Please Explain Where Summarizing Comes into Narration

Dear Carrie

My question is, where does summarizing come in?

Dear Carrie,

I understand the point of oral and written narrations is to have my children retell as much as they can. Also the point is to “borrow” some of the author’s language from the reading. I’ve read a couple threads on that! However, I feel like I still push for more of a summary (give me the main points) than I should. I am trying to get it right. Especially with my younger two who will catch on to this more quickly if I start out the correct way! My question is, where does summarizing come in? Is that helpful to be able to gather the main points from your reading as well? Please forgive me if I sound silly, or the answer is obvious, but if you could explain it to me? I’d love to hear!

“Please Explain Where Summarizing Comes In”

Dear “Please Explain Where Summarizing Comes In,”

This is a good question, and I’ll do my best to answer from my perspective to show the direction Heart of Dakota takes with this! To me, Charlotte Mason style oral narration, which later becomes written narration, focuses on the child making sense of what was read by sharing what stood out to him/her in the reading. Children are to originally do this by borrowing words and phrasing from the author and eventually by moving toward more ownership of their narrations (still narrating in the style of the author’s writing but not really reciting word-for-word anymore what the author said).

Summarizing is a different skill than oral narration or written narration.

Rather than looking for a certain series of main points, the child is to share what struck him/her from the reading, making the narration process personalized to each child, rather than looking for a one right answer type of narration where everyone’s narration looks the same. The skill of orally narrating in this manner leads very well into written narration done in this same manner. So, written narrations aren’t meant to necessarily be a summary. Instead they are to share the flavor of the author’s writing from the reader’s perspective.

Narrations capture the flavor and style of the author.

Some children are more drawn to summarizing simply because they are “big picture” thinkers. My oldest son is definitely that way. So, narrating in a more summary-like manner for him does not make that type of narrating “wrong”. But if I start looking for him to include certain key points and requiring him to have those in his narration, then the lesson has strayed into a summarizing lesson rather than a narrating opportunity.

I will share that even though my oldest son thinks in main idea steps, his narrations still capture the flavor and style of the author, which is another key difference in summarizing versus narrating. Written summaries are often written more like an outline or like a note-taking exercise. Details are not abounding and using wording from the author or of your own style is not a focus. Instead, a summary often reads like a succinct paragraph. There is little extra flavor and the author’s style is not evident.

In contrast to my oldest son, my next son in line is a detailed child. He is very descriptive in his narrations and can get very lengthy when narrating, yet does it beautifully. I share this to show you one thing. Although my two oldest sons are different in their approach to narrating, they both do it well. One in a more summary fashion (in the author’s style). One in a very descriptive fashion (often giving very long narrations). Yet, each son is a good writer, both in creative writing and in more formulistic writing, like with the Medieval History-Based Writing Lessons, even though they may differ greatly in their narration style.

Summarizing is taught best through outlining and later note-taking of more textual material.

So, now with the groundwork laid, we come to your question. I see summarizing as an important skill that is taught best through outlining and later note-taking of more textual material, such as that found within history and science books. Using classic literature for a summary exercise means that much of the flavor and style of the story is being lost in the focus to get the main ideas down on paper. Narration, in contrast, is a child’s opportunity to share what struck him/her in the reading and what made the reading memorable to him/her. While this at first may not seem as important of a goal as being able to summarize, in truth it is the sifting and sorting and deciding which information to share that is the “work” of narrating which leaves the impression on the child’s mind for years to come.

Summarizing (as opposed to narrating) is more in the “one right answer” vein.

At Heart of Dakota, we first teach summarizing through outlining and note-taking through the Rod and Staff lessons and also through some of our writing programs such as Medieval History-Based Writing Lessons. Since summarizing is definitely a more formulistic skill, more in the “one right answer” vein, in our opinion it fits best in that category. It takes much of the personal part out of writing. It is a necessary skill and one I think comes more into focus as kiddos get older and have a need for it, which you can see represented in our older guides’ plans. But, I will say that even with my oldest sons’ different preferred styles of narrating, they can both summarize easily. I believe this comes from years of sifting and sorting through what they want to say (or write) within their oral or written narrations for the living books we’ve scheduled throughout Heart of Dakota. I hope that helps a bit as you ponder this!


Living Books Bring History to Life

From Our House to Yours

The “Living Library” set of books in USII brings history to life.

In USII, Wyatt has been reading I’ll Watch the Moon for his living library selection. This book is a page-turner that just cannot be put down! The characters have so much depth to them, and his favorite is a holocaust survivor who brings hope and peace to all who know him. There are some hard things to read in this book! But then life is hard sometimes, especially in the aftermath of the holocaust. He worked ahead and did multiple journal entries each day at the end of the book because he just had to know how it ended. I’ll Watch the Moon is a gem of a book that is a rare find – thank you Carrie for choosing so carefully! To read more  about the “Living Library” books in this guide click here.

US II - Detailed Highlighted Written Narration
US II – Detailed Highlighted Written Narration

In USII History, Wyatt has been learning about “I Like Ike,” the end of the Korean War, Billy Graham, and McCarthyism. He did a detailed high-lighted written narration about his reading from America: The Last Best Hope. Answering some wonderful critical thinking questions really got him thinking deeply about what he read. The critical thinking question “State Department Worker: What should you tell the Senate Foreign Relations Committee?” put him in the role of decision maker. Reading the actual outcome is always interesting as well!!!

Writing a good research paper in World Geography takes . . . research!

In World Geography, Riley wrote a persuasive essay for Essentials in Writing Grade 10. He researched and wrote about the dangers of chewing tobacco. We know some young adult men not much older than Riley that chew tobacco, and it really worries Riley. It would be wonderful for them to stop! His essay explains the dangers of chewing tobacco, and he did an excellent job researching it. I like that he can choose his own topics within the realm of the requirements of the assignment. This allows him to be personally invested in his essay right from the start!

World Geography - Notebooking
WG – Labeled picture of Davis’ invention of the backstaff

World Geography History has had Riley learning about Davis’ polar journeys, Hudson’s and Baffin’s Bay, and Raleigh’s Ed Dorado. He drew and labeled a picture of Davis’ invention of the backstaff, which allowed navigators to have more accurate latitude readings. An important quote from Davis was also copied in the notebook. Earlier he wrote a written narration about Martin Frobisher as well. He is truly loving learning about all of these brave explorers!

Watercolor paintings in Creation to Christ are a great connection to the poetry of Robert Frost.

In Creation to Christ, Emmett first learned about Alexander the Great conquering Persia and then moved on to learn about Alexander’s entire empire. He used strips of paper to make his own ancient map of the places he has been reading about. He also drew the famous horse Bucephalus. Timeline entries on the Peloponnesian War, Philip of Macedonia gaining control of Greece, and the Reign of Alexander the Great were added to his notebook as well. He researched Olympia, which was so fitting as the winter olympics are soon beginning here! Don’t you just love it when the Lord makes neat connections between HOD history and real life like this?!? Finally, he drew the famous Lighthouse of Alexandria.

Creation to Christ Watercolor Robert Frost
Watercolor of a sunset to go with Robert Frost poem “Acceptance”

One of his favorite activities this week was painting a lovely sunset to go with his Robert Frost poem “Acceptance.” He also enjoyed adding to his plant notebooking booklet. Researching and drawing the dead nettle plant, as well as copying a Bible verse beneath it, added another lovely entry to his growing plant book. Finally, we all enjoyed getting together at our house to watch the Superbowl!

What a terrific week! Hope you had a good homeschooling week too!!!

In Christ,

Do You Have an Efficient Chore Routine?

Teaching Tip

This is the next installment in our series of things to check if your school day seems to be running longer than you would like. I know this can happen to any of us, and hopefully these tips may help!

Do you have an efficient chore routine?

You might be wondering why I mention a chore routine on my list of things that can make your school day long. Yet, it is amazing how much joy and peace, not to mention time can be stolen by an inefficient chore routine. If you look around and see piles of laundry, dirty dishes, and clutter, how can you stay focused on school or even find a space to do school?

Conquer the reoccurring types of clutter.

The most important types of clutter to conquer are those that continually reoccur. Laundry, dirty dishes, school books, and toys are the most commonly reoccurring types of clutter in a homeschool home. These types of clutter can steal time and derail a homeschool day!! It is almost impossible to focus on school if you are schooling in the middle of a mess. So, a plan is needed to address these time-stealers.

An efficient chore routine includes a plan for laundry.

At our house, we have tried many different laundry routines through the years. The routine we use now is for each child to have his own laundry day. On Monday-Friday, the designated child for that day brings down his laundry hamper, sorts, and begins the first load of laundry. That child also helps fold and put away his laundry that day. It must be done by bedtime. We find having a day assigned to each child minimizes sorting. My husband and I have the same laundry day as the towel washing day. We take Saturdays and Sundays off from laundry.

An efficient chore routine includes a plan for dirty dishes.

Have you ever started making lunch only to realize you still have a sinkful of breakfast dishes? Now that my boys are eating big meals, the dishes can really pile up at our house. So, we assign the boys cleanup tasks after meals to keep the dishes under control. Our boys clear and wipe the table, dust bust the kitchen rug, wipe the counters, unload the dishwasher, rinse off and load dirty dishes, and take out the garbage. Our boys used to keep the same task for a long time, so each child knew exactly what to do after a meal. In that way the boys became very efficient at their chores. We also make sure to run the dishwasher every evening, so we have clean dishes in the morning.

An efficient chore routine includes a plan for putting away school books.

Schooling with Heart of Dakota means your house is filled with good books! But those good books need a place to be stored. At our house, we have a central cabinet where each younger child has a shelf for the books he is currently using in his guide right now. We have another cabinet where each child has a shelf or two for overflow books… or books the child is not using in his guide right now. We move books on and off the “current” shelf as needed. Each child also has a portable art box with basic art supplies. Our high school students have their own bookshelf near their work area containing all their books.

An efficient chore routine includes a plan for putting away toys.

Through the years, we have tried many plans for corralling toys. We cleared out a bottom cabinet in the kitchen to place storage tubs with toys for our 2-4 year olds. We used child protectors to keep the little ones out for awhile. Only one tub of toys was allowed out at time. It had to be picked up before another one could be gotten out. We turned our dining room into a playroom and put shelves on our walls. We lined our shelves with fabric cubes and placed the toys inside. Whatever you decide to do for toy storage, be sure that a routine for putting away toys is part of the plan. Also, try to find a plan where you don’t have to view the clutter of toy storage. Store toys in cabinets, fabric cubes, under bed storage tubs, or closets. In this way the view is more pleasing and less cluttered.

Make laundry, dishes, school books, and toy cleanup a part of your chore routine.

Once you have a plan for laundry, dishes, school books, and toys, make it a part of your chore routine. Involve your kiddos in the routine. Train them to do what they are able. This training will pay off as they mature! It is alright to train them to do only a few tasks well. We often keep the same tasks for each child for a year. This makes my time spent training worthwhile! Try some new chore routines and see what you think!


Valentine’s Day Fun – Why Do You “Heart” Heart of Dakota?

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

Valentine’s Day Fun – Why do you “heart” Heart of Dakota?

Happy Valentine’s Day to our fellow Heart of Dakota moms! We thought this would be fun to do, a kind of “count our blessings” for Valentine’s Day if you will. And who better to do this with than all of you?!? So here goes…

Why I “heart” Heart of Dakota…

1. I love Heart of Dakota because it helps me keep my priorities straight. A quality education is highly valued by our family, and to us that includes educating the heart as well as the mind. Heart of Dakota does both!

2. Our children use excellent living books every single day, but they use their Bibles every single day too. Providing a rich diet of literature that makes learning come alive is important in our homeschool. Heart of Dakota has chosen outstanding living books for virtually every area of learning. From history to science, from reading to devotions, our day is filled with books we love.

3. We have three sons, so another goal of ours is for our sons to be able to provide well for their own families someday, which means they need to be competitive when it comes to earning a salary. Heart of Dakota is giving our children an incredibly strong education that is preparing them well for their future.

4. Finally, we want to have a happy homeschooling environment, which means I need to be able to school in a timely fashion, in an enjoyable way, and in a manner that doesn’t require me to leave the home. Heart of Dakota’s guides are a treasure to me. They are truly open and go, and they help me organize my day in a balanced way that allows us to get the maximum benefit out of our homeschooling time together.

I still love what I do!

I’ve been teaching Heart of Dakota for 16 years, and I still love what I do. Charlotte Mason said education should be three things…

“Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.”

With Heart of Dakota, I have all three! What can be better that that?!? I can’t wait to read why you “heart” Heart of Dakota!

Love in Christ to all our favorite Heart of Dakota ladies this 2018 Valentine’s Day!!!


PS – If you wanted to stroll down memory lane, you may also want to check out this link to our Heart of Dakota message board where I posted this same question back in 2011.


Welcome to Our Blog!

Welcome to Our Blog!

In the past 20 years, we’ve had the pleasure of visiting with thousands of families at homeschool conventions, on the phone, on our message board, and through emails and Facebook. The question we are most often asked is, “What are you going to write next?” For years, the answer was “the next guide,” but now that Carrie has written guides that span PreK through 12th grade, the answer to that question is “this blog!”

So what is “this blog” you ask?

Well, it is an inspirational collection of stories, personal experiences, life lessons, and tips to help moms look at their homeschooling work and lives in a new light. These lessons come from our experience as teachers for 25 years each; from our journey as moms who have homeschooled with Heart of Dakota from preschool to high school; from our own struggles with health, budgets, laundry, cooking, and cleaning; and from the lives of women we’ve met in the past 20+ years of helping others.

Sunday’s Encouraging Word sets your heart upon the Lord with Scripture to refresh you as you prepare for your upcoming week of homeschooling.

Monday’s Charlotte Mason Moment introduces you to this great lady with her own words in quotes that are as significant today as they were 100 years ago.

Tuesday’s Dear Carrie letter shares real questions women have asked Carrie and her practical yet heartfelt answers.

Rotating Wednesday’s week one’s Library Builder spotlights our favorite Heart of Dakota living books and brings you monthly coupons to build your library with our Book Set of the Month. Week two’s More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment delves deeper into successfully implementing Charlotte Mason ideals in your Heart of Dakota day. Week three’s Pondering Placement showcases Heart of Dakota placement advice given to families just like you. Week four’s A Heart of Dakota Life gives inspiration for making the most of your homeschool journey with Heart of Dakota.

Thursday’s Teaching Tips gives practical ways to help your homeschool teaching be successful and your homeschooling days with Heart of Dakota be the best they can be.

Friday’s From Our House to Yours rewinds time and shares a blast from the past and tips from the present “from our house to yours.”

Saturday’s Heart of Dakota’s Tidbits introduces you to our family and shares some of the little known quirks and facts of our lives.

So, who is this blog for, you ask?

It’s for women who love their homeschooling but want to find more joy in it.
It’s for women who no longer love homeschooling but want to reclaim that joy.
It’s for women who are brand new to homeschooling and want to begin their journey well.
It’s for women who have been homeschooling for what feels like forever and want to end their journey well.
It’s for women who are overtired, overstressed, overworked, and underpaid.
It’s for women who love homeschooling so much, they want to inspire others to find their passion for it too.

And it’s for women like us, who once felt unsure about homeschooling, who made some missteps along the way, but who found a path that leads to a meaningful homeschool life filled with joy!

We believe there is a content, happy homeschool mom in us all!

Our job is to find her. We are writing this blog to help you find a Heart of Dakota homeschool life you love. Regardless of where you live, what size your house is, how many children you have, or what ‘crazy’ is happening in your life, you have the power to strengthen, impact, and change your own life, and the lives of your children.

Our hope is that each blog will help put a smile on your face in the morning, perk you up at lunch, settle you in at night, or just give your life a needed boost or a dash of glitter to make your homeschooling life shine.