Enjoy interest-led learning within the structure of daily plans!

From Our House to Yours

Why homeschool? Enjoy interest-led learning within the structure of daily plans!

What are each of your children interested in? When they have free time, what do they like to do? Chances are, if you have multiple children, each will be motivated by different individual interests. Why is this important? Well, when we take into account children’s interests, their motivation naturally increases. Simply put, interest-led learning takes into account children’s interests and creates opportunities for those interests to be part of learning. At Heart of Dakota, we like to create opportunities for children to enjoy interest-led learning. However, we also like to balance this within the structure of daily plans. Children can have some say in what they choose to do, but parents can also have structure that ensures children are still learning what they need to. This is the best of both worlds!

We provide opportunities for interest-led learning by offering book choices!

One easy way to provide opportunities for interest-led learning is by offering our children book choices. At Heart of Dakota, we offer book choices within Drawn into the Heart of Reading (DITHOR). Students can choose their own books, or they can choose from our DITHOR book packages. They can even substitute several books within a package if they prefer. However, book selections are made within the structure of DITHOR’s genres. This helps children read from every genre and learn each story element, while still letting the reading be interest-led. We also offer book choices with the Storytime read-alouds in our guides. Students can choose books for parents to read aloud to them in our guides that have Storytime plans based on genres. Or, students can peruse our classic, boy, girl, and history-based read aloud options, and choose from those sets.

We provide opportunities for interest-led learning by offering multiple levels of resources! 

Another easy way to provide opportunities for interest-led learning is by offering multiple levels of resources. Some children prefer books with more pictures and less text, and some prefer less pictures and more text. For example, Little Hands to Heaven has multiple Bibles, devotionals, and science books that can be used. Likewise, starting with Bigger Hearts…, we have easier books to read aloud (Deluxe Package) or harder books for children to read independently (Extension Package). Each of these options still fit within the structure of the plans by making sure children are learning what they should each year.

We provide opportunities for interest-led learning by offering project choices! 

Different children enjoy different types of projects. We provide project choices in DITHOR’s genre kickoffs and in DITHOR’s genre projects. Children can choose among Godly character-based projects, book-based projects or group projects. Likewise, we provide for creativity and individuality in history projects and art projects. Children are not confined to create copycat history or art projects. Rather, they are encouraged to put their own personality into each of their projects, which makes for excellent interest-led learning. High school courses, such as Total Health, continue to provide opportunities for interest-led learning by giving multiple project options. Nothing motivates teenagers more than having a say in what they do!

We provide opportunities for interest-led learning by offering boy/girl choices!

Boys and girls often have different topics of interest. At Heart of Dakota, we embrace this by offering DITHOR book sets that are boy or girl interest focused. We also offer multiple devotional and Bible study choices that are focused on boy and girl interests. In high school literature, boy and girl options are given for book selections. Likewise, we offer boy and girl living book choices in high school as well. Sometimes children prefer a mix of boy and girl book choices. We have structured lesson plans that still allow for flexibility, so these can be swapped out if desired (i.e. World Geography’s substitution notes for Boy/Girl set literature).

We provide opportunities for interest-led learning by using portfolio-based assessments!

One final way we provide opportunities for interest-led learning is by using portfolio-based assessments. We encourage children to express their individuality by planning open-ended assignments. For example, we assign what should be drawn, in general, for timeline entries. But, we leave room for creative interpretation. So, we might assign children to draw and color a sword for the Battle of Salamis, but we expect each child’s sword to look different from another’s. Likewise, we might children  to write a 10-13 sentence narration in response to their history reading. But, we encourage children to choose their own details to include in their narration.

In Closing…

So, in closing, one reason we like to homeschool is we can easily provide opportunities for interest-led learning. First, we can offer book choices. Second, we can offer project choices. Third, we can offer boy/girl interest choices. Finally, we can offer portfolio-based assessment. At Heart of Dakota, we believe in offering interest-led learning opportunities within the structure of daily plans. We like this balance of providing time for interest to lead the learning and of planning time for skills to lead the learning. I think you will enjoy this balance too!

In Christ,

Julie

A Breakthrough in Spelling: Charlotte Mason’s Method of Studied Dictation

A Breakthrough in Spelling: Charlotte Mason’s Method of Studied Dictation

Charlotte Mason’s method of studied dictation was truly a breakthrough in teaching spelling! The good news is, we can still do it today, and it only takes 5 minutes. So, just what is Charlotte Mason’s method of studied dictation? Well, to put it simply, she had children study a passage first. Then, she had the parent dictate the passage phrase by phrase, had the children repeat the phrase, and had the children write it. This was all done from a single reading, without repetition. She then had children immediately fix any errors, using the passage that was studied for help. Pretty easy, right? Well, at Heart of Dakota, we love Charlotte Mason’s method of studied dictation, and here’s why!

In studied dictation, children learn the skill of seeing correctly spelled words within the context of writing.

In studied dictation, children have to capture the whole image of a sentence or a passage in their minds. They need to look at the sentences as a whole, as well as capture the individual words and their parts. This really trains children in the habit of seeing correctly spelled words within the context of writing. After all, this is the ultimate goal of learning to spell! We want kiddos to carryover their spelling to their writing. So, practicing spelling words within the context of writing sentences just makes sense.

In studied dictation, children learn to listen carefully, which helps them strengthen auditory skills.

Studied dictation also forces kiddos to strengthen auditory skills, as they listen to the parent read the passage only once. Children learn to listen for the purpose of repeating perfectly from a single reading. Prior to writing, they then repeat back what the parent said. This strengthens the skill of holding a phrase or sentence in the mind long enough to be able to repeat it back without error and then write it.

In studied dictation, children learn to proofread their work carefully and check it with a model.

After writing the phrase or sentence, children then proofread their work before checking it against the model. This is a terrific way for children to form the habit of proofreading their written work! It truly makes good proofreaders out of kiddos over time. Last, they check their own work, which trains children in checking their work against a correctly written model. They become precise checkers with continual practice.

In studied dictation, children learn to practice immediate correction.

When children miss a passage, they mark any mistakes on the passage. They then immediately correct the mistakes on their own copy. In doing so, children practice yet another skill, which is immediate correction. Moreover, the following day when the child must repeat a passage, he/she pays much closer attention to whatever was missed the day before. This, in essence, finally causes the incorrect mental picture of a word in the mind to be rewritten or mentally corrected. The old, incorrect image is now replaced with the new, correct image. This is the very mental work that must be done in order for the poor speller to fix his/her poor spelling habits. It is also something the good speller does naturally.

Charlotte Mason had a continual focus on children NOT seeing words written incorrectly.

Charlotte Mason had a continual focus on children NOT seeing words written incorrectly. She believed the incorrect image of the word became imprinted on the mind (causing the “wrong” spelling to now “look” right)! This is why kiddos who struggle with poor spelling often have no idea whether a word is spelled correctly or not. It is because they have seen the word written incorrectly so many times that their mind can’t recognize the correct spelling – even when they try!

Charlotte Mason would not have been an advocate of spelling programs that require children to find misspelled words within passages.

Many spelling programs have a section that requires a child to find the misspelled word within a provided passage. In light of Charlotte Mason’s method of studied dictation, this type of exercise is definitely not a good idea! It actually gives the mind yet another opportunity to take a mental picture of an incorrectly spelled word! The theory for including this within a spelling program is that it is good practice for standardized tests,where kiddos will be asked to find the incorrectly spelled word. But in truth, it is training the child to focus on the misspelled word rather than on the correctly spelled words! Children who have been trained in the studied dictation method often have no trouble finding incorrectly spelled words on tests. They are too used to seeing the words spelled correctly! Incorrect words truly jump off the page… no practice needed!

Heart of Dakota and Studied Dictation

At Heart of Dakota, we love studied dictation! Starting with Bigger Hearts for His Glory, we include multiple levels of dictation passages. Though Charlotte Mason advocated dictation be taken directly from a literature passage being studied, we use the Charlotte Mason method of studied dictation while still progressing systematically through passages that gradually increase in difficulty. The dictation passages we use come from an old dictation book that was the standard for teaching spelling in bygone years!

In Closing…

In closing, through studied dictation, we teach children the skills of capturing a correct mental image of a string of words, auditorily hearing the sentence and repeating it back correctly, writing the words in the correct sequence (including all punctuation and capitalization), and proofreading and correcting their work to make sure the right mental image remains (rather than the wrong one). Over time, these skills transfer to students carefully proofreading their own written work in other subjects, which is exactly what we want!  Heart of Dakota’s guides include plans to help you implement Charlotte Mason’s studied dictation methods successfully in your homeschooling, and that’s “More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment” to enjoy!!!

In Christ,
Julie

 

 

Better Beloved Living Books Instead of Less Loved Dry Textbooks

From Our House to Yours

Why homeschool? Use better beloved living books to teach your children instead of less loved dry textbooks!

There are many reasons to homeschool, and we are exploring some of them in this From Our House to Yours series. Take a moment to think back to your favorite books from your time spent in school. How many of them are textbooks? Now, think back to your favorite authors. How many of them are authors of textbooks? Chances are your answer to both these questions is ‘none.’ Why? Textbooks are often quite dry, utterly forgettable, and definitely less loved than the average book. Though we know this to be true, textbooks continue to provide the basis for the bulk of educational instruction in most brick and mortar schools. This brings us to a very good reason why you should consider homeschooling! You can use better beloved living books to teach your children rather than less loved dry textbooks!

Living books are better because they are remembered long after the last page has been read!

Have you ever read a textbook from cover to cover and longed to read it all over again? When you finish reading a textbook, do you rush to find another textbook by that same author? As you read a textbook, do you find yourself excitedly sharing what you’ve read? Chances are you don’t. Living books are the opposite. You do long to read them cover to cover, you do rush to find another book by that same author, and you do find yourself excitedly sharing what you’ve read with whoever will listen! When our children read living books for their education, the same holds true for them. They can’t wait to find out what will happen next. Finding books by the same author is a must. Sharing what has been read is exciting (and it’s called oral narration – thank you Ms. Charlotte Mason)!

Heart of Dakota provides a living books, literature-based, Christ-centered education!

There are many books that are lining the shelves of libraries, bookstores, and homes, that are simply not good books. We are a conservative family and try to have a similar standard for our children’s free reading time as we do for their homeschooling time. I must admit, hard as I try though, our children’s free reading books are not as wonderful as Heart of Dakota‘s book picks. I have really struggled with finding books for our children to read for free time, and these books don’t even have to fit into a specific historical time period, a particular science focus, a certain genre, or an exact age level! Having used HOD from PreK to 12th grade now, one of the things I am most thankful for is the book choices! Thank you, Heart of Dakota, for a living books, literature-based, Christ-centered education!

Build your own home library of wonderful living books!

I have a bookshelf in my bedroom that holds my most beloved books. Not one of my most beloved books is a traditional textbook. I have my favorite books grouped by authors as well. Not one of my sets of books grouped by authors is a set of textbooks. Why? Textbooks belong in my office with my bill-paying caddie. I use these books for occasional reference rather than for reading cover to cover. These books would never make it onto my beloved bookshelf in my bedroom. In homeschooling, you can build your own home library of wonderful living books that you and your children love! These are books you enjoy returning to from time to time and rereading just because they are THAT good! So, why homeschool? You can enjoy reading better beloved living books instead of wasting time with less loved dry textbooks!

In Christ,
Julie

P.S. Do you have a student who was used to textbooks in public school and seems to be more comfortable with textbooks than quality living books?  Click here to read Carrie’s thoughts on helping a mom who posed that very question!

Why homeschool? Home is a safer place to be!

From Our House to Yours

Why homeschool? Home is a safer place to be!

Were you ever bullied in school? Did you ever worry about who you would play with at recess, sit by during study hall, or shower next to after basketball practice? Was there a certain person you dreaded being partnered with for a project or sitting next to in class? Did the thought of walking home after school or riding the bus scare you? Although I usually felt safe at school, the times I didn’t remain fresh in my mind. Unfortunately, bullying is on the rise with about 20% of students being bullied on school property. In fact, our U.S. federal government even has a ‘Stop Bullying’ website to help children learn how to try to stand up to bullying, so they can be safer at school. So, why homeschool? Home is simply a safer place to be!

At home, you can always sit by someone at lunch who loves you!

When it comes time for lunch at home, your children can always sit by someone who loves them. I love to hear our children laughing and telling stories around the kitchen table! We all look forward to mealtimes with one another. We find it is a great time to first pray with one another, and then share food and fellowship with one another. I know these are all things our children would miss if they were not homeschooled.

At home, it is always safe to walk through the ‘halls,’ to go to the restrooms, and to change clothes!

Some of the most common places bullying in schools occurs are the hallways, restrooms, and locker rooms. Changing clothes for gym class, for sport-related activities, or for extracurricular activities is another magnet for bullying in schools. Undressing next to strangers is not ideal. I still don’t really like to do this at the fitness center I attend, and I’m 47 years old! At home, I love that my kiddos are never worried about walking through the ‘halls,’ going to the restrooms, or changing their clothes.

At home, children are safe from school violence.

On Dec. 18, 2018, the Final Report of the Federal Commission on School Safety was completed and submitted to the President. Within that report, I found a startling chronology of school violence. The list begins with the Grover Cleveland shooting in 1979 and ends with the Santa Fe shooting in 2018. Within this “Tragic Chronology” (as it is aptly named), I counted one shooting in the 1970s, nine in the 1980s, five in the 1990s, six up until 2010, and ten so far from 2011 to now. School violence is on the rise. Why homeschool? Our children are safe from school violence! I’d say that’s a pretty compelling reason, wouldn’t you?

A Few of My Less Than Safe Experiences at School

I taught for 7 years in public school prior to having children of my own. While I do have good memories of teaching, I also have memories of some less than safe experiences. For example, I waited to see a principal for my first teaching job interview. There were 2 girls waiting to see the principal with me. One had a broken off pencil stuck in her leg. The other girl was threatening to do worse to her after school. Yet another time, I had to restrain a student who took a scissors and raced outside to ‘go stab a first grade girl’ at recess. Still another time my class had to all stay indoors for recess for an entire week. Why? A student’s father had escaped from prison, and he had made mention of kidnapping his son prior to escaping.

Why homeschool, you ask?

So, you ask, why homeschool? At home your children won’t be bullied. They also won’t have to worry about who they will eat lunch with. At home your children will always find it safe to walk through the halls, to go to the restrooms, and to change clothes. Finally, at home your children won’t have to worry about school violence. In contrast, your children will feel safe being homeschooled. They will look forward to meal times, to ‘recess,’ and to being part of a school in which every single person loves them! And not having to worry about safety frees up brain power to be able to more fully focus on learning! That’s a pretty good reason to homeschool, if you ask me.

In Christ,
Julie

Why homeschool? Be socialized by multiple ages rather than grouped by one age!

From Our House to Yours

Why homeschool? Be socialized by family of multiple ages rather than grouped by one age!

Are all of your friends your exact same age, or even within a year or two of your age? I am 47 years old as I type this, and right now the ages of my closest friends range from 26 to 78 years old. Not one of my closest friends is my exact age or even within a year or two of my age. Moreover, my best friends are still my sisters and my mom, along with my husband. When we homeschool, our children are socialized by family of multiple ages. This is in contrast to the usual grouping of children by one age in public school.

Socialization in a Homeschool Setting 

Socialization in a homeschool setting encourages interaction of multiple ages. Every age is considered worthy to exchange ideas with, to talk to, and to play with. No one is left out in the cold. In fact, age is something that rarely comes up. Siblings of all different ages consider each other friends. When ‘recess’ time rolls around, games are made to work for all different ages. During lunch, everyone talks freely, and shares all sorts of things without fear of judgment. During school, every person has something meaningful to share, and not everyone has to be learning the same thing. When grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins stop by, everyone stops to enjoy their company. People are not grouped solely according to their age in any other setting outside of public school.  Socialization in a homeschool setting is much more like the ‘real world!’

The Impact of Socialization in a Homeschool Setting

Our children have only ever been homeschooled. As my husband often travels, my sons have had to help with many things. They answer the door and visit with the mailman as he delivers our packages. When the fireplace repairman needs tools, they find them and hand them to him as he needs them. If the propane truck stops to deliver gas, they introduce themselves to the driver and show him the path my husband prefers he takes to fill the tank. When the contractor is redoing one of our closets, they help him hold shelves and hand him tools as he asks for them. If our trees are being trimmed and sprayed, they head outdoors to help load the trailer with the trimmings. I share these specific stories because every one of these men have commented positively about our sons’ interaction with them. In fact, many have offered them jobs.

The Impact of Socialization of Homeschool Children Outside of the Home

Our children don’t really consider age when socializing outside of our home. When assigned random teams when playing dodgeball at Skyzone, they are happy to play with any age. Younger children are seen as assets, as they are quicker, but they are also seen as little ones to protect. Older children are seen as assets, as they can throw farther, and it’s okay to throw harder at them. When assigned random teams to play basketball at our fitness center, they are happy to play with any age. Older men are seen as assets because they are great at setting up plays, but they are also seen as prone to injury, so they don’t guard them as hard. Younger children are seen as fast and fun, but they are also seen as little ones to mentor. Everyone is someone to get to know, and age just doesn’t enter their mind.

Socialization of Homeschool Children Within the Family

Our children (who are currently 11, 15, and 19 years old) do consider one another best friends. They like to come up with games they can all do together. In our basement, they have 2 mini-basketball hoops. Countless games have been played with all sorts of different rules! They’ve found card games or board games that work for all ages. They have also made outdoor obstacle courses, nerf gun bases, basketball games, snow forts, and 3-wheeler races. Everyone can play because they make the games fit all ages. Whenever we have friends or family over, they blend in just fine. If two of them choose a movie to watch, the next time they choose a movie to watch all together. They each have their own hobbies, music playlists, books, and outdoor interests, but more often than not, they find ways to enjoy time together.

Socialization in Brick and Mortar Schools

When I used to teach in brick and mortar schools before I had children of my own, I had recess duty with multiple ages. I was always sad when children refused to play with students who were not their same age.  However, I was even sadder when children who were siblings refused to play with one another. I also saw older siblings walking home with their classmates, with their younger sibling trail far behind. Their reasoning? The younger sibling was embarrassing to be around when they were with their same age friends. Of course not all students behave this way. Some children in school really do try to take care of their siblings, stand up for them, and hang out with them. Unfortunately it is just harder to do, as for most of the school day, they are separated from their siblings.

Worried About Socialization 

One of the reasons families worry about homeschooling is often due to socialization. I find this ironic! It seems to me the opposite is true. Homeschooled children are not used to being separated into groups by age. When they see an elderly person, they talk to him, assuming he may have something interesting to share. Or if they see a young person at the park, they think it’s great because they have one more person to join their game. This way of thinking more naturally aligns itself with life in general. As long as we expect our homeschooled children to socialize with their siblings, their family, their neighbors, and other people they meet, they will be just fine. In fact, they will probably be better socialized when it’s all said and done, because they will be used to being around people of multiple ages, all the time.

In Christ,

Julie