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Learning New Skills Takes Time

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Learning New Skills Takes Time

So, you’ve started your Heart of Dakota (HOD) homeschool year – great job! Your students are maybe a few weeks or a few months into their new guides. There are some things they do very well. However, there are other things they do just so-so. There might even be some things they are not doing that well with at all, especially if they are brand new to HOD. I am not surprised! Learning new skills takes time!

Learning Skills in Creation to Christ

Let’s say, for example, you have a 5th grade son in Creation to Christ. He is doing very well with his Independent History Study. He likes listening to What in the World?, and the step-by-step drawing is going great. He used Draw and Write Through History last year in Preparing Hearts for His Glory (PHFHG), so he has that down pat. His Bible Quiet Time is also  going very well. Last year in PHFHG, his parents helped him practice a Bible Quiet Time, so he was ready to take that on this year. In science, he is just doing so-so. He likes it, but it’s harder than last year. It has lots of new vocabulary and more reading. However, he does pretty well with the lab sheet. That is more familiar, since PHFHG had a lab sheet too. He loves the Storytime, and he’s pretty good at orally narrating, though sometimes he doesn’t say all that much. Poetry is another favorite, but his watercolor paintings aren’t necessarily the best.

Opposition to Learning New Skills

Really, it is Reading About History that is hard for him. He struggles with some of the words and storyline. He’d really rather someone just read it to him. He mentioned this, so now he has you worried. You begin reading it aloud to him. Still, when you pause to ask him questions to see if he is understanding, he doesn’t always answer the questions right that you made up. If you pause to ask him the words in bold, he can’t seem to define them. Sometimes he complains he can’t do the written narrations. He thinks 5-7 sentences is too long. If he could just have someone else write it for him, that would be preferable. So, you have shortened the written narration to 3 sentences. Now, he is asking you to write it all for him. You are now frustrated. Last year in PHFHG he wrote 5 sentences. What is going on?

Is it normal for a student to do very well or okay with some skills but struggle with others? 

First, I just want to reassure that this is very normal – not just in CTC, but in any new guide. Let’s take a look at this student’s homeschooling in CTC, as that is the example I gave. Fifth grade is written to prepare students for middle school, and it will feel harder in reading, writing, independent work, maturity of work, and length of time than PHFHG did. Carrie has written the guides to have about 1/3 of the work be skills students are quite proficient at already, 1/3 of the work be skills that students have been introduced to but have not mastered and need to work on improving, and 1/3 of the work be skills that students are learning for the very first time that are more difficult. All skills begin at the start of the guide, and students have all year to improve upon them.

What about the skills that are hard?

Reading About History is an “I” independent box, which means students are to read that material independently ‘in their head.’ Having students read this aloud interferes with comprehension, as reading aloud requires thinking about how you sound, pacing, tone, perfect pronunciation, etc. Having parents read aloud the Reading About History can also interfere with comprehension, as listening often means students are not attending as well (not holding the book themselves so they are reading the words in their head and seeing the words over and over so they spell them better in narrations). Stopping to explain words as you read aloud also interferes with comprehension, as it interrupts the flow of the story and what was happening is lost as a word is defined. Being able to independently read the Reading About History books is a new skill in Creation to Christ. It will take time to develop!

So, what can be done?

Keep at it!  Don’t lose heart and do the work for him – he will get better and better as the year goes on. He needs to know you expect him to do the skills planned in his guide. He needs to know you have confidence he CAN do them! If he doesn’t do everything exactly right, that’s okay. Some things are meant to be hard; they are new skills. If he wants you to do the work he is supposed to do, don’t do it. You are not the student; he is. You want to encourage him, not enable him. Step by step, with encouragement and high expectations, he will improve. By the end of the guide, those skills that were hard won’t be so hard anymore. They will be skills to improve upon next year.
It also helps to remember the skill that is being taught. For example, if in his oral narration he pronounces a king’s name wrong, but understands what the king did – he has learned the better, deeper thing. If he can’t give you the definition of a word in bold from memory, remember, this isn’t a language arts vocabulary skill that is being taught – it is history. For the written narration, when the directions say 5-7 sentences, he can write 5 short sentences, especially at the start. If he sticks with it, little by little, he will find things that were hard are now easier. He will also find there is great satisfaction in doing something he at first thought he could not do. In the end, he will have learned new skills and will be ready for more in the next guide. Bring it on. He’ll be ready.
In Christ,

P.S. Extra notes for those new to Heart of Dakota:  

If your student is new to Heart of Dakota, you can expect it to take longer to learn all the skills, as the HOD previous guides were not completed. You may want to start half-speed, spreading one day’s worth of plans over two days for several weeks or a month. This way, you can take your time making sure your student (and you) understand how to properly do each box of plans.
If your student is new to Heart of Dakota and really struggling with all the guide, double-check for proper placement. You may need to back up a guide. Or, if you combined two students and one is doing well and the other is not, you may need to separate the two. One may need to back up to an earlier guide.

P.S.S. Extra notes for children who have been diagnosed with special needs with reading:  

If your child has special needs that impact reading skills, you may need to modify things. You can modify the reading by sharing it (you do some, your child does some), by doing all the reading (you read it all as they follow along), by finding audio books for some of the reading, by reading aloud 5-10 minutes setting a timer and then having your child finish the reading, etc.
If the reading needs to broken up, go through one week of plans. Put an “R” (for reading) in the margins next to the boxes that require reading. Then, when making your schedule break up the “R” boxes throughout the day, so they are not all in a row.

P.S.S.S. Extra notes for children who have been diagnosed with special needs with writing:  

If your child has special needs that impact writing skills, you may need to modify things. You can modify the writing by accepting the minimum amount of sentences and allowing them to be short sentences (i.e. if guideline is 5-7 sentences, 5 very short sentences can be accepted). Or, the student can dictate the sentences to you, you can write them on a markerboard or on a piece of lined paper, and the student can then copy them. If the student needs more room than the box on the notebook paper provides, you can easily have him write on any kind of paper you prefer and tri-fold and glue it in the notebook as a modification. Or, the student can type the sentences, print them, tri-fold them, and glue them.
If the writing needs to broken up, go through one week of plans. Put a “W” (for Writing) in the margins next to the boxes that require writing. Then, when making your schedule break up the “W” boxes throughout the day, so they are not all in a row.

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