Should I combine my high school students for electives?

Dear Carrie

Should I combine my high school students for electives, or is this more of a headache?

Dear Carrie,

I am wondering if I should combine my high school students for electives next year? My son will be doing Heart of Dakota’s World Geography in 9th grade. My daughter will be doing Heart of Dakota’s World History in 10th grade. So, I could have my 9th grader skip World Religion and Cultures (WRC) and Logic, to do Fine Arts and Health with his older sister. I had her do the WRC study and Logic this year. I would then have him do those two credits as a senior, since he will have done all the rest of the electives alongside his sister. The bonus would be that by that time, his younger brother would be in 9th grade, so he could do those with him. Would there be any benefit to choosing to combine my high school students for electives, or would it be more of a headache? Thanks so much for your help, Carrie!

Sincerely,

“Ms. to Combine or Not to Combine for Electives”

Dear “Ms. to Combine or Not to Combine for Electives,”

I can definitely see the reasons why you are considering combining your students for electives!  I’ll share a few thoughts that may help as you ponder what is right for your family. From a typical school perspective, electives are often just what they are named… elective credits.  In other words, these are credits that your student (or you as the parent) elect to include. These typically are not as necessary or as important as the required coursework.

HOD electives complement or enhance the credits already being earned in the rest of the guide.

I think what makes HOD electives unique is we designed the elective credits within each HOD guide to complement or enhance credits already being earned in the rest of the guide. So, we chose them to specifically be done in a certain year of study because they are more meaningful when combined with the other learning within the guide. We weighed subject content, time period, topic, or previous knowledge that we desire the student to have exposure to prior to completing the elective.

The World Religions and Cultures elective is partnered well with World Geography.

For example, the World Religions and Cultures elective will make much more sense and contain deeper connections when completed alongside the World Geography study. I wrote the two courses to complement one another. This foundation in World Religions and Cultures is also hugely helpful to have prior to progressing into World History the following year.

The Health elective is partnered well with World History’s Biology.

Another example is the Health elective in the World History guide. This study was written alongside the Biology study because the two courses complement each other very well. I also wouldn’t want a child below the World History level to study the Health too early, as it contains many mature topics that are better suited for an older student who is also currently studying the content within a biology course.

The Fine Arts elective pairs well with World History, and the Government and Constitutional Literacy electives pair well with USI.

The Fine Arts elective in the World History guide pairs very well with the study of World History. This is because study of the art and artists makes so much more sense within the framework of the study of history. Yet another example is the Government and Constitutional Literacy credits within the USI guide. The Constitutional Literacy credit is very challenging and definitely needs the Government study alongside it in order to make sense of what is being studied about the Constitution and the law. Both have overlap with the U.S. History study, and so together the three work to provide a fuller picture of the formation and governing of our nation.

Elective credits get progressively more difficult.

Another aspect of elective credit that is different in HOD is that the credits get progressively more difficult as the student’s critical thinking abilities, maturity, and level of academic skills rise. This is an often overlooked aspect when selecting electives, but in HOD it is very important. For example, the Logic study within the World Geography guide is scheduled at a time when students are ready to think more critically and logically. The fallacies students learn to spot in this guide are excellent training in how to think sequentially and logically, which is of benefit as students progress in the guides into more assignments that require these skills.

The World Religions and Cultures credit in the first year of study is meant to be easier than the Fine Arts and Health credits that are in the second year of study. The Government and Constitutional Literacy credits are meant to be much more challenging than the previous credits, which is why they are scheduled within the third year of study. Students below the third year of study would find these courses quite difficult, without first gaining the skills and knowledge within the World History guide (of various governments and types of law in past history – and their positives and negatives – and resulting successes or failures.)

Credits rise in difficulty and connect to other subjects.

So, within HOD, credits such as these are selected to rise in difficulty and to connect to other subjects scheduled within the guide. To do these credits out of order means that the harder credits may be done before we planned and that the easier credits may be done later than we planned. It also means that the connections and foundation we are planning for the student to have will not be there.

Electives play an important part in the intended balance within each guide.

The last thing to consider is the balance within each guide and the role that the elective credits play within that balance. Just as within any other HOD guide, all areas within the high school HOD guides are designed to complement and balance one another in reading level, quantity of pages, whether or not DVD viewing is included, the involvement level of the parent in the subject, the amount of writing required to complete the subject, and the way the assessments are handled. When courses are shifted from one guide to another, this balance is affected.

Elective credits are to be used in order, if possible, for these reasons.

So, while you can certainly do as desired with these credits, when writing the guide it was not my intention that the elective credits be used out of order for these reasons. It is no different in high school, with HOD, than it is with previous guides when it comes to borrowing subjects from one guide to add to another. It would honestly be easier to borrow a language arts, math, or science credit from another guide than it would be to shift around many of the elective credits.

I realize families who need only certain credits for graduation may need to tweak credits.

I do realize that for some families coming late to HOD, or for those families who need only certain specific credits for graduation, there may be more tweaking involved to get the needed credits. In those situations, my advice would differ in order to help the families get the credits they need in the least confusing way. I was thinking though, based on what you’d shared thus far, that wasn’t the situation you were asking about for your family. I hope this helps as you ponder what to do with electives!

Blessings,

Carrie

Orally Narrating from a Living Book with Multiple Proper Nouns

Dear Carrie

How can I help my daughter orally narrate from a living book with multiple proper nouns and less of a ‘flow’ of one storyline?

Dear Carrie,

We have completed Unit 2 of Heart of Dakota’s high school World Geography. I’m happy to say my daughter is enjoying it and doing well! Having said that, I’ve looked ahead and read some of A Book of Discovery myself. I can see this book is living, but it doesn’t have the same ‘flow’ of one storyline as some of the other living books. Though it is narrative, the author uses a huge quantity of proper nouns. Some we’ve heard of, and some not. I see in Unit 3, you walk students through a model of sorts to categorize the information. Extremely helpful, Carrie – thank you! So, I now come to my question. How can I help my daughter orally narrate from a living book with lots of proper nouns and less of a ‘flow’ of one storyline?

Sincerely,

“Ms. Please Help with Narrating a Living Book with Multiple Proper Nouns”

Dear “Ms. Please Help with Narrating a Living Book with Multiple Proper Nouns,”

This is a great question! As we head into the high school years, the books do get more challenging! They do include more proper nouns in the form of names, dates, places, etc. So, while I agree this is a living book, I also agree that it has a more challenging feel to it with all of the factual information wound within its pages. You will also notice as you progress through this book that the chapters vary as to how many different episodes or events are contained within them. Consequently, your student’s narrations will really vary as well!

Students practice different types of oral narrations and eventually learn which type fits each book the best.

Learning to narrate from a book such as this is great practice, as the coming books at the high school level will contain this upped level of challenge too. You will notice that we vary the types of oral narrations in this guide, teaching 5 different types of oral narrations. In World History, we teach 6 types. In U.S. History I, we teach 7 types of oral narration. Finally, in U.S. History II, we teach 8 types of oral narration. This just shows that when narrating, there are many different ways to approach narration (and they are all viable). But, as students practice these varying types of narrating, they will also eventually learn what type of narration best fits each type of book.

In U.S. History I, we take the 7 types of oral narrations and have students practice 7 different types of written narrations.

To give you a glimpse down the road, in the U.S. History I guide, we also take those 7 types of oral narrations and have kiddos practice doing 7 different types of written narrations. We purposefully wait until the U.S. History I guide to have students do this task, as we are desiring for them to practice orally narrating in various ways for years prior to doing a specific type of written narration. We are also desiring for students to have much practice in open-ended written narrations prior to be asked to write a specific type of written narration.

Students can experiment with different kinds of written narrations in World Geography, which will help their oral narrations.

So, with all of this in mind, I would encourage your daughter to experiment with her written narrations in the World Geography guide. It is fine to try summary-style narrations and descriptive narrations. It is fine to narrate more fully upon one episode that struck her or to insert her opinions within the narrations. She can practice in learning to use transition sentences as well, as she tries to link the paragraphs in their narration together in a cohesive fashion.

These skills students hone as they try to figure out how to narrate in writing upon a variety of authors and styles is good practice for future learning. They will truly sift and sort and find what works for each book they encounter, but it takes time to find the pattern that works for each author. The skills are in the sifting and sorting and are also in borrowing some of the author’s style!

Students’ practice with different oral narrations makes the transition to different written narrations seamless.

To encourage you, I will share that I saw the fruit of all the different oral narrations in my own son. When he began the U.S. History I guide, he did not balk at writing the written narrations in a certain style each week. The oral narrations he had practiced for years earlier made the transition seamless. I could also see that his wheels were turning as to what type of narration would work best for each type of book. That son is now in college and just recently passed the CLEP test for English Composition quite easily!

So, these skills taught in World Geography on up are great life preparation and great college preparation too. They prepare kiddos to write at the drop of a hat in a variety of styles in response to all different types of authors. It is a very different education than the one that I received, but I have seen the benefits firsthand!

Blessings,

Carrie

World Geography Integrated Physics and Chemistry Questions

Dear Carrie

Are the activity sheets in Integrated Physics and Chemistry ‘open book,’ and do we need to do the quizzes and tests? 

Dear Carrie,

We are just starting Heart of Dakota‘s Hearts for Him Through High School World Geography. I am a bit confused about the Integrated Physics and Chemistry materials. Can you help? I guess I have 2 questions! First, are the “activity sheets” found in the IPC activities books that are to be completed after the lesson’s reading supposed to be “open book”?  The instructions say read the material through once, then read the material again while answering the activity questions. So that seems to imply “open book”, but I wanted to be sure.  Second, do we need to do the quizzes and tests? It doesn’t say anything about them, nor do I see them mentioned in the detailed grading suggestions, but I wanted to be sure. Many thanks!

Sincerely,

“Ms. Please Help Me with Integrated Physics and Chemistry”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Me with Integrated Physics and Chemistry,”

Great questions! As far as the activity books go, the students are definitely meant to refer back to their reading as they complete the follow-up questions.

We do not include the tests or quizzes simply due to the very rigorous schedule we use to complete the materials in a single year. Tiner’s Integrated Physics and Chemistry course contains 12 chapters, with 742 pages of physics and chemistry related-topics. There are 180 individual readings in the course, each taking up 4-5 pages. The content coverage is very solid, as you can imagine with this many pages of text!   We use all 12 chapters of the text, which results in 1-2 readings a day on most days. We also use all of the accompanying activity books as a follow-up to the readings.

A Note on Awarding Credits for Integrated Physics and Chemistry

The publisher mentions that two credits could be awarded for the Integrated Physics and Chemistry coursework, with one credit for intro to physics and another credit for intro to chemistry. After having each of our own oldest three sons do all 12 chapters of the IPC course during their freshman year, we feel with the time it took to complete the course that awarding only 1 credit is more in alignment with typical high school standards. However, it is one very full credit!

A Note on the Labwork That Has Been Added to Integrated Physics and Chemistry

Since Tiner’s text does not include labwork, in order to include labs, we added the MicroPhySci Kit from Quality Science Labs. This makes the Integrated Physics and Chemistry course a lab science. The kit includes 36 labs and a complete lab manual for recording results. Each lab lasts approximately 45 min – 1 hour and does include science/mathematical formulas and calculations. With the addition of the 36 labs, decisions had to made as far as what to forego in order to complete the course in a year. If you feel strongly about giving the tests or quizzes, you may certainly add those back in! We have found the course to be more than enough as written in the World Geography guide!

We pray your student enjoys the IPC course as much as our sons have! We have had 3 of our boys go through it now at different times, and all have thoroughly enjoyed the course!

Blessings,
Carrie

P.S. To read more about World Geography, click here!

P.S.S. To read more about HOD in general, click here!

How should I give high school grades?

Dear Carrie

How exactly should I give high school grades?

Dear Carrie,

I have questions about how “exactly” I should give high school grades for the Heart of Dakota World Geography guide. I’ve read on the Heart of Dakota message board how some are using online assignment tracking programs for keeping records, and others are making a copy of the WG Introduction and using the suggested grading pages from the guide. We’ve been homeschooling from the start, but this is our very first year of high school. So, I want to make sure we’re doing everything right. Our state doesn’t require much from us. However, I know later for college I’ll need to show good records for transcripts to prove what he’s learned. I’m in the process of making myself a plan book of sorts to keep organized. I’m planning on including pages to record his grades. So, my question is, “How exactly should I give high school grades?”

Sincerely,
“Ms. Please Help Me Give High School Grades”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Me Give High School Grades,”

I think one thing to weigh as you are keeping grades is your own comfort level in how much documentation you feel you need in order to accurately give a grade. This will vary from person to person. What one person considers a necessity will quickly become an overwhelming burden for another. So, it is important to find your own personal comfort level. By giving you the parameters for grading and showing how each grade is derived in the World Geography guide’s Introduction, we have given you clear guidelines to prove how you arrived at your grade for any school district or state advisor that may be looking over your high school plan. This lends credibility to your grade and is actually what more advisors are concerned with, much more so than desiring to see your record-keeping in the day-to-day.

Colleges are more interested in ACT and SAT scores than in viewing your grade book.

Another very important thing that I will share is that it would be very unexpected for a college to ever ask you to show your grade book or prove how you arrived at your grade for any course. Instead, no matter what your transcript grades are, they will be viewed as less important than an ACT or SAT score, simply because your child was homeschooled and colleges need a comparison grade (which is what the ACT and SAT provide).

Other times, colleges may have an entrance exam for certain coursework to help in proper placement. This is also an equalizer. Before we get too worried about this though, it is good to remember that ACT and SAT scores carry a lot of weight for all students applying to college, whether they are homeschooled, privately schooled, or publicly schooled. This is because it is a comparison score where all students have taken a similar test in a similar stage of life.

Focus on your teaching, and keep your grading process streamlined.

With all of this in mind, I typically try not to complicate the grading process too much. Otherwise, I bog down in the process (and miss the teaching because I’m overwhelmed with the grading). In the end, your time will be better spent teaching and guiding then recording results. You may find that some of the extras you’ve designed give you comfort in the beginning and then are no longer needed as you proceed.

You don’t need to spend countless hours on your record-keeping, when it is likely that no one but you will ever look it over. Instead, you should focus on the teaching and keep your grading process streamlined. You will have more than enough completed work from your child to show, should you ever actually be asked to prove what your child did. An advisor will never ask to see your grade book. Instead, if proof is needed, an advisor will need to see the work your student has done.

Remember, you are a teacher, and your best time is spent teaching.

To help you as you ponder what record-keeping route to take, think about teachers in a classroom. Imagine how teachers keep grades for 150 students or more a day. Then, implement something reasonable like that in your own home. Do not make more work for yourself than is needed. Remember that you are a teacher, which means that your best time is spent teaching.

I use the grading sheets in the Introduction, and I spend my time helping each student meet a higher standard of work.

I do not use anything beyond the grading sheets provided in the front of our World Geography Guide. You may or may not be comfortable going that route. I encourage you to weigh what benefit hours spent creating grading sheets gives your child? For me, I require my sons’ work to be excellent, and if it is not, I make them redo it. This means that instead of spending time completing a grading sheet over each piece of work, I am spending time sitting with each child going over each part of their assignment and helping them correct it to meet a higher standard of work.

I employed this same strategy in the classroom during my teaching days in the public school. Over time, my kiddos begin working at that higher standard, simply so that they do not have to go back and continually redo. I do not spend time keeping a first and a second grade for their work and then averaging the two. Instead, I simply have them redo to fix it right away.

Effort is worth something too.

Admittedly, each child’s “higher standard” will be different based on what that child truly can and cannot do in a particular subject area. But effort is worth something too, and it definitely plays a role. If the subject is a true area of struggle for your child, you will know it going into the subject and it will reveal itself to be so as you progress through it. At that point, effort can make or break a grade bringing it up some or lowering it down some. Some subjects like math and grammar are very easy to grade. Others that are more subjective are subjective no matter how many grading sheets we create or complete. In the end, a certain amount of every grade is a judgment call. This is one area in which you will become more comfortable the more years you teach.

Remember to teach first and track last.

So, there is my take on the matter. Just remember that you need to teach, facilitate, and guide to be a teacher. Otherwise, you have become a tracker instead of a teacher. While tracking is one part of teaching, if you become too extensive of a tracker and the teaching time is lost, you may quickly find that you burn out. So, remember to teach first and track last. The tracking is just a reflection of your time spent teaching and guiding. It is meant to jog your memory as to the quality of the work or to give a quick check that the work was completed to an acceptable standard. You will find your comfort level in this as you progress!

Blessings,

Carrie

Step into Your Future with Confidence and Conviction with U.S. History II for High School

From Our House to Yours

Prepare to step into the future with confidence and conviction with U.S. History II!

Heart of Dakota’s U.S. History II prepares soon-to-graduate high school students to courageously step into their future with confidence and conviction! U.S. History II brings America’s complete story into perspective, while still sharing the Christian foundations it was built upon. It fully prepares students to go forth into the world armed with faith and knowledge, knowing the Lord has plans to prosper them, and to give them hope and a future!

So, what credits are covered in U.S. History II?

Well, students actually can earn up to 7 full credits in U.S. History II.  Credits include the following:

  • U.S. History II (1 full credit)
  • Bible (1 full credit)
  • Economics (1/2 credit)
  • Finance (1/2 credit)
  • Speech (1/2 credit)
  • Spanish or Latin/Greek (1/2 credit)
  • English (1 full credit)
  • Math (1 full credit)
  • Science with lab (1 full credit)

This guide is written for students ages 16-18 or older. There are 4 days of plans each week, and they are all noted on a 2-page spread. Finally, students can expect to spend about 6-7 hours, 4 days a week, to complete their work.

Let’s take a closer look at the “Learning Through History” part of the plans!

The “Learning Through History” part of the plans begins with William J. Bennett’s America : The Last Best Hope Vol. II.  With expert storytelling, Bennett recounts the last century’s great wars, the rise of Communism, the struggle for for freedom, and the triumph of liberty. Next, stepping in to join Bennett’s narration is Linda Hobar, author of Mystery of History. Hobar tells the story both of the ‘wars of the world” and the “wars of ideologies.” She then moves on to modern day conflicts.  Along this chronological journey, students are asked to make Key Decisions in U.S. History. To do this, they use Great Documents in U.S. History, Great Letters in American History, and The American Testimony DVD Set 2. Similarly, Living Library readings further enhance this journey through time, making it even more memorable!

What do students do in the “Learning Through History” part of the plans?

U.S. History II contains skills that certainly help students prepare for their future post high school. Within journal entries, students analyze multiple primary source documents and take graphic organizer style notes from DVD viewings. They also write multi-paragraph narrations, interpret maps, and write supported answers to critical thinking questions regarding U.S. documents. Students analyze key decisions in U.S. History, and they write their own opinions using excerpts to support their conclusions. They also share history-related talking points and use quotations in context.  Finally, students complete assessments such as key word, summary, detailed, topic, typed opinion, persuasive, recorded, oral, and multi-paragraph written narrations, which certainly keeps the Charlotte Mason flavor of the plans intact.

Economics and Foreign Language are part of the plans too!

Economics and Foreign Language are included in the plans as well.  For Economics, students explore God’s principles for living a life of liberty, prosperity, and generosity in Money-Wise DVD viewing sessions. In Money Matters for Teens, students gain Bible-based wisdom from financial expert Larry Burkett. Next, in The Myth of the Robber Barons, students learn the difference between market entrepreneurs and political entrepreneurs. Then, students Solve the Money Mystery with “Uncle Eric” and Bluestocking Guide’s author Kathryn Daniels. Students put their newfound Economics knowledge to the test by answering “Thought Questions” about articles by noted economists in Economics: A Free Market Reader. They complete quizzes, semester tests, and a final exam in Intro to Economics. Finally, students round out the left side of the plans by completing either Spanish or Latin/Greek.

What do students do in the “Learning the Basics” part of the plans?

The “Learning the Basics” part of the plans teach essential skills that meet academic and spiritual needs. First, students learn how to share and defend their faith in I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. Next for their devotionals, daughters partner with parents in Girl Talk, and sons partner with parents in Created for Work.  Then, students join Dave Ramsey to build a promising future with Foundations in Personal Finance.  After that, they learn to become confident speech-givers via Secrets of the Great Communicators and How to Become a Dynamic Speaker. Then, students dig into science with our Astronomy and Geology and Paleontology study and lab. Finally, students enjoy a balanced language arts program. This includes incredible Charlotte Mason-inspired British literature plans, R & S English lessons, and dictation passages. Consequently, students can expect an amazing year of learning!

In Christ,

Julie