Enjoy interest-led learning within the structure of daily plans!

From Our House to Yours

Why homeschool? Enjoy interest-led learning within the structure of daily plans!

What are each of your children interested in? When they have free time, what do they like to do? Chances are, if you have multiple children, each will be motivated by different individual interests. Why is this important? Well, when we take into account children’s interests, their motivation naturally increases. Simply put, interest-led learning takes into account children’s interests and creates opportunities for those interests to be part of learning. At Heart of Dakota, we like to create opportunities for children to enjoy interest-led learning. However, we also like to balance this within the structure of daily plans. Children can have some say in what they choose to do, but parents can also have structure that ensures children are still learning what they need to. This is the best of both worlds!

We provide opportunities for interest-led learning by offering book choices!

One easy way to provide opportunities for interest-led learning is by offering our children book choices. At Heart of Dakota, we offer book choices within Drawn into the Heart of Reading (DITHOR). Students can choose their own books, or they can choose from our DITHOR book packages. They can even substitute several books within a package if they prefer. However, book selections are made within the structure of DITHOR’s genres. This helps children read from every genre and learn each story element, while still letting the reading be interest-led. We also offer book choices with the Storytime read-alouds in our guides. Students can choose books for parents to read aloud to them in our guides that have Storytime plans based on genres. Or, students can peruse our classic, boy, girl, and history-based read aloud options, and choose from those sets.

We provide opportunities for interest-led learning by offering multiple levels of resources! 

Another easy way to provide opportunities for interest-led learning is by offering multiple levels of resources. Some children prefer books with more pictures and less text, and some prefer less pictures and more text. For example, Little Hands to Heaven has multiple Bibles, devotionals, and science books that can be used. Likewise, starting with Bigger Hearts…, we have easier books to read aloud (Deluxe Package) or harder books for children to read independently (Extension Package). Each of these options still fit within the structure of the plans by making sure children are learning what they should each year.

We provide opportunities for interest-led learning by offering project choices! 

Different children enjoy different types of projects. We provide project choices in DITHOR’s genre kickoffs and in DITHOR’s genre projects. Children can choose among Godly character-based projects, book-based projects or group projects. Likewise, we provide for creativity and individuality in history projects and art projects. Children are not confined to create copycat history or art projects. Rather, they are encouraged to put their own personality into each of their projects, which makes for excellent interest-led learning. High school courses, such as Total Health, continue to provide opportunities for interest-led learning by giving multiple project options. Nothing motivates teenagers more than having a say in what they do!

We provide opportunities for interest-led learning by offering boy/girl choices!

Boys and girls often have different topics of interest. At Heart of Dakota, we embrace this by offering DITHOR book sets that are boy or girl interest focused. We also offer multiple devotional and Bible study choices that are focused on boy and girl interests. In high school literature, boy and girl options are given for book selections. Likewise, we offer boy and girl living book choices in high school as well. Sometimes children prefer a mix of boy and girl book choices. We have structured lesson plans that still allow for flexibility, so these can be swapped out if desired (i.e. World Geography’s substitution notes for Boy/Girl set literature).

We provide opportunities for interest-led learning by using portfolio-based assessments!

One final way we provide opportunities for interest-led learning is by using portfolio-based assessments. We encourage children to express their individuality by planning open-ended assignments. For example, we assign what should be drawn, in general, for timeline entries. But, we leave room for creative interpretation. So, we might assign children to draw and color a sword for the Battle of Salamis, but we expect each child’s sword to look different from another’s. Likewise, we might children  to write a 10-13 sentence narration in response to their history reading. But, we encourage children to choose their own details to include in their narration.

In Closing…

So, in closing, one reason we like to homeschool is we can easily provide opportunities for interest-led learning. First, we can offer book choices. Second, we can offer project choices. Third, we can offer boy/girl interest choices. Finally, we can offer portfolio-based assessment. At Heart of Dakota, we believe in offering interest-led learning opportunities within the structure of daily plans. We like this balance of providing time for interest to lead the learning and of planning time for skills to lead the learning. I think you will enjoy this balance too!

In Christ,

Julie

Kids Listening to Music While Doing Their Work

Dear Carrie

What are your thoughts on your kids listening to music while doing their work?

My kids listen to their own music playlists. I would prefer classical music, if anything. I find it distracting, personally. How can you fully concentrate on something you are reading with music that has words? I guess my question is, what are your thoughts on your kids listening to music while doing their work?

Sincerely,

“Ms. Please Help Me with Kids Wanting to Listen to Music While Doing Their Work”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Me with Kids Wanting to Listen to Music While Doing Their Work,”

This is a great question and is one we have grappled with too over many years of homeschooling! We give our boys a lot more autonomy in this area once they get to high school. Prior to the student reaching the high school years, my husband and I have decided that music is distracting to the rest of us who are nearby, often slows the student down, makes the student less able to listen to the teacher’s voice, and also often affects the child’s work negatively causing them to lose attention to detail and rush through their work to get to the music.

High school marks a change in our response to our kids listening to music while doing work.

Prior to high school, we have our boys dock their iPods during school hours. Once they get to the early years of high school, we let them listen to music during inspirational type subjects. When they get to the later years of high school, we don’t monitor it and let them choose what they think is best as to when they listen to music and when they do not. They are required to wear ear buds/headphones when listening. With these few guidelines, we have had good success with making music an option during schoolwork.

Blessings,
Carrie

Better Beloved Living Books Instead of Less Loved Dry Textbooks

From Our House to Yours

Why homeschool? Use better beloved living books to teach your children instead of less loved dry textbooks!

There are many reasons to homeschool, and we are exploring some of them in this From Our House to Yours series. Take a moment to think back to your favorite books from your time spent in school. How many of them are textbooks? Now, think back to your favorite authors. How many of them are authors of textbooks? Chances are your answer to both these questions is ‘none.’ Why? Textbooks are often quite dry, utterly forgettable, and definitely less loved than the average book. Though we know this to be true, textbooks continue to provide the basis for the bulk of educational instruction in most brick and mortar schools. This brings us to a very good reason why you should consider homeschooling! You can use better beloved living books to teach your children rather than less loved dry textbooks!

Living books are better because they are remembered long after the last page has been read!

Have you ever read a textbook from cover to cover and longed to read it all over again? When you finish reading a textbook, do you rush to find another textbook by that same author? As you read a textbook, do you find yourself excitedly sharing what you’ve read? Chances are you don’t. Living books are the opposite. You do long to read them cover to cover, you do rush to find another book by that same author, and you do find yourself excitedly sharing what you’ve read with whoever will listen! When our children read living books for their education, the same holds true for them. They can’t wait to find out what will happen next. Finding books by the same author is a must. Sharing what has been read is exciting (and it’s called oral narration – thank you Ms. Charlotte Mason)!

Heart of Dakota provides a living books, literature-based, Christ-centered education!

There are many books that are lining the shelves of libraries, bookstores, and homes, that are simply not good books. We are a conservative family and try to have a similar standard for our children’s free reading time as we do for their homeschooling time. I must admit, hard as I try though, our children’s free reading books are not as wonderful as Heart of Dakota‘s book picks. I have really struggled with finding books for our children to read for free time, and these books don’t even have to fit into a specific historical time period, a particular science focus, a certain genre, or an exact age level! Having used HOD from PreK to 12th grade now, one of the things I am most thankful for is the book choices! Thank you, Heart of Dakota, for a living books, literature-based, Christ-centered education!

Build your own home library of wonderful living books!

I have a bookshelf in my bedroom that holds my most beloved books. Not one of my most beloved books is a traditional textbook. I have my favorite books grouped by authors as well. Not one of my sets of books grouped by authors is a set of textbooks. Why? Textbooks belong in my office with my bill-paying caddie. I use these books for occasional reference rather than for reading cover to cover. These books would never make it onto my beloved bookshelf in my bedroom. In homeschooling, you can build your own home library of wonderful living books that you and your children love! These are books you enjoy returning to from time to time and rereading just because they are THAT good! So, why homeschool? You can enjoy reading better beloved living books instead of wasting time with less loved dry textbooks!

In Christ,
Julie

P.S. Do you have a student who was used to textbooks in public school and seems to be more comfortable with textbooks than quality living books?  Click here to read Carrie’s thoughts on helping a mom who posed that very question!

Encouragement for Meeting NCAA Requirements and Foreign Language Credits

Dear Carrie

Can you provide encouragement for meeting NCAA requirements and explain how to count foreign language credits?

Dear Carrie,

My son will enter 9th grade using World Geography. I’m planning ahead. He’d like to play baseball in college, and I need some help with NCAA. I’ve called them for a list of approved curriculum, but they can’t give me one. My son wants to continue with how he’s been learning with Heart of Dakota and not have to go to a textbook. I want that too. I’ve talked to the NCAA homeschool department with questions. They’ve reassured me they just will be looking if the courses are college prep. If they have questions about resources (living books vs. textbooks), they aren’t going to throw it out.

I’ve worked on the core course worksheets. I have found the course descriptions etc. in the front of the WG guide to be invaluable. The thoroughness of the information passes the scrutiny of anyone who is evaluating the courses for content. One exception is the 1/2 credit per year of foreign language. I guess I just need encouragement and wonder how to handle the foreign language?

Sincerely,

“Ms. Please Give Encouragement for Help with NCAA & Foreign Language”

Dear “Ms. Please Give Encouragement for Help with NCAA & Foreign Language,”

You asked for encouragement!  I have some. I wanted to first briefly share the story of a family who emailed us about a similar topic. The family of more than 10 children has been using HOD with their two oldest since they were in the third grade. The second oldest son was a heavily recruited football player who received many academic scholarships and football offers. The family shared that they received nothing but praise from the numerous colleges he was accepted into (over 25) for the quality of his education and how it was reflected in his test scores, transcripts, and essays.

After being accepted into numerous NCAA universities, he signed with the NCAA college of his choice. The family emailed us to share how thankful they were for HOD, and its part in where their sons are now. We truly love this family, and we were so happy for them and their children’s success, praise be to God!

Encouragement for Meeting NCAA Requirements

I share this to encourage you that schooling with HOD through high school with thoughts of college sports and NCAA requirements in mind is possible. What the Lord desires for our children will come to pass, as nothing can circumvent the Lord’s plan!

Counting Foreign Language Credits

I will also mention that as far as counting foreign language goes, you can easily award a full credit in the year the student completes the credit rather than listing foreign language as a half credit each year for 4 years. So the student could list a full credit of Spanish I as a sophomore and then a full credit of Spanish II as a senior.

Course Descriptions and Grading Aid in Helping You in This Process

Also, the course descriptions and grading for each subject at the beginning of the guide are excellent for proving where you got your grades, as you have already discovered. You can print those pages from the HOD website to turn in. Most guides have over 50 pages of descriptions in the Introductions which are hugely helpful in this process. They were written to aid you in college entrance. We are excited for your son’s future, and we can’t wait to see what the Lord has planned for him!

Blessings,

Carrie

Third Grade: A Change in Attitude and in Work

Dear Carrie

What kind of change in attitude and in work do third grade students experience?

My sister-in-law was homeschooled and has graduated 3 kids. Now, she has 3 more she is still homeschooling. She once told me that around 3rd grade all of her kids just had a less positive attitude. My oldest is now starting 3rd grade in Heart of Dakota. I don’t really tolerate complaining or outbursts. But then, she has enough self-control to control those things. I can tell she is frustrated sometimes. This is usually when she is not doing school, but when we are talking about whether we will do it tomorrow. While we are actually doing school, she seems to have a really good attitude and enjoy it.

In school, since she is older, she has more work to do than her younger sisters who are in Little Hearts for His Glory. Some of my older daughter’s work in Bigger Hearts is not easy for her. I guess I have increased what I am expecting of her. For example, I am now trying to encourage her to use better penmanship. Is this just a normal transition? It is really hard for her to sit down and focus on something with 3 younger siblings running around. During some of her work the younger ones are off doing other things, like watching a video. I know she is jealous they get to do that. I guess my question is, what kind of change in attitude and in work do third grade students experience?

Sincerely,

“Ms. Please Help Me with What Changes to Expect with My Third Grade Student’s Attitude and Work”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Me with What Changes to Expect with My Third Grade Student’s Attitude and Work,”

There are definitely several things to keep in mind in looking at kiddos’ ages and stages. One is that grades K-2 are typically grouped together with K being a bit of a transition from the “fun” of preschool to the “work” of formal school. This is followed by 1st grade where kiddos are often ready for a bit more “real” school and are better prepared to handle a bit more attention-span wise. Then, in grade 2 they are even more ready (and grade 2 is not as much new as grade 1), so they seem to handle grade 2 better. After that comes the next big step up in grades 3-5. :D

Third grade is a change because there are many new skills.

Third grade is almost all new with many skills the kiddos have never had before in all areas. The day lengthens and more is expected. So, third grade is often a crucial year. It is hard work for the kiddos. Add to that the fact that they are often coming off of a care-free summer, and the workload and mental activity seems even more stressful because it is almost a direct contrast to what their summer days felt like. Plus, if you add to that a new wake and sleep cycle, new eating times, and less free time, you can easily see why our little 8-9 years old aren’t exactly “skipping through the tulips” in the initial weeks of school (no matter how fabulous the curriculum might be)! :D I must admit to having a bit of a transition myself when we head back to school after summer! :wink:

Third grade is an opportunity to shape and mold good habits.

As a public school teacher, I taught quite a few different grades, but 3rd grade was my longest stint at 9 years. I loved third grade because you have such an opportunity to shape and mold good habits, train kiddos to be attentive, work on character, and really see a difference in the child by year-end. On the flip side, it also can be an opportunity to battle with kiddos daily if you look at this as a daily battle of the wills instead of a training opportunity. :D That is why this year will be so important not only academically, but also character issue-wise. It is where your little people learn how to be big helpers and good listeners. They learn how to work even when they may not feel like it. They can begin to be trained in daily obedience and in curbing their wills to glorify their Father in heaven rather than seeking to glorify their own wants and needs. It is a huge transition year that takes much parenting and much patience! :D

Devote needed time to character and academic training, and you will make huge strides with your third grade child!

If you happen to have a third grade child, I encourage you to settle in for the long haul. Know each day will be new training ground. However, by the end of the year, you will have made huge strides forward if you devote the needed time to character and academic training. The fruit of this daily training will follow you into the next guide and the next guide after that. By the time you walk through these important middle training years, you will also have built a close relationship with your child. :D

This is the opportunity homeschooling affords us, and it is not an easy one because it takes much time and effort! I wish each of you the stamina to do what is needed each day and the patience to train your children both academically and spiritually. As we travel this road together, let’s remember that we have the added blessing that each day is made new through our heavenly Father. So, if you’ve had a hard day, you can remember that tomorrow is a new day! :D

Blessings,
Carrie

Update from “Ms. Please Help Me with What Changes to Expect with My Third Grade Student’s Attitude and Work”

Carrie, thanks for sharing your thoughts and your experiences! Just yesterday we had one of those heartwarming moments! My 8 year old and I were curled up on the couch for her read-aloud time. She hugged me and said, “Mom I’m so glad you’re my teacher! I think you are the best Mom and teacher for me.” That encouraged me. It is more work, and she is really growing and that is good to see. I pray for character. I can see that this time is really critical in developing her character. May God give me inspiration, patience, wisdom, and peace. And again thanks, I cannot say how much I appreciate your wisdom along this homeschooling journey!