After the Election

When the votes are in, the ballots have been counted, the election has been won, and someone new is now poised to begin leading the country, it can bring up questions for children of all ages. There is often a lot of excitement and buzz leading up to a big election, both in the media and in conversations with friends and neighbors. Election Day can bring people together to watch election coverage, root for candidates, and wait with anticipation for the results to be announced. But once the election winners are determined, what happens next? Helping children understand our governmental system and some of the changes that occur regularly within the government can help children process what they hear and see during and after an election.

Photo Credit: Adam Hall (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo Credit: Adam Hall
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Adults often express very strong feelings about the election cycle and its outcome. Unfortunately, this can be frightening or stressful for children of all ages. Ask your child open questions about their observations and reactions to the things they are seeing and hearing. Be open to their questions as well.
Some wonder how their lives will change when the country has a new leader. You can reassure your child that while those who work in government are busy and have a big job to do, your child’s day-to-day life is not likely to change substantially and suddenly after an election. They will wake up the next morning and follow the rhythm of their day, just like always.
The U.S. presidential election cycle is a big deal, not just because it is how Americans elect their nation’s leader, but also because the right of citizens to participate in choosing their leader is taken for granted – and protected by law. You might discuss how they, too, will have the privilege of voting when they are grown, and that means gathering information about the candidates in advance, as they may have seen adults in their life doing recently. If your children have an opinion about who they would vote for if they could, encourage them to think critically by asking them to explain the thought process that led them to that choice.
Photo Credit: Sweeney Family (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo Credit: Sweeney Family
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Remind your child that the excitement and media coverage will die down as those who have been newly elected to office prepare to begin working in those positions. Many things happen between Election Day and Inauguration Day. The new president begins appointing staff members, who must absorb a lot of important information about running the country. The current president’s family prepares to moves out of the White House while the new president’s family gets ready to move in. Many people work hard to set things up to make sure those transitions go smoothly.
To a child, a president-elect may seem like a powerful superhero, and a four-year or eight-year presidential term may feel like a lifetime in the context of their short lives. They may worry about the new president being overly powerful. Even very perceptive children may not realize that our governmental system is intentionally set up to allow for a shift in personnel on a regular schedule to ensure that no one person becomes too powerful. The U.S. Constitution calls for governmental power to be spread out over three governmental branches, which means elected representatives share the power (and the work).
It’s important for children to know that there are many different elected positions in government at the national, state, and local levels. The president doesn’t do everything! Lots of people work together to get the work of the country done. In general, in the United States, any adult citizen who would like to participate in the government by running for office can do so. And everyone over the age of 18 is entitled to help choose these many representatives by voting. Many people share the job of safeguarding the well-being of the country and its citizens. You might interview friends and neighbors who are involved in local, state, or federal government and ask them about their experiences.
Photo Credit: Nevada Wolfe (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo Credit: Nevada Wolfe
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Help your child make a plan for some way they can get involved in addressing things they think could be improved in their neighborhood, town, or wider world. Small things add up to a bigger whole, especially when many people share the same goals. Talk about what kind of world your family wants to live in and what you could do together to help make and keep it that way. It is never too early to encourage developmentally appropriate ways to be an active, responsible citizen. Taking action can be empowering and helps children feel they are a meaningful part of the world around them.
The buzz around a big election can be unsettling for some children. By helping your child develop a deeper understanding of the basics of the U.S. governmental system, you give him or her tools to help put the election results into context and carry on with the important work of childhood.

12 Ways to be Flexible During Your Homeschool Day

If you’re a student who is learning at home, congratulations! There are so many ways you can benefit from the flexibility that home learning allows. Here are a few possibilities. Can you think of any others?

  1. Follow your body’s rhythms. Go to bed when it feels right, then wake up when your body is done resting. If you need a mid-day nap, go ahead and take one.
  2. Wear whatever you like. Stay in your pajamas all day if you want! There are no dress codes when you’re learning at home.
    Photo Credit: Kim Bessent (Oak Meadow Archives)
    Photo Credit: Kim Bessent
    (Oak Meadow Archives)
  3. Get comfortable! Choose any room in the house or a nice spot outdoors. Put your feet up if you want to. Find a quiet spot without distractions. You know your needs best.
  4. Organize your day as it makes sense to you. If you are sharpest in the morning, concentrate on academics at that time of day. If you’re a night owl, save your work for when you feel most alert.
  5. Set your own pace. Skim over topics you already have experience with, and spend as much time as you need on topics that are challenging or unfamiliar. If you get excited about something, dig deep and enjoy! Take your time when that feels right. You are the captain of this ship.
  6. Get up and move around! If you’ve been sitting and focusing on academics for awhile and you start feeling antsy, put down your work and go outside for some fresh air and exercise.
    Photo Credit: The Allen Family (Oak Meadow Archives)
    Photo Credit: The Allen Family
    (Oak Meadow Archives)
  7. Eat when you are hungry. Put off breakfast if you want to. No need to wait for lunchtime to roll around if you get hungry sooner than that. Snack at will. Listen to your body!
  8. Make the most of your energy highs and lows. Optimize your productivity by working hard when your energy level is high and giving yourself a break when you need to take it easy. There’s no external schedule to follow, so you can mold your work flow to your needs.
  9. Enjoy a change of scenery. You have the freedom to take your work anywhere you go! Take advantage of the opportunity to travel and explore. Even if you stick close to home, you can get out and work in the library or a cafe or a beautiful park.
  10. Visit popular spots when crowds are smallest. Weekends and afterschool hours are notoriously busy for libraries, museums, historical sites, and other attractions. Show up on a Monday morning and you may just have the place to yourself.
    Photo Credit: Wendy Hawkins (Oak Meadow Archives)
    Photo Credit: Wendy Hawkins
    (Oak Meadow Archives)
  11. Integrate life with learning. Balance your academic work with the other kinds of work that are important – housework, animal care, community service, volunteer work, and/or a paid job if you have one. Your role in your family and community are just as important as your role as a student.
  12. Relax! There’s no hurry to go anywhere. Put your feet up and enjoy the peace and quiet while you learn at your own pace and in your own way.

Crafting with Children at the Holidays

Photo credit: Amanda Witman (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo credit: Amanda Witman
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Holidays offer such a wonderful opportunity for crafting and creating. Thoughtfully handmade decorations and gifts always seem to have a willing recipient or admirer. There is something special about creating something that will be seen and enjoyed by others. Whether you are someone for whom crafting comes naturally, or someone who wants to find a way to make more creative opportunities for your children, there are many ways to weave crafts and activities into the holiday season.
Some of us are naturally inclined to such projects and craft with our children as easily as we read to them or engage them in other daily tasks. But some of us have a harder time with it. Here are some ideas for crafters old and new.
Materials
Start by amassing some basic craft supplies in seasonally appropriate colors. If you are decorating for Christmas, you might choose red and green. If you celebrate Hanukkah, blue and white might be more appropriate. Or maybe you love the idea of pastel snowflakes for winter. For Halloween, orange and black. Valentine’s Day, pink and red. Silver and gold add nice sparkle to any holiday. Whatever the holiday might be, a general color theme helps to unify even the most wildly divergent pieces of homemade art.
Provide open-ended craft supplies in the best quality you can afford. Offer construction paper and cardstock, beeswax crayons, colored pencils, and paints. Keep scissors, tape, and glue or paste handy. You might find it helpful to make a straightedge and a hole punch available. Other interesting things to offer could be collections of buttons, bits of ribbon and yarn, magnets to be reused, scraps for collages, googly eyes, beads, pipe cleaners, or glitter. Don’t forget things found in nature, such as feathers, pine cones, shells, nuts, acorns, twigs, etc. Fabric scraps in various colors and patterns, pieces of ribbon, and other colorful “bits and bobs” can be good seeds for creativity. A plastic tablecloth or some newspaper to keep the table safe from glue and paint is also a very helpful thing.
Photo credit: Colleen Bak (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo credit: Colleen Bak
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Lay out some piles of paper and some crayons or pencils in the color of the current season or holiday, and see what your child makes of it. Start out with just a small offering of supplies so as not to overwhelm anyone. Be present to supervise and provide support when it is warranted. “Mom, do we have any glue?” “I need some scissors!” “Can I stick buttons on this?” “I can’t cut this by myself!” You will know what they need because they will ask for it.
You might be surprised at how creative your children can be when they’re given free rein with materials that feel good in the hands and are attractive to the eye. If they ask you, “What should I make,” turn it back to them with, “That’s your job to figure out. What do you think would be good to make with these things?” If they need a little help getting started, sit down with them and start sifting through the materials. Once they get going, they may not even notice when you quietly leave the table.
Decorations
How do you decorate your home at the holidays? Do you have flexibility built into your expectations of how your house should look? With homeschoolers in the house and perhaps younger children at home as well, the reality probably looks nothing like minimalist magazine photos and Pinterest pins. Don’t let that bother you! Let your home reflect the people who live there.
Photo credit: Amanda Witman (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo credit: Amanda Witman
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Start your child off with some appealing materials in seasonally appropriate colors, take some time to review holiday themes and concepts, and give them your approval to create whatever they feel moved to create in honor of the season. It doesn’t have to be complicated: Providing young children with strips of colored paper, tape or a stapler, and some instruction can easily result in the longest paper chain imaginable. It can also help develop fine-motor skills and bring a lasting sense of pride when the project is done and hung up for all to see.
Now comes the fun part — deck(orate) the halls! Get some removable double-sided tape or adhesive putty. If your children are happy to help, ask them what should go where. If their art is somewhat difficult to interpret, let them help you make labels so you can explain each piece to others. If you are faced with a mile-long paper chain, decide together where to drape and stick it, and consider dividing it into smaller lengths if the maker is willing. Then invite some friends over to your “gallery” and enjoy the festive atmosphere.
Cards
Another wonderful way to encourage and showcase children’s creativity at the holidays is to have them create handmade cards that can be sent to friends and relatives. Some children enjoy mass-producing holiday-themed art, and what better way to honor it than to give it to others who will appreciate it? Make sure you have the artist’s permission first.
Photo credit: Amanda Witman (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo credit: Amanda Witman
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Start with plain cardstock, either whole or cut in half lengthwise, and fold it in half. For children who often tend to “mess up and start again,” you could cut pieces of regular paper and give them a stack of these to create their artwork on; the ones that meet their approval can later be pasted onto the fronts of the folded cardstock cards.
You can purchase rubber stamps with a variety of holiday greetings to add a polished touch to the inside of the card, or encourage your child to practice writing a holiday-appropriate greeting or a short poem. Also have them put their name or initials on the back of each card along with the year. Consider including a photo and a personal note. Recipients often will treasure handmade cards for many years.
Gifts
Homemade gifts do not have to be complicated. What could we make with the things we have at hand? Invite your children to invent some possible ideas for gifts. They could even create a made-up “invention” for each recipient and write or dictate a story to go along with it.
Talk also about what each person on your list might like to receive that your child could make. You might find, as I have, that one or more of your children has a flair for crafting that far surpasses your own. Among other treasures, I have received (at various times) an embroidered pillow, a full-length skirt, a walnut shell baby, and a sleep mask from an enterprising child who had a clever idea and some materials at hand.
If you or your child need an outside source of ideas, Oak Meadow’s Pinterest boards contain links to ideas and instructions for many fun, wholesome crafts. You might find that just looking through some of these possibilities gives rise to a new creative craft that you can make with materials you have at hand.
You might be impressed with what your children create when given materials and encouragement! But at the end of the day, if all you end up with is a collage of paper scraps and bits, don’t fret. Just smile, hang it up on the wall, and enjoy the way it authentically reflects your child’s creativity. Happy holidays!

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