Nine year old daughter – finish Beyond or start Bigger?

Pondering Placement

Placement Advice for My 9 yo Daughter 

Hello to Heart of Dakota! I hope you can help me! I need some placement advice for my 9 yo daughter. She is currently placed in Beyond…, and we are completing Unit 20. I feel like I have messed up her elementary years, so I am looking at the placement chart and seeking advice. She has struggled greatly with reading since we started, but she is working through the emerging readers now. We are currently reading the Christian Liberty Nature Reader. She now reads independently American Girl books and Magic Treehouse books, usually on her own in 2-3 days.

A Closer Look at Her Placement for Language Arts and Math

As for writing, she copies one stanza of the Beyond poem a day in about 10 minutes. Writing and copying is her least favorite part of school. Part of me wonders if it is because I have pushed her too much. I tend to be quite the perfectionist, so if she writes something that isn’t her best, I make her write it over. We are currently working through Spelling List 1 (Unit 20). As for language arts, we are working through the activities in the Beyond guide. And for math, I have intended to buy the Bigger guide and Singapore 2A and 2B. But, life circumstances put this on the back burner.

So, should I finish Beyond…, or start Bigger?

As for the length of the school day, it seems appropriate. She is my very creative child, so she tends to drag the “fun” activities out. I tend to save those for last. She LOVES Beyond, and her favorite part of the day is history and storytime.  So, should I continue to plug along with Beyond until we finish? Thanks in advance for your advice!

Carrie’s Reply:

Thanks so much for taking time to share about your daughter in regard to the placement chart! It really helps to gain an even fuller picture of your daughter’s skill level in various areas. I think from what you’ve shared, I see two possible options. Keeping in mind the fact that she is 9 and also keeping in mind her current skill level, I do think that she could begin Bigger Hearts now. I think it would stretch her in a good way.

She sounds ready to begin Bigger Hearts overall!

She may have to ease into some of the copywork length-wise, and you would have to be prepared to help her with the vocabulary cards and the notebooking assignments quite a bit, but that is true for most kiddos beginning Bigger Hearts. You could go half-speed for a little while to ease her into the guide, but then I do think it would be a good idea to pop up to full speed within a month or two if at all possible.

This would allow you to get her started on her English, get her going on the math she needs, and address her growth in reading. She would do List 2 in spelling, just beginning with the first set of words as directed in the plans.

But, a second option is to finish Beyond, but add to the language arts and math.

The second option I see, if you do not desire to begin Bigger Hearts now, is to add English 2 (doing a lesson a day) and Singapore 2A/2B to Beyond. You will also be adding DITHR to Beyond coming up as your daughter finishes the Emerging Reader set. This would be a back-up option if you feel that Bigger would be too big of a jump.

Typically, we do not recommend skipping forward in a guide, but with the gains that your daughter has made in reading and writing, and in looking at the placement chart with fresh eyes based on her age, I would say that your situation is an exception and your daughter could do Bigger Hearts if you feel it is best.

Blessings,

Carrie

 

 

Tired and Overwhelmed Young Homeschool Mom Asking for Help

Dear Carrie,

I am a young overwhelmed homeschool mom who needs some tips to help us be more productive with homeschooling. My daughter is in 1st grade in Heart of Dakota now. Last year I overbooked us with too many extracurricular activities. Lesson learned! This year we bought a house, moved, had a baby, and just sold our first home on Friday. But, I feel like I am drowning and cannot accomplish much of anything. My children are 7, 3, and 3 months. I have made reading and math a priority, but I cannot seem to keep us disciplined to do Little Hearts full-speed on a daily basis. She might even be ready for Beyond…, but I’m afraid to introduce a guide that takes longer when we cannot even finish LHFHG.

I think the biggest problem area for us is that I do not start my day early enough. I am NOT a morning person, and the waking every 3 hours to nurse does not help. My shower in the morning is my coffee, but that puts an even later start to the morning. Meal planning and prepping is another big drain! It seems to take at least 1-1.5 hrs to get everyone fed and the dishes cleaned after every meal. And dinners take longer! My oldest loves Heart of Dakota when we get to it! I’d love to start my 3 yo with Little Hands… when she turns 4 yo soon. Thank you in advance from a very tired and overwhelmed mommy!

Sincerely,

“Please Help This Tired and Overwhelmed Mommy Make Time for Homeschooling”

 

Dear “Please Help This Tired and Overwhelmed Mommy Make Time for Homeschooling,”

Thank you for sharing here! My tips vary a bit due to your specific situation, but I want to encourage you! Small changes make big gains! Since you’ve just moved and have a new little one, you are in a transition phase in life. With this in mind, I would seek to do the following:

Not everyone is a morning person!
  1. Accept that you are not a morning person. I am not one either. With this in mind, set a time that you can realistically begin school each day, and then stick to it. I began school at 9:00 or 9:30 for many years (until my older sons, who are more morning-focused workers could get up on their own and begin without me)!
Focus on half-speed LHFHG for 45 minutes by setting aside distractions.
  1. Make sure that when you begin school you are focused on school. Set aside the distractions (i.e. mess, phone ringing, doorbell ringing, laundry, meals, texting, computer) as much as possible. For now, I would downsize to half-speed LHFHG. Do the left page one day and the right side the next. Do this until your house gets in order. It will only take 45 min. a day this way, and you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel! You can still do reading every day but make sure that it takes 15 min. or less to do reading. You can alternate days of math, doing it every other day for now until your house gets into shape. Can you set aside everything except school and caring for your little ones for 45 min. a day? Definitely. At the end of the year, you can assess again and see if she is ready for Beyond. For now, use the materials that you already have and work on moving through LHFHG steadily until year end. Think of this as much about routine as it is about the skills.
You can start Little Hands… half-speed with your little one.
  1. When you get ready to start your little one on LHTH, do it half-speed too. This means 3-4 boxes one day and the other 3-4 the next day. This will add 15 min. to your day. Can you school for an hour a day total every day? Yes! Manageable goals done every day mean steady progress forward. This is better than random forward motion.
Plan how your kiddos will spend the rest of their day to buy yourself extra time for other tasks.
  1. Next, have some sort of plan every 30-45 min. or so for your kiddos throughout the rest of the day. This may sound exhausting, but in reality it will save your sanity. List all of the things each child does throughout the day, and make a loose schedule for each child to keep them rotating along through things during the day (changing every 30-45 min). Use your timer to time their activities and have them clean up when the timer rings. Doing this will buy you 30 min. here and there throughout the day that you wouldn’t get otherwise.
Routine breakfasts and lunches save the day!
  1. Make a routine easy breakfast menu that is the same every week for Mon-Fri. Do the same for lunch. Type it and post it on the fridge. Enlist your older child to help make breakfast and lunch. Keep the menu easy prep-wise and clean-up wise. Having the same menu each week for breakfast and lunch helps you know what to shop for and helps your kiddos know what to get out when it is time to eat. It will cut down significant time in preparation and clean up too. Make dinner your bigger meal and use your crock pot for that as much as possible to save you prep. before dinner. Assign each child a “set the table” and a “clean-up after meals” chore(s) to do. Keep the chores the same all the time, so your kiddos get good at them and always know what “their” chores are to do automatically.
This is a good time to set routines that help get your house and homeschooling in order!
  1. Think of this time as a time to get your house in order, grow your baby up a bit, set some routines in place, and figure out how to calm the chaos. Start schooling steadily at a similar (realistic) time every day and school in a similar order. If you do this for even a week or two, you’ll begin to see the benefits! Make sure you allow yourself to sleep when you can. Think of this as a plan you’re striving to work up to! You can do this!!!

 

Blessings,

Carrie

P.S. Please check out our new youtube video that has an overview of Little Hands to Heaven!  Please ‘like’ and ‘subscribe’ to help us become ‘branded!’  Thanks!!!

Kindergarten or First Grade with Heart of Dakota: A Solid Start and a Great First Impression to Homeschooling

From Our House to Yours

Little Hearts for His Glory 

Kindergarten and/or first grade is such an exciting ‘first’ for our children, isn’t it?  They are at the age where we feel we are truly starting their schooling.  It’s exciting and worrisome to us parents all at once!  Because children are not required to do kindergarten in South Dakota where we live, kindergarten became our ‘let’s give homeschooling a try’ year.  My husband was not so sure.  I was not so sure I was so sure.  But, the risk seemed minimal, as we didn’t have to ‘do’ anything to declare we were homeschooling. So, we decided to give it a try and use Little Hearts for His Glory!  Written for 5-7 year olds, it seemed just right!  With a choice of resources for LA, math, Bible, and science, it recognized our little one  was more ‘kindergarten’ in one area and more ‘first grade’ in another. But, I could just customize the homeschool year for him, so it didn’t matter!

A Happy Start Equals a Strong Finish

Well, fast forward, and I guess we must have liked it!  We just graduated our oldest son, having done Heart of Dakota all the way to 12th grade.  For the record, best thing we’ve ever done.  Part of the reason we loved homeschooling so much all these years was our happy start to it!  First, with Little Hands to Heaven.  But, then really next with Little Hearts for His GloryI could just tell we’d found our ‘home’ in homeschooling.

A Complete Kindergarten Or First Grade That Leaves Time for Naps and for Play

I’m old enough to remember kindergarten being half-days.  Morning kindergarten.  Afternoon kindergarten.  Why did they do half-days?  Well, I think they realized little ones couldn’t be in school all day. Their attention span just wasn’t up to that long of a day, and neither was their energy level.  Naps.  Little ones need naps or at least down time.  They just tucker out.

I remember my mom sharing how when she subbed for kindergarten, little ones during nap time on mats would inch close to her.  One by one nap time mats moved as close to her as possible until they could almost touch her.  I think they just wanted to feel close to her. Well, I loved how close my little ones felt to me doing Little Hearts for His Glory!  I also loved how we did enough school to cover all the bases, while still leaving time to nap and to play.

Children wonder what school will be like, and their start to it makes its mark on their forever impression of school.

In homeschooling, kindergarten or first grade is a child’s first impression of what ‘real’ school will look like.  Children wonder. Will they be good at school?  Is school going to be interesting?  Will school be fun? Is school going to overtake all of their life so there is no free time left?  Will their teacher love them?  Well, praise the Lord, yes, at least to the last ‘wondering’ question.  Their teacher in homeschooling will love them.  But, the rest of the questions are good food for thought!

Little Hearts for His Glory answers children’s ‘wondering’ questions with a resounding ‘you will love homeschooling and be good at it too!’

Enter Little Hearts for His Glory!  Thorough? Yes.  Complete – all subject covered!  But, to name the nuts and bolts – formal phonics, daily handwriting, fine motor skills, math with hands-on activities, and read alouds with follow-up skills.  Interesting?  Yes!  A one year chronological sweep of history via amazing books, cuddle up reading time via more amazing books, science experiments via even more amazing books.  Fun? Uhh, yes.  Science experiments, dramatic play, art activities, rhymes in motion, and critical thinking games. Christ-centered?  Yes.  Please, let us start our homeschooling with Christ – He is the foundation after all, right?!? Bible study, corresponding music, devotional time together.

So to sum it up…

First, Little Hearts… is history-focused and Christ-centered:
  • Bible Memory Work
  • Devotional Topics
  • Science Discovery
  • Art Projects
  • Dramatic Play
  • Thinking Games
  • Rhymes
  • Gross Motor Skills
  • Music

Second, Little Hearts… focuses on integral language arts and math skills. It includes the areas listed below:

So, first impressions are important!

It feels like the pressure of the world beginning homeschooling.  There is bound to be opposition.  Family may not support you. Friends may not understand you. Acquaintances/the world may skeptically question you.  Deep down, you may not even be sure what you are doing is right.  Well, deep breath.  Little Hearts… has you covered.  Children begin their homeschooling learning all they need to know while still thinking ‘Wow! This isn’t so hard after all!  I am GOOD at school!’  Likewise, parents begin their homeschooling equipped with all they need to know while still thinking ‘Wow!  This isn’t so hard after all!  I am GOOD at homeschooling!’

Bonus for both parent and child – school doesn’t take all day!

1  1/2 hours a day. That is totally doable for child and parent! No pre-planning or late night prep work gathering strange supplies.  Moreover, no weekend have-to trips to the library.  Finally, no last minute make this or that to have the homeschool day work.   Just get up, open your guide, and enjoy your teaching!  Your little ones will be able to show you their best because their day is not overly long.  They can actually pay attention and give you their 100% best!  Likewise, you’ll be able to give them your best for the same reason.  Kindergarten/first grade is what makes or breaks homeschooling.  So why not start knowing you’ll be able to finish?

So, there you have it!  I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting Little Hearts for His Glory!  Next time, I’ll introduce you to Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory! In the meantime, enjoy checking out the printable Introduction and first week of plans of Little Hearts and our 10 most commonly asked questions!

In Christ,

Julie

P.S.  If you check out the placement chart and your little 5 yo is not quite ready for Little Hearts…, click here to check out Little Hands to Heaven!  And don’t worry about ‘missing’ using Little Hearts – remember you can just use it for first grade!

Summer is a great time to work on math fact practice

Teaching Tip 

Summer is a great time to work on math fact practice.

Summer is a good time to work on firming up needed skills. Math fact practice is an easy skill to work into your summer. It is important for kiddos to memorize their addition facts and their multiplication facts. Once children know their addition and multiplication facts, they often automatically know their subtraction and division facts.

When should children learn their math facts?

Public schools often have little ones learning their addition facts as early as first grade. They typically have students learning their multiplication facts as early as third grade. I tend to be on the later side for working on memorization of facts. I usually wait until the end of second grade or third grade to make sure kiddos have their addition facts down. I’ll wait until the end of fourth or even fifth grade for drill of multiplication facts.

Why wait to drill the math facts?

I tend to wait for several reasons. First, I want to give the child every chance to learn these facts on his/her own through the math curriculum. Second, I want the child to see the need for learning the facts to solve math problems more quickly. Third, I want the child to understand the “why” behind the “how,” or the meaning of what he/she is memorizing. Whenever your child learns his/her facts, summer is a great time to work on this important area.

How can you make easy flashcards for drilling your child?

One easy way to do this is to cut index cards in half. Use the cut cards to make a set of addition cards for the 0’s. Make separate cards for 0+1, 0+2, 0+3, 0+4, 0+5, 0+6… all the way up to 0+12. Use a black marker on a white card to write the facts. Then, use a pencil to very lightly write the answer on the back of the card. To conceal the answer better, you can put a small piece of masking tape on the back of the card. Then, write the answer lightly in pencil on top of the tape. After your child has learned the 0’s set, make a set of cards like this for the 1’s. Continue making sets of cards for the 2’s, 3’s, and so on…up through the 12’s.

What simple process can you use to help your child learn the facts?

Set a time limit that your child must meet to “pass” the set of cards. 15-20 seconds is a good range, depending on the child. Time your child in passing the 0’s. Give an appropriate small reward once the child passes the 0’s. Then, move on to the 1’s. This same process works well for memorizing multiplication facts. Have the child practice only one set of cards each day and come to you when ready to test.

How can you motivate your child to learn the facts?

We paid our kiddos a quarter each time they passed a set of cards. We gave them a dollar upon completion of all 12 sets of cards. You can structure this any way that works for you.

What are the benefits of this method of fact memorization?

This method of memorization has several benefits. Memorizing a small set of cards at a time that follow a pattern is so helpful. Plus, the black writing on the white card really impresses the fact’s image in the child’s memory bank. Once the cards are made, you can save them for future kiddos! Try it and see what you think!

Blessings,
Carrie

Nature Journals Done Charlotte Mason Style in MTMM

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

Nature Journals Done Charlotte Mason Style

Point to some lovely flower or gracious tree, not only as a beautiful work, but a beautiful thought of God.  (Charlotte Mason, Vol. 1, page 80)

Hiking in God’s Creation As a Family

When I see a beautiful sunrise or sunset, I catch my breath!  Not only because I am looking at something lovely, but because I see the Creator in it!  Psalm 19:1  The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.

Sunrise in South Dakota

I believe this is what Charlotte Mason saw, and that is why she loved the idea of keeping a nature journal!  Many of us have read Charlotte Mason’s Volumes, and we long to instill this love of nature in our children.  We aspire to our children looking at nature in awe.  But, more so, we hope our children look deeply at nature in awe, and the closer they look, they delight in God’s hand in it all.

Our ideal picture of keeping a nature journal may not match our reality of trying to keep a nature journal.

I see many a homeschool moms trying to duplicate Charlotte Mason’s ideal picture of keeping a nature journal in their daily lives.  However, time constraints, weather constraints, and just daily life’s constraints and responsibilities prevent nature walks and nature journals from happening.  As a young mom, I remember being incredibly inspired to keep a nature  journal having read Charlotte Mason’s works.  I recall taking my little sons on a nature walk.  I believe my oldest son was 4 years old, and my youngest was just barely 1 year old and in a stroller.  Our house was in town, and not in the most affluent area, mind you.  We were young, and the house we could afford had a very small backyard.  As we walked, there wasn’t much nature; there was much concrete.

A Failed Nature Walk

We tried to sketch bugs, frogs, and butterflies.  I was upset my 4 year old son’s nature journal entries looked more like unknown blobs.  I took it over, sketched the best frog I could, and had him rewrite the word ‘frog’ a few times so it was legible as a caption.  Failure.  I knew it.  NOT, what Charlotte Mason envisioned.  My son actually asked me to put aside the nature journal, as it just didn’t ‘turn out right.’ Hmmmm.  Not what I was hoping for in a nature walk.

Nature Journals As a Focus in MTMM

It turned out my sons just needed to mature a little.  They needed years in the Psalms in the Bible and in lovely Christian-based studies of life science to appreciate nature. In short, they needed to love God’s creation and mature.  I also needed to mature.  It became clear, I needed to realize I couldn’t do everything well all at once.  Hence, the reason nature journals are added as the focus of one of the Heart of Dakota guides.  Missions to Modern Marvels (MTMM) to be exact!  One year to hone in on this, to do it right, to make a nature journal my sons felt proud of!  There are other years Heart of Dakota guides include the concept of ‘nature journals’ as well.  Just in the form of science notebooking entries, amazing God-honoring experiments, outdoor activities, etc.  But, nature journals themselves SHINE in MTMM!

One of Riley’s Nature Journal Entries
Skills leading up to nature journals help students keep a nature journal they are proud of!

So, as you are feeling inspired yet overwhelmed by Charlotte Mason’s ideals on nature walks and nature journals, know they are coming! They are an amazing part of MTMM, and they will come at a time your child can actually feel proud of what they are recording in their nature journals.  Other HOD guides lay the groundwork for this.  John Audubon’s bird studies, Arabella Buckeley’s plant and bird studies, Fulbright’s astronomy study, and so many more – lead the way for students to truly be able to fully enjoy the compilation of a nature journal!  Likewise, step-by-step Draw and Write… drawing assignments,  history projects, history notebooking entries, and science experiments help students acquire the skills necessary to be able to create a nature journal they can be proud of.

Classic poetry study further inspires nature journal entries!
MTMM draws upon all students have learned previously, so they can keep a nature journal they love!

So, this blog’s focus is Charlotte Mason’s nature journals and how HOD has this covered in such a beautiful way that you don’t have to feel the need to add it on your own to other years!  HOD’s guides all include celebrating and showcasing a love of the Creator’s handiwork.  But, MTMM draws upon all children have learned previously, so they can focus on keeping a nature journal they’ll love for years to come.

Common topics for nature journals make it easy to keep a journal wherever you live!
Two days in each unit of MTMM focus on nature journaling using lessons from Nature Drawing and Journaling.  In this book, award-winning artist Barry Stebbing shares 40 years’ worth of insights on studying nature and keeping a nature journal. Full-color illustrations, inspirational quotes, journal entries, and copies of Stebbing’s own journal will have you making your own Charlotte-Mason style nature journal in no time.
You may find you want to keep your own journal alongside your student! But, no comparing – every journal is precious to the one creating it!
Clear instructions, poignant reflections, and space for your work are provided in this spiral-bound softcover book. Also plans include over 47 nature-related art lessons to guide your student in learning to sketch and appreciate the outdoors. Art lessons and nature journal sessions are scheduled twice weekly for the student to enjoy in Missions to Modern Marvels. The nature-themed poetry of Wordsworth, Longfellow, and Whitman is scheduled once weekly to enhance the nature journal sessions.
William Wordsworth’s Poetry
Nature journals are covered beautifully in HOD, so there is no need to try to ‘add them in’ other years.
So, rest assured!  Nature journals Charlotte Mason-style are a part of HOD’s guides.  First, in the form of loving the Lord’s Creation. Next, in the way of learning to draw and record thoughts well. Finally, in the fruition of keeping a nature journal in MTMM.  I hope this helps you enjoy the journey of Charlotte Mason style skills leading up to the actual keeping of a nature journal in MTMM, knowing this is covered beautifully in HOD already!!!
Have fun seeing your own student’s nature journal come to life in MTMM!
In Christ,
Julie