When I made the decision to use Oak Meadow Sixth Grade with my youngest child, I knew that planning Oak Meadow might be a challenge. After a lot of time, energy, and some help from my friends at Oak Meadow, I have finally realized what the key to planning Oak Meadow is.
Let me set the scene first, before I dig in to how I’ll be planning Oak Meadow. There are a few things that I knew could make it tricky for me when I got to the planning phase with Oak Meadow.
1. I made a very carefully considered, deliberate choice to place my daughter into the sixth grade level of Oak Meadow even though at her age, typically she would be placed into fifth grade.
2. We live in Ontario, where we have zero regulations as far as homeschooling is concerned. I don’t have to log a certain number of hours. I don’t have to report to anyone or check in at any point with anyone. I don’t have to do a set number of days, or teach any particular subjects at any particular time. Total freedom.
3. We are quite new to this particular approach to learning, and have spent the bulk of our homeschool years following the Charlotte Mason philosophy.
What Does That Have To Do with Planning Oak Meadow?
Well, what it means is that I have a LOT of options as to HOW we can plan our days. I am not tied to schooling certain subjects in a certain timeframe, and definitely not tied down to sticking to a 36 week school year. Also, since my daughter IS on the younger side, I can pace her work with Oak Meadow into two school years if I wanted to.
Really, the flexibility and the freedom offered by Oak Meadow’s curriculum design, is a good thing. It means families can create their own rhythms and routines and approach their days in a way that works for their particular needs. This is what we want as homeschool families.
On the flip side of that, however, is that too much freedom and too many options can often leave us feeling overwhelmed, unsure of ourselves, and at a total loss as to what option to go with. At least – that’s how I felt when I sat down to think through our plans.
Getting To Work With Planning Our Year
After a lazy summer, I sat down in early August to start working through my planning. I had more than a few sessions of sitting with the Oak Meadow resources, my planner, and my notebook. The more I read, and the more I thought about all the ways we could shape our days – the more overwhelmed I became. I started to second guess myself, wondering if I should scrap this idea totally and go back to the comfort and familiarity of the Charlotte Mason philosophy.
That isnt what I wanted and I had to really work to remind myself of all the reasons we made this choice for this child for this year. I knew that it would be a great fit for her, the material was perfect for what she wanted out of this school year. But how the heck would our days look?
I did what we all do as home educators in planning season – I hit the internet. I looked for blogs or articles or forum posts or fb posts, of how others planned out their Oak Meadow days. There actually was not much to be found – and what I did find was a lot of people saying “Schedule however it works for your child”. All well and good, but not helpful for me in that moment – and the panic and self-doubt started to grow.
With A Little Help From My Friends
Eventually, I decided to reach out to the most wonderful folks at Oak Meadow HQ. Honestly, it felt like a bit of a Hail Mary pass, but I was at a total loss and had to know if they had any ideas. I asked if they had articles on their site or the Oak Meadow blog about planning Oak Meadow, and said I really could not visualize how my daughter’s days, weeks, and year would look.
When I heard back from Oak Meadow, I knew I wanted to share with you all what they told me. Spoiler alert? I was making this WAY harder than it needed to be!
Advice from the Oak Meadow Experts
My friend at Oak Meadow asked around and came back to me with two bits of advice, from two staff members at Oak Meadow. They were really helpful, so I am going to go ahead and copy them right here for you all as well:
From the curriculum director of Oak Meadow:
“The general guideline of one hour per day per subject might help, and sixth grade students can have a say in what gets done when, as long as they have a clear idea of what will be accomplished over the course of the week.
That’s really what the planning pages are for. Actually, I think using the parent or student planner would make things much easier to coordinate. That way parents can plan out their week and anything that isn’t done can easily be moved over to the following week. The planner (rather than the individual planning pages in the Eng curriculum) also makes it super easy to schedule longer projects, listing individual tasks over the course of several weeks.”
And, from one of the educational counsellors at Oak Meadow:
“I tell middle school families to pick a day to plan the week’s schedule, breaking down the tasks based on what is going on that week. Check-in and evaluate progress mid-week to see where the student is on finishing the lessons, then at the end of the week review the final project and adjust if needed. Do not feel you have to do every assignment as is, some you will just touch on and others you may even just do as a read and discuss or choose not to do.”
I received a ton of helpful links and things to read. I went through each of these articles and started to really feel a sense of peace come to my mind. These are all available on the Oak Meadow website but I’ll share them here too, to save you the searching time:
- Sustainable Living (PDF)
- Organizational Tips (PDF)
- Time Management Tips for Students (PDF)
- Study Skills Toolkit (PDF)
I was reminded (actually, I didn’t even know this before they told me!) that they have personal homeschool consulting services – you don’t even have to be using Oak Meadow curriculum. If you need a guiding hand to get on the right track – grab an hour of private consult time!
Planner Set for Parent and Student:
Finally, they sent me an Oak Meadow planner set – one for parent, and one for the student. While I already have a main lesson planner for myself to keep track of both of my kids learning and our outside activities, we are 100% going to use the student planner for my daughter. Having a planner that is designed to work with the Oak Meadow curriculum really lays it out so neatly for my student and for me as the parent.
I really think this planner ought to have its own dedicated review, it’s REALLY lovely. But here are a few interior shots of the planner for now.
A New Direction for Planning Oak Meadow
So, how does this look practically? Not at all how I thought it would:
- I no longer am aiming to “lesson plan” ahead of time. I will not dictate my daughter’s schedule TO HER. Honestly, this alone has alleviated a TON of the planning stress/pressure from my shoulders.
- I will sit down with the Oak Meadow books regularly, and make sure that my daughter will have access to any materials or resources that she’ll need in the immediate future.
- We will sit down together, once a week and go over what’s coming up that week in her Oak Meadow lessons. I think we will do this at the end of a school week – both to review what the week looked like, and while our head is still in school mode, we will then look ahead to what’s coming and what we might want to carry over from the current week.
- We will also look at my calendar of outings or appointments or classes, and make sure to slot those in first.
- With my guidance and reminders of how much she might want to consider doing each day (one hour per subject per day, roughly) we will initially work together to decide what day will include which activities.
- Eventually (hopefully!), she can take on more and more of the decision making, as we get more and more locked into a good rhythm that works for her and for the rest of our homeschool.
- We will make GOOD use of the Oak Meadow student planner, to help her visualize and see how her week will look, and make sure she has a clear idea of what is needing to be completed each day.
I read and re-read the bits of advice that I received from Oak Meadow and feel like it has snapped my mind right back to what’s important. One of the things I really am going for this year is to slowly encourage my children to take ownership of their education.
I wrote recently about middle school and this idea of independence, and shared that my goal instead was partnership. One of the main reasons I am drawn to Oak Meadow is that they really do strive to help parents partner with their kids, and gradually let the child take over more and more of the lead in their learning.
It was like…I took a big deep breath. My head cleared and my eyes focused on my priorities. I’m focusing on the home in homeschool – creating an environment that helps my kids learn. Partnering with them to ensure that their work gets done, but that we dont lose sight of the real goal – deep learning experiences that are meaningful to the child.