Give your children a Christian education for a fraction of the cost of private school!

From Our House to Yours

Why should you homeschool?… A Series on Reasons to Homeschool

We often get asked why we homeschool, and if you homeschool, I am sure you do too!  This series is something you can share with friends or families who are considering homeschooling. There are many valid reasons to homeschool. We have been sharing some of them in this Heart of Dakota From Our House to Yours series First, we talked about how you get to spend more time with your children. Second, we talked about how you know what your children did for the day. Third, we talked about how you get to run your own schedule. Fourth, we talked about how you can give your children immediate feedback. Fifth, we talked about how homeschooling is naturally the ideal education model of multi-age, multilevel, and looping. Today, we will talk about how you can give your children a Christian education for a fraction of the cost of private school.

Do you long for your children to have a Christian education?

Today more than ever, we as Christian parents long for our children to have a Christian education. We can see the changes in our public schools, and we know they are not good.  Private schools offer a Christian option for schooling, but we often find them to be too expensive, too far away, or too understaffed.  As Christian parents, we long to share our faith in Jesus with our children. Well, the good news is, with homeschooling, you can!

Does Jesus have a seat in your children’s school?

There’s an extra seat in our house where we homeschool. It is for Jesus, and He is invited every day. His wisdom governs our learning, and His light shines, so filling our house with love that it is transformed! It is now a ‘home’school because He has made His home there. Conversation flows freely, and we can talk with Him all day long.  Lord, what do you think about how the world began? Let’s read about that today in science. Lord, how would you like us to live? Let’s open our Bible for Bible study and see!  Lord, what can we learn from the past? What should we do in the present? And what can we expect in the future?  Let’s look at your Living Word and see how your plans show past history, history unfolding, and history to come!

It is difficult to have a Christian education where Jesus is not welcome.

We will find it difficult to give our children a Christian education where Jesus is not welcome. If our children cannot pray, read their Bible, or use educational materials that are Christian, how will they be able to receive a Christian education?  If Jesus is not welcome, our children will have a very difficult time becoming like Him. We wonder why children are so difficult to discipline, why they have behavior problems, and why they can’t get along. When we remove Jesus from their education, we will be hard pressed to find Him in their behavior.

A Word of Caution

One word of caution – just because you homeschool, it is not a guarantee your children will receive a Christian education. There is pressure today to leave Jesus out of homeschooling too. Government funded programs offer to pay a portion or all of your homeschooling costs – as long as the materials you use aren’t Christian. Various co-ops, programs, groups, etc. outside of the home offer to teach your children for you, but they leave Christ out of their teaching. Even homeschool curriculum programs that used to be solely Christian are publishing a second secular version of homeschooling materials. We too have been advised to do this, but we refuse.  Leaving Jesus out of our curricula would take the ‘heart’ right out of Heart of Dakota.  We have not given into that pressure, so please, don’t you either!

In Closing

In closing, one of the most important reasons why you should homeschool is you can give your children a Christian education. Open the door to Jesus by opening your mind to homeschooling.  Invite Him into your home and into your children’s education, and you will see more and more of Jesus in your children’s thoughts, words, and actions. Moreover, you will see Him in their hearts, souls, and minds – and THAT is an education that lives on forever.

In Christ,


Do you have scheduled breaks in your day?

Teaching Tip:

Do you have scheduled breaks in your day?

We’ve found that our kiddos can stay more focused on their “school” if they have scheduled breaks within their day. For us, this works better than doing all the subjects without any breaks in between.

Setting time limits for your breaks is key.

One key for us when utilizing scheduled breaks is to set a definite time limit for the break. We also make sure to use a timer to time that break. Perhaps you’re thinking you’d rather just allow your day to flow without the aid of a timer. I used to be that way too!

What if you don’t want to live by the clock?

Even if you don’t want to live your day by the clock, a timer is a great aid to keep your day moving. It addresses the one pitfall of giving your kiddos a break in the middle of the school day. That pitfall is getting your children, and you, to return from that break! Without the aid of a timer to signal the break’s end, neither you nor your child may wish to get back to “school.”

Setting a timer to signal the break’s end takes care of potential problems that arise with breaks.

When we set a timer for the break, both parent and child are well-aware of when the break will end. As a parent, this keeps me from taking on lengthy tasks that could spill over long beyond the break. It also keeps my child from feeling like he will be randomly pulled away from playtime on my whim. Instead, with a timer, my child knows exactly how much time he has to play.

How long should a typical break last?

Typically, our scheduled breaks are 30 minutes long. Our children take those breaks at varying times throughout the day. These breaks might include things like a mid-morning snack, playtime with a sibling, recess outdoors, time on the computer, going for a walk, tea-time, etc. Try a scheduled break in your day and see what you think!


Invite Charlotte Mason’s Teaching Methods into Your Own Home with Heart of Dakota

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

Invite Charlotte Mason into your own home with Heart of Dakota!

At Heart of Dakota we ‘met’ Charlotte Mason more than several decades ago when Carrie began homeschooling her oldest son. The more we researched and practiced Charlotte Mason’s teaching methods in our own homes, the more we became convinced her methods deserved to be brought to life in other homes as well. Her breakthrough educational philosophy was just too good not to share! And so began Carrie’s 20-year journey of writing Heart of Dakota’s guides! With a dedication to bringing Charlotte Mason’s teaching methods to life, Carrie created Heart of Dakota’s guides so you too can ‘meet’ her in a very doable, inspirational way!  At Heart of Dakota, we help you invite Charlotte Mason into your own home, so you too can say, “Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.” (Charlotte Mason)

Meeting Ms. Mason in Heart of Dakota’s Guides

Charlotte Mason’s key teaching methods come to life in Heart of Dakota’s guides. Each day you and your children use Heart of Dakota, you will be meeting Ms. Mason and inviting her into your homeschooling with easy-to-use daily plans. Step-by-step, year after year, from guide to guide, Heart of Dakota’s plans introduce your children to Charlotte Mason’s key educational principles and ideas. Little by little, children learn to love literature, love the Lord, and love their learning, just as Charlotte Mason intended.  So, just how will you be inviting Charlotte Mason into your home with Heart of Dakota? Let us show you how as we describe each facet of her educational philosophy and how it is brought to life in Heart of Dakota!

Living Books 

You cannot ‘meet’ Charlotte Mason if you do not use living books. Charlotte Mason had a passion for literature that Carrie shares! With the utmost care and loving research, Carrie carefully chooses living books for each and every subject area.  Like Charlotte Mason, Carrie’s living book choices are narratively written in a conversational way by an author who is passionate about what he or she has written. “Living” books make learning ‘come alive.’ They are the opposite of encyclopedias and textbooks, which are often written in a less than conversational way by a team of people who more than likely are not all that passionate about what they are writing.  In contrast, living books pull you into a subject and make you want to read more. They are the books you cannot put down!

In Heart of Dakota, your children will enjoy living books each and every day in a way that will make them want to read more. Living books light a passion for reading in our children, and Heart of Dakota keeps that passion for learning with literature alive year after year!  Join us in our next “More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment” series, as we describe more key principles of Charlotte Mason’s teaching methods and how they are incorporated into Heart of Dakota!

In Christ,


Should I combine my high school students for electives?

Dear Carrie

Should I combine my high school students for electives, or is this more of a headache?

Dear Carrie,

I am wondering if I should combine my high school students for electives next year? My son will be doing Heart of Dakota’s World Geography in 9th grade. My daughter will be doing Heart of Dakota’s World History in 10th grade. So, I could have my 9th grader skip World Religion and Cultures (WRC) and Logic, to do Fine Arts and Health with his older sister. I had her do the WRC study and Logic this year. I would then have him do those two credits as a senior, since he will have done all the rest of the electives alongside his sister. The bonus would be that by that time, his younger brother would be in 9th grade, so he could do those with him. Would there be any benefit to choosing to combine my high school students for electives, or would it be more of a headache? Thanks so much for your help, Carrie!


“Ms. to Combine or Not to Combine for Electives”

Dear “Ms. to Combine or Not to Combine for Electives,”

I can definitely see the reasons why you are considering combining your students for electives!  I’ll share a few thoughts that may help as you ponder what is right for your family. From a typical school perspective, electives are often just what they are named… elective credits.  In other words, these are credits that your student (or you as the parent) elect to include. These typically are not as necessary or as important as the required coursework.

HOD electives complement or enhance the credits already being earned in the rest of the guide.

I think what makes HOD electives unique is we designed the elective credits within each HOD guide to complement or enhance credits already being earned in the rest of the guide. So, we chose them to specifically be done in a certain year of study because they are more meaningful when combined with the other learning within the guide. We weighed subject content, time period, topic, or previous knowledge that we desire the student to have exposure to prior to completing the elective.

The World Religions and Cultures elective is partnered well with World Geography.

For example, the World Religions and Cultures elective will make much more sense and contain deeper connections when completed alongside the World Geography study. I wrote the two courses to complement one another. This foundation in World Religions and Cultures is also hugely helpful to have prior to progressing into World History the following year.

The Health elective is partnered well with World History’s Biology.

Another example is the Health elective in the World History guide. This study was written alongside the Biology study because the two courses complement each other very well. I also wouldn’t want a child below the World History level to study the Health too early, as it contains many mature topics that are better suited for an older student who is also currently studying the content within a biology course.

The Fine Arts elective pairs well with World History, and the Government and Constitutional Literacy electives pair well with USI.

The Fine Arts elective in the World History guide pairs very well with the study of World History. This is because study of the art and artists makes so much more sense within the framework of the study of history. Yet another example is the Government and Constitutional Literacy credits within the USI guide. The Constitutional Literacy credit is very challenging and definitely needs the Government study alongside it in order to make sense of what is being studied about the Constitution and the law. Both have overlap with the U.S. History study, and so together the three work to provide a fuller picture of the formation and governing of our nation.

Elective credits get progressively more difficult.

Another aspect of elective credit that is different in HOD is that the credits get progressively more difficult as the student’s critical thinking abilities, maturity, and level of academic skills rise. This is an often overlooked aspect when selecting electives, but in HOD it is very important. For example, the Logic study within the World Geography guide is scheduled at a time when students are ready to think more critically and logically. The fallacies students learn to spot in this guide are excellent training in how to think sequentially and logically, which is of benefit as students progress in the guides into more assignments that require these skills.

The World Religions and Cultures credit in the first year of study is meant to be easier than the Fine Arts and Health credits that are in the second year of study. The Government and Constitutional Literacy credits are meant to be much more challenging than the previous credits, which is why they are scheduled within the third year of study. Students below the third year of study would find these courses quite difficult, without first gaining the skills and knowledge within the World History guide (of various governments and types of law in past history – and their positives and negatives – and resulting successes or failures.)

Credits rise in difficulty and connect to other subjects.

So, within HOD, credits such as these are selected to rise in difficulty and to connect to other subjects scheduled within the guide. To do these credits out of order means that the harder credits may be done before we planned and that the easier credits may be done later than we planned. It also means that the connections and foundation we are planning for the student to have will not be there.

Electives play an important part in the intended balance within each guide.

The last thing to consider is the balance within each guide and the role that the elective credits play within that balance. Just as within any other HOD guide, all areas within the high school HOD guides are designed to complement and balance one another in reading level, quantity of pages, whether or not DVD viewing is included, the involvement level of the parent in the subject, the amount of writing required to complete the subject, and the way the assessments are handled. When courses are shifted from one guide to another, this balance is affected.

Elective credits are to be used in order, if possible, for these reasons.

So, while you can certainly do as desired with these credits, when writing the guide it was not my intention that the elective credits be used out of order for these reasons. It is no different in high school, with HOD, than it is with previous guides when it comes to borrowing subjects from one guide to add to another. It would honestly be easier to borrow a language arts, math, or science credit from another guide than it would be to shift around many of the elective credits.

I realize families who need only certain credits for graduation may need to tweak credits.

I do realize that for some families coming late to HOD, or for those families who need only certain specific credits for graduation, there may be more tweaking involved to get the needed credits. In those situations, my advice would differ in order to help the families get the credits they need in the least confusing way. I was thinking though, based on what you’d shared thus far, that wasn’t the situation you were asking about for your family. I hope this helps as you ponder what to do with electives!



Why homeschool? A Multi-age, Multilevel, and Looping Opportunity

From Our House to Yours

Why should you homeschool?… A Series on Reasons to Homeschool

Prior to homeschooling our own children, I remember attending an educators’ conference in New Orleans. Carrie and I were flown there to represent our school district of 26 elementary schools. Why? Our school district’s test scores in reading were dropping, and we were to find a way to remedy that. After the conference, we were to report back to the district about what we had learned. Then, we were to provide training for teachers in inservice education classes we led for our district and in classes we taught for teachers to receive college credit.  Needless to say, we felt just a tad bit of pressure going into this conference!

What unique education opportunities are available for children?

After attending ample lectures, our first small group breakout session started with a question I still recall today.  We were asked to share what unique education opportunities our school district currently offered.  As teachers responded to this question and each turn moved closer to our position in the circle, we realized there were a whole lot more options to educating than we knew!  French immersion schools, charter schools, fine arts schools, online schools, boarding schools, private schools, magnet schools, dual language schools, performing arts schools, public schools – oh my! We found this to be so exciting!  It was freeing to think we could possibly think outside the box a bit, which in a public school setting is a rarity.

Multi-age Classrooms, Multilevel Lessons, and Looping

Many good ideas came out of that conference that we put into practice. Mainly, we began to implement multi-age classrooms, multilevel lessons, and looping. We were blessed enough to be able to implement them all in our school district!  As we were doing our master’s degree at the same time, we were able to write and receive grants for teaching this way. We taught inservice education classes and college classes on these topics.  Carrie and I were inspired!  We often stayed up until midnight planning for our multi-age, multilevel, looping classroom.  Best of all, we got to do this together because our school district also let us job share! So many funds and grants were poured into providing this education, and the results? Reading scores went up, and surprisingly, so did math scores and writing scores!

We found the one drawback to be the amount of time it took to write the plans, but we couldn’t go back to one plan, one age of students, and one classroom.

As Carrie and I taught inservices and college courses on teaching in multi-age classrooms, writing multi-level lesson plans, and looping students from year to year, one response began to emerge from teachers. They loved the results, but it was taking them way too much time to plan.  We agreed. Carrie and I were staying at school planning on the weekends until midnight sometimes. We were exhausted. However, we believed in what we were doing. We saw our students all happily moving forward in skills so well! Going back to one reading lesson, one math lesson, one writing lesson, and one grade level was impossible for us. We loved what we were doing too much!  We’d seen the results. Taking students where they were and moving them forward in all subject areas was the way to school. We couldn’t go back.

Our Last Year of Public School Teaching

In our last year of public school teaching, we had a class of about 28 students with one educational assistant.  Over half of the students in our class were on IEPs (individual education plans for special needs students).  We still believed in the multi-age classroom, multilevel lessons, and looping. But, there simply wasn’t enough time in the day to accomplish all we wanted to accomplish. We had too many students with too many needs with too many interruptions. Though we were ready to begin the interview process to become principals and the prospects looked promising, we couldn’t see putting another year into teaching other children at the expense of not teaching our own at home. In short, we longed to try our hand at teaching our own children, in a Christian way!  Once we began homeschooling, we never looked back. We’d found our home!

Homeschooling is multi-age, multilevel, and looping at its best!

We began homeschooling when Cole was turning 5 years old. He is now 22 years old! My how time flies!  We took turns homeschooling Cole our last year of teaching for our school district. Since we job shared, we could do this. On my days off, I’d homeschool Cole. On Carrie’s days off, she’d homeschool him. We also watched each other’s smaller children. We loved it!  It didn’t take long for us to realize homeschooling is multi-age, multilevel, and looping at its best. Homeschooling is multi-age for families that have more than one child. It is multilevel for families using HOD, as each guide has multiple lesson plans and levels for customizing math, reading, writing, grammar, spelling, and more. Finally, it’s looping, as each year the parent gets to teach the same children again.

So, why homeschool? You can have a multi-age, multilevel, looping education for your children!

So, in closing, there are many valid reasons why you should homeschool, and we have been sharing some of them in this Heart of Dakota From Our House to Yours series First, we talked about how you get to spend more time with your children. Second, we talked about how you know what your children did for the day. Third, we talked about how you get to run your own schedule. Fourth, we talked about how you can give your children immediate feedback! Finally, today we talked about how in homeschooling you can give your children a multi-age, multilevel, looping educational experience without ever having to leave your home and without having your child be one of 28 students rather than one of just your family’s size. Who knew all those years of research and study would lead Carrie and I back home? God, that’s Who, and we are so thankful to Him for His leading!

In Christ,