Copywork of Excellent Passages Precedes Creative Writing

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

Copywork of Excellent Passages Precedes Creative Writing

Charlotte Mason believed the initial step to becoming a good writer was to first copy passages of excellent worth. Rather than encouraging creative writing with inventive spelling, Charlotte encouraged quite the opposite. In contrast, Charlotte had children copy meaningful passages of literary worth, line by line while looking at a model. Then, after children had mastered the art of copying neatly and accurately, Charlotte introduced them to creative writing. However, she continued to have children do copywork of meaningful quotes, passages, Scriptures, and poems alongside their creative writing. At Heart of Dakota we embrace her philosophy! We first introduce copywork of excellent passages. Then later, we add creative writing alongside the continuation of copywork.

Carrie’s 15 Years’ Experience with Teaching Creative Writing in Public School Prior to Having Her Own Children to Homeschool

During my eleven years as a public school teacher, we did much creative writing with kiddos from very early ages. As the kiddos passed through the grades, we discovered that doing creative writing early often caused kiddos to form poor habits in punctuation and capitalization, while emphasizing invented spelling (because kiddos were too young to know how to spell correctly yet). Over time it was tough to undo the habits of incorrect grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling just for the sake of getting the written word on paper from an early age.

We also discovered that young kiddos often had trouble having any ideas about which to write. Even if they knew what they wanted to write, they couldn’t put it into words on paper. They hadn’t been exposed at that age to enough excellent writing to truly know what it looks like. We also found that those who had a God-given gift in the area of writing did well no matter how we taught writing.

Carrie’s Research of Charlotte Mason’s Philosophy in Regard to Creative Writing

When we had our own children and moved into homeschooling, we read more of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy. Much of her thoughts on writing made sense to me. So, now at Heart of Dakota we delay “creative writing” until kiddos have copied enough from excellent passages to know what good writing looks like and and have also begun to form the habit of correct spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. Once the excellent foundation is laid in those areas in our younger guides, we move into formal lessons on writing written narrations. This begins in Preparing Hearts for His Glory. We also creatively write from poetry in Preparing Hearts, and then continue in that vein in Creation to Christ (adding a formal writing program at that point as well).

Carrie’s Own Children’s Experience with Creative Writing

My own kiddos are avid writers, pouring out “books,” letters, stories, and a love for the written word. They are inspired by the excellent writing that they have heard since they were young and automatically weave that into their writing. It is a stark difference to the struggling writers that I spent over an hour of my public school teaching day every day in a “Writer’s Workshop” session trying to get them to write anything of worth. I fully agree that an exposure to great literature and copywork of excellent passages eventually leads to good writing. We pray that you will find the same to be true for you!

Blessings,
Carrie

More of a Charlotte Mason-Style Education Than a Classical Education

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

Heart of Dakota Leans More Toward a Charlotte Mason-Style Education

Ahh… the Charlotte Mason (CM) or Classical question. This is one with a multi-faceted answer! At Heart of Dakota we definitely lean more toward the Charlotte Mason-style of education than the classical. Charlotte Mason and classical philosophies have some definite areas of agreement and overlap (most pointedly the reading of more “classic” type books). However, the main thrust of the two philosophies is different.

Fewer Books, Read More Slowly Over Time

CM-style readings focus on fewer books read more slowly over time. In essence, they focus on fewer/more quality books done more deeply. Classical readings enjoys using fact books (i.e Usborne, DK, and other encyclopedia-like books) as reading material. They also encourage the reading of abridgements of classics early on in education. CM readings are always living, use fact books only for reference, and recommend waiting to read the classics until the unabridged versions can be attempted. Not all classics are considered “good reading” in a CM-style education. Classical often focuses on the “Great Books.”

A Difference on Methods of Comprehension

CM focuses on narration as the primary method of comprehension. Classical also uses narration, but more for the purpose of learning to summarize. In CM-style narration, kiddos are to borrow words from the author to retell the story. Narrations are often lengthy and detailed. There is no “one right” answer or certain key points that “should be” in the narration. This is the way the child connects to and makes sense of the reading. Classical narration is looking for a more succinct narration with “certain” main key points. There is more of a feeling that a good narration should have these “key points” in it. This is a different form of narration than CM-style narration.

A Difference in Dictation Methods

CM and Classical both use dictation, but with different methods. CM uses studied dictation (meaning kiddos study the passage first to fix it in the mind prior to having it dictated). Classical also uses dictation, but does not have kiddos study it first. It is more of a test of what the kiddos know, rather than the practice of fixing it in one’s mind.

Comparing and Contrasting CM and Classical Approaches to Copywork, Grammar, and Memorization

Both CM and Classical use copywork as a form of early writing practice. This is an area of agreement. CM uses delayed formal grammar instruction and delayed formal writing instruction. Classical education focuses on early rigorous grammar instruction and also on a rigorous schedule for memorization. CM also does memorization, especially of Scripture passages and poetry, but is not nearly as rigorous as Classical.

Differences in Expected Outcomes of Written Narration

Both CM and Classical use written narration, yet the expected outcome is different. Classical uses written narration as a tool for learning how to write a summary through narration. There is more of feeling that there are certain key points that should be included for it to be done correctly. CM uses written narration as a tool to learn writing style by borrowing the author’s style and wording to convey the thrust of the reading. It is not meant as merely a stepping stone to summarizing, as classical uses written narration. In CM-style narration, the student is instead trying on various styles of writing using the author’s style, until they eventually begin developing their own style of writing.

Differences in How to Approach Bible Study and the Integration of God’s Word in the School Day

CM and typical Classical vary quite a bit on their approach to Bible study and integrating God’s Word throughout the school day. CM believed this was foundational to all learning. Classical devotes very little time during the day to this topic, unless you follow a modified classical approach (such as the Bluedorn’s Christian Classical or Memoria Press’s Christian Classical).

Character Training and the Formation of Habits

Character training and the formation of habits were a huge part of CM’s focus. She devoted much of her 6 volume series to these topics. It is in these areas particularly that I agree with her. The formation of a child’s character and his/her habits is an overlooked topic in Classical education, as the pursuit of wisdom, knowledge, and education is supreme.

Differences in What’s Important and What’s Just an Add-On

CM felt poetry study, nature study, art, and music were important. She studied science through nature, art through picture study of famous paintings, music through listening to classical pieces, and poetry through daily reading of classic poems. Classical looks at these areas as “add-ons”, until they are done in the upper levels along with the rigorous study of history. With a truly classical schedule there is little time left in a very rigorous school day to devote to these things.

HOD Falls on the CM Side for Almost Everything

You can see that at HOD we fall on the CM side for almost all of the things I’ve listed above. The two other CM areas we include are picture study and classical music, and we included them when they best coordinated with our history studies. From the description above you can see some distinct differences between the two approaches. When reading this, you may hopefully be able to sort out the differences and where you fall philosophy-wise.

Blessings,
Carrie

In the Spotlight: 4 Charlotte Mason-Inspired Hymn Studies

More Than A Charlotte Mason Moment 

In the Spotlight:  4 Charlotte Mason-Inspired Hymn Studies in HOD

Charlotte Mason loved hymns so much that her students learned three hymns every term. At Heart of Dakota, we share Ms. Mason’s love of hymns! In fact, we include hymn study in 4 of our guides. Rotating Charlotte Mason’s inspirational subjects such as hymn study makes each year fresh, helps students enjoy each inspirational subject fully, and maintains a nice balance of inspirational and disciplinary subjects. It also helps cover many Charlotte Mason inspired skills that might get overlooked if they were attempted to be done every year! Charlotte Mason inspired subjects such as poetry study, nature study, composer study, picture study, Shakespeare study, and more, all make their way into certain Heart of Dakota guides. However, hymn study has such a special place in our hearts that 4 of our guides include it. Furthermore, 3 of them are now Heart of Dakota published!

Bigger Hearts for His Glory’s Hymn Study

Hymns for a Kid’s Heart: Volume I is our first hymn study, and it is part of our Bigger Hearts guide. Authors Joni Eareckson Tada and Bobbie Wolgemuth collaborated to create this special study of 12 hymns. Each hymn begins with an inspirational true story about its hymn-writer, which provides context for deeper insight of the hymn. Children learn each hymn by singing along with other children’s voices with an accompanying fully orchestrated CD. Printed simple sheet music makes it easy for children to practice and follow along as they sing. Tenderly written devotionals with Scripture connections further deepen the hymn study and help children understand more about God’s character and grace.

Missions to Modern Marvel’s Hymn Study

One of the most common questions we get asked when children finish the hymn study in Bigger Hearts is, “Will we get to do another hymn study like that again?!? My children loved it!” Well, the answer is ‘yes!’ Missions to Modern Marvels uses Hymns for a Kid’s Heart: Volume II as  the praise music portion of students’ Bible Quiet Time. Bible lessons from Explorer’s Bible Study: Quest – Faith at Work, a prayer focus, and Scripture memory work further round out their Bible Quiet Time. Instilling the habit of a daily Bible Quiet Time from an early age is one of the most important ways to encourage a lifelong desire to meet with the Lord each day. With richly orchestrated music, true stories, prayers, and Scripture, Hymns for a Kid’s Heart: Volume II is an inspirational part of MTMM’s Bible Quiet Time that simply feeds your child’s soul!

World History’s Hymn Study

In our World History high school guide, hymn study is part of students’ daily Bible Study. Using The Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Study: Old Testament Survey, students use their Bibles to answer questions and delve more deeply into what God is saying and revealing about Himself in His Word. Students also have memory work and keep a daily prayer journal, but one of our favorite parts of their Bible Study is the hymn study. Using Selah’s Greatest Hymns CD, students enjoy listening to and singing along with 15 wonderful hymns. Liner notes for each hymn give either a little background on the hymn or give a personal note about the hymn from one of the members of Selah. This particular Selah CD is so highly recommended so many places (and is so beloved by our mother and sisters) that it just had to be included as part of this Bible Study!

U.S. History I’s Hymn Study

Finally, we include our last hymn study in our U.S History I high school guide. Similar to World History, students use The Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Study: New Testament Survey and keep a prayer journal for their Bible Study. They also listen to hymns as part of their Bible time, using When Morning Gilds the Skies. This hardback volume and accompanying CD includes 12 fully orchestrated hymns performed by Joni Eareckson Tada, Jon MacArthur, and Robert & Bobbie Wolgemuth. Beautiful lyrics, intriguing histories, Biblical wisdom, and inspirational messages are also included for each hymn. This set of hymns focuses upon the glory of heaven and on the eternal hope that we have in the Lord, making it a natural complement to the study of the New Testament.

One Parent’s Story While Using the Bigger Heart’s Hymn Study

We are doing Bigger Hearts for His Glory and just having a wonderful time! I am really seeing the Lord use the Bible studies, history and storytime to touch my boys’ hearts. One day this week after school, my son was having his afternoon alone time. At one point, he ran up and asked me how to spell the word depths. “Hmmm” I thought. “I wonder what he is up to?” After an hour, I called for my almost 9 year old to come upstairs for something. He said he was in the middle of something really important. I wondered what it could be. Well, he had spent the afternoon writing his very own hymn of worship to the Lord. I wanted to share it below with you!

The Name I Love to Hear

Jesus Christ is my Savior’s name. I will worship Him always.

Refrain: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus is the name I love to hear.

Jesus Christ you know it all. I am small to your power.

Refrain: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus is the name I love to hear.

Jesus Christ is my redeemer. You saved me from the depths of sin.

Refrain: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus is the name I love to hear.

Jesus Christ..I am His and He is mine. I love Him and He loves me.

Refrain: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus is the name I love to hear.

Though I feel called and am committed to homeschooling as long as the Lord directs us to, I sometimes really wonder how homeschooling will affect my boys. Well, I know the Lord used this as a clear affirmation that what we are doing with our kids DOES matter and it DOES make a difference. An eternal difference! Thank you for allowing me to share my testimony not only on HOD and the impact it is having on my kids, but most importantly to our Almighty God who is worthy of ALL praise and glory!

In Closing… Scripture Connections to Singing Hymns:

Early Christians often sang hymns, so why not join them in that joyful practice?  In closing, I wanted to share some Scripture connections that speak to the relevance of singing hymns. Hymn study is a not-to-be-missed part of Heart of Dakota! It is my prayer that, if you are still reading this lengthy post, you would consider singing along with your children in these hymn studies. What an incredible way to study hymns and bring God glory as you do, praising Him together in a way you likely could never do, if you weren’t homeschooling!

Ephesians 5:19… as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts,

1 Corinthians 14:26:  What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.

Acts 16:25:  About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.

James 5:13:  Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.

Psalm 71: 8:  My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all the day.”

In Christ,

Julie

Setting the Stage for Success with Shakespeare

More than a Charlotte Mason Moment

Setting the Stage: Charlotte Mason and Shakespeare

We probably read Shakespeare in the first place for his stories, afterwards for his characters… To become intimate with Shakespeare in this way is a great enrichment of mind and instruction of conscience. Then, by degrees, as we go on reading this world-teacher, lines of insight and beauty take possession of us, and unconsciously mould our judgments of men and things and of the great issues of life. (Charlotte Mason, Volume 4, Book 2, p. 72)

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts.
(Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act II, Scene 7)

‘Why read Shakespeare?’ by Carrie Austin, M. Ed., Author of Heart of Dakota Curricula

During the early years of educating our children, I struggled with Charlotte Mason’s recommendation that children study Shakespeare. I was sure that Shakespeare wasn’t worth studying by my children due to the inappropriate jokes, adult content, and references to love-making within his plays. However, as I continued to study his plays and ponder his influence, I realized that there would be something missing in my children’s understanding of the English-speaking world if I neglected to teach them about Shakespeare. Why? Well, partly for the reason that Shakespeare is responsible for contributing some 2000 words and phrases to the English language. Not to mention, those words are still in use today!

The Merit of Introducing Children to Shakespeare’s Plays in Story Form 

While Shakespeare’s plays were obviously not written for children, there is some merit in introducing children to his plays first in story form through Lamb’s Tales of Shakespeare. This aids students in their future understanding of his plays. So, later in high school, when students read Shakespeare’s unabridged plays in original form, they are ready. They do not find themselves floundering, but instead find themselves well-prepared.

The Benefits of Reading Shakespeare

In looking at the positive side of reading Shakespeare, his plays do look at both the virtues and vices of men. They show the consequences of sin, yet his characters often act mercifully. Shakespeare’s plays do refer to Christ and His teachings, and you can often see a resemblance in his plays to stories of other Biblical characters. Morals often play a decisive role in his plays, resulting in intricate plots that lead to consequences based on the character’s actions. The reader must work hard to follow the many plot twists and turns, which is great preparation for the reading of higher level books. Another benefit is that the tales are very entertaining and do much to stimulate the imagination.

A Difference in the Meaning of Words 

Shakespeare does include references to love-making. However, it’s important to note that the words ‘lovers’ and ‘love-making’ meant something different in Shakespeare’s day from the meaning of those same words today. During Elizabethan times, words such as ‘lover’ often meant sweetheart and ‘love-making’ meant an attraction between two people. This is different from the physical act of love that we associate with those same words today.

Heart of Dakota’s Charlotte Mason-Inspired Shakespeare Study

In our guide Resurrection to Reformation, parents have the choice of whether to include Lamb’s Tales of Shakespeare within their weekly schedule. Students read 18 of the 20 tales, omitting Macbeth and Measure for Measure due to mature content. We schedule readings once weekly, and we divide longer stories over two weeks. After each weekly reading, students color the accompanying black and white artwork within the Shakespeare Student Notebook pages. Students also copy a quote from each tale. Due to the length of each tale, and to allow students to better understand the various plot twists better, students are assigned to read the stories on their own.

The Purpose of the RTR Shakespeare Study

We do not attempt to analyze Shakespeare within the provided assignments, but rather to allow students to enjoy the readings and make their own natural connections. Often the moral connections that students make on their own are much stronger than those that would be made if we were to point out the “moral lessons” instead. While we do not wish to persuade you to pursue Shakespeare if it is not within your family’s goals, we do desire to explain our reasoning for including it as a choice within our Economy Package. As you ponder the best path for your family, we will link you to this article, which we found very interesting in our own ponderings about Shakespeare.

Shakespeare in Heart of Dakota’s High School World History Guide

In Heart of Dakota‘s high school World History guide, students enjoy reading Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar. Plays are best heard performed (and watched). Hence, HOD schedules this play to be read along with a fully dramatized, unabridged audio production of Julius Caesar. So as students listen to the recording, they follow along with the unabridged text in No Fear Shakespeare, reading the complete text of Julius Caesar on the left-hand page, while also referencing the side-by-side, line-by-line, easy-to-understand translation on the right. Furthermore, No Fear Shakespeare includes a complete list of characters with descriptions alongside plenty of helpful commentary. This 3-pronged approach helps students experience success with Shakespeare.

Shakespeare in Heart of Dakota’s High School U.S. History II Guide

In Heart of Dakota’s high school U.S. History II guide, Hamlet is read and enjoyed in a similar fashion. Students read Hamlet within Shakespeare Made Easy. This resource contains unabridged original text alongside a modern English version of the text. As students read Shakespeare Made Easy, they listen to Arkangel’s fully dramatized, unabridged audio recording. Furthermore, students enjoy the accompanying commentary included in Christian Guides to the Classics: Shakespeare’s Hamlet. We find students can truly be successful with Shakespeare with this balance.

Setting the Stage for Success with Shakespeare

So now you see how Heart of Dakota begins setting the stage for success with Shakespeare first in RTR‘s Lamb’s Tales of Shakespeare study. This non-threatening, enjoyable introduction to Shakespeare with abridged stories, beautiful notebooking pages, and copywork of some of Shakespeare’s most famous lines sets the stage for students to be successful. Then, after this stage has been so aptly set, the reading of unabridged Shakespeare in high school is not intimidating, but instead is rather like coming back to an old friend you were once introduced to, but are now ready to get to know better. I believe as you begin to study Shakespeare in this manner, you too will understand why Charlotte Mason believed in the merit of reading his works. In fact, you may just find you actually enjoy Shakespeare yourself!

In Christ,
Julie

 

Keeping a Charlotte Mason-Inspired Common Place Book

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

Keeping a Charlotte Mason-Inspired “Common Place Book” in Heart of Dakota

Charlotte Mason kept a Common Place Book herself, and she encouraged her students to do so too. Notable literary figures such as Benjamin Franklin, Charles Dickens, Thomas Jefferson, and Shakespeare enjoyed keeping their own “Common Place Books” by carefully copying passages from classic literature. According to Ms. Mason, if accomplished literary figures such as this would keep “Common Place Books,” why wouldn’t we do so too? While “Common placing” is first and foremost considered a Charlotte Mason teaching method, it has its roots in simply being a personal habit that intelligent people have enjoyed for hundreds of years. At Heart of Dakota, we help children develop their own personal habit of creating a Charlotte Mason-inspired Common Place Book. In fact, we hope to inspire them to do so for life!

The Benefits of Keeping Common Place Book

A Common Place Book is unique because it is a special notebook for collecting and recording quotes, Scriptures, thoughts, and phrases that have deeper meaning and personally speak to you. Selecting inspirational quotes and thoughts from living books helps children slow down their reading pace to be more thoughtful and intentional. It encourages their minds to act upon the material, rather than to race through it thoughtlessly. When children choose and write inspirational quotes or thoughts in a Common Place Book, they connect more deeply with what has been read. They remember it better, and it becomes special to them because they have recorded it in their special book. Often times, children return to their Common Place Book just to enjoy reading past entries.

Charlotte Mason’s Thoughts on Keeping a Common Place Book

It is very helpful to read with a commonplace book or reading-diary, in which to put down any striking thought in your author, or your own impression of the work, or of any part of it; but not summaries of facts. Such a diary, carefully kept through life, should be exceedingly interesting as containing the intellectual history of the writer; besides, we never forget the book that we have made extracts from, and of which we have taken the trouble to write a short review. -Charlotte Mason (Volume 5, p. 260)

How Heart of Dakota Helps Children Learn to Keep a Common Place Book

Heart of Dakota helps children learn to keep a Common Place Book starting in Preparing Hearts. We begin by describing the Common Place Book in the “Introduction” of each of our guides. Students also need a Common Place Book for their copywork. A Common Place Book is often a bound composition book with lined pages. It provides a common place to copy anything that is timeless, memorable, or worthy of rereading. It is for copying text and not for original writing. Bible verses, classic poetry, and passages from excellent literature with beautiful or vivid wording are often included. Students will add to the Common Place Book throughout the year.

The Progression of Keeping a Common Place Book in Heart of Dakota

In Heart of Dakota, a Common Place Book is typically a bound composition book. Students use this book to keep (in a “common place”) quotes, excerpts from literature, Scripture verses, poetry, etc. that are worthy of being recorded and reread over time. While we do have in mind the traditional Charlotte Mason definition of a “Common Place Book,” to begin with in Preparing Hearts, we “help” children get an idea of things that are enduring and worthy of being copied in the book by assigning entries for them to make in their books throughout the year. Then, in the guides that follow Preparing, they  gain the task of selecting their own entries to make in their Common Place Book.

Keeping a Common Place Book in High School

In high school, students continue keeping a Common Place Book, selecting quotes or passages that are meaningful to them from their classic literature for inclusion in their book. Charlotte Mason advocated this practice throughout high school, and we agree it is an excellent use of students’ time as they watch for notable quotes or passages as they read, select from among them, and accurately copy them into their book for later reference. By the time students finish Heart of Dakota, they will have created their own special Common Place Books as keepsakes of what most inspired them, piqued their interest, or struck them as worthy enough to grace the pages of their own personal book. Heart of Dakota makes keeping a Common Place Book easy, as it is a part of our daily plans. We hope you enjoy it as much as we have!

In Christ,

Julie