The older overshadows the younger – continue to combine? Or, separate?

Dear Carrie

Should I separate or combine, when the older overshadows the younger?

I’ve been looking over the first week of HOD’s Preparing Hearts plans. (They look wonderful!)  I am wondering how to do the Independent sections with two kids? Would they work on the science readings, experiments, and notebooking together? Or, would you have one do the Independent History reading, while the other is working on Science, and then switch? I also have another question for you. My older son overshadows the younger one frequently. They are only a year apart in age but more like 2 years apart developmentally. I have often thought about separating them. Part of me would like to start Preparing in the fall with my 10-year-old and continue with Bigger for my 8-year-old. But, then I will also have a 5-year-old in Little Hearts. How hard would it be to do three programs? I don’t love the ‘overshadowing’ feeling. Or, do you have any other ideas?

Sincerely,

“Ms. Please Help Me Decide How to Deal with Overshadowing”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Me Decide How to Deal with Overshadowing,”

I understand that an older child constantly overshadowing a younger child can be difficult. If you choose to keep your children combined, I’d probably have them do the experiments together but schedule the rest to be done separately. But, you could easily do their independent work the other way you described as well.  As far as your question about separating or combining, I pictured my own sons when you mentioned the older ‘overshadowing’ the younger. My older son would often overshadow my younger son if they did their readings and assignments together.

It really depends on how independent your older son is.

In this situation, it really depends on how independent your older son is. My oldest is independent and strong-willed. He’s always very much enjoyed being in charge of his learning (with me being the helper). From a young age, the more of his day he could take over on his own, the happier he was. So, if this is the case with your older son, you could use the first 9 weeks of the school year to “train him” to use the Preparing Hearts guide very independently. You could be doing Bigger and Little Hearts at half-speed during this “training period.” After the training is over, you could bump Bigger Hearts to full-speed, while still keeping Little Hearts at half-speed. Once you hit your stride with Preparing and Bigger, you could then bump up Little Hearts to full-speed. This would be one way to deal proactively with the overshadowing.

I’d require a high standard of work from your oldest during this “training period.”

If you choose to do this, during the “training period,” I’d require a very high standard of work from your oldest. I’d set the timer and keep him on schedule. I would also schedule the places where he is to do his work, as well as when he is to do his work. Have him check off his items and hand them all in. Go over the directions in each box with him as you check his work to make sure he followed them all. This will teach him to read directions carefully.

What You’d Each Still Be Doing

In Preparing, you would still be scheduling some time to do the questioning and discussions scheduled in the Reading About History box. However, he could be doing the readings himself. You would be doing the Bible discussion of the Psalms scheduled on Days 1-2  but he’d be independent on Days 3-4).  You’d also be teaching the Charlotte Mason-style poetry lesson, and most likely doing the Storytime read-alouds. But, the rest of the guide can really be done independently at his age. I did still teach the grammar lesson to my oldest, dictate his passages for spelling, and do the DITHR discussions together on alternating days as scheduled. Either option would work! This is just some food for thought on one way to overcome the overshadowing for good!

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

To combine, or not to combine; that is the question!

From Our House to Yours

To combine, or not to combine; that is the question!

To combine, or not to combine; that is the question we so often ask! Well, you can easily combine with Heart of Dakota, just like you can with other curricula. However, combining is not always what’s best for children or for moms. As a young mom new to homeschooling nearly 20 years ago, I was repeatedly told I would need to combine my children for homeschooling to work. Why? They said it was “easier,” and otherwise I’d “burn out.” Well, as a veteran homeschooling mom, I have a different message for you today! The truth is combining works very well in some situations! But, not combining works very well in some other situations! Much like “one size fits all” clothes don’t fit everyone, combining does not fit everyone either. So, how do you know when to combine and when not to?

It is best not to combine when children are further apart in ability and maturity.

When children are further apart in ability and maturity, it just makes good sense not to combine. They have totally different needs from each other. Let’s say for instance that a younger child is not reading and writing well. But, an older child is reading chapter books and writing paragraphs. Charlotte Mason would say you should move that older child toward reading his/her own material in all subject areas (roughly around age 9), as this promotes better retention and narration skills. If you pair a 9 year-old child ready for this type of independence with a younger sibling not yet close to reading, you must then read everything out loud to both of them so they can be combined. This results in combining actually taking longer than teaching separate programs. Likewise, it prevents the older child from moving on to skills more appropriate for his/her age.

Likewise, it is best not to combine when children are further apart in writing skills.

If an older child is writing well and ready for written narration instruction (Charlotte Mason said roughly around the age 10), but is paired with a younger sibling not writing, the parent is forced to find something else for the younger child not yet writing to do (often something that is a skill far below this skill that is independent, such as coloring, as they cannot read or write yet). There is nothing wrong with coloring, but then at what point does the younger child receive that excellent guided written narration instruction that the older child received? Often they don’t, as the older child is always on to the next harder skill, while the younger child is still just doing something to “tread water” while the older child finishes.

As the gap widens, it often becomes apparent not combining would be better.

Often the gap widens. Then, you as a parent are forced to continue to read everything aloud as the younger child cannot read independently yet. Or, because the older child has continued to move up in guides, you find that even by the time the younger child can read, the reading is so incredibly difficult, that younger child still cannot read the material – which means either you are still reading aloud to the duo (again the older student missing vital independent skills), or you see how important it is you separate the two at this point, more than likely because you are hoarse from reading pages aloud that were never meant to be read aloud by you.

Combining children who are far apart in abilities can set a precedence of continually teaching to the older child’s needs.

Combining in this type of situation can set up a precedence to be teaching to the older child’s needs instead of the younger child’s needs, and over time the younger child will just need something different. You can see how, because the older child never did get to read the material on his/her own, the parent never did have time freed up to work with the younger child, who really probably needed more instruction earlier on.

It works well to combine children who are fairly close in ability. 

Now imagine two children who are quite close in ability. The younger is doing phonics and writing individual letters, while the older is just starting to read 3 letter words and is just beginning to write 3 letter words. Combining these children together makes much sense! They will both require the parent to read the learning materials aloud, and they will both require time to grow into reading and writing independently. There is no reason they cannot both do the same history, science, poetry, Bible reading, etc., and while they may need separate reading and math instruction, this is fairly easy to accomplish.

It works well to combine children who are both reading and writing fairly well.

Likewise, imagine older children, who are both reading and writing fairly well; one is reading chapter books, and one is reading longer chapter books. Heart of Dakota makes it easy to combine these children, as the younger child can do the program as is, and the older child can do the extensions. If the older child is writing pages, and the younger child is writing paragraphs, both can easily receive instruction on written narration practice, with one completing more than the other. Combining is a winning situation here, as long as the younger child is not being asked to listen to material that is too mature for his/her ears.

When considering combining, it is important not to fool ourselves into thinking it will automatically be easier.

When combining, it’s important not to fool ourselves into thinking it will automatically be easier because it is one program to teach vs. several programs to teach. Sometimes just finishing the 4-year-old’s school in 30 minutes, and finishing the 6-year-old’s school in 2 1/2 hours because that’s where they place best, is super easy compared to trying to slow things down so the 4-year-old can catch up to the 6-year-old, or trying to rush along the 4-year-old to catch up to the 6-year-old.

Combining can be the perfect answer for children who are close in abilities, who work well together, and who place in similar guides anyway.

Other times, combining is the perfect answer for children are close in abilities, work well together, and place in similar guides anyway. I will say either way, the single biggest factor in making homeschooling multiple children easier is when children reach the age of being able to read materials on their own – both directions in guides and materials in living books – they do so. The next biggest factor would be when they are writing fairly well on their own, they do so. It is necessary for children to move toward this independence in their learning as along with it comes age appropriate skills. I hope this helps as you consider what’s best for your children – whether it is combining, or not combining!

In Christ,
Julie

P.S. Outside circumstances also can play a part in whether or not to consider combining (i.e. working outside the home many hours, children with health concerns with many doctor’s appointments, being in poor health yourself, and having a very large family and being stretched thin, etc). Thinking back to the wonderful ladies I’ve met at book fairs, on the phone, and online, these are also important things to consider when choosing whether to combine or not.

How do I have 2 children I am combining in one guide both orally narrate?

Dear Carrie,

We are enjoying Little Hands to Heaven with our 4 year old daughter so much! My 7 year old and 9 year old daughters are also nicely combined in Bigger Hearts for His Glory.  As my 7 year old is advanced in reading and writing and my 9 year old is more on grade level overall, they are combined nicely with one another!  The only area I am unsure how to handle with 2 children in one guide is oral narrations. How do I have 2 children I’m combining in one Heart of Dakota guide both orally narrate?

Each of them is a bit competitive!  They annoy one another when I ask them to narrate. For example, the younger one remembers a point and interrupts the older one to share it.  The older one gets frustrated by this. Should I read half of an assignment, and have one narrate? Then, should I finish the reading, and have the other narrate the second half? Or, since my older is almost 10 and is also doing the extensions, should I have her do narrations just from that material? Or, should I just have one narrate one day, and the other narrate the next? Help! Thanks for any help!

Sincerely,

“Double Narration Dilemma”

Dear “Double Narration Dilemma,”

Charlotte Mason herself was often faced with this same dilemma when working with children! As always she had a clever way of handing this dilemma! She suggested having a red bean and a blue bean in your pocket for narration time. Then, she assigned each child a color of a bean. Randomly, she would pull one bean out at narration time, and the child assigned that color would narrate. In this way, whoever ends up narrating is the “luck of the draw!”

A few colors of beads or unifix cubes solves the dilemma of having 2 children narrate when combining them!

You can have as many colors of beans (or colored unifix cubes or whatever you can put in your pocket to represent various children) as you have narrators. If the same child has to narrate twice in a row, then that’s the way it is! Charlotte Mason did say that the other listeners can have a chance AT THE END of the narration to add any missed details (or a few subtle corrections done lovingly). Using this method, every child prepares to narrate!  This helps each child focus on the reading carefully every time, in case the parent draws his/her color bead and calls on him/her to narrate!

Hope that helps!

Carrie

P.S.  To see where your children would place best in Heart of Dakota, click here!

P.S.S.  To read some thoughts about whether combining would work well for your family or not, click here!

P.S.S.S.  To see where summarizing comes into narrating, click here!