How to Manage Stress in High School & Find Balance

As a homeschooler, seeking balance is essential. Being out of balance almost always leads to feelings of stress, which can limit our ability to absorb new information and engage with learning in a meaningful way. Here are some tips to help you maintain a sense of balance and joy amidst the day-to-day stresses of high school:

1. Reconnect with what energizes you

What energizes you? What helps you feel centered and creates harmony within you? You might reconnect through hiking, yoga, journaling, gardening, art, or some other activity. Find something that works for you, and do it every day. Do it first thing in the morning to help you embrace the day with greater purpose and energy. Do it when you need a break to help you clear your mind and recharge for the next thing. Do it after your work is done to help you unwind and relax.

Oak Meadow student hiking at the grand canyon

2. Re-examine your routine

Through our thoughts, feelings, and actions, we all create our lives moment by moment. And our daily rhythms and routines can set the stage for either a balanced and productive life or one that increases feelings of stress. Start first with your basic eating and sleeping habits. Studies show that actions like reducing the amount of sugar or processed foods you consume can improve your mood, and getting a solid 8-10 hours of sleep per night can improve your attention and memory.

You should also revisit your homeschooling schedule. If work is feeling overwhelming, you may find balance by organizing your schoolwork using a weekly planner. In your planner, divide large projects and assignments into smaller tasks, and check them off as you complete them. Make sure you schedule in designated times for breaks and fun. Giving yourself permission to stop working and knowing that you have planned when the work will get done can help eliminate any nagging feeling that you should be working all the time.

3. Pay attention to your internal GPS

Envision a see-saw with mental activity on one end, physical activity on the other end, and feelings in the middle as the balance point. We all know how easy it is to overemphasize or ignore one or more of these aspects, and we know what happens to the see-saw when we lean too far in one direction. Check in with your internal GPS every now and then to figure out where you are. For example, if you’ve been engaged for long hours on a computer, you probably need to switch gears and do something physical. If you’ve been busy with athletics or a job, you may need to sit for a bit and read a book. Remember to check in with yourself and strive for a balance between mental and physical activities in the rhythm of your day.

4. Allow yourself to feel

Oak Meadow student sitting and looking over valleyOur innate capacity to feel is one of our greatest tools. It helps us to clearly perceive what is going on in ourselves and others, and to communicate effectively. When you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed, don’t force yourself to swallow and bury that emotion. Acknowledge what you are feeling, and tune into the thoughts that keep rising to the surface. Allowing yourself to feel and recognize your emotions will allow you to manage your stress and communicate your needs more effectively.

Additionally, tapping into your emotions not just in moments of stress but also in moments of joy will help you maintain perspective and balance. If you are walking down the street, look at the trees, the plants, and the sky around you and appreciate nature’s beauty. Soak it in on a feeling level. By opening your heart to simple acts of feeling as you experience the events of each day, you will find that your mind becomes quieter and you feel more stable and poised.

5. Recognize your triggers

It’s no surprise that life often feels unbalanced. Consider how we are bombarded by external stimuli: masses of information, constant sounds, looming due dates, social media updates, household responsibilities, relationship issues, and more. By learning to recognize what triggers a sense of stress, we can help restore balance. If you feel you can never get anything done because you have to respond to every text message as it comes in, maybe you want to turn off your phone or silence it when you’re doing schoolwork. If chores are stressing you out, add them to your planner so you know when you will take care of them. If the noise of younger siblings or a television bothers you, try using sound-canceling headphones or listening to music. Take notice of what triggers your stress, and make changes to limit their effect on your mood.

By following these guidelines, you can regain your innate balance and become more effective in school and life. Learning is not just about developing intellect; learning should be about developing intelligence, which arises from physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual balance. This balance will help you become a fulfilled, self-directed learner and a dynamic individual who can have a positive impact upon the world.

Finally, if you ever find yourself seriously worried about your stress levels, don’t be afraid to hit the pause button. Part of the beauty of homeschooling is the freedom to set your own schedule, and that includes taking a break from school all together. Take the time you need away from academics, and seek guidance from a counselor, therapist, or other professional, if you need it, for stress-management tools and techniques.

It may sound counter intuitive, but taking a break each day to recharge can help you be more productive and successful. So, slow down, take a deep breath, and take the time to reconnect to the joy of learning.

Tips for Teaching Gifted Students

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

Finding The Right Approach For Teaching Gifted Students

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

Accelerating Your Student’s Learning

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

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

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

Deepening Your Student’s Learning

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

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

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

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

Curriculum Cover Coloring Contest

Design Your Own Curriculum Cover! Coloring Contest

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

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

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

Curriculum Cover Coloring Contest Winners

Click on the images below to download your coloring sheet

Kindergarten Curriculum Cover Blank

1st Grade Curriculum Cover Blank for Coloring

2nd Grade Curriculum Cover Blank for Coloring

3rd Grade Curriculum Cover Blank for Coloring

4th Grade Curriculum Cover Blank for Coloring

5th Grade Curriculum Cover Blank for Coloring

6th Grade Curriculum Cover Blank for Coloring

7th Grade Curriculum Cover Blank

8th Grade Curriculum Cover Blank for Coloring

Contest Rules

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

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

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

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.” The Telegraph, 5 April 2012.>

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.

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.

Summer Reading List 2019 for Families & Students K-8

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

Grades K-3

Blueberries for Sale Book Cover

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

The Dandelion Seed Book Cover

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

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

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

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

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

Grades 4-5

The Secret Garden

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

The Redwall Series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grades 6-8

The Truth as told my mason butte

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

Small Spaces

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6 Ideas to Infuse a Little College Exploration into Your Summer

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

Oak Meadow High School student taking photos

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

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

Oak Meadow 5-8 Newsletter, Spring 2019

Curriculum Activity: Make a Labyrinth

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

make a labyrinth instructions

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

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

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

Oak Meadow K-4 Newsletter, Spring 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cursive is alive and well!

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

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

What is a main lesson book?

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

It’s Spring! Build a bird nest supply box

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

drawing of homemade bird nest supply box

Oak Meadow High School Newsletter, Winter 2019

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

Creating a homeschooling portfolio: tools for documenting work

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

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

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

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

All learning counts, and you can document that!

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

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

Discussion as an assessment tool

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’ve got this!

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

printable homeschool inspiration
Click on image to download.