Help for Struggling Emerging Readers

From Our House to Yours

Help for Struggling Emerging Readers

Do you have an emerging reader who is struggling? If so, take heart!  There are some simple things you can do to help your struggling emerging reader! Before we get to a few practical reading helps, you should rule out a few common causes for early reading struggles. First, if your child hasn’t had a vision test recently, now would be a good time to schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist. One of our sons was quite far-sighted in one eye and near-sighted in the other. So, glasses made all the difference in his reading!

Second, if your child hasn’t had a hearing test recently, now would be a good time to schedule a hearing exam. A tympanogram can identify hearing concerns that a normal doctor’s checkup might miss. Tympanograms are quick, easy, and accurate. A tympanogram identified mild hearing concerns in one ear and severe in the other ear for one of my sons. Fluid in his ears was the problem. Likewise, my nephew had the same results. Both were able to take antibiotic to get rid of the fluid in their ears. Both were also on to reading better in no time!

Brush up on phonics to help struggling emerging readers.

If your child is struggling sounding out words while reading the Emerging Reader’s Set books, you may just need to brush up on phonics! Explode the Code workbooks are inexpensive, fun, and easy to add to your child’s homeschool day. Your child can start with Level 2 or 3, doing 1-3 pages a day. These workbooks are witty and take just 5 minutes a page to do. They are a great way to brush up on phonics while still continuing to read the real books in Heart of Dakota’s Emerging Reader’s Set! Heart of Dakota recommends the workbooks rather than the online version. The mind/body connection of writing in the workbook supports better retention than answering online via a keyboard or touch screen.

If your child never completed a formal phonics program from start to finish, you may need to set aside the Emerging Reader’s Set and work through Sound Bytes phonics. This phonics program is more ‘grown-up’ and is intended for older children. It targets higher level skills and doesn’t feel babyish. Furthermore, it fills in any gaps a child who has not been through an entire phonics program may have.

Have your child trail his/her finger under each sentence while reading.

When children first begin reading, there is only one word or one sentence on a page. As children begin to read emerging reader level books, there are more sentences on a page and pictures too. Sometimes children simply lose their place when reading. They look at the picture, and they are lost. Where were they? Now the page is just a sea of words. For this reason, having children trail their finger under each sentence as they read along works well. Eventually, they’ll stop this. However, if they are losing their place while reading, it is a quick transitional tip that works wonders!

Use the supplemental emerging reader options.

If you have a beginning reader doing the Emerging Reader’s Set (ERS) who seems to just be unable to read the next book, this tip for you! Carrie has extra supplemental books, and they are noted for every unit in the ERS schedule. These supplemental books are at the same approximate reading level as the ERS book scheduled in that same unit. So, for example, if your reader gets stuck on the reading level of Unit 15, simply go to the library to check out the supplemental books from Units 1-15. Then, just read through them slowly. Before you know it, your child will be over the hump and onto the next ERS book!

In Christ,

Julie

Drawn into the Heart of Reading Vocabulary Assignments

From Our House to Yours:

Drawn into the Heart of Reading Vocabulary Work 

Heart of Dakota’s (HOD’s) Drawn into the Heart of Reading (DITHOR) program includes vocabulary assignments. You can find these vocabulary assignments in the DITHOR Teacher’s Guide Appendix. As you are teaching your way through DITHOR, you may have noticed vocabulary assignments are sometimes noted as ‘optional.’ For example, on days 2, 7, and 12 of each genre in Level 2/3, vocabulary is optional. Likewise, on days 3, 8, and 13 of each genre in Level 4/5, it is optional. However, on days 2, 7, and 12 of each genre in Level 6/7/8, vocabulary is not optional. At this level, vocabulary assignments are not in the Appendix. Rather, they are part of the daily plans in DITHOR 6/7/8’s Student Book. So, why are they optional in levels 2/3 and 4/5?

Heart of Dakota’s guides include vocabulary assignments already.

The vocabulary assignments within DITHOR is generally intended for students who are not using HOD’s core guides alongside DITHOR.  Bigger Hearts for His Glory (BHFHG) includes vocabulary work each week. Preparing Hearts for His Glory and Creation to Christ do as well.  So, unless you would like to add more vocabulary work to your student’s day, you would omit the vocabulary activities in DITHOR while doing these guides. Of course, if you do want extra vocabulary work, the vocabulary activities in DITHOR can be used in any order during any year of DITHOR. Once students reach level 6/7/8, vocabulary work specific to DITHOR instruction is excellent preparation for high school level literature work.

So, if you are doing a core HOD guide, there is no need to do the optional DITHOR vocabulary assignments! Just one more reason to use all of HOD! It makes your days easier by making sure there’s no doubling up!

In Christ,

Julie

Try divvying up daily chores for a smoother start to your day!

From Our House to Yours

Try divvying up daily chores for a smoother start to your day!

Do you wake up to a bunch of daily chores that demand your attention? Well, you don’t have to face all of those chores alone! If each family member helps a little, a lot can be done in a short amount of time. Then, you can get to homeschooling with Heart of Dakota and enjoying your day. Just try divvying up your daily chores. In no time, your homeschooling days will be off to a smoother start. But, you might be asking, what does this divvying up look like? Well, there are basic daily chores everyone faces. Laundry, setting the table, emptying the trash cans, unloading the dishwasher, etc. are all daily chores for most families. However, each family will also have chores unique to them as well. If you have pets, for example, you will have daily chores another pet-free home might not have.

First, just pay attention to the daily chores your family faces and jot them down!

Before assigning chores or making a chart, I like to just pay attention to what is happening in our home. I set out a piece of paper first thing in the morning and jot down any daily chores that need to be done. Many times, I have found I am doing a lot of things I should be divvying up. Our children will own homes and live on their own someday, Lord willing! Knowing basic daily chores will only serve to help them be successful adults. Not to mention doing everything for everyone as a mom is not healthy. It’s also not fun. And it takes forever. All reasons for divvying up chores!

Next – divvy up the daily chores, do some training, and post a chart!

Once you have your list, it is time to divvy them up. Match chores with ages, abilities, and interests when possible. In general, I try to have the youngest child that can do the chore do it.  This way, there is a passing down of the chores as children mature.  Training is important. Taking time to train each child to do his/her chores right is well worth the time it involves. Last, make and post a simple chart! For little children, pictures are helpful. For older children, lists are enough. Here is my current chart for my three sons who are ages 21, 17, and 13:

Wyatt’s Daily Chores:
Feed and water the dogs/cat
Scoop kennels and driveway
Get the mail
Clear snow if necessary
Wednesdays: Trash to the curb
Sundays: Take Bibles to church
Evenings: Feed and water the dogs/cat
Weekends: Laundry with Mom

Riley Daily Chores:
Fill Keurig with water
Consolidate and take out the trash
Make smoothie
Sundays: Make a coffee-to-go for Mom
Evenings: Run the dishwasher
Weekends: Laundry with Mom

Emmett Daily Chores:
Unload the dishwasher
Set the table for breakfast
Help feed and water the dogs/cat
Evenings: Exercise, feed, and water Cuddles (our hamster)
Weekends: Laundry with Mom

*Mom makes breakfast, sets out vitamins, fills sink with soapy water, starts Christian music.

Rooms (Mon.-Sat.; Sun. optional):
Beds made
Nothing on floor
Shelves neat
Drawers shut
End table neat, only 1 drink bottle on it
Nothing on dresser but decorations
One pile of something
Weekends, as able: Vacuum, dust, mirrors, dustbust windowsills

Try divvying up chores to conquer them together!

So, to beat the morning chores’ rush, try divvying them up and conquering them together!  I guarantee, your homeschooling day will be off to a much smoother start!

In Christ,
Julie

Assigning Points to Encourage Accuracy in Following Directions

From Our House to Yours

Assigning Points to Encourage Accuracy in Following Directions

Following step-by-step directions is a skill our children will benefit from their entire lives. My sons have learned the importance of carefully following directions through using Heart of Dakota. They know they will finish their homeschooling on time if they don’t have to go back and do steps they’ve missed. Missed steps cause mistakes, and mistakes cause things not to to turn out well. Missed steps cause recipes to taste bad, experiments to flop, and projects to fail. These consequences of missing steps are natural motivators that encourage accuracy in following directions. However, what do you do with an older student who has been trained well to follow directions, but still often misses steps? Well, one way to motivate accuracy in following directions is by assigning points.

Assigning points in less routine subjects can encourage accuracy.

Today I was in a hurry to go to an appointment. I needed to quickly go over my son’s Missions to Modern Marvels Write with the Best assignment and leave. My son is in 8th grade. Thanks to all of his previous years in Heart of Dakota, he has learned to follow directions quite carefully. He does really well with step-by-step directions in ‘boxes’ of plans that are more constant. Timeline entries, written narrations, geography assignments, etc. are easy for him to do accurately because he does them every week. Even history projects and science experiments go well. However, writing assignments vary greatly. This is why this box is labeled “S” for semi-independent. I teach a part, and then he does a part independently. In these less routine subjects, assigning points can help improve accuracy.

Assigning Points in Write with the Best to Encourage Accuracy

So, today I first went through the directions for the Write with the Best assignment. We looked at our notes from the previous lesson to help. Then, I assigned points for each step of the mini-lesson in Write with the Best. This lesson was short, as it was just the introduction for a literary critique he was starting to write for a book of his choice. However, this assignment still had many things to be included. I could foresee me returning from my appointment to help him add things he’d missed. So, in the Write with the Best guide I underlined each step/instruction. Then, next to each step/instruction, I put 5 to signify 5 points. There were 5 steps/instructions. I told Emmett this assignment was worth 25 points. Anything he forgot to do we would do when I got back. Well, he did everything he was supposed to do!  Accuracy – hooray!

In Closing

This assigning of points can be done to motivate accuracy in any subject area. Heart of Dakota’s guides already include excellent guidelines in each box of plans. Each guideline can be awarded points. I just underline the step/direction directly in the guide and jot the points in the margin. Sometimes I do 10 points, sometimes I do 5 points. Sometimes I give an extra 5 or 10 points for writing neatly, etc., if that is something I want to encourage. I don’t do points all of the time for every subject. Rather, I do points rarely. I do points if I feel I’ve really done my part to help ensure accuracy, and now it’s their turn to show me they can do their part to strive for accuracy too. Or, I do points if I have an appointment to get to!  I hope this helps give one way you can encourage accuracy!

In Christ,

Julie

Choosing Upper DITHOR Book Pack and Student Book Levels

From Our House to Yours

Choosing Upper DITHOR Book Pack and Student Book Levels

Each of Heart of Dakota’s (HOD’s) upper Drawn into the Heart of Reading (DITHOR) book packs includes a range of reading levels within each set of books.  Specific reading levels are also noted individually for each book.  The 5/6 Boy Book Pack includes books ranging from 5.1-6.9 (fifth grade first month through sixth grade ninth month). Subsequently, the 5/6 Girl Book Pack includes books ranging from 5.1-6.8 (fifth grade first month through sixth grade eighth month). Moving on, the 6/7 Book Pack includes books ranging from 6.0-7.3 (sixth grade through seventh grade third month). Progressing on, the 7/8 Boy Book Pack includes books ranging from 6.3-8.5 (sixth grade third month through eighth grade fifth month). Similarly, the 7/8 Girl Book Pack includes books ranging from 6.2-8.3 (sixth grade second month through eighth grade third month).

Level 5/6 Boy Book Pack Samples

In general, the Level 5/6 Boy Book Pack has medium-sized chapters, less words on a page, and a few pictures. The Invisible Friend is read for 15 days and is the Mystery book selection. It has a reading level of 5.1. This makes it one of the easiest books in the Level 5/6 Boy Book Pack. There are 207 pages in The Invisible Friend. So, students read about 14 pages a day.

The Little Duke is read for 15 days. It is the Biography book selection. It has a reading level of 6.9. This makes it one of the hardest books in the Level 5/6 Boy Book Pack. There are 171 pages in The Little Duke. So, students read about 11 pages a day.

Level 5/6 Girl Book Pack Samples

In general, the Level 5/6 Girl Book Pack has medium-sized chapters, less words on a page, and a few pictures. The Secret of the Old Clock is read for 15 days and is the Nancy Drew Mystery book selection. It has a reading level of 5.4. This makes it one of the easiest books in the Level 5/6 Girl Book Pack. There are 180 pages in The Secret of the Old Clock. So, students read about 12 pages a day.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is read for 15 days. It is the Adventure book selection. It has a reading level of 6.8. This makes it one of the hardest books in the Level 5/6 Girl Book Pack. There are 181 pages in The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. So, students read about 12 pages a day.

Level 6/7 Book Pack Samples

In general, the Level 6/7 Book Pack books have longer reading assignments. They have no pictures, smaller font sizes, and are thicker chapter books with higher vocabulary and more mature topics. The Black Stallion Mystery is read for 15 days and is the Mystery book selection. It has a reading level of 6.1. This makes it one of the easiest books in the Level 6/7 Book Pack. There are 200 pages in The Black Stallion Mystery. So, students read about 13 pages a day.

The White Dove is read for 5 days. It is one of the Folk Tales book selections. It has a reading level of 7.0. This makes it one of the hardest books in the Level 6/7 Book Pack. There are 67 pages in The White Dove. So, students read about 13 pages a day. You can see the font is much smaller, the sentences longer, and the sentence structures more complex. Though The White Dove is small in size, it is more difficult to read. Just because a book is smaller, remember, that does not mean it is easier!

Level 7/8 Boy Interest Book Pack Samples

In general, the 7/8 Book Packs are thick chapter books. They have no pictures, more difficult sentence structures, higher level vocabulary, and more mature topics. They are chosen with the intent to prepare students for the high school level literature they will soon be expected to read. For example, in the Level 7/8 Boy Interest Book Pack, Caught in the Act is read for 5 days. It is one of the Mystery selections. It has a reading level of 6.3. This makes it one of the easiest books in the Level 7/8 Boy Interest Book Pack. There are 150 pages in Caught in the Act. So, students read about 30 pages a day.

Winter Holiday is read for 15 days. It is the Realistic Fiction book selection. It has a reading level of 8.1. This makes it one of the hardest books in the Level 7/8 Boy Interest Book Pack. There are 324 pages in Winter Holiday. So, students read about 22 pages a day.

Level 7/8 Girl Interest Book Pack Samples

In the Level 7/8 Girl Interest Book Pack, Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio, for example, is read for 10 days. It is one of the Nonfiction selections. It has a reading level of 6.2. This makes it one of the easiest books in the Level 7/8 Girl Interest Book Pack. There are 164 pages in Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio. So, students read about 16 pages a day.

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm is read for 15 days. It is the Humor book selection. It has a reading level of 8.3. This makes it one of the hardest books in the Level 7/8 Girl Interest Book Pack. There are 229 pages in Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. So, students read about 23 pages a day.

Choosing Between Book Pack Levels

In general, we would say error on the side of choosing that which is easier if between two levels.  The DITHOR Teacher’s Guide and Student Books will add challenge; we don’t want the books to be at a challenge level, but rather at a level that the student can read fairly well on his/her own. Keep in mind, the challenge at this level is in delving more deeply into the book. In-depth genre studies, story element instruction (i.e. plot, tone, mood, point of view, inference, etc.), moral reasoning with more mature Godly character traits in mind, and higher level comprehension are the skills to be taught. The goal is not to simply read as quickly as possible; speed reading books with little thought is a lower level skill. Rather, more mature skills that are high school level literature preparatory focused are the goals for these years.

Choosing Which Genre Your Student Will Read First

Heart of Dakota lists the reading levels for each book on its website, in its catalog, and on its Optional Book Recommendations paper sent with your order. Genres can be done in any order, so starting with the easiest reading level for a struggling reader makes good sense. Starting with whichever genre or book your student is most excited about for a strong, yet dispassionate reader makes good sense. If you have an average reader who enjoys reading, starting with the first genre (or any genre) makes good sense. Keep in mind the range of reading levels is intentional – not too big, not too small. Students’ reading and comprehension will gradually improve throughout the year. The range of reading levels Carrie carefully picked accommodates for that growth.

Choosing Which Level of DITHOR Student Book to Use

As far as the DITHOR Student Books, the 4/5 Student Book includes assignments every 3-4 out of 5 days, has a fair share of writing, and is assuming students have had some formal literature study of the genres and the story elements, building upon this foundation. The 6/7/8 Student Book includes daily assignments, requires daily writing, is more in-depth, and is written with high school literature preparation in mind.

In general, 6th grade students who have not had as much formal literature study of the genres and story elements or who are not accustomed to writing more do one year in the 4/5 Student Book and move to the 6/7/8 Student Book in seventh grade.  Seventh and eighth grade students who have had formal literature study of the genres and story elements, who are able to write well, and who are able to comprehend well place in the 6/7/8 Student Book.  Reading levels of book packs do not need to match Student Book levels.  So, for example, a sixth grade student who is an avid reader who does not write as well or who has not had formal literature study may use the 6/7 Book Pack with the 4/5 Student Book.

In Closing

I hope this helps you with choosing which level of book pack and which level of student book you’d like to use with your older student(s). If I look at a book inside and outside, know the total number of pages in the book, and know how many pages my student would need to read each day, I can usually choose what level is best for each of my sons. I hope you find the same to be true for you and find this to be an encouragement!

In Christ,

Julie