Habit training during breaks can help the homeschool year go better!
Charlotte Mason was an advocate of habit training! We have found breaks during our homeschool year offer the perfect time to habit train. During breaks, our kiddos can focus on learning one good habit a time. This attention to habit training makes our homeschool year with Heart of Dakota go even better!
Here are a few of my favorite Charlotte Mason quotes that inspire habit training!
“Every day, every hour, the parents are either passively or actively forming those habits in their children upon which, more than upon anything else, future character and conduct depend.” (Charlotte Mason, Volume 1, page 118)
“The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days.” (Charlotte Mason, Volume 1, page 123)
What habit training for a toddler would help the homeschool year go better?
Toddlers are notoriously ‘everywhere’ and into ‘everything!’ So, one worthwhile habit to train toddlers to have is an independent playtime in a designated, child-proof area. A blanket in a child-proofed room, a playpen in a safe area, or a gated child-proofed area of the house are examples of good areas to train toddlers to have a playtime. Once you have child-proofed an area, you can choose a basket of things that will keep their attention. This basket might include board books, stuffed animals, blocks, balls, etc. All items should be safe for kiddos to use (or throw) on their own. Toddlers can start with 15 minutes and work up to 20 or 30 minutes. You can play Christian music or a homemade ‘mommy tape’ in the background.
What habit training for 3 to 6 year olds would help the homeschool year go better?
My favorite habit to train my 4 to 6 year olds to do for an independent playtime was learning stations. To read my blog post about learning stations, click here!
What habit training for individual chores for children of all ages would help the homeschool year go better?
Chores are part of the homeschool environment, and your children can be your best help! A break in homeschooling is a wonderful time to habit train children to help with chores. It is best to focus on one chore at a time. Each child can have a chore he/she is responsible for in a routine way each day. You may want one child to consolidate and take out the trash each day. Another child can unload the dishwasher. Still another child can feed the pets. Whatever chores are assigned, be sure to have the same child responsible for them each day. That will help them to become a good habit! You can change them in a year or so, but you may find (as I have) that they want to keep their chores the next year. They’ve become good at them!
What habit training tasks can be completed together as a family?
You can also work on one overall chore as a family, and assign each child a part of that overall chore. For example, you could assign each child a task to complete when cleaning up after a meal. We have our youngest son clear the table. He sets the dirty dishes on the counter near the sink and puts away anything simple that has to go in the fridge or in the cupboard (i.e. ketchup bottle, honey, salt/pepper, etc.). I put any leftovers in containers in the fridge and scrape anything on plates in the garbage.
My oldest son rinses the dishes for the dishwasher and washes any large pots/pans. My middle son takes the rinsed dishes and loads them in the dishwasher. He also dries the pots and pans and puts them back in the cupboards. Meanwhile, my youngest son vacuums the kitchen. To finish, my middle son wipes off the table. This all takes place very quickly and efficiently, as we have done this for years!
I hope this gives you some ideas for habit training for your kiddos during breaks! Having habits in place such as these makes the homeschool year so much more enjoyable!
P.S. For more about habit training little ones by Carrie, click here!
P.S.S. For more about habit training kiddos to have scheduled playtimes, click here!
Creation to Christ’s “Reading About History” part of the plans is fascinating!
In Creation to Christ Emmett has been learning about the ancients time of King Solomon and the time of the divided kingdom. He researched Solomon’s Temple online and answered questions about where it was built, how long it took to build, the materials used, the outside/inside of the temple, what Solomon did when the temple was complete, and how we know the Lord was pleased with its completion.
Creation to Christ’s 3-Day “History Projects” are so much fun!
His history project pictured above shows the division of the 12 tribes of Israel. While Solomon originally ruled all 12 tribes, due to his worshiping other pagan gods (as well as Israel), the resulting punishment was his kingdom being torn away from him. Ten tribes were given to Jeroboam, and two tribes were given to Rehoboam. Emmett made ten white pockets for the tribes of Israel and two blue pockets for the tribes of Judah. He then tore a piece of cloth into 12 pieces, just as the prophet Ahijah did with his robe, to signify the dividing of the kingdom. Each pocket has a piece of the robe in it. What a neat project and a memorable way to retain this part of ancient history!
You can also see Emmett Heart of Dakota history notebook pictured above, which shows his timeline entries, historical written narration, meaningful copywork from a history living book, and independent history assignment.
Creation to Christ’s poetry by Robert Frost and watercolor painting is a great combination!
A few other highlights of the week were his watercolor painting of a night sky with the moon rising for Robert Frost’s poem Going for Water and his science experiment showing how a dinosaur moved for his Land Animals… science reading. He decided he’s very thankful he is not a dinosaur and can simply walk and run on 2 legs!
World Geography and World Religions and Cultures are two studies that complement each other very well!
In World Geography Riley finished his history theme for Unit 12 and started Unit 13. He really enjoyed his assignment in Mapping the World with Art. He drew and colored his own Medieval/Renaissance compass rose. He read about explorers, such as Diaz from Portugal, who used a magnetic compass such as this to navigate the southern coast of Africa. He also made matzah, which is unleavened bread in response to his World Religion and Culture’s reading. It was good the first time, but the second day, we were all happy to go back to our homemade leavened bread!
World Geography’s 1/2 credit Logic elective has been fascinating!
Riley has absolutely loved his Fallacy Detective book. He said he was sad it was the last reading. As this is an elective, I often let him check his own answers with the answer key and just meet with me to informally share what he’d learned or what struck him the most from the day’s reading/assignment. He always had something clever or witty to share, and he often shares examples of logic he’s seen in billboards, commercials, or magazines. What a neat elective to do – and an important one, as knowing fact from fallacy is important! Finally, he worked on his English assignment, and I stressed the important of writing neatly.
US II teaches our boys how to prepare talking points just as if they were to give a press conference!
In USII High SchoolWyatt finished Unit 18 and started Unit 19. On an index card, he prepared a list of talking points for his oral narration. He spoke about Britain standing alone against Hitler, Hitler’s plans for the Soviet Union, Bismarck the German Navy ship, and FDR’s promise to help Britain. He also used his USII Notebook as a visual aid by sharing the drawing of the Loss of H.M.S. Hood.
USII’s full-color notebook pages are a great way to organize each week’s studies!
The full-color Heart of Dakota notebooks are so beautiful and add much learning to Wyatt’s school day. The photographs, charts, portraits, political cartoons, maps, etc. you see pictured all provided a visual basis for his topic oral narration. I love to listen to Wyatt narrate! It is obvious he enjoys history, remembers what he has read, and gives a very ‘narrative’ narration – in other words, I think he’s become an excellent storyteller! Just what Charlotte Mason would have liked! Wyatt also worked on his Economics elective and his Algebra, which you can see in the pictures.
I hope that this snapshot of a typical day running 3 Heart of Dakota guides is a blessing to all of you amazing moms who are doing so much to make your children’s lives all that they can be!
Our oldest son is 18 years old and just completed his last Heart of Dakota guide! It is hard to believe he is graduating. He has done every HOD guide from PreK through 12th grade, and the years have truly flown by. We are so proud of him! Homeschool graduations can be celebrated many different ways. To show one way, I thought for this post I would share some of the things we are doing for graduation.
Take pictures earlier in the year if you can!
Last October a good friend of ours took Wyatt’s pictures for graduation. Fall is a beautiful time of year here. I knew we’d be crazy busy this spring, so taking the pictures ahead of time really helped. Our friend just took pictures on her camera different places around where we live. God’s creation is always a beautiful backdrop!
We picked one dressy outfit and two casual outfits. I tried to stick with a similar color scheme. I washed, pressed, and set aside the clothes. We told our friend to just give us at least a few hours’ notice for when she thought the pictures would be good to take. This is something we can do when we are homeschooling, right?!? Having our son’s senior pictures taken ahead of time allowed me to be able to make the invitations for our open house ahead of time on Shutterfly. So, all I had to do was fill in the date of our open house later. My son chose his favorite photos for the invitations and picked a Bible verse for them. Easy peasy!
Choose a date that is different from the dates of public and private school graduations!
We picked a different open house date than local public and private high school’s dates. We can choose any date for our graduation! I love the flexibility of homeschooling! Visiting with family and close friends, we picked the date and time that worked best. Choosing a date other than the typical graduation gatherings helps family and friends be more able to attend.
Choose a place that can be set up ahead of time if possible!
We have chosen our garage for an informal outdoor graduation open house. This is common where we live, as summers are lovely, and we live on an acreage! Plus, it gives us a great reason to clean the garage, right?!? I don’t know about your garage, but ours could use a reason for a good cleaning! We’ve borrowed tables and chairs from my husband’s workplace.
Choose simple table decorations that can be reused for your other children who will be graduating someday!
As we live in the country, we have chosen red gingham tablecloths. I don’t have to spend much money on them, and I can reuse them. Each 6 foot table will have ball canning jars with Wyatt’s favorite snacks – cashews and M & M’s! I’ve made a family photobook each year for my husband for Christmas, so I’m setting a different photobook on each table too. There are many pictures of Wyatt with our family growing up, and I think this could be a good conversation piece!
I’m also planning on having a card table with red gingham tablecloth and with a premade poster for people to sign for Wyatt. They can write comments as well here, and I think it will be a neat keepsake of the party for him. I’m putting a red geranium on this table as well (thanks mom for that wonderful idea)! I’m also going to put his baby photobook on this table. Finally, the backdrop leaning against the wall will be a metal art wall hanging I made for him with all his senior pictures. This can hang on the wall in his bedroom after the party (thanks Carrie for this awesome idea)!
Choose food that won’t prevent you from visiting with guests!
I love to cook and to bake! However, I don’t want to be consumed with this so much leading up to the graduation or during the graduation. I want to be able to visit with family and friends and be there for Wyatt. So, we are making pulled pork ahead of time and putting it in crock pots for sandwiches. We are also putting baked beans in crock pots. Premade potato salad, chips and dip, coleslaw (thanks Cindy for this idea), and 2 kinds of layered cake from Costco will round out the menu. Lemonade, coffee (good idea, mom), and water bottles will be available as well.
I hope this has given all of you amazing moms some ideas to simplify graduation for your homeschool senior! What a blessing to be able to celebrate ‘pressing on toward the goal to win the prize‘ with our graduating teens!!! God bless!
How can we encourage our students to make oral narrations their own?
Narration is a key component of Charlotte Mason’s method of instruction. In simplest terms, narration is the telling back in your own words what you just read or heard. It provides an excellent evaluation method for homeschooling, as the student must do much thinking and assimilating to narrate. No two narrations should be the same. Rather, the student is to ‘make the narration his own.’
Heart of Dakota includes various forms of narration in each guide’s plans as a type of assessment. Each year new kinds of narrations are added, while others continue to be practiced and honed. So, narration is easily a part of a student’s homeschooling just by following the plans in Heart of Dakota’s guides. However, encouraging personal style is a little more difficult to ‘plan.’ So, let’s answer this question for this blog post! How can we encourage our students to make oral narrations their own?
Well, first we can find clues about how to encourage our students to make narrations their own in Charlotte Mason’s own words.
Narrating is not the work of a parrot, but of absorbing into oneself the beautiful thought from the book, making it one’s own and then giving it forth again with just that little touch that comes from one’s own mind. (The Story of Charlotte Mason, p. 125)
We are determined that the children shall love books, therefore we do not interpose ourselves between the book and the child. (Charlotte Mason, Vol. 2, p. 231)
Narrating is an art, like poetry-making or painting, because it is there, in every child’s mind, waiting to be discovered, and is not the result of any process of disciplinary education. A creative fiat calls it forth. ‘Let him narrate’; and the child narrates, fluently, copiously, in ordered sequence, with fit and graphic details, with a just choice of words, without verbosity or tautology, so soon as he can speak with ease. (Charlotte Mason, Vol. 1, p. 231)
Second, we can also find clues about how to encourage our students to make narrations their own in Carrie Austin’s own words.
Children who have gotten into the habit of reading good literature absorb what they will from it themselves, in their own way, whether it’s a lot or a little. Reading living books and narrating from them helps children to begin to form their own literary style. Because they have been in the company of great minds, their style will not be an exact copy of any one in particular, but will instead be shaped as an individual style from the wealth of materials they possess to create a natural style of their own.
Narration done properly develops the power of self-expression and invites a child’s personality to become part of the learning process. A child should choose vocabulary he finds appealing, make it his own, and then give it forth again with that own unique touch that comes from his own mind. This is why no two narrations should be exactly alike, and it is also why teachers should not expect their children to give the same narration they would have given. (Carrie Austin, taken from the Appendix of Heart of Dakota’s guides)
Third, putting it all together, we can encourage our students to make narrations their own in these ways.
To encourage our students, we can be open to them adding their own personal touches to the narration.
To help our students love to narrate, we can help them learn to love reading first. We can do this by not interposing ourselves between the book and the child.
We can view narrating to be a work of art done by the child, flowing freely from them and unheeded by interruptions from us.
As students grow and mature, we can expose them to many different literary styles. From this, we can expect their own narrating style to emerge slowly over time.
We can expect our student’s personality to become a part of the narration.
As students connect with what they have read, we can expect them to choose vocabulary or phrasing from the author that appealed most to them.
Finally, we can encourage our students to narrate in their own style by not imposing our own narration style upon them. We have our own style of narrating, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be their style.
So, what are some examples of students making oral narrations their own?
My son, Emmett, likes to give most of his oral narrations cuddled up on the couch with me. He does not want any time to compose himself before narrating. Rather, he likes to charge into it, beginning narrating immediately following the reading. He tends to remember exact phrasing or vocabulary easily. He really seems to love ‘words’ or certain ‘phrases’ and commits them to memory naturally. So, he automatically includes his favorite ‘turn of the phrase’ type quotes from the author within his narrations. His best narrations are those that I’ve remembered to tell him he will be narrating prior to the reading. He seems to just pay attention better, and he plans his narration as I read or as he reads.
What type of narration fits Emmett’s style the best, and what type doesn’t?
His favorite type of narration assigned in the plans is the ‘props’ narration. Gathering a few props, he retells the story with incredible detail. During his favorite narration ‘props’ assignment, he narrates for looooooong periods of time. I’ve learned to let him. He loves this narration so much that he will look ahead in the guide. He counts the days until he can narrate in this style again. However, it is the narration he does not enjoy as much, the summary narration, that he needs the most.
I have taught him to notice the subheadings or to think of the biggest things that happen during the reading when he will have to do a summary narration. He doesn’t like it because he can’t work all of his favorite quotes from the author into 5 sentences, but that’s ok. He can on virtually every other kind of narrating, and I’ve grown to love his style of orally narrating because of it!
What if movement is something a narrator wants to incorporate into his style?
My son, Riley, likes to give his oral narrations standing. He is a pacer, and he likes to gesture with his hands. When he was younger, he would fidget on the couch, bumping into me, sloshing my coffee. Sometimes he would be sitting up on his haunches, like a rocket ready to launch! I don’t know why it took so long to occur to me that sitting on the couch next to me was not the best location for his narrations! I guess we just had always read on the couch, and the narration followed.
Anyway, we began to experiment with movement for Riley during his narrations. All did not go well at first. Sometimes he would pace to the next room, his narration fading so I couldn’t hear him anymore. Other times he had something in his hand while gesturing, like a clicky pencil. The pencil began clicking, tapping, flipping, and the storyline was lost.
We ended up settling upon movement was fine within his oral narrations if he stayed in a small area in front of me. Also, gestures and movements had to fit with what he was saying and not detract from it. Finally, he had to imagine he was giving his narration to a group of listeners rather than just ‘mom.’ Riley has made movement a natural part of his narrations now. He does so well!
What type of narration fits Riley’s style the best, and what type doesn’t?
Riley’s favorite kind of narration is the detailed narration. He narrates as if he’s having a conversation with me. He likes to first catch me up on anything I may have missed in the story since the last time he narrated. Really, it is kind of like he’s narrating twice, but I let it go. He loves it! Then, he tells me he’s ‘officially starting his narration.’ He likes to then look at the book, skim it, and mentally plan for a bit before he begins. He usually quotes the first sentence at the start.
During the narration, he includes a fair share of emotions. He laughs telling parts he things are incredulous. During parts that are upsetting or unbelievable to him, he shakes his head or sighs. For exciting parts, he raises his voice – he might even say, “It was just so amazing! I mean, can you believe they were able to build that structure with no machines and have it be rock solid?!? Amazing! Anyway…” He truly interacts with the author by connecting to the storyline, and I have grown to love his style of narrating because of it!
How can a logical narrator add personality and style to narrating?
My son, Wyatt, likes to give his oral narrations sitting separate from me. Often times he will even lay down on the couch as he gives his narration, while I am sitting in the chair opposite him. He finds this much more relaxing than standing in front of me as if he were addressing a group. He also likes a little space between us, sitting separately so he can compose his thoughts. Wyatt is a logical narrator, and he loves to tell stories chronologically, from start to finish. As a younger child, he much preferred summary narrations. He liked how concise they were, and he enjoyed giving sequential points in response to the readings. His narrations sounded somewhat encyclopedia-like, and I did not know how to draw out his personality in them. Turns out I didn’t have to. Time and varied oral narrations planned in the guides did it for me.
What type of narration fits Wyatt’s style the best, and what type doesn’t?
Wyatt is a big picture narrator, and he absolutely loves to read! He always has a book in his hand, in or out of school. This exposure to excellent literature in HOD over time has helped him develop his own narrating style. Years of reading excellent living books have given him countless connections. When I think of Charlotte Mason’s ‘broad-backdrop’ of history needing to be learned prior to putting ‘hooks’ into it for specific time periods, I think of Wyatt. He has the broad backdrop running in his mind seamlessly. Whatever he reads gets simulated into that backdrop, and it makes his oral narrations all the better.
When he narrates about Teddy Roosevelt, it is like he personally knows him. Then I remember he read “To Carry a Big Stick” earlier, and it makes sense to me why he talks about Teddy like an old friend when he’s really narrating on what he read briefly about him in America: The Last Best Hope. He narrates drawing upon all of his years of reading living books and crafting the best big picture narration he can, and I have grown to love his style of narrating because of it!
Students become well-rounded narrators by giving a variety of narrations, rather than just their favorite type.
You may be wondering why I didn’t share what type of narration doesn’t fit Wyatt’s style. That’s because there isn’t one anymore. His style has become so adaptable that he can apply it to any kind of narration quite naturally. He enjoys narrating. Any kind. To share his thoughts on what he has read is as natural to him as breathing, and he has learned to love it as much as he loves the books he reads.
So, though it is tempting to just have the child narrate in their favorite way all of the time, it does them no favors. Often it is the case that if a narration assignment is not their favorite, they are not as good at it. To encourage our students to be the best narrators they can be, they need to learn to narrate in many different ways. It is through years of exposure to various authors’ styles in living books that your own students’ styles of narration will emerge! And then, through patience and encouragement, you too will be able to say ‘you have grown to love their style of narrating’ because of it!
P.S. To learn more about Charlotte Mason’s written narrations as a form of assessment, click here!
P.S.S. To understand where summarizing comes into narration, click here!
Each day I get to help families with placement in Heart of Dakota. I’ve enjoyed doing this for over a decade and consider it an incredible blessing and a privilege! I see a trend for many students who come to Heart of Dakota from other curricula. They are often placing lower on the placement chart in writing, spelling, and grammar. They have done much work orally. But, now that they are getting older, parents are looking ahead to middle school and high school work. They are concerned their students won’t be ready.
Impact on Spelling and Editing Skills
Since much of the work was done orally by students, their spelling has also been impacted. They just have not written enough to form the habit of spelling well. Likewise, they have done little to no editing of their own written work. The parent has not been editing either, as students have been doing their work orally. This leaves the parent with all of the responsibility of editing a larger volume of work, as students should be writing more as they mature. So, a responsibility that should be shared or shifting more to the student has landed soundly in the parent’s lap! Not what we busy homeschool moms need, right?!?
How Reading Aloud Everything Can Impact Students’ Writing
When older students are combined with much younger students and therefore everything must be read aloud either by them or the parent, their writing is impacted. Seeing the text on the page as you read in your head fixes proper spelling in your mind. This in turn helps you have a better chance of spelling words correctly in your own writing. Older students who have not read independently often do not write well independently for this reason. This is why Charlotte Mason advocated students at the age of 9 be responsible for their reading. Can you think back to yourself as a 5th grade student? I know, for some of us, this is going waaaaaay back. But, thinking back, how would your teachers reading everything aloud to you have impacted your writing? Probably significantly, and not in a way you’d like.
The good news – Heart of Dakota’s plans are designed to help students improve their writing!
Students incrementally become stronger writers using Heart of Dakota’s plans! Simply following the daily plans and using the writing helps in the appendix of each guide helps students gradually improve. However, what do you do if you are coming to Heart of Dakota later? Or, what if you did Heart of Dakota from the start, but you altered the plans so work was done orally instead? Well, take heart! Students can and will improve given time, as they create new writing habits. So, here are 5 tips to help your children strengthen their writing skills and be on the road to writing well!
#1: Follow Heart of Dakota’s plans by requiring all writing in assignments to be completed.
Start small if need be! Students assigned to write 5- 7 sentences for a written narration should start with 5 good short sentences. Quality trumps quantity to begin with! Students should use proper spelling in all copywork, written narrations, and formal writing assignments. However, editing writing in all subject areas helps as well. So, if you see a word spelled wrong in science, for example, try to help them fix it. Though work need not be perfect, spelling is something to try to edit in all subject areas as much as possible.
#2: Use the editing tips in the back of the guide.
Take time to edit to help your student become a strong writer! Working through the list following the directions in the Appendix will help students form good editing habits. The responsibility for editing will gradually shift more from you to your students. As this happens, your kiddos will learn writing carefully from the start equals less editing at the end. Keep in mind, students write one draft for written narrations. A parent should not require a student to rewrite an entire written narration in a second or third draft. Rather, students edit their first draft to the best of their ability with a parent offering help and encouragement as needed.
#3: Do dictation every day you homeschool.
Heart of Dakota’s plans assign dictation 3 out of 4 days a week. Struggling spellers can see more improvement in their spelling by doing dictation daily. Be sure to follow the directions at the start of dictation carefully, as they follow Charlotte Mason’s tried and true methods. For one of my sons who struggled with spelling, we did dictation daily. It took his scores on standardized testing from below average to above average. He didn’t become a stellar speller overnight, mind you! But, slow and steady consistent dictation and editing helped him improve greatly!
#4: Students should read when assigned to do so.
Carrie wrote Heart of Dakota’s plans to include living books. She chose these books specifically with reading roles in mind. Students placed properly in a guide can independently read what has been assigned or quickly grow into the reading. Carrie didn’t forget parents’ love to read aloud either! Parents always get to enjoy reading something too. I love the books I get to read aloud with my sons! But, I also love my sons enjoying reading on their own too! Keep in mind not all living books function best as read alouds. Likewise, the reading assignments vary in length. Some readings are long! Students are meant to read them more quickly independently. As Charlotte Mason advocated children 9 years or older begin doing their own reading, Carrie chose books with this in mind.
#5: Teach students to shrink their writing to fit on notebook paper.
Students who are new to writing often write quite large. They also often do not know how to write with proper spacing. Writing on lined notebook paper for subjects such as R & S English, science questions, Common Place book entries, etc. can be a challenge. You can help by pointing out the left and right margins. Likewise, you can draw their attention to spacing between words. Helping them visualize a dotted line within the wide line also helps with writing lower case letters. Students can skip lines, as this helps them better see how to edit their written work. They can also experiment with various pencils and grippers, until they find what they like best. Parents can jot editing notes in the margin for easy reference.
I use these tips with my own sons each day! I have seen such improvement in writing, spelling, and grammar through the years with Heart of Dakota. My job as editor decreases and shifts to my sons’ job as they mature. This is what helps them be able to write well without me! And that, in my mind, is the final goal for writing! Hope this helps as you encourage your own kiddos to become the best writers they can be!
P.S. For more on written narrations as a form of assessment, click here!
P.S.S. For more on dictation as a way to teach spelling to struggling students, click here!