How can I help my son write better narrations?

Dear Carrie

How can I help my son write better written narrations?

Dear Carrie,

We’re in Unit 12 of Heart of Dakota’s Resurrection to Reformation. My son is 13, new to written narrations, and not a writer. He just doesn’t seem to “get” it. Today he was writing conversations and all kinds of things that were in the chapter. I think he was copying them word for word. He also kept saying he didn’t know how to get enough sentences. I know I need to figure out how to tell him to be more “concise” and how to narrow it all down. For today, I’m going to read it myself and write my own narration the way *I* would do it. Maybe that will help him. He really dislikes to write and is just not good at it. So, I guess my question is, how can I help my son write better narrations? I think I just need tips on how a written narration should be.

Sincerely,

“Ms. Please Help My Son Write Better Written Narrations”

Dear “Ms. Please Help My Son Write Better Written Narrations,”

Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Narration is a personal thing and is meant to be a reflection of what the child drew out from the reading. So, while you may be wanting a summary of the reading (unless it is specifically assigned as a summary narration), there are many different types of narrations, and all are acceptable.

Written narrations don’t need to be done in a certain way.

One thing that you do not want to do is to give him the impression that a written narration must be done a certain way. It will leave him even more uncertain and keep him trying to write the way you perceive that a narration should be done. This is no different than writing responses to please the teacher in the classroom and is something we definitely want to get away from doing in the home setting (especially when doing written narrations)!

Reading the “Written Narration Tips” and “A Few Notes on the Transition to Written Narrations” in RTR’s Appendix will help.

So, my first caution to you is to not make your son feel like he is doing it wrong! Accept his written responses. Be sure to go over the Written Narration Tips (Teacher’s List) in the Appendix. Then, go over his list right behind that. These really help in doing written narrations and will give him that sense of purpose you feel he is missing. Make sure to also read “A Few Notes on the Transition to Written Narrations” in the Appendix as well.

Written narrations may vary quite a bit from week to week.

Next, understand that his written narrations may vary quite a bit from week to week. For example, one week he may summarize more, the next week he may go into detail relating just one event that really struck him from the reading, the next week he may give you a detailed description of a person from the reading including dialogue, and the next week he may interject some opinion within the narration. All of these are acceptable!

Your son can think of narrating as telling back a movie he has seen to someone who has never seen it.

You can help him a bit by telling him to think about narrating as telling back a movie that he has seen to someone who has never seen it. Think how he would go about doing that and then apply that same strategy to narrating. Honestly, the more he orally narrates, the more shape his written narrations will take. It isn’t unusual when being new to written narrations to “try on” various styles and ways of doing it. This is what writers do, and it is how they eventually find their own style.

You can demonstrate the written narration process by having your son tell you what he remembers and writing the sentences as he says them.

To demonstrate the written narration process, you could have him tell you what he remembered right after reading and write the sentences as he says them (so he can see them appearing on paper coming right from his mind). This will help him see that it is truly just a retelling of what he is thinking, except on paper. Try not to have him look back so much at the text after reading, as this may jumble up what he recalls in his mind. Just go with what he can remember right away, so he doesn’t get bogged down including all of the facts and details. Later, he can move toward looking back over the text and including important things. This is a later narration stage. Just have him refer to the text for names and places or spellings for now.

Since your son is new to written narrations, he can just try to write a paragraph at first.

For now, since your son is new to written narrations, don’t worry about hitting the exact number of sentences. Just try to have him write a paragraph at first. Just keep encouraging your son that he needs to retell in his own words as much as possible what he remembered from the story. It’s alright if the sentences seem a bit disjointed for now as far as how they go together. Try to withhold judgment as to the narration’s content, but do follow the Written Narration Skills list in the Appendix to help him edit the narration.

As time passes, you will see improvement!

I want to encourage you that as time passes, you will see improvement. But, if you make this a teacher-pleaser assignment with one right way you are seeking, he will not come into his own as a narrator because you will have changed the assignment’s original intention. So, head to the Appendix right away for much needed help! It is there to encourage you in this endeavor! It’s good to know that we all go through this stage as we try to figure out what written narration looks like! You are not alone!

Blessings,
Carrie

P.S. If you are new to Heart of Dakota, click here to find out more about it!

 

Setting the Stage for Success with Shakespeare

More than a Charlotte Mason Moment

Setting the Stage: Charlotte Mason and Shakespeare

We probably read Shakespeare in the first place for his stories, afterwards for his characters… To become intimate with Shakespeare in this way is a great enrichment of mind and instruction of conscience. Then, by degrees, as we go on reading this world-teacher, lines of insight and beauty take possession of us, and unconsciously mould our judgments of men and things and of the great issues of life. (Charlotte Mason, Volume 4, Book 2, p. 72)

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts.
(Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act II, Scene 7)

‘Why read Shakespeare?’ by Carrie Austin, M. Ed., Author of Heart of Dakota Curricula

During the early years of educating our children, I struggled with Charlotte Mason’s recommendation that children study Shakespeare. I was sure that Shakespeare wasn’t worth studying by my children due to the inappropriate jokes, adult content, and references to love-making within his plays. However, as I continued to study his plays and ponder his influence, I realized that there would be something missing in my children’s understanding of the English-speaking world if I neglected to teach them about Shakespeare. Why? Well, partly for the reason that Shakespeare is responsible for contributing some 2000 words and phrases to the English language. Not to mention, those words are still in use today!

The Merit of Introducing Children to Shakespeare’s Plays in Story Form 

While Shakespeare’s plays were obviously not written for children, there is some merit in introducing children to his plays first in story form through Lamb’s Tales of Shakespeare. This aids students in their future understanding of his plays. So, later in high school, when students read Shakespeare’s unabridged plays in original form, they are ready. They do not find themselves floundering, but instead find themselves well-prepared.

The Benefits of Reading Shakespeare

In looking at the positive side of reading Shakespeare, his plays do look at both the virtues and vices of men. They show the consequences of sin, yet his characters often act mercifully. Shakespeare’s plays do refer to Christ and His teachings, and you can often see a resemblance in his plays to stories of other Biblical characters. Morals often play a decisive role in his plays, resulting in intricate plots that lead to consequences based on the character’s actions. The reader must work hard to follow the many plot twists and turns, which is great preparation for the reading of higher level books. Another benefit is that the tales are very entertaining and do much to stimulate the imagination.

A Difference in the Meaning of Words 

Shakespeare does include references to love-making. However, it’s important to note that the words ‘lovers’ and ‘love-making’ meant something different in Shakespeare’s day from the meaning of those same words today. During Elizabethan times, words such as ‘lover’ often meant sweetheart and ‘love-making’ meant an attraction between two people. This is different from the physical act of love that we associate with those same words today.

Heart of Dakota’s Charlotte Mason-Inspired Shakespeare Study

In our guide Resurrection to Reformation, parents have the choice of whether to include Lamb’s Tales of Shakespeare within their weekly schedule. Students read 18 of the 20 tales, omitting Macbeth and Measure for Measure due to mature content. We schedule readings once weekly, and we divide longer stories over two weeks. After each weekly reading, students color the accompanying black and white artwork within the Shakespeare Student Notebook pages. Students also copy a quote from each tale. Due to the length of each tale, and to allow students to better understand the various plot twists better, students are assigned to read the stories on their own.

The Purpose of the RTR Shakespeare Study

We do not attempt to analyze Shakespeare within the provided assignments, but rather to allow students to enjoy the readings and make their own natural connections. Often the moral connections that students make on their own are much stronger than those that would be made if we were to point out the “moral lessons” instead. While we do not wish to persuade you to pursue Shakespeare if it is not within your family’s goals, we do desire to explain our reasoning for including it as a choice within our Economy Package. As you ponder the best path for your family, we will link you to this article, which we found very interesting in our own ponderings about Shakespeare.

Shakespeare in Heart of Dakota’s High School World History Guide

In Heart of Dakota‘s high school World History guide, students enjoy reading Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar. Plays are best heard performed (and watched). Hence, HOD schedules this play to be read along with a fully dramatized, unabridged audio production of Julius Caesar. So as students listen to the recording, they follow along with the unabridged text in No Fear Shakespeare, reading the complete text of Julius Caesar on the left-hand page, while also referencing the side-by-side, line-by-line, easy-to-understand translation on the right. Furthermore, No Fear Shakespeare includes a complete list of characters with descriptions alongside plenty of helpful commentary. This 3-pronged approach helps students experience success with Shakespeare.

Shakespeare in Heart of Dakota’s High School U.S. History II Guide

In Heart of Dakota’s high school U.S. History II guide, Hamlet is read and enjoyed in a similar fashion. Students read Hamlet within Shakespeare Made Easy. This resource contains unabridged original text alongside a modern English version of the text. As students read Shakespeare Made Easy, they listen to Arkangel’s fully dramatized, unabridged audio recording. Furthermore, students enjoy the accompanying commentary included in Christian Guides to the Classics: Shakespeare’s Hamlet. We find students can truly be successful with Shakespeare with this balance.

Setting the Stage for Success with Shakespeare

So now you see how Heart of Dakota begins setting the stage for success with Shakespeare first in RTR‘s Lamb’s Tales of Shakespeare study. This non-threatening, enjoyable introduction to Shakespeare with abridged stories, beautiful notebooking pages, and copywork of some of Shakespeare’s most famous lines sets the stage for students to be successful. Then, after this stage has been so aptly set, the reading of unabridged Shakespeare in high school is not intimidating, but instead is rather like coming back to an old friend you were once introduced to, but are now ready to get to know better. I believe as you begin to study Shakespeare in this manner, you too will understand why Charlotte Mason believed in the merit of reading his works. In fact, you may just find you actually enjoy Shakespeare yourself!

In Christ,
Julie

 

Rotating Teacher-Directed and Independent Blocks of Time

From Our House to Yours

Rotating Teacher-Directed and Independent Blocks of Time

In this Heart of Dakota series, we continue describing a ‘day in the life’ of using Resurrection to Reformation (RTR) and World History (WH). First, I shared our take on homework. Second, I shared our waking up to homeschool routine. Third, I shared our morning chores and breakfast routine.  Today, I will share how we rotate teacher-directed and independent blocks of time between breakfast and lunch.

My Teaching Block for Resurrection to Reformation

After breakfast and clean-up, I have my teaching block for Resurrection to Reformation with Emmett. This is a favorite time of ours! We meet on the living room couch or in a reading nook, as Emmett sometimes like to ‘build’ these. If Emmett had an oral narration for his Reading About History, we begin with that. Then, we check any work he completed earlier for his Independent History box and his Rotating History box. Next, we head to the kitchen table for his math lesson. Finally, we end up back on the couch or in our reading nook for our favorite – the Storytime read-aloud! After the reading, we set out the Storytime cards, and we go over directions for his History Project. He goes to the kitchen table to finish his Storytime card and to do his History Project.

Riley’s Independent Block for World History

While I am doing the teaching block I just described with Emmett in RTR, Riley has an independent block for World History. First, he does his History Activities. He does the seatwork portion at our dining room table. As the You Are There CD is an audio, he listens to this with earbuds in his bedroom. He has a caddy of art supplies, his Bible, and his journal at the ready as well.  Next, he moves on to his World History. He enjoys doing this subject in the addition by Wyatt, our oldest son, who is usually doing his online college there. They often share with each other what they are studying. This is just an informal talking time they both look forward to and enjoy.

My Teaching Block for World History

While Emmett is finishing his Storytime card and his History Project, I meet with Riley. In this teaching block for World History, we enjoy meeting in the living room. We begin with World History. Riley stands to give his oral narrations, which works perfectly for me as I love to sit, sip my coffee, and listen!  He hands me his book open to the page he started reading. I skim it, and then page through it as I listen to him narrate. He is an animated narrator, and he likes to use his voice or his hands to emphasize this or that. I love hearing him narrate!  He reads aloud his written narrations standing as well, and we edit together. Next, we go through his completed work for History Activities and for his Science written work. Finally, I do just the teacher portion of his Grammar or EIW. He then finishes his independent parts for these at the dining room table.

What’s next? Maybe my next teaching time for Resurrection to Reformation, and maybe not!

Often at this time, Emmett has decided to make homemade hot cocoa. He has lit a candle, set out whipped cream, coffee creamer, mini marshmallows, and sprinkles. He knows everyone likes their hot cocoa their own way. This was not a part of our ‘plan,’ but I love it, and he did finish the work he was supposed to, so I let it ride. He rings a bell – a cowbell (we do live in South Dakota). This is LOUD, and everyone stops what they are doing and heads to the kitchen table. Why? They know Emmett has either made hot cocoa or has a history project that involved baking. They each make their favorite hot cocoa concoction or eat the history project, chat, laugh, and share what they’ve been doing so far. Many times they make plans for the afternoon or evening together too. Then, everyone is back to working on school.

Back to My Teaching Time for Resurrection to Reformation

Okay, after the impromptu beverage/snack/chat break, we are back to my teaching time for Resurrection to Reformation. I do my teaching portion for Medieval History-Based Writing Lessons, for Drawn into the Heart of Reading, and for R & S English. I leave Emmett to finish his independent portions of these subjects, with a plan to check on him off and on later when I make lunch.

Riley’s Next Independent Block for World History

While I am doing the teaching block I just described with Emmett in RTR, Riley has his next independent block for World History. After he finishes his written portions of Grammar and EIW, he does his Fine Arts course, usually in the addition at the table. At this point, Wyatt has either gone outside to shoot some basketball hoops or has moved upstairs to work on his college. So, the addition is free and a happy, sunny place to work on art at the table by the window. Next, Riley does his independent reading and writing assignment for either Total Health or Pilgrim’s Progress, whichever is assigned for the day. He gathers his things to meet with me, so he is ready when I call.

My Final Teaching Block for World History

While Emmett is finishing his Medieval History-Based Writing Lessons, Drawn into the Heart of Reading, and R & S English, I meet with Riley. In this teaching block for World History, we first check the portion he wrote for his grammar or EIW. Then, we correct his Fine Arts written work. I marvel at his art project and its progress. Next, we discuss his Total Health or Pilgrim’s Progress on the living room couch. He often still likes to pace, while I sit with yet another cup of coffee (lunch is my cutoff).  I love this private time together to talk about all of the important things that come up in Total Health and Pilgrim’s Progress.  Finally, if it was a tough morning, and Riley didn’t get up early to do Geometry with Wyatt (see my earlier post), they do Geometry now instead.

Making Lunch and Helping Emmett Finish Resurrection to Reformation

As I begin to make lunch, Emmett is finishing his independent portions of Medieval, DITHOR, and R & S English at the kitchen table. It is easy to pop over and offer an assist if necessary! This is also a time Emmet may have left the table, needing to be found and redirected to finish his work. He is my free spirit that can lose track of time or get lost in the moment of a bluejay on our tree, a package that came in the mail, or a wrestling match with my husband. It is at this time that Emmett may need to finish his science. If he did his science as ‘homework’ (see my earlier post), then he is done for the day. If he didn’t, well, then it is time for science. There is a very good chance he will then be finished with school after both my 10th grader and my college student. These moments help Emmett to dig down and do science as homework instead the next time. And that is our day between breakfast and lunch!

In Christ,

Julie

Waking Up to Teach Resurrection to Reformation and World History

From Our House to Yours

A ‘Day in the Life’ Waking Up to Teach Resurrection to Reformation and World History

Homeschooling with multiple Heart of Dakota guides looks different in different homes! However, as I’m asked about this often, I’m doing a series describing a ‘day in the life’ of our family using Resurrection to Reformation (RTR) and World History (WH). Since it is easier to describe my day in segments, I began with how our ‘day’ actually starts the night before with homework. In this post, I’ll continue on with our ‘day’ by describing waking up to teach RTR and WH. While your days might look different, I hope this will still give you some ideas how you could most enjoy your own homeschooling! Often times, just a change or two can make all the difference!

First Things First

I love waking up to do my women’s devotional! My sons know how much I love Joyce Meyer, so they gave me her book Trusting God as a gift for Christmas. It is just perfect for this time of life for me! I spend about 15-30 minutes reading and journaling about my devotional. When I was a mom of babies and toddlers, I spent 5-10 minutes on devotions. If the baby had a bad night, I didn’t get my devotions done. So, as I share I love this time, know that you may be in a different stage of life, and that is okay. However, also know, spending time with God each day first thing in the morning – even if it is for 5 minutes – will be the best time spent all day. If you miss it, try not to feel guilty all day, rather talk with God throughout your day. He will love that time you spend with Him too!

What are the kids doing while I am doing my devotional?

While I am doing my devotional, the kids are doing their independent work. We set a time to get up for each of them. This time is based on how much work they have, how much of a morning person they are, and how much they can do on their own. Once my children reach high school, they usually get up earlier. They have more work to do, so getting up earlier leaves more free time in the afternoons and evenings. This is the case with Riley, my 10th grader in World History. Though he is not as much of a morning person, he chooses to get up at 6 AM. My oldest son doing online college gets up to do Geometry with him. They came up with this plan. (Though I love math, I’m apparently not so patient at teaching it.) Then, Riley does Spanish and Literature Study. Emmett, my 6th grader in RTR, gets up at 7 and hits snooze. Then, he really gets up at 7:10 AM to do his Bible Quiet Time.

Where is everyone while doing this?

You may wonder where everyone is while they are doing all of this. Well, I am in my bedroom, doing my devotional, thoroughly enjoying my first cup of coffee. Riley is partly in his bedroom and partly downstairs at the dining room table – his choice. He has proven himself to be responsible. Emmett is in his bedroom. This helps him stay on task, as he is just down the hall from me.

My Meeting Time with Wyatt

At 7:15 AM, I start my first meeting time in my room. I actually begin with Wyatt, my college-aged son. Though I am not teaching him anymore, I still love to talk with him about his college and the day ahead. We stay connected this way. We make plans for the day together. Appointments, HOD work, errands, and activities get coordinated quickly, as we figure out who is driving where and when. This is an informal time where we share many things. It is precious time to me.

My First Teacher-Directed Meeting Time with Emmett

Around 7:30 AM, I start my first teacher-directed meeting time with Emmett. First, we correct his Bible Quiet Time Hidden Treasures workbook. I ask him if he said his prayer, practiced his Scripture memory work, and sang with his CD. Every 4th day of each unit, I have him say all of his Scripture memory work for me. Then, we do the top right rotating box. Two times a week this is his parent-led Bible Study of Boyhood and Beyond, From Boy to Man, and What Is God’s Design for My Body? (completed in the year in that order). Once a week we do the RTR Poetry Study. Finally, once a week we do the RTR Looking at Pictures Charlotte Mason-inspired picture study. These are perfect subjects to enjoy in our pj’s in the comfort and privacy of my room! I check off all work as we correct it in the RTR guide. Then, Emmett goes to his room to get ready and study his dictation.

My First Teacher-Directed Meeting Time with Riley

Around 7:50 AM, I start my first teacher-directed meeting time with Riley. First, we correct his Bible Study’s written work. He reads his answers aloud to me from The Most Important Thing…, while I look at the answer key. Then, he has the option to show me his prayer journal or ‘flash’ it if he wants to keep it private. Last, depending on the WH plans, he says his Bible memory work for me or I ask if he sang his Selah hymn. Next, we go through his Literature Study box. We go through the Introduction question(s), he flashes me his annotations, and shows me his Common Place Book. Then, I have him read aloud his literature journal response, while I check off each question in his WH guide as he addresses it. Next, we correct his Spanish. He reads aloud his workbook answers, while I follow along in the answer key. Last, we go through his Living Library literary analysis sheet. Riley then heads off to do his Biology and chores independently.

My Second Teacher-Directed Meeting Time with Emmett

Around 8:10 AM, I have gotten coffee #2! Emmett and I do his dictation in my room. He has already made his bed, showered, and studied for his dictation, so this goes fairly quickly. As soon as we finish his dictation, we check it off in his guide. Then, we look at his Independent History, Rotating History/Shakespeare, and Reading About History boxes. He has until around 9:10 AM to do these, and we number them 1, 2, 3 in the guide in the order he wants to do them. He does these downstairs at his desk or on the couch in the living room. From 9:10 to 9:30 AM, he does his  morning chores.

Exercise, Getting Ready, Praise Music, and Breakfast

As Wyatt, Riley, and Emmett are doing their independent work, getting ready for the day, and doing their chores, I have time to do things too! From around 8:20 to 8:50 AM, I exercise. Then from 8:50 to 9:10 AM, I get ready for the day and make breakfast. Around 9:10 AM, Emmett starts a Christian praise music playlist. About this time, everyone is on to their chores, and I’m getting breakfast to the table. I love this time!  Christian music playing, everyone doing their thing, and all of us working together to do our part. People are humming, whistling, singing – we are happy while we work. I think the praise music sets the tone. Our homeschool days are quite cheerful! Not perfect. We still get cranky sometimes. We might oversleep sometimes. But the majority of the days follow this plan. So, we start our days feeling ‘ahead’ in our homeschooling.

In Closing

If you have little ones, these ideas might not all work. Little ones are less predictable and less independent. However, they have much less time they are homeschooling too. So, there is not the need to be quite as planned nor to homeschool as early. If you have some older children, you may enjoy trying these ideas with them. I love starting our day with a plan that still has us in our pj’s and cheerfully spending time together. I’ve also found I like to plan time to correct things that have been completed in our morning meeting times. Hope this helps you see one way of approaching homeschooling in the morning!

In Christ,

Julie

March Library Builder: Save 10% on the Resurrection to Reformation Basic Set!

Library Builder

Use coupon code MARCH-LIBRARY for 10% on this month’s Library Builder book set: The Resurrection to Reformation 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 MARCH-LIBRARY on our website for the entire month of March to apply the savings to your order. The coupon applies to the Resurrection to Reformation Basic Package set of books.   To view all of the books in this set, just click here! (Scroll down until you see the “History Read-Alouds” section.)

How is the Basic Package used in Resurrection to Reformation?

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 the Resurrection to Reformation Introduction, so why don’t we have a quick look at that?

(From the Introduction to Resurrection to Reformation):

Storytime
Daily storytime sessions are linked to the “Reading about History” box of the plans by similar historical time period. These books provide the historical backdrop, 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 as a Basic Package, or sold individually, at www.heartofdakota.com.

The following activities rotate through the “Storytime” box of plans and coordinate with the read-aloud assignments: orally narrating, finding vivid descriptions, locating new vocabulary, identifying plot twists, recognizing strong moods, copying great lines, and watching for life lessons. Students will record their answers on index cards. Depending on how large students write, they will need 12 or more index cards. We suggest placing the cards on a ring for organizational purposes.

Note: If you are already doing a Storytime package with a different Heart of Dakota program, you may choose to have 5th-6th grade students read the books in this package on their own by following the plans in the “Storytime” box. These students should be strong, independent readers who aren’t overly sensitive. Otherwise, reading aloud is the preferred method for using this package.

Use coupon code MARCH-LIBRARY to save!

To apply this month’s savings, just enter coupon code MARCH-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 Resurrection to Reformation looks like in your home, have a look at this article!

Resurrection to Reformation: Heart of Dakota’s Homeschool Program for Ages 10-12, with Extensions for Ages 13-14