In the Spotlight: 4 Charlotte Mason-Inspired Hymn Studies

More Than A Charlotte Mason Moment 

In the Spotlight:  4 Charlotte Mason-Inspired Hymn Studies in HOD

Charlotte Mason loved hymns so much that her students learned three hymns every term. At Heart of Dakota, we share Ms. Mason’s love of hymns! In fact, we include hymn study in 4 of our guides. Rotating Charlotte Mason’s inspirational subjects such as hymn study makes each year fresh, helps students enjoy each inspirational subject fully, and maintains a nice balance of inspirational and disciplinary subjects. It also helps cover many Charlotte Mason inspired skills that might get overlooked if they were attempted to be done every year! Charlotte Mason inspired subjects such as poetry study, nature study, composer study, picture study, Shakespeare study, and more, all make their way into certain Heart of Dakota guides. However, hymn study has such a special place in our hearts that 4 of our guides include it. Furthermore, 3 of them are now Heart of Dakota published!

Bigger Hearts for His Glory’s Hymn Study

Hymns for a Kid’s Heart: Volume I is our first hymn study, and it is part of our Bigger Hearts guide. Authors Joni Eareckson Tada and Bobbie Wolgemuth collaborated to create this special study of 12 hymns. Each hymn begins with an inspirational true story about its hymn-writer, which provides context for deeper insight of the hymn. Children learn each hymn by singing along with other children’s voices with an accompanying fully orchestrated CD. Printed simple sheet music makes it easy for children to practice and follow along as they sing. Tenderly written devotionals with Scripture connections further deepen the hymn study and help children understand more about God’s character and grace.

Missions to Modern Marvel’s Hymn Study

One of the most common questions we get asked when children finish the hymn study in Bigger Hearts is, “Will we get to do another hymn study like that again?!? My children loved it!” Well, the answer is ‘yes!’ Missions to Modern Marvels uses Hymns for a Kid’s Heart: Volume II as  the praise music portion of students’ Bible Quiet Time. Bible lessons from Explorer’s Bible Study: Quest – Faith at Work, a prayer focus, and Scripture memory work further round out their Bible Quiet Time. Instilling the habit of a daily Bible Quiet Time from an early age is one of the most important ways to encourage a lifelong desire to meet with the Lord each day. With richly orchestrated music, true stories, prayers, and Scripture, Hymns for a Kid’s Heart: Volume II is an inspirational part of MTMM’s Bible Quiet Time that simply feeds your child’s soul!

World History’s Hymn Study

In our World History high school guide, hymn study is part of students’ daily Bible Study. Using The Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Study: Old Testament Survey, students use their Bibles to answer questions and delve more deeply into what God is saying and revealing about Himself in His Word. Students also have memory work and keep a daily prayer journal, but one of our favorite parts of their Bible Study is the hymn study. Using Selah’s Greatest Hymns CD, students enjoy listening to and singing along with 15 wonderful hymns. Liner notes for each hymn give either a little background on the hymn or give a personal note about the hymn from one of the members of Selah. This particular Selah CD is so highly recommended so many places (and is so beloved by our mother and sisters) that it just had to be included as part of this Bible Study!

U.S. History I’s Hymn Study

Finally, we include our last hymn study in our U.S History I high school guide. Similar to World History, students use The Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Study: New Testament Survey and keep a prayer journal for their Bible Study. They also listen to hymns as part of their Bible time, using When Morning Gilds the Skies. This hardback volume and accompanying CD includes 12 fully orchestrated hymns performed by Joni Eareckson Tada, Jon MacArthur, and Robert & Bobbie Wolgemuth. Beautiful lyrics, intriguing histories, Biblical wisdom, and inspirational messages are also included for each hymn. This set of hymns focuses upon the glory of heaven and on the eternal hope that we have in the Lord, making it a natural complement to the study of the New Testament.

One Parent’s Story While Using the Bigger Heart’s Hymn Study

We are doing Bigger Hearts for His Glory and just having a wonderful time! I am really seeing the Lord use the Bible studies, history and storytime to touch my boys’ hearts. One day this week after school, my son was having his afternoon alone time. At one point, he ran up and asked me how to spell the word depths. “Hmmm” I thought. “I wonder what he is up to?” After an hour, I called for my almost 9 year old to come upstairs for something. He said he was in the middle of something really important. I wondered what it could be. Well, he had spent the afternoon writing his very own hymn of worship to the Lord. I wanted to share it below with you!

The Name I Love to Hear

Jesus Christ is my Savior’s name. I will worship Him always.

Refrain: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus is the name I love to hear.

Jesus Christ you know it all. I am small to your power.

Refrain: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus is the name I love to hear.

Jesus Christ is my redeemer. You saved me from the depths of sin.

Refrain: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus is the name I love to hear.

Jesus Christ..I am His and He is mine. I love Him and He loves me.

Refrain: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus is the name I love to hear.

Though I feel called and am committed to homeschooling as long as the Lord directs us to, I sometimes really wonder how homeschooling will affect my boys. Well, I know the Lord used this as a clear affirmation that what we are doing with our kids DOES matter and it DOES make a difference. An eternal difference! Thank you for allowing me to share my testimony not only on HOD and the impact it is having on my kids, but most importantly to our Almighty God who is worthy of ALL praise and glory!

In Closing… Scripture Connections to Singing Hymns:

Early Christians often sang hymns, so why not join them in that joyful practice?  In closing, I wanted to share some Scripture connections that speak to the relevance of singing hymns. Hymn study is a not-to-be-missed part of Heart of Dakota! It is my prayer that, if you are still reading this lengthy post, you would consider singing along with your children in these hymn studies. What an incredible way to study hymns and bring God glory as you do, praising Him together in a way you likely could never do, if you weren’t homeschooling!

Ephesians 5:19… as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts,

1 Corinthians 14:26:  What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.

Acts 16:25:  About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.

James 5:13:  Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.

Psalm 71: 8:  My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all the day.”

In Christ,


Setting Up for Bigger Hearts for His Glory

From Our House to Yours

Setting Up for Bigger Hearts for His Glory

So, I’ve placed my children, had my Heart of Dakotabox day,‘ and am setting up for Bigger Hearts (Bigger). My first step is to read through Bigger’s Introduction, Appendix, and first week or month of plans. This helps me envision my year and understand what my guide covers. As each Introduction includes options (i.e. one large binder or several smaller binders, etc.), I like to note my chosen options in the margin of the Introduction. This way, I can easily make my shopping list later based on my notes. Likewise, it is important to read through the beginning pages and “Getting Started” section in the Appendix  of Drawn into the Heart of Reading (DITHOR). Finally, reading the Introduction of Italic D or Cheerful Cursive also offers much insight!

Setting Up the Front of My “Bigger Hearts for His Glory” Binder

First, I make a color photocopy of my Bigger cover and insert it in my binder. If you don’t have a color copier, black and white looks nice too! Second, I print the Introduction of the guide off the Internet (click here). I use the Table of Contents as my attendance record, noting the dates we completed each unit (i.e. Unit 1:  Sept. 2-6, 2019). Third, I print the first week of plans (click here), which is a nice overview. If your state requires a completed portfolio for meeting with a principal or umbrella school, the Introduction and first week of plans give an excellent overview of what is covered. (Carrie gives permission for the Introduction and First Week of Plans to be printed or copied for portfolio compilation. However, any other photocopies or retyping of plans would be a copyright infringement.)

Label History Notebook, Timeline, History Activities, and Poetry Tab Dividers 

Next, I label tab dividers for my binder. My goals are to show what my child did and how he progressed in skills. So, I label my first tab “HISTORY NOTEBOOK.” Behind this tab, I place Bigger Heart’s history notebook pages inside page protectors. Next, I label my second tab “TIMELINE.” I place my child’s Bigger Heart’s timeline (when completed) behind this tab. Then, I label my third tab “HISTORY ACTIVITIES.” I place any of my child’s history-themed art projects, history activities, or geography activities that happen to be flat here. Next, I label my fourth tab “POETRY.” I place any written assignments from Poetry Day 4’s poetic devices’ activities here. If my child copied and decorated the poems instead of doing cursive, I also place the copied poems here. (If my child would enjoy it, I have him make a special cover for his poetry booklet.)

Label Language Arts, Science, Math, and Extensions Tab Dividers

I label my fifth tab “LANGUAGE ARTS.” Here, I put my child’s Storytime written work, bookmarks, and typed narrations. If my child did DITHOR, I either choose some completed workbook pages to include, or I just keep his entire DITHOR 2/3 Student Book. Likewise, for the cursive workbook, for the R & S English 2 or 3 written work, and for the spelling/dictation written work, I either choose a handful of completed pages for the binder, or I just keep the entire workbook and notebook(s). Next, I label my sixth tab “SCIENCE.” I place my child’s completed science notebooking and written experiments here. Then, I label my sixth tab “MATH”and include any completed math activity pages or worksheets. Finally, if my child is doing the extensions, I label my seventh tab “EXTENSIONS.” I place my child’s paragraph summaries and completed pictures/captions here.

Extra Tab(s) for Those Who Take Pictures and Actually Print Them

If you take pictures and also print them, you can include another tab called “HANDS-ON.” Behind this tab, place printed action photos of hands-on activities. Things like Geography Activities, History Activities, Science Exploration experiments, Bible Study gross motor skills activities, DITHOR kickoffs or final projects, Math hands-on lessons, and/or the hymn study singing can be included. Or, you can label the tab “OTHER” and put pictures of anything special, like you reading the history, hymn study, or devotional to your child. However, ask me how many times I have gotten that done in three trips through Bigger? Zero. So, if you don’t get this done, no worries! I DO have many pictures taken, and I DID have them on a slideshow in a photoframe for awhile. So, if you don’t have the time, don’t do this. Your binder without any of these extras will still be amazing!

Spelling/Dictation Things to Either Do at the Start or to Do As They Come Up in the Plans

If I want to do everything at the start, using the Appendix for SPELLING, I write the spelling words one at a time in a black Sharpie on white index cards. I jot the unit number in the top right corner of the first card, put a colored index card or divider between each set, and place them in a recipe box. (Otherwise, this is an easy thing to do each week, and to start you can just do the first week!) If my child is doing DICTATION and I want to use photocopies of dictation instead of the Appendix, I photocopy the passages. For only Level 2, I cut these out and glued them to index cards, so my child could focus on just the day’s passage.  However, this is just a personal preference, and not a ‘have-to’! I also label a wide-lined composition notebook ‘DICTATION.’

Bible Memory Work and Vocabulary Work Things to Either Do at the Start or to Do As They Come Up in the Plans

For BIBLE MEMORY WORK, I either hole-punch 35-40 index cards and put them on a metal ring, or I get a small 3-ring binder and index cards. For VOCABULARY, I follow the directions on Unit 1, Day 3, of the daily plans to either get a composition notebook and label 2 pages for each letter of the alphabet, or get a card file with index cards and alphabetical tabs. I’ll need between 35 and 105 index cards, with the number of cards needed based on how many of the 1-3 weekly vocabulary words I choose to have my child do.

Copywork, Grammar, Storytime, and Math Things to Either Do at the Start or to Do As They Come Up in the Plans

For COPYWORK, I choose either a lined notebook or loose-leaf paper and a binder.  If I chose a notebook, I label it ‘COPYWORK.’  Next, for English GRAMMAR, I choose either a lined notebook or loose-leaf paper and a binder.  If I chose a notebook, I label it ‘GRAMMAR.’ For STORYTIME, I label a sticky tab or jot in the Storytime box of plans how many chapters or pages to read each day (i.e. if my Biography Storytime book has 100 pages, according to Day 1’s Storytime plans, I divide 100 by 20 days of reading, and make a note to read about 5 pages a day). The last choice I need to make is for MATH. I can choose for my child to write directly in the textbooks/workbooks, to use loose-leaf paper, or to use a lined notebook.  Again, if I chose a lined notebook, I label it ‘MATH.’

Setting Up for Drawn into the Heart of Reading

If your child is using DITHOR, you can either set this up at the start or do it as you move through the plans. If I do this at the startI fill out the DITHOR 2/3 Student Book “Reading Calendar.” Using HOD’s “Optional Book Recommendations,” I fill in the page numbers to be read each day. For example, if my son is using the DITHOR Level 2 Book Pack, I see ’15 days’ next to Biography: Amelia Earhart. So, I divide the total number of pages or chapters in Amelia Earhart by 15. As there are 15 chapters, I just write “Ch. 1” on ‘Day 1’ of the Reading Calendar, “Ch. 2” on ‘Day 2,’ and so on. I might do this for each genre or just the first one to start. Also, I might choose my first genre kickoff in my DITHOR Teacher’s Guide.

Label Sticky Tabs to Mark Places in the Bigger Guide

Next, I label sticky tabs to mark places in my guide. I label the first tab “DAILY PLANS,” placing it on Unit 1, Day 1. Then, I label the next tabs “SPELLING” or “DICTATION” and “POETRY,” placing them in the Appendix.  If I’m using the Emerging Reader’s Set, I label another tab “ER SET” and put in the Appendix. Likewise, if I’m using the third grade math, I’d label another tab “MATH” for the Appendix. Or, if I’d rather not reference my Appendix, I’d just jot the third grade math page numbers in the “Math Exploration” box of plans.  If I’m using DITHOR, I label 2 tabs “DAILY PLANS,” placing one in the teacher’s guide and one in the student book. Likewise, if my child is using the extensions, I label another tab “EXTENSIONS.” Finally, if using the library for Storytime suggestions in the Appendix, label another tab “STORYTIME.

Special Items for Bigger Hearts for His Glory

There are a few special items needed for Bigger. By this time I already know which items I’ll need, because I wrote them in the margin of my Introduction earlier. Some things I’ve noted are a world map or globe, and a U.S. map. I also noted a children’s Bible for Bible Study. Finally, I noted a Webster’s dictionary for Vocabulary. One final thing I like to do is make a photocopy of the Appendix’s “Narration Tips: Teacher’s List” and “How to Narrate: Student’s List.” Carrie does give permission to photocopy these. I keep the teacher’s list for me to reference and the student’s list for my child to reference. However, you can always just put another tab in your Bigger guide and label it “NARRATION TIPS,” if you’d rather.

Shopping for Supplies

Carrie’s plans use readily available household supplies, and many options are suggested. For example, the plans may call for either a bean bag and a basket, or a rolled up pair of socks and a plastic bin. I just skim the Art and Science plans every month or so, to look for the one-off supply. However, to get ready to begin Bigger, I just stock up on usual art supplies, like crayons, markers, glue (sticks and liquid), scissors, construction paper, tissue paper (colored), tape (masking and clear), a ruler, a yardstick, playdough, paints/paintbrushes, cotton balls, yarn/string, etc. I also stock up on index cards, page protectors, and a few catalogs. Finally, I’ve found a flashlight, deck of cards, CD player (for Hymns for a Kid’s Heart), bouncy ball, paperclips, paper plates, food coloring, marker board with dry erase markers, and q-tips/toothpicks are also nice to have on hand.

Sorting Resources into “Things We Need Now” and “Things We Need Later” Bins or Totes

One of the last things I do is get two canvas bins.  I use one for ‘things we need now’ and the other for ‘things we need later.’ As I read through each box of my first week of Bigger’s plans, I put each needed resource in the bin  for ‘things we need now.’ I put the remaining items in the bin for ‘things we need later.’ Throughout the year as we finish using resources, I put them in the back of the ‘things we need later’ bin, and I move the next books or resources we need into the ‘things we need now’ bin or tub. This way, my ‘things we need now’ bin only contains what we need for each week. Another benefit is the ‘things we need now’ are always mobile! Likewise, I put many art supplies in a tool turnabout, so these are mobile too!

In Closing

As you can see, the steps you take to set up will vary based on your personal preferences. I’m writing this post so the end result is a lovely 3-ring binder portfolio with tabs alongside completed notebooks, workbooks, and/or card files. This will be a wonderful way to show what your child has done, should you be asked to do so! It will also be a wonderful way to remember the precious time you spent in Bigger with your child/children! However, there are obviously many options. For example, instead of one large binder,  I sometimes choose several small 1 or 2 inch binders (i.e. one for history, one for science, one for the rest, etc.). Usually, I base this on my child. If he prefers several small binders, we do that. Or, if he can be better organized using (and having to keep track of) just one large binder, we do that. So remember, just have fun setting up your year how YOU’D like – either all at the start, or as you move through the guide!

In Christ,


Thoughts on Shifting Things to Make Bigger Hearts 4 Days

Dear Carrie

Would you recommend shifting certain things each day to make Bigger Hearts a 4 day a week schedule?

Dear Carrie,

I love the design of Heart of Dakota‘s guides!  The balance you planned in each 2-page spread of plans is genius. I started the first few units of Bigger Hearts half-speed. Now, we are taking our summer break. When we come back, we will start half-speed for a bit. Then, I was thinking about shifting things around to make Bigger Hearts a 4 day schedule. However, I have learned a lot from using Heart of Dakota for the past decade. I know you have reasons for every bit of how you plan things. Before I consider this, I wanted your take on what this would do to the intended balance of the plans you wrote. Thanks!


“Ms. Please Explain Your Thoughts on Shifting Things to Do Bigger Hearts in 4 Days”

Dear “Ms. Please Explain Your Thoughts on Shifting Things to Do Bigger Hearts in 4 Days,”

Thank you for sharing you’ve enjoyed using Heart of Dakota for over a decade!  As you ponder the pacing of your year, one thing to remember is that each guide is designed to have a daily workload that is appropriate for the skill level of your student. Each day of plans is written with a careful balance in mind of visual, kinesthetic, and auditory assignments. Creative and more structured assignments are also balanced within a school day. Also, the activities on the left side and even some from the right side of the guide are meant to intertwine together as written within a day of school to allow kiddos to make connections.

When you shift boxes around, you lose the carefully timed workload, balance of skills, and planned connections.

I share all of this to say that when you start shifting boxes around, you lose the carefully timed workload, lose the balance of skills, and lose the connections that are designed to happen effortlessly. To show you what I mean, I’ll share this example. Imagine that you are a classroom teacher in a Christian school. Each week you spend your entire weekend and many nights writing a week of plans for your class. You work to be sure that each activity has a special purpose in that particular day, bringing out things from the history reading or the Bible or science that you desire your kiddos to relate together.

Each time you shift the plans, cohesiveness and connections are lost.

As you arrive on Monday, you discover that there is a two hour assembly scheduled for Monday that you were unaware was taking place when you wrote the plans. So, you begin shifting the plans, trying to keep what was really important together (which you can do fairly well because you wrote the plans). Now, later in the week there is a fire drill, and the plans shift again. Later in the week the guidance counselor stops in to talk about playground troubles, and more shifting occurs. By the week’s end, how well do you think those original lesson plans are functioning? How cohesive are they at this point? You sigh, and hope the next week will be better.

Shifting each week means your kiddos can no longer just follow the two-page plans.

If you do this shifting every week with HOD, you can quickly see what is lost! No longer can your kiddos just follow the two-page spread and know when the boxes are checked off they are done. No longer do you view your school day that way either, as you are constantly trying to squeeze more into less time.   At that point, you are pretty much rewriting the plans in a way that they were not designed to be taught. When we talk to moms who have shifted too many things in the plans, we often discover that they are on different days of plans in so many areas that both they and their kiddos are completely confused as to where they really are.

Homeschooling is a journey with steady progress forward rather than a race to the finish line.

I share this not to discourage you, but rather to encourage you with some wisdom I’ve gained through the years. As we homeschool our kiddos, we have to ask what it is we are racing to do? Why must we approach schooling in a way that has us cramming more into fewer days? Homeschooling is a journey that goes on for many years. It is not a race to the finish line, but rather requires steady progress forward.

I’d recommend teaching a day within a day and simply setting aside the guide on your day off.

So, if you have a child in Bigger Hearts and you need a 4 day schedule, I would recommend teaching a day within in a day (once you work your way up to it from half-speed). On your day off, simply set the guide aside. Then, when you return to your school, pick the guide up where you left off and go forward. Once you get to Preparing Hearts on up, you will switch to a 4 day plan anyway, so why not give your family every chance to succeed with Bigger Hearts by using it the way it was written? You always want to leave your kiddos begging for more in the early years, rather than leaving them (and you) barely getting done.  Enjoy the younger years, where the school day isn’t so long, because it will get longer soon enough!

Blessings to you as you ponder,

Spelling Help for a Struggling Speller in Bigger Hearts

 Dear Carrie

What should I do to help my son with spelling in the second half of Bigger Hearts?

Dear Carrie,

I am getting ready to start the second half of Bigger with my 8 1/2 yr old son. This will be his “3rd grade” year. He is still struggling with spelling, and therefore, does not write sentences yet. This is something I really want to work on before starting Preparing. I’ve not used the spelling lists in our Bigger manual. Instead, I used an outside spelling curriculum and just didn’t see much results. I wish I would have just done the spelling in Bigger! Now, I don’t know how to proceed. Should I start with the word lists in Bigger and go from there? Or, what do you think? I am open to suggestions!


“Ms. Please Help My Son with Spelling”

Dear “Ms. Please Help My Son with Spelling,”

I’d definitely encourage you to follow the plans for spelling in Bigger the last half of the guide. I had a total mind shift in spelling when I read Charlotte Mason’s advice on the topic. Spelling in the early years is often quite tied to a child’s reading. This is because kiddos at the early stages of spelling are often sounding out their spelling words as they write them. So, in the early years, as your child’s reading progresses, his spelling will lag a bit behind that reading progress. That is not to say that in the long haul spelling and reading progress are always linked. That is not necessarily true, as spelling words get longer and harder.

Rather than more drill, regular practice in capturing the correct mental image of a word is the skill to develop.

Another thing to keep in mind is that for kiddos to whom spelling does not come naturally more drill is not really what they need. Regular practice in capturing the correct mental image of a word is the skill that truly needs to be developed in order for the mind to know whether a word that has been written is written correctly. This is the skill that is being developed in Beyond and Bigger. It is also one of the reasons why the other writing the child is doing during that season of learning is kept to copywork or copying from a correctly written model, because we don’t want the mind capturing the incorrect image.

To prevent the incorrect spelling of words beginning to “look right,” immediately erase incorrectly spelled words and copy the correct spelling instead.

Having a child inventively spell many words results in the incorrect spelling beginning to “look right” in the mind’s eye. So, to prevent this same thing from happening during spelling lessons, be sure to immediately erase any incorrectly spelled word and have the child copy the correct spelling over top of the erased word instead. Think of spelling time as mental training rather than seeking memorization of specific words. In that way, every error is an opportunity to swoop in and retrain the mind.

When an incorrect letter is written, erase it. Then, show the correct image written in black on the white index card.

Be vigilant as you do the Heart of Dakota spelling lessons. As soon as an incorrect letter is written in the spelling of a word, erase it away and redirect to the correct image (showing the index card with the correct spelling upon it). Be sure to use a dark colored marker on a white index card too when writing the spelling words (as directed in the guide), which helps the mind capture the image of the word even more clearly. Over time you will see continued progress.

Doing spelling words like this is so effective because dictation is this same mental imaging taken to the next level.

Dictation builds on the foundation of mental picturing that is practiced in the spelling lists in Beyond and Bigger. It is where kiddos actually start to pay more attention to spelling in the context of sentences. It’s the moment where they realize spelling is about writing a string of words correctly. It is mental imaging taken to the next level. This is often where kiddos start doing a bit better in spelling, if they had a hard time in the word lists that they did before beginning dictation. This is because in dictation they are putting to use the mental imaging and beginning proofreading and auditory skills they practiced in Beyond and Bigger and are applying them.

Studied dictation skills transfer to proofreading written work well.

Through studied dictation kiddos learn to transfer the skills of capturing a correct mental image of a string of words, auditorily hearing the sentence and repeating it back correctly, writing the words in the correct sequence (including all punctuation and capitalization), and proofreading and correcting their work to make sure the right mental image remains (rather than the wrong one). Over time, these skills transfer to kiddos’ proofreading their own written work in other subjects. You can see this is all a part of spelling, but it is a process that takes years to internalize.

Instead of putting the focus on memorization, place the focus on writing correctly and proofreading carefully.

This is why I encourage you to keep on going, patiently guiding and diligently correcting. You will see progress as the years pass. Just make sure not to put the focus on word memorization! Rather, place the focus on the ultimate long-term goal of writing correctly and proofreading in daily work.

My own son who struggled with spelling has now shown much improvement.

My own third little guy struggled with the spelling lists in Beyond and Bigger too. He improved as he headed into dictation, even though he is not natural speller. In CTC he really started to show some carryover and improvement in his daily written work. He has now learned to refer back to his reading material to copy the correct spelling of words within his written narrations. This is another moment where capturing the correct mental image of words (i.e. names and places) and transferring them to paper in written narrations comes in handy. I share this to encourage you that over time with these methods, even kiddos who struggle with spelling will make gains in the area where it really counts.



Handwriting Help! How to Transition to Writing Smaller with Proper Spacing

From Our House to Yours

How to Transition Children to Writing Smaller with Proper Spacing

Heart of Dakota plans for children to incrementally improve their handwriting. Children begin with a formal handwriting book and with short early writing practice in Storytime in Little Hearts for His Glory. Next, they move to copywork of the Bible verse and classical poetry in Beyond. Then, they add notebooking for history and science in Bigger Hearts. They also begin to use wide-lined notebook paper for dictation and grammar. With each of our sons, I found it helpful to teach them how to transition to writing smaller with proper spacing. As I happened to take pictures of Riley’s handwriting progression, I’ll share his handwriting transition in this blog post.

A Jumble of Lines

When Riley began writing, he looked at the lines like they were all just one big jumble of lines. I helped him by hi-lighting the top and bottom of the lines yellow. I told him these lines were like “stop signs,” and he had to put on the brakes when he got to them. I’d sit by him and make ‘putting on the brakes noises’ as he neared the lines like, “Errrrrrrrr – stop!”  He’d laugh and stop. We talked about the dotted line being a stopping place as well. He had trouble remembering spaces too, so we colored those with pink hi-lighting. I told him he had to put a finger’s width between letters (when copying single letters) and between words when he started writing sentences. Eventually, he just needed the pink spacing. Here are some pictures of the hi-lighting that helped Riley so much:


A Transition to Handwritten Lines Without Dotted Lines

After awhile, like when he began the copywork of the Bible verse or the poem in Beyond, we actually used blank copy paper or a blank index card. I drew lines with a ruler quite far apart. I did this because it was actually too time consuming for him at that point to use handwriting paper with the dotted line. It took him forever, and he was ready to write smaller, but not yet able to write on wide-lined notebook paper. At this point, his writing looked like this:

A Transition to Wide-Lined Notebook Paper

After that, Riley made the transition to wide-lined notebook paper. It helped for me to write the beginning word of each line for the poem. This helped him see the size of the writing I wanted him to try to mimic. I also had Riley skip lines, as this spacing makes it easier to write, to fix errors, and to read aloud. Below, you can see his Unit 15 Beyond Little Heart’s poetry copywork of “The Cow.” Then, underneath you can see his transition to writing on wide-lined notebook paper more on his own in Unit 30 Beyond Little Heart’s poetry “Written in March.”

The Transition to Writing Well Both in Blank Spaces and on Wide-Lined Notebook Paper

With these few handwriting helps, Riley was able to transition into writing  well both in blank spaces and on wide-lined notebook paper. Below, you can see a sample of the wide-lined composition notebook he used for his dictation. You can also see how I still began Bigger Hearts first notebooking page by drawing lines for him. I did this so he could visualize the overall notebook assignment, as well as set aside space for his drawing portion of the assignment.  This was prior to Carrie creating new and lovely notebooking pages, but this tip can still work as a transition to writing within the defined space of the new notebook’s boxes.


In Closing

In closing, it really is amazing how children’s writing continues to improve over time with some guidance. I agree that letter formation is first and foremost, but once they have that down, the steps above helped all of our sons become neat, confident writers – with some patience on my end (not always a natural virtue of mine). I hope this helps as you assist your child in making the transition to writing smaller with proper spacing!

In Christ,