Placement for a 6-year-old at the Beginning Stages of Writing

Pondering Placement

Placement for a 6-year-old at the Beginning Stages of Writing

My son will be 6 in October, and this fall will be his kindergarten year. He just finished Pre-K at a private school. Looking at Heart of Dakota’s placement chart, we’ve already done three lessons in The Reading Lesson. He has caught on beautifully! For writing, his skills are in the beginning stages. Any time he sits down to write or color it is forced. I think it’s an issue of his will because he can draw a stick figure with most the body parts. He’s ready to use oral skills for grammar study. Math will be no problem! With handwriting being number two on the chart in order of importance, should I do Little Hands to Heaven? I feel he’d do great in Little Hearts for His Glory now. But, what if he’s not ready for the fine motor skills in Beyond Little Hearts the next year?

Carrie’s Reply to Placement for a 6-year-old at the Beginning Stages of Writing:

As I was reading through your initial post, I was thinking that Heart of Dakota’s Little Hearts for His Glory (LHFHG) would be a good fit for your son. It sounds like he fits well there on the placement chart, and much of what you shared as far as fine motor challenges isn’t that uncommon for boys upon entering LHFHG. Your description actually fit my own third little guy when he began LHFHG as he was turning 6. Many kiddos are at the beginning stages of writing when they begin LHFHG. So, that is quite normal!

LHFHG with the K options would take him from his beginning stages of writing and move him forward.

Two factors in considering whether to do LHFHG or whether to do Little Hands to Heaven with K options from LHFHG are your son’s age and the fact that he has already been through quite a bit of kindergarten readiness. Another factor is that he seems to really make strides when you work with him one-on-one. So, these factors make me lean more toward LHFHG with the K options, perhaps doing 4 days a week (and stretching 9 weeks into the next school year to finish).

Doing LHFHG 4 days a week would give him more time to progress from his beginning stages of writing.

This plan would allow him more time to progress from his beginning stages of writing before getting to Beyond. But, it would also keep him moving forward more closely with his age-mates. While I dislike comparison greatly, age does help give us some guidelines when were trying to decide between two good options. In your son’s case I think it tilts the decision more in favor of LHFHG. Once you get the guide and the books that go with it in hand, you’ll be able to tell better. You also are welcome to return anything within 30 days for a full refund or in exchange for something else. This should help ease the decision-making process a bit! I hope this is an encouragement to you!

Blessings!

Carrie

We’re missionaries, and we need help deciding when to homeschool!

Dear Carrie

Missionaries Needing Help on Deciding When to Homeschool

I have 5 kids, and we’re missionaries in Indonesia. We’ve used Heart of Dakota (HOD) for two years. This year, my oldest two are being taught at our missionary school. I convinced the missionary school to use HOD, and they love it! Next year mid-June, I’ll be homeschooling all my kids again (then in 7th, 6th, 4th, and two in 1st). My older two place in Revival to Revolution. The fourth grader places in Preparing, and my 1st graders place in Beyond. The older two are largely independent, which really helps! However, we’re going to be on furlough for three months, traveling all of September, settled for October, and traveling all of November. Maybe I could homeschool for the summer months, and the months we aren’t on the road? Then, I could take off the months we are on the road? What do you think would be best?

Sincerely,

“Ms. Please Help This Missionary with Choosing When to Homeschool”

Dear “Ms. Please Help This Missionary with Choosing When to Homeschool,”

We feel so blessed to have many missionaries using Heart of Dakota, and I’d be glad to answer your question! I would probably lean toward taking the months off that you are traveling, which sounds like all of September and all of November. I would look at doing school during October, which sounds like it will be the month you will be more settled. With that in mind, I would look toward schooling in the summer for two months to make up for having all of September and all of November off. Hopefully, this would still allow you to take at least a month off in the summer.

If needed during the summer, you could go half-speed with the 1st grade twins (doing the left side of the guide one day and right side the next, or any combination you felt would work well). You could actually just keep the twins at half-speed for as long as needed during the year too (since they will be on the younger age range of Beyond). This would allow you more time to work with your Preparing and Revival to Revolution kiddos to get them started and progressing well.

Hopefully, this will help a bit as you ponder your scheduling options as missionaries. I just want to encourage you that we have had other missionaries use this same kind of scheduling and truly enjoy it! Sometimes it just helps to talk options through with others to find the one that will work well for you.

Blessings,
Carrie

Middle School Math Placement Tests

From Our House to Yours

Need help with math placement for your middle school students?  Well, this blog is here to help!

Middle school students vary greatly in math skills and abilities. Heart of Dakota understands age is only one piece of the math placement puzzle. This is why every Heart of Dakota guide includes multiple math levels of instruction. One child might be advanced in math, one more average, and one struggling. Heart of Dakota has plans for all types of math students. Proper math placement is important. By matching children to their current math skills, all children can move forward and improve. If math placement is off, children and parents alike are frustrated. It is impossible to move forward in math skills if you start with a math placement that is too hard or to easy. So, how can you choose the proper math placement for your middle school student? Well, that’s what this blog post is all about!

A Brief Explanation of the Middle School Curriculum Principle of Mathematics

Principles of Mathematics is a Christian curriculum aimed at grades six through eight. It is best to use Principles of Mathematics one or two years prior to starting high school algebra. If following traditional grade levels, Principles of Mathematics Book 1 would be completed in grade six or seven, and Principles of Mathematics Book 2 would be completed in grade seven or eight. Book 1 covers the core principles of arithmetic and geometry (along with some statistics), while Book 2 builds on those principles as it introduces the core principles of algebra, probability, and trigonometry (along with more statistics).

The curriculum consists of the Student Textbook and the Teacher Guide. The Student Textbook contains the lessons, and the Teacher Guide contains all the worksheets, quizzes, and tests, along with an Answer Key and suggested schedule. Each lesson takes about 30-45 minutes, with a pace of 4-5 days a week.

A Brief Overview of the Principles of Mathematics Book 1: Placement Test

Principles of Mathematics designed this test to help determine if a middle school student is ready to begin Book 1 of Principles of Mathematics. If students get problems wrong on the placement test, check to see if they made a careless error or if they truly didn’t understand a concept. It’s okay if students make a few errors; however, it’s important that students are familiar with these concepts before beginning Book 1:

  • addition
  • subtraction
  • multiplication
  • division
  • decimals (including adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing them)
  • fractions (including adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing them)

Middle school students also need to have the mental development to explore problem solving, which will be emphasized in Book 1. Note: Book 1 will review addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, decimals, and fractions, so if middle school students struggle with any of those concepts they will get practice and reinforcement; however, it should not be the first time they’re encountering them.

A Brief Overview of the Principles of Mathematics Book 2: Placement Test

Principles of Mathematics designed this test to help determine if a middle school student is ready to begin Book 2 of Principles of Mathematics or if they need to start in Book 1. You may explain the instructions and terms on the test as needed. The point is to see if students have the skills to solve the problems. If students get problems wrong on the placement test, check to see if they made a careless error, didn’t understand the instructions, or if they truly didn’t understand a concept. It’s okay if students make a few errors, but it’s important that middle school students understand these concepts before beginning Book 2, as they are only very briefly reviewed in Book 2:

  • basic math skills (including rounding and working with decimals)
  • fractions
  • unit conversion
  • negative numbers
  • geometry formulas (finding perimeter, area, and volume)
  • exponents
  • problem-solving skills

If you feel your middle school student could use a deeper understanding of arithmetic (place value, basic operations, decimals, fractions, etc.), the basics of geometry, or problem-solving skills, we recommend starting with Book 1 even if your student can pass this placement test. Book 1 stresses those concepts, while Book 2 focuses more on pre-algebra concepts.

Clickable Links for the Principles of Mathematics Placement Tests and for Samples of the Teacher Guides and Student Books 

Need the Book 1 placement test? Click here!

For the Book 2 placement test, click here!

To check out samples of the Book 1 Teacher Guide, click here.

Or, to check out samples of the Book 1 Student Book, click here.

For the Book 2 Teacher Guide samples, click here.

Or, for the Book 2 Student Book samples, click here.

How to Order What You Need After Scoring Your Middle School Students’ Placement Test(s)

Once you have scored your student’s math placement test(s), if you know what level to start with, simply order from Heart of Dakota the appropriate Teacher’s Guide and Student’s Book. You can order those here by clicking and scrolling to the math sections: Principles of Mathematics Teacher’s Guide Book 1 and Student Book 1, or Principles of Mathematics Teacher’s Guide Book 2 and Student Book 2. If you have scored your children’s math placement tests, and are still confused about which level to start with, simply give Heart of Dakota a call or an email. Explain what you learned from the math placement tests, how they went overall, and what scores your children made on the math placement tests you gave. We can figure it out together!

Still not sure? Well, here are some pretty standard sequence options for middle school students who have or have not been using Singapore Primary Mathematics.

If you have a middle school student who has been using Singapore’s Primary Mathematics, that student has several math paths. An average math student doing well with Singapore Primary Mathematics could use 5A/5B for sixth grade, 6A/6B for seventh grade, and Principles of Mathematics Book 2 for eighth grade. A struggling math student who is not doing as well with Singapore Primary Mathematics could use 5A/5B for sixth grade, Principles of Mathematics Book 1 for seventh grade, and Principles of Mathematics Book 2 for eighth grade. An advanced math student doing well with Singapore Primary Mathematics could use 6A/6B for sixth grade, Principles of Mathematics Book 2 for seventh grade, and do Algebra 1 for eighth grade.

If you have a middle school student who has not been using Singapore Primary Mathematics, Principles of Mathematics is also an excellent option!

What if your middle school students scored lower on the math placement tests?

If your middle school students scored lower on their math placement tests, do not be dismayed! We take children where they are in math and steadily move them forward. To move children more quickly through math levels, never double up math lessons in one day. Rather, do one math lesson each day, but do math more days. One easy way to do this is to do five days of math lessons even when using four-day-a-week Heart of Dakota guides. Or, do one extra math lesson on Saturdays.  Or, do three or four extra math lessons three or four days a week during a summer break. Little by little, students will catch up!

In Christ,
Julie

Stay with your child for math!

Teaching Tip:

Math is a subject that needs to be taught.

For this tip, I’ll share something I’ve discovered the hard way. After 30+ years of teaching, I have come to realize math is one subject that needs to be taught. It is not meant to be a self-teaching subject that can be assigned to a student to do on his/her own.

What about using online lessons or video teachers for math?

Even with the aid of an online lesson or video teacher, ultimately with math there will be questions. There will be times when your child hits a stumbling block and needs help to go on. If you have no knowledge about what your child is working on, then the only way to help is to consult the answer key. At that point your child will quickly discover you can offer little help. This is because your child is fully able to check the answer key himself (and doesn’t really need you for that purpose). What he/she does need is the aid of a teacher who can explain the problem in a different way.

What can happen if you expect math to be a self-teaching subject?

With my oldest son, I was hit and miss in helping him with math. I changed math programs so many times looking for the ultimate self-teaching program! This only led to frustration for both my son and for me. In the end, he did manage to get through the needed math programs without me. However, it would have been far better and much less frustrating had I stayed the course with a math program. It also would have been better if I stayed with him to be able to help him along the way.

What are the benefits of staying with your child for math?

With our next three sons, who have varying math abilities, I have stayed with them for math. I quickly go over the textbook first. Then, I watch over them as they get underway on their assignments to be sure they’re started right. Last, I stay close while they work and help them through any frustrations. I have re-learned math along with my boys. What a different experience my next three boys have had with math, simply because of how I approached it!

Make staying with your child for math a priority!

I encourage you to make staying with your child for math a priority. This doesn’t mean you need to devote an hour to math per child per day. Instead, it means you should be there to teach 5-15 min. at the beginning of the lesson. Next, guide your student for another 5-10 minutes. Then, check-in closely while your child works. If you can’t find the time to be present for math, consider assigning another mathematical child in your family to help. Partner with your child to be successful in math. It will reap untold benefits whether your child is mathy or not!

Blessings,
Carrie

Free Writing Versus Written Narration Writing

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

The Positive Impact of Written Narrations and the Negative Impact of “Free Writing”

Charlotte Mason loved living books. Living books are page-turners; they are the books you just cannot put down. They beg to be shared, both in conversation (oral narration) and in writing (written narration). When children connect with something, they long to share that connection. Narration, whether oral or written, provides a natural way to share those connections with others – namely, with us! Their homeschool parents! Young children begin their narrations in an oral format, but they soon move on to sharing their narrations in a written format. When our children write written narrations, they begin to develop their own writing style and learn important editing skills. Unfortunately, “free writing” teaches neither of these things. Let’s see why!

Free Writing Versus Written Narration Writing

Free writing is popular in some public schools. Children are encouraged to free write on any topic that strikes their fancy. I am all for creative writing! But, free writing, well, that belongs in your private journal tucked away in your room for your own personal record of your random thoughts. To really develop your own writing style, nothing beats reading excellent living books and sharing what you remember. Why? Well, authors of excellent books have some pretty amazing writing styles! Somewhere within the meshing of all those incredible writing styles, your children’s own personal style will emerge. Maybe there will be a little Jane Austen mixed with a little Shakespeare, or a little Ben Franklin mixed with a little William J. Bennett. There is much to be learned from timeless authors of living books. How exciting to see our own children’s writing styles emerging with shades of the ‘greats’!

No to Little Editing Versus Daily Editing

Teachers don’t usually edit free writing. Why? Well, random thoughts are hard to edit. Not to mention, free writing can tend to go on and on, with no real stopping point. Often, children are encouraged to let their thoughts flow. Writing with proper punctuation, capitalization, and mechanics and usage is not really emphasized as the ‘flow’ might be lost. The result is lengthy free writing that unfortunately often flows with ample spelling errors and meager use of capitalization and punctuation. Written narrations, on the other hand, are shared and corrected immediately (ideally, that is). This encourages the use of proper punctuation, capitalization, and mechanics and usage. It also encourages pausing to really ponder what you want to say and how you want to say it.

Free writing isn’t all that freeing because no one really wants to read it.

Most children don’t find free writing all that freeing. Why? Well, it often seems no one really wants to read it. In fact, children often don’t even want to reread their own free writing. Can you imagine a daily assigned free writing time? Every day of the school year? Your blank pages of your lined composition book stare up at you. What will you free write about today? Oh, the pressure of finding a worthy topic! In contrast, Charlotte Mason removes that pressure. Children know the topics of their written narrations; the topics are the amazing living books they just read! Likewise, children know we, as the parents, will read and help edit their written narrations.

Written narrations beg to be read. They are a window into our children’s hearts, souls, and minds. They have depth. Never underestimate the power of the written narration. Free write on the side. Written narrations? They craft the future ‘timeless’ writers, and who knows? That could be your child.

In Christ,

Julie