From Our House to Yours
Start Strong for an Easier Finish
Heart of Dakota‘s guides are what we call ‘front-loaded.’ At the start of each guide, there is a combination of skills to maintain, skills to improve upon, and new skills to learn. These skills will be worked and improved upon the whole homeschool year. Whenever we begin a new HOD guide, I know how important it is to start strong. This is fairly easy, as at the start of a new year we are all excited to begin! A new guide, new books, new skills – they are exciting! So, we dive in and work hard to start strong.
Following the guide as it is written gives a strong start!
My children look at their new HOD guide as their road map for the year. They know we will follow the guide as it is written, so they can visualize their final destination. Within each 2-page daily plans and within each week, they can see what their goals for the year will be. Success is in their reach and in mine’s because what equals success is clear to all! This is empowering. Following the guide as it is written gives everyone common goals, and they are attainable.
Heart of Dakota is special because you can follow the guide ‘as written’ while still customizing it to fit your child individually!
What is special about HOD is you can follow a guide ‘as written’ while still customizing it to fit your child! For example, written narrations have sentence ranges. So when following Preparing Heart‘s guide for written narrations, the plans call for a 1-3 sentence narration. A child not as strong in writing can still complete the plans ‘as written’ by doing 1 good short sentence. Likewise, a child who is strong in writing can still complete the plans ‘as written’ by doing 3 detailed sentences. In Resurrection to Reformation, the child who is not as strong in ‘research’ can complete the plans ‘as written’ by answering just 2-3 of the suggested guided questions. Likewise, a child who is strong in research skills can complete the plans ‘as written’ by answering all 7-8 provided questions. So following the guide ‘as written’ in HOD still has flexibility!
Tweaking or skipping plans weakens a strong start and makes an easier finish difficult.
Heart of Dakota’s guides are skill-based, so each year becomes more difficult. This is good! It is what prepares K-2nd grade children for the increased rigor of 3rd to 5th grade. In turn, 3rd to 5th grade children are prepared for the increased rigor of 6th to 8th grade, and 6th to 8th grade children for the increased rigor of high school. This is why tweaking the plans weakens a strong start and makes an easier finish difficult. For example, if a child in Bigger Hearts skips the 1-3 vocabulary cards assignment at the start, he will have a very hard time adding the 1 card by the end, and he’ll probably never get to 2-3 cards. A child who starts strong by attempting 1 card will at the very least be doing 1 extremely good card by the end, if not 3.
I am in the ‘easier finish’ stage right now due to a strong start!
Today I woke up to find Emmett ready for a strong start. During our first meeting time, he had his Bible Quiet Time Hidden Treasures ready for me to correct. He recited his last few verses he’d memorized and let me know he’d already sang and prayed. He’d listened to his What in the World? CD and shared a few things he enjoyed. Next, we corrected his science answers for Exploring Planet Earth. These are all “I” independent boxes in RTR and because we had a strong start, he did them all right. Next, we enjoyed having a leisurely happy poetry lesson together and finished up with dictation, as he knew from a strong start, these were not things he could do on his own. The day continued with him doing his written narration and completing his Shakespeare study independently.
Starting strong continues to make the finish easier!
The next time I met with Emmett, we checked his narration and Shakespeare study. We did his math lesson and cuddled up with his Storytime book. He finished his “plot twists” card on his own and began reading his grammar while I worked with his older brother. We then orally began his grammar. The phone rang, and when I returned he had chosen 1 section to write from grammar and left it out for me to correct. I found him in the living room, cuddled up reading his DITHOR book because that was next. We discussed his DITHOR Student Book assignment, as well as his Medieval History-Based writing assignment. I went to make lunch. By the time lunch was made, Emmett was done with his DITHOR and writing, and all we had to do was correct and edit these together.
If you are having a harder finish, consider focusing on a stronger start next year by using HOD more ‘as written.’
My children are not perfect, nor am I. What we do have is an understanding of common goals that are consistent. That too, has little to do with me, and everything to do with simply enjoying the beauty of using HOD guides as written. At the beginning of the year, we make a point to have a strong start. As we move through our front-loaded HOD guides, we all get better and better at them. By the end, our days are easier. We reap the harvest of our strong start with an easier finish, which is good, because we are all getting ready for a break. Longer days at the beginning equal shorter easier days at the finish, which is when we need it most. If you are having a harder finish, consider focusing on a stronger start next year by using HOD more ‘as written.’