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,


What are the benefits of the Charlotte Mason philosophy of narration?

Dear Carrie

What are the benefits of the Charlotte Mason philosophy of narration?

My hubby asked me to define the benefits of the Charlotte Mason philosophy of narration. When I tried to answer him, I found myself trailing off rather lamely. I realized I don’t really know the answer myself. I do know it helps children think about the information and how to present it. Children also learn to pay more careful attention, since they know they are required to retell back. However, I haven’t read much of Charlotte Mason’s books. I don’t feel like I’m fully educated on the concept. When I read that great thread a while back with examples of your sons’ and Julie’s sons’ narrations, I know it was obvious the boys were very articulate and intelligent. But I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is or how to define it. Could you please share an “in a nutshell” explanation of the rationale behind narration? Thanks!

“Ms. Please Share the Benefits of the Charlotte Mason Philosophy of Narration”

Dear “Ms. Please Share the Benefits of the Charlotte Mason Philosophy of Narration,”

This is such an important question! I know the benefits of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of narration have been discussed at length on the Heart of Dakota message board. However, I’ll try to summarize it in one place. I hope seeing these benefits in one place will be a help to others too!

The Benefits of Narration, As Described in the Appendix of Bigger Hearts

In the Appendix of the guides from Bigger Hearts on up, we include a Teacher’s List and a Student’s List for Oral Narration Tips. These are basically steps describing how to do an oral narration. At the beginning of our oral narration tips list, it describes the following benefits:

When children narrate, they tell back in their own words what they have just read or heard. It allows them to share their own version of the passage with accuracy, individual personality, spirit, and originality.

Narrating is an essential skill in life. To be able to give an opinion of a book, relay a telephone message, summarize a letter, give driving directions, write an article, or share a doctor’s instructions – are all examples of practical applications of narration skills. Narrating is an important skill to learn. You can begin to teach your children to narrate by following the steps listed below. Just be patient, and have fun with it! Narration is a way of life.

Step-by-step Guidance to Help Learn This Skill

Then, the Appendices of our guides from Bigger Hearts on up give step-by-step guidance for both parent and child on how to go about learning this important skill. Many keys to narration are shared throughout the teacher’s list. So, please be sure to read those! They should be a great help!

Charlotte Mason Quotes That More Fully Explain the Philosophy of Narration

Things that we read only become knowledge as we assimilate it, as our mind acts upon it. We must read with the specific intention to know the matter being read. We can read without that effort but it does us no good. (Charlotte Mason, Vol. 6, p. 12-13)

To secure a conversation or an incident, we ‘go over it in our minds;’ that is the mind puts itself through the process of self-questioning… This is what happens in the narrating of a passage read: each new consecutive incident or statement arrives because the mind asks itself, – ‘What next?’ For this reason it is important that only one reading be allowed; efforts to memorize weaken the power of attention, the proper activity of the mind; if it is desirable to ask questions in order to emphasize certain points, these should be asked after, and not before, or during, the act of narration. (Charlotte Mason, Vol. 6, p. 17)

Charlotte Mason Quotes That More Fully Explain the Benefits of Narration

As we have already urged, there is but one right way, that is, children must do the work for themselves. They must read the given pages and tell what they have read, they must perform, that is, what we may call the ‘act of knowing’. We are all aware, alas, what a monstrous quantity of printed matter has gone into the dustbin of our memories, because we have failed to perform that quite natural and spontaneous ‘act of knowing,’ as easy to a child as breathing and, if we would believe it, comparatively easy to ourselves. The reward is two-fold: no intellectual habit is so valuable as that of attention; it is a mere habit but it is also the hallmark of an educated person. (Charlotte Mason, Vol. 6, p. 99)

Education which demands a ‘conscious mental effort’, from the scholar, the mental effort of telling again that which has been read or heard. That is how we all learn, we tell again, to ourselves if need be, the matter we wish to retain, the sermon, the lecture, the conversation. The method is as old as the mind of man, the distressful fact is that it has been made so little use of in general education. (Charlotte Mason, Vol. 6, p. 159-160)

The Benefits of ‘Mind Memory’ Instead of ‘Word Memory’

Whatever a child or grown-up person can tell, that we may be sure he knows, and that which he cannot tell, he does not know… Now a passage to be memorized requires much conning, much repetition, and meanwhile the learners are ‘thinking’ about other matters, that is the mind is not at work in the act of memorizing. To read a passage with full attention and to tell it afterwards has a curiously different effect…

…the happy distinction between word memory and mind memory, which, once the force of it is realized, should bring about sweeping changes in our methods of education. Trusting to mind memory, we visualize the scene, are convinced by arguments, take pleasure in the turn of sentences and frame our own upon them: in fact that particular passage or chapter has been received into us and become a part of us just as literally as was yesterday’s dinner… (Charlotte Mason, Vol. 6, p. 172)

The Benefits of Written Narration (taken from RTR’s Appendix)

When children narrate, they tell back in their own words what they have just read or heard. Narration allows them to share their own version of the passage with accuracy, individual personality, spirit, and originality. Oral narration is considered the earliest form of composition, and the words “narration” and “composition” may be used interchangeably. Children under age 9 take care of their composition instruction by orally narrating, and by intertwining these narrations with history, science, reading, and the like.

The Benefit of Trusting the Child and the Author to Be “Left Alone Together” Without Interruptions (taken from RTR’s Appendix)

By age 10, children’s oral composition skills should be developed enough to begin written compositions. According to Charlotte Mason, composition in the form of written narration is “as natural as running and jumping to children who have been allowed to read lots of books.” If they orally narrate first of all, the benefit is they will compose sooner or later, but they should not be taught “composition” as a separate body of information to be learned. Instead, it is important that the child and the author be trusted to be left alone together, without a middle-man such as a teacher telling the child what the book said, or about what to think. According to Charlotte Mason, our business as teachers is to “provide children the material for their lessons, while leaving the handling of that material to themselves”. In short, we are not to hamper them by too many instructions.

Reading living books and narrating from them helps children develop their own literary style.

Children who have gotten into the habit of reading good literature absorb what they will from it themselves, in their own way, whether it’s a lot or a little. Reading living books and narrating from them helps children to begin to form their own literary style. Because they have been in the company of great minds, their style will not be an exact copy of any one in particular, but will instead be shaped as an individual style from the wealth of materials they possess to create a natural style of their own.

Narration encourages self-expression and invites a child’s personality to become part of the learning process.

Narration done properly develops the power of self-expression and invites a child’s personality to become part of the learning process. A child should choose vocabulary he finds appealing, make it his own, and then give it forth again with that own unique touch that comes from his own mind. This is why no two narrations should be exactly alike, and it is also why teachers should not expect their children to give the same narration they would have given.

Another benefit of narration is it requires higher level thinking.

Narrating requires a higher level of thinking, which is yet another benefit. Consider the skill it takes to fill in blanks or choose from multiple-choice answers. Now, consider the skills it takes to retell a story you have just heard or read! Clearly the latter proves to require higher-level thinking. In order to demonstrate the complex skill of narrating, try your hand at it yourself. Now that you’ve read most of this page, turn it over and get a sheet of paper to write all that you can remember, or would you find it easier if you were given multiple-choice questions instead?

With narration, you’ve found the key to truly knowing what your children know.

Narration provides far more information about children’s comprehension because they must answer without the support clues provided by questions. The quiz, test, chapter review, and book report have all been replaced by something far more effective. What children take time to put in their own words is retained because it has become their own. With narration, you’ve just found the key to really knowing what your children know. This is why, even after children have become skilled at writing narrations, oral narrations are still continued. Maintaining oral narrations keeps improving both a child’s composing ability and his public speaking skills. There is simply not a better way to “test” a child’s comprehension and retention than oral and written narration!

Last, here are a few gems from Charlotte Mason on the benefits of written narrations.

Children in this Form (Ages 9-12) have a wider range of reading, a more fertile field of thought, and more delightful subjects for composition. They write their little essays themselves (referring to written narration), and for the accuracy of their knowledge and justice of their expression, why ‘still the wonder grows’. They’ll describe their favorite scene from “The Tempest” or “Woodstock”. They write to ‘tell’ stories from work set in Plutarch or Shakespeare or tell of the events of the day. They narrate from English, French, and General History, from the Old and New Testament, from “Stories from the History of Rome”, from Bullfinch’s “Age of Fable”, from, for example, Goldsmith’s or Wordsworth’s poems, from “The Heroe’s of Asgard”: in fact, Composition is not an adjunct but an integral part of their education in every subject. (Vol. 6, p. 192)

Having been brought up so far upon stylists the pupils are almost certain to have formed a good style: because they have been thrown into the society of many great minds, the will not make a servile copy of any one but will shape an individual style out of the wealth of material they possess; and because they have matter in abundance and of the best they will not write mere verbiage. (Vol 6, p. 194)

This is just a glimpse into the wonderful benefits of oral and written narration.   There is much more I could share on the subject, but this whets the appetite for more knowledge on the method, and if you’re anything like me, convicts the reader of the beauty, simplicity, and life-long effects of developing the habit and skill of narration.


Wanted: Homeschool Teacher

From Our House to Yours

Wanted: Homeschool Teacher

Being a homeschool teacher is one of the most fulfilling things in my life. It is also one of the most demanding things in my life. I think the role of a homeschool teacher is misunderstood by many. In addition to the usual tasks of being a mother, being a homeschool teacher adds many more responsibilities. Rather than just being responsible for the mothering of our children, we are responsible for the education of our children. This is no small matter! Whether our children are or are not well educated – heart, soul, and mind – depends on us. There are many blessings to homeschooling, but there are also many responsibilities. I wonder how a job description “WANTED: HOMESCHOOL TEACHER” ad in the newspaper would read?

Hypothetical Job Description of a Homeschool Teacher

WANTED: HOMESCHOOL TEACHER:  Seeking homeschool teacher. Hours: Begin when first child awakes. End when last child sleeps. Duties: Provide all educational curricula, snacks/meals, and school supplies. Plan and teach all subject areas to all ages of children. Expect varied teaching time based on ages of children. Be cheerful, innovative, intelligent, patient, loving, and motivated. High stress tolerance – thrive in a high-pressure environment. Clean entire facility. Must meet all state requirements. Commit to full school year. Pay: None.

Benefits of Being a Homeschool Teacher

WHEW!  From that job description, who would accept the job offer of being a homeschool teacher?!? However, I think the reason we DO accept this job  has more to do with the benefits than with the job description. Benefits for being a homeschool teacher might read like this: Choose your own hours to work. Set your own schedule. Take vacation and field trips when you want. Take unlimited sick days. Choose your own curricula. Work at your own pace. Pursue personal interests. Wear what you want. Eat and drink what you want. Take breaks any time. Use the bathroom or get up and move at will. Hug and kiss children any time. Use your Bible and pray any time. Share your faith freely.

Benefits make the homeschool teacher job the best paying job in the world!

The benefits of being a homeschool teacher far outweigh the duties. The benefits make the job of a homeschool teacher the best paying job in the world! Each day I remind myself what a blessing it is to be my children’s homeschool teacher. I take my job seriously. At the start of the year, I try to make the best schedule possible. In the morning, I try to be punctual. During my teaching, I try to be focused. During the school day, I aim to give it my best. I work to be patient, cheerful, and timely. When I finish a Heart of Dakota box of plans, I check it off with satisfaction. I attempt to expect the best from me and from my children. I make Jesus a part of our every day, which is good, because I often need His grace when I don’t do my ‘job’ as well as I should.

Your ‘Job’ As a Homeschool Teacher 

As you take on your ‘job’ as a homeschool teacher this year, remember, you are WANTED.  You are NEEDED. What you are doing is an incredibly important job, and it has many benefits! It is worthy of doing to the best of your ability, and it is deserving of grace when days don’t go as well as you hoped. This year, I encourage you to be the best homeschool teacher you can be! Dig in, roll up your sleeves, and let’s get to doing this job to the very best of our ability!  2019-2020 school year, here we come!!! Look out – we homeschool teachers are on our way!

But Jesus called the children to Him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Luke 18:16

In Christ,