Choosing Upper DITHOR Book Pack and Student Book Levels

From Our House to Yours

Choosing Upper DITHOR Book Pack and Student Book Levels

Each of Heart of Dakota’s (HOD’s) upper Drawn into the Heart of Reading (DITHOR) book packs includes a range of reading levels within each set of books.  Specific reading levels are also noted individually for each book.  The 5/6 Boy Book Pack includes books ranging from 5.1-6.9 (fifth grade first month through sixth grade ninth month). Subsequently, the 5/6 Girl Book Pack includes books ranging from 5.1-6.8 (fifth grade first month through sixth grade eighth month). Moving on, the 6/7 Book Pack includes books ranging from 6.0-7.3 (sixth grade through seventh grade third month). Progressing on, the 7/8 Boy Book Pack includes books ranging from 6.3-8.5 (sixth grade third month through eighth grade fifth month). Similarly, the 7/8 Girl Book Pack includes books ranging from 6.2-8.3 (sixth grade second month through eighth grade third month).

Level 5/6 Boy Book Pack Samples

In general, the Level 5/6 Boy Book Pack has medium-sized chapters, less words on a page, and a few pictures. The Invisible Friend is read for 15 days and is the Mystery book selection. It has a reading level of 5.1. This makes it one of the easiest books in the Level 5/6 Boy Book Pack. There are 207 pages in The Invisible Friend. So, students read about 14 pages a day.

The Little Duke is read for 15 days. It is the Biography book selection. It has a reading level of 6.9. This makes it one of the hardest books in the Level 5/6 Boy Book Pack. There are 171 pages in The Little Duke. So, students read about 11 pages a day.

Level 5/6 Girl Book Pack Samples

In general, the Level 5/6 Girl Book Pack has medium-sized chapters, less words on a page, and a few pictures. The Secret of the Old Clock is read for 15 days and is the Nancy Drew Mystery book selection. It has a reading level of 5.4. This makes it one of the easiest books in the Level 5/6 Girl Book Pack. There are 180 pages in The Secret of the Old Clock. So, students read about 12 pages a day.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is read for 15 days. It is the Adventure book selection. It has a reading level of 6.8. This makes it one of the hardest books in the Level 5/6 Girl Book Pack. There are 181 pages in The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. So, students read about 12 pages a day.

Level 6/7 Book Pack Samples

In general, the Level 6/7 Book Pack books have longer reading assignments. They have no pictures, smaller font sizes, and are thicker chapter books with higher vocabulary and more mature topics. The Black Stallion Mystery is read for 15 days and is the Mystery book selection. It has a reading level of 6.1. This makes it one of the easiest books in the Level 6/7 Book Pack. There are 200 pages in The Black Stallion Mystery. So, students read about 13 pages a day.

The White Dove is read for 5 days. It is one of the Folk Tales book selections. It has a reading level of 7.0. This makes it one of the hardest books in the Level 6/7 Book Pack. There are 67 pages in The White Dove. So, students read about 13 pages a day. You can see the font is much smaller, the sentences longer, and the sentence structures more complex. Though The White Dove is small in size, it is more difficult to read. Just because a book is smaller, remember, that does not mean it is easier!

Level 7/8 Boy Interest Book Pack Samples

In general, the 7/8 Book Packs are thick chapter books. They have no pictures, more difficult sentence structures, higher level vocabulary, and more mature topics. They are chosen with the intent to prepare students for the high school level literature they will soon be expected to read. For example, in the Level 7/8 Boy Interest Book Pack, Caught in the Act is read for 5 days. It is one of the Mystery selections. It has a reading level of 6.3. This makes it one of the easiest books in the Level 7/8 Boy Interest Book Pack. There are 150 pages in Caught in the Act. So, students read about 30 pages a day.

Winter Holiday is read for 15 days. It is the Realistic Fiction book selection. It has a reading level of 8.1. This makes it one of the hardest books in the Level 7/8 Boy Interest Book Pack. There are 324 pages in Winter Holiday. So, students read about 22 pages a day.

Level 7/8 Girl Interest Book Pack Samples

In the Level 7/8 Girl Interest Book Pack, Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio, for example, is read for 10 days. It is one of the Nonfiction selections. It has a reading level of 6.2. This makes it one of the easiest books in the Level 7/8 Girl Interest Book Pack. There are 164 pages in Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio. So, students read about 16 pages a day.

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm is read for 15 days. It is the Humor book selection. It has a reading level of 8.3. This makes it one of the hardest books in the Level 7/8 Girl Interest Book Pack. There are 229 pages in Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. So, students read about 23 pages a day.

Choosing Between Book Pack Levels

In general, we would say error on the side of choosing that which is easier if between two levels.  The DITHOR Teacher’s Guide and Student Books will add challenge; we don’t want the books to be at a challenge level, but rather at a level that the student can read fairly well on his/her own. Keep in mind, the challenge at this level is in delving more deeply into the book. In-depth genre studies, story element instruction (i.e. plot, tone, mood, point of view, inference, etc.), moral reasoning with more mature Godly character traits in mind, and higher level comprehension are the skills to be taught. The goal is not to simply read as quickly as possible; speed reading books with little thought is a lower level skill. Rather, more mature skills that are high school level literature preparatory focused are the goals for these years.

Choosing Which Genre Your Student Will Read First

Heart of Dakota lists the reading levels for each book on its website, in its catalog, and on its Optional Book Recommendations paper sent with your order. Genres can be done in any order, so starting with the easiest reading level for a struggling reader makes good sense. Starting with whichever genre or book your student is most excited about for a strong, yet dispassionate reader makes good sense. If you have an average reader who enjoys reading, starting with the first genre (or any genre) makes good sense. Keep in mind the range of reading levels is intentional – not too big, not too small. Students’ reading and comprehension will gradually improve throughout the year. The range of reading levels Carrie carefully picked accommodates for that growth.

Choosing Which Level of DITHOR Student Book to Use

As far as the DITHOR Student Books, the 4/5 Student Book includes assignments every 3-4 out of 5 days, has a fair share of writing, and is assuming students have had some formal literature study of the genres and the story elements, building upon this foundation. The 6/7/8 Student Book includes daily assignments, requires daily writing, is more in-depth, and is written with high school literature preparation in mind.

In general, 6th grade students who have not had as much formal literature study of the genres and story elements or who are not accustomed to writing more do one year in the 4/5 Student Book and move to the 6/7/8 Student Book in seventh grade.  Seventh and eighth grade students who have had formal literature study of the genres and story elements, who are able to write well, and who are able to comprehend well place in the 6/7/8 Student Book.  Reading levels of book packs do not need to match Student Book levels.  So, for example, a sixth grade student who is an avid reader who does not write as well or who has not had formal literature study may use the 6/7 Book Pack with the 4/5 Student Book.

In Closing

I hope this helps you with choosing which level of book pack and which level of student book you’d like to use with your older student(s). If I look at a book inside and outside, know the total number of pages in the book, and know how many pages my student would need to read each day, I can usually choose what level is best for each of my sons. I hope you find the same to be true for you and find this to be an encouragement!

In Christ,

Julie

Don’t interrupt the flow of the reading.

Teaching Tip:

What is a “living book”?

Heart of Dakota’s curriculum is full of living books. Each living book is typically written by a single author who is very passionate about his/her topic. These books stand out for their conversational, narrative style and their ability to make almost any subject come to life. Living books are read in smaller segments slowly over time to allow your students to “live” with the books.

As you read aloud a living book, don’t pause during the reading to explain or question.

In a Charlotte Mason style living book reading, it is important not to stop and explain or question during the reading. You may be tempted to define difficult words, explain what is happening, or question your child to be sure he/she is understanding. While you may think you’re helping your child comprehend better by doing these things, you really aren’t!

Interrupting the flow of the reading makes it more difficult for the child to comprehend and make connections.

Charlotte Mason says that stopping during a reading to explain or question actually interrupts the flow of the reading. This makes it more difficult for the child to comprehend and make his/her own connections. So, whenever you feel the urge to pause during the reading to “help” your child, resist the urge and read on!

Reading without interruption, helps develop the habit of attention.

As your child learns to attend to a single reading, your child will be developing the habit of attention. This is a much needed habit to cultivate and isn’t one that occurs naturally in all kiddos. Try making a point not to interrupt the reading and see if your child eventually begins to attend better. I know I have been pleasantly surprised with my own boys when I tried this essential step when reading aloud!

Blessings,
Carrie

What would my son be missing out on if he doesn’t have proper placement?

Pondering Placement

What would my son be missing out on if I combine him in a guide  that isn’t his proper placement?

I am on the fence about which guide(s) to choose for proper placement. One son likes American history and reading about wars. The other son doesn’t say what he likes. He is probably too young to know. Honestly, he doesn’t even know much about history yet to say what he’d like. I don’t want to choose to combine in a guide just based on my oldest son’s placement and interests. I really like the progression of skills and learning I see in Heart of Dakota’s guide sequence. Both sons would benefit from proper placement.

Deep down, I know my younger son can’t do the same work my older son can do. I don’t want to combine just to combine. I want both sons to have proper placement. So, I THINK I know the answer, but still, I’ll ask the question. What would my son be missing out on if I combine him in a guide that doesn’t fit him on the placement chart?

Carrie’s Reply:

When I was in high school, I played volleyball and basketball. I had always “started” throughout middle school and into high school, until my sophomore year. In that year of basketball, I had a coach with whom I had a personality conflict. The conflict was that he did not like my personality, and I didn’t particularly love his! Now hopefully I have grown and matured since then. However, the point is that I ended up on the bench for almost the entire season. After that year, I went on to a different coach and was back to “starting” again.  No one can ever tell me that you feel a part of a team when you’re sitting and observing, watching, and listening from the bench!

Proper Placement Considerations for Little Ones

Often in homeschooling, we let our little ones sit on the “bench”, simply observing, watching, and listening in but rarely getting them truly involved in the “game”. So, at HOD, we write our guides with family balance in mind. It is so easy for families to get out of balance by targeting one or more key members of the family and targeting the teaching toward that child. When grouping large age ranges together, the parent must choose what age to target their teaching toward, and often teaching is targeted toward the older child. In that case the older child is receiving the skills he/she needs, while the youngers are simply tagging along, which often equates to sitting on the bench.

Proper Placement – the Key to Balance

Proper placement in HOD is the key to balance within a family, making sure all learners are getting the needed balance that gets them involved in the learning. Our HOD guides seek to balance time spent on various subjects within the school day, the amount of time required to complete a guide each day, the teaching time required by the teacher in presenting and guiding lessons each day, the time and attention given to various skills within the day, the way various learning styles are addressed within the day, and the individual time given to children at various age levels during the day. In this way, every child is participating and learning, and no one is left simply watching and listening.

Blessings,
Carrie

Does every family with multiple kids the same ages as mine do the same exact placement?

Dear Carrie

Does every family with multiple kids the same ages as mine do the same exact placement?

I am a mom of four children ranging from ages three to ten years old. My husband is a pastor. Other pastors and also missionaries we know are using Heart of Dakota and have highly recommended it to us. I have been looking at your website, and I am excited about what I see! My catalog is on its way. As I wait for it to arrive, I have been starting to look into placement. Heart of Dakota seems to be complete, but not a usual boxed curricula. I see overlap of ages for the guides, which makes sense to me. I’ve read your message board, and even found some posts about placement for kids about my children’s ages. However, I haven’t found an exact match for our children. Is there one right exact placement for them I should be making? I mean, if I say they are ages 3, 6, 8, and 10 years old, do you suggest the same guides for me you’d suggest for somebody else with kids those ages? Thanks!

Sincerely,

“Ms. Please Help Me Know If I Only Have One Exact Placement Available to Me”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Me Know If I Only Have One Exact Placement Available to Me,”

At Heart of Dakota (HOD), we do not have an exact placement for children solely based on age. If you’ve ever purchased any kind of clothing that is marked “one-size fits all”, you have likely discovered the reality that one-size truly does NOT fit all! I’m thinking of supposedly “one-size fits all” gloves, p.j.s, and workout pants that I’ve tried. Unfortunately, I found out that my “size” was not in the “one-size fits all” category!   I share this example because many homeschool curriculums take the “one-size fits all approach”, offering the same advice and same path to everyone.

Rather than one exact placement for everyone, we give you options!

At HOD, rather than one exact placement, we give you options to ponder of possible paths that could best meet your family needs. These recommendations are always based on what you share with us about each of your individual children. One unique aspect of HOD is that we have written our guides so that you can choose whether to combine or not to combine your children for their learning. This flexibility allows you to choose what is best for your family, rather than providing a “one-size fits all path”. At HOD, we don’t dictate to you whether you need to combine your children or whether you need to separate them. Each family situation is unique and is looked at in an individual light.

Rather than one exact placement, you have the flexibility to combine or separate.

Rather than one exact placement, you have flexibility through the years. Our guides also allow you the flexibility to move back and forth between combining or separating your children along the homeschool path, if needed, allowing for changes over the years in family dynamics and situations. Each year, you can reassess, to be sure of which path should be followed each step of the way, giving you a customized fit. So, rather than one exact placement, we work with you to find the right placement considering individual children’s needs and family’s needs!

Blessings,
Carrie

Encouraging a Young Reluctant Writer

From Our House to Yours

Encouraging a Young Reluctant Writer

Do you have a young reluctant writer? Well, take heart! Time, consistency, and gradual changes can help. I know it can seem frustrating, and it is awfully tempting just to turn written assignments into oral assignments. However, that will not solve the problem. Unless children have special needs preventing them to do so, children need to learn to write. They need to be able to share their knowledge, opinions, and passions in the written form. Even in this world of typing or tapping on phones or keyboards, writing using good old fashioned pencil and paper is still a necessary skill to have. So, how can you encourage your young reluctant writer?

Young reluctant writers need time!

First, young reluctant writers simply need time. Fine motor skills take time to develop. Just as professional weight-lifters need time to develop muscles to lift larger weights, so do young writers need to time develop dexterity and strength to write more. Heart of Dakota’s younger guides begin with copywork, so children write looking at a model with proper spelling and punctuation. This way, they can focus on writing letters, words, and sentences properly without the added pressure of figuring out spelling and punctuation too. So, be sure to encourage reluctant writers that with time, their strength and dexterity to write will improve!

Young reluctant writers need consistency!

Second, reluctant writers need consistency. Heart of Dakota’s plans take into account the amount of writing across all subject areas. This is one of the many reasons using Heart of Dakota for all subject areas makes sense! One author, Carrie Austin, wrote each Heart of Dakota guide. As she wrote, she paid attention to keeping a balance of skills each day. So, for example, if history required writing, science probably did not require writing. Reluctant writers need consistency, and by following Heart of Dakota’s plans, that writing consistency is inherent. Simply by expecting and encouraging children to consistently write what is planned each day in each subject, reluctant writers begin to grow into stronger writers.

Gradual changes help young reluctant writers improve! 

Third, gradual changes help young reluctant writers improve. In Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory, children use classical poetry for copywork. Starting with copywork is so important! Children can then focus on following a proper model as they write. At the start, children might copy one line of poetry. Then, a gradual change can be made in a month or two, and children can begin to copy two lines of poetry. In another month or two, children can begin to copy three lines of poetry. The next month or so, children can begin to copy four lines of poetry. In the same way, reluctant writers can make gradual changes in the size of their writing. Over time, they can be encouraged to slowly shrink their writing. They can gradually write on smaller lines, until finally, they are writing on wide-lined notebook paper. Little by little, with gradual changes, reluctant writers will improve!

In Closing

I want to encourage you that with time, consistency, and gradual changes your reluctant writer will improve! If your children are placed in a Heart of Dakota guide that assigns writing, the first simple step is to be sure to encourage and expect your children to do it. If you need to start smaller, do. But, try to make gradual progress so that by the end of the guide, children are able to do the amount writing they are assigned to do. Being a good writer is rare enough these days to be an asset inside and outside of the home. Keep encouraging reluctant kiddos to write, and you will see progress!

In Christ,
Julie