Personal Style Within the Structure of the Plans, Part 2

From Our House to Yours

Can you encourage personal style within the provided structure of Heart of Dakota’s plans?

You certainly can! In fact, as I shared last week, the opportunity for personal style is already part of Heart of Dakota’s plans. You may be wondering, then how are both included? Well, the daily plans provide specific guidelines for each school subject, which gives structure for each assignment. Structure might include which kind of oral narration to give, how many sentences to write, what headings to use, etc. So, needed parameters are given, but they need not squelch the creativity of personal style!

If you would like to see last week’s post (Part 1), click below:
Personal Style Within the Structure of the Plans, Part 1

How can students get creative with their personal style then?

Excellent question! Well, blessedly personal style is a natural part of a living books approach to homeschooling. Better yet, a living books approach to learning is already included in every Heart of Dakota guide! Narrations have structure, like which book to read, which pages to narrate upon, and which kind of narration to give. But, they also encourage personal style. Students can choose which parts to retell, what manner to retell them, and what connections they’ve made. This is the opposite of a textbook and workbook approach, which includes a more encyclopedia-like ‘facts only’ response. Similarly, the different assessments included in the structure of the plans are the opposite of ‘test and forget it’ assessments.

Do you have some examples of personal style being encouraged within the structure of the plans?

I sure do! I’m so glad you asked because this is what I wanted to share with you in my weekly check-in. Let’s chat about my son, Riley, this week, who is using World Geography this year. I’ll start with the Living Library one-sentence summary assignment. This assignment is harder than it seems! In fact, as Riley is my detailed narrator, trying to respond to his reading with a one-sentence summary is difficult. At the start of the guide, he chose the option to write 3 sentences on scratch paper first. Then, he took each of the most important parts from the 3 sentences and consolidated them into one sentence. Twenty-three units into the year, he no longer chooses to start with 3 sentences. In fact, he has become adept at writing a one-sentence summary with every part the guide asks him to include.

This assignment is the perfect follow-up to his Living Library reading. It does not ‘get between the child and the book,’ as Charlotte Mason would applaud. Keep in mind, this isn’t a required part of earning credit, but rather a way to earn extra credit. So, as a follow-up to the already extra reading of the Living Library, the assignment is kept appropriately short.

Living Library One-Sentence Summary Assignment
Heart of Dakota World Geography Living Library
World Geography Living Library One-Sentence Summary Assignment

Structure in the Plans:

•certain pages must be read
•a one sentence summary must be written
•the main character(s), the main action taken, any important conflict, the goal, and the setting must be included

Personal Style:

•option to write 3 sentences on scratch paper first
•chose what to include in summary
•chose to read aloud summary to me

A Few Things to Remember:

This is an extra credit option in the plans, so if the summary isn’t the exact sentence you would have written – in the name of personal style – let it be! However, structure demands the summary is limited to one sentence and includes the main character, a main action taken, a conflict, a goal and a setting.

World Geography Written Narration Assignment
World Geography Heart of Dakota Written Narration
World Geography Written Narration Assignment

Structure in the Plans:

•read assigned Mapping the World with Art pages
•needs to be 3-4 paragraphs long
•must be read aloud to try to catch any mistakes
•need to stick to the topic, support it with details, write in the author’s style, include a strong opening and closing
•must use the Written Narration Skills in the Appendix to edit

 

Personal Style:

•pick his own details to retell
•decide whether to write 3 or 4 paragraphs
•chose whether to write in print or in cursive
•pick his own way to open and close his narration

A Few Things to Remember:

This isn’t a quiz! So, if your student didn’t write what you’d have written – for the sake of personal style – let it be! However, structure demands reading, writing at least 3 paragraphs, reading it aloud, including noted parameters, and editing. If it’s not legible enough for the student to read aloud, that’s not ok either. This is just one more reason not to skip this step!

Geography Activities Assignment:
World Geography Heart of Dakota Activities
World Geography Activities Assignment

Structure in the Plans:

•need to watch DVD Scenic Cruises of the World
•must make bulleted list of important things to experience or see
•need to make lists for 3 provided topics

Personal Style:

•decide his own details to include in his bulleted lists
•pick whether to write list in phrases or in sentences
•decide whether to write in print or cursive
•chose to read his notes aloud to me

A Few Things to Remember:

This isn’t a composition assignment for English credit. It’s a response to a DVD viewing of geographical places being studied. So, if your student didn’t write complete sentences or certain facts – for personal style – let it be! However, structure demands the DVD is viewed and bulleted notes are written pertinent to each provided topic.

World Religion and Culture’s Assignment:
World Religion and Culture - Heart of Dakota
World Religion and Culture’s Assignment

Structure in the Plans:

•must read the assigned pages of the book
•need to answer each of the provided questions
•must answer the questions over multiple days as assigned

 

Personal Style:

•chose how much detail to include in his answers
•decide whether to write in phrases or in sentences
•chose whether to write in print or cursive
•pick to read his answers aloud to me (he orally shared his page numbers/quotes for #2)

A Few Things to Remember:

This isn’t a composition assignment for English credit. It’s a response to a DVD viewing of geographical places being studied. So, if your student didn’t write complete sentences or certain facts – for personal style – let it be! However, structure demands the DVD is viewed and bulleted notes are written pertinent to each provided topic.

Next week, I’ll share Part 3 of this series on personal style within the structure of the plans. That final post will be in regard to my son, Wyatt, who is completing U.S. History II this year. Hope you had a good week, ladies!

In Christ,
Julie

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Heart of Dakota

Are you training your older children to read from the guide?

Teaching Tip

This is the next post in our series of things to check if your school day seems too long. I know this can happen to any of us, and hopefully these tips may help!

Are you training your children in Preparing Hearts on up to read directly from the Heart of Dakota guide?

In the guides from Preparing Hearts on up, coding appears in each box of the daily plans. This code guides you in the suggested level of independence for each box. I = Independent, S = Semi-Independent, and T = Teacher Directed. Moving your child to take over the ‘I’ and ‘S’ boxes takes training. Reading right from the guide is an important step in that training.

Are you treating the ‘I’ and ‘S’ boxes like ‘T’ boxes?

Eventually, your student should do the ‘I’ boxes independently and the ‘S’ boxes semi-independently. This includes reading directions from the guide independently and following them. If you are treating the ‘I’ and ‘S’ boxes like ‘T’ boxes, this will add significant time to your day. It will also leave your child without the stepping stones he needs to be prepared for the level of independence expected in the next guide.

You may also want to read these previous teaching tips about independence:

Do you allow your children to have the guide in hand as they work?

As parents, we often view any homeschool guide as ours! To hand the guide to our child seems like a foreign idea. Yet, the Heart of Dakota guides are written for you to do just that! Preparing Hearts is written partly to the student. Each successive Heart of Dakota guide is written more and more to the student. We intend for the child to have the guide in hand while he works.

If your student does not have the guide in hand, the ‘I’ and ‘S’ boxes will be very difficult!

Working without a guide in hand leaves the child striving to remember a lengthy list of directions. If the student cannot remember the directions, he will be running back to the guide often. If you summarize or list directions instead of allowing the student to have the guide, you add time to your day. Plus, the student must decipher your interpretation of the guide’s directions. A dual set of directions and expectations is always confusing! Simply allowing your student to have the guide in hand fixes these problems.

What are two crucial steps for success with the ‘I’ and ‘S’ boxes?

Train your kiddos to read from the guide early and often. Allow your students to have the guide in hand as they work. These two steps are crucial to being able to do the ‘I’ and ‘S’ boxes as written. Reading and following directions independently pays big dividends not just within Heart of Dakota, but all throughout life. So, begin training your children to read from the guide today, and see what you think!

Blessings,
Carrie

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Heart of Dakota

Enjoy Your Everyday Heart of Dakota Life

A Heart of Dakota Life

Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is for one to eat and drink, and to find enjoyment in all the labor in which he labors under the sun all the days which God gives him – for this is his part. Ecclesiastes 5:18

Every day is a gift to be enjoyed to its fullest!

Every day is a gift God is giving us to enjoy and live to its fullest. The only life we can enjoy is our own! It does no good to think to ourselves, “I’d enjoy my life if I had your life.” Nor does it do any good to tell ourselves, “I’ll enjoy my life later.” Life is meant to be enjoyed now! With Heart of Dakota, our everyday life is already quite enjoyable. The guides Carrie has written naturally add variety and fun to the day. But sometimes life is complicated, and it can tend to be stressful. Do you feel stressed and long for simpler days? Well, the good news is in the ‘labor’ God has given us as homeschool moms, we have much control over our everyday life!

Ideas to help you enjoy everyday life to its fullest!

Today I thought I’d share a few things I’ve found that help us enjoy our everyday Heart of Dakota life to its fullest. They may seem small, but they have a great impact on our attitude and approach to life. Some of them may appeal to you, and others may not. But, hopefully they will jump start your dream of how you want your homeschool days to be set up to be filled with joy!

How can you start your day with joy?

Creation to Christ Notebook• I spend 10-30 minutes in my bed first thing with a favorite devotional of mine to start my day right. Devotionals that I find encouraging and joyful are helpful in setting a happy tone for the day for me.

• The boys and I meet in our pj’s in my bed one on one in the morning to do a ‘slow start’ to school. We usually do our Bible time together there and go over any independent work completed as ‘homework’ the night before.

• Starting our day with Christian praise music playing in the kitchen gives a cheerful tone during our chores and showers. Creating Christian playlists as a family makes sure everyone gets to look forward to hearing favorite songs each day.

How can you keep enjoying your day during homeschooling?

Snacks and Drinks• Having a time for snacks and drinks mid-morning and another time mid-afternoon keeps our bodies fueled for the day. Hot cocoa with whipped cream and sprinkles and coffee for me are favorites, along with air-popped popcorn with different toppings.

Using our whole house to homeschool keeps us all comfortable and gives variety to the day. Cuddling up on the couch in the living room with the fireplace on for Storytime readings is cozy. Using the kitchen for science experiments, the dining room table for seatwork, or the CD player upstairs keeps us moving. My son even set up an impromptu blanket area by the fireplace for Storytime last week – what fun!

candles - enjoying your day• I like to light candles and put them on the tables we use for homeschooling. Getting different candles and letting the boys pick their favorite scent to light at their work area has been lovely. The birthday sprinkle candle from the dollar store has been the most beloved!

How do you finish your day with joy?

• We like to hang the best day’s work in strong magnet clips on the fridge. When Dad gets home, we share our work with him during supper. This is especially effective with younger children!

• Stickers… yes, kiddos do still love stickers on their work! Monster trucks are a favorite for one of our sons. For older kiddos, positive comments such as “Way to go!” or “Fantastic!” written on their papers are encouraging too!

• Planned meeting times where each child shares his work with me gives individual attention. It also gives time for me to correct work, so we start our next day with yesterday’s work totally done.

Snap pictures of your happiest Heart of Dakota homeschool moments. Print them to hang on the fridge or load them for a slideshow on a digital photoframe. This is a visual reminder of how much we have enjoyed our homeschooling with Heart of Dakota through the years.

In conclusion, these are just a few ideas to help you consider how you can best enjoy your everyday life with Heart of Dakota! The first step to enjoying our everyday life is just remembering to be grateful for the lives God has given us. This ‘labor’ of love we call homeschooling truly is a blessing meant to be enjoyed. Take time to enjoy your life today rather than waiting for tomorrow. Happy homeschool mamas make happy homeschool children – so do what you can to approach each day with joy!

In Christ,
Julie

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Please Explain How to Set Up a Routine Instead of a Schedule

Dear Carrie

If I need a routine instead of a schedule, how do I go about setting that up?

Dear Carrie,

I am having trouble trying to stick to my homeschool schedule. Part of my problem is I think I need more of a routine instead of a schedule. The times are driving me up a wall. I don’t like my schedule telling me I have to do such and such at 10:15. Sometimes at 10:10, the baby wakes early, the toddler needs a diaper change, and the 4 year has a tantrum!!! But, that is the way my scheduling book says to do it. So, that is what I’ve been trying to do it. It isn’t working! I am wondering if I should try more of a routine instead of a set schedule? What do you think? If I do prefer a routine to a schedule, how do I go about setting it up?

Sincerely,
“Please Explain Setting Up a Routine Versus a Schedule”

Dear “Please Explain Setting Up a Routine Versus a Schedule,”

What a great question! I agree that I begin with a schedule and move to a routine. Making the schedule helps me be sure I will be available for the teaching times I have planned during the day. It also helps me make sure not everyone will need me at once (which can quickly descend into chaos)! During the first several weeks, I make sure I pay attention to how much time each subject really takes. Then, I can know I’m allowing enough time for subjects (or not allowing too much time, which leads to dawdling). Knowing how much time each subject SHOULD take, helps me know what I’m asking my kiddos to do is reasonable.

Schedule independent things back-to-back last in the day.

Scheduling several independent things back-to-back for my older kiddos last in the day has been so helpful! This gives them independent things they can work on if they finish early or if they have to wait a bit for me. For more information about the independent things in Heart of Dakota, check out last week’s post Are you having your child work toward the suggested level of independence in Heart of Dakota? Scheduling independent things last (after lunch) still allows my boys to follow their morning routine or schedule as planned. This way, they don’t interrupt my flow to the day. It allows their after lunch subjects to be done whenever they finish early with something in the morning. So, they might not finish that particular after lunch subject in one sitting. Rather, they might do it in bits throughout the morning as time allows. Many times, my boys have finished those after lunch subjects earlier in the day to be done by lunch. This way they don’t have any wasted time, if I’m not available.

Make sure the little ones are engaged during bigger teaching blocks.

I also make sure when designing my original schedule that the little ones are engaged during my bigger teaching blocks. I don’t mind interruptions so much when we’re doing things like handwriting, spelling, grammar, and math in the younger years. However, when I’m setting aside time for something like the left side of Beyond…, I want to teach without interruptions. Or, when we’re doing phonics or any subject that is tough for a certain child, I don’t want any interruptions. So, I guard my uninterrupted teaching time carefully. This means the flow to everyone’s day must stay the same throughout the year. If my older kiddos jump around in any order in their schedule, then my uninterrupted teaching time is gone too. Hope that makes sense!

Make the schedule, but follow the order to have a routine.

So, I make the schedule and follow the order. I use the times as a gauge of whether we need to move along a bit more quickly or not. We do follow the same start-time everyday and try to have lunch at a similar time each day. Then, we just move through the rest of the items on the schedule in order, finishing when we do. Below, I’ll post the links on our Heart of Dakota Message Board for some of my past schedules and/or routines.

Here are links for some of our past schedules/routines and our “Let’s Share Our Schedules” thread.

Blessings,
Carrie

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Heart of Dakota

Personal Style Within the Structure of the Plans, Part 1

From Our House to Yours

Can you encourage personal style within the provided structure of Heart of Dakota’s plans?

Absolutely! In fact, the opportunity for personal style is naturally part of the plans already. How are both included, you may ask? Well, the daily plans provide specific guidelines for each school subject, which gives structure for each assignment. This type of structure might include how many sentences a written narration should be, what topics need to be narrated upon, which timeline entries need to be made, etc. Structure gives needed parameters, but it need not squelch the creativity of personal style!

How can students get creative with their personal style then?

Good question! Well, the good news is personal style is completely a natural part of a living books approach to learning, and a living books approach to learning is part of every Heart of Dakota guide. Narrations include structure in the plans, such as which books to narrate upon, which pages within that book to narrate upon, and which kind of narration to give. But, they also encourage personal style by letting each student choose what to retell, which parts to give more attention, and what connections are made. This is the opposite of a textbook/workbook approach, which include “just the facts ma’am.” Likewise, the varied assessments included in the structure of Heart of Dakota’s plans are the opposite of a worksheet, quizzes, and tests only plan for assessments, which include just one right answer.

Do you have some examples of personal style being encouraged within the structure of the plans?

Well, yes I do! Glad you asked because this is what I wanted to share with you this week in my weekly check-in! Let’s start with my son, Emmett, in Creation to Christ.

Timeline Entry Assignment
Creation to Christ Timeline Entry Assignment - Unit 23
Creation to Christ Timeline Entry Assignment – Unit 23

Structure in the Plans:

  • 3 timeline entries must be made
  • specific pictures must be drawn
  • captions must be written

Personal Style:

  • drew his own pictures
  • colored the pictures how he wanted
  • chose to write his labels in either cursive or print

 

 

A Few Things to Remember:

This isn’t a drawing assignment, so if the timeline pictures are not of art quality – in the name of personal style – let it be! However, structure demands the right 3 things are drawn labeled with the proper captions.

Geography Travel Log Assignment
Creation to Christ Geography Travel Log
Creation to Christ Geography Travel Log

Structure in the Plans:

Personal Style:

  • chose his own Travel Log template
  • decided on his own 3 topics to write about
  • chose his own picture to draw

A Few Things to Remember:

This isn’t a quiz, so if your student didn’t write a summary of what was learned – in the name of personal style – let it be! However, structure demands the 3 written topics and the 1 drawing must be pertinent to the geography reading.

Poetry Appreciation Assignment:
Creation to Christ Poetry Appreciation
Creation to Christ Poetry Appreciation

Structure in the Plans:

  • required to read the poem pausing at punctuation marks
  • write the given stanza
  • must follow the steps to watercolor paint

Personal Style:

  • chose his own way of doing the painting
  • decided on his own small picture to draw
  • chose where to place his index card

A Few Things to Remember:

This isn’t an art appreciation assignment (it’s a poetry appreciation assignment), so if your student didn’t paint a jaw-dropping picture – in the name of personal style – let it be! However, structure demands the steps for creating the painting and the steps for creating the card be followed. A ‘perfect’ model was not given for him to look at. This encourages the personal style as opposed to exactly duplicating someone else’s painting.

Part 2 – World Geography Next Week!

Next weekly check-in, I’ll share Part 2 of this series on personal style within the structure of the plans in regard to my son Riley, who is completing World Geography this year. Then, the following weekly check-in, I’ll share Part 3 of this series in regard to my son Wyatt, who is completing U.S. History II this year. For now, I’ll just sign off saying… Happy Homeschooling to all you lovely ladies!

In Christ,
Julie

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Heart of Dakota