Three points to consider in education

A Charlotte Mason Moment: 

“In devising a SYLLABUS for a normal child, of whatever social class, three points must be considered:

(a) He requires much knowledge, for the mind needs sufficient food as much as does the body.

(b) The knowledge should be various, for sameness in mental diet does not create appetite. [i.e., curiosity]

(c) Knowledge should be communicated in well-chosen language, because his attention responds naturally to what is conveyed in literary form. 

(Home Education by Charlotte M. Vol. 6; Preface to the ‘Home Education’ Series)

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,


If I give dictation a try, how do I decide if it’s not working?

Dear Carrie

If I give dictation a try with my struggling speller, how do I decide if it’s not working?

Dear Carrie,

I need helping seeing the bigger picture. I’ve read so many rave reviews about Heart of Dakota‘s studied dictation, and I WANT to trust the process! My 5th grader is a great speller, and I will do level 5 dictation with him. But, my little one I’m not sure about. He’s been in school for the past 6 months, and he has an ‘A’ in spelling. He can study for the test and do fine. However, by the time he has to write the word in a sentence in a few weeks, he’s forgotten how to spell it. If I remember right, my older son really turned a corner in his spelling during 3rd grade. I’m holding out hope my youngest will show some real strides in spelling too. Anyway, if I give dictation a try, how do I decide if it isn’t working?


“Ms. Please Help Me Give Dictation A Try”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Me Give Dictation A Try,”

There are so many terrific skills wound within studied dictation that I think it is definitely worth a try.  The kiddos have to capture the whole image of a sentence or a passage in their minds, looking at the sentence as a whole as well as capturing the individual words and their parts. This really trains kiddos in the habit of seeing correctly spelled words within the context of writing. This, after all, is the ultimate goal of learning to spell! We want kiddos to carry over their spelling to their writing. So, practicing spelling words within the context of writing sentences makes sense. This is one good reason to give dictation a try!

Studied dictation strengthens auditory skills, so give it a try!

Studied dictation also forces kiddos to strengthen auditory skills as they listen to the parent read the passage only once. The kiddos learn to listen for the purpose of repeating perfectly from a single reading. Prior to writing, they then repeat back what the parent said, which strengthens the skill of holding a phrase or sentence in the mind long enough to be able to repeat it back without error and then write it. This is one more reason to give dictation a try!

Studied dictation strengthens proofreading skills, so give it a try!

After writing the phrase or sentence, the kiddos then proofread their work before checking it against the model. This is a terrific way to form the habit of proofreading their written work! It truly makes good proofreaders out of kiddos over time. Last, they check their own work, training them in checking their work against a correctly written model. They become precise checkers with continual practice. This is yet another reason to give dictation a try!

Studied dictation helps students practice immediate correction, so give it a try!

When kiddos miss a passage, they mark any mistakes on the passage and immediately correct the mistakes on their own copy. So, yet another skill practiced is immediate correction.  The following day, when the child must repeat a passage, he/she pays much closer attention to whatever was missed the day before. This, in essence, finally causes the incorrect mental picture of a word in the mind to be rewritten or mentally corrected (replacing the old incorrect image with a new corrected image).  This is the mental work that must be done in order for a poor speller to fix his/her poor spelling habits. It is also something the good speller does naturally. This is still another reason to give dictation a try!

Studied dictation is one of my all-time favorite Charlotte Mason skill builders!

I must honestly admit that studied dictation is one of my all-time favorite CM skill builders. It has so many skills wound within a 5 minute lesson, and it pays such big dividends in so many ways in the long haul. With my oldest son, we began studied dictation as a third grader. He still did studied dictation in high school, but today he is an excellent speller, proofreader, and writer. He never completed a formal spelling program beyond grade 3.

Plan to give studied dictation at least a full year to see its fruit, so please do give it a try!

My second son has never had any formal spelling beyond what is in the HOD guides. He has also done studied dictation since grade 3. He is a terrific speller, proofreader, and writer as well.  My next 2 sons were not naturally great spellers or writers. However, I will tell you they both have made huge leaps in this area by using studied dictation. I will warn you that dictation is a slow burn. So, if you embark upon using this method, plan to give it at least a full year to begin to see the fruit. Once you do though, I think you will really be pleased! So, please, do give dictation a try! I think you will be glad you did!


How can I help my son write better narrations?

Dear Carrie

How can I help my son write better written narrations?

Dear Carrie,

We’re in Unit 12 of Heart of Dakota’s Resurrection to Reformation. My son is 13, new to written narrations, and not a writer. He just doesn’t seem to “get” it. Today he was writing conversations and all kinds of things that were in the chapter. I think he was copying them word for word. He also kept saying he didn’t know how to get enough sentences. I know I need to figure out how to tell him to be more “concise” and how to narrow it all down. For today, I’m going to read it myself and write my own narration the way *I* would do it. Maybe that will help him. He really dislikes to write and is just not good at it. So, I guess my question is, how can I help my son write better narrations? I think I just need tips on how a written narration should be.


“Ms. Please Help My Son Write Better Written Narrations”

Dear “Ms. Please Help My Son Write Better Written Narrations,”

Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Narration is a personal thing and is meant to be a reflection of what the child drew out from the reading. So, while you may be wanting a summary of the reading (unless it is specifically assigned as a summary narration), there are many different types of narrations, and all are acceptable.

Written narrations don’t need to be done in a certain way.

One thing that you do not want to do is to give him the impression that a written narration must be done a certain way. It will leave him even more uncertain and keep him trying to write the way you perceive that a narration should be done. This is no different than writing responses to please the teacher in the classroom and is something we definitely want to get away from doing in the home setting (especially when doing written narrations)!

Reading the “Written Narration Tips” and “A Few Notes on the Transition to Written Narrations” in RTR’s Appendix will help.

So, my first caution to you is to not make your son feel like he is doing it wrong! Accept his written responses. Be sure to go over the Written Narration Tips (Teacher’s List) in the Appendix. Then, go over his list right behind that. These really help in doing written narrations and will give him that sense of purpose you feel he is missing. Make sure to also read “A Few Notes on the Transition to Written Narrations” in the Appendix as well.

Written narrations may vary quite a bit from week to week.

Next, understand that his written narrations may vary quite a bit from week to week. For example, one week he may summarize more, the next week he may go into detail relating just one event that really struck him from the reading, the next week he may give you a detailed description of a person from the reading including dialogue, and the next week he may interject some opinion within the narration. All of these are acceptable!

Your son can think of narrating as telling back a movie he has seen to someone who has never seen it.

You can help him a bit by telling him to think about narrating as telling back a movie that he has seen to someone who has never seen it. Think how he would go about doing that and then apply that same strategy to narrating. Honestly, the more he orally narrates, the more shape his written narrations will take. It isn’t unusual when being new to written narrations to “try on” various styles and ways of doing it. This is what writers do, and it is how they eventually find their own style.

You can demonstrate the written narration process by having your son tell you what he remembers and writing the sentences as he says them.

To demonstrate the written narration process, you could have him tell you what he remembered right after reading and write the sentences as he says them (so he can see them appearing on paper coming right from his mind). This will help him see that it is truly just a retelling of what he is thinking, except on paper. Try not to have him look back so much at the text after reading, as this may jumble up what he recalls in his mind. Just go with what he can remember right away, so he doesn’t get bogged down including all of the facts and details. Later, he can move toward looking back over the text and including important things. This is a later narration stage. Just have him refer to the text for names and places or spellings for now.

Since your son is new to written narrations, he can just try to write a paragraph at first.

For now, since your son is new to written narrations, don’t worry about hitting the exact number of sentences. Just try to have him write a paragraph at first. Just keep encouraging your son that he needs to retell in his own words as much as possible what he remembered from the story. It’s alright if the sentences seem a bit disjointed for now as far as how they go together. Try to withhold judgment as to the narration’s content, but do follow the Written Narration Skills list in the Appendix to help him edit the narration.

As time passes, you will see improvement!

I want to encourage you that as time passes, you will see improvement. But, if you make this a teacher-pleaser assignment with one right way you are seeking, he will not come into his own as a narrator because you will have changed the assignment’s original intention. So, head to the Appendix right away for much needed help! It is there to encourage you in this endeavor! It’s good to know that we all go through this stage as we try to figure out what written narration looks like! You are not alone!


P.S. If you are new to Heart of Dakota, click here to find out more about it!


The mind is a spiritual organism

A Charlotte Mason Moment:

“We hold that the child’s mind is no mere sac to hold ideas; but is rather, if the figure may be allowed, a spiritual organism, with an appetite for all knowledge. This is its proper diet, with which it is prepared to deal; and which it can digest and assimilate as the body does foodstuffs.”

(From the preface to Home Education by Charlotte M. Vol. 6)