Is placement off if character qualities are too abstract for my child?

Pondering Placement

Is placement off if character qualities are hard for my daughter to understand and apply?

I am using Heart of Dakota’s Bigger Hearts for His Glory and Drawn into the Heart of Reading with my eight year-old. In the Bible box we talk about a character quality each week. While she can have a reasonable discussion about the trait after we define it, she doesn’t really remember the meanings of the words. When I ask her how she can display the trait we are studying, she can’t really answer. She usually says things like “I should obey my parents” or “I should be nice.” Should I have her look up each character trait, write them down, and study them as vocabulary words? But then I kind of wonder if the character qualities are just too abstract for her still? If the character qualities are too abstract for her, did I place her in too high of a guide? Thanks in advance!

Carrie’s Reply in Regard to Understanding and Applying Character Qualities

Understanding and applying character qualities is a new skill to be learned, and it definitely takes time. One thing that is really helpful to know is that learning to think beneath the surface of what was read and learning to make connections among various strands of learning are definitely higher level skills. Often these types of skills are not really fostered in many educational settings, simply because they do require discussion and time for the learner to sit with a reading and dwell upon it and ponder. These skills don’t come naturally, as it is just so much easier to stay at the basic comprehension level in our thinking, because it just takes much less effort and is so much easier to do! By studying character qualities, children begin to learn to think beneath the surface of what is being read.

Delving into character qualities helps children see God and His Word are our measuring stick for how we live our life.

The reason we focus on this type of open-ended questioning and seeking or questing for deeper answers is because this is what God desires for us to do in His Word. He wishes us to know Him better through dwelling upon what He has shared with us both literally and beneath the surface in the Bible. He wants us to weigh everything else that we read and hear with what it says in His Word. This is to be our measuring stick for how we live our life. So, we start to foster this type of thinking from an early age, as we teach kiddos that looking beneath the surface of what you read is part of reading. Delving into character qualities is one way we do this.

When you pose questions to think and discuss about character qualities, you provide opportunities for children to learn to read with moral discernment.

We pose questions that take time to think about and discuss, and we do it regularly. We want to provide as many opportunities for this type of thinking, pondering, and connecting as possible. Kiddos can then learn to think carefully about what is really being said in writing and watch for the messages that are hidden in what they read. It is our ultimate goal for kiddos to read with moral discernment and to weigh everything they read and hear with God’s Word in mind. This brings character qualities to life in a real and life-changing way!

You can think of the study of character qualities as a time to train your child to think deeply and Biblically.

As you can imagine, this is a lifelong pursuit!   It is not something that happens in a year or even in a few years. It is something that as adults we are still pursuing and seeking to do daily. So, if you can think of these types of questioning moments as opportunities for conversation, or opportunities to share you own thought process or examples, you will have a much more fulfilling time with your child. The study of character qualities can be though of as a time to train your child to think deeply and Biblically one step at a time. This is the ultimate goal of learning about character qualities.

Character quality studies should be personal and should provide the opportunity for deeper, heartfelt discussions.

One thing I would caution you against would be in making the activity into a comprehension type exercise that seeks one right answer from your child. It is so tempting to do this, as this is often where our comfort level as a teacher lies (in that comprehension level, one-right-answer questions are so much easier to measure or grade)! But, if you do that you’ll miss the opportunity for the deeper discussions! So, I encourage you to persevere and seize the moments to share your own thinking and examples with your child. Make it personal and your child will eventually share personally too. The deeper questions will provide dialogue opportunities and a window into your child’s mind for years to come! As your children mature, you will be so thankful for this window into their soul. I know I have been!

Your daughter is in the right guide. She is flourishing in every area of Bigger Hearts and Drawn into the Heart of Reading! I know this from visiting with you. So, I just want to encourage you, your daughter will also learn to take more and more from her reading as she studies and applies character qualities. She has many years to continue to grow in this area!

Blessings,
Carrie

A Heart of Dakota Praise from My State Evaluator!

Pondering Placement

Editor’s note: For today’s Pondering Placement blog post, we wanted to take a moment to share this wonderful placement feedback from one of our users’ state evaluators! If you need help placing your child, we are happy to help! Visit our contact page on our website to find ways to get in touch with us. 

A Heart of Dakota Praise from My State Evaluator!

I have to say I have LOVED using Heart of Dakota this past year! I asked not too long ago for placement advice. We were behind in Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory. However, after talking through placement with Heart of Dakota, we decided to continue with Beyond and then move on to Bigger whenever we finished. So, I guess this is not really a placement question at this point! Instead, I just wanted to thank Heart of Dakota for your feedback, ideas and encouragement… especially Carrie and Julie! I also wanted to share the praise Heart of Dakota received from my evaluator!

My daughter was recently evaluated. In my state, I have to show proof she is progressing, so we do a portfolio review. Our evaluator has been around the homeschool world awhile. She has grown, adult kids. She is very popular and busy in our area (just a little background on her). It was our first time meeting her, so she was getting to know us and what we use for school. She didn’t know much about Heart of Dakota, so I made it a point to introduce her to HOD by showing her the guide. I pulled out all our books and the catalog, and she LOVED it all. Loved the book choices, the activities in all the boxes, the critical thinking integrated, the way we do spelling. She looked through it all and even took notes!!

I had posted before about having a hard time with my daughter in the area of math and memorizing math facts, and also taking a long time doing her copywork. Well, our evaluator determined my daughter has a visual memory deficit. But, she was encouraging in telling me the Lord has led me to the right resources to teach my daughter (even when I didn’t know what was happening with her!) See, He is in control at ALL times! She encouraged me to stay with Singapore Math and continue to patiently drill math facts (they will eventually stick), and continue the way we do spelling and copywork, it is the best way for her to learn with her visual memory deficit.

I know this is long, but I wanted to pass this along…to encourage you like I was encouraged! My evaluator actually gave me the same advice Heart of Dakota had already given me. Thanks to all at HOD for making this great curriculum available to us! Please share this with others who are pondering placement as an encouragement.

 

 

Tweaking Placement and/or Pacing to Help in Unforeseen Life Challenges

Pondering Placement – Tweaking Pacing

Question: How would I go about tweaking pacing and/or placement for a few unforeseen life challenges? 

We’re currently using three Heart of Dakota guides, with a VERY distracting 2 year-old in the house. Three guides worked fine last year! However, due to unforeseen life challenges, I’d love your help tweaking placement and/or pacing. My 11 year-old is doing well in Creation to Christ. She’s appropriately challenged, able to work well independently, and my check-ins hold her accountable. She’s often done with her “I” boxes and waiting for me to finish with her brothers, so we can do her “T” boxes. So, I don’t think tweaking her pacing back to half-speed would help.

What about tweaking my 9 year-old son’s placement or pacing in Bigger Hearts?

My 9 year-old son in Bigger enjoys the History and Science very much. However, he is overwhelmed with the writing. He also finds the reading challenging (he has some eye-focusing issues that make those things laborious). I question whether he’ll be able to handle the Independence of Preparing next year. Bigger is taking us about 4 hours to complete, not counting Storytime or DITHOR (we try to cover those things at night.) He did okay in Beyond Little Hearts last year overall. Maybe you have some tweaking suggestions for pacing or placement for this son?

What about tweaking my 7 year-old son’s placement or pacing?

My 7 year-old is almost done with Little Hearts (LHFHG). He’s a little over halfway finished with The Reading Lesson. Although he’s still doing the handwriting workbook, he’s ready for more writing. I would place him in Beyond Little Hearts if we were coming fresh to HOD. Unfortunately, I loaned my Beyond things to a family member this year. My 7 year-old son is not at all ready for Bigger. He struggles with attention span and being able to focus. Maybe you have some tweaking suggestions for pacing or placement for this son?

What about tweaking pacing by slowing down my son in Bigger Hearts and pushing my 7 year-old along more quickly?

I’m now wondering whether I should slow down my child in Bigger to half- speed. I could then begin to work my younger son towards being ready to combine with his brother in a year or so. That would put my older son in the extensions as we move forward to keep him on grade level. Hopefully, my younger son would be ready to move forward with Bigger full-speed in a year. What are your thoughts? Would this be a disservice to my 9 year-old, or unrealistic for my 7 year-old? Sorry this got so long!

Carrie’s Reply: Try tweaking by combining your 7 year-old and 9 year-old in Beyond, but continue with full-speed LA and math in Bigger Hearts.

This suggestion is a bit on the unique side! However, I can honestly see it working better for you in the long haul than trying to hustle your younger child through Beyond, while your Bigger child treads water doing just the 3R’s for over a year. Homeschooling with a busy toddler can make schooling a challenge. With this in mind, and the fact that this little one will be a lovable distraction in the mix for awhile, I would lean toward having your 9 year-old bump back down to join your 7 year-old in a trip through Beyond. I know your 9 year-old just finished Beyond. However, your 7 year-old is so ready for Beyond! It is better to combine where the younger child is, rather than pulling a younger child up to always be towed along behind an older child.

Tweaking by combining in Beyond will lessen the amount of writing for your 9 year-old and the amount of teaching time for you.

Since you are struggling already to get DITHOR and Storytime from Bigger in your 9 year-old’s day, and Bigger is already taking you a lot longer than we’d like simply due to the writing challenges and possibly somewhat due to the eye issues your 9 year-old has, then it makes sense to bump that child back into Beyond where the writing load is less and the time overall to teach is less for you. This will allow you to devote needed time to DITHOR daily for your 9 year-old and will solve your Storytime issue as you’d combine your 7 and 9 year old-for that in Beyond. Choosing a different set of books to read aloud for the Storytime in Beyond will solve the problem of any repetition there for your 9 year-old in Beyond.

Tweaking by Doing Daily R & S English, Dictation, Cursive, Math, and DITHOR

For your 9 year-old, in this move to Beyond, I would keep going daily with Rod and Staff English, studied dictation, and Cheerful Cursive from Bigger. I would also keep going with your chosen math and do DITHOR daily for your 9 year-old as expected in Beyond. I would encourage you to additionally require daily copywork from poetry in Beyond in manuscript (even just a couple of lines a day) for your 9 year-old to build his writing muscles. This plan would allow you to keep the kiddos combined for the long haul and meet them both pretty closely to where they are at, since Bigger is a bit of a stretch for your 9-year old and LHFHG is a bit easy for your 7-year old.

Savor the Time with Your Older Child to Build 3 R’s and Strengthen Fine Motor Skills

I would do Beyond as written with your 7 year-old. For your 9 year-old, I would add the things I noted from Bigger. I’d focus on not rushing through Beyond to get to Bigger too early. I would savor the repeat time with your older child in Beyond. This will be time to build his 3 R’s and strengthen his fine motor skills daily. I believe this plan will save your sanity in the long haul and make school a joy once again!

Your family member has now had time to see whether Beyond is a fit for her family.

I would tell your family member (to whom you so graciously loaned your HOD materials) that due to a change in your plans you are in need of your Beyond Economy Package, science book, devotional, and music CD back. Then, I would purchase a new set of Storytime books to make that fresh. Your family member has likely had enough time to see whether she likes HOD enough to invest something in it. The Economy Package and the science, devotional, and music CD required to complete Beyond are not expensive (around $120 for all of those materials combined)! She could keep your storytime set for now (which will save her money).

Praying for God’s Grace and Wisdom for You

I pray God’s grace and wisdom on you as you seek His best for your homeschool. In looking down the road, I think this plan with the tweaking mentioned makes the most sense for the long haul. If you ever feel like your older child of the pair makes huge gains and is ready for more, you could always consider bumping that child forward a guide in coming years if needed.

Blessings,
Carrie

Teaching Boys Good Habits Right Away

Pondering Placement for Boys

Teaching Boys Good Habits Right Away

I bought Heart of Dakota’s Little Hands to Heaven (LHTH) for my 3 turning 4-year old son. When it came time to start, he fought me on it! He was not excited to start like his sister was at that age. So, after a few days I set it aside. Since then, he has shown interest in the R & S Workbooks. He does them really well when he wants. He sees his older siblings doing their guides and has gotten more interested. So, we tried doing the first week of LHTH again. He just doesn’t seem as engaged as his older sisters were. I am doing Little Hearts for His Glory (LHFHG) with my 6 year-old daughter, but I don’t think that would be a good fit for him yet. It is too advanced for him. What should I do?

Carrie’s Reply in Regard to Teaching Boys:

I’ll share a few things I’ve discovered in my homeschool journey with my own 4 boys. One thing to be aware of is that many little boys will battle you just to battle. They have in their little minds what they want to do (which often is play), and they don’t want to be told otherwise. It’s important to remember that with homeschooling your role has shifted now with you being both the teacher and the mama.

Teaching Boys the Habit of Respectful Obedience

One thing that helps my boys is for me to tell them that if they went to school, they would have to do what their teacher said. When they are at home, the same is true now, because I am their teacher. This means when I tell them to do something, I expect them to respect me and obey. If they do not obey, there will be consequences. At our house, for a quick effective consequence, we had our little boys stand with their nose in the corner for not obeying. We had them stand 30 seconds up to a minute for each year of their age. They were not to look out from the corner, or we would start the timer again. When they came out of the corner, they needed to say why they were there and then apologize and behave differently. If not, it was back to the corner. For us, that was very effective.

How Carpet Squares Help Little Boys Focus

Next, for my little ones, I got a carpet square for them to sit on (one per child). I sat on my own carpet square. This delineates a space for them to be. To start our LHTH, we always got out the carpet squares and sat down. Then, we read the Bible story first. I held up the Bible and showed the pictures to my little one. He stayed on his carpet square, and I stayed on mine. This effectively ended all wrestling that had previously happened when I tried to keep my little one on my lap, and also ended any rolling around on the floor!

This also helped our boys see me as the teacher!

This also showed me as the teacher sharing the book with him. It helped establish my role. Honestly, teaching LHTH is much more about establishing your role as a teacher than it is about tricking your child into having fun. Your child will eventually have fun doing LHTH, once your role is established. Until then, your son will battle you for control by simply refusing and complaining. After I read the Bible story, then I asked the questions. I expected some answer, but I didn’t drag the activity out. Next, we put on the music and marched around the room while it played. We marched in a circle and kept even the marching in control (i.e. no falling down on the ground, pushing, etc.). I marched too.

Thoughts on Boys and the Fingerplays

Then, we came back to our carpet squares and did the fingerplay. My boys had to participate, or we would start over. I said a line and did the motion, then they said a line and did the motion (echo style). We did this the first 2-3 days of the fingerplay. The last 2-3 days we did it together with no echoing. They had two chances to start right in with me, or they went to the corner. I don’t allow any eye-rolling or silliness with the fingerplay, but we did have fun and smile.

The fingerplays actually are meant for the two sides of the brain to communicate with one another doing both sounds and motions at the same time. This takes coordination of the two sides of the brain, making the fingerplays have a hidden element. The motions also provide a great cuing system for the sounds later when your child begins to read. We only did the fingerplay once, so the whole activity even with echoing was over in just minutes. My boys need to be able to do what I tell them for just a few minutes cheerfully, even if it something happens not to be their favorite thing. This is because my time is important, and as a teacher I expect to be obeyed.

Boys and Hands-on Activities

Next, we went on to the letter activity or the hands-on activity. We typically left the more art-oriented things (or things needing to be done at the table) to be done last. In this way, we moved to the table last of all. Boys tend to love hands-on activities, so they would often keep enjoying this activity while I moved on to teaching an older son!

You can start LHTH half-speed to help train your son.

For now, I would work on doing LHTH at half-speed, doing 3 boxes each day. I would work on having your son come to school right when you call him and work on making sure he obeys you. To help him obey, I would make sure to do his school in the morning at about the same time, so he knows it is coming. Boys do better knowing what is coming! If he does not obey, I would warn him once and then give an effective, quick consequence each time he does not obey. You may find yourself giving more consequences than doing school right now. However, keep your cool and stay calm. If you do use the corner, then when he returns, after he apologizes, cheerfully go back to the school again.

Boys don’t like to be randomly pulled away from playing to do school, so routine helps.

Make sure that you do not pull him away from play randomly to do school, or he will really battle you. Instead, have his school begin after he has just completed something that has a definite ending point, like an educational DVD. Keep his routine the same, so he knows that school always comes after the same thing in his day. You want him to expect school and know it is coming.

Boys rarely battle when they see you as the teacher with an established routine to follow.

I say all of this to help you see that LHTH is about training your son to see you as the teacher and to obey you the first time you ask him to do something. This is so important to his schooling to come and will save you many battles along the way in the future. If you don’t feel that you want to train him now, then don’t start LHTH. When you do start, know you are about the training and will need to devote time to it each day. My hope is to give you some practical advice that helped me be a better teacher. I enjoy school with my older sons today, because the routine was established when they were younger. We battle very little with our older ones thanks to the foundation laid in the younger years.

Blessings,
Carrie

Will R & S English 7 still benefit my high school student if she completed other programs?

Pondering Placement

Will my daughter benefit from doing R & S English 7 for 9th grade if she has already completed several other grammar programs?

My 9th grade, 15 year-old daughter will start using Heart of Dakota’s World Geography this coming year. My placement question is actually about grammar. She has already previously completed Analytical Grammar twice in her 6th and 7th grade years. Last year for 8th grade, she used the high school reinforcement book from Analytical grammar along with Easy Grammar Plus. She has always done most of her grammar on her own now. My question is will she still benefit from R & S English 7? She has been independent in this area and used to correcting her own work. I will confess, I’d love to hand her the teacher’s manual and student book and let her do this on her own. I’m not sure if I’m supposed teach it at this point, but I do want her to get all the benefit she can from English these high school years.

Carrie’s Reply:  Yes, I think your daughter would still benefit from using R & S English 7.

In my opinion, I think that your daughter would still benefit from using Rod and Staff English 7 because it integrates writing and a whole host of other English skills within the program. This will provide a different feel from what she’s already had in the past.

How My Oldest Son Completed R & S English in High School

As far as using Rod and Staff English, I’ll share that at our house my oldest son preferred to do his lessons orally with us rather than write out all of the answers. However, due to time constraints for his senior year, he did benefit from doing the last half of English 8 just the way you are describing in your post. He did the lessons and checked them himself using the Teacher’s Guide key. He did share that it was more difficult, and less interesting, to do Rod and Staff English this way. However, it did work for him for that season. 

How My Next Son Completed R & S English in High School

With my next son in line,we still went over his lessons regularly. However, he did enjoy writing out the answers ahead of time to save time during the meeting with us later. Sometimes he had the whole lesson done before he ever met with us. To me, this was still of benefit to him as well. We just orally did whatever he had left. With my younger kiddos, we definitely meet each time with them and do 2/3 of the English lesson orally and 1/3 on paper.

Students do benefit from some oral discussion and application, simply because English is a spoken as well as a written language.

So, with your older daughter you can decide how best to approach Rod and Staff English to best fit your needs and hers. There are benefits to both ways! It may be a changing approach from year to year, depending on what your schedule allows. I do feel that kiddos benefit from some oral discussion and application of the English lessons, simply because English is a spoken as well as a written language!

Blessings,
Carrie