This is our first year using Oak Meadow, and as we round the final corner and head towards the end of the year I thought I would write a detailed review about our experiences. I have been a rather eclectic homeschooler in the past – we’ve tried unschooling (albeit briefly), the classical approach, Moving Beyond the Page, and now Oak Meadow. During my years as a classically-bent homeschooler I tried many, many different curricula including my own creations. I still am a homeschooler who supplements where necessary and adds in different projects as desired. And I am writing all of this so that as you read my review you better understand from where I come and how Oak Meadow might work for our family. It is also interesting to note that we only do school Monday through Thursday, so we are able to fit everything in during a 4-day school week (though sometimes my 7th grader does have “homework” - not surprising given that she's in middle school).
We started out the year using Oak Meadow (OM) 3, OM4, OM5, and OM7. I quickly moved my fourth grader into OM5 so we currently use OM3, OM5, and OM7. OM4 is a nice program, but my fourth grader works at an advanced grade level after years of being included into the same work as her older sister and she wasn’t being challenged in OM4 although she loved the science and art and has continued to incorporate some of those lessons into her daily work and personal journaling.
Oak Meadow cannot be summarily reviewed as there is a dramatic change in the philosophical approach beginning in fourth grade. OM3 is less “academic” and focuses more on developing a child’s love of learning, creative expression, and a mastery of basic math facts. There are no rote assignments and little writing (specifically compared to MBtP or a classically-influenced curriculum). The literature and history are not interwoven, and OM3 does not include a separate math book. I have had a successful year using OM3 with my youngest child because (1) she needed a program that did not include seatwork except where necessary; and (2) I have supplemented and changed the program to fit our needs. An example of how I’ve changed the program is by integrating her literature choices with history, adding additional history projects using SOTW and Lesson Pathways. I’ve also included more traditional academic assignments, like book reports, writing assignments, etc. However, I’ve continued to use OM3 as a “spine” and guidebook for the academic year with the exception of math as my daughter uses a separate program. OM3 would be a good fit for a child that needs flexibility and a parent who doesn’t mind supplementing if her child wants to dig deeper.
We only used OM4 for about 2 months, so I don’t want to give a full review (that will hold until next year after I use it with my last child). However, I do think it’s interesting to note that beginning in OM4 the syllabus is written to the child. A parent should expect to read through each week’s lesson and go over projects and expectations. I created a weekly checklist for my daughter to help her visually stay on track (I believe without this checklist she would have been lost). It can be quite an adjustment for a child so I would recommend checking in frequently to see if there are questions, issues, etc. OM4 Math is sold separately so it is easy to adjust the math level/program as needed. OM4 Math is written to the parent and is not independent.
My middle girls are happily using OM5 – they love how History and English are integrated. There are enough academic projects to keep them working hard, but not so many that they are overwhelmed. They have time to be creative and follow any interests piqued by the lessons (and there are many). The Science is not overwhelming but rather offers a good starting point for additional experiments or projects. For example, we’ve added in additional chemistry experiments when we had time and they were interested. But some weeks we’re swamped and simply follow the lessons as laid out. OM5 Science is a broad science curriculum encompassing many topics. Every lesson or so ends in a test to ensure major concepts are remembered. I let my girls complete this open book as I feel it’s more important to understand than memorize. OM5 Math is working well for us, though we do also use Life of Fred and occasionally Math Mammoth as a supplement or when a concept needs more work. OM5 would be a good fit for a child looking to work academically but not be bogged down by lots of seatwork or busy work. It is easy to follow interests and add in projects where needed. You can buy OM5 History & English (one book), OM5 Science, and OM5 Math.
My oldest daughter is using OM7 and loves school this year. OM7 subjects can be purchased separately, (although OM7 English is basically a part of OM7 History and it would not be worth it to buy separately): OM7 English, OM7 History (World History), OM7 Science (Environmental Science), and OM7 Math. The History and English are quite rigorous and require a good amount of reading and writing. If your child struggles with reading or writing (or both), expect a major adjustment period. However, the reading and writing are almost all very high-interest assignments so even struggling readers will find them intriguing. I have only crossed off a handful of assignments over the course of the year (usually when we are traveling and have to cut the week short). I find the quality of information in the OM History syllabus to be quite good and have been happy with it overall. The program encourages students to investigate topics on their own and to use independent resources. The science program works for us, however if you have a child that is extremely interested in science I would guess that you will need to supplement. There have been a few topics where we added projects, but for the most part she simply follows the syllabus (partially because we’ve done Environmental Science before). Both History and Science offer options when it comes to projects so children have the opportunity to utilize different learning styles. My daughter will almost always choose a writing assignment, so sometimes I choose for her so she can try her hand at building, painting, etc. OM7 math is a VERY good fit for us. There are not hundreds of problems every day and the lessons are well-written and explain the concepts clearly. However, there is not a placement test available (if I’m wrong, please provide a link) so it was hard to decide which level to choose for her. She passed Saxon math’s placement test for pre-algebra, but just barely. So I decided an extra year of foundational math was the better path for her. She uses OM7 Math in conjunction with Life of Fred Fractions/Decimals as well as Math Mammoth when needed (so far only needed for extra practice with probability and chance).
Overall, I am jumping up and down at having finally taken the Oak Meadow plunge. It is a curriculum I looked at every year but never purchased. In general, I happy with the quality of the programs, the amount of work expected in each grade, the options offered for different learning styles, and the emphasis on creative thinking. I like that there are many opportunities to add in our own projects (I’m definitely a “tweaker” and “supplementer”) and to investigate areas of interest. My girls have a full school day, but the day does not go on and on and on. And, OM is a very reasonably priced program – especially if you buy it used. This year I bought everything from OM3 to OM8 used for less money than I’ve ever spent, even when I created everything myself. However, no program is perfect and neither is Oak Meadow. That being said, I have very few complaints. We have found only a few typos (which, after using MBtP is a welcome change!). Most of the assignments are very good, though there have been the occasional projects that were either impractical or impossible for us. I believe the program could be improved by providing an overall weekly checklist for each subject (I create this for/with my girls so they can see what has to be done each week).
Lastly, I can say that this has been our smoothest homeschool year on record. My girls love the program and I love that they love it. I'm happy with content and the cost, I'm happy with the time required, and I'm happy that I'm no longer scrambling to find everything for everyone.