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!


Copywork of Excellent Passages Precedes Creative Writing

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

Copywork of Excellent Passages Precedes Creative Writing

Charlotte Mason believed the initial step to becoming a good writer was to first copy passages of excellent worth. Rather than encouraging creative writing with inventive spelling, Charlotte encouraged quite the opposite. In contrast, Charlotte had children copy meaningful passages of literary worth, line by line while looking at a model. Then, after children had mastered the art of copying neatly and accurately, Charlotte introduced them to creative writing. However, she continued to have children do copywork of meaningful quotes, passages, Scriptures, and poems alongside their creative writing. At Heart of Dakota we embrace her philosophy! We first introduce copywork of excellent passages. Then later, we add creative writing alongside the continuation of copywork.

Carrie’s 15 Years’ Experience with Teaching Creative Writing in Public School Prior to Having Her Own Children to Homeschool

During my eleven years as a public school teacher, we did much creative writing with kiddos from very early ages. As the kiddos passed through the grades, we discovered that doing creative writing early often caused kiddos to form poor habits in punctuation and capitalization, while emphasizing invented spelling (because kiddos were too young to know how to spell correctly yet). Over time it was tough to undo the habits of incorrect grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling just for the sake of getting the written word on paper from an early age.

We also discovered that young kiddos often had trouble having any ideas about which to write. Even if they knew what they wanted to write, they couldn’t put it into words on paper. They hadn’t been exposed at that age to enough excellent writing to truly know what it looks like. We also found that those who had a God-given gift in the area of writing did well no matter how we taught writing.

Carrie’s Research of Charlotte Mason’s Philosophy in Regard to Creative Writing

When we had our own children and moved into homeschooling, we read more of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy. Much of her thoughts on writing made sense to me. So, now at Heart of Dakota we delay “creative writing” until kiddos have copied enough from excellent passages to know what good writing looks like and and have also begun to form the habit of correct spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. Once the excellent foundation is laid in those areas in our younger guides, we move into formal lessons on writing written narrations. This begins in Preparing Hearts for His Glory. We also creatively write from poetry in Preparing Hearts, and then continue in that vein in Creation to Christ (adding a formal writing program at that point as well).

Carrie’s Own Children’s Experience with Creative Writing

My own kiddos are avid writers, pouring out “books,” letters, stories, and a love for the written word. They are inspired by the excellent writing that they have heard since they were young and automatically weave that into their writing. It is a stark difference to the struggling writers that I spent over an hour of my public school teaching day every day in a “Writer’s Workshop” session trying to get them to write anything of worth. I fully agree that an exposure to great literature and copywork of excellent passages eventually leads to good writing. We pray that you will find the same to be true for you!


Why do you use specific editions of literature in high school?

Dear Carrie

Why do you use specific editions of literature in high school?

In looking at Heart of Dakota’s high school literature, I like what I see. I’ve seen some high school literature programs that just have too many books too soon. Or, I’ve seen others that never ramp up enough to prepare my children for college. You’ve found a good balance, and I just plain love your book choices! So, I’m definitely doing Heart of Dakota’s literature. I have no questions about that. My question is actually about the book editions themselves. My daughter is starting with World History’s literature, as we unfortunately didn’t find Heart of Dakota until her sophomore year. I see specific versions of the books are necessary. I’m sure there is a simple explanation, so I apologize if this is a silly question. But, why do you use specific editions of literature?  Thanks in advance!


“Ms. Please Explain Why Certain Editions of Literature Are Used in High School”

Dear “Ms. Please Explain Why Certain Editions of Literature Are Used in High School,”

This is a good question, and I am glad you asked! First, each day of plans has specific page numbers to be read. So, if you have a different edition, the page numbers will be off, and your student will be left unsure where to start and to stop reading each day. Second, and even more importantly, the plans direct students to specific pages for their follow-up work. For example, the plans may have students underline a specific passage on page 186. Then, they may find a specific quote on page 217. Next, they may search for allusions to certain Scripture on page 238. So, each part of the plans draws out something special from the book! This helps us walk with the students hand by hand, as they journey through its pages!

Details About World History’s Literature

In World History’s literature plans, Days 1, 3, and 4 follow a similar pattern. The literature box is broken up into “Introduce,” “Read and Annotate,” “Select,” and “Reflect.” “Introduce” gives a little background or something to watch for or think about in the day’s reading. “Read and Annotate” assigns pages to be read and expects the students to annotate as they read. Often a specific annotation is given to the kiddos to help them learn to annotate better and to key them into important nuances within the narrative. “Select” requires students to select a passage to copy in their Common Place Book. “Reflect” is a written Literature Journal style reflection based on the day’s reading with topics ranging from Biblical/life applications to literary themes/elements to character motives/descriptors to Scripture connections/Godly character traits, etc.

Specific editions of books make all the difference in the world!

With as many pages as they are reading each day, searching through them for answers without the intended aid of the page numbers to locate them upon is incredibly frustrating! Not to mention, kiddos’ work probably isn’t a true reflection of all they are capable of doing. Using the wrong editions of books leaves kiddos frustrated, unable to do their best work, and working much longer to complete assignments than intended.  In contrast, using the right editions of books helps kiddos fully enjoy their reading, equips them to do their best work, and aids them in completing their assignments in a doable amount of time. Specific editions of books make our plans special, and they make all the difference in the world!



Partner with students!

Teaching Tip: 

What is one of a teacher’s most important roles?

When you think of teaching, what roles automatically come to mind? Being a teacher is definitely about scheduling, planning, teaching lessons, guiding, directing, correcting, and student accountability. It is also about partnering with your students to help them accomplish needed goals. The partnering role is one that is easily overlooked in the “structure” of the daily plan. Today’s tip is a reminder that the partnering role may be our most important role of all!

What does it mean to “partner” with your students?

Partnering means being ready and willing to help in whatever way is needed for your kiddos to be successful. This means when students fall behind in their day, it is part of our job to jump in and help them catch up. Maybe they fell behind due to struggling with an assignment or a lack of understanding. Perhaps an assignment went longer than expected or the kiddos were just plain dawdling. No matter the reason they fell behind, partnering means our kids’ success is linked to us. So, if they are falling behind, we need to jump in and help.

What are some ways you can partner with your students?

One easy way to partner with your students is to do the English lesson orally. While you still cover the entire lesson, your students tell you the answers instead of writing them. Or, you could write part or all of the Drawn into the Heart of Reading Student Book assignment for your child. In this scenario, you act as the scribe to complete the Student Book page while your student tells you the answers. Another option is to write your child’s responses on a markerboard to be copied later (as copying is easier). Another easy way to partner with your students is to sit nearby while they complete an assignment. Often simply being available for immediate help is a huge partnering tool.

For math, you might have your child say the math answers while you write them in the textbook. For vocabulary, you could write the definition from the dictionary as your child reads it aloud. Then, your child could do the rest of the vocabulary card. You could get out books, open them to the right page, and put books away to speed along that process. Perhaps you partner by getting out needed supplies for a science experiment, or clean up when the experiment is over. Maybe you set up part of a history project so your child has no wasted time. However you choose to partner with your child, be sure none of these helps become habitual. Used only as needed, they can save the day and help save your child’s attitude too!

What is the difference between partnering with your child and skipping assignments?

Partnering with your child is not to be confused with skipping assignments. As you can see from the examples above, the assignments are still being completed. This is different from portions of the assignment being omitted or skipped altogether. This week give yourself permission to partner with your child. See if you notice a positive change in your homeschool day!


How can my daughter do creative writing in high school?

Dear Carrie

My daughter will be doing the Heart of Dakota World History guide next year. I like everything about it, but she is interested in creative writing. Should I substitute a creative writing program in place of Essentials in Writing? We thought about The One Year Adventure Novel. However, it’s a full English credit. So, I would have to figure out how to adjust the HOD schedule for English II’s dictation, grammar, and literature. I really don’t want to do that! I like the beauty of my daughter and I opening our guide and following it each day. How can I my daughter do a creative writing program without altering the rest of the English II credit, Carrie? Thanks!


“Ms. Please Advise How I Can Do Creative Writing with My Daughter in High School”

Dear “Ms. Please Advise How I Can Do Creative Writing with My Daughter in High School,”

We are excited for you to use World History with your daughter! I just wanted to let you know that we do schedule creative writing in high school. It is in the US1 Guide using In Their Sandals. My son is using – and loving – the program this year. So, the creative writing is coming!

Your daughter can choose her own topics in EIW, and then build on that foundation in US1’s ‘In Their Sandals’ creative writing.

I would advise you to wait to do the creative writing course until the US1 Guide. Your daughter will need the foundation that is laid in EIW to do many of the assignments in other subject areas in the coming HOD guides. EIW lays a terrific foundation in a variety of needed writing skills and types of writing. My older two sons are both creative writers at heart. They both truly enjoyed EIW. Just be sure to allow your daughter to choose her own writing topics for the lessons, within reason. That will spur her interest in what she is writing!

EIW’s writing skills prepare students well for college level writing.

Even if you have already done EIW in the World Geography Guide, you’ll find the WH Guide year of EIW really cements those writing skills and makes them more second-nature. With my sons in college right now, they are continually thankful for the foundation from EIW. The writing output they are required to submit weekly for their coursework draws heavily on the writing practiced in EIW. There is little to no creative writing in college.

EIW is planned twice weekly, alternating with grammar, which keeps the total time it takes to do the English II credit balanced.

The One Year Adventure Novel is also quite an intense, time-consuming program that would add more time to your daughter’s day than we are planning for EIW to take (doing it twice weekly alternating with grammar). I spent quite a bit of time looking at the One Year Adventure Novel for my own oldest son when he was in high school, and I was surprised with how much time the daily expectations would take to complete! You could always consider having your daughter do the One-Year Adventure Novel partly in the summer if desired. So, creative writing is coming! Your daughter will get to enjoy it next year in US1!