When will it all come together for my 11-year-old?!?

From Our House to Yours

When will it all come together for my 11-year-old?

I recently visited with a mom whose 11-year-old son was doing Resurrection to Reformation (RTR). She had multiple children using Heart of Dakota. All were doing exceptionally well, except her oldest son. He’d misplace his books. When doing his history project, he’d do steps 1, 3, and 5. Though usually good at copywork, he’d misspell his timeline captions or Shakespeare quotes. In grammar, he’d forget the oral review question answers. When writing his narration, he’d write Unit 13’s narration in Unit 14’s box. She said he was a bright boy who did amazing with his guide overall! But, it was the little things that were getting missed! She told me she was fine helping him, as long as it would come to an end. She said, It WILL come to an end sometime, won’t it? I mean, when will it all come together for my 11-year-old?

11 Year-Olds Have a Lot Going On

I laughed and asked if she’d been homeschooling MY son because they did the same things. However, I told her I had one ace-in-the-hole. I knew it would pass! And the reason I knew it would pass was this particular son was my last, and I’d been through this with my older sons back when they were about 11 to 12 years old. 11-year-olds have a LOT going on. There is a reason From Boy to Man (and From Girl to Woman), as well as What Is God’s Design for My Body?, are a part of RTR. Sometimes you can’t even see a whole lot of change happening on the outside. However, there is much going on, both inside and outside for 11-year-olds. It can make them distracted. They can lose focus. Not to mention, all of this happens at a time when school is getting harder!

What can be done to help our 11 year-olds?

So, what can be done to help our 11-year-olds? Well, what we can do is stick to the plan. It’s not flashy, I know, but it works. At a time when everything is changing for our 11-year-olds, what they need more than anything is consistency. Emotions running wild? We as moms need to remain calm. Work not complete? We as moms need to help them complete it. Papers in disarray or books lost? We as moms need to help find them. Oh, you don’t feel like writing 8-12 sentences for your narration today? Too bad, it’s in the plans, so we do it. Frustrated with math and wanting to quit? Take a breather, but then we’ll finish it together. Our 11-year-olds need us as moms to step in the gap and be the calm and the consistency they crave. It’s not easy, but it works!

A Student Planner That Teaches Time Management

One amazing blessing of Heart of Dakota is the way the guides are designed. As children grow and mature, rather than just being teachers’ guides, the guides become student planners too. Children take their guide in hand and follow it for their “I” and for (a portion of) their “S” boxes. So, little by little, our 11-year-olds start to see they have some control over their school day. They begin to understand that how they manage their time determines how long their school day takes. Likewise, they see how carefully they follow directions impacts how much time school take because redoing work takes more time. Of course, they only realize these things if we as moms are consistent in expecting their work to be fully completed. That is why it is so important we make sure they ‘stick to the plan.’

So, when will it all come together for our 11-year-olds?

So, WILL this come to an end at some point?!? Will there be a time that it all comes together for our kiddos? Yes, it will! But, maybe not when they’re 11. For my son, who is now a 12-year-old, everything came together about a month ago. All I can say is he just turned the corner. He sets his own alarm each morning and gets up. If he finishes a box early, he goes on to the next one. When we meet, he has his work done. His writing is neat. He rarely misspells things within copywork. He’s doing all the steps for his projects. He often finishes school early. I just praise God for it! Is he perfect? No. However, he is working hard to manage his time and do his best. This is far different from when he was 11 years old. Mission accomplished!

In Closing

At a time when we as homeschool moms can feel weary, we need to stay strong with high expectations for our 11-year-olds. By consistently expecting them to complete all of their guide’s plans, they in turn learn to manage their time, to focus better, and to do their best work the first time. Whatever we do – we cannot open the door to discussions about ‘if’ they must do all that is assigned; very quickly this becomes a daily battle. Rather, we can plan to set the bar high for all their work to be completed consistently each day. Given time, we will reap a bountiful harvest! Trust me – it is a harvest that keeps producing fruit year after year, guide after guide, all the way to high school graduation. And it all starts at about 11 years old.

In Christ,

Julie

Learning letter sounds and shapes is exciting!

Teaching Tip:

Learning letter sounds and shapes is exciting!

Learning the letter sounds and shapes is an exciting time for a child. It is a time when the “code” of reading and writing is unlocked. It is also a stage when children begin to realize a whole new world is opening up to them.

Do you have a child who is learning the letter sounds/shapes for the first time?

If you have a child learning the letter sounds/shapes for the first time, it is a good idea to keep in mind the varying ways children learn. For many kiddos, phonics instruction needs to encompass auditory, visual, and bodily kinesthetic activities. This means instruction needs to involve more than just a child’s eyes and ears. It is often helpful for learning to involve the body as well.

Often we expect children to learn letter sounds and shapes from passive activities.

Often we expect kiddos to pick up and retain letter sounds/shapes from watching letter-based shows (which is a passive activity). Or, perhaps we expect our kiddos to learn letter sounds and shapes by playing letter-based computer games. Even though this is a less passive activity, it is still mainly eye and ear based. While there is nothing wrong with these types of activities, it is good to pair them with something less passive. Often there is improved retention of letter sounds and shapes if we actually involve a child’s whole body in the learning process.

How can learning the letter sounds and shapes be a bodily-kinesthetic activity?

Little Hands to Heaven uses kiddos’ large and small motor skills in conjunction with their eyes and ears to learn letter sounds and shapes. The guide incorporates a wide variety of bodily activities to get kiddos moving and learning at the same time. For example, kiddos trace large masking tape letters on the floor by tiptoeing on the outline of the letter. As they trace the letter, they say the letter sound. When they reach the end of the letter…they jump off! Kiddos also glue cereal pieces, raisins, or marshmallows on marker outlines of letters. Or, they may trace a letter outline on construction paper using an ice cube or paint. Through a corresponding finger play each week, kiddos learn hand motions to signify each letter sound. As a flashcard for the letter is shown, kiddos say the sound along with demonstrating the corresponding hand motion. These are just a few of the activities in Little Hands to Heaven that make learning a whole body experience.

What if your child already knows the letter sounds?

Even if your child already knows the letter sounds, he/she will still benefit from the activities in Little Hands to Heaven. This is because these activities are also designed to hone large and small motor skills. The exercises in the guide also strengthen eye tracking skills needed for reading. All of these skills are a great help as children begin to read and write!

No matter what type of learner you have, Little Hands to Heaven is designed to address their needs.

Since Little Hands to Heaven was written with all types of learners in mind, it encompasses all learning styles. This means that no matter what type of learner you have, Little Hands to Heaven was written for you! Taking only 30 minutes each day, Little Hands to Heaven is a Bible-based readiness program that takes no planning or preparation. Designed for ages 2-5, Little Hands to Heaven will help you create wonderful memories with your child using fun learning that seems like play! If you have little ones, consider Little Hands to Heaven today!

Blessings,

Carrie

Tried and True Tips for Independent Readers to Improve Their Narrations

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

Tips to Encourage Independent Readers to Improve Their Oral Narrations 

We all know oral narrations are an important part of a Charlotte Mason education. However, most of us didn’t grow up giving oral narrations ourselves. Instead, we grew up with fill-in-the blank, true/false, and multiple-choice quizzes and tests. As we more than likely promptly forgot everything we ‘learned’ after we took the quiz or test, we know this assessment method is often not very successful (not to mention not very enjoyable). So, while on one hand we may know oral narrations make great sense to do, on the other hand we may feel we don’t quite know how to help our children improve their narrating. Well, that is the topic of this blog post! Today, I’ll be sharing tried and true tips you can use to encourage your independent readers to improve their oral narrations!

Tips for Setting Children Up for Success

These tips help us set our children up for success in narrating before they even begin! First, before they begin reading, we can give a very brief overview of what happened last time in the book. This jogs their memory and takes them back to where they left off in their reading. Second, we can simply tell them they will be giving an oral narration when they are done reading. It seems like a little thing, but children read more carefully knowing they will be narrating when they are done. Third, right before they are going to narrate, we can help by skimming the book ourselves. Let me stress the ‘skimming’ part of this tip. Rather than reading the entire book, we can instead skim the small section our children will be narrating upon right before they narrate. This helps us make sure they are on topic when giving their narration.

Tips for Encouraging Our Children While They Are Narrating

These tips are going to seem simple, but they are actually quite hard to remember to do. After our children have finished reading, the first thing we can do to help is just to remind them what an oral narration actually is. We can do this by simply saying, Okay! Remember, an oral narration is telling me in your own words all you can about what you just read. Second, we need to be holding the book in our hands, open to the first page that they read; children should not be holding the book and looking at it themselves unless assigned to do so (i.e. like in high school highlighted oral narrations).  Third, and this is sometimes the hard part, we should listen animatedly without interrupting. I find I listen most animatedly when I am sitting down, near my children, making eye contact and smiling encouragingly.

Tips for Encouraging Our Children After They Are Done Narrating

Once our children finish narrating, the first tip I have is simply to say something positive. I might compliment my children for sticking to the topic, for sharing a neat quote, for narrating in a good order, for using proper names of people/events/places, for using good expression, for starting strong with a good beginning, for ending well with a good concluding sentence, for sharing a really interesting or important part of the reading well, for sounding like the author, for being excited as they narrated, for ‘becoming’ the person in the story, for finding their own ‘style’ in narrating, etc. Being genuinely positive about narrating helps our children feel more positive about narrating.

Tips for Improvements

Next, I share a few things my children can improve on. For example, it’s important to get numbers right (i.e. millions – not thousands – died in the Holocaust), or names right (i.e. King Louis the 14th – not the 16th), or places right (i.e. New England – not England). Or, I might ask them to try to start their sentences with something other than “And then.” I might ask them to omit a word they are overusing or a poor word (i.e. ‘basically,’ or ‘stuff’, or ‘ummmm’). If the order was off, I might suggest they try to tell something from the beginning, middle, and end next time. Or, if they narrated in a monotone voice, I might narrate a few sentences myself in a monotone voice and then in an animated voice to show the difference. If they were off topic, I might have them read the key idea for help next time.

In Closing

In closing, even though we may not have grown up orally narrating, we can still help our children learn to narrate well. These tried and true tips help children gain confidence and gradually improve their narrating. Often times, when we choose to be positive, our children respond positively in return. We set the tone, and it is important to share more positives than negatives, especially at the start. These tips help set the stage for a positive narrating experience.  Try some of them, and see how they go! Happy narrating!

In Christ,
Julie

 

Help My 2nd Grader Grow into the Amount of Writing in Bigger Hearts

Dear Carrie

How can I help my 2nd grader grow into the amount of writing planned in Bigger Hearts?

My son is in 2nd grade and doing HOD‘s Bigger Hearts for His Glory. He loves it all, except the amount of writing. He does poetry copywork every day and sometimes Bible verses. Additionally, he writes within his science notebooking, dictation, and sometimes history activity writing. I switched him to doing Rod and Staff 2 orally because he couldn’t handle the writing. He also does one sheet daily from Abeka’s language arts. All of this together is too much for him. He is overwhelmed, and his handwriting is getting worse. I would say in a day, he does the Abeka sheet and one other area mentioned above. I’ve been doing Rod and Staff 2 with him orally. I placed him in Bigger Hearts, and I think it is the right placement. But, how can I help him grow into the amount of writing he should be doing?

Sincerely,

“Ms. Please Help My 2nd Grader Grow into the Amount of Writing in Bigger Hearts”

Dear “Ms. Please Help My 2nd Grader Grow into the Amount of Writing in Bigger Hearts,”

First of all, take a moment to rejoice that your kiddo is doing well and enjoying Bigger overall. That is a wonderful thing! Next, I just want to encourage you that many kiddos struggle with writing of ANY sort. It is something to grow into, just like learning to read or learning to do math problems.

To reduce the amount of writing, I recommend doing most of Rod and Staff orally.

As far as English, there’s no need to do Abeka in addition to Rod and Staff. So, I’d pick one or the other. Since your little guy doesn’t enjoy writing, I’d choose Rod and Staff, as it is easy to do orally. In the Introduction to Bigger, I actually recommend doing almost all of Rod and Staff orally, and only assigning one small portion to be done in writing each day. So, you’re actually doing Rod and Staff the way we intended by doing it almost all orally!

We rotate assignments to keep the amount of writing in balance each day.

Next, in the daily plans, we actually rotate the writing assignments around, so you’re not doing all of those writing assignments on any one given day. So, make sure you’re following the plans as written, and that will help you not to get overloaded with too much writing.

Try reducing the amount of writing by omitting the optional poetry copywork.

As far as writing activities go, you’ll need to keep the scheduled dictation. However, you can reduce the amount of writing by omitting the poetry copywork. In Bigger Hearts, the poetry copywork is only suggested but not scheduled daily or required. If your little one is doing cursive, then the poetry copywork could be skipped. I know that we didn’t do it with my second son, and it was fine.

Other Suggestions for Lessening the Amount of Writing

That will leave one other writing something each day to be done (either copying a Bible verse, doing a history notebook assignment, doing a science notebook assignment, or doing a science experiment form). With each of those assignments, you can lessen the amount of writing by writing the beginning part of a sentence or even a sentence or two for your son. Then, just have your sweetie finish the rest. You can gradually move up to requiring a little more of it to be written by the student until you eventually work up to full-speed by the end of the year. Make sure not to do more than one vocabulary word either (and you can even do the writing for your student on that one, taking dictation, until he can work up to doing it himself).

Many kiddos need to grow into the amount of writing required, so just ease into it to find success!

Writing will always be an area that takes some growing into for MANY kiddos. No matter what program you use, there will be writing required. Just allow your child to ease into it, gradually moving up as he’s able, and you’ll eventually find success!

Blessings,
Carrie

P.S. Looking for ideas for going half-speed in Bigger Hearts or in Preparing Hearts with a child for other reasons?  Click here to find some half-speed options with daily language arts and math!

Books make wonderful Christmas gifts!

Teaching Tip:

Are you bombarded with gift ideas this Christmas?

With the upcoming Christmas season quickly approaching, it is easy to get bombarded with gift ideas.  Toys, clothes, digital gifts, and games are often the gifts advertisers target for children.  As a momma of boys, I am always looking for a gift my sons will love. 

Books make wonderful Christmas gifts.

One thing I often forget in the search for the perfect gift is that books make wonderful Christmas gifts.  Books are not expensive and can be reread or passed down to another child to be read again. Books rarely “break” like toys do.  They are not outgrown as easily as clothes.  Books do not go out-of-date quickly, so they can be picked up and enjoyed long after Christmas is over.  Plus, reading is something a child can do alone! Only one person is needed to enjoy a good book.

Warning:  As gifts, books do not usually get an overly enthusiastic response from the recipient.

When my boys open books as gifts, they aren’t always overly enthused with them (even though my boys are avid readers).  Other gifts typically get a more enthusiastic reaction.  However, once Christmas is over, and the other gifts have lost their luster, the books come off the shelf.  

After Christmas, I often find my boys cuddled up in blankets…reading.

Once the busyness of Christmas is over, my boys are often cuddled up in various rooms of the house reading… reading… reading.  I discover them late at night in their beds…reading, begging to be allowed to read just one more chapter.  I find them in the bath…reading. I hear them talking to their cousins about the book they are reading.  This warms a momma’s heart!  

Don’t forget to spend time choosing great books for gifts!

So, next time a birthday or Christmas rolls around, don’t forget to spend some time choosing great books for your kiddos’ gifts.  While not expensive gifts, they affect your kiddos’ minds and hearts far beyond many other gifts! Just remember, the joy that comes from a book as a gift often comes AFTER the excitement over other gifts has passed.

Blessings,

Carrie