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

How can my son better comprehend Child’s History of the World?

Dear Carrie

How can I help my son better comprehend and enjoy Child’s History of the World?

Dear Carrie,

My 11 year old fifth grader is using Heart of Dakota‘s Preparing Hearts . He narrates Grandpa’s Box well, but he struggles to comprehend the reading of Child’s History of the World (CHOW) . The last time we read I had to go back and explain what was happening. He just can’t seem to follow it. I know many people rave about how easy and enjoyable CHOW is!  For this child, it just is not that way. We are hitting the section where there will be a lot of CHOW. I’m just not sure what to do. We’ve currently taken a break from it. He’s reading books he is able to engage with like Bound for Oregon. I’ve not heard or read anyone else having this particular struggle with this book. How can I help my son better comprehend and enjoy Child’s History of the World?

Sincerely,

“Ms. Please Help My Son Better Comprehend and Enjoy Child’s History of the World”

Dear “Ms. Please Help My Son Better Comprehend and Enjoy Child’s History of the World,”

I can see wanting your son to better comprehend and enjoy Child’s History of the World (CHOW). While CHOW is a narrative telling of history, it’s important to remember that it is still a telling of history (meaning it is full of names, dates, and places that really raise the reading/listening level of the text)! This means that CHOW is a much more difficult book than a narrative story like Bound for Oregon. Both have their purposes.

The difference between narrative historical fiction books and narrative nonfiction history spines.

Books like Bound for Oregon are historical fiction, with one character who you stay with throughout the book. This makes it very easy to stay with the storyline without much effort. Books like CHOW are filled with different “characters” and places from history every single day. They are much more work to listen to attentively and harder to narrate from, because you really have to have cultivated the habit of attention to be able to narrate from a book where the characters and places are always changing! This is the habit we must seek to cultivate. You can see, as I’m sharing about the differences between the two types of books, that they are fulfilling two different sets of skills. So, to neglect one or the other type of reading means that the child will then be missing a whole set of accompanying skills.

We are gradually working a child up in their reading/listening level with books like CHOW.

Readings like CHOW are more similar to what children will be reading in history and science texts as they progress through their academic subjects (even though CHOW is much more narrative than a typical text). CHOW forces a child to grow and stretch as needed to be able to handle more difficult readings in this vein with each successive year. We are gradually working a child up in their reading/listening level gently guide by guide with books like CHOW, rather than making a huge jump in these areas when the child hits high school. Incremental steps are always better than a big, huge leap forward in requirements!

We expect the readings/listenings in CHOW to be challenging, but you can use a markerboard to help.

So, with this in mind, just be encouraged that we actually expect the readings/listenings in CHOW to be challenging. We expect the child to slowly gain in this area throughout the year. So, what should you do to help your child? First of all, it is a good idea to list any major names and places on a markerboard before the reading and read them aloud to your child, having him repeat them after you. This is something Charlotte Mason herself advocated.

Your child can read CHOW on his own and use the markerboard as a reference as he narrates.

Next, as your child is in fifth grade, you can have him read CHOW on his own. If he can read Bound for Oregon on his own, he can read CHOW on his own. It is often true that children narrate better when they read something themselves. It is true for me too! As your son gets ready to narrate, have the markerboard there for him to refer to the names and places as he narrates. Don’t jump in and explain the text to him, no matter how much you want to (as this actually helps you understand the text better but also means you are doing the work of sifting and sorting the information to make meaning, which is the work we need him to do)!

You can do the Preparing guide’s follow-ups after reading, making sure not to give personal commentary.

Then, do the follow-ups in the Preparing guide. Don’t embellish or give a bunch of personal commentary. I know this is hard, as it is second nature for us to want to share our own connections or summarize for the child, but instead let the child share (even if it is very painful or very short). Otherwise, you are truly getting in between the child and the reading. If he cannot figure out an answer to a question in the Preparing guide, both of you should skim the reading for the answer and then you can run your finger under it and have him read just that brief part out loud. Often, kiddos feel they are not getting the “right” answer, so they no longer want to share. They would just rather wait for you to supply the answer. This is an alternative to that.

You can have him narrate after reading a few pages at a time, if need be.

If needed, you can have him narrate after he’s read a couple of pages. Then, have him read a couple more and pause and narrate again. If he shares anything, find a way to compliment him. Work to compliment his answers rather than asking for more information right now. Even a sentence or two is alright when you are learning a new skill. You could just respond, “Oooh that sounds interesting!” Or, “Really? I didn’t know that!” Or, “Wow, I had no idea that _____ (and then repeat back a bit of what he said)!” Or, “That sounds exciting!” Or, “I never knew that _____ (and share a bit of something he mentioned). Or, “Oh that makes me want to know more!” Or, “Now, you’ve got me wondering what will happen next. I’ll be interested to hear more about this as you keep reading!”

He is seeking your approval, and he needs to be able to share his own connections without worrying about being ‘wrong.’

It will come, but it won’t happen overnight. Right now he is in the stage where he is seeking your approval, trying to find the answer that you feel is “right”.  All children do this when the material is difficult. He has to learn the freedom to share his own thoughts and connections, as he grapples with difficult material, without worrying he’ll be wrong.

In Short…

So, in short, I’d go over the names and places on the markerboard before he reads (making sure he repeats them to you before starting so he has proper pronunciation). Next, he should read CHOW on his own, pausing every couple of pages to share a sentence or two narration about what he read. Compliment his sharing, whatever it is, and don’t ask for more right now. After reading a couple more pages, he should share again (just a couple sentence narration). Don’t prod for more – just compliment.

Last, do the follow-up in the guide. Don’t add to the follow-up with commentary, just do what is there. Help him skim for answers if needed. Run your finger under the answer for him in CHOW to read it aloud, but don’t answer for him. If he doesn’t share much, do not have him reread. Just keep moving forward each day, keeping the lessons short and sweet. You will see progress, but it will take up to 9 weeks. So, be patient! Just know the growing pains you are experiencing are expected, and you’re not alone.

Blessings,
Carrie

Update from “Ms. Please Help My Son Better Comprehend and Enjoy Child’s History of the World:”

Dear Carrie,

I wanted to let you know how it is going. I now only write a few names on the markerboard as I realized that a lot of the big/unfamiliar names have pronunciation keys right in the book. So, we just look over those before we start. He reads 2 pages (with me sitting right there) and then narrates what he has connected to in that section. He then goes on and reads the rest of the chapter and narrates again at the end.

I am excited and amazed that reading it this way, he is starting to connect with this book!!! He is picking up on the little funny things that Hillyer notes about the characters. For example, he got quite a kick out of Socrates’ wife dumping water on his head. He even got Socrates’ pithy little response, “After thunder, expect rain.” That’s amazing for him! I am thrilled that we have continued on with this and have found a way to help him read, enjoy and learn from CHOW. Thanks, again, Carrie, for your specific helps that have helped me approach this from a different perspective.

Sincerely,

“Ms. Please Help My Son Better Comprehend and Enjoy Child’s History of the World”

 

 

 

 

 

Extension Package: More Mature Reading, Follow-up Skills, and Assignments for Older Students

Dear Carrie

Is the Extension Package just an extra set of books, or does it include skills that are pertinent to students being older?

Dear Carrie,

I used Heart of Dakota and loved it! We then put our daughters in public school due to health problems. But, I’m excited to be returning! I looked at the placement chart. My daughters place best in Preparing Hearts for His Glory. My daughter, who is in 4th grade this year, is a very slow reader.  On the contrary, my daughter in 5th grade is a very advanced reader. However, due to the writing, both of them are not ready for Creation to Christ. So, I have placed them in Preparing Hearts for His Glory.  My question is about the Extension Package.  Is the Extension Package just a set of more books? If so, I probably will just let her choose other books on her own. Or, does the Extension Package include reading and assignments that are pertinent to her being a 5th grader?

Sincerely,

“Ms. Please Help Explain the Extension Package”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Explain the Extension Package,”

The Extension Packages are so much more than just extra books to read. I’m glad you asked!  If you have a child in the extension range, they are actually a needed part of the program. This is because I chose the books to show a different part of history or a different point of view than what is being covered elsewhere in the history study. The books are designed to deepen the study in this manner.

Older students in the extension package age range need to be reading their own history at a higher reading level.

The books are also intended for the student to be reading on his/her own in order to raise the reading level of the history material being studied by the older child. This is necessary in Preparing, because if you are still reading aloud the history as scheduled in the guide, an older child should also be reading his/her own history material.

Follow-up assignments are designed to address higher level skills for older students.

The oral narrations, written narrations, and notebook assignments are designed to address skills that an older student should be practicing and showing progress in due to their age level. These assignments aren’t meant to be optional for an older student. So, if you choose to forego the extension books for a child in the extension range of a program, you are missing the part of the program that makes it extend for that age level.

Extension package book are interesting, engaging, and enjoyable.

Finally, the extension books are also very interesting and engaging, and kiddos who do the extension books do truly enjoy them!  If you have a child in the extension range, you should plan for these books to be a daily part of Preparing Hearts as intended. Drawn into the Heart of Reading is the place to allow your daughter to read books of her own choosing. DITHR works with any books you choose and will work well in that capacity for your older daughter.

Blessings,

Carrie

P. S. To read more about Heart of Dakota, click here!

 

October Library Builder: Save 10% on the Preparing Hearts Basic Package!

Library Builder

Use coupon code OCTOBER-LIBRARY for 10% on this month’s Library Builder book set: The Preparing Hearts Basic Package!

We are excited to continue our  Heart of Dakota Library Builder book set promotion! On the 1st Wednesday of each month we will be promoting one of our book sets with a 10% coupon code. For this month’s special, use coupon code OCTOBER-LIBRARY on our website for the entire month of October to apply the savings to your order. The coupon applies to the Preparing Hearts Basic Package set of books.   To view all of the books in this set, just click here! (Scroll down until you see the “Basic Package” section.)

How is the Basic Package used in Preparing Hearts? 

Well, we could tell you, but why reinvent the wheel? Carrie and Julie have already done an excellent job of outlining how these books are used in Preparing Hearts’ Introduction, so why don’t we have a look at that together?

(From the Introduction of Preparing Hearts for His Glory):

Storytime
Daily storytime sessions are linked to the “Reading About History” box of the plans by a similar historical time period. These books provide the historical backdrop for each time period, or a panoramic view of history, while the “Reading About History” readings provide a more factual view. These scheduled read-alouds are highly recommended, unless you need to economize. Complete listings and book descriptions for these books can be
found in the Appendix. These books are sold as a set in the Basic Package,
or sold individually, at www.heartofdakota.com:
The True Story of Noah’s Ark by Tom Dooley
Tirzah by Lucille Travis
Classic Treasury of Aesop’s Fables by Don Daily
A Triumph for Flavius by Caroline Dale Snedeker
Fountain of Life by Rebecca Martin
Viking Quest I: Raiders of the Sea by Lois Walfrid Johnson
The Door in the Wall by Marguerite De Angeli
The Wonderful Winter by Marchette Chute
The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson
Twenty and Ten by Claire Huchet Bishop and Janet Joly

Each unit includes the following activities in coordination with the
“Storytime” read-aloud assignments:
*Day 1: personal connections are shared that relate to the story
*Day 2: differences between the characters’ lives and the students’
lives are identified based upon the historical time period of
the story
*Day 3: the main character’s faith is evaluated for its impact on the
character’s life and the story
*Day 4: oral narration is practiced by retelling the story

Use coupon code OCTOBER-LIBRARY to save!

To apply this month’s savings, just enter coupon code OCTOBER-LIBRARY on our website when you check out! We hope these books will be as treasured to you as they are to us!

Have a great rest of the week!
Heart of Dakota

 

PS: If you’d like a more in-depth look at what using Preparing Hearts looks like in your home, have a look at this article!

Third or Fourth Grade Homeschooling – Preparing Hearts for His Glory

Alexander the Great: Brilliance and Brutality

History with Heart of Dakota

Who was Alexander the Great? 

Conqueror, explorer, leader, and visionary. These are just a few of the words that describe Alexander the Great. Born the son of legendary warrior-king Philip II of Macedonia, Alexander went on to outshine his father.  Philip transformed Macedonia from an unremarkable country to a ruling power in Greece; Alexander made Macedonia the ruling power in the entire known world. His conquests would stretch the Macedonian empire from the mountains of his homeland, to the sands of Egypt, to the expanses of Persia, all the way to the banks of the River Beas in India.

Personality of a Genius 

Alexander was a genius in more ways than one. First, his grasp of military tactics was unequaled in his day. He perfected the use of the phalanx – a tactic which his father had introduced. The phalanx was an infantry formation where soldiers grouped tightly together with each man’s shield protecting himself and his neighbor. In addition to this, each man also carried an 18-20 foot pike which he would thrust outwards from the shield wall. (Wasson) In a time where armies usually fought in a haphazard manner depending on sheer force of numbers to win, the phalanx gave Alexander’s soldiers a huge advantage. Oftentimes, enemy soldiers would simply break off his phalanxes like water off a rock. In addition to this, Alexander had distinct knack for sensing his enemy’s weakest position and massing his men to exploit it. Therefore, when his phalanxes came crashing through there was usually no stopping them.

Second, Alexander was a genius when it came to leading his men. He routinely made a point of leading the charge in battle rather than staying back in safety. Initially, he also insisted on sharing his men’s hardships. For instance, while marching his troops through the desert, according to biographer Peter Green, “…when a helmetful [sic] of muddy water had been found for him in some nearby gully – but no more was to be had – he laughed, thanked the donor, and then tipped the water out into the sand. So extraordinary was the effect of this action that the water wasted by Alexander was as good as a drink from every man in the army.” (434) Alexander lead by example, as all great leaders do. When his men saw him facing and overcoming the same challenges they faced, it inspired greatness in them as well.

Fatal Flaws

Nonetheless, Alexander was far from perfect. “Like many brilliant men,” historian John Gunther writes, “he was unstable…he ran from one extreme to another…” (46) While he could be caring and understanding, he also could be irrational and violent. He had a burning temper which resulted in him murdering some of his most faithful soldiers, such as Clitus and Parmenion. Also, during his final years he firmly believed himself to be descended from the Greek god Zeus. Those who did not acknowledge this were executed. (Gunther 138-139) Sadly, with no god to serve except himself, Alexander – once great – ended his life in drunkenness and confusion.

Lasting Impressions

Even though Alexander’s life was dramatically short (he only lived to be 32!) what he accomplished in that time has had repercussions that affect us to this day. His use of soldiers as disciplined units formed the gold standard in military tactics for hundreds of years afterward. In addition, by bringing many different countries under one empire, he spread the use of a universal language – Greek. Many scholars believe this was instrumental in spreading the Gospel 400 years later. He also founded many different cities – some of which remain to this day. (Many of these he named Alexandria, after himself.) Ultimately, much like God had used prior civilizations and kings to carry out His purpose in history, God used Alexander the Great to mold the world according to His own plan.

Which HOD guides can you find Alexander the Great in? 

Alexander the Great can be encountered in several of Heart of Dakota’s guides! You can find him in Little Hearts, Preparing Hearts, Creation to Christ, World Geography, and World History. You can also find a more in-depth study of him in John Gunther’s book Alexander the Great, which students can read in the extension package for Creation to Christ.

Bibliography 

Green, P. Alexander of Macedon, 356-323 B.C. (University of California Press, 2013).

Gunther, J. Alexander the Great. (Sterling Publishing, 2007).

Wasson, D.L. The Army of Alexander the Great. (Ancient History Encyclopedia, 2014).