Give your students two desirable choices.

Teaching Tip:

Encourage your students to keep a positive attitude.

As we near the end of our school year, my kiddos need extra encouragement to keep a positive attitude! It is possible that your students need encouragement too! Today, I’ll share a quick tip that works well to encourage students of all ages to cheerfully comply or obey.

Give your students two desirable choices.

To avoid power struggles, it helps to give students two choices (both of which are desirable to you). This means that while the child gets the power to choose, you also retain power because either choice is acceptable to you.

The choices strategy works especially well for young children.

This strategy works for kiddos of all ages but can be used repeatedly with little ones (all throughout the day). Here are some examples of providing two desirable choices to little ones.

At naptime you can say, “Would you like to walk up the stairs, or do you want me to carry you?” This diverts the child from the issue of not wanting to go to nap. Instead, your child will be focused on the choice of whether to walk or be carried. The napping is a foregone conclusion.

Or, for a child who is always asking for juice, you can say, “Do you want milk or water with your lunch?” This rules out other beverages and focuses on what you will accept as choices.

The choices strategy also works with older children.

With older children, you can ask, “Would you like to do math or science first?” For a child who does not like one of those two subjects, the choice allows them to delay the unloved subject. Then, when the unloved subject arrives, they know they chose for it to be in that order.

The choices strategy also works well with mature students.

For even older students, you can ask, “What is the most important thing you wish to do today during your free time?” Then, as a parent you can be sure to get that one thing in that day. This forces the child to prioritize and choose what is most important. It also helps the child realize that you worked to be sure that he/she got in what he valued that day.

Try giving your students limited choices.

Try giving your students limited choices, and see whether you notice a change. Hopefully, you’ll notice a more positive attitude which will help end your year on a positive note!


Living Books vs Text-books

A Charlotte Mason Moment:

“Books dealing with science as with history, say, should be of a literary character, and we should probably be more scientific as a people if we scrapped all the text-books which swell publishers’ lists and nearly all the chalk expended so freely on our blackboards.”

(Home Education by Charlotte M. Vol. 6, p.218)

Take a moment to introduce each subject.

Teaching Tip:

Take a moment to introduce each subject.

One thing that will help your school day go more smoothly is to take a minute or two to introduce each subject. Subjects that repeat and your child gets to know well will need less introduction. Even routine subjects can benefit from a brief reminder of what you are expecting and what needs to be accomplished.

Go over needed directions prior to beginning an assignment.

Often, it is especially helpful to go over directions prior to beginning the subject. This way the child knows what is ahead and what he/she will be asked to do. You can also help your child by setting out needed books and notebooks open to correct pages.

Be sure your child begins the assignment right.

Next, stick around to be sure your child begins any assignment right. Check the first few lines, problems, or answers to be sure they are done right. For subjects of difficulty, stay nearby to redirect as needed.

Students working independently can still benefit from brief introductions.

Independent students still benefit when you point out things they might miss in the guide that day. During a meeting time with older students, you can correct completed work and briefly go over remaining assignments.

Set your child up for success by minimizing frustration.

Briefly going over subjects helps set your child up for success. When your child knows what to do, he/she can get started right. Getting started right often means your child will make fewer mistakes and will finish earlier. You will also save time not having to reteach incorrectly done subjects later. Try briefly introducing subjects at your house. Then, take time to get your child started right. See if it minimizes frustrations and reteaching later!


Teaching Tip: Do you partner with your child?

Teaching Tip:

Do you partner with your child?

One of your roles as a teacher is to partner with your child in his/her education. So, what happens when your child is running behind, or is frustrated, or has gotten a late start? It is up to you to determine how this affects the day. When this happens at our house, I have two choices. I can either be very upset, or I can partner with my child. If I choose to be very upset, I am setting a mood of frustration for the day. If I choose to partner with my child, there is a sense of relief. Through the years I have learned that partnering with my kids is the better plan of action!

What does partnering with your child mean?

Partnering means that I jump in and do whatever it takes to get my child back on track. I am not a skipper by nature, simply because I know everything in the guide has a purpose. So, instead of skipping things, I look for ways to complete the assignments while allowing the child to catch up.

What are some ways to partner with your child?

Partnering with my child may mean I do the grammar lesson orally, rather than having the child write part on paper. Or, it may mean that I sit right beside the child for a subject he is supposed to do on his own. In this way, I can quickly help him move through that subject. Or, maybe I get out needed books or get everything ready for the next few subjects. This minimizes time lost getting books out or finding the correct page. It could be that I just clear and correct, putting everything away to minimize clutter.

To save time, I could allow a child to read on his/her own something I was meant to read. Or, I might have a child do just the odds or evens in math to catch-up there. Maybe I have my child save a subject to do in the evening. Or, I might have a child orally narrate into his iPod or narrate to a sibling instead of to me. Perhaps, we might have the poetry discussion during lunch while we eat. Or, I might write my child’s responses in the Student Book for Drawn into the Heart of Reading as he dictates them. These are all ways you can creatively jump in and help your kiddos get their day back on track.

Partnering with your child often saves the day!

Partnering together often saves the day! It shows your child that you are on this journey together. So, the next time something derails your day, don’t let it dictate your day. Instead, partner with your child to take the day back!


A Breakthrough in Spelling: Charlotte Mason’s Method of Studied Dictation

A Breakthrough in Spelling: Charlotte Mason’s Method of Studied Dictation

Charlotte Mason’s method of studied dictation was truly a breakthrough in teaching spelling! The good news is, we can still do it today, and it only takes 5 minutes. So, just what is Charlotte Mason’s method of studied dictation? Well, to put it simply, she had children study a passage first. Then, she had the parent dictate the passage phrase by phrase, had the children repeat the phrase, and had the children write it. This was all done from a single reading, without repetition. She then had children immediately fix any errors, using the passage that was studied for help. Pretty easy, right? Well, at Heart of Dakota, we love Charlotte Mason’s method of studied dictation, and here’s why!

In studied dictation, children learn the skill of seeing correctly spelled words within the context of writing.

In studied dictation, children have to capture the whole image of a sentence or a passage in their minds. They need to look at the sentences as a whole, as well as capture the individual words and their parts. This really trains children in the habit of seeing correctly spelled words within the context of writing. After all, this is the ultimate goal of learning to spell! We want kiddos to carryover their spelling to their writing. So, practicing spelling words within the context of writing sentences just makes sense.

In studied dictation, children learn to listen carefully, which helps them strengthen auditory skills.

Studied dictation also forces kiddos to strengthen auditory skills, as they listen to the parent read the passage only once. Children learn to listen for the purpose of repeating perfectly from a single reading. Prior to writing, they then repeat back what the parent said. This strengthens the skill of holding a phrase or sentence in the mind long enough to be able to repeat it back without error and then write it.

In studied dictation, children learn to proofread their work carefully and check it with a model.

After writing the phrase or sentence, children then proofread their work before checking it against the model. This is a terrific way for children to form the habit of proofreading their written work! It truly makes good proofreaders out of kiddos over time. Last, they check their own work, which trains children in checking their work against a correctly written model. They become precise checkers with continual practice.

In studied dictation, children learn to practice immediate correction.

When children miss a passage, they mark any mistakes on the passage. They then immediately correct the mistakes on their own copy. In doing so, children practice yet another skill, which is immediate correction. Moreover, the following day when the child must repeat a passage, he/she pays much closer attention to whatever was missed the day before. This, in essence, finally causes the incorrect mental picture of a word in the mind to be rewritten or mentally corrected. The old, incorrect image is now replaced with the new, correct image. This is the very mental work that must be done in order for the poor speller to fix his/her poor spelling habits. It is also something the good speller does naturally.

Charlotte Mason had a continual focus on children NOT seeing words written incorrectly.

Charlotte Mason had a continual focus on children NOT seeing words written incorrectly. She believed the incorrect image of the word became imprinted on the mind (causing the “wrong” spelling to now “look” right)! This is why kiddos who struggle with poor spelling often have no idea whether a word is spelled correctly or not. It is because they have seen the word written incorrectly so many times that their mind can’t recognize the correct spelling – even when they try!

Charlotte Mason would not have been an advocate of spelling programs that require children to find misspelled words within passages.

Many spelling programs have a section that requires a child to find the misspelled word within a provided passage. In light of Charlotte Mason’s method of studied dictation, this type of exercise is definitely not a good idea! It actually gives the mind yet another opportunity to take a mental picture of an incorrectly spelled word! The theory for including this within a spelling program is that it is good practice for standardized tests,where kiddos will be asked to find the incorrectly spelled word. But in truth, it is training the child to focus on the misspelled word rather than on the correctly spelled words! Children who have been trained in the studied dictation method often have no trouble finding incorrectly spelled words on tests. They are too used to seeing the words spelled correctly! Incorrect words truly jump off the page… no practice needed!

Heart of Dakota and Studied Dictation

At Heart of Dakota, we love studied dictation! Starting with Bigger Hearts for His Glory, we include multiple levels of dictation passages. Though Charlotte Mason advocated dictation be taken directly from a literature passage being studied, we use the Charlotte Mason method of studied dictation while still progressing systematically through passages that gradually increase in difficulty. The dictation passages we use come from an old dictation book that was the standard for teaching spelling in bygone years!

In Closing…

In closing, through studied dictation, we teach children the skills of capturing a correct mental image of a string of words, auditorily hearing the sentence and repeating it back correctly, writing the words in the correct sequence (including all punctuation and capitalization), and proofreading and correcting their work to make sure the right mental image remains (rather than the wrong one). Over time, these skills transfer to students carefully proofreading their own written work in other subjects, which is exactly what we want!  Heart of Dakota’s guides include plans to help you implement Charlotte Mason’s studied dictation methods successfully in your homeschooling, and that’s “More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment” to enjoy!!!

In Christ,