“My son has been homeschooled since Kindergarten using Oak Meadow. He is graduating high school this year, has been admitted to the University of Wyoming with a full academic scholarship, and is starting in the Honors Program at the University. Ours has been a very positive and successful experience."
The last of the harvest is collected. Bonfires bring light into the dwindling sunlight hours. Masks and costumes decorate the night full of merriment and somber reflection. The cycle of the seasons mirror the cycle of life. And festivals acknowledge these annual events. Around the world different festivals are celebrated remembering those who have passed. Samhain, (pronounced sah-win or sow-in) in the Celtic tradition is one such observance. Samhain means summer’s end, which celebrates the end of the harvest. It is also a festival of the dead, where families and friends gather and light candles in honor of the departed. The date of the festival is observed at the midpoint between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice, October 31 – November 1. Samhain is celebrated in many ways including reflective nature walks; seasonal decorations; an altar for the dead; stories of the dead; bonfires and feasting, and wearing of traditional costumes. It is thought to be one of the original festivals connected to the Halloween traditions of many western countries, (All Hallow’s Eve).
Oak Meadow’s science coursework in grades k-4 includes various studies of the butterfly. In addition to the suggested lesson activities, you might include a guidebook, such as Robert Michael Pyle’s book, National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies. Perhaps you would enjoy sharing a butterfly story, such as Alan Madison’s Velma Gratch and the Way Cool Butterfly or Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar or Bruce Coville’s The Prince of Butterflies. Help track Monarch migration!
Awareness of the threats to pollinating insects is growing, and these beneficial pollinators need our help now more than ever. The Monarch butterflies have seen a population decline over 90% in recent years. Researchers and citizen scientists have been tagging the beautiful, graceful Monarch butterflies for many years. In fact, back in the late 1970s, tagging led to the discovery of the Monarchs’ wintering ground in Mexico.
Oak Meadow students have the perfect opportunity to participate in a Citizen Science project that can help to monitor an important population of pollinators. Here are a few sites that offer ways to assist in this exciting Monarch migration: https://www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/monarch/AboutFall.html https://monarchjointventure.org/images/uploads/documents/citizen_science.pdf
“The word ‘philatelist’ means a person who practices philately or stamp collecting. It comes from the French word ‘philatelie’, which was derived from the Greek words ‘philos’, meaning loving, and ‘atelia’, meaning exemption from tax which also came to mean ‘postage is prepaid.’.”
American Philatelic Society
The American Philatelic Society is the largest, nonprofit organization in the world for stamp collectors.
When I was little and traveled with my family, we didn’t have computers for emailing and so we wrote lots of letters to family and friends. We also made a tradition of mailing ourselves letters to our own home! We would go to a post office in a country or town that we were visiting, and purchase a special stamp. (You can ask the post master to show you what stamps he/she has available.) Then, using the stamp, we would mail the letter home to ourselves. It was fun to see the letters and the stamps when we arrived home. I don’t have a very big collection of stamps, but the ones that I do have hold some wonderful memories for me.
This year a really cool stamp is going to be offered! A first of its kind! Some background first:
You may have read that there is going to be a total eclipse of the sun across the United States this summer. (Monday, August 21, 2017.) People from all over the world will be coming to different spots in the United States to witness this solar eclipse.
What does a solar eclipse have to do with a stamp? Well, the Postal Service will be offering a first-of-its-kind stamp! It changes when you touch it! The Postal Service announcement says: “The Total Eclipse of the Sun, Forever® stamp, which commemorates the August 21 eclipse, transforms into an image of the Moon from the heat of a finger.”
You can read the story of how the stamp was designed here.
If you would like to view other stamps that have commemorated eclipses, you can view them here.
So, as you travel to new places, or even stay in your hometown, take a look at the many stamps that the post office has to offer!
P. S. Looking directly at the sun during a solar eclipse can be dangerous; here’s a way to enjoy the eclipse without hurting your eyes: http://hilaroad.com/camp/projects/eclipse_viewer/eclipse_viewer.html
“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.”
On Saturday, June 10th, the Defenders of Wildlife organization will celebrate their 10th annual National Get Outdoors Day. This national event encourages families to go outside, visit a park or refuge, and renew a personal connection to nature, as well as regenerate a commitment to leaving a healthy planet for future generations. There’s nothing better than introducing your children to the wonders of nature, especially since it’s only a matter of time before the future rests in their hands. Here is a list of all 198 National Get Outdoors Day locations. There might be one near you!
“What do parents owe their young that is more important than a warm and trusting connection to the Earth…?”
– Theodore Roszak, The Voice of the Earth
Every grade level in Oak Meadow’s k-4 coursework suggests environmental awareness activities and exercises. We also feel it’s important to introduce and teach young children about the natural environment. So, go ahead! Make summer plans, get outdoors, and let Nature be your teacher!
“As a child, one has that magical capacity to move among the many eras of the earth; to see the land as an animal does; to experience the sky from the perspective of a flower or a bee; to feel the earth quiver and breathe beneath us; to know a hundred different smells of mud and listen unselfconsciously to the soughing of the trees.”
Memorial Day was first established as a United States holiday for remembering the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces. It is also a benchmark for the end of another school year and the beginning of summer break – not only the US, but also for countries in Europe, Asia, and South America. The reasons for summer vacation has changed and evolved throughout history, yet the more popular 180 day, 9-month calendar was firmly established and has been mainly utilized since the beginning of the twentieth century.
Oak Meadow honors enrollment periods year-round; however, most families still follow the normal schedule of beginning school in August or September and completing the school year by May or June. This means that many Oak Meadow families are currently in the process of completing the final lessons and preparing for a long summer break.
The end of the school year can often be a time of exhaustion for both the student and the home teacher. It is very important that you and your children take the final week to fully embrace the magic of the school year. It is an opportunity to celebrate all that has been learned and accomplished. How you complete the school year will carry you and your children into the new school year, so PLEASE finish the school year on a positive note! You will feel much self-gratitude in doing it this way, and so will your children.
One of my favorite ways to celebrate the end of the school year is by decorating my home with fresh garden flowers, performing a student play for family and friends, singing favorite songs learned throughout the school year, viewing the main lesson books, and making special treats. This year, my strawberries were ripe at the completion of the school year, so we made star-shaped fruit cookies. We used our favorite traditional whole-wheat sugar cookie recipe, spread the cookies with cream cheese icing, and decorated them with our favorite fruit. Be sure to include your children in the preparations of the festivities for it makes it extra special and exciting to share the success of their school year.
Last year, our main Oak Meadow blogger, Amanda Witman, posted a very helpful article on “10 Ideas for Making the End of the Year Special”. It includes many wonderful ways to conclude an industrious and productive school year. Read Part Two of this article here.
“You cannot teach anybody anything. You can only help them discover it within themselves.” ~~ Galileo ~~ (15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642)
I love to go outside on a clear night and observe the stars and planets. Last night the incredibly beautiful full moon was so bright that it was hard to see any constellations! I took a walk in the moonlight and thought about how strong the light from our sun is that our moon can reflect enough light for me to see where I am going at 10:00 at night. Awesome! In the 7th grade science curriculum, Oak Meadow students investigate the moon, its phases, and its gravitational pull on Earth. Students also learn to compare the characteristics of the planets in our solar system. The study of astronomy is so fascinating!
Sky viewing is a great time for gathering friends on an evening and doing some star watching. If you know there will be a clear night for star viewing, it’s a great time to HAVE A STAR PARTY!
Send invitations, make “star” snacks, and put lots of blankets on the ground for friends to sit down on for good viewing. It’s fun to have some binoculars, a telescope, or one of the free astronomy apps available. Make sure you have flashlights for looking at books of constellations!
Some towns have astronomy clubs and the people in the clubs are usually very willing to come join in the fun and help answer star gazing questions. The Astronomical Society of Northern New England can be contacted for Star Parties!
“This Week’s Sky at a Glance” at the Sky and Telescope website is really helpful for learning what is visible in your own evening sky. Check it out for the constellation guide covering the whole evening sky. Observing the night sky is such a fun activity on a sparkling clear night!
Welcome to the merry month of May!
I hope you and your family are taking the time to enjoy this beautiful season of the year. May is certainly one of my favorite months in the springtime. The world is alive and fresh, and everything is bright and colorful. I love watching the children as they bounce and skip and dance about with laughter and merriment. It is just as if they have springs on their feet, for they are filled with their own kind of renewed energy and spirit.
Planting a garden is a great way to take care of the earth and make it a more beautiful place. Children love digging in the warm soil, planting seeds for the butterflies, and watching their tiny green plants grow into fruition. Singing a little garden song or reciting a poem makes planting time even more joyful! One of my favorite songs is the “Garden Song”, a popular children’s song and American folk song written by David Mallett. A springtime poem I like to share with early elementary children is “The Little Plant”, written by Kate Louise Brown.
We all know that April Showers bring May flowers, so if it’s a rainy day, then a craft project might be a delightful way to bring more color into your home. Oak Meadow’s Kindergarten Coursebook (Lesson 24) includes the art of making paper flowers. Hands can make a beautiful springtime garden, too, so perhaps you might like to handprint a flower garden. What you will need is tempera paints (green & bright colors) and a large sheet of white paper. Make green stems with a stroke of the finger, and add green leaves with the side of your palms. Then, make colorful handprint blossoms. Another enjoyable art project is making a seed mosaic. You will need a variety of seeds, construction paper, and glue. Seeds come in different shapes, sizes, and colors. Try the many different ways to sort the seeds. Then, glue them on your paper to create different patterns or designs.
Earth Day first began on April 22, 1970. Inspired to improve environmental protection laws in the United States, Gaylord Nelson, a Senator from Wisconsin, together with Pete McCloskey, a Congressman, and Denis Hayes, selected as the Earth Day organizer, joined forces to promote a day of events to bring public awareness to air and water pollution throughout the United States. People from all over the United States planned clean-up activities and rallies for improving the health of the environment. The event was so powerful that the United States Environmental Protection Agency was created and later, in 1990, Earth Day became a global event.
Celebrate Earth Day on April 22nd with your family! This year the Earth Day theme centers around environmental and climate literacy. You can find more information here.
The 2017 IDITAROD will start on March 4 in Alaska. If you haven’t yet heard of the Iditarod Race, let me tell you it is one very exciting 1,150 miles! Men and women race with teams of dogs and sleds to see who will arrive in Nome, Alaska first. (There are two starting points, Anchorage or Fairbanks, depending on the year, the weather, and the snow coverage.) The race is based on true events that occurred in 1925 when the children in Nome, Alaska were ill with the deadly disease of diphtheria. They were in need of a special medicine and they needed it quickly, as many children were dying. That medicine was far away in Anchorage, Alaska, it was January with freezing ice blocking the ports and grounding airplanes. The race was on to get the medicine to the children as quickly as possible and it seemed the only way to do that was to use the mushers and their faithful dogs. A relay of the best sled drivers and dogs was arranged and after five and a half days of grueling weather, the last sled driver and his dogs arrived in Nome. Many children in Nome were saved and an epidemic was halted all thanks to the amazing teams of dogs that each man had cared for. One special dog team leader was a dog named Balto.
You can read more about Balto, his bravery, and the events in The Great Serum Race: Blazing the Iditarod Trail by Debbie Miller. The first Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race was held in 1973 and has been raced ever since in honor of the first race to save children’s lives. In the past years, while the race is on, children and families have taken up the challenge of spending the same amount of minutes outdoors as the mileage of the Iditarod. That’s 1,150 minutes! Why not take up this challenge with friends and family members? Keep a record of your time outdoors and what activities you did!
By the way, when the Oak Meadow group was at a conference in Alaska last May, they contributed to a fundraiser for the 34th annual Yukon Quest, writing messages on the protective booties that the dogs wear in the race (they need a LOT of them!). One of Oak Meadow’s booties was on team #3!
Here are some books that you might enjoy for further reading: Mush! The Sled Dogs of the Iditarod
by Joe Funk Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod
by Gary Paulsen The Great Serum Race: Blazing the Iditarod Trail
by Debbie S. Miller
See the little candles shining, shining bright? Oh, how we love to see their light!
E. Kudor and T. Melia
The winter solstice has arrived in the northern hemisphere! For many people and many cultures, it is a festive time of year, and the activities are often centered around festivals. Festivals connect us with seasonal rhythms of nature and the cosmos. These celebrations can be as simple as preparing a seasonal food, sharing a special story, completing a handcraft project, making a seasonal table, or having a party with friends and family members.
In celebration of the winter solstice, I annually host a Winter Garden Spiral Walk for my local home school students and their families. It is a time when all are “invited” to go inward and kindle our inner light to bring into the world and share with others. For those who are unfamiliar with the Winter Garden Spiral, or Advent Spiral as it is often called, it is an old European tradition. Evergreen boughs are laid on the floor (if held inside) or on the ground (if held outside) in the form of a spiral. I like to adorn my spiral with watercolor painted stars, wooden animals, felted gnomes, elves and angels, and elements of nature (such as seashells, pine cones, rocks and crystals, colorful berries, etc.) In the center of the spiral is a lit candle that represents the coming of light into the darkness. With only this one candle initially lit, each person takes a turn to walk the spiral holding an apple containing an unlit candle. Some individuals choose to walk in silence, while others choose to recite a verse or to sing a song that others can help sing. As the person reaches the center, the unlit candle is lit from the center candle. Walking back out of the spiral, a place is chosen along the spiral to set the apple with the lit candle. As each person has a turn, more and more lit candles grace the spiral, and the space becomes increasingly filled with light. It truly is a beautiful experience and one of my favorite festivities of the year.
Some of my favorite winter solstice books for children include: The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice by Wendy Pfeffer, The Winter Solstice by Ellen Jackson, and A Solstice Tree for Jenny by Karen Shragg. If you are interested in learning more about other seasonal festivals, here is a list of books that offer creative ideas and projects: Festivals, Family and Food by Diana Carey and Judy Large; A Child’s Seasonal Treasury compiled and written by Betty Jones; Celebrating Festivals with Children by Freya Jaffke; The Nature Corner: Celebrating the Year’s Cycle with a Seasonal Table by M. V. Leeuwen; and A Time to Keep – The Tasha Tudor Book of Holidays by Tasha Tudor.
Happy Solstice! Happy Holidays!! And Happy New Year!