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

How much “together time” is beneficial?

Teaching Tip: 

How much “together time” is beneficial?

In a previous teaching tip, I mentioned how we can always be assured of plenty of “together time” in a homeschooling setting! One thing to weigh is how much “together time” is truly beneficial? Often as homeschool teachers, we default into thinking that anything done together is better. Often we think that knowledge shared in a group is better, because it is shared.

How do you learn best?

Think through the way that you learn best. Would you say that the “group experience” is the only way or the best way for you to learn? I know for me this isn’t necessarily true.

Be specific in choosing which experiences are shared.

This is why it is important to be specific in choosing which experiences are shared and which ones are individual. Sometimes experiences are shared only between teacher and one student.

What kind of experiences are best done one-on-one?

Personal/private sharing is best done one-on-one. Difficult subjects are best done one-on-one. Subjects that require concentrated attention are best done with few interruptions.

Make a conscious choice about how to handle each subject.

Try making a conscious choice about which subjects are best as a group experience and which subjects are best one-on-one. This specific choosing will make each subject more meaningful. It will also help each subject be better suited to your students’ needs! Try make conscious choices today, and see if your school day goes more smoothly!

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

Does your child have an easy-to-follow schedule that can be seen at a glance?

Teaching Tip 

Does your child have an easy-to-follow schedule that can be seen at a glance?

Do you love schedules or loathe them?  Either way, there is one helpful item that we have found our students need.  It is a list of subjects in the order the subjects “ideally” should be completed each day.  Without such a schedule, the child remains completely dependent on you to dictate the day.

A schedule doesn’t need to be fancy.

This listing of subjects can be hand-written or typed.  It is helpful to use the subject names from the boxes in the Heart of Dakota guide.  It also helps to note a time allotment behind each subject.  This way the students have some idea of how long the subject is expected to take.  On our list I also include the room of our house where I expect the child to complete the subject. I write start and end times next to each subject (but this part of the list is purely optional).

You can use the same list all year!

We use the same list all year. We place the list in a plastic page protector.  Each day our students check off each subject with a dry erase marker.  At day’s end, they use a dry eraser to clear the schedule for use again the next day.

Freedom comes when the order of subjects remains basically the same.

Keeping the subjects in the same basic order each day really pays off in setting a routine. Your student will come to expect which subject comes next, saving both of you time.  The actual time on the clock when each subject occurs is less important than the routine.  Even if the time of day at which you complete those subjects varies from day-to-day… the order remains the same. Try making a simple, easy-to-follow schedule for your child and see what you think!

Blessings,
Carrie

Please Explain How to Set Up a Routine Instead of a Schedule