I want to discuss this big homeschooler question with you... and then I'm going to share some experiences as well as talk a bit about how my daughter's use of Oak Meadow has truly supported this approach of ours.
It's a big blogpost today, as we approach August and a lot of readers are considering or embarking on homeschooling next month.
As a homeschooler, I've been planning and discussing our social studies experiences in various homeschooling reports for years now.
My kids and I have used the umbrella term to cover everything from selling eggs at a stall at the end of our drive as a way to study business, to learning about geography and different countries, cultures and then back to our own.
There was also the year I created the Emotional Awareness and Law of Attraction Sections from the Spiritual Kids Course and used them for Social Studies.
This year though, my kids and I have been truly studying the true meaning of the term.
Yes. That's right.
See a few months ago our girls asked if they could go down to the city to attend a local mini comic con. They worked for ages on their costumes, hand sewing each small detail, and we drove them down to see what would be the result.
Well, they met up with a group of new friends, whom they have been in touch with ever since. From playdates in the park to video calls, they have dove into the deep end of friendships which even resulted in the group going to an alternative prom in June. They are so happy and are loving the new paradigm shift with LOTS OF NEW EXPERIENCES.
I have really been appreciating being here in the country these past few months as it's given our girls the opportunity to practice all of this in slow motion in a lot of ways.
They go into socializing experiences and then are able to retreat, observing how things have flowed and learning from each experience. They've been "caught up" a few times, but then faced it head on and developed the skills to get clarity, shift focuses and shine as themselves each time.
When people discuss homeschooling the point most often brought up is “what about socializing?”
well after the last few months, I'm actually fascinated by this question!
3 things I've learnt with my teens which I'm finding is really vital to keep at the forefront of focus with them when discussing friends and the world.
So, it’s crossed my mind that maybe people are wondering why I’ve talked so much about the journey my daughter and I have taken with the homeschool curriculum, Oak Meadow.
Why, right? When my work is focused on Spiritually Aware Parenting and really my blog should be reflecting mindfulness and spiritual alignment for parents and kids?
Well, you probably know that there’s nothing more exciting, or exhilarating than when you find something that helps support your child: especially when its something that deals with a challenge that has always been there.
Oak Meadow came at a time when I was noticing my younger daughter was struggling with not only her schoolwork, but her sense of herself, her confidence, how she learnt and how she absorbed information.
As I’ve told you in past blogs, Oak Meadow has given her the tools and awareness to delve into topics from a self aware perspective. She not only completes the projects and sets her own schedules and routines, which builds her sense of Who She is even more, but she’s also learning and reading about so many different elements of life that we never would have been able to explore before.
This winter Gia went into the Oak Meadow Grade 8. She wanted to mix things up, and since she was so eager to dive into the English Section, she chose to focus one topic at a time, rather than scattering them through the week.
I can’t blame her for wanting to work through the English.
This time, Oak Meadow exceeded even themselves.
The grade 7 English worked hand in hand with the World History section. But this time, English takes a front seat and becomes a core unit all by itself.
This is produced seamlessly through 4 elements. The course book, which breaks down all of your projects and lesson focuses, as well as how to use the rest of the supporting material.
The works of fiction, which exemplify the lesson.
From some sci-fi works such as A Wrinkle in Time, The Giver and Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, to classics such as The Hobbit and Tom Sawyer, I truly felt I could relax knowing Gia was getting a strong foundation in some important pieces of literature.
The other elements were for writing itself, and she was instructed on how to use them within the course book. These included Writing for 100 days, which Gia LOVED. Although it is written for classwork, OM guided her around the work she could do independently and she enjoyed it’s structure and space it gave her to write in.
The last element shocked me as it was the Strunk and White book The Elements of Style. I remember my sisters using this book in university, so it was rather surprising to see my grade 8-er working her way through the notes on the design of writing. She really did well with it (and is enjoying explaining semi colons, colons and various grammar to her older sister.)
Last month I was happy to be able to attend a homeschooling conference in Halifax, where I represented Oak Meadow’s amazing work. I still can’t get over how effortless it is to discuss this work side by side with my work of Spiritually Aware Parenting… because watching how my daughter has grown as herself and with the knowledge she has attained… it makes me breathe a sigh of relief. It really is exactly what I was hoping for for her.
She’s now off to work through the Science.
That’s going to be a challenge for her, as she naturally gravitates towards the English and reading, especially when it’s full of imaginary worlds. I’m fascinated to see how OM creates a platform of curiosity as she dives into further into the Scientific studies. (They did a wonderful job in the grade 7, but there's definitely a deeper element being offered with this grade 8 curriculum.)
The other night my family and I went to see the film A Wrinkle in Time, which was one of my favorite books growing up. There is nothing more satisfying than having a film reflect the energy found in a book. Although a few changes had been made, it did nothing to affect the general theme of the story:
That within us, all of us, we have the power of love;
which can overcome any darkness, challenge or obstacle.
In fact, with poignant detail, it amplified the message to empower our children in the current world we live in.
Young Meg, who is shown to have such low sense of self worth since her father’s disappearance, is called to be a light warrior along with her brother, Charles Wallace and friend, Calvin. Together they travel to a dark place, run by a Dark Energy Force IT, on a rescue mission to save her father. It’s weapon is that voice of self doubt, negative brain chatter, jealousy, anger, frustration and it can travel the universe. It leads to destruction.
And the only tool to defeat it is LOVE.
I read this book, and it’s sequels, growing up, and again quite recently, so I was so eager to share the film experience with my children.
My 8.5 year old, movie-sensitive, son had no idea what to expect, but enjoyed it. (He might have had his head in my arm for the climax at the end, but I think he appreciated the clear contrast between light and dark, hero and challenge... rather than the murky grey that is often offered in films these days.)
My daughters read the book for the first time about 6 years ago, but then my younger daughter had just finished the book again for her GRADE 8 Oak Meadow Curriculum. So it was fresh in her mind and, because of the curriculum, she was able to experience it from a fuller perspective probably than the rest of us.
I am so excited that Oak Meadow included this book in the grade 8. My happy student was asked to produce an essay/book report after she was done and was given a list of questions which guided her into a deeper perspective of the book’s symbolism.
This is so important, as it really is a relevant story for our lives.
The book’s author, Madeleine L’Engle has always been a hero of mine. She wrote about Spirituality, self empowerment and vulnerability as well as science through the craft of a novel and her non-fiction. I think she submitted A Wrinkle in Time about 40 times before it found a publishing home. She was passionate. She was a light warrior in New York, and in her lifetime.
Yes, the Newberry award winning book is a common inclusion in school curriculum, but I found Oak Meadow brought it to life in a beautiful way, diving deep into the question of why the power of love could defeat the dark force, when nothing else, including genius and high intelligence, could.
My daughter loves to focus on one topic at a time in Oak Meadow, and with the selection of books in this year English was her first choice to start off with.
So far she’s read The Giver, A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Lord of the Flies, all before A Wrinkle in Time… she’s moving through them in such a passionate, yet beautiful manner.
The curriculum also asks her to work through the book Writing for 100 Days, which as challenged her writing and her grammar in ways that empowered her and gave her concrete tools, all at the same time of providing her with stories based in self discovery and empowerment.
She’s so much more confident in her writing and in her processing of the written word and a sense of self. (Which I didn’t think was possible. If there was one thing I thought I’d homeschooled well in up to this point, it was English. But, Oak Meadow has truly inspired a more profound and detailed use of the written word in my girl.)
I found it also amazing that during the chapters of A Wrinkle in Time she was asked to do stream of subconscious writing. A process I often suggest to my own clients.
Why is all of this important and what am I expressing here?
We live in a time when there’s a lot of fear happening in our world,
it’s vital to give empowering tools to our children.
Watching films, or reading books, like A Wrinkle In Time remind them that within them are powerful tools, universal connections, and that so many “events and circumstances had to come together in just the right way for them to come here.” (to loosely quote Oprah Winfrey’s character in the film)
In other words, each child, each person is special, unique and here for a purpose. When we give purpose and tools for empowerment to our children, a sense of belonging, they can be like Meg and overcome their fear with love from within.
Reading, watching or hearing stories that spark this truth within our children is a huge step in creating a better world for them.
I am so thankful that curriculum like Oak Meadow, and film creators are beginning to recognize this fundamental step in a child’s (yikes… teen’s) development and education. With their crafted curriculum lessons they give students confidence, encouragement and tools to move forward with. It’s exhilarating.
I can’t believe that a year ago my daughter Gia was still struggling with schoolwork.
Oh my goodness, what a tangled mess we used to live in. She hated standard curriculum, would zone out if I suggested movies or educational videos like those her sister was using. She was staggering, literally staggering, through a few programs we’d found and she would often make herself sick by giving herself pressure to do things that felt so un-natural to her. Often I would suggest unschooling to her, but this worked against her desire for structure, for routine.
We know we both work well with routine and rebel against it at the same time.
I relate so much to my girl. We look a lot alike, but more we learn alike. I was home-schooled off and on when I was growing up, and the concept of sitting and memorizing what people told me to, without any explanation why, without any dramatic build so I could feel it in my soul… it was like pulling teeth!
But last year we started the grade 7 Oak Meadow curriculum with my girl, and it all changed.
I myself was home-schooled a lot of my childhood (have I ever told you that?) and my mom was left with very little choice to what programs I could be enrolled in.
Back then it was workbooks… really, really boring workbooks which left no room for imagination what so ever. My children are shocked at my stories of standing in front of the basement door which had a multiplication table poster hanging on it. I would recite and recite with tears streaming down my face.
We worked through some interesting approaches with what was available, I must admit:
My older sisters trying to teach me about the planets by using balls in our living room. My mom buying a set of Harvard Classics telling me that if I read them all my education was done. Oh, then the famous time I had to take my GED at 16, as the agreed way to get me into the College Theatre Program I’d set my heart on...
It was the biggest, boring-est workbook to date!
But apart from being bored, I often felt restricted with the subconscious belief that I had to go through a back door to succeed or cheating a system.
I often felt like I wasn’t getting something.
That I just couldn’t grasp certain things.
As I continued my education, going through College and University, that disappeared, but I knew as I overcame certain stumbling blocks, that homeschooling was a wonderful opportunity, but it needed better tools in place for parents.
I want my kids education process to set them free not hold them back. (I got accepted into the theatre program by the skin of my teeth. My math scores were shameful.)I want them to be able to move through exams, essays or life experiences with a confident flow, not because they are so used to doing them, but because they aren’t afraid to make mistakes or to learn how things work.
I have 3 kids and each one learns completely differently, as I’ve often mentioned. But one clear element remains the same;
The mission here is to learn how to learn.
. I don’t want them to feel intimidated to make a mistake, to have to make a certain mark, I want them knowing that mistakes are gifts, because (as all scientists know) they give us knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. Mistakes are as important as successes.
My 8 year old went outside in the snow yesterday and built a snowman for an hour and a half… alone. This is new patterns for him and I’m excited to seeing him exploring them. When he came in, I shook off his wet clothes, handed him his hot chocolate and told him… no reading practice today unless he wanted to. He didn’t.
“I build snowmen for schoolwork.” He laughed. “I have the best life.”
At 8, I want him living creatively, productively and knowing the satisfaction of learning something new. I want to see him playing to his hearts content… which since his sisters are older he’s always struggled to find the rhythm to. He learned jingle bells on the piano the other day and it was like a light going on. He still forgets what fun is found in learning. Same as the other day when he did some reading practice, he was so satisfied to see the new reality that he can actually read, having been stuck in the pattern of thinking he couldn’t.
This has been so re-occurring in my children’s individual journeys through home schooling. The concept of “schoolwork” is often seen with negative connotations and that creates a block around how they learn.
At one point with my second daughter we actually stopped using the term schoolwork, instead it was called Pineapple every time we had to do it.
She was so much like me when I thought boring workbooks was the only way my kids would learn. She would just lay on her book and cry.
But then, as I've mentioned, we discovered Oak Meadow, which fits her like it was custom made. We put her a year “behind” so she could get a strong, confident start in the program and she is like a different girl. She’s confident, she’s honest and upfront, she doesn’t hesitate in mistakes anymore or feel like she has to reach for a brass ring.
Rather, Oak Meadow has allowed schoolwork to transform into Learning… and that is the life process, right?
(by the way, Oak Meadow is sponsoring one of the days on the homeschooling conference and I think they may be having some nice treats to go along with that… and I can’t recommend the program enough!)
Our eldest girl… oh she dreams of high school.
Well actually I think as she gets older she’s starting to see the bigger picture of University and other adventures… but still she’s eager to jump into life. She sometimes starts to spin about opportunities missed by walking the home-school route. And yet, I always remind her, homeschoolers are sought by Universities for their ability to self regulate and learn. She has the ability to be building her blog at the same time as working on her algebra. She loves to push herself and now her interests and passions are being thrown into the mix of her educational pursuits. Music and blog writing has made the “schoolwork” list, helping her remember that “work” doesn’t always have to be things that we don’t like. Pleasure, learning, work and
I’m interested to see how she works with teachers who expect her to get things right, as in how they want it, rather than how she knows she can learn it. She was working through core-curriculum work, but I love watching how she suddenly finds different solutions to problems and learns things quickly, ready to bounce off to the next adventure.
Homeschooling has truly allowed my kids to grow confidently, self aware and with a joy in actual learning. Also, I’ve learned so much along side of them.
Actually that’s another thing about homeschooling. It has taught me that I don’t have to stop learning as well. There’s no expiration date on knowledge. (And thanks to Oak Meadow, I think I finally understand grade 7 math!)
As parents, we can observe our children, watch their behaviors and mannerisms and basically try to guess how they truly feel about something they are experiencing. Sure we can ask them honest questions, but deep down, we know there’s a chance the answer being given is the one our children assume we want to hear.
Often our children might not know their inner truths themselves.
In my own experience, it is only in the still of the night, when all is calm, that I can quietly feel my way to how things are unfolding for my children and if there’s any new ways I can support them.
Early on this year in one of these moments, I suddenly found myself feeling the need to help our, then 13 year old, daughter, Gia, and I’m so glad that once we acknowledged the issue, we were able to allow in such a glorious solution. She's going to share her thoughts and experiences with you in a moment... but here's some background.
January 2016 was a strange month in our homeschooling journey.
She’d pushed herself through some painful lessons on line before Christmas the month before, had plowed through a workbook that had given her no joy. Our Gia is our natural joy-lover.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.