Graduation for Homeschool Students

From Our House to Yours

Our oldest son is 18 years old and just completed his last Heart of Dakota guide!  It is hard to believe he is graduating.  He has done every HOD guide from PreK through 12th grade, and the years have truly flown by.  We are so proud of him!  Homeschool graduations can be celebrated many different ways. To show one way, I thought for this post I would share some of the things we are doing for graduation.

Take pictures earlier in the year if you can!

Last October a good friend of ours took Wyatt’s pictures for graduation. Fall is a beautiful time of year here.  I knew we’d be crazy busy this spring, so taking the pictures ahead of time really helped.  Our friend just took pictures on her camera different places around where we live.  God’s creation is always a beautiful backdrop!

We picked one dressy outfit and two casual outfits.  I tried to stick with a similar color scheme. I washed, pressed, and set aside the clothes.  We told our friend to just give us at least a few hours’ notice for when she thought the pictures would be good to take.  This is something we can do when we are homeschooling, right?!? Having our son’s senior pictures taken ahead of time allowed me to be able to make the invitations for our open house ahead of time on Shutterfly.  So, all I had to do was fill in the date of our open house later.  My son chose his favorite photos for the invitations and picked a Bible verse for them. Easy peasy!

Choose a date that is different from the dates of public and private school graduations!

We picked a different open house date than local public and private high school’s dates.  We can choose any date for our graduation!  I love the flexibility of homeschooling! Visiting with family and close friends, we picked the date and time that worked best. Choosing a date other than the typical graduation gatherings helps family and friends be more able to attend.

Choose a place that can be set up ahead of time if possible!

We have chosen our garage for an  informal outdoor graduation open house.  This is common where we live, as summers are lovely, and we live on an acreage!  Plus, it gives us a great reason to clean the garage, right?!? I don’t know about your garage, but ours could use a reason for a good cleaning!  We’ve borrowed tables and chairs from my husband’s workplace.

Choose simple table decorations that can be reused for your other children who will be graduating someday!

As we live in the country, we have chosen red gingham tablecloths.  I don’t have to spend much money on them, and I can reuse them. Each 6 foot table will have ball canning jars with Wyatt’s favorite snacks – cashews and M & M’s!  I’ve made a family photobook each year for my husband for Christmas, so I’m setting a different photobook on each table too.  There are many pictures of Wyatt with our family growing up, and I think this could be a good conversation piece!

I’m also planning on having a card table with red gingham tablecloth and with a premade poster for people to sign for Wyatt.  They can write comments as well here, and I think it will be a neat keepsake of the party for him.  I’m putting a red geranium on this table as well (thanks mom for that wonderful idea)!  I’m also going to put his baby photobook on this table.  Finally, the backdrop leaning against the wall will be a metal art wall hanging I made for him with all his senior pictures.  This can hang on the wall in his bedroom after the party (thanks Carrie for this awesome idea)!

Choose food that won’t prevent you from visiting with guests!

I love to cook and to bake!  However, I don’t want to be consumed with this so much leading up to the graduation or during the graduation.  I want to be able to visit with family and friends and be there for Wyatt.  So, we are making pulled pork ahead of time and putting it in crock pots for sandwiches.  We are also putting baked beans in crock pots.  Premade potato salad, chips and dip, coleslaw (thanks Cindy for this idea), and 2 kinds of layered cake from Costco will round out the menu.  Lemonade, coffee (good idea, mom), and water bottles will be available as well.

I hope this has given all of you amazing moms some ideas to simplify graduation for your homeschool senior!  What a blessing to be able to celebrate ‘pressing on toward the goal to win the prize‘ with our graduating teens!!!  God bless!

In Christ,

Julie

Meeting Times for Correcting Homeschool High School Work

From Our House to Yours

Heart of Dakota’s plans make it easy to see what must be accomplished each day!

This From Our House to Yours will focus on high school planned meeting times.  High school is a new and exciting time for parents and students alike!  Heart of Dakota makes this transition smoother in 4 ways! First, Heart of Dakota guides use easy-to-follow 2-page daily plans, just 4 days a week.  Second, each credit includes detailed plans labeled “T” teacher-directed, “S” semi-independent, and “I” independent.  This makes parent and student roles clear.  Third, parents love the detailed course descriptions, suggested grading, and transcript helps. Fourth, students love the clear plans for each day’s work!  Finally, you should always check your individual state requirements for high school. But, your student should typically earn all credits and electives necessary by doing HOD’s 4 high school guides!

So, now that we know the plans are complete, how do we as parents correct high school work?

Each high school guide’s introduction has detailed suggested grading for each credit earned.  From this, we can make professional transcripts easily and inexpensively by using each HOD guide’s course titles and descriptions.  We can also use the website www.transcriptmaker.com to input our student’s transcript details.  I especially love this website because it figures my students’ GPA automatically!  With all of this help, the only thing I’m left with is finding time to teach and to correct work. I’ve found one successful way to do this is to use planned meeting times!

What are planned meeting times?

I use planned meeting times to teach and to correct my children’s work.  We set specific times to meet within the day.  I’ve found 2-3, or even 4 planned meeting times work well.  My kiddos often complete some work independently first, and then they take this work to our first meeting time.  My first meeting time with my 9th grader using World Geography happens around 7:30 AM in the morning.  He comes with his completed independent work from the night before.  (As he is a bit of a night owl, he likes to do about 1 hour’s worth of independent work for the next school day the night before.)  He also completes his Bible from 7 to 7:30 AM prior to the meeting. Our first meeting time includes going over completed work from Bible, the Living Library, Spanish, and World Religions and Cultures.

World Geography Mapping the World with Art
So, what does he share from each of these subjects?

For Bible, he reads aloud his answers to me from Rooted and Grounded.  He also shares his prayer journal, unless it is more private.  On days 1 and 3, I have him say his memorized Scripture verses for me.  I also correct his Common Place Book entry if he had one.  (If he had Practical Happiness, I read it on my own and so does he, annotating as we read.  We meet at the third meeting time to go over the devotion.) For the Living Library, he reads aloud his sentence summary.  I check to be sure it contains the main characters, main goal and action taken, main conflict, and the setting.  Skimming the pages of the book’s daily reading is enough for me to see if he is on track for this 10% extra credit assignment.  I also check any special assignments noted for this in the plans (i.e. if he was to star, cloud, circle, etc certain things).  I correct his Spanish using the answer key, and I have him orally translate/read the odd problems aloud referencing the key as needed.  For World Religions and Cultures, I have him hand me the book he read open to the first page’s reading.  I skim the beginning, middle, and end of the reading.  Also, I read the key idea in the guide.  Finally, we either correct his bookmark together, or I listen to his oral narration with book in hand.

World Religions and Cultures Bookmark
What does the rest of his day look like?

After the first planned meeting time, he checks off the Living Library, World Religions and Cultures, Foreign Language, and Bible boxes.  They are done – hooray!  Next, we discuss what he needs to do for his EIW composition or R & S English grammar part of the plans.  He works on this independently then, while I do a planned meeting time with a different child.  His next planned meeting time is around 8:20 to 8:30 AM, whenever he completes his composition or grammar. I correct his written work by having him read it aloud to me.  He reads with pencil in hand, making any corrections he sees he needs to make first on his own. Then, I help him correct any mistakes using the grammar answer key or the EIW daily plans/rubric.  We check the Composition/Grammar box off in the plans, and he is off to chores and breakfast!

How does he finish out the plans?

After breakfast, he completes his World Geography, Geography Activities, Literature, and Logic boxes.  I pop in the living room to hear his oral narrations, correct his map work, edit his written work, discuss/check his literature, and check his logic answers.  We love this time together, and the key ideas and answer keys make it fairly easy on me!  If he had Practical Happiness, we meet on the couch go discuss our annotations.  (It is more private there, and this is a special time 1 on 1 for us!) Finally, he completes his Science with lab and leaves it out on the counter for me to correct.  (I’ve let him correct his own science the second half of the year, as I corrected it the first half, and he always did well. He loves science!  So, I never worry about him skimping on this.)

Seven Wonders of the World Geography Activity

His math is taught by my oldest son, as he loves it and is a business major!  This was their idea – apparently I get somewhat tense teaching math, and they prefer doing it together without me.  Who knew?!?  Anyway, the math answer key makes this last subject easy peasy to correct. Then, drumroll, we are done!  Usually by 1:30 PM or so.  Not bad for 4 days a week of high school!  Hope this helps you see how planned meeting times can provide both special 1:1 teaching time and time to correct work!

In Christ,
Julie

Hands-on Learning Projects Engage All Types of Students

From Our House to Yours

Hands-on projects in Creation to Christ bring history to life!
Hands-on Project of Roman Soldier
“R” Stands for “Roman” Soldier

Three days each week in Creation to Christ Emmett progressively works on a hands-on history project.  Projects closely correspond with the weekly history theme and give a creative outlet for him to express what he’s learned.  They use items I readily have on hand, and they are never the same from week to week.  Emmett adores his history projects!  In fact, he took these pictures himself this week.  He was so proud of his Roman decked out ‘soldier!’  His Roman soldier has a helmet, tunic, armour, belt, sandals, and travel pack equipment.  Emmett will not soon forget how a soldier in the Roman Empire was at all times ready for battle!

Hands-on projects engage every kind of learner!

It’s obvious hands-on projects engage children who are kinesthetic or tactile learners, who enjoy movement while learning.  But, did you know they also engage auditory learners, who enjoy talking about what they are learning?  They even engage visual learners, as they see what they create come to life!  Finally, social learners naturally enjoy getting to share their projects with us as moms.  So, every kind of learner benefits from hands-on projects!

Hands-on map drawings in World Geography bring history to life!
Hands-on Map Drawing in WG

World Geography provides a chronological approach to geography that is based on the history of exploration, discovery, and mapmaking.  It starts with the ancient cultures and ends with polar region exploration.  Ellen McHenry’s Mapping the World with Art gives step-by-step DVD instructions to help students make their own world map.  This is only one part of earning World Geography credit, however, it is one of Riley’s favorites!

Hands-on drawing of maps engages learners in a more memorable way!

As students study cartography and mapping through history, they connect in a more memorable way by making their own maps.  Riley understands first-hand how difficult it is to make maps.  This is something that cannot be learned from simply studying others’ maps!  As he reads about the struggles cartographers faced making maps, he can empathize with them.  It’s not easy to visualize that which you cannot aerially see.  Hands-on drawing helps him commit to memory what he is learning!

Hands-on Book of Centuries entries in U.S. History II bring history to life!
Hands-on Book of Centuries in U.S. II

U.S. History II marks the end of a 4-year journey of keeping a Book of Centuries.  Keeping a Book of Centuries is a Charlotte Mason hands-on skill that pairs well with high school students.  Printing, cutting, coloring, and gluing timeline entries helps students gain a  mental picture of individuals and events within a century.  Wyatt wanted me to snap a picture of this today because he ‘had an entire 2-page spread’ completed!

Hands-on compilation of a Book of Centuries gives high school students a keepsake of the history studied in high school!

Compiling this Book of Centuries provides a hands-on way to create a keepsake of history that has been studied.  This helps students commit to memory the overall flow of history, rather than memorize individual unconnected facts.  I like how the Book of Centuries is handmade and not just a preprinted timeline chart someone else made professionally.  Wyatt has made reference to keeping his Book of Centuries handy after graduating, just as a chronological resource.  Now that is truly a special high school keepsake from his time spent studying history!  My quizzes I took in history never made their way into my ‘have to have reference resources’ post high school.  I’m so glad Wyatt has something to show for his years of high school history he cares enough to keep.  This is just more reason to keep meaningful hands-on learning a part of Heart of Dakota from start to finish!

In Christ,

Julie

P.S. To read more about what other homeschool moms are saying about our hands-on history projects, click here!

Family Time Sharing Together When Doing Separate Heart of Dakota Guides

From Our House to Yours

Do you have family time sharing together when students are doing separate guides?
Roman feast in Creation to Christ history activity box
Roman feast in Creation to Christ history activity box

Absolutely! In fact, there are natural times within the day when it just makes sense for our family to share learning. The Roman feast Emmett prepared for his Creation to Christ history activity gave us the perfect time to get together. Emmett dressed in Roman attire and prepared a simple meal. He set places for each of us, explained each course, and served us. Putting his own personality into it, as he often does, he found Roman music online to play in the background. Providing entertainment was another part of the plans in his guide. So, Emmett theatrically read some of his favorite poetry (into a microphone, of course)! He also became our Roman tour guide, giving us an ‘audio tour’ of life based on his storytime City reading.

Riley shared his Essentials in Writing composition with the family as part of the entertainment for the Roman feast.
Read aloud essay in World Geography high school with Essentials in Writing

Riley chose to write his Essentials in Writing essay about the differences between dogs and cats. I really wanted him to share this with his brothers. We own two dogs and one cat, so I knew his brothers would love this essay. Riley worked hard on this composition piece, and all that was left for him to do was a final edit. Reading aloud an essay is a wonderful way to catch mistakes! So, for many reasons, it made sense to have him read aloud his essay during the Roman feast.

Wyatt shared his Economics “Enterprising Entrepreneur” project with the family as part of the entertainment for the Roman feast.
Research assignment in USII for Economics
Research assignment in USII for Economics

Wyatt chose to research Donald Trump for his Economics “Enterprising Entrepreneur” assignment. His research was focused on Donald Trump’s real estate success and business savvy that led him to the White House. Part of his grade was to present his project to an audience and allow them to ask questions afterwards. Sharing is easier when others share something too, so adding it to the entertainment of the Roman feast was perfect.

Guard against a few things when planning family sharing times within multiple guides.

There are a few things to guard against when planning for family sharing times within multiple guides. First, adding a lot of additional time to the day causes students who have more work to get behind. This may result in things being skipped in the guide they are actually responsible for completing. Or, it may result in a longer day, which makes being involved in the next family sharing time a negative.

Having everyone do everything in every guide adds unnecessary time to the day and confuses intended roles.

Second, having everyone do everything in every guide adds unnecessary time to the day as well. It was Emmett’s turn to lead the Roman feast. His brothers had their turn years’ back when they completed Creation to Christ. So, Emmett was in charge leading the event, and his brothers simply shared in the ‘entertainment’ part when called upon. The older two siblings were folded into the primary event of the Roman feast. In this role, though they may have thought they could lead it better, their place was on the sidelines. Being the encouraging audience was their role, rather than being the ‘star of the show.’

One must remember, Creation to Christ is not the guide they are completing. Likewise, when it was Riley’s turn to share his Essentials in Writing essay, his siblings took on the role of being the attentive audience. They were to be the encouragers, not the editors. Editing is Riley’s role in this Essentials in Writing assignment. Finally, when it was Wyatt’s turn to share his Economics Enterprising Entrepreneur presentation, his siblings took on the role being the attentive audience. Their role was not to interrupt but to listen. Time for a few questions was provided at the end, and that was the time for them to talk.

Time Wasters Versus Time Savers in This Particular Family Sharing

Waster – making the Roman feast a separate meal on the weekend with extra groceries VERSUS…
Saver – making the Roman feast our lunch for the day using what we have on hand

Waster – searching endlessly for poetry on the Internet or in books VERSUS…
Saver – reading poetry already part of the Creation to Christ Appendix

Waster – having everyone dress up for the feast and plan the meal VERSUS…
Saver – having only Emmett dress up and plan the meal, which was part of his responsibility in his guide only

Waster – having my middle son in World Geography share random things he is learning VERSUS…
Saver – having him read aloud his Essentials in Writing assignment and edit it, which he needs to do anyway for his plans

Waster – having my oldest son in U.S. History II share random things he is learning VERSUS…
Saver – having him read aloud his Economics “Enterprising Entrepreneur” assignment, which is a required part of his plans

The only ‘expert’ in the sharing is the one carrying out the plans in his guide.

Respect for the one who is carrying out the plans within the guide is a must. There is no room for ‘tips’ on how to improve, for interruptions that distract, or for additional knowledge being shared. A positive sharing experience can quickly become a negative sharing experience if someone else is ‘always the expert.’ The only expert in the sharing is the one sharing. It is their turn to shine when it is their guide. Others will have a turn to shine when it is their guide’s assignment to do so. These are a few of the staples for creating an encouraging, safe environment to share learning together. Hope it gives you all some ideas!

In Christ,
Julie

P.S. If you want to read more on this topic, Carrie has excellent commentary on this. Check out her post from our message board to the commonly asked question “How will we be learning as a family, if we do separate guides?

How to Create a Charlotte Mason Timeline and Book of Centuries with Heart of Dakota

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

Creating a Charlotte Mason Timeline and Book of Centuries

Children will need to have the sense that what they’re reading has a specific time when it happened before their collection of knowledge gets too vast. To do this, make a century table, something like a timeline chart only longer. To make one, divide a long sheet of heavy paper into twenty columns. Put the first century in the center and let the rest of the columns represent a century, either B.C. or A.D. Let the child write the names of people he reads about in the the century they belong to. At this point, children don’t need to focus on exact dates, but this simple table of the centuries will give the child a graphic memory of when things happened. He will have a panorama of events pictured in his mind in the correct order.
                                                                                                                      – Charlotte Mason

Charlotte Mason’s column timeline is part of Beyond Little Heart’s… and Bigger Heart’s history plans.
Charlotte Mason's column timeline in Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory
Charlotte Mason’s column timeline in Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory

Heart of Dakota begins with Charlotte Mason‘s suggestion for a column timeline in Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory and Bigger Hearts for His Glory. Children don’t really have a good grasp of the flow of history at that age. Seeing events in 50-100 year columns on a single or double page helps them better understand the flow of time. Prior to writing these guides, Carrie’s oldest son kept a separate timeline book for his beginning 5 years of schooling. He used cut and paste figures. Since then, we’ve found much greater retention and connection for younger kiddos when we switched to the method described here. Drawing and labeling the figures really helps cement the people and events in young children’s minds. It forces them to interact with the material more and makes it personal (and also very engaging to look at)!

A wall or accordion-style timeline is part of Preparing Hearts… history plans.
Wall timeline in Preparing Hearts for His Glory
Wall timeline in Preparing Hearts for His Glory

Next, we move into our one year overview of world history with Preparing Hearts for His Glory. We step the timeline up a level to either a wall timeline or an accordian-folded timeline. This also is designed to give a feel for the major events in the flow of history. It provides mental pegs for children to hang their history readings upon in the future. Children of this age are more invested in their timelines when they complete the work themselves. Doing it themselves means more to them because of the work it has taken them to produce the timeline.

A chronological continuous timeline using a 4-year cycle is part of Creation to Christ through Missions to Modern Marvels.
Chronological continuous timeline in Heart of Dakota's 4-year history cycle
Chronological continuous timeline in Heart of Dakota’s 4-year history cycle

Once we move to Creation to Christ, we begin a chronological flow to history using a 4-year cycle. At that point we do begin a continuous timeline, which will be added to each year. However, we do not do it in isolation but rather within a beautiful full-color Student Notebook. This adds depth to timeline entries by providing places for written narrations, copywork, sketches, and maps (alongside the timeline). Many history connections can be made, as the timeline book is not separated from the rest of the children’s work. The student adds a new section to the Student Notebook each year through each guide from CTC to MTMM. The result is one large beautiful volume completed over 4 years.

A Charlotte Mason-style Book of Centuries is kept as part of Heart of Dakota’s 4 years of high school.
Book of Centuries in Heart of Dakota's 4-year high school curriculum
Book of Centuries in Heart of Dakota’s 4-year high school curriculum

Finally, in high school students begin keeping a Book of Centuries.
Carrie researched and read much about Charlotte Mason’s version of a Book of Centuries. There is much to love about her approach. Heart of Dakota’s approach is similar to hers in some ways and a bit different in others. Our Book of Centuries has a two-page spread for each century. This is in keeping with Charlotte Mason (except earlier centuries are combined as there are less known dates to record).

The right side of each two-page spread includes horizontal lines to record entries.

The right side of each two-page spread has horizontal lines. Each line represents an increment of 5 or 10 years in the century. To record an event on the timeline, students first locate the correct century. Then, they write a word or phrase to represent the event on the correct line within that century. This allows students to see at a glance events that defined the century.

The left side of each two-page spread includes customized portrait/picture gallery images.

The left side of each two-page spread is a portrait/picture gallery of people/events from the century. Amy Pak’s beautiful hand-drawn timeline images and descriptions coincide with Heart of Dakota’s plans. A customized printable CD for each guide helps students make a special keepsake Book of Centuries through high school. This portrait gallery replaces Charlotte Mason’s version of the left side of the two-page spread. Her students were instructed to draw artifacts, clothing, and instruments from the century on the left page. While this is also a great visual for the century, as part of this assignment Charlotte Mason’s students regularly visited museums to sketch from the real artifacts. A luxury we don’t tend to have in our day to day homeschooling.

Charlotte Mason was not focused on memorizing exact dates but rather on comprehending the flow of time.

Carrie and I find it interesting that Charlotte Mason was not focused upon memorizing exact dates in which events occurred. Instead, she felt that comprehending a flow of time was more important. In thinking back, we memorized many historical dates through our high school and college years, and then promptly forgot them. It is interesting to note we still struggle to place things within a flow of time. We have little memory of what events or people share a century. We must continually refer to timelines to refresh our memory as to what happened when and what events proceeded others. Charlotte Mason’s reasoning and thoughts on the keeping of a Book of Centuries resonate with us! We are glad our children will have a different experience than us! Who knows?!? Maybe their Book of Centuries will be a reference tool for them for years to come? Or at the least, a lovely memory of years we spent together enjoying history Charlotte Mason-style through high school!