Not Just a Spelling List!

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

Not Just a Spelling List!  How Heart of Dakota’s first spelling instruction teaches beginning skills for Charlotte Mason’s studied dictation…

A fellow homeschool mom recently asked some questions about Heart of Dakota’s spelling. She’d been planning on continuing to use another spelling program. However, she mentioned it was pretty time intensive, and neither she nor her son really liked it. When she read in Heart of Dakota’s catalog: “For spelling, students focus on learning to spell a basic body of frequently used words. Next, they move on to studied dictation to cement their spelling skills,” her curiosity was piqued. She thought if Heart of Dakota’s way produces good spellers, and if it wasn’t so intensive on teacher and student, then maybe she should make the switch. She asked if the basic body of frequently used words were taught as just a list to be memorized? I thought this was a great question, and I wanted to share my answer here with you too.

The Charlotte Mason-style lessons planned with the spelling words are very effective.

Dictation is a process that must be trusted and faithfully applied, and it will yield results. Dictation is harder than spelling, and the way spelling is done in HOD is a stepping stone for dictation. The Charlotte Mason-style lessons planned with the spelling words in the language arts box of the guide are very effective. I know we probably all grew up doing spelling lists, by studying them and taking a test. Well, the plans written in the HOD guide are totally different. The plans apply the idea of the mind being like a camera taking a “picture” of the word each time it sees it.

Day 1 of Spelling Instruction:

So for HOD’s spelling, Day 1 always has the child look at one word written in black on a white index card. The child studies it, and when the child says he is ready, you (the parent) take the card away. Then, the child writes just that one word on his white marker board in black marker. If he misses it, right away, you erase it and show him the card again. (This is to erase that incorrect “picture” in his mind immediately.) When he says he is ready, you take the card away again, repeating this process until he writes it correctly.

Day 2 of Spelling Instruction:

Then, for Day 2’s spelling you (the parent) just say the word, using it in a sentence. The child tries to write the word from memory, again a black marker on a white marker board is best. If he misspells the word, you erase it immediately to erase the incorrect “picture.” Then, you show him the index card, allowing him to study it as he did on Day 1. The child then writes the word again, repeating this process until he writes it correctly.

Day 3 of Spelling Instruction:

On Day 3, you (the parent) choose three words the child needs to practice the most. One word at a time, the child should use the word in a sentence orally, as you write the sentence on marker board for him. Then, the child looks at the marker board to copy the sentence on paper. You help the child correct any mistakes then.

Day 4 of Spelling Instruction:

Finally, on Day 4, you (the parent) say the word and use it in a sentence. The child tries to write the word correctly. This time, if it is missed, you erase it, and show the child the index card again. Have him fix it on his paper, and while looking at the index card, do the activity to review any missed words (the activity rotates each week).

Many skills are learned though this four day rotation of spelling instruction.

Many skills are learned in this method of spelling, rather than a child just studying a list and taking a test at the end. This four day method of spelling provides an important foundation for dictation the following year. You can see that using the word in a sentence, using the word within copywork of sentences, studying a word and having it taken away then, fixing errors, etc. all prepare children to do dictation the following year.

My son, who was born quite prematurely, had speech therapy for several years as a young child. Yet, he has managed to thrive with HOD’s spelling/dictation plans using Charlotte Mason-style methods. I highly recommend giving this four day spelling approach a patient try, and then I am certain you will see the fruits of it given time! I’m a former user of Spelling Power, and R & S spelling, as well as other programs. However, I’ve found Charlotte Mason’s methods have been the most successful and produced the most carryover to children’s own writing – which is the core reason we’re studying spelling in the first place . This took me awhile to come to this consensus. But now with my second and third child, I’m totally on board with it – and it shows in their excellent spelling.

A few other links that may be helpful…

Here is a link that gives samples of the spelling lists:
viewtopic.php?f=6&t=4892&p=35888#p35888

Here is a link that gives dictation samples:
viewtopic.php?f=6&t=1221

In Christ,
Julie

Finding Misspelled Words in a Given Passage – Not a Charlotte Mason-Inspired Skill

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment – Misspelled Words

Finding Misspelled Words in a Given Sentence or Passage – Not a Charlotte Mason-Inspired Skill

Many spelling programs have a section that requires a child to find the misspelled word within a provided sentence or passage. In light of Charlotte Mason’s method of studied dictation, this type of exercise is definitely not a good idea! It actually gives the mind yet another opportunity to take a mental picture of an incorrectly spelled word! The theory for including this within a spelling program is that it is good practice for standardized tests, where students must find the incorrectly spelled word. But in truth, the child is training to focus on the misspelled word rather than on the correctly spelled words! Children who have been trained in the studied dictation method often have no trouble finding incorrectly spelled words on tests. Why? Well, they are too used to seeing the words spelled correctly! Incorrect words truly jump off the page… no practice needed!

Charlotte Mason’s studied dictation emphasizes the study of correctly written words, sentences, and passages.

Charlotte Mason’s emphasis within dictation is actually on the studying of the passage in order to fix it within one’s mind. In studied dictation, students are practicing the habit of making a mental or a photographic image of the text. Students must pay special attention to how the words are spelled, where the capital letters are found, and which punctuation marks are used. Charlotte Mason had a continual focus on children NOT seeing words written incorrectly. She believed the incorrect image of the word became imprinted on the mind. Unfortunately, this causes the “wrong” spelling to then “look” right! This is why poor spellers often have no idea whether a word is spelled correctly or not. It is because they have seen the word written incorrectly so many times that their mind can’t recognize the correct spelling – even when they try!

The study of misspelled words, sentences, and passages reinforces incorrect spelling.

In public school, we found poor spellers often had no idea whether a word looked right or not, which is often the technique used by natural spellers to tell whether a word is spelled correctly. The poor spellers had seen the word spelled incorrectly so many times in their own writing that the wrong spelling actually looked right. It is amazing to us how many spelling programs have a section where kiddos are asked to find the incorrectly spelled word within the spelling exercises (in essence taking a mental picture of the incorrect spelling). Charlotte Mason would find this to be a poor activity, as it reinforces incorrect spelling. She was adamant that any word spelled incorrectly be covered up and fixed immediately. She did not want a child to fix the wrong image in his/her mind.

Training the mind to capture correct images of words, sentences, and passages is a powerful spelling tool.

Training the mind to capture a correct image of a word, sentence, and eventually passage is a powerful tool. It often does more for kiddos who have struggled with spelling than any amount of memorizing rules does. This was an amazing idea to us, and one that we had never heard during our years of training as teachers. When we were researching Charlotte Mason’s methods, we were both so surprised to find that studied dictation was the method used for spelling here in America in the early 1900’s. Yet, it makes so much sense! And, what’s more – it really works!

The study of properly spelled words, sentences, and passages helps students become better spellers. 

As students study properly spelled words, sentences, and passages, they improve their spelling and editing skills. With consistent studied dictation, students begin to spell better within their own writing. Carrie and I have seven (combined) sons between the two of us. Some are more natural spellers, and some are not. However, with studied dictation, all have improved. All have also eventually brought up their standardized test scores to above average. Heart of Dakota’s Charlotte Mason-inspired studied dictation passages help children gradually improve their spelling. Students can even recognize what is misspelled on standardized tests – probably because they only have to do it rarely. So, we encourage you to give Charlotte Mason’s studied dictation a try! It is simple, yet truly effective.

In Christ,

Julie

Charlotte Mason skills learned in high school give students strong study skills in college!

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

Charlotte Mason skills learned in high school give students strong study skills in college!

I was looking back at past posts on our Heart of Dakota (HOD) Message Board. In the HOD Weekly Check-In posts, I found a random past post I’d done about my oldest son’s week in USI. Reading this post, I realized how all of those Charlotte Mason skills my son learned in HOD still help him so much in college! I just was struck by how well Charlotte Mason skills prepared him to study and succeed in college. Below, I’ll share my 2016 post about USI, and then at the end I’ll share how I’ve seen these skills help my son study well in college.

The Study Skill of Giving a Topic Oral Narration Using Notes

This week Wyatt has been learning about The Second Continental Congress and the Declaration of Independence in history. He prepared to give a topic oral narration by listing topics as starting points for a new part of the narration in his US1 HOD History Notebook. Phrases of names, dates, places, etc. that were important were jotted down to help jog his memory. He then referred to these notes as he narrated orally. This activity has so many important skills in it! They are skills I used in college often, and I am glad he is leaning to utilize them already now. He now takes notes and refers to them as he speaks very naturally. It just flows, and he is at ease as he speaks.

The Study Skill of Responding to Critical Thinking Questions

Another great activity is his responding in writing to critical thinking questions from Great Documents in U.S. History. So much more depth is brought out from the readings by the pondering of these critical thinking questions. Then, reading actual Great Letters in American History alongside these assignments – well, what could be better than the actual letters, word for word, written by these amazing people from history themselves! It is like being transported back in time and really being able to ‘know’ that person through his/her very thoughts and words put to paper.

The Study Skill of Researching A Topic and Supporting Your Opinion

A Noble Experiment has Wyatt researching various court cases and their findings, and he finds it incredibly interesting. It appeals to his sense of right and wrong, and he is beginning to see the importance of being able to ‘support’ your opinion by citing the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, etc.

The Study Skills of Watching Presentations, Taking Notes, and Sharing What You’ve Learned

The USI History Notebook is not just a place for Wyatt to record his thoughts and written answers. It is also a beautiful visual reminder of that which he is studying, and every picture, portrait, document, historic memorabilia, etc. has its purpose and is used in some way, shape, or form for assessing what he has learned. This week, after Wyatt watched his American Testimony DVD, he referred to the beautiful pictures in his USI History Notebook as he orally narrated about each portion of the DVD he’d watched. Being comfortable speaking while referring to diagrams, photos, documents – this is a key skill he’ll need for whatever future job he will probably have. He is already becoming quite comfortable with it, and I can envision him giving a power point presentation with notes quite adeptly someday.

The Study Skill of Conveying Your Thoughts and Opinions in Writing

Being an accomplished writer that can convey thoughts and opinions clearly in an accurate interesting way – this is becoming a lost skill for many teenagers. NOT SO, with HOD! The steady diet of completing Charlotte Mason style written narrations inspired by reading timeless living books has made responding in writing to a topic quite easy for Wyatt. Now, this was not always so. I only have to pull out his beginning fledgling written narrations from CTC to be reminded of how far he has come. But, oh, it is so exciting to me to see the progress!

The Study Skill of Internalizing What’s Been Learned

Where many high school students stare at the blank page with no confidence of how to begin, he can begin writing immediately. Why? Because having completed countless oral and written narrations in the past, he knows from experience one must THINK about what one is reading while one is reading it to be able to respond to it afterward. Pretty important stuff if you ask me. So, oral narrations with index card planning, critical thinking questions, and written narration assessments all work together to help our dc learn to internalize and respond to what they have read in an active thoughtful way. So much better than completing a multiple choice quiz every time.

How These Study Skills Help My Son in College

My son just finished his sophomore year of college. He has taken 18 credits each semester. Some of these credits were earned by taking courses. The other credits were earned by taking CLEP or DSST tests. Either way, he uses the study skills he learned in HOD for both. As he reads his college material, he takes notes. He takes notes as he listens to his professors or watches DVD presentations (just like he did for USI’s American Testimony DVD assignments). From these notes, he writes essays (just like he did for his topic narrations in USI). He has to give an overview (i.e. written narration) and share his opinion citing research or court cases to support it (i.e. opinion narration). Throughout all of this, he is taking quizzes and tests. The scores he receives show he has internalized what he has learned!

A Special Webinar with Jeff Myers

These study skills all came together during an Educational Leadership webinar with Jeff Myers and fellow students. Each student had to write one question for Jeff Myers, based on the materials they’d read. During the live webinar, Jeff chose some of the students’ questions to answer. Jeff chose Wyatt’s question! Wyatt was so excited! Jeff spent nearly 30 minutes answering it and interacting with Wyatt and the other students as he did. It was just such a neat moment! After this, Wyatt wrote an essay on what he’d learned, citing his notes and supporting his opinions with references to the reading material and webinar. So, rest assured, HOD’s Charlotte Mason-inspired skills do much to help your future college students! Even on quizzes and tests – because they truly have the skills to internalize what they have read and what they have heard.  What a blessing!

In Christ,

Julie

Stop a wandering mind by teaching the habit of attention!

More than a Charlotte Mason Moment 

Stop a wandering mind by teaching the habit of attention!

Charlotte Mason spent much time focusing on the habit of attention. She explained that children should endeavor to stay focused on a subject, rather than allow their minds to wander to and fro, seizing upon any thought that pops into their heads. While children may have fascinating thoughts and ideas, they must be taught to keep focused on the subject at hand, rather than on giving into a wandering mind. The good news is a child’s wandering mind can be stopped. But how? Well, by teaching the habit of attention!

Children must be trained to have the habit of attention.

Teaching our children the habit of attention can be a difficult task. Children must be trained to stay focused. It is important they realize that allowing their mind to wander is a choice. Likewise, keeping their mind on the task at hand is a choice. Children need to be taught that they control their thoughts. Thoughts can flitter, wandering to and fro, going nowhere and accomplishing nothing. Or, thoughts can stay attentive, be on task, and accomplish great things! Children – as well as adults – will find that whatever they pursue in life comes much easier with the habit of attention firmly intact and the wandering mind held at bay. So, the first step to teaching the habit of attention is to simply help children understand they control their thoughts. A wandering mind is a bad habit to be fixed, and the habit of attention can fix it!

Tip #1: Keep lessons short and gradually increase the amount of time spent on them each year.

Lessons should be kept short and in keeping with age and maturity. Preschool children’s lessons should be kept to about 5 minutes each, just as they are in each box of plans in Heart of Dakota‘s Little Hands to Heaven. Children’s lessons in kindergarten and first grade can be increased to about 10-15 minutes each, just as they are in each box of plans in HOD‘s Little Hearts and Beyond Little Hearts guides. As children mature, lessons can be gradually lengthened each year. By the time students reach high school, lessons can be lengthened to an hour at a time. Little by little, by increasing the length of lessons each year, Heart of Dakota helps children find success with the habit of attention. This is one reason it is important to do HOD’s guides in order of difficulty; it naturally supports the habit of attention!

Tip #2: Set a timer so children know about how long they should be expected to maintain attention and complete a task.

Children with wandering minds are often unaware of the passage of time. They begin a lesson that should take 20 minutes only to find an hour later they are nowhere near done. Why? They have not learned the habit of attention. Their minds have wandered away from the task at hand. Setting a timer lets children know how long they must maintain attention to complete their task. It gives them a goal they can achieve.

Tip #3: Alternate the kinds of lessons by carefully planning their order.

Children’s minds are prone to wander when doing a lot of seat work all in a row. Movement is important! Blessedly, HOD’s plans incorporate purposeful movement in projects, activities, experiments, etc. It just makes good sense to follow reading on the couch with a hands-on project, or seat work at the table with an experiment. Likewise, it is important to alternate disciplinary and inspirational subjects. We should not expect our children to display the habit of attention seated at the same table for hours and hours. By carefully planning the order of their ‘boxes’ of plans in HOD, rather than randomly moving through them in no particular order, we can better train our children to have the habit of attention. Likewise, by moving from place to place in our homes, we can signal the start and finish of lessons, and the expected amount of time to maintain attention for each.

Tip #4: Don’t stop and explain, and try not to repeat yourself.

Charlotte Mason stressed the importance of not stopping to explain. For example, when reading aloud, she did not stop to explain unknown words or seemingly difficult concepts. Why? The natural flow of the story is lost. Furthermore, the attention of the child is diverted. Have you ever been listening to someone tell a story, only to have them stop and start repeatedly? By the end, you’ve lost focus. They’ve lost focus. You might even both be weary of the whole thing. The same is true when giving directions. Read them once as fluidly as possible, having the child follow along in the HOD guide (if he/she is of reading age). Then, give the HOD guide to the child, so he/she can reference the written directions. This prevents the child from having to ask you to repeat directions, as he/she can plainly see them in the guide.

Remember, before you expect great changes…

Before you expect great changes in your children, make sure you do what you can to set them up for success! Let them know they control their thoughts, and a wandering mind is a bad habit that can be replaced with the habit of attention. Make sure they are placed in the right guide for their age, so their lessons are kept to a realistic amount of time. Set a timer, so they can see how long they should strive to pay attention to complete a task. Make a schedule that rotates seat work with movement, and disciplinary subjects with inspirational subjects. Finally, try not to stop to explain or repeat directions. Instead, keep things fluid and leave the guide’s written directions for help. Before you expect great changes, be sure you are doing what you can to help them form the habit of attention.

Charlotte Mason Quotes About the Habit of Attention

“Much must go before and along with a vigorous will if it is to be a power in the ruling of conduct. For instance, the man must have acquired the habit of attention, the great importance of which we have already considered. There are bird-witted people, who have no power of thinking connectedly for five minutes under any pressure, from within or from without. If they have never been trained to apply the whole of their mental faculties to a given subject, why, no energy of will, supposing they had it, which is impossible, could make them think steadily thoughts of their own choosing or of anyone else’s.” (Charlotte Mason, Volume 1, p. 326).

Attention is no more than this—the power of giving your mind to what you are about.  (Charlotte Mason, Vol. 5, p. 29)

In the first place, never let the child dawdle over copybook or sum, sit dreaming with his book before him. When a child grows stupid over a lesson, it is time to put it away. Let him do another lesson as unlike the last as possible, and then go back with freshened wits to his unfinished task. (Charlotte Mason, Vol. 1, p. 141)

For whatever the natural gifts of the child, it is only so far as the habit of attention is cultivated in him that he is able to make use of them. (Charlotte Mason, Vol. 1, p. 146)

In Christ,

Julie

Learning comes alive with living books!

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

Learning comes alive with living books!

Charlotte Mason had a passion for living books being at the heart and center of a child’s education! Why? Well, simply put, “living” books make learning ‘come alive.’ They pull you into a subject and make you want to read more. Think about some of the books that have impacted you the most. These books spoke to you for one reason or another, and they stayed with you long after the last page was read. Living books do that. Dry textbooks with encyclopedia-like writing do the opposite. In fact, instead of making learning ‘come alive,’ they seem to put us to sleep. Very few textbooks, if any, make their way onto our favorite books’ list. An education with living books is a lasting education, because what is read is remembered.

“Children should have the joy of living in far lands, in other persons, in other times – a delightful double existence; and this joy they will find, for the most part, in their story books. Their lessons, too, history and geography, should cultivate their conceptive powers. If the children do not live in the times of his history lesson, be not at home in the climate his geography book describes, why, these lessons will fail of their purpose.” – Charlotte Mason

Authors love what they write about in their living books!

Living books are often written by authors that are passionate about one thing, and that one thing is the topic of their beloved book(s). For example, John Hudson Tiner is passionate about science. This love comes through in the living books he’s authored, like Exploring Planet Earth. Ann Voskamp is passionate about geography, and so she wrote  A Child’s Geography I and II. Edward Eggleston was passionate about American history, and so was William J. Bennett, which is why they wrote the amazing living books they did! Starr Meade loves the Bible, and so she authored Grandpa’s Box and The Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Study!  Bob Schultz had a heart for helping boys become Christian men, while Joni Eareckson Tada and Bobbi Wolgemuth are passionate about hymns. The author passionate about what he/she writes produces a far different book than a group of people mass writing a textbook together.

“One more thing is of vital importance; children must have books, living books; the best are not too good for them; anything less than the best is not good enough; and if it is needful to exercise economy, let go everything that belongs to soft and luxurious living before letting go the duty of supplying the books, and the frequent changes of books, which are necessary for the constant stimulation of the child’s intellectual life.” ― Charlotte Mason

Children come alive by reading living books!

Heart of Dakota uses living books for as many school subjects as possible. All of the authors I mentioned earlier are people your children will get to ‘meet’ via their living books using Heart of Dakota! The other day, we had our eye doctor appointments. Each of my sons brought a book to read, and the receptionist asked me what I did to get them to read books. I told her these books were simply amazing! The kind you just can’t put down! She told me sadly how rare it is to see children reading anymore – they always seemed to be playing games on their phones. “Whatever those books are, I need to get some!” she said. “I want my little one to love reading like your sons do!” Two words dear… ‘living books.’ That’s all I can say! They just make learning come alive!!!

“The most common and the monstrous defect in the education of the day is that children fail to acquire the habit of reading.”Charlotte Mason

In Christ,

Julie