Reading classic literature at the “right time” can make a literature lover out of anyone!

Teaching Tip:

Reading classic literature at the “right time” can make a literature lover out of anyone!

My tip this week comes from more than 29 consecutive years as a teacher (which definitely shows my age). The reason I mention my years of teaching experience is because this tip is born out of years “in the trenches.” My tip is that reading classic literature at the “right time” can make a literature lover out of anyone. Deciding the “right time” to read various pieces of classic literature takes some thinking. The right time is not the same for everyone for every piece of literature.

How do you decide the “right time” to read various classics?
  1. Prior to reading (longer) unabridged classics, your child must have a reading level that allows him to comprehend the literature.
  2. He must either have a strong vocabulary or have had quite a bit of exposure to understanding higher level vocabulary. Having a strong vocabulary helps ensure the reading has meaning for your child.
  3. Your child should have some understanding of the historical time period of the literature in order to understand the context. Previous or concurrent study of the various historical time periods helps provide context.
  4. Stair-stepping your child up through gradually more difficult books leading to the reading of harder, classic literature is helpful. Otherwise, it may feel as if your child has suddenly been dumped into the literary deep end.
  5. It is wise to be sure your child is old enough to weigh mature elements and themes within a piece of literature. Otherwise, you may find your child has come to some disturbing conclusions. Literature is a powerful tool in shaping your child’s worldview. Discernment in reading often comes with maturity and a strong Biblical foundation.
What about reading abridgments of classic literature at an early age?

If a child reads abridgments at an early age, often the parents are given the impression the child is ready for more difficult, unabridged versions. It is true that after reading an abridgment a child can often get through the unabridged version. However, this doesn’t mean the child was truly ready for the unabridged version. It also doesn’t mean the unabridged version is appropriate in content or level! Instead, it means the abridgment provided the summary of the story that allowed the child to make sense of the unabridged version.

Charlotte Mason was not a fan of abridgments.

I’ll share that in true Charlotte Mason fashion I am not a huge fan of abridgments. I believe that waiting to read the story in unabridged form often provides a much richer experience. Plus, being able to read and enjoy literature in unabridged form first is a good indicator it is the “right time” for that piece of literature.

Even if your child can read classic literature early, should he?

Even if your child is an amazing reader who can read unabridged classic literature at a young age, should he? It is good to weigh whether the experience would be richer if your child waited until he was older. I know with my oldest son this was the case, even though he read the unabridged Robinson Crusoe when he was 8. Would it have been richer and better if he read this work in late middle school or high school? I believe so, and I believe this is true in many cases. I share these thoughts not to be controversial but instead to get you thinking. When is the “right time” for my child to read various pieces of classic literature? Just because a child “can” read something doesn’t mean it “is” the right time to read it. Truly, some books are best savored later!

Much thought goes into the place each literature selection holds in your HOD guide.

Today’s teaching tip is designed to show the thought and care that goes into each literature selection and its place in your HOD guide. If your child is well-placed within his HOD guide skill-wise, then the literature placement will be right too. Struggling through classic literature at the “wrong time,” without the steps I’ve mentioned above, can steal your child’s love of literature. Help your child love literature today! Correct placement in our guides is key to help you cultivate a love for literature as your child develops.


Pacing of the World History Literature Plans

Dear Carrie

Can you explain the pacing of the World History literature plans?
We’ve enjoyed using Heart of Dakota for many years, and we are looking ahead to World History. From the past year, I’m assuming students do written narrations for the literature plans. However, I am wondering how often written narrations are scheduled? Looking at the online sample week, I see it isn’t scheduled. So, I am guessing it isn’t weekly. Also, about how much literature reading is scheduled on average each day? I’m just thinking ahead to next year, and I’m trying to figure out if my son will be able to handle the reading pace. I think he will be up to a little more challenge, but I’m not sure how much of a challenge. Maybe I will have to slow the pace down, so it’s not so much each day. Then again, I’m always surprised at how much he grows each year in HOD. I may totally be overthinking this!
“Ms. Please Explain the Pacing of the World History Literature Plans”
Dear “Ms. Please Explain the Pacing of the World History Literature Plans,”

We are enjoying the World History (WH) Literature box this year in our own home! I know it is hard to tell from the first week of plans online how the literature in the WH Guide is set up. This is simply because the first week is a training week for the varying components in the literature box. So, I’d be glad to explain the pacing. On Days 1, 3, and 4, I kept the pattern quite similar with the literature box broken up into “Introduce,” “Read and Annotate,” “Select,” and “Reflect.”

Days 1, 3, and 4:  Introduce, Read and Annotate, Select, and Reflect

“Introduce” gives a little background or something to watch for or think about in the day’s reading. “Read and Annotate” assigns pages to be read and expects the students to annotate as they read. Often one annotation is given to the kiddos to help them learn to annotate better and to key them into important nuances within the narrative. “Select” requires students to select a passage to copy in their Common Place Book. “Reflect” is a written Literature Journal style reflection based on the day’s reading with topics ranging from Biblical/life applications to literary themes/elements to character motives/descriptors to Scripture connections/Godly character traits, etc. There is quite a bit of flexibility built into the length of the students’ responses to the “Reflect” part of the plans.

Day 2: Oral or Written Narrations

On Day 2, I have students do either an oral narration or a written narration. I alternate these narration types by week, and I include some given topics from the reading on which to reflect as a part of the narration.

Plan about 45 minutes to 1 hour a day for Literature.

Typically, we plan for the Literature box to take students around 45 minutes to 1 hour a day. Of course, faster readers may be done sooner, and slower readers will take longer. Rod and Staff Grammar/Essentials in Writing alternate daily, taking an additional 30 minutes daily. Together these comprise the “English” credit and take about 1 hour 15 minutes (up to 1 hour 30 minutes) daily.

We worked to make the design and daily assignments of the literature plans meet college entrance requirements.

I planned the times for Literature in the World History guide to be similar to the times I’ve outlined above. Again, I realize variances in reading speed will effect the actual time literature takes daily. We have worked to make sure that the the design and daily assignments of our literature plans meet college preparatory requirements, encompass needed literary skills, include classic works that are worthy of being read, and challenge students appropriately for the high school level.

It helps to remember public school students’ time requirements.

When thinking how much time literature is taking daily in your high school student’s schedule, it helps to remember that students in the public school sector spend 50 minutes in literature class 5 days a week and often have additional reading in the evening. Many high school students also have a required summer reading list of classics, and they are expected to read “x” number of classics prior to school beginning. With these things in mind, along with the fact that students are doing school 4 days a week rather than 5 with Heart of Dakota, you can see how much time literature is expected to take daily from a typical high school perspective. Therefore, we try to keep these things in mind as we write.

I pray the literature plans may be a blessing to your family!

I pray that the literature in our high school guides may be a blessing to your family! It was very challenging and rewarding for me to write the literature portion of the World History guide’s plans, as it was a very time consuming type of reading/writing/planning. Yet, my son who is doing the WH guide this year says he really loves the literature part of his day, and I love the morals, values, thematic and Scriptural application, and just plain old great classics that this year of plans contains! So, happy reading to you and your son!


Worried about inappropriate content? HOD books are pre-screened for you! 

Heart of Dakota Tidbit:

Worried about inappropriate content? HOD books are pre-screened for you!

Did you know that all of the literature books included in the HOD catalog and on the HOD website have been pre-read by Carrie to make sure that there is no objectionable words or inappropriate content? The books that are listed in the Sample Book Ideas list that comes with Drawn into the Heart of Reading have not all been pre-read by Carrie. The books in the Sample Book Ideas list have been very well reviewed and highly recommended, but there may be inappropriate content. So, keep this in mind as you are choosing books for your children to read.

Have a great weekend!

What should my student use for literature when using World History for 11th grade?

Dear Carrie

What should my student use for literature if she is using the World History guide for 11th grade?

Dear Carrie,

I have always loved your book choices! However, my oldest will be a junior next year. Sadly, she won’t be able to finish all of the high school guides. She is using Heart of Dakota’s World Geography for 10th grade. Next year when she is a junior, she will be using World History. I am wondering if I should just follow the literature path you have laid out in World History? Since we’ve used Heart of Dakota since she’s been in 5th grade, she has obviously read tons of great books! I just don’t want to miss some of the classics that she should have. So, my question is, what are your thoughts on what she should use for literature if she is using World History for 11th grade?


“Ms. Unsure About Literature When Using World History for 11th Grade”

Dear “Ms. Unsure About Literature When Using World History for 11th Grade,”

As far as the novels for the literature portion, I made a point to put novels I consider especially important in the opening guides of the high school program. The novels in the World Geography guide are classics that are a tremendous stepping stone to the more difficult reading and difficult themes found in the World History guide’s literature.

The novels in the World History literature plans are memorable and timeless.

I believe many of the novels in the literature portion of the World History guide are unmatched for their quality and their themes, while still being enjoyable to read. They are memorable and timeless, lingering in the mind long after the book is completed.  They have stood the test of time and remain classics today.

I had my oldest son read several of these books as a senior, as I didn’t have the rest of the high school guides written, and I felt these novels were not to be missed.

I felt these novels were so important that I had my oldest son read several on that list when he was a senior (as I didn’t have all of the high school guides written yet). This was simply because I did not want him to exit high school without experiencing those books. He read Ben-Hur, The Count of Monte Cristo, and Les Miserables (along with other novels I added for his final year of high school). They were some of his favorite books of that year. My husband read all 3 as well, simply because our son was so enthused about them. I cannot say enough about these titles. The life lessons to be learned as students read these books, the quotable lines of the characters, the rich language, and the allusions to the Bible in these books are amazing.

Thoughts on The Scarlet Pimpernel and Pearl Maiden

My oldest son also chose to read several sequels to The Scarlet Pimpernel. This was simply because he loved the first one so much! In fact, my husband greatly enjoyed The Scarlet Pimpernel too. My older sister, who was a high school literature teacher and has homeschooled her 7 kiddos, said it was one of her favorites of all time.  This makes The Scarlet Pimpernel a winner here. Our son had read the other books on the World History literature list in previous years, with the exception of Pearl Maiden, which we included because of its terrific themes and because it is a great Haggard book (much preferred by me over Haggard’s classic King Solomon’s Mines, which I did not like due to its dark violence).

Thoughts on A Man for All Seasons

After watching the movie version of A Man for All Seasons, and having our pastor refer to it in a sermon, my husband and I discovered that play was such a picture into the time of Henry the VIII that it had to be included. What a classic I found it to be after I read it alongside the study of that time period! It brings up another side to Cranmer and Luther and another side to the conflict between the Church of England and the Catholic Church. This book too shows up on many classic book lists for a reason!

Thoughts on King Arthur

I believe reading about the legend of King Arthur, even with the character of Merlin, is important. This is because the legends of Arthur are a part of understanding medieval times. They show Britain at a time when the Christian religion was overtaking the religion of the Celtic Druids of the past. Known for his themes of bravery, honor, and love, Howard Pyle’s Arthur with his noble traits illustrates the selflessness a king should have for his people. It was for these traits that Arthur is remembered in legend, and those legends show up in so many ways everywhere! Please note that this is the only version of the Arthurian legends that we recommend!

Thoughts on Julius Caesar and Animal Farm

Julius Caesar is one of the “tamer” of Shakespeare’s plays innuendo-wise. It also omits the bawdy humor that is found in other Shakespeare plays. Exploring the issue of how the thirst for power affects those who desire it is a good life lesson that comes out in Julius Caesar. Furthermore, the play draws you in with the inner-workings of who is really able to be trusted as you see the conspiracy play out (and watch its aftermath). Animal Farm is a book that really shows socialism in a way that students will never forget. It is terrific to read along with the time period of WWII, which is where I included it.

Thoughts on The Celestial Railroad

The Celestial Railroad is a wonderful book to read after reading Pilgrim’s Progress. This is because Hawthorne’s version of travel to the Celestial City has been updated to reflect modern times. Travelers no longer have to walk to the city but can instead travel by train. Their burdens are no longer carried on their backs but instead are stowed in the luggage compartment! When Celestial Railroad is read as students are completing Pilgrim’s Progress, it has a huge impact! I chose to end the year with Celestial Railroad for this reason.

In Closing

As you can see, I wouldn’t want your student to miss the books on the World History literature list. I feel they are amazing classics that all students should read. In closing, I would recommend having your daughter use the World History literature this year. Truly, I hope she enjoys it as much as our sons did!



Drawn into the Heart of Reading: A Multi-Level Reading Program That Works with Any Books

From Our House to Yours

Drawn into the Heart of Reading:  A Multi-Level Reading Program That Works with Any Books

Picture your child curled up on the couch reading a wonderful book, enjoying each page, and then sharing the excitement of what was read with you!  You can make this happy ‘picture’ a reality with Drawn into the Heart of Reading!  Written for students 7-15 years old, this Heart of Dakota multi-level reading program can help your children either become or remain passionate about books, while still teaching all the necessary reading skills. You can use any books with Drawn into the Heart of Reading (DITHOR), as the plans are genre-based.  Likewise, you not only get to choose the books your children read, you also get to choose the pacing of reading them.  This ensures your children will love the books and read them at a pace that fits them best!

So, how is Drawn into the Heart of Reading designed?

Drawn into the Heart of Reading is designed for use with students of multiple ages at the same time. The plans include instructions and activities that work with any literature.  You can use DITHOR for your entire reading program, or you can use it as a supplement to an existing program.  Students in grades 2-8 can use DITHOR year after years, as they move through the various levels of reading instruction. DITHOR is structured around daily plans that are divided into 3 levels of instruction. These levels include 2/3, 4/5, and 6/7/8. DITHOR is also divided into 9 units, which can be taught in any order.

What genre studies are included in Drawn into the Heart of Reading?

Drawn into the Heart of Reading includes 9 genre studies.  This exposes students to a variety of literary styles, ensuring they read from every type of literature.  The result?  Not only do students learn the necessary skills for each type of literature; they also learn to love new kinds of books!  The genres can be done in any order, so you can start with your student’s favorite genre or choose any order you prefer.  The 9 genres include biography, historical fiction, mystery, nonfiction, realistic fiction, adventure, fantasy, folk tale, and humor.

How are Godly character lessons a part of Drawn into the Heart of Reading?

In Drawn into the Heart of Reading, Godly character lessons evaluate a character’s actions using a Christian standard that is based on Godly character traits. The major traits emphasized are faith, fear of the Lord, responsibility, brotherly love, loyalty, virtue, obedience, joy, and integrity.  Each major trait has sub-qualities as well.  In the Godly character part of the plans, each trait includes a definition and a key Scripture verse.  Children use their own Bibles to read about a Biblical character who showed the trait. Then, you share with your children a time in your own life you showed that trait. Next, children search for characters in the book they are reading who are or are not showing that trait. Finally, children see if they themselves are showing this trait.

How are story elements taught in Drawn into the Heart of Reading?

The story element lessons in Drawn into the Heart of Reading focus on a different element for each genre. The story elements included are character, setting, conflict, mood, prediction, compare and contrast, cause and effect, main idea and theme, and point of view.  Story elements are connected with the genres they most naturally match. So, for example, the story element ‘conflict’ is matched with the genre ‘adventure.’  The story element ‘prediction’ is matched with the genre ‘mystery,’ and so on. This paves the way for success in future in-depth literature studies, such as those found in high school.

What else can be found in Drawn into the Heart of Reading?

So much more can be found in Drawn into the Heart of Reading! Prereading activities create a purpose for reading the text. Students gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of the text through guided literature discussions. They learn different strategies to help discover the meanings of unfamiliar words in the text through vocabulary activities. Not to mention, students get choose from a variety of creative projects that address the needs of all types of learners. Project choices include Godly character project options, book based project options, or group project options. So, there truly is a project for any student that can be enjoyed!

Drawn into the Heart of Reading is so customizable, yet it still meets all necessary reading requirements!  It gives a ‘book club’ feel to keep the love of reading flowing, while still delivering all of the necessary skills that need to be taught to prepare students for the requirements of both standardized testing and high school level literature.  Choose from Carrie’s favorite books choices via DITHOR book packs, or choose your own literature on your own or with the help of Carrie’s Sample Book Ideas List.  Either way, HOD’s award winning Drawn into the Heart of Reading is sure to turn your children into book-loving students, while still teaching all the necessary skills that must be taught!  Why not get to making memories like the ones I’ve tried to share with you with these pics of precious memories of my own kiddos, today?!?

In Christ,