Curriculum and Grade Placement – Oak Meadow | Providers of Exceptional Homeschool Curriculum

Curriculum and Grade Placement

Is your curriculum accredited?

Accreditation is only offered to institutions. Oak Meadow’s distance learning school is accredited, which means our school has met and is maintaining a high level of standards set by an accrediting agency. These standards address academic rigor, the processing of academic records, business practices, and long-term goals for continued improvement.

As academic content is just one, albeit critical, component considered in accreditation, curriculum alone is not accredited.

How do I choose a grade level for my child?

Oak Meadow believes parents are in the best position to determine what grade level to choose for their child. Instead of requiring placement tests, we encourage parents to study our grade overviews and comprehensive curriculum samples to make an informed judgment based on their knowledge of their child.

Because our curriculum is designed to be developmentally and academically appropriate, we suggest starting with age when reviewing our sample lessons:

  • 5-6 yrs. for Kindergarten
  • 6-7 yrs. for 1st
  • 7-8 yrs. for 2nd
  • 8-9 yrs. for 3rd and so on

We know that many students work at different grade levels in different subjects; therefore Oak Meadow curriculum is designed to be easy to modify and adapt so you can customize your child’s education to serve their particular strengths, challenges, and needs.

If you have questions after reviewing our materials, please contact us or call our educational counselors at (802) 251-7250 for assistance.

Can my child start Oak Meadow anytime, even if we’ve never used Oak Meadow before?

You can jump into Oak Meadow at any time in grades K-12. There is no need to have been using our curriculum from the very beginning in order to be successful at any other grade level.

Although our approach is unique and creative, our academic benchmarks align with national standards. Families typically have no issue moving into and out of Oak Meadow curriculum from other curricula, or from brick and mortar schools.

This means, for example,  that a child who uses Oak Meadow for 4th grade should be able to enter public school the next year in 5th grade without being held back. Of course, this 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.

Can we start using your curriculum mid-year?

You can start using the Oak Meadow curriculum at any time of the year. Each coursebook provides 36 weekly lessons, any of which can be skipped or supplemented, depending on what material your child has already covered at their former school. You may find that our lessons approach some of the same topics in a very different way, so you might enjoy revisiting the material.

View our curriculum samples for the grades/courses you’re interested in. The comprehensive table of contents in each coursebook allows you to browse the entire year’s content so you can get a better idea of what your student has or has not covered.

When is my child ready for your preschool materials?

We recommend waiting until around 4 years old to start preschool. While it’s tempting to jump into homeschooling with young children, we encourage families to give their two and three year-olds lots of unstructured playtime and a stable routine. That is the best preparation they can have for the educational journey ahead.

Young ones can be included in the homeschooling routine of older siblings, but little should be expected of them in terms of focused academic work. They benefit most from imitating practical work and exploring nature and materials on their own—this provides a solid educational foundation without any formal lessons.

At about age four, many children are ready for a little more structure to their learning. Our preschool curriculum is designed to help parents introduce arts, music, physical games, and stories in a gentle way that still respects and honors the freedom and joy of childhood.

In the meantime, books like All Year RoundA Journey Through Time in Verse and RhymeA Child’s Seasonal Treasury, and Beyond the Rainbow Bridge are just a few of the excellent resources that are available for families of young children.

Do we need to wait until age 5 to start Kindergarten?

Our curriculum is designed to be developmentally appropriate on all levels (physical, social, emotional, and intellectual), and, in general, our kindergarten curriculum correlates developmentally with ages 5 – 6 and grade 1 with ages 6 – 7. Therefore, we encourage families to wait until age 5 or 5 ½ before beginning kindergarten.

However, every child’s development is unique, so there really is no one-size-fits-all recommendation.

Read a more detailed explanation of this recommendation here.

How does Oak Meadow introduce reading and writing?

Oak Meadow’s curriculum and philosophy encourages parents to follow their child’s individual pace when introducing reading and writing. The development of literacy is a complex task that involves two primary skills: decoding (forming a sound according to the printed symbol, i.e., reading) and encoding (creating the symbol that corresponds to the sound, i.e., writing).

The acquisition of these complex skills takes time and should not be rushed. When children are allowed to come into reading and writing in a relaxed way, they often seem to acquire the skills magically, as though there is an innate ability that is waiting for the right moment to emerge.

Read a more detailed description of how Oak Meadow introduces reading and writing here.

My child reads beyond grade level. Should we skip a grade?

Choosing a grade level for your child is an important decision, and we generally recommend a placement based on age, regardless of the reading level. Most often, a child who is already learning or comfortable with reading by kindergarten or first grade, for example, is not developmentally ready for the next grade level curriculum across the full range of subjects. We feel it is better to add supplementary activities and assignments to keep your child excited and feeling challenged than to skip a grade.

Additionally, while we are eager for our children to advance along the continuum of academic skills, there are several points to consider when choosing the right grade level for a child.

The first is the importance of a thorough and creative exposure to the sound/symbol connection of our alphabetic system. A solid review of the sounds and shapes of letters, especially with the artistic, imaginative methods used in our curriculum, can be enjoyable for children already reading. Each letter is introduced first through a story, and then is “played with” in nature, art, crafts, rhyming, and song. This method of learning letters is probably very different from anything they have experienced before, and we find that many children who are already reading take delight in the creative exploration of each letter and sound.

A second consideration is one of balanced development. Early reading is certainly a noteworthy accomplishment, but parents should remain mindful that to read a book is primarily an intellectual experience, and a solitary one. At Oak Meadow, we seek to foster a healthy balance with all skills—academic, social, physical, artistic, imaginative—and we encourage young children to be involved in a wide range of activities. If our kindergarten and first grade curricula represent a more relaxed pace with reading for your child, this may offer a good opportunity to reinforce acquired skills while exploring new abilities in other areas.

How is math presented in the early grades?

Oak Meadow’s math program is modeled on Waldorf pedagogy, which supports learning through the body and imagination in the early grades. Drawing activities (especially form drawing), finding shapes in nature, creating and dividing groupings of objects, and physical explorations of lines, curves, and angles are just a few of the many ways that students come to a concrete understanding of mathematical constructs.

Key principles, such as the four processes, quantitative relationships, the properties of lines and angles, and three-dimensional objects are experienced first in creative and experiential ways without being named. For instance, in playing with shapes in kindergarten and first grade, a child experiences geometric solids, relative size, and rotations and reflections in geometry—these concepts are explored fully to create a foundation for later abstract work with numbers, measurements, and calculations. For example, a star or triangle drawn inside a circle lays a foundation for geometry work later on.

The relationships between the four processes are introduced in story form and internalized on a practical level through manipulatives before being distilled into abstract number form.

In later grades, students are well prepared for translating this concrete understanding into an intellectual analysis of more complex applications.

What if my child is working below grade level in math?

It is not uncommon for a student coming to Oak Meadow after studying elsewhere to find gaps in content or skills that need to be addressed. Many children are uneven in their acquisition of academic skills, which is one reason homeschooling is so wonderful.

When you come upon material that assumes prior knowledge that your child does not yet have, simply stop the lesson, and take as much time as needed to go over the new skills or information. Once your student is comfortable, you can resume with the Oak Meadow lessons. With adaptations like these, each student can feel successful with the material.

In grades 5-12, you can easily allow your child to work at a lower grade level in math, if necessary, since we print math as a separate coursebook beginning in 4th grade.

How is art presented in the curriculum?

Artistic expression is a very important part of the Oak Meadow curriculum because we believe it is an important element of the human experience, as well as a powerful tool in cognitive and fine motor skill development.

Form drawing, for example, is introduced as part of the math curriculum in the early grades. Its form and symmetry is an excellent foundation for geometry and spatial awareness. In addition, form drawing leads nicely into cursive handwriting in the third grade.

The primary media used throughout grades K-3 are crayons, watercolor paints, beeswax, and clay. Crayon drawing is used extensively as children create their own main lesson books. Watercolor painting offers a unique expression of flowing color and form, and it helps to develop an understanding of the subjective value of colors. Modeling with beeswax and clay gives children the opportunity to create three-dimensional forms with their hands, pairing artistry and imagination with practicality.

You do not need to be an artist in order to use Oak Meadow! Our Guide to Teaching the Early Grades provides detailed instruction on how to work with all of these materials and discover your own artistic process.

As students move up into the middle grades and beyond, art projects with a broader spectrum of media and opportunities for creative expression are interwoven into core subject studies, rather than being a standalone subject in itself.

Do we need to play the recorder?

The musical instrument that we use in the Oak Meadow curriculum (grades 1-4) is the recorder, but you are welcome to substitute any musical instrument you like. We suggest the recorder because it is an excellent instrument for children to begin with. It is inexpensive, portable, and relatively simple to play, and, as the child becomes more proficient, it can be used to play quite sophisticated compositions alone or with other instruments.

The type of recorder we recommend is a soprano recorder with Baroque fingering. It is small enough to fit comfortably in a child’s hand, and its tonal range encompasses two octaves from middle C to high C, the range within which a child’s singing voice normally falls. We have them available in our bookstore in either the grade level craft kits or individually.

What if I'm not skilled at handcrafts?

There are many hands-on creative projects throughout the curriculum. In the early grades, especially, they serve an important function in cognitive development, as well as in integrating thoughts, feelings, and actions. We offer detailed, easy-to-follow instructions for many handcraft skills in our Guide to Teaching the Early Grades so you can learn alongside your child. Because our curriculum is flexible and adaptable to your needs, you are always welcome to substitute handcrafts you are more familiar with or find more enjoyable to learn and/or teach.

Oak Meadow’s Pinterest boards and Youtube are also excellent resources for craft ideas and how-to instructions.

Does Oak Meadow's curriculum align with Common Core standards?

While our curriculum does not teach per Common Core methodology, it does already address the vast majority of these standards in our own way. We recognize the value of using widely accepted standards as a framework, while at the same time acknowledging that no single set of guidelines can serve the needs of all children. For those wishing or needing to be aligned to the Common Core, we have created free supplements to augment our curriculum.

Our coursebooks revised from 2015 forward include a list of lesson objectives at the beginning of each lesson to clarify the educational goals for all home teachers, and comprehensive assessments at the end of each lesson.

It is of great benefit to many homeschoolers to know that by using Oak Meadow they can easily comply with their state’s standards-based homeschooling regulations while providing their child with a truly unique, engaging, and child-centered approach to learning. We also understand that there is a large portion of homeschoolers who are unconcerned with standards, preferring to follow their own educational guidelines or interest-led approach. Many of them find Oak Meadow’s flexible, creative approach to be a good fit, as well.

How can I use your curriculum with multiple children at different grade levels?

The task of homeschooling multiple children may sometimes feel daunting, but the rewards can be wonderful. Our curriculum is designed to be easy to adapt to all sorts of family situations, including having children at different grade levels. There are as many approaches as there are unique families, so we recommend studying our comprehensive curriculum samples as a first step.

If you have children close in age, you may find they can share a grade level, adding more challenge or less for the difference in age or ability.

If working with multiple grade level curricula, you may find that some students can work together in certain subjects, like science, together but at their own level, or can tutor each other in math, or read aloud to younger siblings. The curriculum samples will provide you with a good sense of which subject areas will best suit your children for working individually and together.

Since every family dynamic is different and you know your children best, we encourage you to experiment to find what works well for your family, and know it may take a little time and patience to fall into your best rhythm! You also might enjoy perusing many useful articles on our resource links page like Homeschooling with Larger Families and Homeschooling Multiple Children, and from our seasonal journal, Living Education, which is full of homeschool tips.

How can I add challenge to the coursework?

It is such a pleasure to see a child eager to learn! While it is never a good idea to pressure a student to learn more quickly, for students who are ready for more challenges, there are many ways to offer complexity within the context of the Oak Meadow curriculum.

With a little creative thinking, you can come up with new ways to expand each lesson. One great idea is to expand the assignment into another subject area. Making connections across the curriculum adds relevance, encourages skills in practical applications, and helps develop a flexibility of thought that allows creative problem solving.

For example, if there is a science assignment to research the discovery of electricity, your student might also write (and perform!) a speech or write (and illustrate?) an advertisement announcing Nikola Tesla’s AC current. What about the clothing people wore in that time period, or the ways in which electricity changed life in the late 1800s? Another idea is to have your child see if they can find out which of their ancestors would have been alive when electricity became widespread, and what that was like for them. You could work math into the lesson by having your child 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.

That is just one example, but any lesson or topic can be expanded upon in this way, and it can be fun to come up with lesson extensions that challenge and intrigue your student. In fact, your child will probably also come up with interesting ideas, and can be encouraged to explore those ideas exponentially. That’s the benefit and joy of homeschooling!

How can I adapt Oak Meadow to block-style learning?

In the middle grades and up, the core subjects are separated into their own coursebooks, so you can choose how you would like to schedule your learning time. Typically, weekly lessons are done over the course of a week, about an hour per day per subject. To adapt for blocks, you would simply work from one coursebook at a time, doing several of the weekly lessons over the course of a week or two, depending on the course material, and then moving on to rotate through the other subjects in the same manner.

In grades K-4, the subjects are integrated into one coursebook. You can still adapt this to block-style learning by searching through the coursebook’s table of contents for logical unit breaks. For example, in grade 2, the first four lessons of social studies could be done as a block, and then the first four lessons of science. We suggest math and language arts be done continuously, but you could also pull out sections of math that make sense as block studies (like form drawing). Health and music can also be done in alternating blocks. Because you will be working forward and back within the same coursebook, a planner will be an essential tool to ensure you stay on track over the course of the year.

Are older versions of the curriculum just as good as the latest publications?

Oak Meadow has been publishing curriculum for homeschooling families for over 45 years, so there are many previous editions out there in family libraries and sometimes for sale privately.

You will find that, over the years, our content has evolved in carefully considered response to the needs of families and to be in alignment with current national standards (like NGSS standards in our middle school science, for example), while maintaining the heart of our child-led, project-based approach to education. We are in a continual process of evaluation, revising, and updating, and all publications in our bookstore are the most recent version.

That said, we stand by our previous editions as they have all come from the same heartful mission, and were created to be a complete curriculum developed to nurture lifelong learners. If you have questions about older versions, please contact us. You will find comprehensive curriculum samples of current publications here.

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