I didn’t think I wanted to homeschool at first…

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Amy Tudor. You can follow her homeschooling adventures on Instagram at amy.tudor and find her articles in Taproot magazine. We’re thrilled to have her share her homeschooling story.

Homeschooling never appealed to me. We live in a remote Vermont forest with very few other children nearby. My oldest spent her early years surrounded by grown-ups and I was looking forward to her having regular contact with other children.  But when we started her in preschool, her interest tapered off within the first few months. We repeated this the next year and the next for kindergarten.
As social creatures we humans often employ tactics, communications and power struggles in an attempt to have our needs met.  Unhealthy dynamics never, ever, escaped the notice of my oldest. Somewhere between three and five, she outlawed sarcasm, seeing the anger and cruelty it masks.  At eight, she cut the word weird from the family vocabulary, observing how people used it to isolate one person from a group. I can still picture her in the car, shrugging her shoulders to her friend in the backseat and offering a “well, everybody is different” reply after hearing a story about a ‘weird’ child.  Because of her sensitive nature, groups of people are very challenging for her to be part of.

Our homeschooling journey began with confusion and fear (on my part). There was so much to learn and even the process of registering in Vermont was overwhelmingly confusing. The home study office at the Department of Education confused me the most telling me to be much more thorough than I had to be. Experienced families offered nuggets of wisdom through various homeschooling Facebook groups. Because once you see the relief and joy on your child’s face, the struggles in your own heart quiet down.
The first technique we tried (that didn’t work) was school-at-home, that is, following the traditional school model of doing certain things at certain times, whether or not the children are interested in it.  I see new families quit at this point in the process because they can’t get their children to ‘do school.’ This frustration always makes me think of us grown-ups preparing our taxes. How many of us enjoy following such mind-numbing directions from the powerful Internal Revenue Service like “Add line 41 to 13.  If this number is less than $24,000 then skip to line 300“ and so on. Demanding that my child read chapter three and master skip counting on a set date feels like the same sort of external motivation that I don’t want to pass on to my children.

Many experienced homeschooling families will advise beginning with a few months (or more) of deschooling, especially if your child has been in traditional school for more than a few years.  Deschooling is the process of letting your children get back in touch with their own natural daily rhythms and rediscovering what sparks their own curiosity. If you didn’t have to be at school at a certain time, what time would your children naturally wake? When are they most hungry? When is their mind most active? What time of the day do they need to recharge?
Our night owl goes to bed at the same time every night, but can wake anywhere from 7 am to 9:30 am.   Teaching our children to place rest high on the priority list was lost in traditional school. When an idea sparks, she can work on self-directed projects on her own timeline. One day she spent seven hours setting-up and photographing the life stories of her doll families.  If one must break real life down into measurable learning, I observed art (photography, setting the scenes), social studies (adoption and family dynamics), storytelling (suspense, proper order of events), health (babies being born, arm injuries, physical activities), and science (tsunamis, blizzards, air temperatures) all rolled into one. In traditional kindergarten, the activities moved along so fast, it was common to hear her describe her school projects by saying “and I didn’t have time to finish that.”
Packaged curricula can be a good place to start for new families, because so many families are frightened that their children will miss some crucial benchmark and will never succeed.  Start there if you must but then try to remember that other people set those benchmarks (and then let them go, if you can). Children are individuals and learn different skills when they’re ready.  One of the things I now love most about homeschooling is the freedom.
Once your home environment is relaxed enough, you’ll know what to ‘teach’ your child because they will ask you questions about what they don’t understand.  In our house, if we parents don’t know, we write it on the chalkboard and our ‘schooling’ is usually researching it together at the library or by asking someone who knows.  Right now, we’re trying to figure out exactly how oysters filter water.

This year, our child-led model has resulted in knowing that cavemen ate nettles and other greens (because the children doubted that greens are really necessary in their diets). We studied how the Eiffel tower was built and what rare fish lived in the lakes of Tanzania. Our forestry studies have touched upon beech blight and the emerald ash borer.  And so much more. This learning-style is such a way-of-life for us that our youngest has picked up the habit. When big sister decided to make a lapbook on porcupines, our youngest was three. Without prompting, little sister decided to check out library books on bobcats for her first lapbook. Typical subjects like reading and writing are a by-product of their own curiosity.
I recently remembered that I had ordered the preschool books from Oak Meadow when my oldest was two years old.  The Heart of Learning remains one of the most influential parenting books I have ever read as it presents a way of guiding children that resonated very deeply.
I didn’t think I wanted to homeschool at first, but now that we’re over the beginning stages, it turns out my learning was just as important as theirs. And seeing their parents adapt to the unexpected teaches them to do the same. I am so glad we took the leap of faith and are pursuing an unconventional education for our children.
 

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!

New MLA Guidelines for Citing Sources

When writing a research report or an essay, it’s important that you know the rules and guidelines for writing a bibliography, using images, or using quotations from research sources. Oak Meadow students are asked to use the MLA style of creating and formatting citations.

Quick Guide to MLA Citations

In 2016, the Modern Language Association (MLA) released simplified citation guidelines, which aim for a more universal, consistent format regardless of the source medium. Most notable are the following changes:

  • No longer include the city of publication for print publishers.
  • No longer include the medium (print, web, film, etc.).
  • Include URL in website citations.
  • No longer include n.d. (no date) if website/article date is unknown .
  • Date accessed by you is optional for website citations.
  • Make entries as consistent as possible in terms of information and punctuation.

Feel free to continue to use the previous MLA style as long as you’d like — it’s still correct. The new style is more streamlined and hopefully will be easier to learn, use, and read. For those who want all the details, read this.

MLA Guidelines for Citing Sources (updated 2016):

For print sources, include the following:

Author last name, first name. Title. Publishing company, year.

Here is an example:

Stevenson, Robert Louis. Treasure Island. Dover, 1993.


When citing online sources, use this format:

Author last name, first name (if known). “Title of article.” Website. Organization,
publication date (if known). URL (without http://, brackets, or ending punctuation)

Here is an example:

Bradbury, Lorna. “25 Classic Novels for Teenagers.” Telegraph.co.uk. The Telegraph, 5 April 2012. www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/bookreviews/9189047/25-classic-novels-for-teenagers.html/p>

Website dates are given in this format: day month year. Longer months are abbreviated: Jan, Nov. You can delete the http// from the URL.


When citing an online video clip (such as YouTube):

Author last name, first name (if known). “Title of article.” Website. Organization, publication date. URL

Here is an example:

Schlickenmeyer, Max. “The Most Astounding Fact—Neil deGrasse Tyson.” YouTube. YouTube, 2 Mar. 2012. www.youtube.com/watch?v=9D05ej8u-gU


When citing a film, here is the format:

Film Title. Dir. First name Last name. Perf. First name Last name. Distributor, year of release.
Note: Dir. stands for director, and Perf. stands for performers. You can list as many or few performers as you like.

Here’s an example:

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Dir. Chris Columbus. Perf. Daniel Radcliff, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman, Robbie Coltraine and Tom Felton. Warner Brothers, 2001.


To cite an image, write a caption that includes “Image credit” and the creator’s name (if you can find it) and/or the original source. If you found the image on the web, try to provide a link back to the source.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. 

What Happened?

images-1This week my father turned 91 years old. (Happy Birthday, Dad!) We always enjoy birthday parties with my Dad! We have a tradition of having him tell us what he was doing at the present age of each member of the family. This year the youngest among us was a great grandson just 13 months old. It was fun to hear my father speak about what he was doing when he was 13 months old! The oldest at the party was 68 years and that too was amusing!
We decided this year to list many of the things that had been invented since our father (grandfather or great grandfather) was born. Each family member brought a description of the invention to the party. Wow! He has certainly seen many, many inventions in his lifetime!
images
I think we take for granted some of the inventions he saw in his lifetime, such as the color TV or the black box flight recorder. Lithium batteries and the pocket calculator surprised all of us as just being invented in the 1970s.
All this talk about past inventions got me wondering what is being invented (and patented) right now! I found out about The Lemelson-MIT Program which strives to celebrate  “outstanding inventors and inspires young people to pursue creative lives and careers through invention.” It is so interesting to read about the most recent inventions that are being awarded!
Do you have something that you are working on that will one day be an invention that will benefit us all? Join an inventor’s club! Here’s a list of them by state: http://www.freeinventorshelp.com/Organizations.html#states
Good luck!

The Freedom to be Flexible

Student outdoors studying and playing violinOne of the most valuable benefits of homeschooling is flexibility. Flexibility to dive deeply into one topic. Flexibility to develop a passion. Flexibility to travel, take advantage of unexpected opportunities, and just slow down and enjoy family time. Many families tell us that this flexibility is the reason they able to “live their learning” in a way that just wouldn’t happen if they were enrolled in traditional school.

Some parents have an instinctively flexible approach to home teaching. Others naturally choose a more structured and measured approach. Neither is inherently better, as long as it is working for you and your child. But no matter who you are, sometimes homeschooling can feel overwhelming, and when that happens, flexibility can come to the rescue.

What do you mean by flexibility?
Some families begin the homeschool year, dutifully follow all instructions just as they are presented in the curriculum, and soon find themselves overwhelmed. They may not realize that Oak Meadow curriculum is designed with the assumption that parents and home teachers will adapt it to fit their family’s needs, picking and choosing from the options offered in each lesson.

As a general rule, it is a good idea to be deliberate and thorough in your approach to home teaching. Resisting the urge to plow ahead quickly in the curriculum will help you and your child establish the habit of a healthy, unhurried pace to learning. But at times, it will be appropriate to speed up or slow down in response to your child’s needs. A student who is struggling or is new to a concept may need more time, more attention, and more practice before being ready to move on.

On the other hand, some learners will grasp concepts more readily than others, and they will be capable of moving onto the next lesson faster and with less repetition than a student who needs more time and practice to understand a given topic. If a given lesson covers something that your child has already encountered, perhaps even mastered, you can choose to review that material quickly, do only selected assignments, or even skip the lesson altogether.

In the lower grades, it is especially important to keep things developmentally appropriate for students even when they are academically advanced. Some younger students may need supplemental material to keep them engaged with the lessons at a developmentally appropriate pace. And of course, if you find that an assignment leads to investigating a compelling tangent, you can take the time to explore it before moving on. If your family gets very excited about something else you’ve encountered—investigating local history, or seasonal science projects that make sense to do right away—you can postpone the next lesson until you are ready.

How will I manage it?
For those who prefer a measured approach to planning, there is a default structure inherent in Oak Meadow’s curriculum format. Each lesson is designed to be completed in one week. Planner pages are available to help in mapping out what needs to be done and when. There are also other less regimented approaches that can work well. Some families prefer block scheduling, in which students focus on one or two subjects only for multiple lessons before switching to a different subject. For students who find transitions challenging, this approach can help them maintain focus and accomplish more in a shorter time. For some, block scheduling means assigning one subject per day in the course of a week. For others, just one or two subjects might be the theme for a month or longer before moving on.

Others use a loop scheduling approach, where some or all subjects are placed in a loop rather than a weekly schedule. With loop scheduling, you move through the list one item at a time, addressing the next item whenever time allows instead of by the calendar. If one subject needs more frequent attention than the others, you include it twice in your loop. If some unforeseen event means you aren’t able to get anything done for a day or so, you simply pick up where you left off in the loop as soon as you can.

Even the most organized parents sometimes find themselves off track, whether because of a family crisis, an unexpected illness, travel, or a very exciting spontaneous learning opportunity. This is one of the beautiful gifts that homeschooling gives us—the flexibility to allow life to get in the way sometimes without upending the academic year as a whole.

How will we get everything done?
If you are someone who enjoys taking a relaxed approach to when the “curriculum year” starts and ends, you may feel just fine going with the flow and letting all things happen in their own time. If you take summers off, you might pick up where you left off when fall comes around again, or you might just keep going year-round through the years.

But if your goal is to finish all of one grade in a year, particularly if you are obligated to a traditional school schedule with mandatory reporting, you will want to keep an eye on the overall arc of your progress through the curriculum. If you expand in some areas, you may need to find a way to contract in others to complete a year’s worth of material on time.

However you approach the year, be clear about your priorities, and refine your goals throughout the year as you get a better sense of what is realistic to expect from yourself and your child at each stage of development.

How will I know what my child needs?
You are the expert on your own child’s needs, and your instinct will guide you well if you pay attention to it. Children tell us in many ways when they are overwhelmed or confused and need to slow things down; likewise, they have ways of telling us they are done with a lesson and ready to move on.

Plan some buffer time in your days and weeks so that you have room for lessons that take a little longer or lead to unplanned learning opportunities. Make sure everyone, parents included, gets enough down time to balance out focused academic time. Plenty of active play outdoors can help get the wiggles out—at any age—to ensure better focus during lesson time.

If you continue to feel overwhelmed and unsure about how to make the most of flexible planning, or if you want help tailoring specific Oak Meadow lessons to meet your child’s needs, an hour or more of homeschool support consultation with an experienced Oak Meadow teacher can be very helpful.

Enjoy a flexible approach to homeschooling!
Be open to expanding and streamlining your homeschooling plan as needed throughout the year. Listen to your child’s cues and adjust your plan as needed. A flexible approach to homeschooling helps to keep enjoyment high and stress minimal. Flexibility is one of the most helpful tools for happy, healthy homeschooling.

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