What factors helped you decide to use Singapore Math as the math option?

Dear Carrie

What factors helped you decide to use Singapore Math as the math option?

I am curious what factors helped you decide to use Singapore Math as the math option for the curriculum packages. I do realize with Heart of Dakota we may decide to use a program of our own. However, I am simply curious what drew you to choose Singapore over other programs. What factors helped you decide Singapore would be the one? Thank you!


“Ms. Please Share What Factors Helped Decide to Use Singapore”

Dear “Ms. Please Share What Factors Helped You Decide to Use Singapore,”

You may be sorry you asked what made me decide to use Singapore Math! Here’s a long reply to a tough question. As you mentioned, you are more than welcome to decide to use your own math curriculum with any of our programs (and we do realize that there are many excellent math programs to use). However, we have tried many of the big-name, and not so big-name, math programs for at least a year each and found many of them didn’t fit our family well for a variety of reasons.

Singapore Math is time-conscious instead of time-consuming.

Many of the programs were just too time-consuming in the amount of teacher presentation required. As we added more children to our homeschool, I realized a 30 minute math presentation for one kiddo would quickly turn into 2 hours of math presentation when multiplied times my 4 boys. That would leave precious little time for the many other necessary school subjects. Singapore Math doesn’t waste any time. It is time-conscious, instead of time-consuming. This is one reason that made me decide to use Singapore Math.

Singapore Math requires almost no preparation.

Some of the programs required too much preparation or planning ahead of time prior to teaching. When I wasn’t prepared, my students were wasting time waiting on me. Other programs had way too much drill or too many problems daily for my non-math loving oldest son. So, I found I was tweaking which problems to do daily and eventually the programs hardly resembled the original program anymore. Singapore math is open-and-go. It requires almost no preparation. This is another reason that made me decide to use Singapore Math.

Singapore Math is in keeping with the Charlotte Mason philosophy of math.

In keeping with the Charlotte Mason philosophy for math, I wanted a program with short lessons and some hands-on component. I also wanted  little to no preparation, as well as a workbook form (to cut down on time spent copying problems). Likewise, I wanted a math program that emphasized higher-level thinking and reasoning along with computation. Finally, I wanted it to be economical if possible. So when we began with Singapore Math, we knew we’d found the fit for us. These are still more reasons that made me decide to use Singapore Math.

I created hands-on lessons in the early years and wrote easy-to-follow schedules.

Where the program lacked hands-on in the early years, I decides to add in lessons to include that. The one problem we have found with Singapore is that the clean page layout and the few problems on each page makes it easy to assign too much daily, thus complicating what should be a short and sweet program. We compensate for that by including schedules in our guides that follow the original Singapore pacing, completing two workbooks in one school year. We phase out the hands-on teacher lessons starting with 3A/3B and move toward the textbook/workbook schedule only at that point. With a strong hands-on background from the previous Singapore years, kiddos are ready for that change.

We endorse Singapore Math through 6A and 6B. It gets more teacher-intensive after that point, so we suggest alternatives prior to continuing on to the math that comes after 6A/6B. Since Singapore has such a solid base in problem-solving and reasoning, and an advanced scope and sequence, the switch to almost any other program should be a fairly painless one. So, to make a long story short, all kids are different, and we know one math program will not fit them all. But, we do want to share what we’ve found with others in the hope that Singapore Math may be a fit for some of you as well. At least now you know the reasons that made me decide to use Singapore Math!


The checkmark method: a way to save sanity while teaching multiple guides!

Teaching Tip: 

Here is a sanity-saving tip for tracking your child’s work each day!

This week’s tip is a sanity saver for my family, especially as we are running multiple HOD guides each year! The “checkmark method”  is a very simple and effective way to keep track of what work has been completed and corrected each day.

Are you using your HOD guide as a correcting tool?

You may not know it, but your HOD guide was designed to aid you in keeping track of your child’s work. On each two-page spread of plans, your child’s work is conveniently divided into boxes. Each box contains assignments to be completed and corrected. Once a box has been completed and corrected, simply make a small checkmark in the top corner of the box. This checkmark shows that all work within the box has been completed and corrected.

Why is it it important for the parent to check the boxes?

The two operative words for our household in checking the boxes are “parent” and “corrected.” We used to let our kiddos check their boxes as they completed their work. Our boys sometimes became overly zealous in checking boxes before the work within the box was actually completed. At other times they missed things that were assigned within the box. Then, they checked the box off thinking they were done. This method left us unsure of whether the work had actually been corrected. So now, we make sure only the parent does the box checking! We check the box after the work has been corrected by the parent first.

Having a parent check the boxes provides a quick visual of what remains for your child to complete.

A checkmark in the corner of the box provides a quick visual of what has been looked over by a parent. At a glance, both parent and child can also see what still needs to be completed and corrected.

The checkmark method keeps your child accountable.

The checkmark method keeps your child accountable because he/she knows every box is going to be checked. With this method, only the parent can say when the work is truly done. Try this simple tip today! See if it makes it easier for you to keep track of correcting.


Placement Help for Changing to Heart of Dakota Mid-Year

Pondering Placement

Placement Help for Changing to Heart of Dakota Mid-Year

I will be changing my 9 year-old son back to Heart of Dakota (HOD) mid-year. He completed Little Hearts for His Glory for first grade and Beyond for second grade. Then, I switched to something else. I don’t know why really because we loved HOD. Now my son is in week 18 of this other homeschool program for 3rd grade. We are both so unhappy. My son now hates to write. This program doesn’t have much notebooking or narrating this year. Basically, I am reading books to him, but we are really not doing anything else. We’ve done a little copywork, but not much. We use other programs than HOD for math and spelling. A few days a week, I’m using BJU for writing and English. We are both missing HOD terribly. I’m also just not seeing the growth in my son like I did with HOD. Please help me with changing my son back to HOD mid-year!

My son’s two favorite things this year have been the two I’ve kept from HOD.

I knew my son would love reading HOD’s Emerging Reader’s Set.  So, I did get those. However, he hasn’t been doing any kind of literature study with them. I also liked HOD’s recommendation for R & S English 2, so we are doing that. Really the only two things we have liked doing this year are from HOD. He reads well and is really enjoying the books in the Emerging Reader’s Set. He’s reading Tornado and can’t put it down! But then when he finishes reading, I don’t do anything with him. I’m just so depressed about homeschooling. I feel like I’ve wasted this whole year. Changing my son back to HOD – and soon – is a necessity.

I’m pondering changing my son to full-speed Bigger Hearts or half-speed Preparing Hearts. Thoughts?

So, now I know I want to make the switch back to HOD, even though it is mid-year (and then some). But, I am between two placements – stopping what we are doing now and changing to Bigger Hearts for His Glory? But then, he won’t finish all of HOD’s high school guides. So, would it be better changing to half-speed with Preparing Hearts for His Glory? What are your thoughts, Carrie?

Carrie’s Reply:

From what you’ve shared so far about your son, I would lean toward changing what your son is doing by placing him in Bigger Hearts. The jump up to Preparing with the struggles you mentioned in writing and narrating would be very challenging. Bigger is such a foundational year in helping kiddos grow in the areas of writing, reading, copywork, and spelling. I wouldn’t want your son to miss that. So, placement in Bigger Hearts makes good sense.

I’d suggest finishing R & S English 2 and changing from BJU

Whenever you head into Bigger, I would just finish Rod and Staff English 2 and move into Rod and Staff English 3. I wouldn’t use both BJU and Rod and Staff for English as you go up. This would be double-dipping.  We don’t want your son worn out from writing for grammar when we want to get him copying daily for practice. You wouldn’t need to continue on with BJU for writing either, as Rod and Staff will include writing in the coming levels when he is more mature and ready for it.

I’d suggest changing to studied dictation for spelling and continuing with your math.

For spelling, I’d be lean toward changing him to studied dictation (which is included in Bigger‘s Appendix). If you would rather continue with the spelling you are using, you surely could! However, I will say Charlotte Mason’s method of studied dictation is a very effective method for teaching spelling in a time conscious way. No matter what, I wouldn’t do both spelling programs though because his day will get very long. If your math is working well, I’d just keep on going with it. If it is not, you can give your son the Singapore Primary Math placement test by clicking here.

Your son can finish the Emerging Reader’s Set and then move into Drawn into the Heart of Reading.

It sounds like he is doing well with the Emerging Readers Set (ERS), which you can feel so good about. Rather than changing from that, he can just finish the ERS out. I would have him start doing the follow-up comprehension questions with the  ERS books he has left. Then, he can head into Drawn into the Heart of Reading Level 2/3 (DITHR). He can use the DITHR Level 2 Book Pack or books of your own choosing. The Sample Book Ideas List provides some good books to choose from as well.

Changing to Full-Speed Bigger Hearts vs. Half-speed Preparing Hearts

Honestly, changing to Bigger Hearts full-speed with daily grammar, math, dictation, and DITHR will probably be harder than changing to half-speed Preparing Hearts. It sounds like your son would be so well-placed in Bigger and be challenged by the work. Being well-placed means that he will be getting what he needs as he moves into each successive guide. Shooting for a challenge level can really result in frustration and in being unsure of how much to downsize each day to suit your child’s needs. It’s so much better to be accurately placed and know you can expect your child to do all that is within the guide each day. There are many families who will not finish all of the HOD guides, and that is fine. We can make sure that your son still gets what he needs to count credits for graduation and for his future plans.


Does my son need to know the letter names to be able to read?

Dear Carrie

Does my son need to know the letter names and sounds to be able to read? 

I have a son who will be 7 soon. We have been working on letters and their sounds since he was 3 years old. We have used Leap Frog videos, Reading Eggs, Star Fall, online games – but he doesn’t retain them at all. He knows how to spell his name which has two E’s and two T’s.  However, if I ask him to write those letters, he doesn’t remember them. This is true for most letter names. Last night I was pointing to letters on the keyboard and asking him what they were. I would point to the T, and he would say “E”.  So, then I would point to the E, and he would say “E”. It was this way with most of the letters. At this point, I have no idea how to help. He knows his letter sounds. But, what if he doesn’t know his letter names? I guess my question is, does my son need to know the letter names and sounds to be able to read?


“Ms. Stumped on Letter Names and Sounds”

Dear “Ms. Stumped on Letter Names and Sounds,”

Children do not need to know letter names in order to read. So, I would focus more on learning the letter sounds instead of the letter names and letter sounds both. Learning both names and sounds can be a challenge to keep straight! Of course, later it helps to know the letter names in order to spell, to copy, to alphabetize, and to use the dictionary. However, to read only the sounds are needed.

Using a formal curriculum will help systematically teach letter sounds.

Next, I am wondering if your child has had any formal curriculum that actually teaches the letter sounds and reviews them on a daily basis? The reason I ask is that all of the online options and videos you mentioned are great, but in order for the sounds to really stick (for quite a few kiddos), many different senses are needed to be employed and much practice is needed. This doesn’t mean that drill, drill, drill is the needed method. It just means that regular practice with the sounds in a variety of ways will make all the difference.

Once you begin phonics, keep going and don’t take breaks.

Once your kiddo starts to pick up the sounds you keep on going, making sure you are not pausing and taking breaks. Phonics is one of those things that once you begin, it helps to keep some steady practice going until kids really grab on. We took the last three summers off with my last little guy during the process of teaching him phonics. I cannot tell you how much I regret that! It was at a time when he really needed to keep on going, but I was just so busy writing that I lost steam with the phonics.

Commit to working on phonics 10-15 minutes daily for five times a week.

So, one thing that I would encourage you to do is either commit to really beginning phonics (and learning letter sounds) formally. Then, know you’re in it for the two-year haul until most of the phonics is learned. Or, wait until you are ready to be more committed. I am not saying that you need to commit vast quantities of time to phonics daily, but I am saying that 10-15 minutes daily (5 times a week) is needed on a regular basis to truly see progress.

Phonics instruction requires teaching and interaction.

Phonics is one of those areas that also requires a teacher. It requires interaction and the teacher and child sitting together and sharing the words, books, letter sounds. It is work, but it pays off. We did The Reading Lesson here in a stop and start fashion that really set us back. After we finished it completely, I had to pull out an old phonics program I had here and go almost completely through that simply to build fluency and to review (because we had stopped The Reading Lesson over two different summer breaks on two different years, which made remembering everything really tough for my little one).

Consistency is key!

I could have probably gone back through The Reading Lesson all over again. However, I just didn’t want to redo it all again. So, I share this to let you know that amount of teacher time spent steadily teaching phonics can make a big difference. I am convicted of that anew, and I did not take phonics off off ever again with my youngest! He progressed, but I could see that if I’d taken another summer off all of his slow but steady progress would have been lost…again. With my older three, I was much more consistent early on in teaching them phonics. What a difference that made!

It is also possible that your son has this as an area of struggle for other reasons. We won’t know that for sure right now unless you have already devoted several years steadily teaching him phonics five times a week with no progress made. So, I would recommend choosing a phonics program and sticking with it! Then, let’s see what happens next!


Is your child placed in the right guide?

Teaching Tip

Is your child placed in the right guide?

At Heart of Dakota, correct guide placement is so important! This is because we do not have one-size fits all placement advice. Instead, we look at each child as an individual to determine his/her best placement. One of the gifts of homeschooling is being able to meet our children where they are and teach from there. So, correct placement makes a huge difference in how successful your child is in school. It also makes a huge difference in how much time a guide will take each day.

Wise counsel will help you determine your child’s best placement.

This is where wise counsel comes in to charting a good path. Surround yourself with wise counsel on this important decision from those who have used Heart of Dakota with their children. These wise advisers can help you talk through an accurate placement plan for your child. Remember that each child is a unique individual with unique needs. This means that placement may look different for same-aged students. By following the age line on our program selection chart, you can see several possible options for each age.

Editor’s note: If you’re looking for wise counsel, our Message Board is a great place to look! In addition to our wonderful community, Carrie and Julie also have a combined 18,000 personal responses to our users there. It’s a wonderful place to engage and learn with other homeschool moms!

Different family dynamics may result in differing guide placements.

Another factor in guide placement is family dynamics. Whether you desire to combine a student with another sibling is a factor in guide placement. Using our placement chart will help you determine whether children in your family could possibly be combined. Due to skill level some combinations work while others do not.

Different children in a family may have a different path.

Looking at each child as an individual means that different children in a family may have a different path. For example, one child may do Creation to Christ at age 9. Another may do the same guide at age 10. A third child may do the guide at age 11 or 12. Each of these placements will work, as long as the child is well-placed according to skill and family dynamics.

If a child is routinely struggling in a guide, it’s wise to check for correct placement.

If you find a child is routinely struggling with a guide, your child may be incorrectly placed. Or, if a guide seems way too easy, perhaps a move forward is needed. Sometimes changing guides is easier than tweaking guides for years to come. We are here to help with placement questions. To discuss your child’s placement, feel free to call us at 605-428-4068. Or, ask questions on the Message Board. As you ponder ask the Lord for discernment, and I know He will answer!