You may remember about a month ago, I posted a really excited “Box Day” post and our first impressions of Oak Meadow’s Third Grade program. Today, I am even more excited to share with you our review of this program. I am happy to tell you, it lived up to my hopes and expectations.
What is Oak Meadow’s Third Grade Program?
The Kindergarten- Third Grade Teacher’s Manual Set
(The Heart of Learning and The Home Teacher’s Process Manual)
The Heart of Learning explains Oak Meadow’s philosophy for working with young children, and offers deep advice on the development of children and how to best work with them. It took reading over this book a couple of times for me to really grasp the ideas in it; every time I bring it out, I come across another gem.
Many of the issues faced by new Homeschoolers- from sibling fighting, grumpy children, or setting a routine are covered in this book. For example, when talking about children having conflicts with each other, the Heart of Learning gives ideas for re-direction. I’ve been using the ideas in this book with ALL my children, and have found it is really helping, especially with my new-five year old.
The Home Teacher’s Process Manual contains guidelines and instructions for the various skills children in grades Kindergarten to Third will be working on (recorder playing, drawing, watercolor, working with clay, storytelling, and singing) as well as a lot of practical information on how to make “process time” successful. This book has step by step instructions and diagrams, and is a necessary part of each of Oak Meadow’s K-3 programs.
The Syllabus is the core of the program. The year is broken down into Trimesters, and each Trimester section of the syllabus contains an Introduction. This introductory section is about 20-30 pages long, and contains a complete overview of what the child will be learning for the next trimester, as well as detailed instruction on how to teach each concept.
For example, the Math section of the introduction explains how to teach borrowing and carrying with a story about “Mr. Place Value.” It also includes instructions on teaching multiplication in a way I have never seen outside of Oak Meadow. Children are encouraged to see the patterns created with skip counting by creating designs, and times tables are taught with rhymes and rhythmic body moments (you know the rhyme “one, two, buckle my shoe?” like that, only one for each of the times tables, many with movements associated with the rhyme). These physical movements along with the rhymes help the child memorize the times tables in no time flat, and would be extremely beneficial to children who are kinesthetic learners. These instructions, and rhythms are not repeated again in the curriculum, so you will find yourself referring back to the introduction for each trimester again and again as you teach.
Neat, right? There is also a rhyme for 3. After learning the rhyme and drawing the pattern in his main lesson book, he has skip counting by 3’s down to a science.
I really enjoyed these overviews because they gave me a quick overview of what exactly needed to be taught in the next trimester without needing to read over each individual week’s assignments.
After the trimester introduction, the Syllabus is divided by weekly “Lessons.” Each day is started with circle time, which includes a morning verse, a movement activity/verse, and a closing verse. Included in the appendix is a list of Poems to enjoy and memorize during circle time, as well as active verses to get your child’s blood pumping and mind moving as they start the day. The appendix has enough choices to fill the year, and many of the verses are themed by season and contain important information so they are educational and fun.
After Circle Time each day, you’ll need to decide which topics you are going to teach. The weekly lesson is not broken down by what to do each day, and instead allows you the flexibility to teach on your own schedule. They recommend setting a routine for yourself, and recommend a schedule for the day in the introduction of the syllabus. I found that I could easily cover everything in a week’s lesson working about 3-4 hours a day.
Lessons are done in what Oak Meadow calls the “Main Lesson Book”. You can purchase these books with the Craft Kit, or separately, and they are large, blank spiral bound books for your child to put all their work in. Illustrations, writing assignments, art, summaries, math- everything is done in these books. Each family does their Main Lesson Books a little differently. Some put all subjects in the same book, or use a separate book for each topic. In our home, we used one book for language arts, history and science, and did Math on separate papers.
The weekly lesson contains:
Language Arts: Language Arts is taught mainly through the use of the Oak Meadow Folk Tales book. Each week, you will read or tell (the program prefers you read and re-tell the story rather than read it verbatim) a folk tale from the book, and your child will need to tell you the main idea of the story, as well as write a summary sentence in their main lesson book. Other instruction in grammar, spelling, phonics and other elements is given throughout the year, but the process of using the Folk Tales as a base is a constant for the Third Grade Program.
Included with the Third Grade Curriculum Package are 7 classical books, Pippi Longstocking, Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz, The Velveteen Rabbit, Winnie the Pooh, and Charlotte’s Web. Your child will read these independently during the year, and are not assigned work along with them.
Cursive handwriting is taught starting right away in the Third Grade Syllabus (either by mimicking models written by you, the parent, or using the optional D’Nealian cursive handwriting book combined with cursive copy work).
Mathematics: Oak Meadow does not use a separate math program or math worksheets, and instead relies on you as a parent to write the math problems for your student to solve. Detailed instructions for teaching each math concept are given in the introduction to the trimesters, and each Lesson includes general guidelines such as “review 6’s times tables” or “do 20 problems with borrowing in your main lesson book”. You would write these problems, or dictate them to your child and then check their work to ensure they were mastering the concept.
Social Science: Social Science is also taught through the use of stories. Each week, you will tell or read an included story which will be the basis of the lesson for the week. The social science section includes suggestions for discussion about the story, copywork relating to the story, and both active and main lesson book-based activities (such as illustrating, looking at a globe, or creating something) which reinforce the lesson.
For this lesson, we talked about the Ancient Hebrew Culture, Told the story of Joseph and his Coat of many colors, and made a coat to wear. We discussed dreams, reality and if we think our dreams have meaning- The discussion also lead to a wonderful conversation about favoritism, jealousy, and appropriate actions.
Science: The science lessons contain many hands on, observation based, and outdoor activities which help your child explore the world around them. For example, while learning about clouds, your child will go outdoors each day to observe them and identify what they see, while illustrating a “cloud journal.” When learning about salt water biomes, your child can visit the beach, or read a book about the ocean if you don’t live close to a beach or aquarium.
Art/Crafts: Art includes working with clay, drawing, marbling paper, woodworking, book binding and water color painting. Most of the materials you need are included in the optional Craft Kit you can purchase from Oak Meadow (I highly recommend it!). Art is done about three times a week during the year.
Along with these fun art projects, practical skills are also taught. A First Cookbook is included with the Third Grade Curriculum, and includes many recipes your child can cook all by themselves (this is Bug’s favorite part of the program, he LOVES to cook!)
Music: Oak Meadow’s Third Grade Program comes with the Advanced Recorder book. If you have no experience with recorder, you can order the Beginning Recorder book, but the syllabus’ music section does contain some beginning recorder instruction. The craft kit comes with two recorders, so you can learn to play right along with your child and teach them by example.
Health: If your state requires Health as a subject, or you’d like a formal curriculum for health, Oak Meadow has a program for Kindergarten-Third Grade called Growing, Growing Strong. This book is broken down by topic, like “I share Food, not Germs” and shares lessons, activities, recommended books, and other ideas to teach each topic. It’s very well organized and user friendly- each week, Oak Meadow recommends teaching one lesson from this book, and I think it could be used in any Homeschool successfully.
How Oak Meadow Worked in Our Home
We’ve had a lot of fun with Oak Meadow. When I first started talking to you about this program, I shared how I wanted to establish a better routine in my home, and really get back to having fun with school. I have struggled a little setting a new routine, but the last week or so, I really feel like I have it together. When I struggled, I found wonderful support in a community of Oak Meadow Homeschoolers on Facebook, who were happy to share their experiences and helped me find a routine for my own kids.
We have been able to incorporate circle time as something we all do together as a family, and my 5 year old enjoys listening into the stories with his older brother. The practical advice, such as having time for the kids to work with me for chores, and letting them use tools sized for them has really helped me maintain a cleaner, more peaceful home (a really nice side effect of chore time and practical skills being included in the curriculum!). Bug has increased the amount of dishes he can cook independently, and often cooks for his brother and sister at lunch time using the First Cookbook.
I wanted a program that would help me to be a better homeschooler, without feeling like we were chained to a desk. Oak Meadow has allowed us so much flexibility. We are able to complete the week’s lesson in a 4 day school week, keeping Fridays for our field trips. The program for Third Grade is still playful, and full of fun and imagination- but don’t let that statement fool you into thinking its “light.” The more time I spend with this program, reading the syllabus and teaching the lessons, the more impressed I am with it.
The lessons, while gentle, are deep. The conversations that come up while discussing the history and folk tales have been entertaining and enriching. I can see Bug learning and growing with this program, but he is doing so with creativity and play.
It’s really a beautiful thing. I am really hopeful about this program, and am really curious about the higher levels. Grade 3 is really a transitional year, it’s the last of the “early years” levels. When discussing Oak Meadow’s Waldorf influences, they say “Today Oak Meadow provides a very creative, experiential curriculum that is playful in the early grades, rigorous in the upper grades, and engaging for all students”. I really can’t wait to see “what is next” with Oak Meadow.
In a Nutshell:
Oak Meadow has curriculum for K-12, and is Waldorf inspired, especially in the early years. This means that it is creative and playful, and uses traditional folk and fairy tales to teach children about the world around them. The curriculum has wonderful multi-sensory activities and teaches in a way that appeals to children, through movement, rhythm, and beauty. The program itself is not open-and-go, but IS set up in a format that is user friendly. I would highly recommend this program to anyone looking for a program for a creative, active child; especially for families that value flexibility and family routines. Oak Meadow offers families several different options, to either use their Homeschool curriculum independently (pictured here), or through enrollment in their fully accredited distance learning school, which offers teacher support and official school records. Oak Meadow is one of the least expensive complete curriculum companies on the market, with complete curriculum packages (not including the craft kit or K-3 manuals shown in this review) for the Third Grade coming to only $325. It is an incredible value for it’s price and I can not recommend it enough!
As a military family, we always appreciate when a company goes above and beyond to show their support- Oak Meadow offers a wonderful 10% military discount to active duty military families. To use this discount on either their print curriculum or with their accredited school, please call the office at 802-251-7250 for more information. (discount not eligible for use with sales).
Want a closer look? See a Week in the Life with Oak Meadow
I really want to make sure you guys see how this program works in practice, so check out out post about “A Week in the Life with Oak Meadow.” I want to be able to show you what the work load looks like, how we structured our week, and what our daily rhythm looks like when following Oak Meadow’s Third Grade program.