It is not advisable to answer children categorically when they want to know the why for every command…

A Charlotte Mason Moment:

“It is not advisable to answer children categorically when they want to know the why for every command, but wise parents steer a middle course. They are careful to form habits upon which the routine of life runs easily, and, when the exceptional event requires a new regulation, they may make casual mention of their reasons for having so and so done; or, if this is not convenient and the case is a trying one, they give the children the reason for all obedience – ‘for this is right’. In a word, authority avoids, so far as may be, giving cause of offence.”

(Home Education by Charlotte M. Mason Vol. 3, p. 22)

The child’s zeal must be stimulated

A Charlotte Mason Moment:

“The child must not be allowed to get into the mood in which he says, ‘Oh, I am so tired ‘of sums’, or ‘of history’. His zeal must be stimulated; there must always be a pleasing vista before him; and steady, untiring application to work should be held up as honourable, [sic] while fitful, flagging attention and effort are scouted.”

(Home Education by Charlotte M. Mason Vol. 1, pp. 149,150)

Oral Narrations: An Integral Part of a Charlotte Mason Education

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

Oral narrations are an integral part of a Charlotte Mason education!

A Charlotte Mason education is literature-based and full of living books that you just can’t put down!  Think about the best book you’ve ever read. As you were reading it, if you were asked to respond to it each day, would you have delightedly chosen to take a pop quiz about it with fill-in-the-blank, true/false, or multiple choice questions? Or, would you have much rather just told a friend about it, sharing all you remembered in a narrative way? Chances are, you’d prefer to tell someone about it over taking a quiz.  Even if you happen to be a rare quiz-loving person, which response would you be more likely to remember? Good books are meant to be shared, and Charlotte Mason knew that when they are shared, they are remembered – long after any quickly forgotten quiz. That is why oral narrations are an integral part of a Charlotte Mason education.

A Charlotte Mason education is based on using narration as the primary method of comprehension.

When children orally narrate, they tell back in their own words what they have just read or heard. Oral narration allows children to share their own version of the passage with accuracy, individual personality, spirit, and originality. In Charlotte Mason-style narration, children borrow words from the author to retell the story.  Narrations are often lengthy and detailed, and there is no “one right” answer or certain key points that “should be” in the narration. This is the way the child connects to and makes sense of the reading. Children can often give a candid heartfelt oral narration on a book they read years earlier, simply because they remember it so well due to having narrated upon it. A Charlotte Mason education is based on using narration as the primary method of comprehension because it is so effective.

Heart of Dakota’s guides include helpful tips for both the teacher and the student before, during, and after orally narrating.

Chances are, you didn’t grow up orally narrating in school, and more than likely, you’d love a little guidance in this area. Well, Heart of Dakota provides that! Each year Carrie wrote a new Heart of Dakota guide, she pulled out Charlotte Mason’s original volumes and reread all that pertained to the upcoming stages of learning students were entering. The result? Decades of Charlotte Mason research at your disposal right within your Heart of Dakota guides. Beginning with modeling oral narrations and moving to helpful tips for both teacher and student before, during, and after orally narrating – HOD has you covered. Likewise beginning with simple narrations and moving to detailed, summary, key word, highlighted, topic, opinion, persuasive, recorded, and typed narrations – HOD makes sure oral narrations grow and mature as your children do!

Narrating is an essential skill life.

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 in Heart of Dakota’s guides.  Just be patient, and have fun with it!  Narration is a way of life you will surely learn to love!

In Closing

In closing, here are a few Charlotte Mason quotes about narration for you to take inspiration from…

A narration should be original as it comes from the child- that is, his own mind should have acted on the matter it has received. – Charlotte Mason

Narrating is an art, like poetry-making or painting, because it is there, in every child’s mind, waiting to be discovered, and is not the result of any process of disciplinary education. – Charlotte Mason

In Christ,





To use time is a duty

A Charlotte Mason Moment: 

“It is a bad thing to think that time is our own to do what we like with. We are all employed; we all have duties, and a certain share of our time must be given to those duties. It is astonishing how much time there is in a day, and how many things we can get in if we have a mind. It is also astonishing how a day, a week, or a year may slip through our fingers, and nothing done. We say we have done no harm, that we have not meant to do wrong. We have simply let ourselves drift. Boys or girls will drift through life at school, men or women through life in the world, effecting nothing, because they have not taken hold. They fail in examinations, in their professions, in the duty of providing for a family, in the duty of serving their town or their country, not because they are without brains, nor because they are vicious, but because they do not see that to use time is a duty.”

(Home Education by Charlotte M. Mason Vol. 4, Book 1, p. 173)

Switching to HOD: How to choose guides considering the history cycle?

Dear Carrie

My first attempt with Charlotte Mason didn’t go well. Can you help me with switching to Heart of Dakota and with choosing guides considering the history cycle?

Dear Carrie,

I LOVE the look of Heart of Dakota!! It seems to incorporate all that I was wishing to do this year in our homeschool, being our first Charlotte Mason attempt. Unfortunately, we’ve kind of lost our way. I’m hoping that maybe HOD can get us back on track.  I don’t know if it will be completely possible. This year I have a 15 year old son (9th grade) and a 10 year old son (5th grade). Can you help me with switching to Heart of Dakota and with choosing guides considering the history cycle?

We are up to the year 1700 in our studies, in our 22nd week. Revival to Revolution looks like it could work for us, but we’d have to stop what we are doing for history and pick it up for next school year. Is that even advisable? Could I add to it for the then 10th grader, so we are in the same time period? I would love any advice you can give!


“Ms. Please Help with Choosing Guides and Considering the History Cycle”

Dear “Ms. Please Help with Choosing Guides and Considering the History Cycle,”

I am glad you are switching to Heart of Dakota, as I believe you will love our Charlotte Mason-inspired plans! Our guides are complete, easy-to-use, and full of wonderful living books for a solid literature-based education.  As you think through what would be the best fit for your two kiddos, I’ll encourage you to do a few things that will really help make it clearer as to where they fit best.

Put aside thoughts of the history cycle and the science texts your students have covered and look at each as individuals.

First, put aside any thoughts of which history cycle your students have covered, except for perhaps your high school student only if certain history requirements must be met for credit. Next, set aside any ponderings about which science texts your students may have already used. Last, place your students as individuals, putting aside any thoughts of combining.  Use the first page only of the placement chart to place each student.

Correct placement in HOD is based on the skills shown on the first page of the placement chart. 

If you do these things, you will truly see where each child fits best and in which program. Correct placement in HOD is based on the skills shown on the first page of the placement chart. These skills are required to complete all areas of the guide. So, if you place a child based on the history cycle or on the science program, you may have an inaccurate placement. This makes all of the rest of the guide a poor fit. Not to mention, it would be compounded in the years to come, as one guide prepares a child very well for the next guide in line!  So with that in mind, for a link to the placement chart, click here.

Skills are important in placement in Heart of Dakota.

I know this will feel different than the approach used for placement found in other homeschool companies. The reason for this is that, at HOD, the skills are very important in placement. This is because CM type skills build from guide to guide (as well as the difficulty of the material and how the skills are applied). Even if you end up reusing a science text or a history text that you may have already read, you’ll find that when the text is done in the CM style used in our guides (and likely is read independently by the student), it will feel completely different!

Our oldest son had to repeat a history cycle when we switched to a more CM-style curriculum, and it still worked well!

We have had this experience ourselves with our own oldest son, as have other moms on the message board who have repeated a text. I had my oldest son repeat a history cycle he’d just done when we switched to a more CM-style curriculum. I found it still worked well, and he gained so much!  If you get a chance to pop back and share where each of your students fit as individuals on the first page only of the chart, then we can help you fine-tune their placement!  Just give us a call for our placement specialist to help, or post on the Main Board of our Message Board, or order our catalog for further placement help! We look forward to hearing back from you when you get a chance.


P.S. To read more about answers to commonly asked questions about how we approach placement and why, click here!