To combine or not to combine? So may littles, so little time

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Joyful_Journey
Posts: 2
Joined: Sat Aug 31, 2019 12:08 am

To combine or not to combine? So may littles, so little time

Post by Joyful_Journey » Tue Sep 03, 2019 1:02 pm

Hi there!

Sorry for this super long post but I need to get this all out of my head and get some input and council. Let me first say that I am so in love with Heart of Dakota! I searched and searched through so many curriculums but when I found HOD I just knew this was it! So much of your philosophy and style is just exactly what I was looking for. I read every single blog post y'all put up, even if its about guides we haven't gotten to yet! It helps me understand the overall picture of what we are working towards. Lord willing, my desire is to use HOD with all of our children from preschool through high school!

That said, I have some questions about how I should move forward now that we have been doing your program for a few years. I’ll get you up to speed with where we are at.

My husband & I are second generation homeschoolers. I always knew I wanted to grow up to be a homeschooling mom! Our oldest son is 8.5 (Dec. birthday), second son is 7 (July), third son 5.5 (March), Little girl, just turned 4 (Sept), an almost 2 year old boy (Oct) & Baby girl (5 months old (March).

In Feb. 2016 we started Little Hands to Heaven with our 3 boys (The fact that Carrie and Julie have all boys definitely caught my attention, because I was looking for something that would work well for boys!) We had so much fun that year! They were 2, 3.5 & 5 at the time. I was sort of considering it my oldest son’s preschool year at the time (looking back I wonder if it was halfway kindergarten too as we did start some phonics, but not much extra math or writing)

Anyway, we started that at the beginning of that year so that by September 2016 I had our oldest (almost 6) ready for Little Hearts for his Glory. I started LHTH over with my other two. That year went very well too.

That took us to August of 2017 when our oldest (then 6 almost 7) started Beyond, and our second son (just turned 5) started Little Hearts. Sometime later on I started Little Hands at a very slow speed with our third son (3.5-4ish) and our little girl (2). I feel like everything went really smoothly up to that point. We had a lot of fun and were enjoying school very much. That fall we had another little boy join the crew. That was a difficult birth that took me awhile to recover from. And then the following spring my dear mother in law passed away suddenly. So 2018 was a pretty rough year as far as getting school done. But we plugged along, and that was where I really came to appreciate HOD’s open and go format. By fall of 2018 I was feeling a lot of pressure (I realize now that was made up in my head) to try to finish up our material so we could move on. I wanted a fresh start. I had been letting my second son move half speed for awhile in LHFHG and now I decided to speed him up by skipping through the material faster so he and his older brother could finish at the same time. (I now realize I could have just taken a break!)

It was a relief to get a fresh start but looking back I wish I hadn’t rushed my second son because it has taken him a long time to grow into Beyond. Bigger was also a huge jump for my then 7 almost 8 year old, but I felt like he needed the challenge. and he is doing well now. These two can be competitive and the younger struggled quite a bit with not comparing himself to his big brother. Our older son struggles with the pride of “Oh, I already did that book. I know what’s going to happen.” He’s a bit of a know-it-all and we have had to talk a lot about having a teachable spirit. But they are both super bright and doing well with where they are placed.

So bringing it to today, they started Bigger and Beyond with in October of 2018. Today (almost a year later) we are in unit 21 of Bigger and unit 19 of Beyond. In March 2019 we added another little girl (Hattie) to our family. That was a rough pregnancy that really slowed school down. I am doing very much better now and we have fallen into a good routine of a 4 day school week so we don’t start units on Mondays, we just pick up wherever we are at on a given day. Fridays are for piano lessons and laundry :) I slowed Beyond down for a short period to really work on character issues as well as more focused attention on the basics which he was struggling with. He has really turned a corner this summer! (We started back to school in May after baby). It was like turning 7 flipped a switch in his brain! He is now able to copy 2 lines of a poem a day without much help! 1 line was like pulling teeth for the longest time. He does really well with it now. He is getting close to done with phonics and will be starting emerging readers probably in a couple months or so. He loves History and all the activities (He is all boy and loves anything that gets us up and moving or playing) He is very well placed at the moment and can easily do a full day’s plans in one day. I am breathing a sigh of relief with him.

Our oldest has really grown into Bigger Hearts. His biggest struggles are oral narrations and Vocabulary. But he does seem to be trying a little more lately. (We just started A Pioneer Sampler and he really likes it so he is narrating better from it) Science is his favorite subject. I just moved him up to doing 2 vocabulary words instead of 1 but it takes him a long time. I’m not sure why because he’s really good at finding things in the dictionary, but he doesn't seem to like all the copying I guess. When I ask him to narrate he says things like “I don’t know” or he says 1 or two random things that aren't main points. I have tried to model and I have tried prompting with questions, I can’t tell if he is truly struggling for real or if he just doesn't want to do it. He did the emerging readers with Beyond so we started DITHOR with the level 2 books. He was enjoying it (I was still trying to get the hang of how it works), but he was still struggling with sounding words out which was making him not get what was going on, so we took a break to do a little more phonics review which we should finish next month hopefully. He has been reading out loud to me every day, but without any formal literature lesson to go with it. He has really improved and I think could go back to DITHOR. He actually seems to like English, but we do it all out loud. The bulk of his writing is for science and history and cursive and I have him write his memory verse every day because that seems to help him learn it. He had some major regression in his handwriting so we were focusing on that for a bit (He writes cursive beautifully! Its his printing that can get sloppy).

So that brings me to my next two kiddos. They want to do school too and I’m trying to figure out how to start them right. We are up to the letter N in LHTH. We tend to get to 1 maybe 2 lessons a week. Our son is now 5.5 and I just recently started him on Phonics and Math (We use Math-U-See). Our daughter is just turned 4. She loves to color and work in her preschool workbook. She’s super smart and her fine motor skills are probably just as good as her brother’s. (She loves the finger plays in LHTH) And keep in mind I also have a 2 year old little boy into EVERYTHING! As well as a 5 month old baby who has had nursing issues so I have to pump several times a day for her as well as time spent bottle feeding her, and take her to therapy once a month. Needless to say I am feeling rather overwhelmed at times thinking about adding in any more little scholars! We try to start our school day by 8:30 but its usually more like 9, and we usually finish by 12:30 or so. I just do 1 story time (choosing either from beyond or bigger’s choices) But I wish I could read more. I have to stay really on top of things to get all our work done. We really enjoy all the HOD book choices and activities. HOD helps me do those “fun mom” things. Storytime is one of our favorite times. We take a mid-morning break so they can have a snack while I read. We just finished reading “Balto and the Great Race”.

So I’m trying to figure out what do from here. I feel like I started my oldest about at the right time. I feel like I rushed my 2nd one and have been paying for it ever since. I don’t want to make that mistake again. I’m also wondering if you can see any benefit from trying to combine some of my kiddos down the road? I don’t want to skip any of the guides for anyone though. They all look so good! I feel overwhelmed at the thought of Bigger and Preparing at the same time next year. But maybe thats just what I need to do anyway. And maybe it won’t be as hard as it seems.

One thought that I have been kicking around in my head for next year (Starting Jan or Feb probably) is doing Preparing with both boys (ages 7.5 & 9) and Little Hearts with the next two (ages 4.5 & 6) I know that puts the younger ones just a little below the age range so I hesitate to do that. I could then have our second son go back to Bigger while the oldest goes on to Creation to Christ. But it might help my overwhelm in this season of many littles to combine them temporarily. I would do language arts and math on each child’s level of course and our 7.5 year old would be finishing up emerging readers while our 9 year old would restart DITHOR. These two boys are best buddies and do everything together (except school). The younger one has already listened in on half or more of the reading for history and science in Bigger just because its interesting to him and I know he will want to hear the Preparing books too, so I wonder if I might just as well put them together. I just don’t know how much adjusting I would have to do for him and I don’t want to defeat the purpose of the open and go format that I love so much! And I don't want to hold our oldest back from independence either. But it also might be good for them to share books for a year to eliminate some of the competitiveness and comparing. I don’t know!

I also wondered about redoing Bigger with both of them but letting the 9 year old do the extensions to foster a little more independence before Preparing, but I hate to make him repeat a guide just worked so hard to finish! He’s already been looking at the catalogue to see what books he gets to read next year! I do think that he would be able to do Preparing. He is starting to read small chapter books to himself for fun and comprehend them. Also, I don't know how it would look to combine them from here on out or if a temporary combining just for next year would be better. (Side note: I have so many homeschool moms tell me you have to combine kids to make homeschooling work for large families. But I don’t necessarily buy that. I do see a lot of younger siblings lagging behind the older ones in that scenario and I really don’t want to do that to my kids.

So my first dilemma is do I try to combine the older two, or just keep on with where they are at?

Second question: should I try to start my next pair together? And how would that look down the road as they get older? They are 18 months and a day apart :) similar in skill level, and they enjoy each other’s company. I think we could totally make it work. Sometimes I wonder if it might give my son more confidence to have his own work different from his little sister. Might make him feel more like a “big boy”. He’s one of those quiet ones and its hard to know what he’s thinking. He might benefit from some one on one time. And while I know she could probably to do the work I don’t want to push her too fast either, and she would enjoy doing LHTH over with her little brother. There is just only so much of me and while we do love school, we don’t want to do it all day either!

I know that is a lot to try to take in and I apologize for my long post, but it has helped me to write it all out. Congratulations if you made it this far! This has all been swirling around and around in my brain and I’m about to go crazy! I am hoping that we will be finished or mostly finished with our guides by Christmas. Then we are taking a vacation in mid January. So we won’t be starting back to school till after that. I just don’t know whether it would be more efficient to run only two combined guides or put everyone in their own (That’s a lot of teaching time!) Maybe you could give me some ideas of how you could see it working well. So far we can get all our work done by lunch. I know I’ll have to give that up at some point, but I still really need a nap when the babies go down after lunch and it can be hard to want to pull the books back out later. I will look forward to any ideas I can get from veteran HOD moms! I especially would love to hear some encouragement on how to make this work with a large family with many little close in age.

Thank you so much to all of you who work so hard to make HOD possible! Blessings to you all and I want you to know we are praying for healing for Greyson.

In Christ Alone,

Bethany :)

StephanieU
Posts: 1544
Joined: Tue May 21, 2013 7:10 pm

Re: To combine or not to combine? So may littles, so little

Post by StephanieU » Tue Sep 03, 2019 9:20 pm

I don't have as many kids as you, but my older three are close in age like yours. And my middle two I tried combining back in LHTH (and with Awana Cubbies since they were the same level), and it didn't work. They are too competitive, and it was just a battle. They are doing the same Awana book this year, but because they are almost independent in that, it isn't so bad. But I know I can't combine them for school.

I would keep moving your oldest forward because of how you described his personality and possible behavioral issues that could arise combining. I would probably pause Beyond for now with your second, and let him "sit in" on Bigger. Let him know he will get to do it himself in a few years, but that he can join in on all the fun this year. Then, when you finish Bigger and the oldest starts Preparing, pick back up Beyond. That will put them 1.5 guides apart. So when the second starts Bigger, the first will be going smoothly in Preparing. I have found that to be doable with my middle two right now. Then, I would start the third in LHFHG around the time you start Preparing. Again, that would put 1.5 guides between them.

You could consider combining, but I find that in the early years (up until Bigger), it really feels like you are holding one back or pushing the other too much. And once they get to CtC, doing separate guides isn't a ton of extra work. It would just save you time for storytime and "extras" - maybe 30-45 minutes a day.
Mom to 4
DD (12) MtMM (completed LHFHG, Beyond, Bigger, Preparing, CtC, RtR, and Rev2Rev)
DS (10) CtC (completed LHFHG, Beyond, Bigger, and Preparing plus some of LHTH)
DD (8) Preparing (completed LHTH, LHFHG, Beyond, and Bigger)
DS (4) LHTH

Rice
Posts: 387
Joined: Tue Aug 06, 2013 10:00 am

Re: To combine or not to combine? So may littles, so little

Post by Rice » Fri Sep 06, 2019 8:39 am

I agree with Stephanie. It doesn't sound like combining your older two is a good idea, and I especially would NOT put someone you think was pushed to start too early into a guide for which they are below the suggested age range and do not place into skill wise. It is the opposite of what you want to do with him.

I like Stephanie's idea of pausing (or even just really slowing down) Beyond, focusing on 3Rs until the older one starts Preparing, putting them more than a full guide apart and giving the younger one yet more time to mature. (Even though he seems to be handling Beyond well, giving him more time to develop in phonics will only put you in a better position in Bigger and especially Preparing. I even had my boys work independently in Science in Bigger, starting in unit 19 - Pioneer Story. That took some pressure off me for reading, made it more "hands-on" with the increased pictures in that book, and prepared them for the independence I would be expecting in Preparing.)

As for the younger ones, while it might work to combine them, I strongly encourage you to not start LHFHG with them until they are BOTH ready for it, and even then to consider not trying to do a full guide, but to concentrate on the 3Rs with them until they are ready for some independence.

I have 3 in high school (some learning differences placing the youngest of the 3 in WH, but the older 2 in a combo of WG/WH for 11th & 12th). The next one is in CTC unit 28. This year will be my 9yo's first full guide. We did attempt LHFHG (twice!) but I just can't keep up the younger guides with so many older ones, so I have pared back to what IS possible: 3Rs and Storytime (which may be read by anyone in the house, not just me :wink: ). He has been begging for more for almost a year, so in addition to the printing, cursive, and DITHOR books (only - no workbook), in January I passed him the Bigger guide, pointed out the Science, poetry and Bible, and told him to do those. A couple months later (around his 9th B-day) he was begging for more, so I also gave him the Storytime and History books (yes the red ones!). I don't know that he read everything, know he didn't understand it all, and know he did not do all the activities, but he went through and did his own selection of an HOD Day each day. Everything he read was icing on the cake, on top of the 3Rs. Next week he begins Preparing. I know I will need to spend some time training, and checking that he does all that he is supposed to do, and I'll need to fit in time for the History, etc. (all T and S subjects), but I know he is ready for it, skill wise, despite not having done 90% of LHFHG/Beyond/Bigger.

So, my suggestion would be to continue with them (all your younger ones, really) what you have been doing: R&S workbooks, printing, cursive when ready, phonics/ERs/DITHOR books. Then, as you have time, add in the other things that are MOST important: Bible, Storytime. . . They don't have to actually be "IN" a guide, and this way there's no pressure to assign whether they are "combined" or in separate guides. They can listen to any stories (from any guide that is appropriate for their attention and interest), and you can have them (starting at age 6) begin narrating a chapter once or twice per week.

This year I have made up buckets for my 5 and 7 yos. They have ziplock bags with different things in them: printing workbook & pencil, FMS workbook & pencil, phonics or ER book, story (Burgess, Beyond storytime, etc.) for someone to read to them, etc. Each of those ziplocks has velcro on the top corner and I have corresponding numbers that go back on a cereal box card with velcro. Each night I will put the "subjects" in order for them to work on (the one doing phonics will have that as #1, with me, first thing in the morning). As they finish each subject, they remove the number and put it back on the card, leaving the books and pencil in the bag. Each evening I will check their work, re-order the bags, and have them waiting for them in the morning (sometimes adding in a special activity, puzzle, craft, or whatever). Simple "school" without the pressure of a guide (though those skills, book lists, etc. outlined within HOD ARE my guides :wink: ).

One more thought I had for you in regards to your oldest's narrations: one thing that has worked well for us is, after reading, going back to the beginning of the chapter and reading the first bit again (sentence to several paragraphs, depending on the book), before asking for them to tell me what came next. I think they were often overwhelmed, not knowing where to start a narration. Giving them a specific starting point really helped. They might only tell the one next thing, or they may go on to retell the whole chapter. At first, be happy (and very encouraging) with anything they can tell you! Eventually you can encourage them to add more: "then what happened. . .", "Was that the end?", "Would you have done the same thing?", "What do you think will happen next?", etc.

Of course, retelling the story isn't the only kind of narration. Carrie does a wonderful job of bringing in various types over the years, but you don't have to limit your narrations to only the ones she's chosen. Feel free to google "narration jar" for lots of other ideas: draw a picture and explain it, act out the story (in person, with stuffies, with Lego minifigures, paper "dolls"), tell who or what the story reminded you of, tell a pet or Daddy what happened in the story (because sometimes it feels REALLY redundant to tell the person who just read you the story what they just read :wink: ), make a cartoon (series of 3-6 boxes) that retells the story, etc. The options are virtually endless, and sometimes it really helps to take a break from "tell me what happened", and to try some other "modes" of narration.

Blessings,
Rice

DS 18 (DONE: after WG, 2020)
DD 16 WH w/different lit (DONE:Bigger-WG [-CTC]; Irlen S.)
DS 14 non-HOD @ US1 level (DONE: CTC-WH)
DS 12 RTR (DONE: LHFHG+Prep-CTC)
DS 10 CTC (DONE: Prep)
DS 8 +
DD 6 Storytime + 3Rs
3yo DS

Joyful_Journey
Posts: 2
Joined: Sat Aug 31, 2019 12:08 am

Re: To combine or not to combine? So may littles, so little

Post by Joyful_Journey » Fri Sep 06, 2019 6:27 pm

Thank you so much ladies for taking the time to read through my long post and share your thoughts! I will definitely put some thought into the idea of putting them about 1.5 guides apart. That might be more doable. As it stands now my oldest will finish at least 2-3 weeks ahead anyway. I may just need to let go of my desire to always have them start guides and finish guides at the same time. Its hard to let go of that feeling of being behind (even when I know we aren't really). Thanks also for the narration helps and ideas. I like the idea of a narration jar! I think I need to relax and have some fun with it!

I am trying to learn to be more relaxed with my next set of little ones. They don't stay little forever, and I want them to enjoy this season of play! But the one on one time that we get through school time is good too. I like your idea of tubs with bags of activities or books. After reading this I might lean more towards starting my 3rd son in LHFHG and letting my little girl wait and do it on her own later and enjoy another year of play school and LHTH

Again, Thank you for your replies! I will be praying about how best to move forward from here.

In Christ Alone,

Bethany :)

Rice
Posts: 387
Joined: Tue Aug 06, 2013 10:00 am

Re: To combine or not to combine? So may littles, so little

Post by Rice » Sat Sep 07, 2019 9:51 am

Joyful_Journey wrote: I may just need to let go of my desire to always have them start guides and finish guides at the same time. Its hard to let go of that feeling of being behind (even when I know we aren't really).
If you're like me, Bethany, you'll find that starting guides at different times of the year is more freeing than frustrating! I have found that it really dispels the pressure when we start up in the fall. Some kids are going back to what they are familiar with so they can be independent and "full speed" from the first day, while I have more time to spend with those that are starting new guides and dealing with the pressure of the big step up in work load and difficulty. I'm not stretched so thin, when expectations are so high for getting the year off to a good start. For those that finish a guide mid-year, I have time to finish well with them, give them a week off (which they love!) while I finish the last minute prep (switching binders, etc.) that I didn't get done in the summer, then start the next guide half speed, going over each subject well and working through the new instructions that come with a change in guides. It gives me more time to do the end and beginning of ALL our guides well.

Then, there can be bonuses at the end, too! My oldest is already 8 units into his last guide. He has a goal of finishing 12th by the end of March - when we have our provincial conference, including a graduation recognition. How amazing to stand up there and say you are DONE (rather than having to come home and finish - which would be fine, too, but less desirable :wink: )

FWIW, my guy who let the younger guides each take about 13 months each, starting Preparing at the beginning of January, has been able to do a couple extra units per year (now that he's more independent), and will start RTR at the end of October/early Nov., with the goal of eventually finishing 12th (in 7 more years!) in early spring, too. There's lots of ways to make it work. :D

Blessings as you work through it all,
Rice

DS 18 (DONE: after WG, 2020)
DD 16 WH w/different lit (DONE:Bigger-WG [-CTC]; Irlen S.)
DS 14 non-HOD @ US1 level (DONE: CTC-WH)
DS 12 RTR (DONE: LHFHG+Prep-CTC)
DS 10 CTC (DONE: Prep)
DS 8 +
DD 6 Storytime + 3Rs
3yo DS

my3sons
Posts: 10583
Joined: Sun Aug 26, 2007 7:08 pm
Location: South Dakota

Re: To combine or not to combine? So may littles, so little

Post by my3sons » Tue Dec 17, 2019 3:58 pm

Rice wrote:
Sat Sep 07, 2019 9:51 am
... If you're like me, Bethany, you'll find that starting guides at different times of the year is more freeing than frustrating! I have found that it really dispels the pressure when we start up in the fall. Some kids are going back to what they are familiar with so they can be independent and "full speed" from the first day, while I have more time to spend with those that are starting new guides and dealing with the pressure of the big step up in work load and difficulty. I'm not stretched so thin, when expectations are so high for getting the year off to a good start... FWIW, my guy who let the younger guides each take about 13 months each, starting Preparing at the beginning of January, has been able to do a couple extra units per year (now that he's more independent), and will start RTR at the end of October/early Nov., with the goal of eventually finishing 12th (in 7 more years!)...
This is exactly what happened with my son, Riley! Only he was on track to do a guide a year starting in Sept. when he began 9th grade. Before that, he went half-speed/full-speed with some guides, and he often had a January start time for a new guide. We enjoyed it, and it all worked out for the best in the end! He is now an 11th grader using USI and flourishing - hope this can be an encouragement to you, Bethany!!!

In Christ,
Julie
Enjoyed LHTH to USII
Currently using USII, MTMM
Wife to Rich for 25 years
Mother to 3 sons, ages 20, 17, and 13
Author of Women's Devotional https://www.ebay.com/itm/293355757184
Blogger https://my3sons-julie.blogspot.com/
Sister to Carrie

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