Summer is coming! Are you allowing distractions into your day?

Teaching Tip

As summer is coming, are you allowing distractions to creep into your day?

If you’re anything like me, as I’m getting closer to summer I seem to get distracted more easily. I allow things to creep into my school time that aren’t technically school-related. I find myself whipping together preparation for the evening meal, folding laundry, talking on the phone, or answering emails. Instead, I really need to be focused on schooling during school-time. Usually I know better than to do this, but lately distractions have been creeping in more and more.

Try focusing on school and minimizing the distractions.

So, today, I returned to focusing on doing just school (without letting my time and attention stealers creep in). We finished in a MUCH more timely fashion and my kiddos enjoyed their school day more too! What a good reminder to me to do what I usually do and just focus on school during school-time. This leaves me more time later to do all of my other tasks when school is done! Plus, my kiddos had free-time which they love too! Try focusing on school during school-time today, and see if your day goes better.


A Wonderful Idea From a Veteran Homeschool Momma!

Should Charlotte Mason narrations immediately follow the readings?

Dear Carrie,

In our house, some time passes between reading and actually writing a narration in Heart of Dakota. Often my kids refer back to their readings. I understand that Charlotte Mason stressed the importance of their being only a SINGLE reading. So, here are my questions!  Does the written and/or oral narration need to follow the reading immediately? I am also wondering, can they refer back to the book?


“Mom to 4 Precious Blessings”

Dear “Mom to 4 Precious Blessings,”

You asked some great questions, and I will be glad to answer them! Your first question is…

Does the written and/or oral narration need to follow the reading immediately, or does the time not matter?

The answer to this question really depends on the age of the children.  When kiddos are younger, it is advisable to have the oral and/or written narration immediately follow the reading. This helps them remember what they have read better. As kiddos get older, there can definitely be time between the reading and the narrating. In fact, Charlotte Mason advised spreading out the reading from the narrating more the older the kiddos get.  This is actually the more difficult skill, and it is  intended to be taught once students have had practice orally narrating.  Your second question is…

Can students refer back to the readings in the book as they are writing their narrations? 

This is another good question!  Due to the amount of names and dates in many of our readings, and the length of the readings, looking back at the reading while writing a written narration is helpful and advisable. Referring back to the reading helps so much with spelling and accuracy too! This is actually one of our spelling tips in our written narration skills checklist.  So, it is definitely alright for kiddos to use their living book as a reference for help in writing with proper spelling. Looking back at a reading reference-style wise is different than doing a second reading. Even though kiddos are referring back, it is still a single reading they are narrating from.  You’ve asked some excellent questions!  I hope this helps as you continue your journey with Heart of Dakota and Charlotte Mason!



P.S. To find out more about Charlotte Mason and written narrations as a form of assessment, click here!

P.S.S. To find out more about training your kiddos in Charlotte Mason skills, click here!

A Wonderful Idea From a Veteran Homeschool Momma!

Teaching Tip

What wonderful idea can you borrow from a veteran homeschool momma to occupy your little one?

Another thing that I have done which worked well for my little ones was an idea I got from Terri Maxwell. She suggested making a “Mommy Tape,” which today can be recorded many other ways than on a tape! However, the idea is still great.

How can you use your voice to occupy your little one?

I recorded myself talking and reading aloud to my little one as if I was in the room with him. I read aloud some simple Bible stories and nursery rhymes. Next, I counted out loud up to 20 and said the names of our family members.

Then, I asked questions like the following: How old are you? What color hair do you have? What color eyes do you have? Can you point to your chair? Can you point to your toys? I paused after each question to hypothetically allow the child to answer. After that I answered the questions. I prayed with my child at the beginning and end of the recording, making sure to use my child’s name. You can be as creative with the recording as you like!

How much time can you expect to gain by using a Mommy recording?

I recorded 30 continuous minutes. When the recording ended, my little one knew his playtime was up. I used the same recording for my little one to listen to every day. It was amazing how comforted he felt while listening to it! I could hear him answering the questions out loud during the pauses on the recording!

Where can you use the recording?

When my little ones were younger, I used it during their playtimes in their cribs. When they got a bit older, I used it during their playtimes in their rooms. A quiet enclosed space worked best for hearing the recording.

Try making your own recording!

This is a great summer project for the next school year! You could make a different recording for your child each year as he grows. You can also make more than one recording if time allows. Try making a recording today, and see if it comforts your little one.


Have you trained your children in Charlotte Mason style skills?

Is dictation good for struggling spellers?

Dear Carrie,

Is dictation good for struggling spellers or just good for average to natural spellers?

My 10 year old daughter really struggles with spelling. I have used several curriculums with her, and she still has such a hard time. I feel like nothing has worked with her. My question is about dictation in Preparing Hearts for His Glory. Do you think would this be a good option for a struggling speller? Will dictation improve her spelling, or should I look into something else for her? She is well below grade level in this area and is also a reluctant writer. So, I know she will already struggle with all the writing she has to do this year. I want to build her confidence this year, and it seems like spelling lists have not helped her retain skills. She does have some mild dyslexic tendencies, but we have never had her tested. So, should I do the dictation with her? Is dictation good for struggling spellers or just good for average to natural spellers? Thanks in advance for your help!


“Please Help Me with Spelling”

Dear “Please Help Me with Spelling,”

The Charlotte Mason method of studied dictation takes at least a year to truly see the fruit of it. It is a slow burn that pays big dividends in the long haul. It actually does work well both for natural spellers and for kiddos who struggle with spelling. We get to hear so many updates from families who use HOD; by email, by message board, and at conventions. So, I can say with confidence that even kiddos with learning challenges such as dysgraphia progress well with studied dictation. We hear from many families with kiddos who were poor spellers who are thrilled to be seeing some progress!

Consistent use of studied dictation has many benefits!

The method that we use in the guides is very important in the success of studied dictation. The consistent use of studied dictation also makes a difference. There are many posts on the board about studied dictation, so I encourage you to search and read them. If you do try PHFHG’s studied dictation, I would advise you to give it at least a year. I would also encourage you not to continue with another spelling program at the same time. Instead, try using studied dictation as your spelling program. I think you will be surprised at the progress your students will make. It is a method that has many benefits in the long haul for all types of spellers.

Try using studied dictation instead of a formal spelling program!

I can understand the hesitance to let go of a formal spelling program, as I had that same hesitance. With my oldest son, in order to tell whether studied dictation really worked, I tested him in Spelling Power. First, I tested him at the beginning of the year to give his spelling a “level.” Then, I used only studied dictation all year. At year-end, I tested him in Spelling Power again. I was surprised to discover he’d jumped several levels in spelling from using studied dictation (while not using Spelling Power)! This made a believer out of me. My oldest son only used studied dictation after that and has graduated high school.

I’ve seen the success of using studied dictation with my own children and hope you do too!

My next 3 kiddos have all only done the spelling/dictation within the HOD guides. While my second oldest son is definitely a natural speller, my other boys vary on their natural spelling abilities. My oldest is a great memorizer, but needed dictation to carryover his memorization of words to his writing. Though my second oldest is a natural speller, he needed studied dictation to improve proofreading and accuracy in his writing. He also needed to learn to listen carefully to a single reading of the dictation passage prior to writing. He has benefitted greatly from studied dictation in that regard. My third son has a more difficult time with spelling. Yet, he is consistently progressing, slowly but surely. My last little guy is a terrific copier but needs to learn to capture the word images in his mind. Studied dictation will be of help to him too! I share this to help you visualize how studied dictation could be of benefit to your own kiddos. I hope you see the benefits of studied dictation completed consistently over time. Thanks for asking this question!



P.S. For more information about how students can study for dictation, click here!

Why Doesn’t Heart of Dakota Use a Weekly Grid for Their Lesson Plan Format?

Teaching Tip

Why don’t we use a weekly grid for our lesson plan format?

During my 11 years teaching public school, I wrote lesson plans using a variety of formats. The weekly grid format was by far the most common. By the time I was teaching my own sons at home, I knew the pitfalls of a weekly grid. Any interruption to the week’s schedule meant I was “off schedule” for the week according to the grid. This left me rushing to cram the rest of the week’s work into fewer days. If I didn’t, I was off schedule for the next week’s plans.

Why do we use a daily plan format instead of a weekly grid?

When I began writing plans for my own kiddos, I made daily plans rather than using a weekly grid. If there was a disruption, I could set aside the plan without feeling like I had disrupted my entire week. Then, the next day, I could pick the plan back up and continue where I left off. This meant there was no need to double up and get back on schedule. My goal was to finish the guide by year-end, without making each week in between a cramming process.

Think of your Heart of Dakota guide as a series of days to be completed.

I encourage you to think of your Heart of Dakota guide as a series of days rather than a series of weeks. Don’t worry about Day 1 being on Monday each week. Instead, focus on completing one day of plans before moving on to the next day of plans. In this way, you will have a smoother more balanced path all year long!


School day too long? Check your times for each subject with the author!

Have a Written Routine and Provide it to Your Child