Breathe Life into History by Meeting ‘Its’ People

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

Breathe Life into History by Meeting ‘Its’ People

Oh, it is cold outside! Why don’t you come right in? Let me take your coat, and please do have a seat. Yes, right here, by the fire! Here is a cup of cocoa, and one for me as well. Oh, and what’s that I hear? Ahhh, a knocking on the door. Our guest has arrived! Let us see who it is we will meet today, shall we? Oh my! You will never believe who it is!  _______, come right in and join us! Today is the day we make each other’s acquaintance! I daresay at the end of this time spent together, we may remember each other – always. You see, it’s time once again in this Heart of Dakota, Charlotte Mason education to breathe life into history by meeting ‘its’ people. Oh, let’s DO begin, shall we?!?

People matter, in life and in history – just ask Charlotte Mason!

Let him, on the contrary, linger pleasantly over the history of a single man, a short period, until he thinks the thoughts of that man, is at home in the ways of that period. Though he is reading and thinking of the lifetime of a single man, he is really getting intimately acquainted with the history of a whole nation for a whole age. – Charlotte Mason (Home Education, Volume 1, p. 280)

People matter, in life and in history – just ask Carrie Austin!

The Charlotte-Mason style of learning is based on getting to know people and/or events in history. This is accomplished through the sharing of interesting stories of people’s lives or interesting anecdotes. Often times, these stories or anecdotes stay with a child over time. This Charlotte Mason approach to history allows children to make connections between people and events over time, rather than having us as parents make the connections for them. In Heart of Dakota‘s guides, your children learn people matter, in both life and in history!

Let me introduce you to so-and-so!

Your children will meet many people in history, as they journey chronologically through time, and these meetings are memorable! This approach to history is a staple of a Charlotte Mason form of education. One comment I never grow tired of hearing, that I have heard often, is parents’ sharing their children who formerly disliked history have had a complete turnaround to become children who now absolutely love history. They credit switching to Heart of Dakota‘s approach to history as being the turning point. Rather than dry textbooks with endless lists of dates, events, and names to memorize and forget, Heart of Dakota says ‘Let me introduce you to so-and-so!’ People go down in history for many different reasons, good and bad. But no matter why they have made their mark on history, learning history with a focus on ‘its’ people is both fascinating and memorable.

In Closing – An Endearing Charlotte Mason Quote

Children of seven are promoted to Form IA in which they remain for a couple of years… while the readings in IB are confined to the first third of the book embodying the simpler and more direct histories, those in IA go on to the end of the volume and children learn at any rate to love English history. “I’d a lot sooner have history than my dinner,” said a sturdy boy of seven by no means inclined to neglect his dinner. – Charlotte Mason (Home Education, Volume 6, p. 171)

In Christ,


A Charlotte Mason Reading Guideline for Children Ages 9 and on Up

More Than Charlotte Mason Moment

Children Ages 9 and Older Should Read Their Own Books

Charlotte Mason said children ages 9 and on up, who were able to read their own books, should do so. At Heart of Dakota, we follow this Charlotte Mason guideline, with the exception of Storytime. Charlotte Mason recognized not all 9 year-old children would be ready to read their own material. At Heart of Dakota, we recognize this too! This is why our placement chart includes age ranges. It is also why 9 year-old children might place in Bigger Hearts, Preparing Hearts, or Creation to Christ. Preparing Hearts is the first time “I” independent readings are assigned for science and part of history. These independent readings are fitting for this age, and the number of pages read are kept short. This helps children successfully take on reading their own books. Of course there are exceptions to this (for children who have special learning challenges), but this is a general guideline.

To understand this better, let’s imagine we are attending a class together!

To understand this Charlotte Mason guideline better, let’s imagine you and I are attending a class together today. As the class begins, the teacher holds up a book. He tells us this is the first of a handful of books we will read in class. We will be expected to share what we have learned each day from the readings in this book. Some days we will be expected to share what we remember orally. Other days we will be expected to share what we remember in written form. These oral and written responses will determine whether we pass or fail the class. Now imagine the teacher sitting down on a chair to begin to read aloud the book to us. A collective gasp goes through the class. One brave soul raises her hand and asks, But where is my book? Don’t I get to read my own book?!? 

Why should children, who are able, read their own books at age 9?

The panic most of us would feel rising if we attended a class such as this is the very reason it is so important our children begin to read their own materials. We just remember what we read ourselves better. Not only that, we remember how to spell words better. Imagine the book our teacher read aloud to us was about Charlemagne. When asked to give a written response, who will spell ‘Charlemagne’ right? The person who read it themselves, looking at the word ‘Charlemagne’ over and over? Or, the person who heard someone else reading it aloud? Even for the child gifted in auditory learning, how practical is it to think everything will be read aloud to him/her? This is why Charlotte Mason believed in having children read their own materials as soon as they were able, with a guideline of beginning at age 9.

But, what about the value of reading aloud?

As homeschool moms, we often especially enjoy reading aloud to our children, and there is real value in doing so! However, once children can read their own materials, our reading role changes. The Storytime read-alouds are usually a grade level or two above the target age range. This is because read-alouds are meant to be a higher reading level with more difficult vocabulary. So, these books can be read aloud all the way through 8th grade, if we as moms (and our children) so desire! Likewise, books that focus on more mature concepts, such as devotionals, Biblical worldview topics, etc., work well to read aloud. I have to say, it has been refreshing that my reading aloud has kind of ‘grown-up’ right along with my kids!

What is the big deal if children don’t read their own materials?

It actually is a pretty big deal if children don’t begin to read their own materials, but why? The reason (other than those shared already) is fairly simple. It really is just a matter of time. Children will eventually have to read their own materials. Certainly by middle school and high school. The amount of time it would take to read aloud all that material (if it was truly grade appropriate) would be all day! For this same reason, having a child read aloud the material is no better (not to mention the child has to think about his fluency/pacing/tone, rather than just focusing on comprehending what he reads in his head). By following Charlotte Mason’s guideline of having children read their own materials, they can slowly learn to do so successfully – so much better than just handing it all over to them in high school!

In Closing

In closing, there will always be exceptions to the ‘rule.’ If a child has special needs and is unable to read his own materials, then a parent reading aloud with the child following along in the book is very appropriate. Using audio book options, as long as the child is still following along in a book, is very appropriate in this situation as well. This More Than a Charlotte Mason post is meant to explain the reasons behind her guideline of having children at the age of 9, if able, read their own materials. I hope this helps explain her guideline, and I also hope you enjoy how Heart of Dakota has planned to gradually help this transition be successful – for both child and mother!

In Christ,


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!


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.


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,