Building Writing Skills in Beyond Little Hearts to Be Ready for Bigger Hearts
From year to year, Heart of Dakota’s (HOD’s) plans include all the building blocks necessary to be successful in the next guide. One area I found extremely important to pay attention to in Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory (Beyond) was the writing. All three of my sons needed to work diligently on building their writing skills while doing Beyond to be ready for the increased writing skills in Bigger Hearts for His Glory (BHFHG). It was not easy! Of my three sons, one was an early writer. He held his pencil properly, he formed his letters correctly, he wrote neatly, and he wrote in abundance without complaint. He was my first son. When he did Beyond, he wrote all the poems with little difficulty. In fact, he did all of the writing in Beyond with ease. His writing naturally shrunk as the year progressed. I did not know how blessed I was!
My next two sons did not take to writing as eagerly. It then occurred to me that I had to pay attention to their writing more. I actually had to work alongside them more and help them do that which my oldest son had done on his own. (Now, let me stop right here and make mention lest you be discouraged and stop reading – all of my sons are very good writers today. They are 14, 18, and 21 years old. So, if you have an uneager writer in Beyond, be encouraged!) Anyway, my two youngest sons needed my daily focus on improving their writing in Beyond to actually improve their writing. They needed the entire year in Beyond to do so.
How to Focus on Building Writing Skills in Poetry Copywork
Children write daily copywork of the classical poetry in Beyond. Don’t underestimate this skill. It is crucial! Daily copywork provides written language practice. Take time to read the Copywork section in the Introduction of Beyond. You will find excellent instruction there. In general, copywork should last 5-10 minutes. Children should write neatly, correctly, and carefully. Quality must come before quantity. However, I want to emphasize – quantity must come eventually. While children might start Beyond copying one line of the poem each day, that is not where children should end Beyond. Progress should be made. This is a skill to work upon all year. As a reminder of this to myself, I have a personal goal to gradually increase the amount of copywork my children do each day each month or two. The end goal for me is to have my children able to copy the entire poem by the end of the week by the last quarter of the Beyond guide.
Writing size of copywork is another area to focus upon. While children might start Beyond copying with very large writing, that is not where children should end Beyond. As a reminder of this to myself, I have a personal goal to gradually decrease the size of copywork my children do each day each month or two. The end goal for me is to have my children able to copy the entire poem by the end of the week by the last quarter of the Beyond guide on wide-lined notebook paper.
Writing space of copywork is another area to focus upon. While children might start Beyond copying with no spaces between their words, that is not where children should end Beyond. The end goal for me is to have my children properly using spaces between their words.
How to Focus on Building Writing Skills in Spelling Days 1 and 2
Children work on building writing skills by doing Beyond’s Language Arts: Spelling plans four days a week. Beyond’s daily plans give important directions about how to go about teaching writing skills within spelling. Take time to read and follow them carefully; each part includes writing skills that are important to build. In general, children should do either Spelling List 1 or 2 – not both. They should do the same spelling list all year. We as parents write the spelling words in black letters on white index cards. Children study the card, flip it, write it from memory, flip the card back to check the spelling, and erase/correct any mistakes. This sequence is important – it is a precursor to studied dictation.
On Day 2, parents say the word and children try to write it from memory. (We used a markerboard for this day.) Then, parents give the children the matching card to compare to the word they just wrote. If it is wrong, they correct it. Again, this sequence is important. Each time the children see the word correctly spelled and each time they correctly write it, the word is imprinted on their brain. The properly spelled word begins to “look right” to the mind.
How to Focus on Building Writing Skills in Spelling Days 3 and 4
On Day 3, parents choose 3 of the spelling words the children need to practice. It doesn’t matter if they spelled them all right on Day 2. Just pick 3 of the hardest words then. The focus of the spelling is not a pretest and posttest. The skill is for children to properly use the words in sentences. As the children dictate the sentences, the parent writes them and underlines the spelling word within each sentence. Then, the children must copy the 3 sentences on a piece of paper. Preferably, the writing will shrink to the size of notebook paper and have proper spacing by the end of the year.
On Day 4, parents say each spelling word within the context of a sentence. Children write each word and check it with the matching word card. They correct it if necessary. For each missed word, children do the rotating activity (which tactilely reinforces the proper spelling). Again, this multi-sensory sequence is important.
How to Focus on Building Writing Skills in Storytime
Children work on building writing skills by doing Beyond’s Storytime Day 2 plans each week. This writing assignment varies, which keeps it fun and fresh. In general, parents usually ask a question. Children dictate the answer to the question as parents write their answer. Then, children copy the one sentence answer. Preferably, the writing will shrink to the size of notebook paper and having proper spacing by the end of the year. Sometimes, for this Day 2 writing skill, the parent will write a short retelling narration of the Storytime reading, leaving blanks in place of key words. Then, children fill in missing words with the parent’s help as needed. I didn’t help my children write the words. However, I did help them with spelling the word properly. I did this by writing the word properly spelled on a markerboard for reference. The children were always responsible for the writing, as this is the skill they are building.
How to Focus on Building Writing Skills in Bible Study, Artistic Expression, History Timeline… and Even in Math!
Children have the choice every Bible Study Day 5 to write their Bible verse and send it in the mail. I didn’t require this, but I encouraged it. My parents loved to receive these in the mail! It is wonderful if – at least once in a while – children can write their verse and share it with someone in need! Children also develop writing skills by drawing, copying, and tracing for Artistic Expression projects. They write their timeline captions too. They even write in math, though they are writing numbers. I make mention of these important times to write because it is sometimes tempting to “help’ and take over the writing for our children. In the long run, this kind of help hurts. There are definitely times help is good, but it shouldn’t be the standard.
In closing, we can encourage our children to build their writing skills all year long in Beyond. This is an important task, as it is what prepares children for the increased writing in BHFHG. When tempted to omit writing, lessen writing, alter writing, or help too much with writing in Beyond, remember BHFHG is coming! Better to build writing skills all year long in Beyond and be ready for BHFHG than make things easier for the passing moment in Beyond. From personal experience, I can say I was very thankful we gave due diligence to writing in Beyond when BHFHG rolled around… and so were my sons! They were ready.
P.S. If you have a 6 year-old really struggling with the writing in Beyond, Little Hearts for His Glory with the first grade options may be a better placement.
However, if you have a 6 to 8 year-old doing fairly well with the writing overall, remember you have the entire year for this child to grow into the writing of Beyond.
If you have a child with special needs who struggles with writing, you should make modifications as needed.
P.S.S. Need some help shrinking writing or adding spaces to writing? Click here!