Here is a post that I wasn’t at all sure I would be writing just a week ago. Back and forth, back and forth, deciding and un-deciding, losing sleep, and losing my sanity (more so than usual that is). This idea of homeschooling is certainly not coming as simply as I had thought it would.
But knowing I am now a part of an incredible homeschool group to give my boys the socialization I fear they will miss, and knowing I have a great curriculum to follow, I am now feeling confident (though I am actually not, but perhaps if I write it and declare it I will become so …)
Here we go … we are homeschooling again next year. Phew, it wasn’t that hard after all. I just had to type that sentence
six times seven times. Though the bigger question … will this post see the light of day? If you are reading it, I suppose I have made it official.
While the decision to homeschool has not been an easy one for me —- the reasoning why I will not get into right now as you poor souls would be here reading for weeks —- the decision on a curriculum was easy.
As a teacher, I have a strong understanding of what little ones need to learn, developmentally appropriate learning, how skills typically develop, and the learning needs of children in general. I had originally thought I would not use a “boxed curriculum” at all, but then I discovered Oak Meadow.
The Oak Meadow Curriculum will be perfect for my family. It provides a gentle structure, tons of hands on learning, loads of time for exploring and playing, kinesthetic learning opportunities, and a gentle introduction to the development of strong foundational skills.
While it is easy to get caught up in the idea of pushing my 5 year old to read, I do know that developmentally there is no need for that. In fact, there could be harm in it. By slowing down and giving him a very strong foundation of learning his letters — really, really learning them — he will have the solid foundation he needs to soar in Grade one.
But I am jumping ahead of myself (as usual). Let me begin at the beginning.
The Oak Meadow Kindergarten Curriculum contains:
The Kindergarten Coursebook – this is the day by day, week by week guide. This book contains the activities recommended for each week.
The Kindergarten Resource Book – this book contains many resources to support the coursebook, including tons and tons of stories to support language arts, math, and science.
There is also a K-3 Enrichment Package that you can purchase to accompany the Kindergarten curriculum, though it is not needed. This Enrichment Package you would only purchase once for the first four years of Oak Meadow. It includes:
Oak Meadow Guide to Teaching the Early Grades – this book is sort of the “teachers guide” of Oak Meadow. It gives you all of the background information you need for why you are teaching what you are teaching – and how to teach it!
Oak Meadow Crafts for the Early Grades – Oodles of meaningful art experiences, handwork, and learning for little ones.
Healthy Living from the Start – this book is the health curriculum for Kindergarten through Grade 3.
The Heart of Learning – I have written about this book before, and also used it as a resource while writing my own book on Quiet Bins. This book is fantastic for helping families find a peaceful rhythm to their day.
Oak Meadow Circle Time CD – songs and fingerplays, because no Kindergartener is complete without them.
I want to talk (well write – unless you are reading this aloud in which case I suppose it is like I’m talking – sort of – unless you have an accent … or you are a man …nevermind) in detail about the Kindergarten Coursebook and the Kindergarten Resource Book (These two books make up the actual Kindergarten Curriculum). Just before I do, I will mention a few quick things about the other books.
The book about Crafts for the Early Grades is a really great book. While reading through the Kindergarten coursebook certain crafts from this book are recommended during certain weeks. Many of the crafts work on strengthening little hands for future writing, they build on mathematical concepts (like this neat tire weaving activity below), and add hands on learning to the science curriculum.
Healthy Living from the Start makes this Kindergarten curriculum very well rounded. Teaching young children to be self-aware, learning about their bodies and what makes them strong, learning about emotional health and well-being – like how to express anger, right from the start. Incredibly important. The coursebook also suggests activities from this book on various weeks.
The Guide to Teaching the Early Grades is sort of like the back story behind the curriculum. It sheds light on how little ones learn, and explains the importance of what you are teaching. This book also gives a lot of information on the art of storytelling and the importance of read alouds for children. It also gives information on teaching areas that might be unfamiliar for many parents – art, music, and handwork. I found it very helpful and reassuring (and if you recall from the first few paragraphs, this Mama seems to need a lot of reassuring).
And now … finally … hoping you are still with me … the actual Kindergarten Coursebook and Resource Book!
If I had to boil down Kindergarten and state what I really thought Kindergarten should be about in one sentence I would say,
“Giving children time to explore, a strong foundation of experiences to build on later, hearing story after story, and time to play and explore both alone and with other children and adults.”
It’s a long sentence, but a sentence. While the last piece of that sentence will be accomplished through our homeschool group and extra curricular activities, the rest of it is accomplished beautifully with the Oak Meadow Curriculum.
The Kindergarten curriculum boils down (officially) to about 45 minutes in the morning and an hour in the afternoon. That being said (well, written … unless — no I already explained that one) this curriculum blends home life and learning into one. Math concepts happen throughout the day as meaningful experiences are set up for children. While working on division, children are given crackers at snack time to divide amongst their siblings. Imaginative learning opportunities are set up so children learn naturally. It actually becomes tricky to decide how much of the day is spent doing “school” as school and life become the same.
The curriculum is set up so Language Arts/Social Studies and Math happen 3 times a week, Science occurs 2 times a week, and Arts and Crafts, Music and Movement, and Health occur 1 or 2 times a week. Oak Meadow recommends alternating Math and Language Arts for the morning Main Lesson, and during the afternoon hour do Science twice a week, and to do Arts and Crafts, Music and Movement, and Health three afternoons a week.
So your week might look like this:
Monday: Language Arts in the morning and Science in the afternoon
Tuesday: Math and Art
Wednesday: Language Arts and Health
Thursday: Math and Science
Friday: Language Arts and Music/Movement.
While this might seem like a lot for Kindergarten (or at least it did for me), so much of the learning can be made into part of a typical day. Little ones are certainly not sitting at a table for an hour and forty five minutes a day. They are moving, exploring, and learning all day long.
What completely sold me on Oak Meadow was the focus on stories and read alouds (all printed in the Resource Book). I am a full believer in the power of stories and the importance of reading out loud to children. And story telling, I would argue (and it is only me writing it, so I guess I don’t have to argue) is the backbone to the Oak Meadow Kindergarten Curriculum.
A new letter is introduced every week for three weeks, and then there is one week to review. So week 1 is letter A, week 2 is letter B, week 3 is letter C, and week 4 is a review of letters A, B, and C. The letters are introduced in a beautiful way – through a story read at bedtime. So if it were time for me to introduce my little one to the letter “G” I would tell my little one a bedtime story of the Golden Goose.
He would drift off to sleep with that story in his little head, and the next morning we would retell it together. We would then draw a big, beautiful picture of the Golden Goose shaped as the letter “G” in our Main Lesson Books. We would spend that week focusing on the letter G – the sound it makes, words that begin with it, the shape it makes, how it feels when we walk it.
Right now Sam could certainly identify a letter ‘G’. But after this year, my child will not just know the letter “G” – he will know that G is glorious and good, that G is for Grandma and Grandpa. That G is quite similar to a C, but very different from an A – though they both do have one little line. The comparing and contrasting of the letters, the kinesthetic learning of the letters, this is what will give my little guy the solid foundation to actually know his letters, allowing him to read and write with ease.
This solid learning of the letters, coupled with the oodles of read alouds, songs, fingerplays, and storytellings will give my little one the solid foundation to easily build his reading and writing in the following years. This is something that cannot be rushed, and little ones cannot get back. I will try very hard to not hurry my little one through this process and instead dive deeper into the learning if he is getting bored.
The math is taught in a very similar manner, with the focus on simple, foundational math skills. Numbers 1- 10 … but not just numbers 1-10. What do those numbers mean, what value do they hold, and how do they compare to each other? Math focuses on the area of Quality and Quantity of a number. The strong foundation in math is easily and meaningfully built as well.
Science is another strong curriculum area in this Oak Meadow Curriculum. Topics correspond to the seasons and include: seasonal activities, leaves as camouflage, insect activities, similarities/differences in animals, collecting/sorting leaves, trees, weather, animal observations, night sounds/observations, plant growth, terrarium exploration, geographic regions, animal tracking, sense of touch, clouds, maple trees, seedlings, earth worms, constellations, birds, pet care, and more.
Field trips, crafts, and other engaging learning suggestions are also outlined in this curriculum. The things I am really excited about for homeschooling – adding to our typical day, giving my little ones experiences they will remember and that will make their learning come alive.
The curriculum is divided into 36 weeks, and each week is carefully thought out and organized. For this reason, the curriculum is perfect for parents who like to plan ahead and be organized, and also great for those who are more last minute in planning. I am an organizer and like to see the whole big picture. I like to know all of the learning that will take place, and then see the step by step way we will get there. Oak Meadow does this for me.
Of course, this curriculum is not the be-all-and-end-all of what we will be doing at home. We will be adding things, and likely taking things out too. We will have days that we spend at the beach, museums, and parks with friends where we do no “schooling” at all. We will plan an awesome field trip each and every month so my boys can experience how awesome this world really is. We will have homeschool groups, weekly sessions, cubs, hockey, playdates, and lessons so my little ones have lots of opportunities to socialize. In fact, when planning our weeks it seems staying at home might become more of an issue than finding time with others.
I feel confident that the Oak Meadow Kindergarten Curriculum will give my busy boys the foundation they need for all that is to come their way in the future. And the thought that I am the one to provide that for them is quite humbling and exciting.
Yes, we will homeschool next year. (gulp.)
Interested in the Oak Meadow Kindergarten Curriculum? Here is all the information you need and how you can purchase: Oak Meadow Kindergarten Curriculum.
Disclosure: This is an unedited review of the Oak Meadow Kindergarten Curriculum in which I was given the curriculum in exchange for my time to review it openly for other families to read prior to purchasing. All words, opinions, and (likely) typos are my own.
Thank you for reading friends. Hope you have a lovely start to your week!
Be sure to check out my new book A Year of Educational QUIET BINS! It’s awesome!