When will it all come together for my 11-year-old?!?

From Our House to Yours

When will it all come together for my 11-year-old?

I recently visited with a mom whose 11-year-old son was doing Resurrection to Reformation (RTR). She had multiple children using Heart of Dakota. All were doing exceptionally well, except her oldest son. He’d misplace his books. When doing his history project, he’d do steps 1, 3, and 5. Though usually good at copywork, he’d misspell his timeline captions or Shakespeare quotes. In grammar, he’d forget the oral review question answers. When writing his narration, he’d write Unit 13’s narration in Unit 14’s box. She said he was a bright boy who did amazing with his guide overall! But, it was the little things that were getting missed! She told me she was fine helping him, as long as it would come to an end. She said, It WILL come to an end sometime, won’t it? I mean, when will it all come together for my 11-year-old?

11 Year-Olds Have a Lot Going On

I laughed and asked if she’d been homeschooling MY son because they did the same things. However, I told her I had one ace-in-the-hole. I knew it would pass! And the reason I knew it would pass was this particular son was my last, and I’d been through this with my older sons back when they were about 11 to 12 years old. 11-year-olds have a LOT going on. There is a reason From Boy to Man (and From Girl to Woman), as well as What Is God’s Design for My Body?, are a part of RTR. Sometimes you can’t even see a whole lot of change happening on the outside. However, there is much going on, both inside and outside for 11-year-olds. It can make them distracted. They can lose focus. Not to mention, all of this happens at a time when school is getting harder!

What can be done to help our 11 year-olds?

So, what can be done to help our 11-year-olds? Well, what we can do is stick to the plan. It’s not flashy, I know, but it works. At a time when everything is changing for our 11-year-olds, what they need more than anything is consistency. Emotions running wild? We as moms need to remain calm. Work not complete? We as moms need to help them complete it. Papers in disarray or books lost? We as moms need to help find them. Oh, you don’t feel like writing 8-12 sentences for your narration today? Too bad, it’s in the plans, so we do it. Frustrated with math and wanting to quit? Take a breather, but then we’ll finish it together. Our 11-year-olds need us as moms to step in the gap and be the calm and the consistency they crave. It’s not easy, but it works!

A Student Planner That Teaches Time Management

One amazing blessing of Heart of Dakota is the way the guides are designed. As children grow and mature, rather than just being teachers’ guides, the guides become student planners too. Children take their guide in hand and follow it for their “I” and for (a portion of) their “S” boxes. So, little by little, our 11-year-olds start to see they have some control over their school day. They begin to understand that how they manage their time determines how long their school day takes. Likewise, they see how carefully they follow directions impacts how much time school take because redoing work takes more time. Of course, they only realize these things if we as moms are consistent in expecting their work to be fully completed. That is why it is so important we make sure they ‘stick to the plan.’

So, when will it all come together for our 11-year-olds?

So, WILL this come to an end at some point?!? Will there be a time that it all comes together for our kiddos? Yes, it will! But, maybe not when they’re 11. For my son, who is now a 12-year-old, everything came together about a month ago. All I can say is he just turned the corner. He sets his own alarm each morning and gets up. If he finishes a box early, he goes on to the next one. When we meet, he has his work done. His writing is neat. He rarely misspells things within copywork. He’s doing all the steps for his projects. He often finishes school early. I just praise God for it! Is he perfect? No. However, he is working hard to manage his time and do his best. This is far different from when he was 11 years old. Mission accomplished!

In Closing

At a time when we as homeschool moms can feel weary, we need to stay strong with high expectations for our 11-year-olds. By consistently expecting them to complete all of their guide’s plans, they in turn learn to manage their time, to focus better, and to do their best work the first time. Whatever we do – we cannot open the door to discussions about ‘if’ they must do all that is assigned; very quickly this becomes a daily battle. Rather, we can plan to set the bar high for all their work to be completed consistently each day. Given time, we will reap a bountiful harvest! Trust me – it is a harvest that keeps producing fruit year after year, guide after guide, all the way to high school graduation. And it all starts at about 11 years old.

In Christ,

Julie

Help My 2nd Grader Grow into the Amount of Writing in Bigger Hearts

Dear Carrie

How can I help my 2nd grader grow into the amount of writing planned in Bigger Hearts?

My son is in 2nd grade and doing HOD‘s Bigger Hearts for His Glory. He loves it all, except the amount of writing. He does poetry copywork every day and sometimes Bible verses. Additionally, he writes within his science notebooking, dictation, and sometimes history activity writing. I switched him to doing Rod and Staff 2 orally because he couldn’t handle the writing. He also does one sheet daily from Abeka’s language arts. All of this together is too much for him. He is overwhelmed, and his handwriting is getting worse. I would say in a day, he does the Abeka sheet and one other area mentioned above. I’ve been doing Rod and Staff 2 with him orally. I placed him in Bigger Hearts, and I think it is the right placement. But, how can I help him grow into the amount of writing he should be doing?

Sincerely,

“Ms. Please Help My 2nd Grader Grow into the Amount of Writing in Bigger Hearts”

Dear “Ms. Please Help My 2nd Grader Grow into the Amount of Writing in Bigger Hearts,”

First of all, take a moment to rejoice that your kiddo is doing well and enjoying Bigger overall. That is a wonderful thing! Next, I just want to encourage you that many kiddos struggle with writing of ANY sort. It is something to grow into, just like learning to read or learning to do math problems.

To reduce the amount of writing, I recommend doing most of Rod and Staff orally.

As far as English, there’s no need to do Abeka in addition to Rod and Staff. So, I’d pick one or the other. Since your little guy doesn’t enjoy writing, I’d choose Rod and Staff, as it is easy to do orally. In the Introduction to Bigger, I actually recommend doing almost all of Rod and Staff orally, and only assigning one small portion to be done in writing each day. So, you’re actually doing Rod and Staff the way we intended by doing it almost all orally!

We rotate assignments to keep the amount of writing in balance each day.

Next, in the daily plans, we actually rotate the writing assignments around, so you’re not doing all of those writing assignments on any one given day. So, make sure you’re following the plans as written, and that will help you not to get overloaded with too much writing.

Try reducing the amount of writing by omitting the optional poetry copywork.

As far as writing activities go, you’ll need to keep the scheduled dictation. However, you can reduce the amount of writing by omitting the poetry copywork. In Bigger Hearts, the poetry copywork is only suggested but not scheduled daily or required. If your little one is doing cursive, then the poetry copywork could be skipped. I know that we didn’t do it with my second son, and it was fine.

Other Suggestions for Lessening the Amount of Writing

That will leave one other writing something each day to be done (either copying a Bible verse, doing a history notebook assignment, doing a science notebook assignment, or doing a science experiment form). With each of those assignments, you can lessen the amount of writing by writing the beginning part of a sentence or even a sentence or two for your son. Then, just have your sweetie finish the rest. You can gradually move up to requiring a little more of it to be written by the student until you eventually work up to full-speed by the end of the year. Make sure not to do more than one vocabulary word either (and you can even do the writing for your student on that one, taking dictation, until he can work up to doing it himself).

Many kiddos need to grow into the amount of writing required, so just ease into it to find success!

Writing will always be an area that takes some growing into for MANY kiddos. No matter what program you use, there will be writing required. Just allow your child to ease into it, gradually moving up as he’s able, and you’ll eventually find success!

Blessings,
Carrie

P.S. Looking for ideas for going half-speed in Bigger Hearts or in Preparing Hearts with a child for other reasons?  Click here to find some half-speed options with daily language arts and math!

Enjoy stress-free planning ahead with HOD’s flexibility in placement and pacing!

From Our House to Yours

Counting guides and stressing about planning ahead? Well, don’t! HOD takes the pressure off by offering flexible placement and pacing!

As homeschool moms, we love to plan ahead! Even when our children are little, we might be planning ahead for middle school or for high school. Blessedly, Heart of Dakota offers complete curricula for PreK through 12th grade. So, that already takes the pressure off planning what your child will do next! However, Heart of Dakota takes this one step further by offering flexibility within this plan, both in placement and in pacing. But how?

Flexibility in Placement

Heart of Dakota recognizes proper placement should be based on more than a child’s age. This is why we have a placement chart with age ranges for guides. It is also why when you ask for placement help, we don’t just ask the age of your child and then send you the same box of materials we’d send every other child of that same age. All children of a given age are not exactly alike – praise God! For how drab that would be! Heart of Dakota recognizes children of the same age have different needs by offering guides with age ranges, and by also including within each guide multiple levels of math, reading, spelling, grammar, etc. But, how do the plans ahead change based on if your child is on the younger, the middle, or the upper part of the target age range?

Flexibility for Those Who Place in the Middle or Upper Target Age Range

Heart of Dakota recognizes you might need flexibility in pacing for your children through the years. Students who place in the guides in the middle or upper side of the target age ranges will more than likely move through the typical guide sequence, graduating in 12th grade having done the 4 high school guides as written. However, if your child needs to slow the pacing of a guide, due to life events or to learning needs, extension packages can be added as needed. Then, going forward, we can help you plan the best path through high school based on your teenager’s future goals.

Flexibility for Those Who Place on the Youngest Side of the Target Age Range

For students who are more advanced and place on the very youngest side of the target age range, Carrie purposefully wrote the guides to have some flexibility for several reasons. One, in case this more advanced placement becomes too difficult at some point and the pacing needs to be slowed down, or two, in case there are some difficult years ahead. So, for example, if health concerns arise (for children/parents/grandparents), or if there is an unexpected job change or move, or if any other of the many unforeseen difficulties in life that make homeschooling need to be slowed down for a year or so occur, the student who had been doing the guides on the youngest side of the target age range has a year of ‘wiggle room.’ Or, of course, you can always just graduate a younger student a year early.

How I’ve Personally Taken Advantage of HOD’s Flexibility in Placement and Pacing

I find it interesting that all of my sons did Little Hearts for His Glory for kindergarten. However, none will graduate one year early. My oldest son did a guide a year until my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. My son did not finish the last 7-8 units of World Geography, which he was using for 8th grade because of what was going on with my Dad. We decided to have my son complete the last 7-8 units of WG and the remaining 3 high school guides over 4 years.  It was perfect!  He was able to spend time with my Dad before he passed away and so was I, he worked more hours and earned money to pay for college, and he helped me homeschool my other children by teaching their math (he loves math and is good at it).  He is now in college and thriving!

How HOD’s Flexibility in Placement and Pacing Helped My Middle Son

My second son did a guide a year until Creation to Christ. He is very artistic and creative, and he was taking too long to finish each day. For him, we spread CTC and RTR over 3 years instead of 2 years.  It was perfect!  He is now an 11th grader doing USI and loving it! Lord willing, he will graduate exactly on time. HOD’s flexibility in placement and pacing was such a blessing!

How HOD’s Flexibility in Placement and Pacing Helped My Youngest Son

My third son did a guide a year until Bigger Hearts.  He was an excellent reader, but his writing needed to mature. We spread Bigger Hearts and Preparing Hearts over 3 years instead of 2 years. It was perfect!  He is now a 6th grader doing RTR and loving it!  Lord willing, he will graduate exactly on time. HOD’s flexibility in placement and pacing has been such a blessing!

The Blessings of Having an Extra Year of Flexibility

I share our homeschool journey to show that often times something in life happens that we do not expect, either health-wise or pacing-wise. It is an incredible blessing to have an extra year to work with, which is why Carrie planned for this.  Children on the youngest side of the target age range may find at some point that a slower pace would be better for one reason or another. Of course, if everything goes just perfectly both in life and in pacing of learning, students can graduate one year early.  There are many options for earning college credit that can be done from home in this scenario.

One More Option for Children on the Youngest Side of the Age Range

One other option that many families enjoy is taking either 5 years to do the 4 youngest guides (i.e. Little Hands…, Little Hearts…, Beyond…, and Bigger Hearts…) by homeschooling 4 days a week instead of 5 days a week. Click here for a schedule for this option. Or, families may take 4 years to do 3 guides (i.e. Little Hearts…, Beyond…, and Bigger Hearts…) by homeschooling half-speed at the start of each guide and/or 4 days a week instead of 5 days a week.  These are all 5 day a week guides, so this works well. Preparing Hearts… through USII 12th grade guides are all 4 days a week.

In Christ,
Julie

How can I help my highly distracted son focus better?

Dear Carrie

How can I help my highly distracted son focus better?

Let me first say that I LOVE BIGGER!!! This is our first year, and I just love it! Thank you, Carrie!!! Now, here’s my problem. My son is 9, and he is “highly distracted.” I have never discussed this with a doctor. He is not hyperactive. However, he has a terrible time focusing on “seat work,” like Math, English, and Copywork. He will daydream and fiddle constantly. Most days, he has not completed his work by dinner. I do not believe it is an obedience issue. He even has a hard time focusing on his “play.” Oftentimes, he will tell me that he has a “story” in his head while he is playing with Legos, but his brain won’t stay with the story. It keeps wandering. He gets very frustrated when this happens. I definitely think he has a problem. What can I do to help my highly distracted son?

Sincerely,

“Ms. Please Help with Ideas for My Highly Distracted Son”

Dear “Ms. Please Help with Ideas for My Highly Distracted Son,”

As kiddos get older, they often settle down some, and also learn to cope better with their various areas of strength/weakness. I remember when my oldest son was in 7th grade (aged 12 turning 13), that the change for him from grade 6 to grade 7 was markedly different! While he was highly distracted and always on the move in grade 6, by grade 7 he was steadily improving in this area. So, I’ll encourage you that time is on your side.

I can empathize with you and your highly distracted son having trouble with focus!

My second son is more of a highly distracted child, unless he really gets into his task. Then, he’s a single task child, who cannot be interrupted (or even hear anyone else it would seem)! I have to strive not to repeat myself with him all day long! Focus is his hardest issue! My third son used to fall off the couch during our lessons several times a day, just because he was such a squirmer. So, I can empathize!

We find these things to be quite necessary for highly distracted children to maintain better focus.

Over the years, we have found certain things to be quite necessary for highly distracted children to focus better. First, we keep lessons short, as in 15 minutes or less. Second,  we vary activities between oral and written work. Third, we try to do the most difficult thing first or second in the day. Fourth, we set the timer (one that doesn’t tick out loud) and put it near the child. Fifth, we sit next to the child for his/her hardest subject. Sixth, we have a quiet room for working that is away from distracting sounds (i.e. phones ringing, music playing, computer sounds, television noise, etc.). At our house this ‘quiet room’ rotates to wherever the rest of the people are not. Seventh, we break up the day with recess, lunch, computer time, etc., so their work is not all in a row.

Finally, we find touch can help highly distracted kiddos refocus. For example, if your kiddo is daydreaming, instead of speaking, just walk past him and rub or pat his back. This helped mine refocus and get back to work. I also will sometime walk by and just point to the timer, without speaking, to draw his attention to that as a means of refocusing. Anyway, you are not alone on this, and boys seem to have it even more than girls. Almost all of the boys in my third/fourth grade public school classrooms were this way too! I wrote the Heart of Dakota guides while homeschooling some of my own highly distracted kiddos, so hopefully the design of the plans will be a help as well!

Blessings,
Carrie

Giving Thanks for the Blessings of Homeschooling

From Our House to Yours

Giving Thanks for the Blessings of Homeschooling

This Thanksgiving week, I give thanks for the many blessings of homeschooling! Simply being able to homeschool my children in a Christian way is such a blessing. I sometimes take it for granted. Do you? Every year I homeschool, there are new blessings. I find they change as our stages in life change. I also find it is important to stop and take notice of them, or I might miss them altogether. Heart of Dakota brings out the best in each stage. However, to be mindful of what it going on that is good, I need to press pause and take notice. That is how I can remember to give thanks for the privilege of being able to homeschool!

The Blessings of Homeschooling Little Ones

Little ones bring laughter, joy, and sporadic happiness to the day! I took lots of pictures when homeschooling my littles. Every moment in Heart of Dakota with my little ones seemed picture-worthy! With little ones, some of the blessings of homeschooling are it’s short, it’s fun, and it’s full of wonder! Any and every moment can be a moment to laugh out loud until your sides hurt.

The Blessings of Homeschooling Elementary-Aged Children

Elementary-aged children are like sponges. They soak up so much in so little time! They learn to read, to write, and to add/subtract/multiple/divide. Before long, they are following short step-by-step directions for projects. They even begin to tackle science experiments solo. Oral narrations, written narrations, grammar lessons, dictation, cursive – oh my! It truly is amazing how much children who are in the elementary years of their homeschooling learn! They memorize passages of Scripture, commit multiple hymns to memory, and their Bibles become personal to them. Both reading and being read to are a joy! Books open a whole new world, and it’s exciting! Progress is obvious, easily celebrated, and school days are still quite short. These are some of the blessings I love about homeschooling this age!

  

The Blessings of Homeschooling Middle School-Aged Children

Middle school-aged children grow up right before our eyes! It is shocking how much they change in outward appearance. My 12 year-old son grew 7 1/2 inches this year. His shoes are bigger than his Dad’s, and he is taller than me. Braces. Glasses. Voice changes. Shaving. What happened to our little boys and girls? They are no longer so little. And not only are they changing on the outside; they are also changing on the inside! They are becoming their own person with their own thoughts and ideas. All of a sudden during a discussion, they say something profound. Shortly after this, they say something profoundly silly. Homeschool days are longer, but independence is greater. Everything just goes deeper. It is a privilege to be a firsthand part of all of this growth and change of mind, body, and soul.

 

The Blessings of Homeschooling High School Students

High school is the home stretch of homeschooling, and everything gets tougher. School days lengthen; they must if they are to be prepared for their next chapter in life. Responsibilities increase. Everything requires more focus, concentration, and dedication. They analyze, dig deeper, and question things. In the midst of all this, a beautiful thing happens; they become their own person! With their own faith, thoughts, emotions, actions, worldview, and goals. We find they don’t need us quite so much anymore, and yet every once and awhile, they need us more than ever. This is total transformation, and WE as homeschool moms, WE are a real part of that transformation. A total blessing.

In Closing

The other day I had an insightful conversation with my 11th grade son. After I finished editing his essay, teaching his Algebra II, discussing his devotional and literature, hearing his written narration, and correcting his chemistry, government, and Spanish, I told him somewhat nostalgically that I missed just teaching him his ABC’s. I lamented that high school was hard and just not as light, airy, and fun. He told me I was right – high school was hard, but I was also wrong – high school was still fun. It was just a different kind of ‘fun.’

He went on to say it had to be hard, or he’d never make much of himself or be ready for college. But, it was also ‘fun’ – to make our schedule, to not be schooling all day and doing homework all night, to not be wasting free time driving to and from school, to be schooling in the comfort of our own home, to have snacks when we want, to wear what we want, to use the bathroom when we want – and to use it alone. Also, he really did like most of it, especially the books. And, oh, it was pretty cool for me to be his teacher. Yeah – a pretty good take on high school – hard, but totally fun. So, this Thanksgiving week, I count my blessings of homeschooling through the years. I hope I’ve inspired you to do the same! Happy Thanksgiving!

In Christ,

Julie