Benefitting from the Level of Independence Planned in the Guides

A Heart of Dakota Life

Benefitting from the Level of Independence Planned in the Guides

Beginning in Preparing Hearts for His Glory, Heart of Dakota’s (HOD’s) guides plan for students to become more independent. As I see my sons who are now 21, 17, and 13  years old at various levels of successfully working independently, the benefits are obvious. Their joy and success in working on things independently is such a blessing! This is also a blessing for me as their homeschool parent. So, are you reaping the benefits of the guides’ plans for gradual, successful levels of independence? Are you making sure in the guides from Preparing on up to follow the suggested levels of independence for each box in the guide?  If not, you should give it a try!

Teacher-Directed and Semi-Independent Boxes of Plans

If your child is doing the ‘S’ (Semi-Independent) or the ‘T’ (Teacher-Directed) levels of boxes without you, your day will be longer. You will either be checking work later, solving problems during the work time, or fixing mistakes later that were not caught. ‘S’ and ‘T’ boxes are harder and require more parent help. I compensate for these by sticking close to my kiddos during ‘S’ boxes. I pop in at the beginning or middle to check progress. For the ‘T’ levels of boxes, I am always present as many of these boxes are discussion-based.

Independent Level of Boxes of Plans

On the other hand, if you are thinking that the ‘I’ level of boxes mean that the child is totally independent and you have no role in the box, this is a misunderstanding.  ‘I’ means the child can complete the box ‘Independently”, but independent work also needs to be checked. So, I always go over all of the ‘I’ boxes with my child. We discuss what is in the box and check any work done independently. This is a similar situation to when a classroom teacher assigns homework to be done independently at home. Can you imagine how quickly a child would quit doing homework well, or doing it all, if it were never checked! So it is worth checking the way you are handling each box in your HOD guide in order to be more effective.

Training Children to Follow the Directions in the Guide

Have you trained your children in Preparing on up (and even possibly near the end of Bigger Hearts) to read right from the HOD guide?  Do you allow your children to have the guide in hand as they work? These two steps are crucial for a child to be able to do the ‘S’ and ‘I’ boxes in the guide. Working without a guide in hand is very difficult. The child ends up running back to the guide as he/she works, striving to remember a lengthy list of directions. In addition, if you are still needing to read aloud all directions to a child even from the ‘S’ and ‘I’ boxes, this will add significant time to your day. So, train your kiddos to read from the guide early and often. It is a skill that pays big dividends not just within HOD, but all throughout life.

In Christ,

Julie

 

Work Areas, Common Areas, and Common Meeting Areas for Older Students

A Heart of Dakota Life

Work Areas for Older Students

Older students tend to crave their own work areas. As our sons reached their teenage years especially, they each wanted an area to call their own. Spreading out to different work areas helped them so much. Wyatt, our oldest son, loves the outdoors, so his favorite work area is at a table by the big windows in our addition. Riley, our middle son loves to spread out, so his favorite work area is at our dining room table. Emmett, our youngest son, loves small areas. His favorite work area is at a library table behind our couch. Each son does his seated, independent written work in his own work area. This helps each of them maintain focus and have their own space for their things. Each son also has either a bookshelf or pie safe for his homeschool books. This makes finding books so much easier!

Common Work Areas for Older Students

We do have common work areas too. Our sons do their computer work at the library table in our addition. We have two desktop computers at the library table. Math and geography are two subjects our sons use the computer work area to complete. We have graphing calculators, protractors, etc. in the small drawer in the library desk. Another common work area is the living room. Our sons can often be found on the couch, in a recliner, or even on the floor with a pillow by the fireplace reading their school books. Riley’s room has a TV on the wall with a DVD player. It is not connected to cable television. Riley’s room is a common work area for our sons to watch DVDs for homeschooling. Our kitchen table is a common work area for me to do teaching that involves seatwork (i.e. grammar, writing, etc.). The living room couch is a common work are for met to read with our sons.

Common Meeting Areas for Older Students

Our sons also have common meeting areas where they love to get together and hang out. The first common meeting area is the kitchen table. This is where we all gather for breakfast, lunch, and supper. Another common meeting area is our addition, which has a couch, several chairs, and a fireplace. This is where our sons have their “private” meeting and hot cocoa time in our school day. I am not invited, which is fine! I need the mid-morning break to do other things. It is such fun to hear them laughing and enjoying hot cocoa together in this common meeting area! Finally, our sons have a common meeting area in the basement. Here, they built a two-decker area with a tiny fridge, a TV/DVD player (not hooked up to cable), and pillows and blankets.

In the basement, we also have exercise mats on the floor in a fairly open area. Two mini-basketball hoops, a popcorn maker, weights, a pull-up bar, and plastic cabinets full of nerf guns provide endless entertainment in this common meeting area. It is not a beautiful place, but I think that is why they love it! It doesn’t need to be picked up so neatly. A basement is meant for making forts and having fun! So, for your older students, here are a few ideas for how to set up work areas, common areas, and free space areas! 

In Christ,

Julie

How to Be ‘Supermom’ and Save the Day When It’s Gone Astray

A Heart of Dakota Life

How to Be ‘Supermom’ and Save the Day When It’s Gone Astray

Emmett is 13 years old and is in Unit 16 of Missions to Modern Marvels (MTMM). He follows the directions well now. In fact, most days are happy and smooth sailing. However, every now and then, something goes astray. Maybe because it’s Friday, or maybe because Christmas is coming, today things really began to go astray. I could feel my blood pressure rising, as the little ‘astray’ things began adding up. In a Supermom moment (‘Supermom’ is loving, patient, and not easily angered; it takes a lot of willpower to be Supermom), I reminded myself what is like to be 13. It is not easy! I also reminded myself my son is in the middle of a massive growth spurt (over 7 inches in the past year). Grace was deserved. Taking a deep breath and saying a prayer, I put on my Supermom cape to save the day.

Supermoms can save the day when things go astray!

Emmett’s face was downcast. He knew he’d missed some things, misread some directions, and forgotten some steps. I didn’t need to tell him. He knew it, and he didn’t need lecturing. He felt bad enough for the both of us already. The clock was ticking. I had only a moment to act! With a flourish Supermom (me) pulled out a piece of paper and pen (a.k.a. Supermom’s secret weapons). I told Emmett not to worry. We were going to fix this! With a flourish I began to make a list. (Supermoms are great at making lists.) My list looked like this:

  1. Do grammar with mom
  2. Do your math with Wyatt
  3. Read the Book of Great American Speeches
  4. Do Day 5/notes of Faith at Work
  5. Do the science game with Riley this afternoon
  6. Just read a chapter for DITHOR
How does this list fix the things that were astray and manage to save the day?

So, this list probably doesn’t make much sense to you! How would this fix the things that were astray and somehow save the day? Well, let me say the reason Emmett was so sad is he could see his school day not finishing nearly on time. He could also see himself missing time with his brothers. So, to save the day, we really needed to make up time and make sure he had time with his brothers.

So, first, we did grammar orally. That saved some time. Second, I planned for Wyatt to teach math. (They both love this – believe it or not!) This also gave Emmett time with Wyatt. Third, Emmett had to read the speech. (There were two books to read for history, but he’d already written a narration for the other one.) Fourth, Emmett had to do Faith at Work. (The day before had two readings, but he’d only done one. So, when he did the next one today, he was off.) Fifth, he still had to do the science activity. However, it was much more fun because it was going to be with Riley. Sixth, he just had to read a chapter in DITHOR. He’s reading two chapters in DITHOR a day, so he’ll read the other one tomorrow and do the follow-up work. We’ll probably take one less day to do the final project to make it up.

In Closing

Today, rather than getting angry and frustrated when things went astray, I was able to call upon the Lord to help me choose love. This is NOT easy to do! However, when we call upon the Lord, we can become Supermoms! We can have His power living in us to help us give grace and fix things. Emmett finished everything pretty close to on time today, and he still had time with his brothers. Now, keep in mind, he did have some natural consequences that will help him take more care with his work going forward. He did finish a little later. He also doesn’t adore doing math and science with his brothers for his ‘free time.’ (His brothers don’t adore it either, but they’ve been there. There’s a ‘Superman’ inside each of them too – praise God! I hope this encourages you that when things go astray, you can still save the day! Just call on the Lord and transform into Supermom. He’ll help you through it!

In Christ,

Julie

Straight Talk About Little Decisions That Have a Big Impact

Heart of Dakota Life

Straight Talk About Little Decisions That Have a Big Impact

It is 9 AM, and you just finished reading about the Wright brothers in Bigger Hearts. You read the book, did the history activity, but you’re so inspired – you want more. So, you hop on the Internet and read an encyclopedia article detailing the Wright brothers’ lives from start to finish. You do a paper airplane project. Another Internet search brings up a box kite project. You all begin the project but it’s pretty involved, and you are missing some key supplies. The box kites can’t be finished, so you set them aside. Everyone is a little less inspired but you want to end on a high. So, you find a free video showing the Wright brothers’ triumphant flight at Kitty Hawk. You all cheer! It is now time for lunch. What’s the big deal about all of this? Well, let’s have a little straight talk to see!

Straight Talk About What Happens Next

It is 1 PM, and you just finished cleaning up lunch. You like to be done with homeschooling by 3 PM. The problem is the only things your Bigger Hearts child completed were Reading About History and the History Activity. You have some making up to do. Not to mention, your CTC child thought the box kite was fun and didn’t want to miss the Kitty Hawk video. So, that child is really behind. Usually you would have done LHTH with your 4 year-old by now too. You begin trying to make up time by talking fast, hurrying everyone along, rearranging your routine, but time marches on. It is now 4:30 PM. Everyone is weary and ready to be done. You’ve done nothing with your 4 year-old, and she is sad. Your CTC child only has his “T” teacher-directed boxes left. Your Bigger Hearts child is done.

Straight Talk About What Happens the Next Day

Last night you went to the store and picked up the supplies to finish the box kites. It was an unexpected expense, but all those half-finished box kites were just staring back at you. It is 9 AM, and you just finished reading the next chapter about the Wright brothers in Bigger Hearts. You read the book, did the oral narration, but you’re inspired again (albeit a little less inspired than yesterday). You pull out the unfinished box kites and the supplies you bought. The CTC child digs in, and his box kite is really turning out well. Your Bigger Hearts child has to restart his box kite. The measurements were off. Your 4 year-old can’t do the box kite, but you give her an extra snack and video time, so she’s happy.

It is now 11:30 AM. You’ve sent the Bigger Hearts child to play with the 4 year-old. You try to finish the Bigger Hearts child’s box kite on your own. His second kite is better than his first, but it’s still just off balance. There’s no time to paint it. Your CTC child’s box kite is done, the paint has finally dried with a little help from a blow dryer, and it looks awesome! Lunch is looming. So, you call the kids together and go outside to watch your CTC child successfully fly his box kite. You all clap. Your Bigger Heart’s child tries to fly his kite, but it plummets to the ground. Your 4 year-old has no kite. Time to head back in and try to make up some time.

Straight Talk About What Happens in the Next Weeks and the Next Years

It is 9 AM. You just finished reading about the Wright brothers. The follow-up activity is to make a box kite. Your Bigger Hearts child bursts into tears and begs not to have to build another box kite. He’s sure his box kite won’t fly. You can see this box kite would be easy to build. He would have loved building this! However, he is having none of it. He already knows his box kite will never measure up to big brother’s. So, you skip it. You are several days behind in most your teaching for CTC. Your 4 year-old forgot her letter sounds and begs for another snack and an extra video. Everything is off, but you must catch up. School ends at 6 PM. Everyone is tired and upset.

Several years have passed. Your youngest is now doing Bigger Hearts. She is less than inspired to hear about the Wright brothers. She definitely does not want to build the box kite. Your middle child is in Missions to Modern Marvels. He is less than inspired about his reading about the Wright brothers, but at least he doesn’t have to build a box kite. Your oldest should be in USII enjoying learning more in-depth mature complexities about the Wright brothers and the history of flight. However, he is more than a guide behind and trying to double up on everything to finish. He excelled at doing much of his younger siblings’ projects, but not so much at his own more age appropriate guides’ plans.

Straight Talk About Veering Away from the Plans Due to Being Inspired

Every Heart of Dakota guide is full of inspirational books. Living books are naturally inspiring! Many of us did not have such inspiring books back when we were growing up in school. As we read inspiring living books to our children, it is often tempting to veer far away from guide’s plans and just enjoy digging more into a topic. This seems like a wonderful idea, and once in awhile, it is! However, when choosing to hop on the type of bunny trail freight train I described above, one must remember the natural consequences.  The homeschool day will end much later. Subjects and skills will be skipped. One or more children will not be able to perform well or enjoy the bunny trail as well as the other(s). The topic will not be inspiring when you get to it again later, as it’s been exhausted by the bunny trails already.

Straight Talk About the Little Decisions We Make

Are you working against yourself by making a bunch of little decisions that sabotage your homeschooling? If you are prone to be a frequent inspired bunny trail freight train rider, try to weigh the natural consequences before you hop on the train. Straight talk yourself into really knowing what you’re probably choosing – some potentially amazing moments of inspiration – but also some potentially longer days, skipped subjects/skills, delayed completion of guides, competition and unhealthy comparison among children, and a reduction in inspiration when the subject rolls around again.

For these reasons, I recommend some healthy straight talk in the day to day little decisions. Know what you are choosing, so you can weigh if it’s worth it.  We usually stick to the guide and take bunny trails (if we still feel like it) after school is done. Those bunny trails end up being a lot more fun! Moreover, everyone sure does love to be on track in their guides and finish on time. Free time is pretty inspiring too.

In Christ,

Julie

 

Heart of Dakota’s Poetry Study, R & S English, and Literature Help with CLEP Tests

Heart of Dakota Life

How Heart of Dakota’s Poetry Study, R & S English, and Literature Help with CLEP Tests

My son, Wyatt, is a junior in college this year. He has been able to save money and avoid college debt by taking CLEP and DSST tests alongside college courses. In fact, half of the 18 credits he’s earned each semester have been via passing CLEP and DSST tests. To study for CLEP tests, Wyatt uses either REA practice tests or Instantcert.

Wyatt prefers using REA practice tests to study when possible. Unfortunately, for English Literature and American Literature, there are no REA practice tests available. So, Wyatt used Instantcert to study instead. First, he studied for the English Literature CLEP and passed that. Now, he is studying for the American Literature CLEP. As we have talked off and on about the test study questions, I have found it interesting how often Heart of Dakota’s poetry study, R & S English, and literature studies come up!

CLEP Connections to HOD’s Poetry, R & S English, and Literature

As Wyatt studied for his literature tests, he found many connections to HOD’s poetry, R & S English, and literature. Wyatt made the comment that he remembered many of the poetic devices on the test from all his years of poetry study in HOD. Personification, alliteration, assonance, rhyme, meter, imagery, similes, etc. all readily came to mind. When it came to the study questions about varying stressed and unstressed syllables, Wyatt pulled out his old R & S English 7 book. He said reviewing R & S English’s examples and lessons on iambic and anapestic feet helped him on the test so much!

Finally, Wyatt mentioned that he couldn’t believe how many of HOD’s literature books/authors were part of the test. I actually just asked him to name some books/authors that were on the test that came to mind right now (we are at work together at the HOD warehouse). Here is his random list off the top of his head: Animal Farm, Jane Eyre, Little Women, Hamlet, anything Shakespeare, Through the Looking Glass, Ragged Dick, Treasure Island, Up From Slavery, Anne Bradstreet, the Federalist Papers, Emily Dickinson, The Purloined Letter, Bartleby the Scribner, The Scarlet Letter, Rip Van Winkle… then he said, “Mom, I could go on, but I better get back to work!”

In Christ,

Julie