Should I delay starting grammar?

Pondering Placement

Should I delay starting grammar with my 2nd and 3rd graders?

We just finished our 3rd week of Bigger Hearts, and I couldn’t be happier! We are all loving Heart of Dakota! Placement seems right for everything, except R & S English. My 2nd grader is using level 2, and my third grader is using level 3. The work isn’t too hard. I just keep wondering why it’s necessary to learn formal grammar at this age? I know Charlotte Mason started grammar later. I’m not sure what I think about that either. Or, I could switch to Primary Language Lessons? But, I’m not sure about that either. R & S English seems more thorough. Any thoughts or suggestions on delaying grammar? Thanks!

We don’t delay starting grammar because we find more time is needed for solid retention.

Charlotte Mason (CM) advocated delaying formal grammar instruction until age 10 or even later. She felt all grammar could be absorbed in a single year with review after that. I was definitely on board with her idea when we switched to a VERY CM education for my oldest son during his third grade year. But, even CM’s own grammar book (republished by Karen Andreola as Simply Grammar) needs to be used more than once over time in order to cement the grammar concepts. Catherine Levinson, a leading CM educator, mentions using Simply Grammar two or three times to get retention from her kiddos. So, grammar is not a one-shot deal as we’d love it to be. So, at Heart of Dakota, we don’t delay starting grammar because we find more time is needed for solid retention.

We don’t delay starting grammar because of the increased requirements in state standards.

We also don’t delay the start of grammar due to the upped requirements in states with writing assessments. In order to have a common language about how to write better, we found it necessary to do an earlier introduction to formal grammar than CM proposed. For example, to point out whether kiddos are writing in complete sentences, they need to understand what a subject and predicate are and what is missing from their sentence (making it a fragment).

We don’t delay starting grammar because it is helpful for students to have a common language about how to write better.

This common language between parent and student helps make the editing process smoother. If we wish to have the child add more detail, it is VERY helpful for kiddos to understand what adjectives and adverbs are and how they function within a sentence. When we ask for written answers, it also helps if they can compose their sentences in a way that makes sense (with parallel usage). When asking kiddos to fix sentences that aren’t grammatically correct, it helps if the kiddos know their basic parts of speech. If we delay starting grammar, there is no common language to base our editing comments upon.

We don’t delay starting grammar because the mechanics and usage portion of state tests expect students to know this common language.

Another reason we don’t delay starting grammar is because in the mechanics and usage portion of standardized tests (Iowa Basics or SAT’s) kiddos need to understand the use of commas, end punctuation, and capitalization. Kiddos are expected to recognize proper mechanics and usage to be able to know the right answers to the questions. So, even though it makes sense to delay formal grammar instruction, we are forced by the state to show progress in these areas by the way we report to them.

We use Charlotte Mason’s language arts approach to copywork, dictation, narration, poetry, and literature. 

At HOD, we use copywork, dictation, oral narration (and later written narration), poetry, and literature in a very Charlotte Mason way. We delay formal grammar instruction until Bigger Hearts. However, at that point we find it easier to do a little grammar instruction each day, rather than waiting for a heavy introduction to grammar later. That happens to be our philosophy.

While Rod and Staff is not flashy, it thoroughly gets the job done and has better retention overall.

If your heart is leading you toward a different grammar program, by all means follow it! That is the beauty of HOD. But, for the record, I will say that Rod and Staff while not flashy, does get the job done. For the time I put into teaching grammar in the past (including “Intermediate Language Lessons”), I will say that Rod and Staff sticks much better, making the teaching time better spent for me!

Blessings,

Carrie

 

 

 

A Suggested Sequence of Guides for a 14 Year-Old

Pondering Placement

Question: What placement and guide sequence should I use for my 14 year-old?

We’ve homeschooled my 14 year-old since kindergarten, but he’s behind two grade levels. I’m counting him as an 8th grader. I’ve tried to push total texts with him, but it’s just not working. Presently, he’s using IEW SWI-B. He’s almost finished with the first book of Fix It grammar. He read The Sign of the Beaver and did a Progeny Press guide. He doesn’t like reading, probably because he’s too into video games. He’s never done dictation. I have had him narrate some. He’s using MUS math but is behind in that too. Looking at the placement chart, Resurrection to Reformation might be a fit, other than dictation. I like the fact that Heart of Dakota uses some of the IEW material. That is a plus for me. Is this type of study even possible? I guess I just need some insight for a placement and guide sequence to use?

Carrie’s Reply:

In thinking through your son’s age and in pondering what he has done thus far, I do think he will make steady progress as you move through the Heart of Dakota guides. Often you will see the most fruit in your second year of HOD. This is because the skills taught in one guide help prepare your child for the next guide. The layering of skills over time produces strides in learners as time passes that are definitely noticeable. So, be encouraged that your son can make needed gains in his difficult areas! I am confident we can find a sequence of guides that works well for him!

A Suggested Sequence of Guides

For now, I think we can go into Resurrection to Reformation considering this to be his 8th grade year. This will give him earth science exposure. This would mean that for high school he would follow the sequence below:

  • 9th grade Revival to Revolution (last half of English 5 and Advanced EE Physical Science for high school as scheduled in guide)
  • 10th grade Missions to Modern Marvels (all of English 6 – as scheduled in the guide and Chemistry with beef ups as scheduled in guide)
  • 11th grade World Geography (first half of English 7 – as scheduled in the guide – possibly IPC as scheduled in guide or other science)
  • 12th grade World History (last half of English 7 – as scheduled in the guide and Biology as scheduled in guide)
A Short Explanation of This Sequence of Guides

This sequence will give him needed credits in American History, Geography, and World History. It will also give him a steady rise in skills in the language arts area and cover his needed sciences. For math, it would be good to get through a minimum of Algebra I and Geometry (with a possible hope of also doing Algebra II – albeit in a introductory way). We can address the sciences as we go to be sure he is getting what is needed in that area each year as it arises.

A Reading Suggestion for This First Year in This Guide Sequence

In pondering that we would be considering your son as an 8th grader this year, we have a bit more wiggle room in using this year as a skill-building year in this sequence (picking up needed teaching in some key areas). With that in mind, I would lean toward doing Level 6/7/8 of Drawn into the Heart of Reading Student Book along with the Boy Set from Creation to Christ. Since you won’t get to Creation to Christ with your son, you can use the CTC Boy Set with Drawn into the Heart of Reading (as there is one book for each genre). This set will work well for your son’s age and should include topics of interest. Or, if preferred, you can choose different books that are at this reading level.

Some Language Arts Suggestions for the First Year of This Guide Sequence

When you begin your son’s RTR guide, I’d recommend you begin Medieval History-Based Writing Lessons (setting aside SWI-B even if he did not finish it). Be sure to follow the plans within the RTR guide for Medieval Writing Lessons, as we omit some assignments and stretch others out longer. I think Rod and Staff 5 (first half only – doing a lesson each time it comes up in the plans twice weekly) will be a good fit as well. Charlotte Mason studied dictation exercises are in the back of the RTR Guide. You will want to begin your son at a level where he is having to repeat a passage only once or twice a week. Otherwise, he will be at a frustration level. The RTR Guide tells you when to do studied dictation.

Some Thoughts on Packages for the First Year of This Guide Sequence

I would also encourage you to either have your son read the Basic Package or do the Extension Package but not do both. This is due to the new level of work and skills that will be required already within the RTR Guide. I would allow your son to choose between the two sets to see which he desires to read. The Basic Package is scheduled in the daily plans. The Extension Package is scheduled by day in the Appendix.

The Importance of Completing All That Is Scheduled Within This Suggested Sequence of Guides

It will be important for your son to fully complete all that is scheduled within each day of plans within this sequence of guides. Some of the assignments may feel young at times, as he is on the highest age range of the guide. However, the skills gained by reading and following written directions, adjusting to the volume of the readings, becoming comfortable in writing across the curriculum, and being trained in a higher level of independence, when combined with regular skill practice will all be needed in preparation for high school next year. Try to keep in mind that if you skip a box, you skip a skill. I think this is a workable plan, which we can revisit as your son progresses. But, I hope this suggested sequence gets you started!

Blessings,
Carrie

 

How do I spread out Beyond and Bigger, so my son does Preparing at 9 years old?

Pondering Placement

Question: How do I spread out Beyond and Bigger, so my son does Preparing at 9 years old?

I am new to Heart of Dakota, and my oldest will be 6 next month. I’m fairly certain he places in Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory.  He reads books like Frog and Toad with no help from me. I can read just about anything aloud to him. He does like pictures, but he can listen/read books with just a few pictures too. We read several “Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories” each night. He loves this and usually draws several pictures after the reading. I really love the look of the Emerging Reader’s Set for him. However, if he starts in this level, I’m afraid he may be missing phonics instruction. He also writes well – several sentences on his own as well as letters to other people. My other son is wiggly, but this son is not.

I was thinking of doing Beyond Little Hearts and Bigger Hearts over 3 years. This is because I’ve read some concerns about going into Preparing Hearts on the young end. It seems others for some reason don’t want to go into Preparing Hearts before a certain age/grade (like age 9 or 4th grade). I think it’s because of the maturity level. So, I guess he would not be able to go straight through. I don’t feel Little Hearts for His Glory is the right placement for him. So, if I can’t do Preparing with him at age 8, how should I slow down Beyond and Bigger to make them stretch out longer? Help!

Carrie’s Reply: First-born children often are accurately placed on the young side of the target age ranges.

As we’re looking at placement for your son, and thinking down the road, it’s good to know that Preparing has a target age range of 8-10 with extensions for ages 11-12. As we look at the target age range of the guide, you may find that those kiddos who come into the guide at the youngest age range are often first-born children who were just born ready to go. (This could be because the parent had the time to really sit and work with the child from an early age, since this was their first-born child). While this is not always true, it does seem to happen more often! Additionally, God seems to equip those first-born kiddos to lead! He often gifts them in a unique way, so they are self-starters. All of this, when combined with solid skills in the 3 R’s, makes these types of kiddos thrive at the youngest age range of the guides.

While Preparing Hearts does work well for 9 or 10 year olds, it also works well for 8 year olds who are appropriately placed.

I think you’ll also find that if you visit with others, those who feel a child “must” be 9 to do Preparing are usually not talking about their first-born. They are often families who are either new to Heart of Dakota and started a young child too high up in order to combine with an older sibling. Or, they may not have placed their 8 year old based on skill level and have come into Preparing unable to do what is asked. Or, they may have a struggling writer or reader. While Preparing does work well for 9 or 10 year olds, it also works for 8 year olds who are appropriately placed from the beginning. My own sister has had this situation with her two oldest boys, who have always come in on the youngest age range of the guides and excelled.

I would lean towards placing your 6 year old son in Beyond.

With this in mind, and with the skill level you’ve already shared that your son has in the 3R’s, I would lean toward placing him in Beyond. I’d go through all of the rest of his phonics using The Reading Lesson, prior to having him begin the Emerging Reader’s Set. However, I would plan on the Emerging Reader Set being his reading as you are going through Beyond. I think finishing up his phonics will not be a long process. The schedule for the Emerging Reader’s Set is in the Appendix of Beyond. It includes follow-up questions and narration prompts. I would do Math 1A/1B with the plans in Beyond. If he can handle full-speed, I see no reason to slow him down. Doing school 5 days a week at the Beyond level is very doable if a child is well-placed. I think you’ll have a great year!

You’ll be able to tell if you need to slow down at the start of Bigger Hearts.

When you get to Bigger Hearts if you need to slow down at the beginning, you’ll be able to tell. However, it might not be necessary to do so. I wouldn’t make a plan to formally slow down a guide. Usually, we only suggest that route if a child needs time to grow into the skills in the guide at the beginning for a bit, or if a family has multiple students and needs more time to work with a certain child (and then slowing down one child’s guide gives them this time).

Blessings,
Carrie

Should I separate my 3rd and 5th graders, and if so, who should I move?

Pondering Placement

Question: Should I separate my 3rd and 5th graders, and if so, who do I move?

Our two sons are in Unit 10 of Preparing Hearts for His Glory (PHFHG). My younger son just turned 9 and is in 3rd grade. My older son is almost 11 and in 5th grade. Full-speed is too heavy a workload for my 3rd grader. It takes him twice as long to read and write than what is listed as approximate times. He’s also unable to do the science independently. The reading is above his level. I’m having him skip boxes to stay on the same unit as his brother. My 5th grader is spot on going full-speed. I DO want to separate them in the future when the guides become more independent. My question is this: should I separate them now? If so, who do I move? We never did Bigger Hearts for His Glory (BHFHG), but I’m not sure I can do these guides at the same time.

Carrie’s Reply: I’d either separate your 3rd and 5th graders, moving your 3rd grader down to Bigger Hearts, or I’d slow Preparing Hearts down to half-speed and add the extensions.

From what you’ve shared, it sounds like your 3rd grader places in Heart of Dakota’s Bigger Hearts. Based on this, one option would be to separate them by moving your 3rd grader down to Bigger. I am thinking that you would likely need to read the history readings to your son if you moved him to Bigger (at least at first and with A First Book in American History and the storytime). However, you could consider doing the science a bit more independently, as suggested in this thread.

If you separate your sons by moving your 3rd grader down into Bigger Hearts, you can probably move him toward more independence.

You may be able to move toward doing Bigger more independently with your son if you move him down. With my second son, who was an early writer and excellent reader, we did Bigger more independently than I did with my subsequent kiddos. You can click here to to read my post where I described the way I did Bigger with my second son.

Your older son in Preparing Hearts could also move toward more independence.

You could also move toward more independence in Preparing with your older child. We also did this with my second son, who was ready for more independence. For example, if your oldest son was ready to read the history readings on his own, this would help. Charlotte Mason said a child of age 9 on up who can read his own material should. It aids in retention, making connections, and retelling. Also, if your older son can begin reading more directly from the guide and doing as much as he can to prepare ahead for his times with you (as we mentioned in the above links for Bigger), then this would help too.

If you don’t separate your sons and instead keep them together in Preparing, I’d slow it to half-speed and add the extensions for your older son.

If you decide to stay with Preparing for both kiddos, I would definitely slow it down so that your younger son is doing all that is in the plans without skipping anything. I would also add the Preparing Extensions for your older son. Supposing you do this, I think you will be able to tell if Preparing at a slower speed with extensions is enough for your older child. If it isn’t, then you’ll want to allow that older child to move ahead at full-speed in Preparing more independently (which he is going to do once he gets to CTC anyway) rather than continuing to add more and more material to fill time for the older child just to keep the kiddos together.

If you do end up going full-speed in Preparing with your older son, you can either continue going half-speed in Preparing with your younger son, or move him down to Bigger Hearts full-speed.

In the event that you do end up continuing full-speed Preparing with your older child, you could either go to half-speed Preparing with your younger son or move him down to full-speed Bigger. Honestly, full-speed Bigger will have more of the skill-building that it sounds like your son is needing than half-speed Preparing. Those are just a few things to ponder. It can be challenging to find the right fit at times, but it is worth the effort to search for the correct combination. No matter what though, I wouldn’t continue doing Preparing the way you are currently doing it with your younger son. There is just too much that he is missing to adequately prepare him to enter CTC in the future. Hope this helps as you ponder your options!

Blessings,
Carrie

Should my 9th grader skip World Geography to be combined with her older brother?

Pondering Placement

Question: Should my 9th grader skip World Geography to be combined with her older brother in World History?

I’m wondering what to do next year. My son will be in 10th grade, and my daughter will be in 9th. They’ve both done HOD together until this current year. I had my daughter take a year off from HOD. I didn’t want her to start World Geography in 8th grade. However, now I would really like to combine them again. My son will do HOD’s World History. Would it work to let my daughter skip World Geography and jump into World History? I would like her to do the WG Logic package instead of the WH Fine Arts though. She could then do Fine Arts for 10th grade. She’s done Spanish with my son this year, so she’ll be ready for that. They will have their own math and grammar. Would it be okay if she did Biology in 9th, Chemistry in 10th, Physics in either 11th or 12th?

Carrie’s Reply:

Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend your daughter skip a guide to be combined with her older brother. I probably wouldn’t recommend any 9th grader do World History, unless she’d first done World Geography in 8th grade. This is because World Geography is a step up from MTMM in so many ways. Hence, this makes the leap from MTMM to World History massive!

To skip a freshman level guide to jump into a sophomore level guide would make for a tough year!

If you were concerned about your 8th grader doing World Geography, then the jump up to World History in grade 9 would be even bigger. At the high school level, it is so important to take kiddos’ ages, maturity-levels, skill levels, independence levels, and number of hours they are able to hang with school into account. So if a student could handle the level and length of the World Geography guide as an 8th grader, he/she would be well-poised to do World History as a 9th grader. But, if the student did a more typical 8th grade program rather than a freshman level program (like World Geography) in 8th grade, then to skip into a sophomore level program (like World History) as a freshman would be setting that child up for a tough year!

Rather than skip to combine, I’d place your 9th grader in World Geography and your 10th grader in World History.

I would be more inclined to place your 9th grader in the World Geography guide and your 10th grader in the World History guide. With the rigor of the high school day in mind, being well-placed matters so much! For example, depending on how many hours your daughter did school in 8th grade, the switch to World History (at 6 1/2 – 7 hours a day, 4 days a week) could be a fairly significant one! The quantity of reading and the level of writing required also jumps up. Without having the year of BJU literature/novels in the World Geography guide first, the literature in the World History guide could be a significant challenge for your daughter. Of course, it will make a difference what your daughter did for her 8th grade year in this area as to how much of a step up this would be.

Rather than skip ahead to combine in science and in health, I’d enjoy the 9th grade options for your daughter.

To skip ahead to Biology without first doing IPC could be another area of challenge. Biology is such a terminology heavy subject with significant output required. Doing IPC gives the student a segue of sorts to a higher level of expectations content-wise and lab-wise before diving into Biology. Depending on what you daughter did for her 8th grade year, she may or may not have a similar segue in place. Another subject area that could pose some challenges is Total Health. This is because it contains many sensitive topics that are better discussed individually with one student at a time (and with a more mature student). Doing Health with one student rather than with a pair allows for more free sharing between parent and child.

If you did combine your kiddos, there would still be challenges.

Even if you did combine your kiddos, your kiddos would still have to read their material on their own and do their written work independently. They would also have the added challenge of sharing all of their school books.  So, this also presents its own challenges.

There are many ways to encourage sharing without choosing to combine kiddos in the same guide.

On the other hand, if your son did World Geography last year, he will have much he can talk about with your daughter this year during off school hours. We share a lot about our school day at the dinner table. We also have a half hour family reading time where we all read silently in the living room after supper. Often, our boys will read their living library or their literature books from their guide during this time. After the half hour of reading, we each share something from our book. This is a great time for the family to learn about each other’s readings! There are many ways to encourage sharing without having kiddos doing the same guide.

By choosing not to skip to combine, we have been able to hold our older sons to a higher standard.

I will also say that we have enjoyed the private meeting times with our boys even more as they have entered the high school years. It has kept us plugged into their joys and their struggles. Many private discussions have taken place during our meeting times with our boys individually. This wouldn’t have occurred if we had planned to skip guide(s) so we could meet with our boys together. I have been glad for the opportunity to be alone one-on-one with each student. We meet daily with each student for 30-45 minutes to go over their work. We have also found that it is good for our older boys to own their age and be held to a higher standard than their younger siblings. This is harder to do if you combine two students of differing ages together for the bulk of things the same each day.

If you are facing a significantly challenging coming year, we can discuss other options.

My advice to you will differ if you have a significantly challenging coming year. If you are experiencing debilitating health issues, or if someone in your immediate family has a health crisis, or if you have suddenly become caretakers for your parents, or if you are headed back to work, or if you are facing any other life altering circumstances, then we can definitely discuss other options. This is because in these situations your students are going to have to keep each other accountable and possibly even check each other’s work due to the fact that you are facing some of these time-consuming, life altering circumstances. So, please let me know if this is the case! We can discuss options then!

Blessings as you ponder your options!
Carrie