is called “Knitted Bliss.” It includes story books to inspire future knitters for three different age groups: ages 2-4, ages 4-6, and ages 6-9. The title of each book is a joy in itself!

Meg Minehan: Shall I Knit You a Hat is one of our favorite Christmas books for 6-9 year olds!

Andy Kilroy: My friend Clare, a long-time kindergarten teacher, loves to take yarn into her classroom and just let her kids play with the yarn – wrap it, wind it, tie bows with it, braid it, touch it – just to get the feel of fabric/yarn on their skin. Then when it comes time to knit, they already have the awareness of yarn as a material. I taught my granddaughter to finger knit (she had never done it), and she was very excited at all the possibilities that opened for her! She has also enjoyed exploring loom knitting from kits. Long live fiber arts – let’s not give up on them!

Anna Logowitz: My microschoolers got a great start by making their own knitting needles. They sanded chopsticks smooth, and then glued wooden beads to the ends: nice and simple. It gave them a sense of ownership over their work before they began knitting, which also seemed to increase their frustration tolerance!

Guidelines for Home Teachers

Oak Meadow founders, Bonnie and Lawrence Williams, believe that in order to manifest a child’s education successfully, certain guidelines must be followed. Here are detailed homeschooling guidelines for helping in the teaching process.

Oak Meadow student doing assignment outside with leavesClear a physical as well as psychological space: 

Your student should do their schoolwork in a particular spot that is well-stocked with supplies: main lesson book, additional paper for first drafts, crayons, pencils, pencil sharpener, erasers, highlighters, etc. Organize it in a way so that order may be restored at the end of the learning period. Most importantly, make this spot a pleasant place to be and one that is well lighted. There should be a comfortable chair with back support; however, chairs that encourage lounging are to be avoided.

Set aside a time for school work so the student knows not to plan other activities for that period of time. It does not work well to choose the time on a daily basis. The brain needs a rhythm and will come to a focus more easily as the lesson time approaches if it is a consistent time each day. When you are able to clear a physical as well as psychological space for schoolwork, half the battle with the undisciplined mind has been won.

Focus: 

If a student is having difficulty with focusing attention, the home teacher should sit beside the student and act as the “grounding agent” to bring the student to a point of focus. Ungrounded students must slowly be drawn into their lessons. For example, in grade 4 (and higher), a new sense of independence is encouraged in the coursework. However, this does not mean the student does everything independently. At the beginning of a new lesson, the home teacher should ask the student to read a paragraph, then ask the student to share the main idea of the paragraph. Highlight the word or words which are the main idea. Proceed to the next paragraph repeating the process. At the end of each page, the student should read back all the material that has been highlighted. Then putting paper or books aside, the home teacher should ask the student what was just read.

It may be slow and tedious at first, but as the brain stretches, the student will pick up speed. Always emphasize quality understanding over quantity of work done. Perhaps the student only does a fraction of the assignments while learning how to focus and organize the brainwork, which is fine. Accept this and praise the student for the fine progress. The only requirement is that you witness sincere progress.

How long each day should a home teacher focus with a student? At least one hour a day should be set aside for this kind of focused attention. The home teacher should not be in and out, but rather seated with the student for the whole hour without interruptions. Perhaps the home teacher may cover social studies and language arts three days a week and science two days a week in this manner for half an hour each day; and math for half an hour every day. Then the student should be left alone for another hour every day to do the assignment that can reasonably be done independently. This time should be eventually lengthened to three hours a day for a total amount of time spent on school work, with two of the hours being independent learning. More than that would be discouraging for the student who needs lots of time for physical activities.

Caring: 

Children need to feel that somebody cares about their work each day. The home teacher should read over the work and discuss it with the student. Praise and celebration for victories won are very important for all students, but especially the unfocused student. They need constant reminders that they are progressing and doing well. It is important to remind students where they have come from and how much they are accomplishing.

Accept your student with the present abilities: 

Do not present material the student is not ready for. Pressure creates negative stress and causes the mind to shut down. Begin with a review of material the student already knows, to get the mind moving and flowing. Then present the new material.

Remedial Students:

 If your student needs remedial work, choose one thing at a time to work on. For example, when working with reading comprehension and writing, do not be concerned about grammar initially. Then when the student is comfortable with the daily process, add grammar. Work with one grammar rule at a time. Start with each sentence beginning with a capital letter and ending with a punctuation mark. Proceed to capitalization rules, then punctuation, expanding sentences with adjectives and adverbs, then conjunctions, etc. If a student is a poor speller, present five words a week from the Dolch list. Also provide many ways to learn these words. Focus is the key to success.

Physical Activity: 

2018 National Honor Society inductee Katie Pheysey 3Emphasize the importance of daily physical activities to help the integration process. The martial arts are a wonderful tool for integration, as are walking and dance. Studies indicate that academic performance improves with daily vigorous physical activity.

When learning is difficult and a student is asked to spend more than three hours struggling through without help, it leads to burn out and the student shuts down altogether. Balance is very important. After each hour, the student should get up and do something physical. The student should not be allowed to get up and go outside and get involved and forget the schoolwork. It should be more like a fifteen minute recess with an expectation that the work will be continued until the work for the day is completed, even if it is short of the assignment in the curriculum. (If enrolled in the school, Oak Meadow teachers are always willing to work with a student who needs a reduced load.)

Learning Styles: 

Become aware of your student’s learning style. Some people learn auditorily, others visually, and some are bodily kinesthetic learners. The best teachers use all three modes of teaching. If your student is a visual learner, drawing pictures or diagrams will help to remember information. If your student learns best through hearing the information explained, share an hour each day with your student and explain the material being covered. Make up songs and jingles to remember key points. Some students learn best by teaching it to somebody else. Be a willing student and let your student teach you the material. Skits are great for learning. Purchase a lap-size white board with marker (fruit flavored without the toxic fumes) so your student can draw, diagram, write jingles, and teach. Use it daily and you will be amazed at its effectiveness as a teaching tool.

I hope these guidelines will be helpful in making your home schooling adventure a very successful one. Wishing you all the best for an exciting year of learning!

Focus, Process & Relationship

There are various principles and tools of Oak Meadow education that can help to enhance the teaching of your children and to make your homeschooling endeavors easier and more enjoyable. One of the most important principles of Oak Meadow education is the triangle we call FOCUS, PROCESS, and RELATIONSHIP, for it is the basis of education.
Children have a natural desire and eagerness to learn about everything that surrounds them in their daily lives. As parents and home teachers, you have the natural desire to treasure and nurture these “gifts” in your children. The way to do this is by providing a safe environment that revolves around the FOCUS, PROCESS, and RELATIONSHIP triangle.
Let’s first discuss FOCUS. Early elementary children often find it difficult to maintain a point of focus on their own, so it is important that teachers must learn to be the focused leader in the children’s school lessons. If you, as the guide and the home teacher, can truly focus or be able to direct your total attention, then you will discover that, as a focused adult, you can help your children to also become focused. Children naturally respond to the attitudes, thoughts, and feelings of their environment, so if they experience you as a focused individual, it will be much easier for them to also attain this important quality.
The way to become focused is by engaging in the PROCESS. You can experience process through focusing upon anything; however, the quality of your experience is deeply affected by what you choose to focus upon. You must keep in mind that the end result or goal should not be the main point of focus. Although you might have in mind a certain plan of action for your children’s main lesson, it is more important to enjoy the process rather than to focus solely on the goal.
This is also where RELATIONSHIP enters into the triangle. RELATIONSHIP is the result of FOCUS and PROCESS. If you share a process in a focused manner, and focus on the process itself, then the relationship develops.
There are three important ingredients needed to develop a successful relationship. They are the same three ingredients that nurture true intelligence: love, warmth, and acceptance. To totally accept, support, and affirm the goodness and true being of your children allows them to engage in an activity that is enjoyable, where there is no judgment, and where the love flows easily. If any of these ingredients are left out, there will be a noticeable decrease in the ability to create a safe, learning environment.
A safe, loving, and focused experience can occur anytime or place – even with a baby on your lap or other children in the room. But the most essential thing to remember is to instruct your children only when they are in a state of receptivity. True learning is very different from memorization and repetition, and a focused child enjoying a shared process learns easily and quickly. A child who learns in this focused manner will be an enthusiastic learner for life.

Thoughts on Perfectionism

Recently, my Oak Meadow colleagues and I have received inquiries from home teachers regarding their child’s desire for perfectionism and the many frustrations that accompany this need. Working with children who display perfectionist tendencies can be quite challenging, so it is a valuable issue to address.

A perfectionist is someone who sets a standard of perfection and refuses to accept anything less. Unfortunately, in an imperfect world, the perfectionist’s view can be an individual’s worst enemy, especially for a child. The tendency for perfectionism can often be observed during a child’s school lessons. For example, a child may start writing out a lesson or drawing a picture, then repeatedly tear up the papers, only to begin again and again. A child with perfection tendencies may also easily cry or become quite frustrated if a simple mistake is made.

Perfectionism in children usually arises because there is more focus on the form of the lesson or task, rather than on the process of the activity. This is one of the reasons why Oak Meadow continuously emphasizes focusing on the process vs. focusing on the final form (or goal).

Most children go through perfectionist phases, so it is important that we, as home teachers and parents, do not overreact to the minor cycles of perfectionism. Oak Meadow cofounder, Lawrence Williams, believes that what often remedies these phases is to give our children “extra doses of recognition and appreciation for the work that they do.” He also feels that this pattern of interaction is an extremely important part of our children’s development.

When my children would show tendencies towards perfectionism, I not only looked at their individual needs and developmental cycles, but I also observed my own cyclic process. Did I find myself criticizing my own imperfections? Perhaps I said or did something that made me feel inadequate, or perhaps I felt guilty for being an imperfect mother or home teacher.

Let’s face it. We all have the desire to sometimes be perfect. We find ourselves wanting to please others, to do everything right, to make the perfect choice, etc. We especially want to be ideal parents. We also know that, no matter how well we try to hide these feelings, our children still have the ability to pick up on them and may even start expressing some of the same feelings. There was no doubt in my mind that, unless I stopped demanding this need for perfection in myself, my children would also grow up with the same tendencies. Not surprisingly, these perfectionist tendencies can result in a lack of self confidence.

To help our children through their perfectionist phases, we need to allow our children, as well as ourselves, to be imperfect. It may require more energy, more love, and more patience. However, embracing imperfection is a crucial step in human development. Author and founder of “Healthy Mother Earth Foundation” Robin Lim once wrote: Imperfection is God’s gift. It makes us compassionate as well as deserving of compassion. It allows us to take risks, to fail and succeed, to learn and grow, to ask questions. It honors our differences, our individual styles.

Now, go right on ahead! With another seasonal change at our doorsteps, making its own perfectly imperfect way into the world, take a leap into the wonderful world of imperfection. Ask a silly question, take a risk, experiment with new ideas, laugh at your own idiosyncrasies, and make all kinds of wonderful mistakes!

Books for Kindergarten Students

As many of us are winding down the school year, it is encouraged to continue reading stories and picture books to our children throughout the summer season. This is especially important for the preschool and kindergarten aged students, so the Oak Meadow teachers teamed up and shared some of their favorite books for this age level:

Sarah Antel:

Tasha Tudor wrote some sweet animal stories.

What about Robert McClosky’s Blueberries for Sal and One Morning in Maine?

I have memories of my parents reading me The Wind in the Willows no matter how old I was; it was my favorite story growing up.

Leslie Daniels:

One of my favorites for a kindergarten student is Adrienne Keith’s book, Fairies From A to Z. The drawings are colorful and delightful, and the book is formatted in poetry style. This book also includes special “fairy words” for each letter that are found along the borders of the pages. In addition, there is a fairy box (home) to construct at the back of the book. My own children at this age level loved this book – and they also loved making their own fairy boxes.

Also, we can’t forget the wonderful books written by Margaret Wise Brown, Elsa Beskow, and Barbara Berger. They are perfect for kindergarten students!

Meg Minehan:

In addition to some already mentioned, here are a few of my kids’ kindergarten favorites: My Father’s Dragon series, Jenny Linsky series, Pierre The Truffle Pig, and for a newer book – the Tumtum and Nutmeg series, which are contemporary but with that charm and adventure of The Wind in the Willows, etc. They are fabulous to read aloud.

Andy Kilroy:

My kindergarten-aged granddaughter is already reading pretty easily, so I have been spending my time with her on Explode the Code books. I have also been doing poetry with her, as she loves to make up rhymes. We are both rhyming straight up and she is writing songs, which she loves to do. When we do read, we do books in the “easy reader” genre, so they vary. I have not hit upon any that she likes as much as she likes the rhyming books. I have been trying to do some longer stories with her; she likes Mo Willems books that are written in the non-rhyming format, and she loved Angela and Her Alligator, which is a “chapter book”. She also liked the Berenstain Bears series, which includes great morals and values. My granddaughter also loves Gruffalo and Where the Wild Things Are.

Choosing which books to share with your kindergartener is where the home teacher can use intuition and knowledge of the child to branch out and get creative!

Tips for Playing the Recorder

Music plays a very positive role in your child’s development, whether it is through listening to music, singing songs, or playing an instrument. In the first grade, Oak Meadow offers an introduction to the soprano recorder as a musical instrument to play, along with additional, more advanced tutelage offered up through the fourth grade.

The first grade curriculum introduces the recorder with the Beginning Recorder course book; the second grade curriculum follows up with Intermediate Recorder; the third grade curriculum offers advanced lessons in the Advanced Recorder course book; and the fourth grade curriculum completes the recorder coursework with Recorder Duets.

The recorder is a very old European instrument that dates all the way back to the 14th century, possibly originating in Italy. It’s an appealing and appropriate modern-day instrument for young children who are just beginning to unfold their musical abilities and potential. The recorder is also a simple and versatile instrument to learn that allows the player to practice attention and focus, to help train and develop the ear, and to further aid in reading and composing musical notation.

If you, as the home teacher, are also new to playing the recorder and feel that a guided tutorial would benefit you in teaching your child to play this instrument, I suggest watching the Recorder Basics – B A G video. The instructor in the video, Mr. Barnes, demonstrates how to hold the recorder, as well as how to play “Hot Cross Buns” with the notes B, A and G. “Hot Cross Buns” is one of the first songs introduced in Oak Meadow’s Beginning Recorder guidebook.

If your child is more advanced in playing the recorder and has already worked through all the songs in the recorder books offered in the Oak Meadow coursework, Woodstock Chimes provides a lengthy list of familiar songs to play on the recorder. Each song includes its own fingering chart, as well as words to the songs for additional singing pleasure.

As a collaborative effort, Oak Meadow’s staff offered some additional tips for helping to play the recorder:

Sarah Antel
One of the things that stuck with me from music lessons as a child was belly breathing. You can stand in front of a mirror to practice breathing. Additionally, it helps if you stand sideways so you can see your belly go in and out. You should take a deep breath through your nose and imagine you are filling a balloon in your belly and focus on filling your belly with air rather than making your chest rise. In a similar fashion, when releasing air, or breathing out, exhale through the mouth. You should focus on squeezing all of the air out using your stomach. Your chest should not be moving at all. Looking sideways in the mirror, you will see your stomach pull in. This type of breathing allows you to take a deeper breath and have a stronger sound when playing.

Lesley Arnold
Instruct your child to sit up tall (with a straight back) and toward the edge of the seat in order to take full breaths. After finding the right breath for blowing into the recorder, have your child try to imagine gently blowing on a candle flame just so it flickers, but doesn’t go out. The fingers should be curved and relaxed completely covering the holes. The left hand should always be on top! Have your child press firmly to seal the finger holes completely. Lips should cover the teeth lightly. Make sure your child separates the notes by touching the tip of the tongue to the roof of the mouth or to the tip of the recorder. Clap and count the rhythm, speak, then sing the name of the notes. Then the tune is ready to be played. 

Shedding the Schedule Shackles

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It’s that time of year when many home teachers feel overtaxed in balancing home schooling with holiday events and activities. Oak Meadow’s K-8 teacher, Michelle Menegaz, shares whimsical words on beating the over-scheduled blues. So read on… and don’t get shackled by your homeschool schedule!
 
Ever feel shackled by the stockade of your child’s schedule? Do you feel locked up by all the appointments and lessons and experiences you so lovingly planned? Has the sweet scent of the spicy and free autumn air been replaced by the smell of your car’s heater? Do you wonder if you have traded the freedom of homeschooling for the incarceration of enrichment? Are you becoming a prisoner of your own choices?
I have. I do. I am!
So, well, hmmmm…how interesting. What to do? You could just blog about it and present some answers you have no intention or ability to implement. You could revamp your entire curriculum, choose a different path, or just decide that you might as well send the kid to school since you are tied to the school schedule with all those after school lessons anyway. You could just accept it and carry on.
Or…you could try this. Slow down. I did not say give up your activities (though that would be the logical, but not pain-free choice) and stay home.
Just slow down. Take longer over the basics. Remember when parenting was about feeding, comforting, and wiping…lots and lots of wiping? Guess what – it still is. If you can find even one or two times a day to sink more deeply into cooking breakfast with your child at your side, or ponder the weather with your children as they careen around the kitchen, or wipe with purpose and pride while deftly handing your child a rag so he can wipe pridefully, too, you may find that time actually ssssstttttrrrrrretttttches a bit. Just a bit, but in that short sweet moment, you may catch a whiff of holiday spice. Breathe it in and savor it before you rush off to whatever is next. There is magic and power in that small piece of time, which can sweeten the rest of the day.
Do this as often as you remember, but not more.

Homeschool Rhythms

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

Rhythms within each day, week, month, season, and year are an important aspect of the homeschooling family. The daily rhythm could be as simple as doing morning chores, eating breakfast and engaging in circle time activities before diving into schoolwork; taking a daily walk after lunch, before beginning the afternoon lessons; setting the table and helping with dinner preparations; and settling in for the evening and reading a chapter book together as a family.

Weekly rhythms could consist of painting on Mondays, baking bread on Tuesdays, visiting extended family or friends on Wednesdays, enjoying family game night on Thursdays, and helping to clean the house on Fridays.

The monthly rhythm might include taking a full moon walk with the family or choosing a specific day each month to do a service for others in need. The yearly rhythm might focus on seasonal festivals, holidays, birthdays and other special events. Perhaps your family enjoys sharing seasonal poetry or songs together, or reading stories and books that correlate with the yearly holidays and festivals.

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

Here are more articles about finding your homeschool rhythms:

Amazing Corn Mazes

1usamapmazeCorn (also known as maize) is amazing! It is one of the most versatile vegetables and was originally cultivated in Mexico over 7,000 years ago. According to the Department of Agronomy at Iowa State University, the Europeans first discovered corn in 1492, when Christopher Columbus and his sailing crew discovered this new grain in Cuba. 
1corn cakesFresh corn on the cob is a summer favorite for many corn lovers; however, corn can also be enjoyed any time of the year in soups, salads, salsas, breads, muffins, fritters, pancakes and casseroles. It can be used as cornmeal, cornstarch, corn syrup, corn silk tea, corn oil, and popcorn. Did you know it is also used in glue, ethanol, whiskey, and penicillin? Even decorating with colored corn, creating cornhusk dolls, weaving cornhusk baskets, and making corncob toys can be fashionable artistic activities. You can find cornhusk craft projects throughout the Oak Meadow curriculum.
1corn-mazeIn the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, corn mazes became another featured aspect of corn usage. These popular configurations are currently found in every state in the US. The biggest maze in the country is the Richardson Adventure Farm, located in Spring Grove, Illinois.  Along with enjoying fall festivals and viewing the beautiful fall foliage, you might like to make plans for packing up a picnic and visiting a farm near you to enjoy some old fashioned family fun meandering through a corn maze. Here is a list of corn mazes for each state in the US.

Happy Fall and Happy Funtober!

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Let us know!

Tell us about your favorite corn maze.

International Day of Peace

Imagine all the people living life in peace. – John Lennon
Each year on September 21, the International Day of Peace is observed around the world. This year’s theme is “Partnerships for Peace – Dignity for All”.  Such a celebration reminds us of the value in quietude and tranquility, and it provides us with a perfect opportunity to find peace within ourselves and to share peace with others. How can we partner up and do this with our children? Here are some meaningful, yet simple, ways to become active in discovering the dimensions of peace and peace building from a local and global perspective:
1childExplore a Natural Setting – Perhaps you and your child can start the day with a peaceful walk in a natural setting. You can sit quietly, meditate and reflect, or just listen to the sounds in nature. If a natural setting is inaccessible, then include yoga exercises, sing a song, or recite a poem about peace during circle time.
 
Share in an Arts & Crafts Project – Encourage your child to create a picture or a poster that represents the meaning of peace. The artwork could include decorated doves, an olive branch, a peace sign, or hands that are held together. Include peaceful music in the background during the project.
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Create a Banner or Mural – The mural or banner could portray images and/or words showing what peace represents. It could even include a personal phrase or poetry composition about peace. When it is finished, hang the artful expression in your child’s bedroom or in your classroom.
 
Discuss Diversity & Cultural Awareness – You might like to discuss the diversity of different people within your family or community, and then make comparisons of this diversity to people around the world. Help your child gain a healthy perspective on the differences, yet focus more on the similarities we share with others.
Play Games – Incorporate non-competitive or cooperative games in your day.
1dalailama_1Learn About World Leaders of Peace – Talk about leaders of peace, integrate stories, and have your child think about ways to contribute to peaceful relations among people. Make a plan to do something for someone else that would bring peace to their heart and peace to their minds.
 
 

Most importantly, inspire your children with peace.

Think it. Say it. Do it.

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