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

Should I add the extension books to change up the units we’re repeating?

Dear Carrie

Should I add the extension books to change up the units we’re repeating?

Last year, we started Bigger Hearts with my 2nd grader. Though we enjoyed it, I ended up having some unexpected life challenges, and we set it aside for a textbook/workbook approach. I feel, like I did last year, that God has led our family to Heart of Dakota. I prayerfully want to make this work. Although my son was doing fine with Bigger for 2nd grade, I feel like it would still be a good fit for him. Plus, I am familiar with it, so it’s not like I’d be trying to learn something new. So, I was considering buying the Extension books to read along during the units he already covered. He will only be in 3rd grade though. Will they be okay as read alouds? (NOT independent reading.) Just looking for a way to repeat those units (1-15) and change it up a bit. What do you think?

Sincerely,

“Ms. Please Help Me Decide If I Should Add the Extension Books for the Units I’m Repeating”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Me Decide If I Should Add the Extension Books for the Units I’m Repeating,”

If you made it partway through Bigger Hearts last year, I would be inclined to just pick Bigger up where you left off and go forward from there with it as written. For a third grader, I wouldn’t add the Extension books as a general rule, but would instead encourage you to do the Storytime books (either boy, girl, or classic set). The skills in the Storytime box are really important, and the books in the Storytime sets were chosen for their read-aloud quality.

The Extension books were intended to be read independently by the child and were chosen to extend the study of American history for an older learner. So, the Extension book readings will be much longer as read-alouds, as they were not intended for that purpose. If you love to read aloud, you can certainly read aloud some of the Extension titles. However, we wouldn’t want that to replace the very needed Storytime read-aloud sessions and skills.

Blessings,
Carrie

Keeping Balance in Homeschooling

From Our House to Yours

Keeping Balance in Homeschooling

We all recognize keeping balance in life is just a good way to try to be healthy. Things taken to the extreme are apt to become unhealthy over time. Just because you love chocolate, that doesn’t mean you can eat it throughout the entire day. Or, just because you love that show on Netflix, that doesn’t mean you can watch it most the day. Or, just because you love to drink coffee – ooh, this one is tough for me – that doesn’t mean you can drink it all day. (Noon. That has to be my cutoff, or I won’t sleep a wink!) Well, homeschooling is the same way. When something is out of balance and taken to the extreme, it can become unhealthy – even if it was initially a good thing!  Keeping balance in homeschooling keeps your homeschooling ‘healthy!’ Let’s see how!

Balance in Subjects

I once received a phone call from a mom who was using Saxon math with her four children. She said she needed help picking a new math program. When I asked what she didn’t like about Saxon, she told me she loved it! Really loved it! In fact, she was having a hard time giving it up. However, she said she was teaching 4 different Saxon math levels. Each lesson was taking her over an hour, and that was with skipping some things and only doing the odds and evens. She said she’d told her husband that if she didn’t make a change, her children were only going to remember her as the math teacher. All she did was teach math! There was no time for anything else. Maintaining balance in subjects, for both mom and children, is important. Keeping balance in subjects keeps your homeschooling ‘healthy!’

Balance in Time

I once talked with a mom whose daughter loved drawing. Any history project, science lab form, poetry assignment, timeline entry, geography map, or independent history activity that involved drawing was d-r-a-w-n out. In fact, her daughter drew out these assignments so much that she didn’t have time for grammar, math, and dictation. Furthermore, her homeschool day was incredibly d-r-a-w-n out too. She often schooled from morning to evening, yet still was unable to complete all her school subjects. Though both daughter and mother loved the beautiful drawings, both were weary and irritable at the end of most days. At the end of our conversation, they’d made a plan they were both excited to try! They simply scheduled an extra 45 minutes of ‘creative drawing time’ in the school day. During this time, daughter could d-r-a-w out any part of her HOD day’s work that inspired her. Balance in time was restored, and everyone was happier!

Balance in the Day

A few years ago I spoke with a homeschool mom in tears who told me she’d made a mess of things. When I asked what had happened, she said she’d let her daughter just pick whatever she felt like doing in the guide. At first it was great! Her daughter loved history, so she forged ahead in the Reading About History and Storytime. She also loved the Nature Journal. Even though this was planned 2 days a week, she’d done it every day. She loved the Hymn Study part of the Bible Quiet Time and had memorized almost half of them already. The President Study was another favorite. History projects were fun at the start, but harder to finish. Science experiments were hit and miss. Math and dictation were not favorites. The mom had sticky note bookmarks all over her Heart of Dakota guide. It was a mess!

Fixing the Mess 

Well, blessedly her daughter was only about 8 weeks into her homeschool year. Together we made a plan for her daughter each day to do two days’ worth of lessons of her most behind subjects, one day’s worth of her lesser behind subjects, and none of her far ahead subjects. She would do school for the same amount of hours they’d planned until all the sticky notes caught up to the farthest ahead one (which was Reading About History and Storytime). I told her to call me when all her sticky notes ‘met!’ She called me in about a month. Both daughter and mother were ecstatic! They were thrilled to be doing a day of plans within a day. Balance turned out to be more fun than they thought it would be!

I recently talked with this same mom. She asked me if I remembered helping her out of her ‘sticky note mess.’ I did, and I asked her how things were going. She laughed and said, “Well, we only need ONE sticky note for our daily plans now. And trust me, we will never go back to that mess again!”

So, every once and awhile, do a mental check! Is there balance in your homeschooling? In your subjects, your time, your day? If not, try restoring balance, and see if your homeschooling feels ‘healthier!’ Finding balance is worth it.

In Christ,

Julie

How can you challenge your child to take a more active role in his learning?

Teaching Tip:

As your year progresses, are your children becoming more comfortable with their HOD guides?

As the school year progresses, I am reminded of a tip that is helpful as children get further along in their guides. This tip is especially targeted at students in Little Hearts for His Glory through Preparing Hearts for His Glory. As your kiddos travel through their guides, they will become comfortable with the patterns in their particular guides. They will begin to instinctively “know” what to do when they come to certain parts of their day. As your children’s comfort levels rise, they are ready for more of a challenge.

How can you challenge your child to take a more active role in his learning?

When your child seems comfortable with the guide, it is time to start letting him take a more active role in his learning. One easy way to do this is to allow your child to look at the daily plans and get out his own materials. Once your child excels at getting out his own materials, move on to letting your child read directions from the guide.

Allow your child to read directions right from the guide.

Allowing your child to read directions right from the guide helps him prepare for the learning coming that day. Reading directly from the guide is also great preparation for what is coming in future guides too. Future guides begin labeling boxes in the plans as ‘T’ = Teacher Directed, ‘S’ = Semi-Independent, and ‘I’ = Independent. As your child matures, the move toward more independence will be encouraged and expected.

Allowing your students to read directly from the guide has many benefits.

Reading directly from the guide allows students to become more self-propelled learners. It also allows students to take more responsibility and ownership for what they are learning! So, once your students are ready, start letting them read directly from the guide. Begin with only one or two boxes at a time. See what a change you notice as your children enjoy taking ownership of their learning.

With growing independence comes greater accountability.

Just be careful that you don’t let your children’s new ownership nudge you out of too many areas! It is still important to oversee and check each part of your children’s school work. Accountability becomes even more important with independence.

Blessings,
Carrie

A Living Book – More Than Just a Pretty Cover!

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

A Living Book – More Than Just a Pretty Cover!

Charlotte Mason believed “living” books make learning ‘come alive.’ Living books pull you in and make you want to read more. Each page you turn, you find yourself more and more invested in the book you are reading. You begin to know the characters, inside and out. Your emotions rise and fall as you weather the storms and ride the waves with them. You can begin to predict how they’ll react to situations before they even make a move. By the time you read the last page, you know you’ve met some characters you’ll never forget. They will go with you through life and live on in your memory. That’s what living books can do, and they are so much more than just pretty covers!

Not all living books have pretty covers!

Carrie, the author of Heart of Dakota and my amazing sister, has an incredible knack for finding the absolute best living books! Through the past 20 years of Heart of Dakota’s existence, Carrie has been on an unending search for the very best of the best living books. I cannot tell you how many times I have stopped by my sister’s house to find her reading for hours on end, with piles and piles of books surrounding her to be read next. She has tirelessly dedicated herself to finding the diamonds in the rough. Sure, there are timeless, well-known living books that have won ample awards that Carrie has chosen to include in Heart of Dakota. However, there are also the less known needle-in-the-haystack finds that Carrie has lovingly chosen – and I will say, not all of them have pretty covers.

A pretty cover is sometimes just a pretty cover!

I remember Carrie showing me some of the books’ covers she was choosing between. She would ask my opinion, and sometimes, I’d look at the covers and be swayed this way or that. Then, she’d sometimes plead the case for the less than pretty cover and have me read a chapter of both books in the running. As I finished reading each, she’d have that look on her face like, “Gotcha! Didn’t I?!?”  Yes. Hands down, one book would be the obvious living books’ award-winner. Often times, it was not the book with the pretty cover.

The longer children use Heart of Dakota, the less they seem to care about the pretty covers!

The longer my children have used Heart of Dakota, the less they seem to care about the pretty covers. After my oldest son read Heart of Dakota’s Cat of Bubastes and Boy Knight, he became an avid fan of the author G.A. Henty. His Christmas list that year included ‘anything by G.A. Henty.’ Old G.A. Henty books with less than pretty covers were much cheaper. Still, I was reluctant to buy them. They REALLY did NOT have pretty covers. I wasn’t sure what he’d think about that, so I asked him. I said I could either get him a lot of G.A. Henty books with less than pretty covers, or a few G.A. Henty books with nicer covers that were more recently published. He didn’t skip a beat! He grinned and said, “Uhhh, MORE please – it’s what’s inside that counts, right Mom?” Well said, son.

Veteran Heart of Dakota users are often the best defenders of the books with less than pretty covers!

Often when I am helping someone on the phone at Heart of Dakota, we are both online or in catalogs peering at the covers of books. The same is true when I am helping someone at a convention. I have noticed with families newer to Heart of Dakota, there are often comments about the covers of the books. Newer books with shiny covers and beautiful artwork often grab their attention first. In contrast, older books with covers that may not have been updated for awhile get comments like, My daughter just wouldn’t open this book and read it on her own. Or, My son wouldn’t like this book because of the cover; it’s just not that exciting. 

This is when I find myself beginning to defend these books with less than pretty covers! I often end up launching into an oral narration of sorts. (By the way, thank you Charlotte Mason and Heart of Dakota for that wise instruction too!) If I am in this situation at a homeschool convention, I often don’t have to say a word. A nearby Heart of Dakota homeschool mom or homeschool student listening in does the defending for me. Oh, that was our favorite book!  The cover doesn’t do it justice! Or, Just wait ’til you get into that book – it’s awesome! You won’t be able to put it down!

I urge you, take time to look within, rather than hastily judging a book by its cover!

I want to be clear, Heart of Dakota has many, many books with vibrant, breathtakingly beautiful covers! In fact, most of the covers of the living books we carry draw kiddos in from the moment they lay their eyes on them. However, I urge you, for the love of living books, take time to look within them, rather than hastily judging them by their covers. Some of the very best books that are real gems happen to have less than pretty covers. Remember, as a wise son of mine once said, “It’s what’s inside that counts, right?” Yes, well said! Now, let’s open that book and read to discover its real merit. It might have much more to offer than that shiny new book somebody is selling next door that really has, well, just a pretty cover.

In Christ,

Julie