How Homework Can Help in a “Day in the Life” of Resurrection to Reformation and World History

From Our House to Yours

A ‘Day in the Life’ of Resurrection to Reformation and World History

What does homeschooling with multiple Heart of Dakota guides look like? I am asked this question a lot! For much of my homeschooling life, I taught three Heart of Dakota guides. However, now I teach just two, since my oldest has graduated. I thought it might be fun to do a ‘day in the life’ of Resurrection to Reformation (RTR) and World History (WH). This will be a series, as it is easier to describe a day in segments. Keep in mind everyone’s ‘a day in the life’ will look differently. That’s the blessing of homeschooling!  But, maybe this will give you some ideas of how you’d like your ‘a day in the life’ to look!

Our ‘day in the life’ of RTR and WH starts the night before!

As children reach middle school and high school, work load and length naturally increase. Rather than completing a day’s plans all in a row, we like to break it up into segments. This helps us enjoy each part of our guides more, and it allows time for scheduled breaks. One of the things I didn’t like about public school as a mother of boys was the amount of time in a row that students sit, confined in desks, in small rooms. I wanted to avoid repeating that!  Ironically, one way to do that has been to borrow a public school habit of ‘homework.’ However, our ‘homework’ consists of simply completing selected “I” independent assigned work from tomorrow’s HOD daily plans. So, our ‘day in the life’ of RTR and WH starts the night before!

Homework can be completed any time after our homeschooling is done for the day.

Once we have finished our homeschooling, homework for tomorrow can be completed any time before bed. Our sons love this flexibility! Depending on what they have going on each day, they can move their ‘homework’ accordingly. If they have a basketball game at night, they do their homework in the afternoon. If the weather is beautiful in the afternoon and they decide to play nerf guns outside, they do their homework at night. I hear them making plans together each day. They remind each other, “You better get your homework done because we have basketball tonight!‘ Or, “Right when we get home from nerf guns, let’s get on our homework, so we have time to watch a Hogan’s Heroes.” I didn’t have this flexibility until I was in college!  I love that they have it earlier. Likewise, I love that they are learning to manage their time well.

First, I meet with each child to discuss whether they want to do homework. 

Prior to starting our homeschool year, I meet with each child to ask if they even want to do homework. My youngest son had tried his hand at homework the year before in Creation to Christ. It didn’t work for him. He often forgot to do it, and I wasn’t going to remind him. So, partway into CTC, I took the homework option away. I let him know he could try it again next year. Fast forward to this year with RTR. Well, when asked, he definitely wanted to do homework! He’d noticed his older brothers often finished before he did, even though their guides had more to do. This was because they did homework.  Being able to do homework is a privilege that can be given or taken away. In our home, being able to do homework is considered a blessing! So, both sons chose to do homework.

Second, I meet with each child to decide what they will do for homework.

I have a few rules for homework. First, it must be for tomorrow’s day of plans; it cannot be saved from today’s day of plans. We found if parts of the daily plans are saved for homework that night and something comes up, they don’t get done. Then we are behind. So, homework must be for the next day’s plans in the guide. In this way by doing homework, we are actually ‘getting ahead’ in the plans. Second, homework must be “I” independent. I am not teaching at night, as I enjoy teaching during the day. I have more energy! So, homework cannot require me. Third, homework is not corrected by me until the next morning. For these reasons, my child in WH chose to do his Bible Quiet Time and his Living Library for homework. My child in RTR chose to do his Science.

Third, if homework is not completed the night before, it is completed right after we finish our homeschool day instead.

Sometimes something unexpected just comes up, and homework doesn’t get done. If this happens, the homework that would have been completed the night before just gets moved to be completed right after we finish our homeschool day instead. So for example, if we are on Day 3 of the plans, and the homework for Day 3 was not completed the night before, Day 3’s homework gets moved to the end of Day 3’s homeschool day. If this happens repeatedly due to the child not being responsible enough to complete homework, the child is not ready for homework. The homework option can then be removed and reintroduced the next year. This natural consequence is motivating; my youngest son has only missed homework twice this year in RTR. On both those occasions, he set his alarm clock earlier in the morning and did his homework before we met for the day.

Try offering a homework option if your children are older!

If any of your children are placed in Preparing Hearts for His Glory on up, try offering a homework option! We first assign “I” independent work in Preparing Hearts. Be sure to train your children how to properly do the “I” boxes before letting them be done as homework. I find about 2-4 weeks into the guide, our children are able to begin homework. If your children have not done HOD previously, you may need to take longer to train them how to follow the plans, as HOD’s guides incrementally move skills from teacher-directed to independent, from guide to guide. So, that wraps up my first segment of ‘a day in the life’ of RTR and WH!

In Christ,

Tell your children what you want them to do.

Teaching Tip:

What should you do when your children need correction?

Today I’ll share a simple tip for correcting children that I picked up during my public school teaching days. It is a tip that remains incredibly helpful to me every day of homeschooling! This tip is so simple that it almost seems like it couldn’t be a real tip. Yet, it will yield big results if you use it (and you can start today)! So, here it is… Tell your children what you want them to do, not what you don’t want them to do.

Tell your children what you want them to do.

If a behavior that you do not want to see crops up, direct your children toward the behavior you do want to see. Instead of saying, “Don’t do that!” say, “Please do this.” For example, if your children continually rush about the house loudly, instead of saying, “Don’t run!” instead say, “Walk.” Or, if your children write very messy, instead of saying “Don’t write so sloppy,” instead say, “Please write neatly.” Or, if your children speak to you inappropriately, instead of saying, “Don’t talk back to me!” instead say, “Please use respect when talking to me.”

The mind is a powerful visualization tool.

The reason this is such an important tip is because the mind is a very powerful visualization tool. It automatically pictures what is said. To show you what I mean, ponder this scenario. If I say to you, “Don’t run,” what is your mind picturing? It is probably picturing you running, isn’t it! However, if I say to you, “Please walk,” now what are you picturing? You’re picturing yourself walking, aren’t you! The words you use when you give directions to your children are powerful. Your directions should help your kiddos picture themselves behaving the way you desire, so they can act on that desire.

Paint a positive picture in your children’s minds.

Watch yourself today as you direct your children. See how many times you catch yourself painting a negative picture of their behavior rather than a positive picture in their minds. Then, change the way you give directions. You will find this tip will change your homeschool attitude and your kiddos’ attitudes too! Try it today, and see what you think!


How should I handle the English credit for MTMM for 9th grade?

Pondering Placement

Question: My daughter will do MTMM as a 9th grader. I have it all figured out, except how should I handle the English credit?

I’ve been mapping out my 12 year old’s progression through Heart of Dakota. She’s in Resurrection to Reformation now. I am confident using Missions to Modern Marvels for 9th grade, except for the English credit. My daughter reads on grade level, but she has to work extra hard to do so. Until this year, I have read all her history, science, and a read aloud to her, while she read mainly historical fiction novels to herself with questions. This year she is reading most of history herself, science by herself, and the DITHOR books herself! She has a hard time with step-by-step directions, which we are working on. She has been apathetic in the past, not caring and only doing j.u.s.t. what was required of her. I just wondered what my options for English credit for MTMM for 9th grade might be?  Thanks in advance!

Carrie’s Reply:

It sounds like your daughter is making good gains this year in RTR. Looking ahead to MTMM’s English credit, you have several good options. To earn English credit you would need to combine the Rod and Staff English level your student is doing (English 6 is scheduled in MTMM, but is very advanced so we typically use it for 8th graders), plus the composition scheduled in MTMM (which is Write with the Best II – and is definitely high school worthy), plus the literature you choose to do. If you desired to keep the guides intact coming up, you would do Drawn into the Heart of Reading for your literature portion. You could use either the level 7/8 book pack or choose harder selections of your own. Either would work for grade 9. Together the grammar/composition/literature would equal one English credit for grade 9.

Or, you could borrow the literature from the guide ahead for another option.

If you borrow the literature from the guide ahead, the only potential problem is you may at times need to borrow the full English credit. This would be to keep needed balance. For MTMM, you could either use the writing program as written and borrow just the literature from World Geography, or if the composition and grammar from World Geography seemed a better fit than the composition and grammar in MTMM, then you could borrow those from World Geography too.  The following year you would borrow the literature from World History. Depending on what you did for composition and grammar the previous year, we would then decide whether to also borrow the grammar and composition from World History or use what was scheduled in World Geography.

You will want to consider how much your daughter is used to reading on her own each day when you make this decision.

One thing that will make a difference in how you handle literature will be how well your student does in this area and whether she is used to reading quite a volume on her own each day. There is quite a difference in volume between what is read for Drawn into the Heart of Reading and what is read for literature in the World Geography guide.  There is also a difference in level of difficulty, vocabulary, and in the level of literary analysis. So, you have several good options for literature for high school English credit!  Either will be fine, so just choose the one that fits your daughter best!


Follow-Up Response from Poster…

Thanks for helping me think this part through! I had two main reasons for switching to HOD. I fearfully decided to switch after 7 years with another curriculum. One was because my girls became very passive in their learning with our previous curriculum/style and the. The second reason was their relationship with the Lord. At 7-1/2 weeks in, I will say that both of my older daughters are not as passive, and they are engaging with the material more with HOD’s teaching! I was skeptical when seeing people rave about HOD, but now that we’ve dipped our feet in, I have become one that raves. Even if it is silently to myself, I am elated with how this is working for us. In fact, the girls beg me to switch totally over to HOD (which we will next year in Rev to Rev). Surprisingly, it’s not because it’s easier. On the contrary, it is much more challenging than before. It leads me to believe that the reason they want more is because they are interested and engaged. Bravo!!

Switching from AO to 3 HOD Guides and AO or HOD Books for DITHOR/Storytime?

Dear Carrie

How can I best switch from AO to 3 HOD Guides? Should I try to use my AO Books for DITHOR and Storytime?

I’m switching from Ambleside Online to Heart of Dakota. I need something laid out for me and with more handholding. I’ll be doing 3 different HOD guides. I’ll be using Saxon math with my children, and I’m pretty sure that will add time to the day. I’m thinking of using my AO books for Storytime and DITHOR, but matching them could be cumbersome! So, how can I make my day with 3 guides flow smoothly? How can I – or should I – use my AO books for Storytime/DITHOR? Or should I use HOD books instead? I guess those are my questions for now! We’re very excited to start this curriculum, and my children are really looking forward to crafts and experiments!


“Ms. Please Help Me Switch from AO to 3 HOD Guides”

Dear “Ms. Help Me Switch from AO to 3 HOD Guides,”

I will share a few things that will make your year go much better! First, let me begin by having you read a previous post. In this post, I shared about my own journey with Ambleside Online with my oldest son. The reason I share this is because it will help you better understand the suggestions I am going to make. Simply click here and scroll down to read my post.

By substituting AO titles for Storytime, you’ll miss important connections to history.

Now that I’ve qualified my next comments, I’m going to suggest you not spend time matching Ambleside Online’s books to Storytime. Storytime HOD books were chosen specifically for the age and listening level of the HOD guide. They were also chosen to add a needed element to the history study done at that time in the guide. Often Storytime books are scheduled to add another point of view or differing perspective. Or, they may be scheduled to bring to life a little known aspect of the time period that is needed to better understand it. Or, they may be chosen to bring forth a spiritual awareness of the time period and to bring the listener closer to the Lord, sharing ways of dealing with trials and tribulations in a God-honoring way. By substituting other titles, you’ll miss important connections that will bring your study of history to life!

Heart of Dakota books were specifically chosen to fulfill a special purpose within the curriculum.

I have one question for you to weigh before substituting an AO book. It is whether the book list from Ambleside Online is so exceptional that it needs to be substituted in place of HOD books that were specifically chosen to fulfill a special purpose for each part of the HOD curriculum. This is an important question! While I do feel that some of the AO books were very good (and we do use those books along the way within our curriculum), I was less sure of the stellar qualities of some of the other books we read through AO. Keep in mind that only some of the books on the AO list were actually ones selected by Charlotte Mason. Additionally, it’s good to note that Charlotte Mason did not have access to the wealth of reading material that we have available today.

Heart of Dakota is a mix of the old and the new! I spent much time sifting and sorting to find a good balance.

I do know from what I’ve read that Charlotte Mason spent extensive time choosing books each year for her students to read. That was where her focus always was! I think she might be surprised to discover that we aren’t using some of the newer wonderful book selections and instead are simply continuing to pick off of her older book lists! What we schedule within HOD books are a mix of the old and the new. We spend much time on the book selection process, sifting and sorting to find the very best mix. The emphasis is always on the books. If you try what we have scheduled I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

AO’s book selections require more time to process because they are consistently very difficult.

Through my years with AO, I found that the book selections were consistently very difficult. They required much time to process. While that was fine when doing only a few books each year as AO had scheduled, by the time we add in the volume and richness of the HOD program, to add an AO book on top of it would be expecting way too much. To do that would be replacing a book that was meant to function in one way with a book that was meant to function a different way in a different curriculum.

The less substituting you do, the more the program will function the way it was designed.

You will discover as you do HOD (and probably did discover as you did AO) that both of our guides are so much more than just a book list. They are a philosophy or a way of learning. While within AO, each book has a specific place and a specific purpose, the same is true within HOD. This means that the less substituting you do, the more the program will function the way it was designed. This makes for less stress and more enjoyment all the way around.

With DITHR, we are having the child think critically about the story, and if the reading is really difficult as well, the lessons become too hard too fast.

While you could use some of the free reads from AO with DITHR, I wouldn’t be very quick to plug too many of those titles into DITHR either. The books on the free reading list for AO are very advanced and often are scheduled way too young, in my opinion. Yes, the child may be able to read a book like that at the age suggested, but how much richer would his/her experience be with the book if he waited until he was a bit older?

Also, keep in mind that with DITHR we are having the child really think critically about the story and draw out connections and themes. This is not easy to do and if on top of that a really difficult book is added to read at the same time, the lessons will become too hard too fast. When using DITHR at first, it is better to error on the side of the book being too easy, rather than too hard, simply because of the extra mental work required to complete the DITHR exercises!

Some AO books are wonderful and are included in DITHR packs, but others have some issues.

Some of the AO books are wonderful, and as such we have included them within our DITHR packs already. But others on the AO list have issues, which we discovered as my older son was reading them. I found that simply being on the AO list did not guarantee that a book was great. It did not mean I could hand the book to my child without pre-reading! While you may potentially have some issues with HOD books as well, we make every effort within our guides to warn you of those upcoming issues. We hope to leave you with less or no pre-reading to do. I think you will also find that the balance of HOD books within our DITHR packs help your year with DITHR flow better, as the books are chosen to create an ebb and flow as to difficulty, length, and content throughout the year.

So, I’d encourage you to do HOD if you’ve decided to do HOD!

So, I would encourage you that if you have decided to do HOD, to do HOD. Try your best to stick with the suggestions and the scheduling we make. Make good use of your AO books for free-reading or family read aloud time, but don’t spend tons of time trying to plug them into an HOD guide.

I’d highly recommend sticking with the plans the way they are written as much as possible.

As far as teaching the guide goes, I would highly recommend sticking with the plans as close to the way they are written as possible. Routinely shifting boxes to other days or making a schedule that takes the plans apart will quickly result in losing both the flow and the ease of use of the guide. When we talk to families who have left HOD and then returned, they always share that they did too much substituting and too much moving of boxes and randomly moving through the guide. This seems to be a pitfall for those who aren’t successful with HOD. When families return, they often share with us their goal to stick much closer to the plans.

I suggest trying hard to complete a day of plans within a day to keep connections strong.

So, I suggest trying hard to complete a day of plans within a day. If you do have to slow down, split one day of plans over two days as needed. I’ve had to do this for seasons myself! But try not to move boxes from various parts of the plans to an extra day at the end. Each day is specifically written to make connections among the boxes of plans on that day. Moving boxes means the connections fall apart and the plans begin to feel random and fall apart too.

Teaching multiple guides is harder to do when you add or substitute resources, as precious teaching time is lost.

You can do 3 guides, as we have done 4 at our house for years. But, I have to honestly say I couldn’t have done 4 guides if I had done many of the things being pondered here. This is because adding and substituting resources takes time to plan, which often results in precious teaching time lost. It also means that no one can just open their guide and go for the day (including you). Moving boxes to different days takes time to plan and manage, and again now no one can just open their guide and know what to do today. It also makes the program feel random as the connections are lost. Adding a time intensive math program for multiple students will really add time to your day.

I would recommend using Singapore Math with your youngers if at all possible.

With this in mind, I would look carefully to see if any of your kiddos could benefit from Singapore math. It is easier to start a child in Singapore math when they are younger. Perhaps, you could do Singapore with your younger kiddos and just do Saxon with your older child or children. These are all things to consider, to keep your day manageable and your teaching time in line.

We do have many families using HOD successfully with different math or grammar programs; just bear in mind the time these changes add to your day.

Of course, you may feel differently and as the teacher you will need to make your own decisions. We do have many families successfully use HOD with a different math or grammar program. We do have families select their own books for DITHR and thrive with the program. You’ll just need to bear in mind how much time each of these changes are adding to your day or whether the substitutions are making your day go very long.

I want you to have every opportunity to enjoy HOD, so hopefully these thoughts will be a help to you!

I pray these thoughts will be of use to you as you ponder what is best for your family. I’ve learned the things I am sharing with you the hard way, in the trenches from years in the classroom and years schooling my own kiddos with HOD. I just want you to have every opportunity to enjoy HOD with your kiddos and not get overwhelmed.




Start Strong for an Easier Finish

From Our House to Yours

Start Strong for an Easier Finish

Heart of Dakota‘s guides are what we call ‘front-loaded.’ At the start of each guide, there is a combination of skills to maintain, skills to improve upon, and new skills to learn. These skills will be worked and improved upon the whole homeschool year. Whenever we begin a new HOD guide, I know how important it is to start strong. This is fairly easy, as at the start of a new year we are all excited to begin! A new guide, new books, new skills – they are exciting! So, we dive in and work hard to start strong.

Following the guide as it is written gives a strong start!

My children look at their new HOD guide as their road map for the year. They know we will follow the guide as it is written, so they can visualize their final destination. Within each 2-page daily plans and within each week, they can see what their goals for the year will be. Success is in their reach and in mine’s because what equals success is clear to all! This is empowering. Following the guide as it is written gives everyone common goals, and they are attainable.

Heart of Dakota is special because you can follow the guide ‘as written’ while still customizing it to fit your child individually!

What is special about HOD is you can follow a guide ‘as written’ while still customizing it to fit your child! For example, written narrations have sentence ranges. So when following Preparing Heart‘s guide for written narrations, the plans call for a 1-3 sentence narration. A child not as strong in writing can still complete the plans ‘as written’ by doing 1 good short sentence. Likewise, a child who is strong in writing can still complete the plans ‘as written’ by doing 3 detailed sentences. In Resurrection to Reformation, the child who is not as strong in ‘research’ can complete the plans ‘as written’ by answering just 2-3 of the suggested guided questions. Likewise, a child who is strong in research skills can complete the plans ‘as written’ by answering all 7-8 provided questions. So following the guide ‘as written’ in HOD still has flexibility!

Tweaking or skipping plans weakens a strong start and makes an easier finish difficult.

Heart of Dakota’s guides are skill-based, so each year becomes more difficult. This is good! It is what prepares K-2nd grade children for the increased rigor of 3rd to 5th grade. In turn, 3rd to 5th grade children are prepared for the increased rigor of 6th to 8th grade, and 6th to 8th grade children for the increased rigor of high school. This is why tweaking the plans weakens a strong start and makes an easier finish difficult. For example, if a child in Bigger Hearts skips the 1-3 vocabulary cards assignment at the start, he will have a very hard time adding the 1 card by the end, and he’ll probably never get to 2-3 cards. A child who starts strong by attempting 1 card will at the very least be doing 1 extremely good card by the end, if not 3.

I am in the ‘easier finish’ stage right now due to a strong start!

Today I woke up to find Emmett ready for a strong start. During our first meeting time, he had his Bible Quiet Time Hidden Treasures ready for me to correct. He recited his last few verses he’d memorized and let me know he’d already sang and prayed. He’d listened to his What in the World? CD and shared a few things he enjoyed. Next, we corrected his science answers for Exploring Planet Earth. These are all “I” independent boxes in RTR and because we had a strong start, he did them all right. Next, we enjoyed having a leisurely happy poetry lesson together and finished up with dictation, as he knew from a strong start, these were not things he could do on his own. The day continued with him doing his written narration and completing his Shakespeare study independently.

Starting strong continues to make the finish easier!

The next time I met with Emmett, we checked his narration and Shakespeare study. We did his math lesson and cuddled up with his Storytime book. He finished his “plot twists” card on his own and began reading his grammar while I worked with his older brother. We then orally began his grammar. The phone rang, and when I returned he had chosen 1 section to write from grammar and left it out for me to correct. I found him in the living room, cuddled up reading his DITHOR book because that was next. We discussed his DITHOR Student Book assignment, as well as his Medieval History-Based writing assignment. I went to make lunch. By the time lunch was made, Emmett was done with his DITHOR and writing, and all we had to do was correct and edit these together.

If you are having a harder finish, consider focusing on a stronger start next year by using HOD more ‘as written.’

My children are not perfect, nor am I. What we do have is an understanding of common goals that are consistent. That too, has little to do with me, and everything to do with simply enjoying the beauty of using HOD guides as written. At the beginning of the year, we make a point to have a strong start. As we move through our front-loaded HOD guides, we all get better and better at them. By the end, our days are easier. We reap the harvest of our strong start with an easier finish, which is good, because we are all getting ready for a break. Longer days at the beginning equal shorter easier days at the finish, which is when we need it most. If you are having a harder finish, consider focusing on a stronger start next year by using HOD more ‘as written.’

In Christ,