Choosing Between Preparing Hearts and Creation to Christ

Pondering Placement

Choosing Between Preparing Hearts and Creation to Christ

My fourth grade daughter is just turning 10. She has taken her time in becoming independent in her reading. Last year she got through about Unit 24 in Bigger Hearts and did really well. She did not continue into Preparing Hearts because I wanted her to spend lots of time on intense phonics review and reading. Blessedly, she’s grown leaps and bounds in her reading. She can orally narrate and write about 3-5 simple sentences. Also, she’ll complete Singapore 3B, Dictation 2, Rod and Staff 3, WWE 3, and 3rd grade readers. She is self motivated. Yet, she can be a big complainer if she thinks she cannot do something. I’m not quite sure if she can do DITHOR 4/5. One minute I’m convinced she should be in Preparing Hearts then I switch to CTC. What do you think?

Carrie’s Reply to Choosing Between Preparing Hearts and Creation to Christ

With what you’ve shared so far, I’d be inclined to suggest Preparing Hearts. I am basing this mostly upon her reading and writing level. Creation to Christ (CTC) is also quite a step up in independence and in reading and following lengthy written directions. I would be hesitant to put a child who has been a bit of a late bloomer in reading into CTC without first having that child go through the stepping stones that are built into Preparing Hearts.

I’d recommend Preparing Hearts with DITHR Level 3 books.

I think that a year in Preparing Hearts would also keep her from being too overwhelmed with the addition of DITHR to her days. With this in mind, I’d lean toward having her do Preparing Hearts with DITHR Level 2/3 (if she hasn’t already done it) or 4/5 (if she has already been through DITHR 2/3). I’d also lean toward the level 3 Book Pack (which actually has a reading level in the range of 3.5-5.1). If you think that is too young, you could move into the 4/5 Book Pack. However, I would do that with some hesitation as you want to encourage her to feel good about her reading without overwhelming her.

I’d recommend R & S English 4 half-speed, as well as the Preparing Hearts poetry writing lessons.

I would have her move on into Rod and Staff English 4 at half speed, spreading each lesson out over 2 days. Then, I’d move onto dictation Level 3 (which is in the Appendix of Preparing Hearts). I would move away from Writing with Ease, as you’ll have too much duplication between that program and the writing across the curriculum we do in Preparing Hearts (through guided written narration, oral narration, and dictation). I would make sure to do the writing lessons from the poetry as scheduled in Preparing Hearts to build those writing skills that are not covered elsewhere in our guide or in Rod and Staff. She will also be getting quite a bit of writing instruction through Rod and Staff.

I’d recommend Singapore 4A and the Preparing Hearts Deluxe and Science packages.

She can also move easily into Singapore 4A as that is scheduled in the Preparing Hearts Appendix. I would have her do the Deluxe Package with Preparing and also the science too. These will be her independent areas and will do a great job of building independence incrementally.

I’d definitely encourage a year in Preparing Hearts with your daughter, rather than jumping ahead to CTC.

In looking down the road at the level of reading, written work, and independence required in CTC and RTR on up, I would definitely encourage you to spend a year heading through Preparing  first with your daughter. The leap from completing 2/3 of Bigger and then jumping to CTC would be very huge (without having Preparing in between first).

Blessings,

Carrie

Placement for a 6-year-old at the Beginning Stages of Writing

Pondering Placement

Placement for a 6-year-old at the Beginning Stages of Writing

My son will be 6 in October, and this fall will be his kindergarten year. He just finished Pre-K at a private school. Looking at Heart of Dakota’s placement chart, we’ve already done three lessons in The Reading Lesson. He has caught on beautifully! For writing, his skills are in the beginning stages. Any time he sits down to write or color it is forced. I think it’s an issue of his will because he can draw a stick figure with most the body parts. He’s ready to use oral skills for grammar study. Math will be no problem! With handwriting being number two on the chart in order of importance, should I do Little Hands to Heaven? I feel he’d do great in Little Hearts for His Glory now. But, what if he’s not ready for the fine motor skills in Beyond Little Hearts the next year?

Carrie’s Reply to Placement for a 6-year-old at the Beginning Stages of Writing:

As I was reading through your initial post, I was thinking that Heart of Dakota’s Little Hearts for His Glory (LHFHG) would be a good fit for your son. It sounds like he fits well there on the placement chart, and much of what you shared as far as fine motor challenges isn’t that uncommon for boys upon entering LHFHG. Your description actually fit my own third little guy when he began LHFHG as he was turning 6. Many kiddos are at the beginning stages of writing when they begin LHFHG. So, that is quite normal!

LHFHG with the K options would take him from his beginning stages of writing and move him forward.

Two factors in considering whether to do LHFHG or whether to do Little Hands to Heaven with K options from LHFHG are your son’s age and the fact that he has already been through quite a bit of kindergarten readiness. Another factor is that he seems to really make strides when you work with him one-on-one. So, these factors make me lean more toward LHFHG with the K options, perhaps doing 4 days a week (and stretching 9 weeks into the next school year to finish).

Doing LHFHG 4 days a week would give him more time to progress from his beginning stages of writing.

This plan would allow him more time to progress from his beginning stages of writing before getting to Beyond. But, it would also keep him moving forward more closely with his age-mates. While I dislike comparison greatly, age does help give us some guidelines when were trying to decide between two good options. In your son’s case I think it tilts the decision more in favor of LHFHG. Once you get the guide and the books that go with it in hand, you’ll be able to tell better. You also are welcome to return anything within 30 days for a full refund or in exchange for something else. This should help ease the decision-making process a bit! I hope this is an encouragement to you!

Blessings!

Carrie

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