Summer is good time to work on keyboarding

Teaching Tip

Summer is good time to work on keyboarding skills.

Summer is a wonderful time to work on skills that will help your child during the school year. One skill that we’ve worked on with our older kiddos during the summer is keyboarding.

How much time is needed to see progress?

It is amazing how much progress can be made with just 10-15 min. of steady practice each day. We set a timer and have our older boys practice typing Monday-Friday during the summer months.

What can you use to teach keyboarding?

We happen to use and enjoy Typing Instructor, but you can use any program that works well for your family. Just be sure that your kiddos are placing their fingers in the correct positions on the keyboard.

What are the benefits?

Strong keyboarding skills are a huge help during the school year as students type their essays and writing projects! Teach it this summer and reap the rewards when school rolls around again.

Blessings,
Carrie

A little bit of playtime can go a long way!

Teaching Tip

A little bit of playtime can go a long way!

If you have little ones, here’s a tip you can put into practice during summer break! This summer, train your little ones to have a 20-30 minute playtime alone in a designated safe area at least once daily.  For really young ones, the playpen or the crib can serve as the designated area.  For kiddos aged 3 or older, a gated play area can work well. For kiddos closer to school-age, playtime in their bedroom can be an option.

What can the kiddos do during this designated playtime?

During playtime in the designated area, we had certain toys for the child to play with during that time. When the kids were younger, we kept those toys/books in 5 lidded storage tubs numbered days 1-5.  Each day, we just pulled out the next numbered tub. We stored the tubs under our bed. When the kiddos got older, we listed safe toys from our playroom on index cards numbered 1-5 instead. We placed the index cards on a ring on our fridge.  We flipped to a new card each day to know which toys to set out for playtime for that day.

Focus on getting your young ones to have some playtime alone in a safe space.

There are many different variations you could use to accomplish this goal.  The focus needs to be on the little one having a bit of playtime alone in a safe environment. This is so helpful during the school year and makes for a happy little one and a happy mama! Don’t despair if the training takes some time. Just remember you are training for the future.

Blessings,
Carrie

PS: Looking for more ways to utilize playtime to keep your days running smoothly? Check out this Teaching Tip!

Teaching Boys Good Habits Right Away

Pondering Placement for Boys

Teaching Boys Good Habits Right Away

I bought Heart of Dakota’s Little Hands to Heaven (LHTH) for my 3 turning 4-year old son. When it came time to start, he fought me on it! He was not excited to start like his sister was at that age. So, after a few days I set it aside. Since then, he has shown interest in the R & S Workbooks. He does them really well when he wants. He sees his older siblings doing their guides and has gotten more interested. So, we tried doing the first week of LHTH again. He just doesn’t seem as engaged as his older sisters were. I am doing Little Hearts for His Glory (LHFHG) with my 6 year-old daughter, but I don’t think that would be a good fit for him yet. It is too advanced for him. What should I do?

Carrie’s Reply in Regard to Teaching Boys:

I’ll share a few things I’ve discovered in my homeschool journey with my own 4 boys. One thing to be aware of is that many little boys will battle you just to battle. They have in their little minds what they want to do (which often is play), and they don’t want to be told otherwise. It’s important to remember that with homeschooling your role has shifted now with you being both the teacher and the mama.

Teaching Boys the Habit of Respectful Obedience

One thing that helps my boys is for me to tell them that if they went to school, they would have to do what their teacher said. When they are at home, the same is true now, because I am their teacher. This means when I tell them to do something, I expect them to respect me and obey. If they do not obey, there will be consequences. At our house, for a quick effective consequence, we had our little boys stand with their nose in the corner for not obeying. We had them stand 30 seconds up to a minute for each year of their age. They were not to look out from the corner, or we would start the timer again. When they came out of the corner, they needed to say why they were there and then apologize and behave differently. If not, it was back to the corner. For us, that was very effective.

How Carpet Squares Help Little Boys Focus

Next, for my little ones, I got a carpet square for them to sit on (one per child). I sat on my own carpet square. This delineates a space for them to be. To start our LHTH, we always got out the carpet squares and sat down. Then, we read the Bible story first. I held up the Bible and showed the pictures to my little one. He stayed on his carpet square, and I stayed on mine. This effectively ended all wrestling that had previously happened when I tried to keep my little one on my lap, and also ended any rolling around on the floor!

This also helped our boys see me as the teacher!

This also showed me as the teacher sharing the book with him. It helped establish my role. Honestly, teaching LHTH is much more about establishing your role as a teacher than it is about tricking your child into having fun. Your child will eventually have fun doing LHTH, once your role is established. Until then, your son will battle you for control by simply refusing and complaining. After I read the Bible story, then I asked the questions. I expected some answer, but I didn’t drag the activity out. Next, we put on the music and marched around the room while it played. We marched in a circle and kept even the marching in control (i.e. no falling down on the ground, pushing, etc.). I marched too.

Thoughts on Boys and the Fingerplays

Then, we came back to our carpet squares and did the fingerplay. My boys had to participate, or we would start over. I said a line and did the motion, then they said a line and did the motion (echo style). We did this the first 2-3 days of the fingerplay. The last 2-3 days we did it together with no echoing. They had two chances to start right in with me, or they went to the corner. I don’t allow any eye-rolling or silliness with the fingerplay, but we did have fun and smile.

The fingerplays actually are meant for the two sides of the brain to communicate with one another doing both sounds and motions at the same time. This takes coordination of the two sides of the brain, making the fingerplays have a hidden element. The motions also provide a great cuing system for the sounds later when your child begins to read. We only did the fingerplay once, so the whole activity even with echoing was over in just minutes. My boys need to be able to do what I tell them for just a few minutes cheerfully, even if it something happens not to be their favorite thing. This is because my time is important, and as a teacher I expect to be obeyed.

Boys and Hands-on Activities

Next, we went on to the letter activity or the hands-on activity. We typically left the more art-oriented things (or things needing to be done at the table) to be done last. In this way, we moved to the table last of all. Boys tend to love hands-on activities, so they would often keep enjoying this activity while I moved on to teaching an older son!

You can start LHTH half-speed to help train your son.

For now, I would work on doing LHTH at half-speed, doing 3 boxes each day. I would work on having your son come to school right when you call him and work on making sure he obeys you. To help him obey, I would make sure to do his school in the morning at about the same time, so he knows it is coming. Boys do better knowing what is coming! If he does not obey, I would warn him once and then give an effective, quick consequence each time he does not obey. You may find yourself giving more consequences than doing school right now. However, keep your cool and stay calm. If you do use the corner, then when he returns, after he apologizes, cheerfully go back to the school again.

Boys don’t like to be randomly pulled away from playing to do school, so routine helps.

Make sure that you do not pull him away from play randomly to do school, or he will really battle you. Instead, have his school begin after he has just completed something that has a definite ending point, like an educational DVD. Keep his routine the same, so he knows that school always comes after the same thing in his day. You want him to expect school and know it is coming.

Boys rarely battle when they see you as the teacher with an established routine to follow.

I say all of this to help you see that LHTH is about training your son to see you as the teacher and to obey you the first time you ask him to do something. This is so important to his schooling to come and will save you many battles along the way in the future. If you don’t feel that you want to train him now, then don’t start LHTH. When you do start, know you are about the training and will need to devote time to it each day. My hope is to give you some practical advice that helped me be a better teacher. I enjoy school with my older sons today, because the routine was established when they were younger. We battle very little with our older ones thanks to the foundation laid in the younger years.

Blessings,
Carrie

Stop a wandering mind by teaching the habit of attention!

More than a Charlotte Mason Moment 

Stop a wandering mind by teaching the habit of attention!

Charlotte Mason spent much time focusing on the habit of attention. She explained that children should endeavor to stay focused on a subject, rather than allow their minds to wander to and fro, seizing upon any thought that pops into their heads. While children may have fascinating thoughts and ideas, they must be taught to keep focused on the subject at hand, rather than on giving into a wandering mind. The good news is a child’s wandering mind can be stopped. But how? Well, by teaching the habit of attention!

Children must be trained to have the habit of attention.

Teaching our children the habit of attention can be a difficult task. Children must be trained to stay focused. It is important they realize that allowing their mind to wander is a choice. Likewise, keeping their mind on the task at hand is a choice. Children need to be taught that they control their thoughts. Thoughts can flitter, wandering to and fro, going nowhere and accomplishing nothing. Or, thoughts can stay attentive, be on task, and accomplish great things! Children – as well as adults – will find that whatever they pursue in life comes much easier with the habit of attention firmly intact and the wandering mind held at bay. So, the first step to teaching the habit of attention is to simply help children understand they control their thoughts. A wandering mind is a bad habit to be fixed, and the habit of attention can fix it!

Tip #1: Keep lessons short and gradually increase the amount of time spent on them each year.

Lessons should be kept short and in keeping with age and maturity. Preschool children’s lessons should be kept to about 5 minutes each, just as they are in each box of plans in Heart of Dakota‘s Little Hands to Heaven. Children’s lessons in kindergarten and first grade can be increased to about 10-15 minutes each, just as they are in each box of plans in HOD‘s Little Hearts and Beyond Little Hearts guides. As children mature, lessons can be gradually lengthened each year. By the time students reach high school, lessons can be lengthened to an hour at a time. Little by little, by increasing the length of lessons each year, Heart of Dakota helps children find success with the habit of attention. This is one reason it is important to do HOD’s guides in order of difficulty; it naturally supports the habit of attention!

Tip #2: Set a timer so children know about how long they should be expected to maintain attention and complete a task.

Children with wandering minds are often unaware of the passage of time. They begin a lesson that should take 20 minutes only to find an hour later they are nowhere near done. Why? They have not learned the habit of attention. Their minds have wandered away from the task at hand. Setting a timer lets children know how long they must maintain attention to complete their task. It gives them a goal they can achieve.

Tip #3: Alternate the kinds of lessons by carefully planning their order.

Children’s minds are prone to wander when doing a lot of seat work all in a row. Movement is important! Blessedly, HOD’s plans incorporate purposeful movement in projects, activities, experiments, etc. It just makes good sense to follow reading on the couch with a hands-on project, or seat work at the table with an experiment. Likewise, it is important to alternate disciplinary and inspirational subjects. We should not expect our children to display the habit of attention seated at the same table for hours and hours. By carefully planning the order of their ‘boxes’ of plans in HOD, rather than randomly moving through them in no particular order, we can better train our children to have the habit of attention. Likewise, by moving from place to place in our homes, we can signal the start and finish of lessons, and the expected amount of time to maintain attention for each.

Tip #4: Don’t stop and explain, and try not to repeat yourself.

Charlotte Mason stressed the importance of not stopping to explain. For example, when reading aloud, she did not stop to explain unknown words or seemingly difficult concepts. Why? The natural flow of the story is lost. Furthermore, the attention of the child is diverted. Have you ever been listening to someone tell a story, only to have them stop and start repeatedly? By the end, you’ve lost focus. They’ve lost focus. You might even both be weary of the whole thing. The same is true when giving directions. Read them once as fluidly as possible, having the child follow along in the HOD guide (if he/she is of reading age). Then, give the HOD guide to the child, so he/she can reference the written directions. This prevents the child from having to ask you to repeat directions, as he/she can plainly see them in the guide.

Remember, before you expect great changes…

Before you expect great changes in your children, make sure you do what you can to set them up for success! Let them know they control their thoughts, and a wandering mind is a bad habit that can be replaced with the habit of attention. Make sure they are placed in the right guide for their age, so their lessons are kept to a realistic amount of time. Set a timer, so they can see how long they should strive to pay attention to complete a task. Make a schedule that rotates seat work with movement, and disciplinary subjects with inspirational subjects. Finally, try not to stop to explain or repeat directions. Instead, keep things fluid and leave the guide’s written directions for help. Before you expect great changes, be sure you are doing what you can to help them form the habit of attention.

Charlotte Mason Quotes About the Habit of Attention

“Much must go before and along with a vigorous will if it is to be a power in the ruling of conduct. For instance, the man must have acquired the habit of attention, the great importance of which we have already considered. There are bird-witted people, who have no power of thinking connectedly for five minutes under any pressure, from within or from without. If they have never been trained to apply the whole of their mental faculties to a given subject, why, no energy of will, supposing they had it, which is impossible, could make them think steadily thoughts of their own choosing or of anyone else’s.” (Charlotte Mason, Volume 1, p. 326).

Attention is no more than this—the power of giving your mind to what you are about.  (Charlotte Mason, Vol. 5, p. 29)

In the first place, never let the child dawdle over copybook or sum, sit dreaming with his book before him. When a child grows stupid over a lesson, it is time to put it away. Let him do another lesson as unlike the last as possible, and then go back with freshened wits to his unfinished task. (Charlotte Mason, Vol. 1, p. 141)

For whatever the natural gifts of the child, it is only so far as the habit of attention is cultivated in him that he is able to make use of them. (Charlotte Mason, Vol. 1, p. 146)

In Christ,

Julie

Habit Training for Children Using Visual Aids

From Our House to Yours

Habit Training for Children Using Visual Aids

Charlotte Mason was an advocate of training children to have good habits in all areas of life, including personal hygiene. I have tried to train our sons to have good habits in this area from a young age. Rather than sporadically asking whether they have done something or not, I have found it is better to have a more planned way of checking this. I have also found it is helpful to have a visual, printed reminder of the habits expected. This way, I know there is no confusion what habits are expected. Likewise, I can have different expectations for good habits based on each child’s age. Below, you can see one of my first charts for our sons when they were little. I laminated the chart and posted it in the boys’ bathroom. They checked it off each day with a dry erase marker. The pictures really helped!

A Tear-Off Pad for Personal Hygiene and for Chores

One year, I made a tear-off pad of colored notes for our sons’ habits of personal hygiene. I also added their chores to the list. Each son had his own pad of paper to check off, with his own age appropriate hygiene and chore habits. I took the pads of paper to a local office store and had them compile them like sticky-note tear-off pads. I gave each son a pad with a different color of paper. Each day, I had them check off their tasks as they were completed. When their tasks were done, they tore off their papers and handed them in on the counter before breakfast. I loved not talking about these things every day! It was easy for me to see if they had completed their tasks or not. Either their paper was on the counter, or it wasn’t!

Charts to Encourage the Habits of Good Personal Hygiene and Picked-Up Bedrooms

As our children grow, I found I wanted to encourage them in other habits, like keeping their rooms picked up. Little ones can just begin with putting their toys in a basket in their room. They can also be taught to pull their blankets on their bed up and smooth them. These little things make a big difference in how picked up a room looks! As children get older, they need to take on more responsibilities for keep their rooms neat. If they are sharing a room, I have found this habit of picking up even more important to teach! Invariably it seems one child is neat, and the other is not. Sharing a bedroom can be a real source of frustration! Below you will see one of the charts I used to encourage both good personal hygiene and picked-up bedrooms.

Charts on the Fridge with Magnets 

One year, I posted charts on our fridge.  I included personal hygiene, chores, and bedroom clean-up habits. All of the magnets were placed on the right “DO” column before I went to bed. Then, the next morning as the boys completed their tasks, they moved their magnets from the right “DO”column to the left “DONE” column. They enjoyed the magnets, and I liked being able to see at a quick glance what still needed to be done. Now that our sons are older, I just have a quick chart we use. Some days I use the chart, but many days our sons take turns grabbing the chart and being the checker. I think all the previous years of visual charts for personal hygiene, chores, and room clean-up have made this task super easy!  Hope one of these ideas can help you instill the habits you want to in your children!

In Christ,

Julie