A good homeschooling curriculum is one that not only tells you what to teach your child, but helps you become a better teacher along the way. Oak Meadow is one of those programs that leaves me feeling like a better educator when I am finished with the curriculum guide. The best thing that Oak Meadow has taught my family is how to teach my children through stories and literature.
I love reading. Books are just magical. I want my children to feel the same way about reading that I do. I want them to feel like they always have a friend in a book, and that they can escape whatever is bothering them by simply turning the page. All too often, I feel like education kills the magic that lives between the covers of the book. We push our kids too hard, too soon, and we don’t give them time to get lost in their imaginations.
Oak Meadow does things a little differently. When the kids are little, they don’t push reading instruction. Kindergarten isn’t about learning to read as much as it’s about learning to listen, and learning to imagine. In the early years of Oak Meadow, lessons are focused around story time. You start the day, and end the day with stories. Sometimes, you read them from the page. Other times, you tell them from memory. The stories become the backbone of the lesson. Your phonics are taught through stories. Math is taught through stories. Your child will draw and explore and act out the stories as they learn science concepts and cultural lessons. Instead of sitting at a desk, you’ll keep the stories going while exploring the world.
With younger children, it wasn’t long before I became familiar with the routine of telling a story, and then exploring it through conversation, drawing, baking, and exploring nature together. I was able to get into a routine, and homeschooling became less of a chore, and more of just what our family was like. Stories were easy, and powerful, and such an important part of our family’s culture.
As your kids get older, and become proficient readers, they have become more and more able to take their reading to the next level. When you spend the first couple years of your education listening and truly exploring stories, it’s easier for you to be able to read deeply and react to the story on the pages. Good readers ask questions, make inferences and react to what they are reading as they work their way through the book.
Giving your child assignments to work on at this point isn’t a horrible idea, but you don’t want to make every book into a production. A lot of the time, your child should be able to read for no other reason but to get lost in a book. If you are going to assign work along with the reading (which is a great idea some of the time), historical fiction, classics, and the like are a great starting place. You can give your child journaling assignments, recipes to cook, projects to build, and pictures to draw. Your child doesn’t always have to write- there are a million different ways for a creative kid to respond to what they have read. Bug is working in Oak Meadow 5 now, and many of the lessons have purposeful activities to tie the reading to other subjects. It’s still easy and fun, but in a different way, a way that gives Bug ownership of the experience instead of relying on me to tell the story.
No matter what you choose to do, your child will keep learning as long as you keep reading and story-telling as a part of your family culture.
If you’d like to read practical tips on how to encourage active reading, check out the Winter 2014 edition of Living Education. Living Education is a free magazine put out quarterly by Oak Meadow.