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

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

 

Enjoy stress-free planning ahead with HOD’s flexibility in placement and pacing!

From Our House to Yours

Counting guides and stressing about planning ahead? Well, don’t! HOD takes the pressure off by offering flexible placement and pacing!

As homeschool moms, we love to plan ahead! Even when our children are little, we might be planning ahead for middle school or for high school. Blessedly, Heart of Dakota offers complete curricula for PreK through 12th grade. So, that already takes the pressure off planning what your child will do next! However, Heart of Dakota takes this one step further by offering flexibility within this plan, both in placement and in pacing. But how?

Flexibility in Placement

Heart of Dakota recognizes proper placement should be based on more than a child’s age. This is why we have a placement chart with age ranges for guides. It is also why when you ask for placement help, we don’t just ask the age of your child and then send you the same box of materials we’d send every other child of that same age. All children of a given age are not exactly alike – praise God! For how drab that would be! Heart of Dakota recognizes children of the same age have different needs by offering guides with age ranges, and by also including within each guide multiple levels of math, reading, spelling, grammar, etc. But, how do the plans ahead change based on if your child is on the younger, the middle, or the upper part of the target age range?

Flexibility for Those Who Place in the Middle or Upper Target Age Range

Heart of Dakota recognizes you might need flexibility in pacing for your children through the years. Students who place in the guides in the middle or upper side of the target age ranges will more than likely move through the typical guide sequence, graduating in 12th grade having done the 4 high school guides as written. However, if your child needs to slow the pacing of a guide, due to life events or to learning needs, extension packages can be added as needed. Then, going forward, we can help you plan the best path through high school based on your teenager’s future goals.

Flexibility for Those Who Place on the Youngest Side of the Target Age Range

For students who are more advanced and place on the very youngest side of the target age range, Carrie purposefully wrote the guides to have some flexibility for several reasons. One, in case this more advanced placement becomes too difficult at some point and the pacing needs to be slowed down, or two, in case there are some difficult years ahead. So, for example, if health concerns arise (for children/parents/grandparents), or if there is an unexpected job change or move, or if any other of the many unforeseen difficulties in life that make homeschooling need to be slowed down for a year or so occur, the student who had been doing the guides on the youngest side of the target age range has a year of ‘wiggle room.’ Or, of course, you can always just graduate a younger student a year early.

How I’ve Personally Taken Advantage of HOD’s Flexibility in Placement and Pacing

I find it interesting that all of my sons did Little Hearts for His Glory for kindergarten. However, none will graduate one year early. My oldest son did a guide a year until my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. My son did not finish the last 7-8 units of World Geography, which he was using for 8th grade because of what was going on with my Dad. We decided to have my son complete the last 7-8 units of WG and the remaining 3 high school guides over 4 years.  It was perfect!  He was able to spend time with my Dad before he passed away and so was I, he worked more hours and earned money to pay for college, and he helped me homeschool my other children by teaching their math (he loves math and is good at it).  He is now in college and thriving!

How HOD’s Flexibility in Placement and Pacing Helped My Middle Son

My second son did a guide a year until Creation to Christ. He is very artistic and creative, and he was taking too long to finish each day. For him, we spread CTC and RTR over 3 years instead of 2 years.  It was perfect!  He is now an 11th grader doing USI and loving it! Lord willing, he will graduate exactly on time. HOD’s flexibility in placement and pacing was such a blessing!

How HOD’s Flexibility in Placement and Pacing Helped My Youngest Son

My third son did a guide a year until Bigger Hearts.  He was an excellent reader, but his writing needed to mature. We spread Bigger Hearts and Preparing Hearts over 3 years instead of 2 years. It was perfect!  He is now a 6th grader doing RTR and loving it!  Lord willing, he will graduate exactly on time. HOD’s flexibility in placement and pacing has been such a blessing!

The Blessings of Having an Extra Year of Flexibility

I share our homeschool journey to show that often times something in life happens that we do not expect, either health-wise or pacing-wise. It is an incredible blessing to have an extra year to work with, which is why Carrie planned for this.  Children on the youngest side of the target age range may find at some point that a slower pace would be better for one reason or another. Of course, if everything goes just perfectly both in life and in pacing of learning, students can graduate one year early.  There are many options for earning college credit that can be done from home in this scenario.

One More Option for Children on the Youngest Side of the Age Range

One other option that many families enjoy is taking either 5 years to do the 4 youngest guides (i.e. Little Hands…, Little Hearts…, Beyond…, and Bigger Hearts…) by homeschooling 4 days a week instead of 5 days a week. Click here for a schedule for this option. Or, families may take 4 years to do 3 guides (i.e. Little Hearts…, Beyond…, and Bigger Hearts…) by homeschooling half-speed at the start of each guide and/or 4 days a week instead of 5 days a week.  These are all 5 day a week guides, so this works well. Preparing Hearts… through USII 12th grade guides are all 4 days a week.

In Christ,
Julie

Giving Thanks for the Blessings of Homeschooling

From Our House to Yours

Giving Thanks for the Blessings of Homeschooling

This Thanksgiving week, I give thanks for the many blessings of homeschooling! Simply being able to homeschool my children in a Christian way is such a blessing. I sometimes take it for granted. Do you? Every year I homeschool, there are new blessings. I find they change as our stages in life change. I also find it is important to stop and take notice of them, or I might miss them altogether. Heart of Dakota brings out the best in each stage. However, to be mindful of what it going on that is good, I need to press pause and take notice. That is how I can remember to give thanks for the privilege of being able to homeschool!

The Blessings of Homeschooling Little Ones

Little ones bring laughter, joy, and sporadic happiness to the day! I took lots of pictures when homeschooling my littles. Every moment in Heart of Dakota with my little ones seemed picture-worthy! With little ones, some of the blessings of homeschooling are it’s short, it’s fun, and it’s full of wonder! Any and every moment can be a moment to laugh out loud until your sides hurt.

The Blessings of Homeschooling Elementary-Aged Children

Elementary-aged children are like sponges. They soak up so much in so little time! They learn to read, to write, and to add/subtract/multiple/divide. Before long, they are following short step-by-step directions for projects. They even begin to tackle science experiments solo. Oral narrations, written narrations, grammar lessons, dictation, cursive – oh my! It truly is amazing how much children who are in the elementary years of their homeschooling learn! They memorize passages of Scripture, commit multiple hymns to memory, and their Bibles become personal to them. Both reading and being read to are a joy! Books open a whole new world, and it’s exciting! Progress is obvious, easily celebrated, and school days are still quite short. These are some of the blessings I love about homeschooling this age!

  

The Blessings of Homeschooling Middle School-Aged Children

Middle school-aged children grow up right before our eyes! It is shocking how much they change in outward appearance. My 12 year-old son grew 7 1/2 inches this year. His shoes are bigger than his Dad’s, and he is taller than me. Braces. Glasses. Voice changes. Shaving. What happened to our little boys and girls? They are no longer so little. And not only are they changing on the outside; they are also changing on the inside! They are becoming their own person with their own thoughts and ideas. All of a sudden during a discussion, they say something profound. Shortly after this, they say something profoundly silly. Homeschool days are longer, but independence is greater. Everything just goes deeper. It is a privilege to be a firsthand part of all of this growth and change of mind, body, and soul.

 

The Blessings of Homeschooling High School Students

High school is the home stretch of homeschooling, and everything gets tougher. School days lengthen; they must if they are to be prepared for their next chapter in life. Responsibilities increase. Everything requires more focus, concentration, and dedication. They analyze, dig deeper, and question things. In the midst of all this, a beautiful thing happens; they become their own person! With their own faith, thoughts, emotions, actions, worldview, and goals. We find they don’t need us quite so much anymore, and yet every once and awhile, they need us more than ever. This is total transformation, and WE as homeschool moms, WE are a real part of that transformation. A total blessing.

In Closing

The other day I had an insightful conversation with my 11th grade son. After I finished editing his essay, teaching his Algebra II, discussing his devotional and literature, hearing his written narration, and correcting his chemistry, government, and Spanish, I told him somewhat nostalgically that I missed just teaching him his ABC’s. I lamented that high school was hard and just not as light, airy, and fun. He told me I was right – high school was hard, but I was also wrong – high school was still fun. It was just a different kind of ‘fun.’

He went on to say it had to be hard, or he’d never make much of himself or be ready for college. But, it was also ‘fun’ – to make our schedule, to not be schooling all day and doing homework all night, to not be wasting free time driving to and from school, to be schooling in the comfort of our own home, to have snacks when we want, to wear what we want, to use the bathroom when we want – and to use it alone. Also, he really did like most of it, especially the books. And, oh, it was pretty cool for me to be his teacher. Yeah – a pretty good take on high school – hard, but totally fun. So, this Thanksgiving week, I count my blessings of homeschooling through the years. I hope I’ve inspired you to do the same! Happy Thanksgiving!

In Christ,

Julie

Sharing from Different Guides with “5 Minute Fun Times”

A Heart of Dakota Life

How can children in different guides share experiences with one another without making their day too long?

My sons are each 3 to 4 years apart in age, and they have always each placed best in different Heart of Dakota guides. Having each of them properly placed these many years has been such a blessing! They each shine in their own guides. However, what do you do when one child sees what another child is doing and wants to do it too? Heart of Dakota is so much fun, it can be tempting for a child to want to do it all – even if it’s not part of the guide he/she is doing! However, it is not so fun when the school day goes way too long because of it, or when older children constantly upstage younger children because they’re just better at most things. Maintaining that balance is important. For these reasons, I started “5 Minute Fun Times.”

What are “5 Minute Fun Times?”

“5 Minute Fun Times” are simply fun times that can be shared with siblings in different guides within 5 minutes. Certain things lend themselves well to this. For example, if someone bakes something for a history project, everyone can take 5 minutes to eat it and compliment the baker.  Or, if it’s someone’s turn to share a poem, we can all take 5 minutes to sit on the couch, listen to the reader, and clap at the end. Likewise, if the 3 year-old’s guide calls for a re-enactment of the Red Sea parting and the Israelites crossing, I can quickly assign everyone a part, have them each throw on a quick costume, and take 5 minutes to act it out.

When are “5 Minute Fun Times” not a good idea?

If something takes more than 5 minutes, or if it is clearly an assignment for just that child to enjoy, then the “5 Minute Fun Time” is not a good idea. For example, even though my olders might enjoy doing my little one’s art projects, it is better they don’t stop their school to do so. First, because they will get behind in their own guides (which take longer, as they are older). And second, because my little one can enjoy showing off his art project later without thinking his art project is “less worthy” (as more than likely, his older siblings would have done his art project quicker and better).

“5 Minute Fun Times” usually take place at the culmination of something.

It is important to know at what point to have everyone join in. Usually, we join in for “5 Minute Fun Times” at the culmination of something. If it is a cooking project, the one child whose guide the project is in does the cooking. When it is time to eat the treat, everyone is part of that. If it is a science project, the child whose guide the experiment is in sets it all up, and maybe will demonstrate the outcome quickly for the rest. The rest are observers or assistants. If it is a poetry reading, only the child who is to share does so. The role of everyone else is to be the encouraging audience. If it is a re-enactment, the child whose guide it is in leads it and gets first pick at which role to play. The rest of the children are the subordinates.

Most of the time each child is enjoying his/her own guide.

So, overall, most of time each child is enjoying his/her own guide and joining in only now and then for a 5 minute thing that gears itself toward celebrating together with the others. Having children do the things in their own guides separately keeps their things special, and it cuts down on the comparing. There is just a lot more interest as they share with one another, if they didn’t all do each other’s things. Not to mention, we all like finishing on time, so we have time for things other than school the rest of the day. I find other informal sharing naturally takes place during meal times. It seems everyone enjoys showing off their things to each other around lunch or supper time. I love that they each did their own thing, and they were able to do it well.

Each child shines in his/her own guide, but “5 Minute Fun Times” and informal meal times provide wonderful times to share!

I wanted to post pictures of this and try to explain it, as I’ve had people ask me how my children are learning together if they are in separate guides. They are doing things together, but not all doing each other’s guides. That would be too much to do in a day! Yet, they are sharing through 5 minute fun type activities, as well as at meal times when they proudly show their work to one another and hang it on the fridge or set it on the counter to tell Dad about when he gets home. This is just one way of sharing, of course, and not everyone does it this way, but we’ve found each child really shines in his guide this way, and yet they are all enjoying hearing about and participating in bits and pieces of each other’s learning as well.

A Few Pictures of “5 Minute Fun Times” from the Past

Making music and marching to it, an activity from LHTH

LHTH activity of flying…

Re-enacting The Last Supper, a Bible activity from LHTH

A LHTH Bible story re-enacted…

 

Bigger Hearts testing of the planes lift, drag, etc…

The Gold Rush, a history activity from Bigger Hearts

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Bigger Hearts, sinking the Philadelphia (only Riley built the boat, and Wyatt only helped with the “bombing” )…

Drawn into the Heart of Reading re-enactment of battle for kickoff…

Bigger Hearts re-enactment of history story…‪ ‪

Find the camouflaged bug, a science activity from Bigger Hearts…

RTR, playing history game made from history project..

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Eating history project as Wyatt reads about the history event from his RTR notebook (but only Wyatt did the baking)…

RTR, going on the Crusades, Wyatt set it all up, and the rest of the children joined in only on the activity part, Wyatt directed it all…

Poetry Reading from RTR…

In Christ,

Julie