Summer is a great time for chore training!

Teaching Tip

Summer is a great time for chore training!

Summer is a wonderful time to train your children to do various chores around the house! We use the summer to train each of our kiddos to do a set of chores appropriate to his age. Then, during the school year the child is easily able to do these chores well, with less checking and monitoring!

How many chores can you expect a child to perform well?

Each child has 1-3 chores we train him to do very well. These chores are the child’s responsibility until he grows another year older. Each year the chores shift, allowing each child more responsibility as he matures.

What types of chores can you train children to do?

Chores can range from dust busting after meals, to clearing table, to loading and unloading the dishwasher. Taking out the garbage, wiping the counters, and sorting and folding laundry are other chores that can be taught. Older children can tackle lawn care, snow removal, house cleaning, putting away groceries, and making quick meals. The chores we assign go beyond typical “picking up.”

Routine “picking up” is also a daily responsibility.

All of our kiddos are expected to put away their school books, make their beds, and keep their bedrooms tidy. Our older kiddos also take turns doing a “clean sweep” of the house in the evening before bedtime. This sweep involves systematically tidying each room and putting away out of place items. These routine tasks are in addition to our boys’ other assigned chores.

Why is summer a great time for chore training?

Chore training takes time and diligence! This is why summer is a great time to tackle this task with consistency. Try it with your children and, when the school year rolls around again, you will be glad that you did!

Blessings,
Carrie

A little bit of playtime can go a long way!

Teaching Tip

A little bit of playtime can go a long way!

If you have little ones, here’s a tip you can put into practice during summer break! This summer, train your little ones to have a 20-30 minute playtime alone in a designated safe area at least once daily.  For really young ones, the playpen or the crib can serve as the designated area.  For kiddos aged 3 or older, a gated play area can work well. For kiddos closer to school-age, playtime in their bedroom can be an option.

What can the kiddos do during this designated playtime?

During playtime in the designated area, we had certain toys for the child to play with during that time. When the kids were younger, we kept those toys/books in 5 lidded storage tubs numbered days 1-5.  Each day, we just pulled out the next numbered tub. We stored the tubs under our bed. When the kiddos got older, we listed safe toys from our playroom on index cards numbered 1-5 instead. We placed the index cards on a ring on our fridge.  We flipped to a new card each day to know which toys to set out for playtime for that day.

Focus on getting your young ones to have some playtime alone in a safe space.

There are many different variations you could use to accomplish this goal.  The focus needs to be on the little one having a bit of playtime alone in a safe environment. This is so helpful during the school year and makes for a happy little one and a happy mama! Don’t despair if the training takes some time. Just remember you are training for the future.

Blessings,
Carrie

PS: Looking for more ways to utilize playtime to keep your days running smoothly? Check out this Teaching Tip!

Taking Time Off From Teaching

Teaching Tip

Why is it important to take time off?

As summer has arrived in South Dakota, I’m reminded of the importance of taking time off from schooling. Like us, you may follow a typical school calendar; or, maybe you school year-round instead. Either way, it is a good idea to take at least a month off during your school year to recharge.

How does having time off help your school year go better?

I find I am much more focused during my “school year,” if I have had some time off to regroup. During our break, my kiddos read endless books for pleasure. They play outside, swim, play strategic board games, bake, bike, and work on projects. My boys love their time off, and so do I. It helps us all focus better on school when it rolls around again.

Taking time off helps you recharge for the school year.

So, I encourage you to make sure to take some time for both you and your children to recharge. We take several months off in the summer. Then, we are very focused during our school year once it begins. With this schedule, we take little to no breaks until summer rolls around again. Whatever your schedule, be sure to make time to have a more lengthy break! You may be surprised after your break at how ready you are to start school again.

Blessings,
Carrie

PS: Check out this post from the Heart of Dakota Message Board if you are concerned about not finishing the guide by the end of the school year.

HOD Guides: A Journey to Enjoy Not a Race to Complete

Teaching Tip

Think of the Heart of Dakota guides as a journey to enjoy rather than a race to complete.

Are you getting closer to the end of your school year? If so, you may feel like rushing or cramming things in to finish your guide by a designated time. I encourage you to resist that urge. Instead, think of the sequence of Heart of Dakota guides as a journey to be enjoyed each step of the way. One guide’s skills will prepare your child well for the next guide to come. So, it’s best to use each guide to its fullest along the way.

Do you feel like rushing or doubling up days to finish your guide on time?

You may have had a year full of life’s unexpected surprises, or maybe you began Heart of Dakota later in your year. Either way, there is little benefit to doubling up days or doing multiple days in one in order to finish “on-time.” However, there is a huge benefit to solidly teaching the skills that are wound within each guide one day at a time. This steady progress forward will help students practice and form skills they will need life-long!

So what should you do if you find yourself “behind” in your progress by “year-end”?

First of all, accept where you truly are in the guide. No amount of rushing will change that fact. Second, make a realistic plan to teach a day within a day until your designated break date. During your break, reassess whether your children are still correctly placed in their current guide(s). Most likely, their current placement will still be best. If you have gotten very far off track for an extended period of time, it is possible that your children may need to be placed in a different guide. Third, after your break, either pick the guide back up where you left off or begin your new guide(s). In this journey, steady progress forward pays big dividends.

What did our family do when we were “behind”?

I share this tip with you, because I know from personal experience what it’s like to be “behind.”

In one of our years of schooling, we were behind by 10 weeks by year-end. The year had started with some medical challenges that ground our year to a halt before it even began! My husband finally stepped in and set a finish date for school regardless of where we were in the guide. During our break, we reassessed our boys’ placements. Our older sons needed to move forward to a new guide. So, after our break, they did. Our younger sons needed to keep going in their current guides. So, after our break, they did. For our younger sons, we just picked their guides back up where they had left off. Once this decision was made, I felt a huge sense of relief! We felt like we had done what was best for our boys academic journey in a difficult year.

We would love to help you too!

If you need help deciding whether your children are correctly placed for the coming year, please contact us! We would love to help!!

Blessings,
Carrie

Eight Easy Tips to Help Little Ones Get Ready to Read

From Our House to Yours

My first easy tip to get little ones ready to read is simply to do Little Hands to Heaven with them!

During our summer break, I loved working with just my littlest one. I had more time, and I needed to be with my little one anyway. So, why not help him get ready to read? My first go-to way to get my little ones ready to read was always to simply do Heart of Dakota’s Little Hands to Heaven (LHTH) with them. Using LHTH, I taught my sons a sound and an action for every letter. I used the fingerplays, flashcards, and letter activities to help my sons commit their letters and sounds to memory. Everything was neatly tied to the Bible theme for the week too! I only spent 15-30 minutes a day doing HOD’s Little Hands to Heaven. Half-speed took 15 minutes. Full-speed took 25-30 minutes. Easy-peasy, productive, and an awesome way to help little ones get ready to read!

My second easy tip to get little ones ready to read is to have them watch the Leap Frog DVDs.

All of our sons enjoyed watching the Leap Frog DVDs. The first DVD is called Letter Factory, and it does a great job of teaching letters and their sounds! This was by far my favorite DVD for getting my little ones ready to read. The second DVD is called Talking Words Factory. This one is a little more grown up, as it moves on to words. I didn’t have my kiddos watch this until they had the Letter Factory down pat. There is a third DVD called Let’s Go to School. I didn’t have them watch that DVD; we were homeschooling. No need to hype up a classroom setting! However, I loved the first two DVDs! They were inexpensive, 30 minutes long, and available everywhere.

My third easy tip to get little ones ready to read is the ‘finger slide.’

Once children know their letters and sounds well, I like to teach them the ‘finger slide.’ I begin by always putting my finger under the sound being read, and I don’t slide it to the next sound until they read it read right. Then later, I put my finger under the word being read, and I don’t move it on until the word is read right. Then still later, I put my finger at the start of the line, and I don’t move it on to the next start of the line until the sentence is read right. This is an easy visual queuing system. I like how I can use this finger slide method in a progression, as my kiddos learn to read!

My fourth easy tip to get little ones that are a little older to read utilizes a markerboard.

Once children have begun to read small words, I like to have a handheld markerboard nearby. When they are trying to sound out a word, I simply set the book aside. Then, I pull out my handheld markerboard. I begin to jot the word they are working to sound out in large letters in black marker in the middle of the markerboard. I jot the word they are struggling with one sound/chunk at a time, having them say them for me. For example, if the word was “glass”, I’d write…

gl (pause for him to say it) a (pause) ss (pause)

Then, I would slide my finger under the whole word to signify it’s time to blend it all together. They loved this! I remember one time I forgot the markerboard. My little one came to a word he was stuck on, and after a few tries, he said, “MOM – where’s the markerboard? I’m waiting.”  Toe-tapping, arms crossed on chest. Too cute! Anyway, it’s easy, it works, and they only need help like this occasionally.

My fifth easy tip to get little ones that are a little older to read is to give them a chance to “practice” first, without me.

For some of our sons, having some time on their own to sound out each word without me next to them helped. It gave them a chance to “practice” without me watching, and it helped them not to feel so put-on-the-spot.  When I tutored, I would sometimes have little ones that were overwhelmed by books. If they were not sure about reading from a book, I would just write each word on a markerboard one at a time and do the lesson like that, with me referring to the manual just for my own information. One word on a markerboard is much less intimidating than a page. It also doesn’t seem like a page is being repeated, even if it is a repeat of what was done yesterday. After practicing on markerboard, they were then often ready to read the book and did so quite happily and successfully!

My sixth easy tip to get little ones that are a little older to read uses a loud voice and/or a rubberband.

Once little ones are sounding out words, they often forget the first sound by the end of the word. For example, they might sound out c… a… t… quite slowly, and then quickly say the word is ‘tan.’ Or, they might sound out t… e… n… slowly, and then quickly say the word is ‘net.’ This happens because they have not learned to ‘hold’ the sounds in sequence in their mind. They remember the last sound the best, as they just said it. They might even vaguely remember the middle or first sounds. However, they jumble their order and pronounce their final word with the last sound first. This is very common and usually nothing to worry about!

An easy tip to help them with this is to simply say the first sound the loudest. I would model this, sometimes saying it louder while gently cupping my hands around their ear as I said it (i.e. C… a… t… – Cat! Though the first sound obviously isn’t always accented (i.e. in a two-syllable word), this tip works to help emphasize the ‘holding’ of the first sound first and foremost in their mind. One more idea that worked for my sons was to use a rubberband to stretch as we were saying each sound and then snap it back when we blended it.

My seventh easy tip to get little ones that are a little older to read is simply to try the BOB books.

Have you heard of the BOB books? They are inexpensive, funny, and excellent for beginning readers. We went through these as we did our phonics, starting about in the middle of our phonics, when I knew my sons would be successful with them. The first set begins with CVC words in a pattern. These books are inexpensive and available online and at most book stores.

My eighth easy tip to get little ones that are a little older to read is to give rewards. 

Giving rewards, just little ones, for small gains at first is motivating to little ones learning to read. For example, I might have a jar and every time my son reads a word properly for the day, he gets a mini marshmallow or chocolate chip or skittle or whatever. He may get 10 if he reads 10 words properly. Maybe every 10, he would get a sucker too. Or, if you don’t believe in this type of reward, you can give a sticker for each, and when he receives 10, let him do something special with or on his own (i.e. build a lego tower or watch a short video). Rewards really did make a difference early on in our sons’ reading progress. We found after awhile, we could just drop them, and then reading itself was the reward.

I hope some of these ideas help, but mamas of little ones, keep pressing on! It WILL click, and though it takes time, it is so worth the time and effort to get there!

In Christ,
Julie