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.

14 Tips for Surviving the Summer with Kids (from Homeschooling Parents)

School’s out! The kids are home for the summer, and suddenly your world has been turned upside down. How will you survive ten weeks with children home all day?
Homeschooling parents do it year-round. But when you’re not used to having kids home all day, it can certainly feel like a shock to the system. Here are fourteen strategies from homeschoolers to help you get through the summer:

Photo Credit: Melanie Yang (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo Credit: Melanie Yang
(Oak Meadow Archives)

1. Free your children from boredom by encouraging independence. At the start of the summer, ask them to brainstorm a list of things they could try if they get bored. Post it in a handy place. When they complain of boredom, refer them to their list. Create a dog agility course in the backyard! Make a kitty condo by taping boxes together! Set up a cozy reading nook (indoors or out). Build a fort. Learn about ants, find an anthill, and watch them at work. If all else fails, suggest that they lie flat on their backs, look up at the sky or the ceiling, and wait there until a more interesting option comes to them — something always does.
2. Find a new rhythm during the day. If you live where summers are hot, the sun’s pattern may shape your daily rhythm. Spend time outdoors in the morning and late afternoon. During the middle of the day when the temperature is at its peak, do restful activities in the shade or the cool indoors. Evening can be a lovely time for a daily family walk.
3. Let your children follow their own bodies’ individual patterns for sleeping, waking, being active, or resting. Encourage them to listen to how they feel after a late night or an early morning. Challenge them to figure out their own most comfortable daily rhythm and follow it during the summer months, even if the schedule will be less flexible come September.
Photo Credit: Bolyard Family (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo Credit: Bolyard Family
(Oak Meadow Archives)

4. Balance outings with unstructured time at home. During the summer, day camps and other activities can have a big impact on the shape of your days. If your family is extra busy, be sure to make room in your schedule for regular unscheduled time at home as well. If you’re usually at home without much structure, consider designating one or two regular days each week for outings.
5. Lean on the village. Connect with other compatible families and plan regular playdates where one parent gets a break while the other supervises children from both (or multiple) families.
6. Make regular time to play together as a family. Plan a set time in your day or week when everyone sets aside work responsibilities and obligations, and do something fun that you can agree on. If agreement is hard to come by, take turns choosing a family activity. Make a habit of being present with each other without distractions or multitasking.
7. Set things up so everyone in the family can be as independent as possible with meals and snacks. It’s nice to have one meal a day together as a family, but perhaps breakfast, lunch, and/or snacks can be a help-yourself venture. If your children are capable in the kitchen, ask them to regularly take a turn making dinner for the family during the summer. Or make dinner prep a family project once in awhile so the primary cook isn’t doing it all alone.
8. Keep bags or bins of interesting things handy for children to play with and explore. Stock up on puzzles of different kinds; Mad Libs, crossword puzzles, and Sudoku books; and interesting materials for experiments and crafts. Check the public library to find out if they have a “busy box” collection to lend out. Save these items and pull them out as a last resort when you need a few quiet moments to yourself.
9. Gather plenty of basic craft supplies, and set up an area in your home or yard for artistic exploration where children can be as independent as possible and clean-up is relatively easy. For craft ideas, visit our Pinterest boards.
Photo Credit: Joy Cranker (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo Credit: Joy Cranker
(Oak Meadow Archives)

10. Take midweek field trips! Enjoy local museums, historical sites, libraries, parks, hiking trails, and beaches. Go on a weekday morning when crowds are most manageable. Your local library may have free or discount passes that families can borrow.
11. Give your children extra responsibilities – and extra benefits, too. A child who is around more can help out more. Use this opportunity to help them learn how to do useful, routine tasks around the house. Those who prove capable of cleaning up the kitchen might be allowed to experiment on their own with new recipes or culinary inventions. Turn wood-stacking into a fun race, and end with a bonfire when the stacking is all done. Have the kids speed-clean the common areas of the house before sitting down to watch a family movie. Make a post-lawnmowing swim a routine perk of the job. Give your children the opportunity to feel useful, develop skills, and then celebrate a task well done.
12. Limit screen time. Send your kids outside to play creatively in nature every day if you can. If they’re reluctant or it feels challenging to you, read this article for some ideas on how to get kids outdoors.
13. Take breaks from each other. Adults and caregivers need time “off the clock” where they can turn off their parental radar and recharge. Children benefit from relationships with different adults. If your child’s needs do not allow for separation, invite other adults to come and share the load.
Photo Credit: Kara Maynard (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo Credit: Kara Maynard
(Oak Meadow Archives)

14. Enjoy your time together. Take advantage of opportunities to connect throughout the day. Those moments may happen unexpectedly, so be on the lookout and make the most of them. If your children are more independent, putter around the house or yard occasionally just to find and say hello to them. If they are at an age where they want to be with you every moment, give in to their need and keep them close. September will be here all too quickly, and these moments do not last forever (even if it sometimes feels that way).
Happy summer!
What other suggestions can you add for an enjoyable summer at home with children?

Are you an overachiever?

What provisions can be made for the very capable homeschool families who tend to be overachievers?
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The following thoughts are compiled from an email thread between Oak Meadow K-8 teachers regarding over-achieving students and home teachers. The bulleted list below is a summary of the suggestions and advice:

  • You do not have to explore everything in depth.
  • Pay attention to your stress level. Slow down and lighten the focus if you feel rushed or pressured.
  • Moderation in all things.
  • Find a different perspective that helps an over-achieving student (and even the home teacher) to relax.
  • Think outside the box. Not every assignment needs to be in a final copy. Some assignments can be done orally, video taped, or even letting it lie until another year.
  • Take a walk for pleasure!
  • Focus more on the process rather than the goal or end result.
  • Show your children it is OK to make mistakes.
  • Remember that the joy of learning is the most important aspect of schooling.
  • Step back and look at the progress your student has made.
  • Sometimes less is more. Focus less on the number of pages and more on the quality and content of what has been written.
  • Stay in good humor. Children are like sponges – they pick up and absorb stress, if that is what you are feeling.

The following is a dialogue in response to the question regarding overachievers. Thanks to all the Oak Meadow teachers who participated in this collaboration. We hope it will guide you to your own style of learning!
Michelle Menegaz: I suggest looking for those times when just touching on something more lightly might be enough. You will know by how rushed, obligated, or pressured you are feeling versus maintaining a balanced enthusiasm, Children (and all of us, I think) need time to digest as well as ingest our learning.
I think it is natural and advantageous to go through cycles with writing… a time when you focus on brainstorming without the need to polish a final product is very useful in skills development. Sometimes the student may be digesting and assimilating knowledge and skills at a newer level before taking the next steps or leaps in learning. This is fine and even preferable to constantly churning out the same amount of work every month. I trust you to use your  intuition and be open to your student’s process to know when to push, listen, back off, or explore new ideas.
Andy Kilroy: Sometimes people seek out home school options to get their children out of the grind, and then get so wrapped up in the curriculum, that they forget all about the joy and flexibility and turn into taskmasters (home teacher) and over-achievers (child). It is important to not overdo the technical aspects of the work, but instead focus more on the joy and creativity aspect. I also like to reinforce to the home teacher that there is always something constructive to tell the student.
Sarah Adelman: Students of over-achieving home teachers seem to fall into two categories: those that put a ton of pressure on themselves to be as successful as their home teachers; or those that shut down or don’t bother because there’s no way they can meet that expectation. I currently have a student whose parents are both high-achievers. This student is really hard on himself and very much of an overachiever  While his parents could probably do a better job editing his papers than I ever could, it is much less stressful for him to look at outside feedback and suggestions. I think having another perspective, particularly on his writing, has helped him relax.
Lesley Arnold: The pressure and stress a curriculum and a home teacher might put on a student can weave into every part of life, which can lead to finding it difficult to do anything. I encourage “lightening up” and “thinking outside the box” on the assignments. Not every assignment needs to be in final copy. Not every assignment needs to be typed into a three page essay. Some assignments can be done orally, some can be video taped…etc. Some assignments can “sleep” until another year!
Home teachers need to know that they can be more flexible with the curriculum. Focusing on how much of the day involves “intellectual pursuits” can be very taxing and tiring. For example, taking a walk for mere pleasure and not for meeting the demands of an assignment is an invaluable part of a day!
Sarah Antel: It’s important for the home teachers to take a step back, a moment’s break, and look at the progress their children have made.
Leslie Daniels: I know ALL of us have felt like overachievers at more than one point in our lives. So, when this happens to me, I do the “wake up call” and remind myself to stay in good humor. And this is exactly what I suggest to my home teachers who present each lesson too much by verbatim or take each assignment too seriously. Have you noticed that many of the over-achieving home teachers seem to set high standards for their own personal lives – as parent, home teacher, partner, family/community member, etc? And this type of stressful nature in a parent also develops stress in the children. After all, children are like sponges and pick up on everything!  
It’s also important for the home teacher to understand that a child does not need to feel pressured by imperfections with lessons, etc. I encourage them to find humor in their own personal antics and to express this humor in front of their children, so their children will know it’s okay to make mistakes. We learn from our mistakes! Aside from basic concepts, most every concept that is being introduced and taught to the students in the k-4 grades is reemphasized in the 5-8 grades, and then once again in high school. So, in working with overachievers, I remind the home teachers to focus more on the process and to not always be so concerned with the goal. And most of all, I emphasize that instilling the joy of learning is THE MOST IMPORTANT aspect of schooling. When a child is given the opportunity to learn in a joyful manner, then they will become life-long learners ~ and isn’t that truly what is the most valuable gift we can offer our children?
 

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