Should I separate my 3rd and 5th graders, and if so, who should I move?

Pondering Placement

Question: Should I separate my 3rd and 5th graders, and if so, who do I move?

Our two sons are in Unit 10 of Preparing Hearts for His Glory (PHFHG). My younger son just turned 9 and is in 3rd grade. My older son is almost 11 and in 5th grade. Full-speed is too heavy a workload for my 3rd grader. It takes him twice as long to read and write than what is listed as approximate times. He’s also unable to do the science independently. The reading is above his level. I’m having him skip boxes to stay on the same unit as his brother. My 5th grader is spot on going full-speed. I DO want to separate them in the future when the guides become more independent. My question is this: should I separate them now? If so, who do I move? We never did Bigger Hearts for His Glory (BHFHG), but I’m not sure I can do these guides at the same time.

Carrie’s Reply: I’d either separate your 3rd and 5th graders, moving your 3rd grader down to Bigger Hearts, or I’d slow Preparing Hearts down to half-speed and add the extensions.

From what you’ve shared, it sounds like your 3rd grader places in Heart of Dakota’s Bigger Hearts. Based on this, one option would be to separate them by moving your 3rd grader down to Bigger. I am thinking that you would likely need to read the history readings to your son if you moved him to Bigger (at least at first and with A First Book in American History and the storytime). However, you could consider doing the science a bit more independently, as suggested in this thread.

If you separate your sons by moving your 3rd grader down into Bigger Hearts, you can probably move him toward more independence.

You may be able to move toward doing Bigger more independently with your son if you move him down. With my second son, who was an early writer and excellent reader, we did Bigger more independently than I did with my subsequent kiddos. You can click here to to read my post where I described the way I did Bigger with my second son.

Your older son in Preparing Hearts could also move toward more independence.

You could also move toward more independence in Preparing with your older child. We also did this with my second son, who was ready for more independence. For example, if your oldest son was ready to read the history readings on his own, this would help. Charlotte Mason said a child of age 9 on up who can read his own material should. It aids in retention, making connections, and retelling. Also, if your older son can begin reading more directly from the guide and doing as much as he can to prepare ahead for his times with you (as we mentioned in the above links for Bigger), then this would help too.

If you don’t separate your sons and instead keep them together in Preparing, I’d slow it to half-speed and add the extensions for your older son.

If you decide to stay with Preparing for both kiddos, I would definitely slow it down so that your younger son is doing all that is in the plans without skipping anything. I would also add the Preparing Extensions for your older son. Supposing you do this, I think you will be able to tell if Preparing at a slower speed with extensions is enough for your older child. If it isn’t, then you’ll want to allow that older child to move ahead at full-speed in Preparing more independently (which he is going to do once he gets to CTC anyway) rather than continuing to add more and more material to fill time for the older child just to keep the kiddos together.

If you do end up going full-speed in Preparing with your older son, you can either continue going half-speed in Preparing with your younger son, or move him down to Bigger Hearts full-speed.

In the event that you do end up continuing full-speed Preparing with your older child, you could either go to half-speed Preparing with your younger son or move him down to full-speed Bigger. Honestly, full-speed Bigger will have more of the skill-building that it sounds like your son is needing than half-speed Preparing. Those are just a few things to ponder. It can be challenging to find the right fit at times, but it is worth the effort to search for the correct combination. No matter what though, I wouldn’t continue doing Preparing the way you are currently doing it with your younger son. There is just too much that he is missing to adequately prepare him to enter CTC in the future. Hope this helps as you ponder your options!

Blessings,
Carrie

Prepare for the school year by reading the guide’s “Introduction”!

Teaching Tip

Reading the guide’s “Introduction” is great preparation for the school year.

You may be beginning to turn your thoughts toward school. One of the best ways to prepare for the upcoming year is to read through your HOD guide’s “Introduction.” There is such a wealth of information in the “Introduction” that we should truly title it something else!

How does reading the “Introduction” help prepare you for the year?

The “Introduction” will give you a feel for how each area is handled in the guide and the goals for each subject. It will let you know what notebooks, binders, etc. are needed for each subject area. Reading the “Introduction” provides a great summary of what to expect for the coming year. The “Introduction” is the last part of the guide we write. In this way, we can be sure that it truly summarizes needed information for you in one place!

If you have students in different HOD guides, read only one guide’s “Introduction” each day.

If you will be teaching more than one Heart of Dakota guide, read the “Introduction” for different guides on different days. This will help you focus on one guide at a time and will keep you from getting overwhelmed.

Can you use the guide without reading the “Introduction?”

Of course you can skip reading the “Introduction” and just jump right in and teach. However, often when families do this they miss the big picture of the guide. They also miss out on some gems that are referred to in the “Introduction” and included in the Appendix.

So, let’s get started!

After more than 15 years of homeschooling my boys with HOD, I still read the “Introduction” at the start of my school year! So, grab a cup of tea or coffee, cuddle up with your highlighter, and read away. Just reading the “Introduction” will make you feel more prepared!

Blessings,
Carrie

Top Ten Tips for Teaching Multiple Guides

Setting Up for Preparing Hearts for His Glory

From Our House to Yours

Setting Up for Preparing Hearts for His Glory

So, I’ve placed my children, had my Heart of Dakota  ‘box day,’ and am setting up for Preparing Hearts for His Glory (PHFHG). My first step is to read through PHFHG‘s Introduction, Appendix, and first week or month of plans. This helps me envision my year and understand what my guide covers. As each Introduction includes options (i.e. one large binder or several smaller binders, etc.), I like to note my chosen options in the margin of the Introduction. This way, I can easily make my shopping list later based on my notes. Likewise, it is important to read through the beginning pages and “Getting Started” section in the Appendix  of Drawn into the Heart of Reading (DITHOR).

Setting Up the Front of My PHFHG Binder

First, I make a color photocopy of my PHFHG cover and insert it in my binder. If you don’t have a color copier, black and white looks nice too! Second, I print the Introduction of the guide off the Internet (click here). I use the Table of Contents as my attendance record, noting the dates we completed each unit (i.e. Unit 1:  Sept. 2-6, 2019). Third, I print the first week of plans (click here), which is a nice overview. If your state requires a completed portfolio for meeting with a principal or umbrella school, the Introduction and first week of plans give an excellent overview of what is covered. (Carrie gives permission for the Introduction and First Week of Plans to be printed or copied for portfolio compilation. However, any other photocopies or retyping of plans would be a copyright infringement.)

Label History, History Projects, and Science Tab Dividers 

Next, I label tab dividers for my binder. My goals are to show what my child did and how he progressed in skills. So, I label my first tab “HISTORY.” Behind this tab, I place my child’s completed history written narrations (from the Reading About History box of plans), as well as my child’s completed Draw and Write Through History assignments (from the Independent History Study box of plans). If I have an older child who is using the history extensions, I place any completed 2-3 paragraph summaries or pictures with one paragraph summaries here as well. Next, I label my second tab “HISTORY PROJECTS.” I place any of my child’s history projects that happen to be flat here. Then, I label my third tab “SCIENCE.” Here, I place my child’s completed science notebooking assignments and lab sheets.

Label Language Arts and Math Tab Dividers

Next, I label my fourth tab “LANGUAGE ARTS.” I place any completed assignments from Poetry Day 2’s creative writing lessons here. If my child did DITHOR, I either choose some completed workbook pages to include, or I just keep his entire DITHOR 4/5 Student Book. Likewise, for the cursive workbook (if my child is doing cursive this year instead of last year), for the R & S English 3 or 4 written work, and for the spelling/dictation written work, I either choose a handful of completed pages for the binder, or I just keep the entire workbook and notebook(s). Finally, I label my fifth tab “MATH” and include any completed math workbook pages, or I just keep the entire workbook.

Things Either to Do at the Start Or to Do As They Come Up in the Plans

If I want to use photocopies of DICTATION instead of the Appendix, I photocopy the passages. I also label a wide-lined composition notebook ‘DICTATION.’ For VOCABULARY, I follow the directions on Unit 1, Day 2, of the daily plans to either get a composition notebook and label 2 pages for each letter of the alphabet, or get a card file with index cards and alphabetical tabs. I’ll need between 75 and 175 index cards, with the number of cards needed based on how many of the 3-5 weekly vocabulary words I choose to have my child do. For SCIENCE, I photocopy 37 (nice to have a few extra) Science Lab sheets from the Appendix and put them in a folder. For TIMELINE, I follow the directions on Unit 1, Day 4’s timeline plans to create prepare either for the accordion-style timeline or for the on-the-door timeline.

Other Things to Do

For the written work in English GRAMMAR, I label a lined composition book or notebook ‘GRAMMAR.’ For the Day 4 HISTORY written narrations, I choose either a lined notebook or loose-leaf paper.  If I chose a notebook, I label it ‘HISTORY WRITTEN NARRATIONS.’ Either way though, I include the written narrations in the binder behind the ‘history’ tab. For the Day 3 SCIENCE questions, I label a lined composition book or notebook ‘SCIENCE QUESTIONS. For MATH, I choose to either have my child write directly in the textbooks/workbooks, to use loose-leaf paper, or to use a lined notebook. If I chose a lined notebook, I label it ‘MATH.’ Finally, I choose a special lined and bound book for my child’s COMMON PLACE BOOK, which is described in Unit 1, Day 4’s Bible Study box.

Setting Up for Drawn into the Heart of Reading (DITHOR)

You can either set up DITHOR at the start or do it as you move through the plans. If I do this at the startI fill out the DITHOR 4/5 Student Book “Reading Calendar.” Using HOD’s “Optional Book Recommendations,” I fill in the page numbers to be read each day. For example, if my son is using the DITHOR Level 3 Book Pack, I see ‘5 days’ next to Biography: Louis Braille. So, I divide the total number of pages or chapters in Louis Braille by 5. As there are 10 chapters, I just write “Ch. 1-2” on ‘Day 1’ of the Reading Calendar, “Ch. 3-4” on ‘Day 2,’ and so on.

Then, as I see ’10 days’ next to Biography: Alexander Hamilton, I divide the total number of pages by 10. As there are 114 total pages in Alexander Hamilton, I divide 114 by 10 and fill in the reading calendar for about 11 pages a day. I might do this for each genre or just the first one. Also, I might choose my first genre kickoff in my DITHOR Teacher’s Guide.

Label Sticky Tabs to Mark Places in the PHFHG Guide

Next, I label sticky tabs to mark places in my guide. I label the first tab “DAILY PLANS,” placing it on Unit 1, Day 1. Then, I label the next tabs “DICTATION,” “POETRY,” and “MATH,” placing them in the Appendix.  Likewise, if my child is using the extensions, I label another tab “EXTENSIONS.” If I am photocopying the Science Lab sheet as it comes up in the plans, I label another tab “SCIENCE LAB.” Finally, for DITHOR, I label 2 tabs “DAILY PLANS,” placing one in the teacher’s guide and one in the student book.

Special Items for Preparing Hearts for His Glory

There are a few special items needed for PHFHG. By this time I already know which items I’ll need, because I wrote them in the margin of my Introduction earlier. Some things I’ve noted are a world map or globe, and a children’s Bible for Bible Study. I also noted a Webster’s dictionary for Vocabulary. One final thing I liked to do is make a photocopy of the Narration Tips: Teacher’s List, How to Narrate: Student’s List, Written Narration Skills: Teacher’s List, and/or Written Narration Skills: Student’s List.  Carrie does give permission to photocopy these. I keep the teacher’s list for me to reference and the student’s list for my child to reference. However, you can always just put another tab in your PHFHG guide and label it “NARRATION TIPS,” if you’d rather.

Shopping for Supplies

Carrie’s plans use readily available household supplies, and many options are suggested. For example, the plans may call for either a bean bag and a basket, or a rolled up pair of socks and a plastic bin. I just skim the History Project and Science plans every month or so, to look for the one-off supply. However, to get ready to begin PHFHG, I just stock up on usual art supplies, like crayons, markers, glue (sticks and liquid), scissors, construction paper, tissue paper (colored), tape (masking and clear), a ruler, a yardstick, playdough, paints/paintbrushes, cotton balls, yarn/string, etc. I also stock up on index cards, page protectors, and a few catalogs. Finally, I’ve found a flashlight, deck of cards, CD player (for Lead Me to the Rock), bouncy ball, paperclips, paper plates, food coloring, marker board with dry erase markers, and q-tips/toothpicks are also nice to have on hand.

Sorting Resources into “Things We Need Now” and “Things We Need Later” Bins or Totes

One of the last things I do is get two canvas bins.  I use one for ‘things we need now’ and the other for ‘things we need later.’ As I read through each box of my first week of PHFHG’s plans, I put each needed resource in the bin  for ‘things we need now.’ I put the remaining items in the bin for ‘things we need later.’ Throughout the year as we finish using resources, I put them in the back of the ‘things we need later’ bin, and I move the next books or resources we need into the ‘things we need now’ bin or tub. This way, my ‘things we need now’ bin only contains what we need for each week. Another benefit is the ‘things we need now’ are always mobile! Likewise, I put many art supplies in a tool turnabout, so these are mobile too!

In Closing

As you can see, the steps you take to set up will vary based on your personal preferences. I’m writing this post so the end result is a lovely 3-ring binder portfolio with tabs alongside a completed timeline, notebooks, workbooks, and/or card files. This will be a wonderful way to show what your child has done! However, there are many options. For example, instead of one large binder,  I sometimes choose several small 1 or 2 inch binders (i.e. one for history, one for science, etc.). Or, I sometimes buy one big 4-subject tabbed notebook, and label the sections GRAMMAR, HISTORY, SCIENCE, and MATH. Usually, I base this on my child. If he prefers several small binders or notebooks, we do that. Or, if he prefers just one large binder and notebook, we do that. So, by all means, set up your year how YOU’D like!

In Christ,
Julie

 

 

Placement: PHFHG or CTC for a 10 yo newly independent reader and writer?

Pondering Placement

Would you recommend Preparing Hearts or Creation to Christ for a 10 year old who is a newly independent reader and writer?

I’ve been pouring over the HOD Message Board and catalog! My daughter is a 10 year old 4th grader. She’s taken time in becoming independent in reading. Last year, she did really well with Bigger Hearts, but she only made it through Unit 24. She didn’t continue into Preparing Hearts because she was not reading independently. This year, we spent lots of time with intense phonics review and lots of reading. She also completed Singapore 3B, Dictation Level 2, Rod and Staff 3, Writing with Ease, and Level 2 readers. She can read and orally narrate, and she can write about 3-5 very simple sentences. One minute I’m convinced she should be in PHFHG. Then, I switch to CTC! She might not be ready for DITHOR 4/5. I’m very unsure. She’s self-motivated but can be a complainer if she thinks she can’t do something. My worry is the reading!

Carrie’s Reply: Preparing Hearts for His Glory is my placement recommendation.

Thanks so much for sharing about your daughter! With what you’ve shared so far, I’d be inclined to suggest Preparing Hearts for her placement, based mostly upon her reading and writing level. Additionally, CTC is quite a step up in independence, in amount of reading, and in following lengthy written directions. I would be hesitant to put a child who has been a bit of a late bloomer in reading into CTC without first having had that child go through the stepping stones that are built into Preparing Hearts.

I’d recommend DITHR 2/3 along with the Level 3 DITHR Book Pack.

I think that a year in Preparing Hearts would also keep her from being too overwhelmed with the addition of DITHR to her days. With this in mind, I’d lean toward having her do Preparing with DITHR Level 2/3 (if she hasn’t already done it) or 4/5 (if she has already been through DITHR 2/3). I’d also lean toward the Level 3 Book Pack (which actually has a reading level in the range of 3.5-5.1). If you think that is too young, you could move into the 4/5 Book Pack, but I would do that with some hesitation as you want to encourage her to feel good about her reading without overwhelming her.

I’d recommend R & S English 4 at half-speed, Level 3 dictation, and the narration and writing skills planned in Preparing.

I would have her move on into Rod and Staff English 4 at half-speed, spreading each lesson out over 2 days. Then, I’d move onto dictation Level 3 (which is in the Appendix of Preparing). I would move away from Writing with Ease, as you’ll have too much duplication between that program and the writing across the curriculum we do in Preparing Hearts (through guided written narration, oral narration, and dictation). I would make sure to do the writing lessons from the poetry as scheduled in Preparing Hearts to build those writing skills that are not covered elsewhere in our guide or in Rod and Staff. She will also be getting quite a bit of writing instruction through Rod and Staff.

I’d further recommend Singapore 4A, the Deluxe Package of Books for the Newly Independent Reader, and the Science.

She can also move easily into Singapore 4A as that is scheduled in the Preparing Appendix. I would have her do the Deluxe Package with Preparing and the science too. These will be her independent areas and will do a great job of building independence incrementally. In looking down the road at the level of reading, written work, and independence required in CTC and RTR on up, I would definitely encourage you to spend a year heading through Preparing first with your daughter. The leap from completing 2/3 of Bigger and then jumping to CTC would be very huge (without having Preparing in between first).

Blessings,
Carrie

How can I help my daughter improve her illegible handwriting?

Dear Carrie

How can I help my daughter improve her illegible handwriting?

We are finishing Heart of Dakota’s Preparing Hearts for His Glory now. My daughter’s handwriting is horrible. She does not care about how it looks. Seriously, she writes so badly that you can’t read 1/3 of what she writes. Doing cursive on unlined paper is hard for her. Even doing the notebook pages on lined paper in the manual, it looks disgusting. I need something to get her to write neater. I’m thinking of getting another handwriting workbook for her to do over the summer. I guess I am just frustrated with her. How can I help my daughter improve her illegible handwriting?

Sincerely,

“Ms. Please Help My Daughter Improve Her Illegible Handwriting”

Dear “Ms. Please Help My Daughter Improve Her Illegible Handwriting,”

Your question struck a chord with me. So many kiddos struggle with exactly what you are mentioning with your own daughter. All kiddos have their weak areas. It is sounding like your little honey’s weak area is handwriting. One thing to ponder is that Charlotte Mason would say that neat handwriting is a habit, which needs to be worked on as all habits are, carefully and consistently one step at a time. With most kiddos who have poor handwriting, it’s important to note that as the volume of writing increases, handwriting that used to be passable at best become illegible at worst.

It will be most important to address her handwriting habits.

While it is a good idea to work on handwriting in short time increments over the summer, it will be more important to address the habits she’s formed with her handwriting during the school year. Likely, you should see some improvement in this area in the summer simply because it is one of the few or only subjects your child is working on, and she is probably doing very little work requiring handwriting during the rest of her day. However, during the school year it’s important to really weigh how poor the handwriting is and whether it is bordering or moving toward the illegible.

If her handwriting is illegible, I would have her do less, better.

If her handwriting truly is illegible, I would begin first by cutting back the amount she is writing (meaning you would neatly write the beginning part of the assignment for her), and then she would finish the last portion neatly. Charlotte Mason would say that a little done neatly is better than volumes done carelessly. Whatever is not done neatly would need to be redone. When a child isn’t writing as much, it is easier to have him or her redo what is done carelessly. Then, the habit of doing written work carefully can truly be honed.

Retraining of this habit will help her handwriting improve.

As your daughter improves in this area, she could take over more and more of the handwriting assignments herself. While this likely will feel like a backward step, it honestly is the retraining of a bad habit that has been allowed to form. I know this because I had it with my own son, prior to reading more deeply about Charlotte Mason. I did not go as far back as expecting perfection from him (and had I been more willing to devote more time to the retraining of this habit I should have), but I did lessen the amount he wrote and did require him to redo as needed. This helped my son immensely, and his quality finally improved.

Writing in a workbook is a crutch that doesn’t improve daily writing.

Honestly, continuing to write in a workbook is a crutch that will not improve written work in the day-to-day writing. Kiddos can perform it on the workbook page, and then continue their messy habits in all of their other written work. These are just my thoughts, after years of using workbooks for handwriting with my son and seeing little improvement.

Diligently working on handwriting overall as a habit in all areas of written work bit by bit makes the most impact.

Diligently working on handwriting overall as a habit in all areas of written work bit by bit made the most difference at our house. Also, if you feel that your child functions better with lines, you can easily assign your child to write on lined paper for the notebooking assignments. Then, she can cut that portion out and glue it on her notebook page. We did this in my public school teaching days all of the time. It makes each notebooking page customizable to fit exactly what the assignment requires.

Blessings,
Carrie