Building better writing habits… one step at a time!

Heart of Dakota Life

Building better writing habits… one step at a time!

Red pens can make people shudder. Why? Well, red pens used to be a teacher’s weapon of choice for tearing a written paper to shreds – all in the name of ‘correcting’ or ‘editing.’ I always enjoyed writing, but I had a friend who didn’t. He tried so hard, but writing was just not his thing. I remember him getting a paper he’d written back from the teacher with more red on it than any color. He was embarrassed and devastated. He also didn’t know where to begin to be a better writer. I wanted to help him but felt pretty defeated too. Where do you begin when everything is wrong? Well, you build better writing habits just like you build any structure you want to be solid…  one step at a time.

Choose the first step carefully – success is a must!

For kiddos to feel confident in building their writing skills, it is important to focus on improving one skill at a time. I choose the first step to building a better writer carefully. Children need to experience success. For little ones, proper formation of letters is important. Spending time by their side to encourage and gently correct mistakes helps prevent poor habits. Heart of Dakota’s handwriting programs in Little Hearts for His Glory can help instill these good habits. Once students move past writing letters well, the next concern is often spacing issues. Their words might all run together. Or, they may not use the top, dotted, and bottom lines as stopping places. Building a better writer begins with the step of helping them recognize how to correct spacing issues. Below, you can see some ways I addressed this with our sons.

Other Steps to Building a Better Writer

Once children have learned proper letter formation and spacing, often the next step to building a better writer is simply shrinking their writing. Moving from handwriting paper to wide-lined notebook paper is a step that takes much encouragement. As students shrink their writing, often times legibility and spacing becomes an issue again. One of my sons began making the letter “s” with no curve – essentially, every letter “s” looked like the letter “l”. Another son didn’t close his vowels. Basically every letter “a” and every letter “o” looked like the letter “u”.  My nephew wrote every lowercase “r” as a giant “r,” as tall as a capital letter. Another nephew wrote microscopically small. One of my sons put large spaces in the middle of bigger words, making them look like two words. Each of these steps were patiently tackled, one at a time.

Further Steps to Building a Better Writer

Once letter formation, spacing, shrinking, and legibility have been tackled, often times spelling is next. There are many steps to building a better speller. Blessedly, Heart of Dakota makes this maze of how to begin to build a better speller easier. Spelling tips in the Appendix include a hierarchy of steps to work through. Beginning steps involve more parent help. Ending steps promote more independent spelling helps. More mature steps to build a better writer come next. Maybe students need to use better transition words. Or, maybe they need to vary the length of their sentences. It could be they need to use more descriptive words. Or, maybe they need to do a better job of choosing their topic. Heart of Dakota’s editing list, R & S English’s lessons, and formal writing programs’ instructions in each guide help each step of the way. So, here’s to building better writers – one step at a time!

In Christ,
Julie

 

 

 

 

Is answering questions an important skill? Or, can we replace it with narrating?

Dear Carrie

If my daughter narrates better than she answers questions, should I focus on improving her skill of properly answering questions, or should I let her narrate instead?

We are reading Tornado from the Emerging Reader’s Set. I’ll ask my daughter the follow up questions, and she will often not know the answers. She’ll ask if she can narrate instead. Then, she’ll give a beautiful oral narration. She’s like this with Bible too. She can almost never answer the questions in Bigger Hearts for His Glory‘s Bible study. She does have auditory processing and visual perception issues. I don’t know if that could be at play. So, if my daughter narrates better than she answers questions, should I let her narrate instead?

Sincerely,

“Ms. Please Help Me Decide If I Should Let Her Narrate or Focus on the Skill of Answering Questions Better”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Me Decide If I Should Let Her Narrate or Focus on the Skill of Answering Questions Better,”

Let me begin by saying it is wonderful that your daughter is able to narrate well! I’ll also share that it isn’t uncommon for kiddos to have an inclination toward either narrations or answering questions. This is because each type of assignment appeals to a different type of learner and requires a different thought process. Questions often have the expectation of one right answer, whereas narration allows kiddos to choose to share what they took from the story and focus on that. Narration is more open-ended. Both types of assignments are important to do, as different skills are learned.

Some learners prefer to answer questions with one right answer, while other learners prefer to give more open-ended narrations.

So, as we look at learners who are more comfortable in knowing exactly what to do and how to do it, and who thrive on one right answer, we can see that questions will appeal to these types of children. On the other hand, as we look at kiddos who are more free-flowing through their day, who do not like to be restricted, and who enjoy creativity, we can see that narrations will appeal to these types of children.

If children struggle with answering questions, you can let them know the questions prior to reading.

In looking at the challenges the questions are providing for your daughter, it would help for your child to know the questions prior to reading. Just be aware that sharing the questions prior to reading, will put your child’s focus wholly on finding the answers to those questions as she reads. So, if you shift gears and then ask her to narrate after reading she may be lost.

As children move through Heart of Dakota’s guides, they eventually improve and learn to work well within their weaker area.

Usually as kiddos travel through Heart of Dakota, they eventually get to the point where they learn to work within their weaker area well. This means that kiddos that weren’t born narrators can learn to narrate well. Likewise, kiddos who have a tough time answering questions can learn to excel in that area too. It just takes time, often years! So, be encouraged that while a processing disorder may definitely play a role in how quickly a child progresses in a weak area, all kiddos will have some struggles in any area that does not come naturally to their learning and personality style. As always, when we are pondering a child’s learning progress, it is hard to know where an actual disorder ends and where the diversity of a “typical” childhood personality or learning-style begins.

Blessings,

Carrie

Vote for us in the 2020 Practical Homeschooling Reader Awards!

Vote for us in the 2020 Practical Homeschooling Reader Awards!

How exciting! 

We are excited to announce that Heart of Dakota has been nominated for the 2020 Practical Homeschooling Reader Awards Ballot! If you’ve enjoyed using our curriculum, we’d love it if you voted for us in the poll before it closes on March 20th!

Vote us in!

Your vote helps us get the word out about Heart of Dakota and enables us to serve more families like yours! You can vote in the poll here.

Thank-you!

On the brink of high school? Check out these benefits of homeschooling with HOD!

From Our House to Yours

The Benefits of Homeschooling Through High School with Heart of Dakota

Do you love homeschooling, but find yourself unsure about continuing through high school? Well, if you do, I understand! As my oldest son was on the brink of beginning high school, I remember questioning what to do next. Blessedly, that was when Carrie decided to write guides for high school for Heart of Dakota, which made my decision much easier. But, still, even then, it was honestly a leap of faith! Shortly after our first years of homeschooling high school, I was asked the benefits I saw from it. I responded with a post on our message board. Nearly 7 years later, I am just about ready to graduate a second son. I still see the same amazing benefits I posted so many years ago! For those of you on the fence about this, I hope this post convinces you to give high school (with Heart of Dakota) a try!

First Benefit: Strong Academics That Go Deeper Than the Surface

I do care about strong academics. I grew up in a family of educators, and I paid a pretty penny to get my master’s degree in education. It is just in my blood to care deeply about strong academics. Not in the sense that my son needs to have an off-the-charts SAT/ACT score, mind you, but in the sense that I want him to be intelligent in a well-rounded sort of way.

I want him to be able to walk into an art museum and know something about art when he’s looking at the paintings on the wall. Furthermore, I want him to hear a stirring speech where someone quotes George Washington and have the essence of who the man George Washington was rather than be able to join in on the rattling off of the quote. I want him to hear about a science breakthrough and weigh if it’s in line with what God says about that. Finally, I want him to love America not because it’s perfect but because he knows what men and women did so we can be free.

Second Benefit: Personal Connections, Rather Than Robot-Like Answers

I want him to be able to read something and remember what struck him about it – not to remember what struck me about it, and not to remember what a textbook writer wants him to remember about it, and not to quote it back encyclopedia-like to me as if memorizing dates or events makes you get what those incredible moments were about. No, I want him to weigh his own opinions in light of what we he has learned reading about history, science, Bible, etc. in a Charlotte Mason-connected way, rather than in a searching for the one-right answer way he thinks somebody else wants him to say. HOD has strong academics, but the kind that I want, not the kind that will have my son robot-like spitting out answers.

Third Benefit: Build Relationships and Make Sense of Hard-to-Understand Things

I care about the relationship I have with my son, so I want time to talk to him about what my husband and I stand for. Likewise, I want time to instill in him the qualities and habits we find to be most important. I want him to be able to talk to little kids and grandpas, and I want him to want to talk to ME. The discussions we have in HOD are not throw-away ones. They are the ones that matter. They are of the kind that make me think of things my parents have said that stuck in my head for years.

Books like Practical Happiness, studies like World Religions and Cultures, Total Health or Pilgrim’s Progress… these discussions are important. They are helping us make sense of hard to understand things around us – the tough stuff. Wyatt and I don’t have the perfect relationship, but we sure love each other a lot, and we can talk about anything thanks to the HOD discussions that have opened that door that teenagers tend to slam shut about now.

Fourth Benefit: Knowing the Lord Personally

I want my son to know the Lord personally – not just to be able to quote this or that, not just be able to regurgitate facts. I am talking about REALLY knowing God. Getting up with Him every day to do a Bible Quiet Time, singing hymns of praise together to Him, crying out to Him in prayer, talking through decisions with what He wants in mind.

I want my son to see the Bible as the end all – the alpha and omega – the sole standard he can depend upon to lead him in the right direction all of the time. Not separating Him out or putting Him in one little part of our day, but including Him in everything – science, history, even grammar! And the list goes on. God is everywhere in HOD. You couldn’t get away from Him if you tried. He becomes our Way of Life. There’s no point in trying to come to school without your Bible or go through one school day without Him in HOD. He’s ever-present.

Fifth Benefit: Maintain a Healthy Balance of Using Time Wisely

Balance – I care about this, and so does my son. He wants to know what he is going to have to do each day and about how long it’s going to take him, and he doesn’t appreciate it being off-kilter. We only have so much time in the day. So, we can’t spend 2 hours on history one day and 30 minutes the next. We don’t want to have days we do nothing creative or hands-on, and we don’t want to have days we do nothing sit-down.

Routine. Habits. Very Charlotte Mason-like, and very reassuring and confidence building. This is what you’ll do this year, and you can count on it being balanced with no big ‘oh no this 5 minute thing is going to now take 2 hours’ type doomsday feeling. We love school, but we have other things to do too, and knowing what we need to do to get school done each day routinely makes the rest of our life work.

Sixth Benefit: Don’t Forget the Fun Stuff

Don’t forget the fun stuff! Charlotte Mason bought rubber boots for her students so they could walk outdoors every day, even if it was raining. Reading devotionals together, studying art and doing projects with it in a fun way, keeping a Common Place Book, looking at God’s creation and marveling at what we see, doing experiments, a real education doesn’t happen if you are only sitting down in a chair with a pencil or a book in hand hours on end.

Seventh Benefit: Language Arts Done Right

Language Arts done right – Charlotte Mason just got it. She knew how to teach children to THINK about what they read, and then to put into WORDs what they learned personally. No one right answer. That is a toughie when first getting to know Charlotte Mason. We do all long for that one right answer, that elusive answer key that we can gaze at and say, “Yes. Correct.” And there is a place for that. Just not in response to living books. The way Heart of Dakota teaches language arts using Charlotte Mason ideals – they keep our children LOVING books.

At one point in my life, I did not want to read even just one more book. Ironically, I was at the point in my life where I had 4.0 GPA in college. I was graduating at the height of my education in my masters, and all I could think was, “Please don’t make me read another book.” Tests. Quizzes. Papers. Essays. Never any heart in any of it. Never the chance to really say what I thought or get passionate about what I was reading. Just figuring out what my professor wanted me to say or how he/she wanted me to respond to receive the proverbial “A.”

Were it not for HOD, I myself might not have become interested in reading again. My son always has his head in a book. Always. He LOVES to read, and even out of school, the books he loves all get orally narrated to me or anyone who will listen. And he’s not a big talker normally either. HOD just makes a kid love books.

In Closing

I know there are more reasons, but these are the big ones. It all boils down to me feeling like there is no way Wyatt would ever get this kind of ‘education’ anywhere else. I care about the mind, but I also care so very much about the heart, and the soul of my son. And I think this is going to be probably the best thing I’ve done with my life. My greatest contribution on this earth will probably be the ones I leave behind, and that is going to be due in part, to the way I am blessed to be homeschooling them. I’m glad you asked this. It made me think, and when I am weary or discouraged, I will return to this post time and time again. May you find your peace and inspiration moving forward to high school with your own sons and daughters.

In Christ,

Julie

March Library Builder: Save 10% on the Drawn into the Heart Level 6/7 Book Pack!

Library Builder

Use coupon code MARCH-LIBRARY for 10% off the Level 6/7 Book Pack for Drawn into the Heart of Reading!

We are excited to continue our Heart of Dakota Library Builder book set promotion! On the 1st Wednesday of each month we will be promoting one of our book sets with a 10% coupon code. For this month’s special, use coupon code MARCH-LIBRARY on our website for the entire month of March to save 10% on the Drawn into the Heart of Reading Level 6/7 book pack. To view all of the books in this set, just click here!

How is the Level 6/7 Book Pack used in Drawn into the Heart of Reading?

(From the package description in our online store):

This optional book pack is for use with Level 6/7/8 of Drawn into the Heart of Reading. In this level, your child will read the chosen books mainly independently for a total of 15 days for each genre. Each book on the list below has an approximate reading level noting the grade and month next to it. Use this information to choose the set that best suits your child’s reading level. Another option for this reading level, beside the one shown below, would be to use the Girl Interest or Boy Interest set from Creation to Christ. While these sets are meant to read-alouds, since they contain one or more books from each of the nine genres, they will also work with Drawn into the Heart of Reading. NOTE: This option will only work if you do not plan to use these book sets as read-alouds when using Creation to Christ.

If these books seem too difficult, we also have book packs for Levels 5/6 Girl Interest and Level 5/6 Boy Interest. If these books seem too easy, you may choose your own books, or off our Sample Book Ideas List. Please keep in mind, these specific titles are not needed, but each book was very carefully chosen as an excellent reading selection for the noted reading level.

Our book sets were created to save you time and to help you find quality books at the right reading level. This is one of the keys to a successful reading experience for your child. You are welcome to use your own book selections if you prefer. Drawn into the Heart of Reading truly works with any books you choose.

Use coupon code MARCH-LIBRARY to save!

To apply this month’s savings, just enter coupon code MARCH-LIBRARY on our website when you check out! We hope these books will be as treasured to you as they are to us!

Have a great rest of the week!
Heart of Dakota

PS: If you’d like a more in-depth look at what using Drawn into the Heart of Reading looks like in your home, have a look at this article!