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.

12 Ways to Support Student Independence and Autonomy in Learning

Homeschooling parents often ask how they can help their children learn to work independently. Independence is a skill that grows slowly and needs to be nurtured over time. Students need opportunities to repeatedly practice and gain confidence in their capabilities. They also need to know they can trust that an adult will be ready and available for support when they need it.

Here are some ways parents and teachers can foster independence in children.

  1. Have them help plan how to set up their homeschool space. “How would you like to organize your space? You know yourself well; what would work best for you?”
  1. Let them pick out their own supplies. “What do you need? What do you like?”
  1. Give the student control over what they will learn. “What would you like to study? What are you interested in learning more about?” Help them understand educational requirements and encourage them to come up with ways to meet them.
  1. Help them develop the range of possible options. Listen when they have suggestions. “What other possibilities could we consider? Can you think of anything else?”
  1. Support different ways of demonstrating knowledge. Brainstorm possibilities with the student, let them choose, and then hold them accountable for their choices. “How would you like to share what you’ve learned?”
  1. Encourage them to use a planner or calendar. Provide one and show them how to use it. “You’re very capable. Let me show you how you can remind yourself what needs to be done.”
  1. Keep the schedule flexible. Let them tell you what they would like to do when. “What do you need to accomplish today? How will you make sure those things get done before tomorrow?”
  1. Encourage them to play outdoors. Playing on their own can help foster a sense of independence in children. “Go play outside! I know you can keep yourself occupied. It’s fun to be independent. If you need my support, you can ask.”
  1. Let the student define their own goals. Don’t demand perfection. Ask questions like, “What standards do you have for yourself?” “How accurate do you think this needs to be?” and “Are you satisfied with your progress?”
  1. Guide them; don’t direct them. Don’t tell them how to do things. “I trust you to figure that out on your own. Let me know if you need help.”
  1. Ask open-ended questions. Listen attentively to the answers they offer. “What do you make of this? What are your thoughts?”
  1. Let them learn from their attempts. Don’t correct them right away. Ask them, “How did things go? Could you make it better somehow? What do you think?”

What other ways can you think of to nurture independence in your homeschooled child?

12 Characteristics of Successful Learners

Successful learning may happen organically, but it does not happen accidentally. One might be surrounded with rich educational resources, but without key capabilities, those learning opportunities will go untapped.
What makes a successful learner?

 Successful learners…

  1. …are leaders in their own learning.
  2. …engage with the world around them.
  3. …question everything.
  4. …think for themselves.
  5. …are driven by their interests.
  6. …push through challenges.
  7. …are determined to succeed.
  8. …have inner motivation and self discipline.
  9. …exercise their minds and their bodies.
  10. …cultivate good habits.
  11. …know how and when to ask for help.
  12. …are willing to take risks, fail, and learn from their mistakes.

What other characteristics can you add to this list? How did you encourage successful learning today?

Addressing Concerns About Homeschooling

Homeschooling is a big step for many of us. It requires the conviction that we know better than anyone else when it comes to our children’s needs (or our own). We may have already had courageous exchanges with teachers, school officials, and other experts whose job requires them to look out for the well-being of our children and whose thoughts on how best to meet those needs may be at odds with ours. We may not want to defend the details of our educational choices to everyone we meet. Nevertheless, friends, family, and strangers on the street often feel entitled to comment on, critique, or even assess the effectiveness of our homeschooling efforts.

Do any of these concerns sound familiar?

  • “Is it a day off from school?” asks a well-meaning cashier at the supermarket (at 11:00 on a Wednesday morning). “They don’t go to school,” you say. Your children giggle. The cashier gives you a disbelieving look.
  • At a family gathering, the grandparents smother your child with kisses, hugs, and an impromptu quiz about the state capitals, leaving your child stammering and squirming.
  • At ballet class, you overhear your preteen’s friend say, “I don’t know how anyone can possibly learn anything if they’re not in school. Do you even know what a square root is?” Your child is embarrassed and doesn’t respond.
  • At your child’s annual checkup, the doctor chats with your child during the examination. “What grade are you in?” says the doctor. Your child says, “Uhhhhhh….”
  • A well-meaning friend looks at you doubtfully. “Homeschooling — I don’t know,” says your friend. “You’re not a teacher. And what about socialization?”

Sometimes it can feel like every social interaction brings the risk of an uneasy exchange about homeschooling. Here are some things to keep in mind when you encounter someone whose comments make you uncomfortable.

Homeschooling is not a familiar concept for most people.

Family of three children looking at fish in a big aquariumYours may be the first homeschooling family they have seen up close. Most people are unaware that homeschooling is even an option, or they may have heard of it as something that only certain subgroups of people engage in. Let them know you’re in good company! “We’ve been so happy to find a supportive community of homeschoolers close by and online.”

Homeschooling challenges widely-held social values.

Some people may not feel at ease with the questions that homeschooling brings to mind. They may see homeschooling as an implied judgement about the quality of public schools. Many of us were raised with the belief that all children must attend public school for their own good and/or the good of society. Times are changing, and schools are not what they used to be. We learn more all the time about how unconventional approaches to education can be better for some children. “Aren’t we lucky to live in a country where parents can choose the best educational path for their children?”

It may be difficult to imagine how homeschooling can be both flexible and successful.

multigeneration homeschool learning oak meadowPerhaps their only experience of education was classroom-based, competitive, and institutional. Many of us were taught not to question that model, believing either that it was the best way or the only way to become educated and successful. But now there are alternatives, and that is a beneficial thing for many students. It might help to mention that there is also plenty of support available. “I’m so impressed with the great homeschooling resources that we’ve found online. It’s wonderful for families like ours to have professional educational support.”

Mass media perpetuates the idea that homeschoolers are freaks.

The people who get the media spotlight are often the ones who are so far outside the norm that their stories make for good entertainment. It is true that some homeschooling families have over a dozen children, are religious extremists, or send their kids to Ivy League colleges ahead of their peers. Those are interesting stories, but most homeschooling families are relatively ordinary. Your family is also a good example of a homeschooling family. If the person knows you well, remind them that you’re still the same; you’re just taking a new educational path. “We’ve met some very nice local families who homeschool.”

Others want the best for your child.

This is especially true for friends and relatives, but it can be equally true for the stranger at the supermarket. Where the perceived health and safety of children is concerned, many people do consider it their business and feel they have a socially-sanctioned right to offer advice. You do not have to share the details of your choices; simply thank them for their concern and redirect the conversation to more comfortable ground. “I really appreciate how much you care about my children’s education. Thanks for sharing your ideas.”

Our society places its faith in experts.

We have been culturally conditioned to look to experts for the answers. So it may be helpful to invoke mention of one. “We are working with the school superintendent to meet all of the established requirements.” “We’ve enrolled in an accredited distance learning school and have the support of certified teachers.” Or even, “Our pediatrician is supportive.” The point is not to devalue your primary role in your child’s homeschooling experience, but to help conclude the conversation on a positive note and in a truthful way that meets the other person’s need for expert reassurance.

Your decision to homeschool is not about them.

Oak Meadow students studying abroad in PeruIt is about you, your child’s needs, and the overall needs of your family. You are the expert on your own child, and you are empowered to make these decisions without defending yourself. You might say, “Public school works for some families, but we’ve found that homeschooling is the best fit for ours.”

Neither you nor your child owes anyone an explanation.

Be upfront with adults who try to quiz your child to prove that homeschooling is “working” — it’s not acceptable. Your child does not have to prove anything to anyone except you, and it is not appropriate for anyone to put your child on the spot with such questions. You might coach your child on how to politely decline if someone tries to verbally test them. Keep it light! A younger child could laugh and say, “Silly, you’re not my teacher!” Older kids might respond with, “Homeschooling means I don’t have to take pop quizzes anymore!”

Remember that people with concerns about homeschooling usually speak from a place of caring. Respond gently and compassionately. If they persist in challenging you about homeschooling, consider turning it around and asking them to tell you more about their children’s education or their own experiences in school. They may just want to make sure you hear their side of things. With time, patience, and practice, you’ll become adept at responding to questions from people who comment critically about your homeschooling. Acknowledge their perspectives, thank them for sharing, and move the conversation along. In time, they may surprise you with their support and approval.

Adjusting to Homeschooling Mid-Year

Student writing in a main lesson bookMaking the decision to switch gears and begin homeschooling—or to switch curriculum—partway through the school year takes courage and faith. Whatever you were doing before wasn’t working, and whatever you are beginning hasn’t had time to feel routine yet. Here are ten suggestions to ease the way.

1. Different philosophy; different approach. Students who have been in school have likely become accustomed to an institutional approach where work is prescribed to the class as a whole and the teacher’s attention is divided among many students. Shifting to a creative thinking approach can be challenging for a student who just spent last semester trying very hard to figure out how to succeed in an institutional setting. In contrast, Oak Meadow’s approach is flexible and creative, and homeschooling can often allow for one-on-one support between parent and child. Switching gears to this degree is quite an adjustment and might bring stress or frustration. Be understanding and acknowledge those differences as needed.

2. Commit to riding out the transition. There is a progression in learning as your child adjusts, but it may take a few weeks or more to be able to look back and clearly see the progression. Don’t expect to see results right away. Trust the process and really commit fully to seeing it through for six weeks or so before you assess whether it is working for your child. Learning really does take place, even if it might not feel that way in the moment, and a few weeks’ perspective can make all the difference in understanding.

3. Go easy on yourself and your child. You’ve just left behind an educational environment or other style of learning that wasn’t working for some reason, and now you’ve switched to an entirely different approach. During this adjustment phase, don’t get too caught up in whether every single item was done properly in each lesson. What’s the main concept or what are the key skills being addressed? What is most important for your child to grasp before moving on to the next lesson? Make that your focus, and give everyone points for effort as you navigate this new way of learning. Students beginning mid-year may need to go back to previous lessons if they aren’t understanding something in the current lesson.

4. Consider downshifting or deschooling. Your child might need to ease into the new model slowly, and some children, particularly those who experienced trauma in their previous school experience, will benefit from a period of “deschooling.” This can be like an extended vacation from school, with plenty of nourishing rest, time to daydream, healthy activities of the child’s choosing, and supported emotional processing. It can be very helpful for some students to have a buffer like this between leaving their old school and beginning homeschooling. Often they will let you know when they are ready to jump back in again.

high-school-homeschoolers-studying-on-beach5. Keep good boundaries with those in your life who resist the idea of homeschooling. Even well-meaning loved ones can undermine confidence by demanding evidence or reassurance that your new educational plan is “working.” It is fine to say things are going well without elaborating. Let your child know that you will be keeping his or her educational details private. This allows your child to relax and focus on learning without worrying about what the relatives or neighbors might be thinking.

6. Structure and support are key. Set up a solid daily and weekly routine as a starting point. You may need to adjust it many times, but begin with a strong plan. It is easy to get sidetracked, so do your best to stick to the plan. Set aside focused time each day for academic work. Find a good place to work with your child where you can both be comfortable. If you are feeling overwhelmed, consider consulting with one of Oak Meadow’s experienced teachers, enrolling in our distance-learning program, using a tutor, or asking an experienced friend for help.

7. Be resourceful and independent. Reach out to others. Make friends with your local librarian; it’s a great way to find out what resources are available and connect with other homeschooling families or groups in the area. Explore online resources. Oak Meadow’s social media offerings are a good place to start. Our Pinterest boards offer many inspiring hands-on ideas, and Facebook is a great place to connect with other homeschooling parents and find validation for this journey. There are many online groups for homeschooling parents. Seek support from like-minded people wherever you find it.

8. Go outside! Oak Meadow’s organic approach to learning encourages families to learn out in the world. This means spending plenty of time outside in nature and interacting with others in your local neighborhood or community. Fresh air and the soothing sights and sounds of nature are a good antidote for stress of any kind, including the positive stress of the important transition from school to homeschool. Schools tend to be very social places, and you will want to be mindful of how your child’s needs for social interaction are met while homeschooling. You might find this benefits you as well as your child.

Father and son studying outdoors9. Be patient. It takes time to settle in. It will be a little while before you get your bearings and find a good rhythm for your homeschooling days and weeks. Don’t panic! It’s okay if things aren’t perfect. There is a lot to be learned from trial and error. Have fun with the process!

10. Trust yourself. Remember that you are the expert on your own child. The decision to begin homeschooling was made in response to something your child or family needed enough to warrant such a significant change. Why did you choose homeschooling? Remind yourself of these reasons often. Continue to nurture your connection with your child, especially during this vulnerable time when he or she is weathering such a big transition. And remember to take good care of yourself as you adapt to your role as home teacher.

Organizing Your Homeschool Day

Many parents wonder how best to organize their time when using Oak Meadow or other homeschooling curriculum. There is no one right way to approach homeschool planning, so go at it with an open mind! Try something that appeals to you, then fine-tune your process as you discover what works well for you and your children.

Fundamentals

It can be helpful and calming for children and parents to have a predictable daily routine. Start by sketching out a typical week. When does your day begin? When do you and your children normally rise in the morning, eat meals, and tuck in at night? Do you have specific habits that help your children “get ready” when they wake up in the morning or wind down before bedtime? Time for meal preparation and cleanup is also important. Be sure to preserve space for these important daily rituals.

Perhaps you are already aware of a default rhythm as you and your children go about the day. If not, tune in for a few days and observe any patterns. When thinking about your schedule, consider the default rhythm that is already happening as well as any changes or habits that you’d like to foster. Remember that you can choose how firmly or loosely to adhere to your routine. Some children need by-the-clock structure to feel calm, safe, and centered. Some families need an element of flexibility in every single day to accommodate regular moving pieces or unknowns, but having a default schedule helps even very flexible families stay on track with their priorities.

Activities and Down Time

After you have mapped out the daily basics, think about your family’s outside commitments and how they fit into the week. Be sure to factor in travel and transition time before and after out-of-home activities. If an activity conflicts with the fundamentals already in place in your schedule, consider whether it would be best to shift the timing of a basic component on that one day, or in general across the entire week. You might find that as long as dinner happens within certain range of time each day, nobody complains. Or it may make sense to have dinner or naptime happen at the same time every day to cement the routine.

Student in a hat using a ruler with Dr. Seuss's Oh The Places You'll GoSome scheduling adjustments are best avoided because the change upsets the family’s routine enough to cause more stress than the activity justifies. This can bring up challenging questions about priorities and how to best meet the needs of everyone in the family at once. Keep in mind that a great plan on paper is sometimes not a good fit in practice, and this may not become apparent until you’ve given it a try. Homeschool scheduling is an ever-shifting process. You’ll make adjustments along the way as you discover what each person in the family needs most.

Exercise, fresh air, and expansive time in nature help tremendously to balance the focused attention that is often needed for academics. Plan daily time for free play or other unstructured activities, ideally at the same time each day. Down time is also very important. Many families find that a daily mid-day period of quiet time helps both children and adults recharge and recenter themselves, so do your best to set aside time to make this a habit.

There are many possible ‘right’ ways to organize your homeschool day, week, month, and year. Your family’s schedule will reflect its uniqueness and individuality. With a solid approach to planning and scheduling, homeschooling doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

Planning

With household and family routines and the less flexible activities in place in your schedule (even tentatively), the next step is to make regular time for academic planning. Some parents prepare their academic plan monthly or even yearly, but it is important to revisit it regularly and to include your child in the process. Set aside a dedicated time each week to look over your homeschooling materials and curriculum and figure out what needs to be accomplished in the coming week. Set things up so that you feel as prepared as possible before the week begins.

boy and dad studying togetherAs children get older, consider sitting down with them once a week to look at the coming week’s plan and discuss what needs to happen and when. Sometimes our children have insights into their own habits and capabilities that will help ensure a successful plan. In time, students who are in the habit of a weekly planning session may be able to manage it on their own, or at least begin a to-do list themselves before finalizing it with a parent.

Visual tools can be very helpful. Some families create a weekly assignment sheet with checkboxes, so that each student can easily see what needs to be done and mark things off as they are completed. For others, a large chalkboard or whiteboard is the best tool for listing daily or weekly assignments, along with reminders of other important weekly responsibilities or events.

Preparing your schedule is like laying out a custom patchwork quilt. Continue moving the pieces around until they fit together just right. Over time you’ll hone and create a good flow for each day.

Academics

When the fundamentals are in place in your schedule, and you’ve included time for planning and outside activities, it’s time to work out in detail how academic time will be spent.

Identify regular times for focusing on academic learning and practice. It may take some trial and error to figure out how much time you need to block off for academics in each day or week. If you are unsure, start by reserving more time than you think you need, particularly if you’re still figuring out each family member’s inner rhythm.

In the younger grades (K-3), many families start their day with Circle Time. It is an opportunity for sharing a verse, poem, song, or story as a family. Some families also integrate yoga, dance, a thought question, or the cultivation of gratitude. Circle Time can be as long or as brief as your child can tolerate – just long enough to be a positive experience. If it’s not working well, change it!

For older children who have outgrown the concept of Circle Time, devise another way to connect each morning. Use that opportunity to discuss the plan for the day. This might be as simple as chatting over breakfast or checking in with each other en route to a scheduled morning activity. Make it a point to touch base with your child in some way each morning to go over the day’s plan and affirm your connection with each other.

Each Oak Meadow curriculum lesson is designed to be completed over the course of one week and contains an assignment summary in each subject, which can be used to create a checklist for each lesson. Some families choose to do something in every subject every day; other families prefer to use block scheduling, focusing exclusively on one or two subjects for a day or more at a time, or “loop scheduling,” where you attend to subjects one by one in a chosen order, returning to the top of the list once you’ve completed the loop. You can read more about these different approaches here. You might come up with another approach that will work even better for your child.

Consider how long your child can focus before he or she needs a break. Students and parents both benefit from the opportunity to switch gears when needed. Academics can be strategically woven around active play and down time to make learning time as efficient as possible.

One of the great joys of homeschooling is having the opportunity to follow a custom-fit schedule. There are many good possible ways to organize your homeschool time, so go ahead, make a plan, and give it a try. Do the best you can, allow for flexibility where needed, and trust in the process. You’ll soon figure out what works best for your family!

Working and Homeschooling

“I want to homeschool, but I need to work.”

Is it really true that working parents cannot homeschool? It can be quite a challenge, but many families manage to do it successfully. Many working-and-homeschooling families challenge this assumption every single day.  How?

Consider all opportunities for flexibility in your work

The more flexibility you have, the more smoothly you will be able to manage the demands of homeschooling. Some work situations require regular hours but may be adaptable to working all or part of the time from home. Others allow for significant flexibility in when, where, and even how much work is done.

Flexibility may not be something your employer routinely offers, but a thoughtful proposal might change the status quo. If your current work is inflexible, consider a job change. If change is not possible, don’t despair! There are many ways to make working-and-homeschooling work.

In families with two working parents, it may be possible for parents to adjust their working hours so that one parent is home whenever the other is working. You might divide the responsibility for homeschooling equally, or one parent might take primary responsibility for education while the other takes more responsibility in other areas.

Single parents who work can still homeschool. If your work is done entirely at home, and if there is a good fit between your child’s ability to be independent on one hand and the needs of your job on the other, you may be able to multitask throughout the day. Whether or not this is successful will depend largely on your temperament and that of your child.

If the needs of your job and the needs of your child are too much to manage at once, or if your job takes place away from home and you cannot bring your child along, you might piece together a scenario that includes time for learning with a parent or another adult.

Be flexible with your expectations about how you will homeschool.

Homeschooling can happen anytime, anywhere. There is no rule that says homeschooling must take place during school hours or at a desk. Focused, supported learning activities can happen before parents head off to work in the morning, after they return in the evening, or on the weekends.One of the most wonderful benefits of homeschooling is that students can learn the same things in less time than they would in public school. Homeschooling, especially if it is done one-on-one or with siblings who are at the same or a similar learning level, can be very efficient. If you plan to devote a portion of the day to helping each of your children with bookwork, how much time would you need? What time of day is your child the most focused and receptive to learning? What kind of learner is your child, and how can you help make learning most efficient for him or her?

For some homeschooling families, a rigorous, detailed curriculum is the best choice. Others have the time and drive to piece together a carefully selected, eclectic combination of materials. When your time and attention are already stretched, you might find it easiest to use a comprehensive all-in-one program, such as Oak Meadow’s full curriculum package. Or you might find that a very relaxed approach to learning allows your children to happily absorb the basics and then pursue their passions. Don’t hesitate to shift gears if you or your child are stressed or unhappy with your current approach. When you find something that works, celebrate and stick with it!

Assess your child’s capacity for independence and make intentional use of it

How old is your child (or children)? How much direct attention, supervision, and care does he or she need? When is your child happiest to accept guidance from others, and when will only a parent do?
Young children will need a direct caregiver all or most of the time. Many caregivers are open to supporting this age group in gentle learning activities involving nature, art, handwork, storytelling, and play-based exploration. You may need to make suggestions or provide materials. With a thoughtful plan, your care provider can become a homeschooling ally.

Preteens may be able to tolerate being left to themselves for periods of time while you are working at home, but there will be limits to their independence. They may need or want to engage periodically even if you are nearby. With your child’s input, develop ways to connect and reconnect with each other as needed while you work.

Older children and teens may be able to handle all or some of their homeschooling work on their own. Some subjects or activities might require more regular support than others. You might work in short bursts with scheduled breaks so that your child knows when to wait and when he or she can have your attention again.

If you have a wide range of ages in your family, perhaps an older child could be engaged to help a younger child or children while you are working at home. Carefully plan ahead to set them up with suitable assignments or activities. When you are not working, your attention can shift to the younger children while the older ones focus on their own learning.

Remember why

Families who choose homeschooling invariably have compelling reasons that make it worthwhile. Why are you working and homeschooling? What would be different if you made a different choice? Would those differences be acceptable to you? Identify the motivating factors in your situation and remind yourself of them whenever you need a boost.

Working while homeschooling can be a formidable challenge, even with children who are older and fairly independent. For many parents who do both, the combination is not really ideal. But when other options are unacceptable or even more challenging, it can be worthwhile to do what is necessary to make it work. If you choose working-and-homeschooling, you are in good company.

Enrolled or Independent?

Enrolled or independent? Many families who are interested in using Oak Meadow curriculum wonder whether their family’s needs would best be met through using our materials independently or enrolling in our distance learning program. This is one of the most common questions parents ask us as they seek to find the right homeschooling fit. We are happy to help you figure it out!

For some families, Oak Meadow enrollment is a bargain compared to local or distant alternative and private school options. For others, the cost of enrollment is out of reach, even with our tuition payment plan. For unenrolled students, our curriculum for each grade level can be purchased as a whole package or as separate books and used independently. Each of these options brings benefits and advantages to meet a diverse range of needs.

ENROLLED FAMILIES

Some families appreciate the simple and consistent structure that enrollment provides. Enrolled students must submit completed work in all subjects according to a predetermined schedule. Within this schedule, there is room for a measured amount of flexibility, but families are expected to follow the general schedule and communicate promptly with their teacher if circumstances warrant an exception. This ensures that student work is completed and teacher feedback is consistently provided throughout the school year.

Enrolled students have an ongoing relationship with an Oak Meadow teacher in addition to their home teacher (who is usually but not always their parent). Some parents find it very reassuring to have the support of an educational professional who can help guide their child’s progress through the year.

Sometimes a relationship of accountability with an Oak Meadow teacher can be the critical factor in helping a homeschooling family stay on track with their learning. Enrolled students, particularly in the younger grades, often work with the same teacher over the course of several years. This relationship can be motivating and inspiring for students as they develop skills over time. Teachers may be able to easily recommend supplements or other helpful resources to support the student’s learning. Some students respond better to feedback from someone other than a parent.

Oak Meadow is an accredited, private distance-learning school, and as such, enrollment alone may satisfy your state’s school registration requirements and bypass the need to register as a homeschooler. In some states, this may greatly simplify your legal obligation. It may even make homeschooling possible where it might not otherwise be allowed. In some states, funds or vouchers may be available to help families purchase approved curriculum.

As an accredited school, students enrolled in Oak Meadow high school earn official school credit toward graduation. Enrolled students who complete a full course of accredited study receive a high school diploma from Oak Meadow School. Enrolled high school students receive an official transcript and free college counseling.

Because homeschooling requirements vary so much from region to region, we recommend consulting your local Department of Education, your school district, or the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) to be fully informed about local laws and regulations relating to homeschooling in your area.

INDEPENDENT FAMILIES

Some families need or want more flexibility than enrollment allows. Families who use Oak Meadow curriculum independently can fashion their own schedule and timetable for learning. Some independent families organize their learning in blocks, focusing on only one subject for weeks at a time before switching gears. Others pick and choose, using Oak Meadow curriculum alongside other materials to meet their children’s unique learning needs.

Using Oak Meadow curriculum independently allows families to homeschool in their own way and on their own terms. Some parents team up and work together using the curriculum independently in a co-op arrangement, where multiple families help each other meet common goals within an agreed-upon schedule. Other families use a focused at-home approach to academics. Oak Meadow curriculum is designed to be adaptable to a wide variety of homeschooling situations.

For those who are using our curriculum on their own but occasionally need some guidance, our Homeschool Support service lets parents consult with an experienced teacher to help keeping things going smoothly.

Every family is different; you are the best expert on your own children and their unique needs. Enrollment will be the perfect fit for some students and parents, and independent use of the curriculum will work best for others.

For more information about enrollment vs. independent Oak Meadow learning, contact our educational counselors at the office (802-251-7250 or contact us via our website). Enrolled or independent, every homeschooling parent has their child’s best interests at heart, and we are happy to help you sort out which option is best for you and your child.

Homeschooling Multiple Children

How can I homeschool multiple children? If you’ve asked this question, you’re in good company. Meeting the needs of multiple children is a challenge for any parent. But homeschooling parents needs to be able to do it all day long. How is that possible?

There is No One Right Way

Homeschooling families run a wide gamut, from “regimented” to “easygoing.” Where does your family fit on this spectrum? Some parents would ideally prefer a more structured approach, but reality requires them to be more laid-back to make it work. Others find that a carefully planned rhythm helps them stay on track with everyone’s needs.

Oak Meadow Boho Girls With DandelionsSet the tone of adaptability in your home and model it for your children to follow. If you are calm, creative, and flexible in meeting their needs, they will learn in time to be patient and flexible in getting their own needs met. Oak Meadow is designed to be highly adaptable. You may find that you want to go more in-depth with some lessons and skim through others. Some lessons can be modified so that children at multiple levels can learn from them. If two or more of your children are close in age or at developmentally similar levels, you might simplify things by working with them at a single level.

If you need help with adjusting Oak Meadow curriculum to meet your family’s specific situation, consider consulting with an experienced Oak Meadow teacher for suggestions.

Let Your Observations Guide You

Think about each of your children individually. What do they love? What engages each one’s attention like nothing else? Use your observations to create tools that help them stay occupied while you are working with the others. Finding safe, reliable ways to keep little hands and minds busy when you need it will go a long way. Oak Meadow’s Pinterest boards are full of helpful activity ideas.

Keep an open mind about the times of day when you work with your older children. Can attention be given to academics or projects after the younger children are in bed? Consider also when your youngest children need your attention the most – and least. Are they happiest sharing your attention mid-morning or just after a nap?

Create a Predictable but Flexible Rhythm

By using your children’s own rhythms as a starting point for the whole family’s rhythm, you can maximize the chance of success. When everyone in the family knows what to expect, less time is spent in communication about what each day will hold. Provide a general rhythm to guide the whole family. Perhaps your homeschool rhythm flows best around mealtimes, naptimes, and bedtimes. Post a simple chart of your rhythm that everyone can understand and try to follow. If you try something and it doesn’t work, use that information to adjust your approach and continue moving forward.

Capitalize on Their Independence

Family of three children looking at fish in a big aquariumIn what ways can each child be independent? Independence for an older child might mean reading or working on lessons by themselves for a set period of time. For a baby, independence might mean naptime, time with toys on the floor, or an extended ride on someone’s back. Can the olders amuse the youngers while the middles get needed attention? Even young “big siblings” can sometimes successfully engage very little ones with funny faces, rhyming songs, finger plays, stories, and toys. In some larger families, each older child is paired up with a younger child. If your older children are not yet at this stage, consider inviting a homeschooled teen to help you out on a regular basis.

Prioritize Thoughtfully

Just as important as the ways in which your children can be independent are the ways each is not able to work without your help. Where do they need your attention most? Make those moments count. You may need to spend some time observing and assessing your children to figure out where they need the greatest support. If you have to ask a child to wait for your attention, acknowledge that you are asking them to do something important and helpful. The most successful cooperation happens when those involved feel their needs are recognized and valued.

Take Time to Recharge

Always remember to take care of your own basic needs so that you can be as patient, creative, and flexible as possible. Homeschooling multiple children is a mighty challenge. Try to connect with others who share your values, can relate to your struggles, and can offer ideas that you might not have thought of. You might consider homeschooling cooperatively with another family or group to share the load. Maintain patience. Feed your own needs so that you have plenty of inner reserves when you most require them. Approach the issue of nurturing multiple children as a problem that can and will be solved.

Keep It All in Perspective

When you have a challenging day or week, remind yourself why you started homeschooling in the first place. Chances are your reasons for homeschooling will be much more compelling than your challenges. Seek ideas and support from others who have been in similar shoes. Do all you can to savor the time you have at home with your children, because this time with your children is just a season.  Love your children, be responsive to their needs, do your best to be flexible and adaptable in your approach to homeschooling, and trust that it will be enough.

What About Socialization?

The question of socialization comes up often in conversations about homeschooling. Parents who are new to homeschooling or considering it as a future option may recognize that school provides more than just academics. They may worry about how they will recreate those other learning opportunities in their home. Well-meaning neighbors and family members may ask, “But what about socialization?” Well, what about it?

What is socialization, anyway? 

Societies have an interest in making sure the younger generation has the social skills and expectations needed to fit in with and be productive members of the group. The Oxford Learners Dictionary defines socialization as the process by which somebody, especially a child, learns to behave in a way that is acceptable in their society. Many people expect schools to do the job of seeing children through this process of becoming acceptably behaved citizens who understand the norms of their society and how to fit in without being a burden to the community. So they might wonder how homeschoolers will gain these skills outside of school.

Is this something I need to worry about? 

Not at all. If you and your children are involved in activities with a range of other people, your children will have many opportunities for healthy social development. In fact, some people assert that the kinds of social learning situations that occur in the classroom and on the playground impart a very different skill set than what children will actually need as adults. Typical schools group children by age and developmental ability, resulting in large groups of children who all have similar skills—and shared deficiencies.

Oak Meadow girl playing with goatsIn contrast, homeschoolers tend to interact with more diverse groups and individuals. So they are able to gain new skills from people who are much more socially adept and affirm those skills by mentoring those who are younger or less experienced. The more socially experienced members of the group provide a model for the others to learn from. This is a valuable form of socialization that is not usually part of social learning in a group of same-age children.

How can I meet my child’s needs for socialization? How do others families do this? 

Socialization and community building can happen in any situation you can think of where your children are interacting with other people. Music lessons, art classes, sports teams, church groups, scouting, 4-H, wilderness groups, summer camps, mission work, community activism, and all sorts of other activities provide the opportunity for homeschoolers to interact with others and develop interpersonal skills. If your child needs more social opportunities, they’ll let you know. You might seek out a homeschool group in your area or start one if one doesn’t already exist. There may be volunteer opportunities at a local nursing home or daycare center where your child can learn from elders and/or mentor younger children. If you live in a very isolated area, you might consider using the Internet or a pen-pal arrangement as a way for your child to connect with others socially through the written word.

What do I say to family/friends who press the issue? 

Well-meaning family and friends may react with concern. Sometimes it can be helpful to dig a bit deeper to uncover their fears and respond from there. What exactly are they worried about? What social skills do they think will be missing from your child’s experience? Perhaps a simple explanation of how you will fill that gap is all they need to hear.

When you choose to homeschool, you may appear to be removing your child from the community’s collective method of raising its children. People may wonder if this means your family will now become isolated. They may assume that your child will be at home all day and will not have enough of a chance to develop and practice social skills. They may know adults who are unable to function in a socially appropriate way, and although there is no reason to connect this outcome with homeschooling, they may wonder if there could be a connection.

Oak Meadow students together on top of mountainThey may be concerned about homeschooling simply because they do not have any experience (yet!) with healthy, well-adjusted, well-socialized homeschoolers. It’s likely that they were indoctrinated with the belief that schools are the only place where children can learn what they need to know to succeed socially. Homeschoolers typically prove that wrong, but it may take some time for the people in your life to see that evidence unfold. It may help to remember that these questions are generally posed out of love and concern for your child’s well-being. Be patient with the process and assure them that with your attentive care, your children are doing fine.

How do I make sure my children get what they need? 

Decide for yourself what social and behavioral skills you feel are essential for your child to learn. Consider your child’s developmental level as you set your expectations. Stay tuned in to your child and his or her needs, and follow your inner compass in figuring out how best to meet those needs. Make connections with others in your community and include your children in those interactions. Model socially appropriate behavior in different situations and support your children as they practice interacting with various people.

Many homeschoolers find that socialization comes easily and naturally as part of their everyday interactions with others. So the next time a well-meaning friend asks, “But what about socialization?” just smile and invite them to become part of your child’s ever-expanding social network.

Keep Learning…

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