Do you have too much together time?

Teaching Tip:

Do you have too much together time?

When homeschooling your family, typically there is automatically plenty of “together time.” It is interesting to think about how constructive some of that “together time” really is. Sometimes there can be too much together time! Just as adults crave time alone, students do too. When we as teachers make everything a group activity, school can quickly fall into the category of too much together time.

Choose group activities wisely.

It is important to actually choose when to have an activity together and when to have students work alone. There definitely should be some subjects where a student is able to work alone in a quiet environment.

Be creative in finding quiet work spaces for your children.

You might have to get a bit creative in finding space for your students to have quiet work time alone. I know we had to use my bedroom for one of our older students as a work space! At the time, it was the only quiet spot in our busy household of boys!

Train your children to make good use of their quiet work time.

Often students need to be trained to make good use of their quiet work time. It is wise to keep track of your students when they are first trying to work alone. To help me keep track of my students, I sent my boys up to their quiet space with a timer. The timer was set for the length of time their work was supposed to take. I also set a corresponding timer downstairs to remind me to check on the child after the allotted time. When the timer rang, the child had to check in with me. If the child hadn’t successfully progressed, then he had to work near me for the next subject. This helped train my children to make good use of their quiet work time.

Train your children to be diligent workers.

Through this process, my boys have learned to crave a quiet work environment and to be diligent, independent workers. Try training your children to work alone, and see if they learn to desire a quiet work space too! You may find that when you balance together time and alone time your students will be more attentive during group time too.

Blessings,
Carrie

Placement for a Freshman New to HOD Who Struggles with Spelling and Writing

Pondering Placement

Where would you place a freshman new to HOD who struggles with spelling and writing?

This was our first year homeschooling. Spelling has been a constant struggle. No matter what we do, he doesn’t retain it. He reads well for his age (Chuck Black books), especially regarding his spelling struggles. As far as his writing…he can write….it just takes a LOT of effort on both of our parts. I’ve ordered R & S English level 5 for him. I chose not to deal with this until now, as he was unwilling to work on it. But, he finally came to me 2 nights ago and said he needed to learn about adverbs, adjectives, etc., so he could write better. Detoxing my boys from PS has been a much longer process than I anticipated. But, we have also made a lot of progress, so I know he will catch up! So, where would you place a freshman new to HOD with spelling and writing struggles?

Carrie’s Reply: I would be inclined to place him in either Revival to Revolution or Missions to Modern Marvels.

Thanks so much for taking time to share about your son!   It really helps to get a fuller picture of where he is at skill-wise. From what you’ve shared, I think I would be inclined to place him in either Revival to Revolution or Missions to Modern Marvels. This is because placement in HOD is very skill-based. Correct placement makes a huge difference in how successful a child is in his/her guide.

Writing, grammar, literature, and spelling are important skills wound in all subject areas.

Writing, grammar, literature, and spelling are a big part of HOD. This is because these skills are wound within all of the subject areas. Since our guides lean heavily in the Charlotte Mason direction in many areas, it helps so much if your child is comfortable with some of these skills gradually before working into the higher level of version of the skills later. We do want to place your son appropriately in writing, grammar, literature, and spelling to make sure that he gains the needed skills he is ready for in these areas.

I would lean toward doing Revival to Revolution, English 5, DITHOR 6/7/8, and The Exciting World of Creative Writing.

I would encourage you to take a good look at Revival to Revolution and Missions to Modern Marvels. See which would be the best fit in the areas of writing, grammar, literature, and spelling. I’d lean toward having your freshman do Revival to Revolution with the Extension Package and with Rod and Staff English 5 (as scheduled in Rev2Rev). I would recommend using the Drawn into the Heart of Reading Level 6/7/8 Student Book with the Level 7/8 Book Pack. He can also do Level 5 dictation along with The Exciting World of Creative Writing, as scheduled in Revival to Revolution. Your son would also do the Exploration Education Physical Science Advanced Version (which is high school level Physical Science). He would do the inventor study as well. I think this would be a good fit for your freshman.

Thoughts on Government, Fine Arts, Foreign Language, and Bible 

He would need to add something for government (as he wouldn’t get to that in our final two high school guides). As there is a composer study in Rev2Rev, you could add to it to award 1/2 credit in Fine Arts music appreciation. To award this 1/2 credit, you’d need to get to 70 hours. There will already be around 45-50 hours in the study as scheduled in the guide. Then, when your son reaches World History for his senior year, you could do borrow the Government from U.S. History I and put it in place of the Fine Arts elective. So your son would use Rev2Rev as is, except for adding government (possibly adding foreign language study and beefing up the Bible). Suggestions are given in the Rev2Rev for high school thread, if you do decide to go this route.

I think these recommendations would fit your son’s skill level well and still push him in many areas.

The reason I would lean in this direction is that I think it would fit your son’s skill level well and still push him in many areas. The grammar will be daily and significant, while the writing will be more than he is used to as we write across the curriculum all throughout the school day. He would do copywork daily as well in a variety of subjects and do written narrations. The literature study through DITHOR sounds like it will be a new set of skills too, which would be good. We want to solidify those important skills before jumping up into guides that assume these skills are in place.

Looking Ahead to the Following Years

Looking ahead to the following year, he could do MTMM with all of English 6 (as scheduled in MTMM), WWTB II for high school level composition (as scheduled in MTMM), and Drawn into the Heart with either some high school level classics of your own choosing or with a DITHOR Book Pack instead. He would also continue with studied dictation. This Bible in MTMM is credit-worthy, and you would add Economics (and possibly Foreign Language). There is a thread that explains how to do this as well for high school, should you decide to go that route. This guide includes Chemistry, which would need some supplementing. Or, you could borrow IPC for the science from the World Geography guide. As a junior, he would do the World Geography guide as written. As a senior, he would do the World History guide.

This overall plan would give him the needed core credits.

This overall plan would give him the needed American history, government, economics, geography, and world history credits for high school. It would also give him Physical Science, Chemistry, Integrated Physics and Chemistry, and Biology credits with lab for science. It would give him a credit each year in English. Math would need to be at his level each year to earn a credit each year there. That takes care of your core credits of history, science, English, and Math.

This plan would also give him electives.

In Bible, he would earn a full credit two years (from the World Geography and World History Guides) and a 1/2 credit in MTMM. He’d also earn 1/2 credit in logic, 1/2 credit in World Religion & Cultures, 1/2 credit in health, and 1/2 to 1 full credit in Fine Arts, either in music or art appreciation . He would gain 1/2 credit in foreign language in the World Geography and 1/2 credit in foreign language in the World History Guide too. I share this so you can gain a picture that it would be possible to follow this plan for high school and still have your son earn the credits he needs for graduation. If instead, you felt MTMM was a better fit, you could go that route instead for his freshman year. If you have questions as you pursue your options, let us know. We’d be glad to help!

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

 

 

Why did you choose to carry The Reading Lesson and Reading Made Easy for phonics?

Dear Carrie

Why did Heart of Dakota choose to carry The Reading Lesson and Reading Made Easy for phonics?

Dear Carrie,

My daughter is 3 1/2 and loving Little Hands to Heaven! As I like to look ahead, I am currently researching phonics programs. I am looking at Reading Made Easy and The Reading Lesson. However, it is very difficult for me to decide what I want to use. This will be my first time teaching a child to read. I just don’t want to screw it up, lol! So, why did Heart of Dakota choose to carry The Reading Lesson and Reading Made Easy for phonics choices?

Sincerely.

“Ms. Please Explain Why You Chose the Phonics Programs You Did”

Dear “Ms. Please Explain Why You Chose the Phonics Programs You Did,”

When choosing Reading Made Easy and The Reading Lesson, we looked at SO many factors that affect how well a phonics program works. We also sorted through the many methodologies out there, although I’d seen and read much already about the various methodologies during my 11 years of being doused in a big variety of phonics programs during my public school teaching days!

Demanding a child’s fine motor skills to keep up with decoding skills can cause frustration.

I’ll be very up front in saying that if you are of the “writing as a way to learn to read” methodology or the “learn every phonics rule and drill it” methodology, then the two programs we carry will NOT suit you well. Then, you’d want to look at something like the Writing Road to Reading or the Orton-Gillingham method of phonics instruction instead. Our philosophy is that writing can actually come much later than reading. Demanding a child’s fine motor skills to keep up with the decoding skills needed to read can cause much frustration. Our own boys each read very early and wrote much later. Had I held them back, waiting for them to write each word as it was read (or learned), I would have made reading an overwhelming task at an early age.

We’ve discovered knowing some rules is beneficial, but using an eclectic approach to covering those rules works fine.

When teaching early readers, we’ve discovered that knowing some rules is beneficial. Using an eclectic approach to cover those rules works fine. Our experience is that not all children need to be able to recite every phonics rule in order to apply it. Many rules are just too tedious and have too many exceptions to be worth memorizing. For example, we used Alphabet Island for phonics/spelling with my first son. While the rule coverage was amazingly complete, little of the rules were retained. His learning to actually read didn’t come out of that experience. We had to use yet another program to teach that!

However, we do believe in giving a thorough treatment to phonics, rather than stopping as soon as kiddos are reading quite well. Programs such as 100 Easy Lessons drop kiddos off before phonics is finished, leaving a parent to fill a gap by finishing out phonics on their own (which can be done easily but requires some creativity).

We like that both phonics programs provide coverage that is complete enough without being tedious.

We chose Reading Made Easy and The Reading Lesson because we find the phonics coverage to be complete enough without being tedious. The combination of gentle introductions to the various rules applied right within the reading material gives kiddos an “I can do this” feeling. It gets them reading early in the lessons and keeps it entertaining without being overly flashy.

We like that both programs take into account children’s short attention spans and provide necessary reading material.

Both programs also work well with Heart of Dakota‘s Charlotte-Mason approach to short lessons that capitalize on kiddo’s short attention spans. Both programs provide stories right within the guide, having Teacher’s Guide and Student Book in one. This feature saves much time searching for developmentally appropriate books, since the reading material is already there.

We like that each phonics program focuses purely on phonics.

Each guide is just purely for phonics, rather than throwing in all sorts of other language arts skills too. This keeps the focus on learning to read and allows the parent to move more quickly or slowly through the program without feeling like they may be missing other skills if they change the pace. We’d used the Blue Book for LLATL with my oldest son early on and felt tied to its slow pace of learning to read due to the multiple other skills woven in the lessons. For that reason, we had to abandon it.

We like that both phonics programs transition well into the Emerging Reader’s Set.

Reading Made Easy and The Reading Lesson also transition very well into our Emerging Reader’s Set. This solves yet another difficult problem for parents. The question about what to do after phonics is easily answered by the HOD sequence from phonics program to Emerging Reader’s Set to independent reading using Drawn into the Heart of Reading.

We like that both phonics programs make teaching your child to read easy to do.

Reading Made Easy is more teacher intensive and The Reading Lesson is more open and go. Both make teaching your child to read something anyone can do, rather than requiring the parent to take a course first or wade through how much to do each day or how to pace the program.

We like that both phonics programs are highly recommended both by other homeschoolers and by reviewers.

Both of these programs come highly recommended by other homeschoolers and reviewers alike. Reading Made Easy is currently in Cathy Duffy’s Top Curriculum Picks. The Reading Lesson has won many awards as well. Both have been used to teach thousands of children to be good readers. My own mother (who was a first grade teacher for 25 years) really likes The Reading Lesson. She’s read it cover to cover and was surprised at how well laid out it is. She’s a tough critic! She also likes Reading Made Easy, but thinks The Reading Lesson could easily be used by anyone!

The teaching style of the parent is just as important as the learning style of a the child.

With all that being said, there are other good programs out there that work equally as well. The teaching style of the parent is just as important as the learning style of the child, when choosing a phonics program. If the parent is not inspired or doesn’t feel confident with their choice, then the phonics program most likely won’t get done.

We’ve discovered the best phonics program is the one that consistently gets done.

In the end, we’ve discovered that the best program is one that consistently gets done in the day-to-day. The two phonics options we offer make that possible. While many phonics programs are wonderfully in depth or very full content-wise, if they just sit on the shelf because they’re too overwhelming, the benefit is lost.

Parents often find the best phonics program is the second or third one they used.

I hope this gives you some good areas to ponder when choosing a phonics program for your situation. Interestingly enough, most parents find that their second or third phonics option worked best, after struggling with their first option. In truth this is largely due to the child just being more mature and more ready to read by then, and also due to the fact that the child has some phonics instruction under their belt to draw on when heading it a second or third round of phonics! For those parents who only used one phonics option, celebrate!! You are VERY blessed!

Blessings,
Carrie

Rotating Teacher-Directed and Independent Blocks of Time

From Our House to Yours

Rotating Teacher-Directed and Independent Blocks of Time

In this Heart of Dakota series, we continue describing a ‘day in the life’ of using Resurrection to Reformation (RTR) and World History (WH). First, I shared our take on homework. Second, I shared our waking up to homeschool routine. Third, I shared our morning chores and breakfast routine.  Today, I will share how we rotate teacher-directed and independent blocks of time between breakfast and lunch.

My Teaching Block for Resurrection to Reformation

After breakfast and clean-up, I have my teaching block for Resurrection to Reformation with Emmett. This is a favorite time of ours! We meet on the living room couch or in a reading nook, as Emmett sometimes like to ‘build’ these. If Emmett had an oral narration for his Reading About History, we begin with that. Then, we check any work he completed earlier for his Independent History box and his Rotating History box. Next, we head to the kitchen table for his math lesson. Finally, we end up back on the couch or in our reading nook for our favorite – the Storytime read-aloud! After the reading, we set out the Storytime cards, and we go over directions for his History Project. He goes to the kitchen table to finish his Storytime card and to do his History Project.

Riley’s Independent Block for World History

While I am doing the teaching block I just described with Emmett in RTR, Riley has an independent block for World History. First, he does his History Activities. He does the seatwork portion at our dining room table. As the You Are There CD is an audio, he listens to this with earbuds in his bedroom. He has a caddy of art supplies, his Bible, and his journal at the ready as well.  Next, he moves on to his World History. He enjoys doing this subject in the addition by Wyatt, our oldest son, who is usually doing his online college there. They often share with each other what they are studying. This is just an informal talking time they both look forward to and enjoy.

My Teaching Block for World History

While Emmett is finishing his Storytime card and his History Project, I meet with Riley. In this teaching block for World History, we enjoy meeting in the living room. We begin with World History. Riley stands to give his oral narrations, which works perfectly for me as I love to sit, sip my coffee, and listen!  He hands me his book open to the page he started reading. I skim it, and then page through it as I listen to him narrate. He is an animated narrator, and he likes to use his voice or his hands to emphasize this or that. I love hearing him narrate!  He reads aloud his written narrations standing as well, and we edit together. Next, we go through his completed work for History Activities and for his Science written work. Finally, I do just the teacher portion of his Grammar or EIW. He then finishes his independent parts for these at the dining room table.

What’s next? Maybe my next teaching time for Resurrection to Reformation, and maybe not!

Often at this time, Emmett has decided to make homemade hot cocoa. He has lit a candle, set out whipped cream, coffee creamer, mini marshmallows, and sprinkles. He knows everyone likes their hot cocoa their own way. This was not a part of our ‘plan,’ but I love it, and he did finish the work he was supposed to, so I let it ride. He rings a bell – a cowbell (we do live in South Dakota). This is LOUD, and everyone stops what they are doing and heads to the kitchen table. Why? They know Emmett has either made hot cocoa or has a history project that involved baking. They each make their favorite hot cocoa concoction or eat the history project, chat, laugh, and share what they’ve been doing so far. Many times they make plans for the afternoon or evening together too. Then, everyone is back to working on school.

Back to My Teaching Time for Resurrection to Reformation

Okay, after the impromptu beverage/snack/chat break, we are back to my teaching time for Resurrection to Reformation. I do my teaching portion for Medieval History-Based Writing Lessons, for Drawn into the Heart of Reading, and for R & S English. I leave Emmett to finish his independent portions of these subjects, with a plan to check on him off and on later when I make lunch.

Riley’s Next Independent Block for World History

While I am doing the teaching block I just described with Emmett in RTR, Riley has his next independent block for World History. After he finishes his written portions of Grammar and EIW, he does his Fine Arts course, usually in the addition at the table. At this point, Wyatt has either gone outside to shoot some basketball hoops or has moved upstairs to work on his college. So, the addition is free and a happy, sunny place to work on art at the table by the window. Next, Riley does his independent reading and writing assignment for either Total Health or Pilgrim’s Progress, whichever is assigned for the day. He gathers his things to meet with me, so he is ready when I call.

My Final Teaching Block for World History

While Emmett is finishing his Medieval History-Based Writing Lessons, Drawn into the Heart of Reading, and R & S English, I meet with Riley. In this teaching block for World History, we first check the portion he wrote for his grammar or EIW. Then, we correct his Fine Arts written work. I marvel at his art project and its progress. Next, we discuss his Total Health or Pilgrim’s Progress on the living room couch. He often still likes to pace, while I sit with yet another cup of coffee (lunch is my cutoff).  I love this private time together to talk about all of the important things that come up in Total Health and Pilgrim’s Progress.  Finally, if it was a tough morning, and Riley didn’t get up early to do Geometry with Wyatt (see my earlier post), they do Geometry now instead.

Making Lunch and Helping Emmett Finish Resurrection to Reformation

As I begin to make lunch, Emmett is finishing his independent portions of Medieval, DITHOR, and R & S English at the kitchen table. It is easy to pop over and offer an assist if necessary! This is also a time Emmet may have left the table, needing to be found and redirected to finish his work. He is my free spirit that can lose track of time or get lost in the moment of a bluejay on our tree, a package that came in the mail, or a wrestling match with my husband. It is at this time that Emmett may need to finish his science. If he did his science as ‘homework’ (see my earlier post), then he is done for the day. If he didn’t, well, then it is time for science. There is a very good chance he will then be finished with school after both my 10th grader and my college student. These moments help Emmett to dig down and do science as homework instead the next time. And that is our day between breakfast and lunch!

In Christ,

Julie

Keeping a Charlotte Mason-Inspired Common Place Book

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

Keeping a Charlotte Mason-Inspired “Common Place Book” in Heart of Dakota

Charlotte Mason kept a Common Place Book herself, and she encouraged her students to do so too. Notable literary figures such as Benjamin Franklin, Charles Dickens, Thomas Jefferson, and Shakespeare enjoyed keeping their own “Common Place Books” by carefully copying passages from classic literature. According to Ms. Mason, if accomplished literary figures such as this would keep “Common Place Books,” why wouldn’t we do so too? While “Common placing” is first and foremost considered a Charlotte Mason teaching method, it has its roots in simply being a personal habit that intelligent people have enjoyed for hundreds of years. At Heart of Dakota, we help children develop their own personal habit of creating a Charlotte Mason-inspired Common Place Book. In fact, we hope to inspire them to do so for life!

The Benefits of Keeping Common Place Book

A Common Place Book is unique because it is a special notebook for collecting and recording quotes, Scriptures, thoughts, and phrases that have deeper meaning and personally speak to you. Selecting inspirational quotes and thoughts from living books helps children slow down their reading pace to be more thoughtful and intentional. It encourages their minds to act upon the material, rather than to race through it thoughtlessly. When children choose and write inspirational quotes or thoughts in a Common Place Book, they connect more deeply with what has been read. They remember it better, and it becomes special to them because they have recorded it in their special book. Often times, children return to their Common Place Book just to enjoy reading past entries.

Charlotte Mason’s Thoughts on Keeping a Common Place Book

It is very helpful to read with a commonplace book or reading-diary, in which to put down any striking thought in your author, or your own impression of the work, or of any part of it; but not summaries of facts. Such a diary, carefully kept through life, should be exceedingly interesting as containing the intellectual history of the writer; besides, we never forget the book that we have made extracts from, and of which we have taken the trouble to write a short review. -Charlotte Mason (Volume 5, p. 260)

How Heart of Dakota Helps Children Learn to Keep a Common Place Book

Heart of Dakota helps children learn to keep a Common Place Book starting in Preparing Hearts. We begin by describing the Common Place Book in the “Introduction” of each of our guides. Students also need a Common Place Book for their copywork. A Common Place Book is often a bound composition book with lined pages. It provides a common place to copy anything that is timeless, memorable, or worthy of rereading. It is for copying text and not for original writing. Bible verses, classic poetry, and passages from excellent literature with beautiful or vivid wording are often included. Students will add to the Common Place Book throughout the year.

The Progression of Keeping a Common Place Book in Heart of Dakota

In Heart of Dakota, a Common Place Book is typically a bound composition book. Students use this book to keep (in a “common place”) quotes, excerpts from literature, Scripture verses, poetry, etc. that are worthy of being recorded and reread over time. While we do have in mind the traditional Charlotte Mason definition of a “Common Place Book,” to begin with in Preparing Hearts, we “help” children get an idea of things that are enduring and worthy of being copied in the book by assigning entries for them to make in their books throughout the year. Then, in the guides that follow Preparing, they  gain the task of selecting their own entries to make in their Common Place Book.

Keeping a Common Place Book in High School

In high school, students continue keeping a Common Place Book, selecting quotes or passages that are meaningful to them from their classic literature for inclusion in their book. Charlotte Mason advocated this practice throughout high school, and we agree it is an excellent use of students’ time as they watch for notable quotes or passages as they read, select from among them, and accurately copy them into their book for later reference. By the time students finish Heart of Dakota, they will have created their own special Common Place Books as keepsakes of what most inspired them, piqued their interest, or struck them as worthy enough to grace the pages of their own personal book. Heart of Dakota makes keeping a Common Place Book easy, as it is a part of our daily plans. We hope you enjoy it as much as we have!

In Christ,

Julie