The Nutcracker Ballet

One of my favorite traditions during this time of year is watching the annual production of “The Nutcracker Ballet”. This grand holiday tradition dazzles and delights the audience with spectacular choreographed dancing, beautiful costumes, glorious scenery, and pyrotechnical magic as the brilliance of Tchaikovsky’s symphonic music is brought to life. “The Nutcracker” production is a very special performance for me, as it always brings back warm and wonderful memories of a magical family event during my children’s early home schooling years.
If taking your children to see “The Nutcracker Ballet” is a part of your holiday plans, then I highly recommend filling your home with the amazing orchestral soundtrack before you attend the performance. Since the performance is “told” in the form of music and dance, I also recommend reading aloud the story so your children can better understand the storyline during the performance. There are many books written about the Nutcracker and the Mouse King. One of my favorites is the original tale of Nutcracker, written by E.T.A. Hoffmann (in 1816), translated by Ralph Manheim, and illustrated by Maurice Sendak.
If you are also interested in sharing a little history of this special ballet with your children, then I recommend the book, The Nutcracker Comes to America: How Three Ballet-loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition, written by Chris Barton and illustrated by Cathy Gendron.
Who would ever have thought that during WW II, three small-town Utah boys interested in ballet would have  started this annual holiday tradition? “The Nutcracker Ballet” has retained its freshness because it appeals to the sense of wonder in both children and adults. It is a memorable and magical event that every family should enjoy together at least once, if not every year as a family tradition.

Celebrating My Irish Heritage

Our blog post this week is written by Deb Velto, the Oak Meadow K-8 Director! ENJOY!

St. Patrick’s day can be a fun day for everyone, and it is especially important to our family because our ancestors are from Ireland. It is one of my favorite holidays, and I wanted to share a bit about my Irish heritage and the way we celebrate this day in our family.
Wearing green is something many people do on St. Patrick’s day, whether they are Irish or not. The tradition of wearing green comes from the Celtic tradition of wearing green during the vernal equinox to symbolize the new life of Spring. When Catholics, like St. Patrick, came to Ireland they adopted the tradition of wearing the color green as a symbol of Catholicism. The Irish flag is made up of a green stripe and an orange stripe with a white stripe between. The white stripe between the two symbolizes the unity of Catholicism (green) and Protestantism (orange) in Ireland, although even today, religious identity continues to be a source of conflict in Ireland. My grandmother always said that you got a pinch on St. Patrick’s day if you weren’t wearing green!
Because we are vegetarian, we do not eat the traditional corned beef and cabbage on March 17th, although I did grow up thinking it was delicious! Over the past twenty years, I have developed my own vegetarian versions of Irish dishes. For breakfast, we always have Irish tea and Irish oatmeal and scones or Irish soda bread. Our dinner table has vegetarian Shepherd’s pie (trust me, it is good), Kilcullen (a traditional Irish cabbage dish), brown bread, stuffed cabbage, and red potatoes. Of course, many people eat corned beef and cabbage, which is also a delicious Irish treat.
Irish music is one of my favorite parts of this time of year, and one that we always enjoy all day on St. Patrick’s day. Many varieties of flute, fiddle, and harp are traditionally Irish. The Irish hand drum is my favorite instrument, the Bodhrán (pronounced boe-rawn), which you might recognize as the pulsating beat in most traditional songs. Uilleann pipes have been played traditionally since the 5th century, and are often recognized in traditional Irish melodies. Irish music is fun to listen to, sing along to, and dance to! Some musicians to look for are the Chieftans and the Clancy Brothers.
Here is a clip of some musicians in Ireland: IRISH MUSIC
One new tradition my children have started is to set a leprechaun trap in our house the night before St. Patrick’s day. We haven’t caught one yet, but sometimes a leprechaun may leave behind a coin or other trinket, and cause other trouble in our house. For example, turning the milk in our refrigerator green!
I was lucky enough to visit Ireland several years ago with my mother. We spent time while we were there researching our family history. It so fascinating to find the documents related to where our family lived, in County Mayo Ireland, and when they immigrated during the potato famine and after. Many Irish immigrants came to America during the Potato famine – it is a sad but interesting part of European history to learn about. When I was in Ireland, I remember being struck by the beautiful green hills, gorgeous hydrangeas, and amazing castles that we saw!
Happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone, whether you are Irish, or only Irish “for a day”!  I hope you have a chance to learn a bit more about Ireland, and Irish culture today!

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. 

Michelle Menegaz
Before you begin to practice, do some quick stretches…shoulder rolls, finger wiggling, etc. Then stand tall and imagine you are being suspended by a string from above. Relax the shoulders and lengthen the body. Please consider standing as often as you can when practicing. It really helps!

When you perform, there are special but simple skills you can practice to make your gift of music or poetry or any other presentation more enjoyable for your audience. Try looking toward the back of the room just above the heads of the people farthest away. Smile, smile, smile if you can remember  – either while playing or before or after if you are using a wind instrument. Remember to introduce yourself and your piece before you begin and bow with gratitude when you finish.

Amanda Witman
“Find a place where you can practice comfortably and without distraction.”

“A little bit of practicing every day is better than a lot of practicing once in a while.”

“Listen to the sounds you are making and experiment with ways to make them pleasing to you.”

“Take a moment to relax your hands and your breathing before you start to play.”

“Share your music with others. If you can’t find anyone to play for, stand in front of a mirror and perform for yourself. Smile and take a bow at the end of your performance!”


The Oak Meadow coursework in all grade levels (particularly in grades k-4) highly emphasizes the integration of artwork with the academics. Throughout the coursework, students are encouraged to complete artistic activities and projects in the form of drawing, painting, and/or making crafts in all the main subjects. Main lesson books are made by the students to preserve their ideas and knowledge of the content for each lesson, which includes the combination of written work and creative expression.
1DoodleThe students are also encouraged to express themselves artistically through freestyle form. One of the most enjoyable freestyle forms of artistic expression is doodling! Doodling runs the gamut of personal creations to adding color to created forms, such as The Original DoodleArt Flowers Coloring Poster or The Original DoodleArt Fairy Tales Coloring Poster.
If your child likes to doodle, then I highly recommend participating in the 8th annual Doodle4Google art contest (for grades k-12). The theme for this year is “What Makes Me…Me”. The contest is open for entries from now until December 7, 2015. If you are interested in seeing a gallery of past winners, you and your children might get some great ideas! 
1doodle art 3
So, doodly doo your way into a winning “doodle4google” day; and if you need some added inspiration, you can always take a break and enjoy the Doodly Doo song with hand actions!
Doodly Doo Song (Wadally ah cha)
Please sing to me 
That sweet melody
Called the doo, doodly doo
I like it so wherever I go
It’s the doo doodly doo
It’s the simplest thing
There isn’t much to it
All you got to do is doodly doo it
I love it so
That wherever I go
It’s doodly, doodly, doodly, doodly doo
Come on and…
Wadally ah cha, wadally ah cha
Wadally oh, wadally oh
Wadally ah cha, wadally ah cha
Wadally, wadally oh
pat knees twice
clap twice
stay in clapping position and click to the right then the left
take right hand put on nose then on shoulder same with right, start the actions when you get to the line: come on and…



Fairies are invisible and inaudible like angels.

But their magic sparkles in nature.

The fairy poet takes a sheet

Of moonbeam, silver white;

His ink is dew from daisies sweet,

His pen a point of light.

~Joyce Kilmer

Oak Meadow student, Fae Leonard-Mann, completed her third grade poetry block in language arts with a beautiful poem called “Fairyland.” As I was reading this poem she had scribed so endearingly, I couldn’t help but ponder how the season of summer seems to be the avenue for becoming entranced in the world of fairies.  
Little Leslie in Muir Woods!This summer, I had the joyful opportunity of personally experiencing fairyland when I visited Muir Woods National Monument in Marin County, California. Not only did I appear miniscule in this vast forest of giant redwoods, I could also feel the presence of tiny living elements amongst the ancient trees, shimmering streams, and frocks of ferns. It left me with a sensational impression that linked me to great unknowns.  
Exploring nature and reading the poem Fae shared in her main lesson book compelled me to further research and read other poems about fairies. I found a wonderful site that offers a plethora of fairy quotes, poems, and verses. For additional inspiration in music and cinematography, I encourage you and your family to view the brief video that offers soothing fairy-lilted voices and instrumentation. It is a balm to any fairy lover.
282265_456779501008138_1032505254_nAnother great activity for this time of year is building your own fairy houses. In the spring 2013 issue of Living Education, Oak Meadow’s Director of Curriculum Development DeeDee Hughes wrote a lovely article on Fairy Houses and Fairy GardensIt shares so many wonderful ideas and helpful tips for you and your children to design and construct your own fairy house or garden.
I do hope you take a moment before the end of this summer season to arouse your senses, hone in on your keen observation skills, and look around you at the mysteries of life that are so close to you. Who knows. You may even discover a new friend! 

Each fairy breath of summer, as it blows with loveliness, inspires the blushing rose.

~ Author Unknown


Cowichan, British Columbia


Numerous Oak Meadow home teachers with students in first through third grade have commented on how much their children love the map work and studying about other places and cultures around the world. Geography and history are quite fascinating to me, as well, and when a certain place grabs my attention, I want to put on my “traveling shoes” to visit and experience the uniqueness of the place.



This is what happened when I recently watched the delightful, musical art piece and masterfully done video, “Once Upon a Day.” It captures the spirit and essence of the majestic Cowichan, a district on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. The spectacular scenery, the diversity of live music played in various settings, the outdoor activities, the creative arts, and the scrumptious looking food offers great temptation for exploration of this inclusive and diverse community. So, put on your own “traveling shoes” and watch the magic of this inspirational video with your children.