Making Bigger Hearts More Independent for a 5th Grade Homeschool Student

Dear Carrie,

We are finishing Unit 3 of Bigger Hearts…, and we are really enjoying it! The only issue I’m having is I’m doing it with a 5th grader.  I feel I need to make Bigger Hearts more independent for my 5th grader, who needs more independent work. My son would fit perfectly into Preparing Hearts…, but we really wanted to do a year of American History. The more I look at it, the more I really think I should have chosen Preparing Hearts… for my son. I looked at the placement chart, scope and sequence, etc. However, I focused focused so much on American History that I never really paid attention to those like I should have.

The only areas he really doesn’t place in Preparing… for are Poetry, Math, and Reading. Should I just save Bigger for my younger son next year and do Preparing for my older son? I’m really starting to think that may be best. I want his Science and History to be at his level. I know the extensions bring it up to level some, but I need him working more independently. How can I make Bigger Hearts… more independent for my 5th grader, or should I have him do Preparing Hearts…?


“Please Help Me Make Bigger Hearts More Independent”

Dear “Please Help Me Make Bigger Hearts More Independent,”

When we did Bigger Hearts with our son, we looked at it as a year of training. We taught him to read from the guide and to do his own readings. This really helped my son be quite independent and was excellent preparation for learning how to follow written directions!

Charlotte Mason says a child of 9, who is able, should read his/her own books.

I had him do his own history readings and science readings. Charlotte Mason says a child of 9 who is able to read his/her own books should, and mine could. He would get me when he was done reading, and we would do the follow-up activity together. However, before getting me, he read the directions for the activity in the bottom left box. Additionally, he was responsible for getting everything ready for me as best as possible. So, by the time I arrived, we were ready to go!

The timeline, art, note booking, vocabulary, and Bible copywork can be done independently.

He did his timeline, art, notebooking, Cheerful Cursive, and vocabulary (eventually) on his own, reading right from the guide. I just checked them when he was done. He practiced his Bible verse on his own and did his Bible verse copywork on his own. My son also read over any questions in the Bible study box. Likewise, he thought about the answers prior to me coming to discuss with him. Then, we did the Bible Study discussion. We listened to the hymns at lunch with all of the kiddos and me singing along.

English and Math can be semi-independently done.

My son read over his English lesson and started on it by the time I joined him. We always did at least half together though, to make sure that he got it. He began his math on his own, and I’d go over the textbook lesson with him after he’d read it.

Drawn into the Heart of Reading needs to be more teacher-directed.

I did formally set aside a specific time each day to teach Drawn into the Heart of Reading. This is because DITHOR is such an important area to cover well! When kiddos learn to think beneath the surface of what is read and learn to read with discernment, two important skills are learned.

Students can do the science quite independently, with the teacher just making sure to go through assigned follow-ups.

My son honestly did the science completely independently. I checked in with him to make sure he did his lab sheets correctly and performed the experiment correctly. I did listen to his oral narrations with the science book in hand. Sometimes, he narrated to a younger sibling (with me looking over his shoulder).

Fifth graders should do the Extension Package readings and assignments independently.

The Extension Pack readings are meant to be done independently. From what you’ve shared previously, I agree having him work on his writing and spelling skills this year is important. The level of writing in Preparing Hearts continues to rise. Placement in Preparing is based on the skills noted in the first page of the placement chart. You can see these skills include a good dose of writing and spelling. Without those skills in place, moving into Preparing would only suit him in the area of reading material. The practice of core skills needed for good writing may be lost in the shuffle.

Adding independence to Bigger Hearts seems to make it a good placement for your 5th grade son.

These are just my thoughts, and you will certainly know best! However, I wanted to give you some food for thought on the many needed skills woven within Bigger Hearts. With our son who was older when he completed Bigger Hearts…, the independence I’ve mentioned worked well. When he began, Preparing Hearts…, he was ready!



Do you have a child using the Emerging Reader Set?

Teaching Tip

Do you have a child using the Emerging Reader Set?

If so,  I’ll share one quick tip that has been successful at our house.  The tip is to have your child practice reading the assigned Emerging Reader pages for the day on his/her own first.  Then, have the child read the pages to you.  This “practice time” has several benefits.

What are the benefits of having a child practice reading the assigned pages on his/her own?

First, it gives the child needed time to figure out words he/she may not know.  Second, it allows the child to go back and reread anything that may not have made sense.  Third, it allows the child time to linger over the pictures. Fourth, it allows the child to decipher the plot line.

What are the benefits of listening to a child after he/she has practiced reading?

A reader who has practiced first will pause less and read more fluently.  The reader will also feel more confident and will focus more on comprehension the second time around.  For the parent, it will be much more enjoyable (and time conscious) to listen to a prepared reader! Try having your child practice first before reading to you, and see if you notice a difference!


Guide Placement for My 5 ½ Year Old Kindergarten Son in Heart of Dakota Homeschooling

Pondering Placement

Question: Hello to the Austin family! Could you please help me with placement in Heart of Dakota for homeschooling my  5 1/2 year old son? He will be 6 in October, and this fall will be his kindergarten year. What placement would you suggest for my kindergarten 5 ½ year old son? Looking at the first page of the placement chart he is…

  1. 5  1/2 years old and turning 6 in October
  2. ready for phonics instruction
  3. at the beginning stages of writing
    • dislikes handwriting and coloring
    • writes the ‘J’ and the ‘u’ in his name really well, but the ‘d, ‘a,’ and ‘h’ are questionable
    • occasionally writes from right to left instead of left to write (but this is sometimes normal, and he’s not dyslexic)
    • can draw a stick figure and most of the body parts
  4. ready for gentle intro to basic parts of speech
    • he was a little late to the game with speech due to allergies
    • he tested for speech therapy and did not qualify
  5. math will be no problem, as he is strong in this area

With handwriting being second on the placement chart in order of importance, would Little Hands to Heaven be best? Although with him just finishing Pre-K, perhaps Little Hearts for His Glory for kindergarten would be a better fit? I know it is not advised to repeat the same guide twice, so I don’t want to repeat Little Hearts. Which guide would you suggest I place my kindergarten 5 1/2 year old son in this year?  Any advice is appreciated!

Reply: Thanks for sharing your findings about your son in regard to the placement chart!

That is always the first and best step to determining placement! We find this information incredibly helpful, as every child is different in needs and skills. As I was reading through your initial post, I think Little Hearts… would be a good fit for your son. It sounds like he fits well there on the placement chart overall. Much of what you shared as far as fine motor challenges isn’t that uncommon for boys upon entering Little Hearts. Your description actually fit my own third little guy when he began Little Hearts as he was turning 6.

Three Factors to Consider When Choosing Placement Between Little Hands… and Little Hearts…

There are three factors to consider when choosing Little Hearts… or choosing doing Little Hands… with Little Heart’s… kindergarten options. First, we want to consider your son’s age. Second, we want to consider the fact that he has already been through quite a bit of kindergarten readiness. Third, he seems to really make strides when you work with him one-on-one. In conclusion, all of these factors make me lean more toward Little Heartswith the K options.

An Easy Pacing Schedule for Your Kindergarten Son and for You

This could perhaps be done just 4 days a week, stretching 9 weeks into the next school year to finish. This plan would allow him to grow up a bit before getting to Beyond. But, it would also keep him moving forward more closely with his age-mates. While I dislike comparisons, age does help give us some guidelines when we’re trying to decide between two good options. In your son’s case I think it tilts the decision more in favor of Little Hearts.

Once you get Little Hearts… and its resources that go with it from us, you’ll be able to tell better. You’re also welcome to return anything within 30 days for a full refund or in exchange for something else. This should help ease the decision-making process a bit!



P.S. For more on placing your child in the right guide, click here!

Are your expectations realistic as to how long your school day should be?

Teaching Tip

This is the next post in our series of things to check if your school day seems to be too long. I know this can happen to any of us, and hopefully these tips may help!

When you think back to your school days, how long were they?

In public school, my days were close to 8 hours. I also had a couple of hours of homework at night and on the weekends. Of course, the school day at home can and should be shorter! But, what should our expectations be for a homeschool child?

Are your expectations realistic as to how long your school day should be?

Sometimes in our quest for the “shorter day,” we forget that school is meant to be a big part of our child’s day. It is meant to be very important! This means school is not something to “get over with,” so we can get on with our day. Instead, much of our day should be focused upon school.

Is school a priority at your house?

As your child’s teacher, teaching should be a priority and a focal point of your day. It is easy for meals, laundry, cleaning, and caring for little ones to become the focal point of the day. While these are all very important, school needs to be a priority. Molding your day around school takes a different mindset than molding school around your day. Plan for meals, laundry, cleaning, and caring for little ones in a way that doesn’t derail your school day.

How can you make school a priority?

Strive for 30 minute chunks of time to work with individual children. Then, take a brief 5- 10 minute break to move your other needed tasks along. Wait to do grocery shopping, baking, extensive meal preparation, and longer tasks until the afternoon. Strive not to answer the telephone, the doorbell, emails, or texts during school time unless absolutely necessary. Dock your devices and focus on school. Make the time until lunch very productive school-wise. Do your main teaching up until lunch. Then, after lunch finish up whatever remains. Save more independent subjects for students to do after lunch. Don’t drag school out all day. Make it a priority and finish in a timely fashion. Then, move on to your other tasks.

How much time does each guide take?

Little Hands to Heaven = 30 minutes a day (5 days a week)

Little Hearts for His Glory = 90 minutes a day (5 days a week)

Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory = 2 – 2 1/2 hours a day (5 days a week)

Bigger Hearts for His Glory = 3 – 3 1/2 hours a day (5 days a week)

Preparing Hearts for His Glory = 4 hours a day (4 days a week)

Creation to Christ = 4 – 4 1/2 hours a day (4 days a week)

Resurrection to Reformation = 4 – 4 1/2 hours a day (4 days a week)

Revival to Revolution = 4 1/2 hours a day (4 days a week)

Missions to Modern Marvels = 4 1/2 – 5 hours a day (4 days a week)

High School: World Geography = 6 1/2 hours a day (4 days a week)

High School: World History = 7 hours a day (4 days a week)

High School: U.S. History I = 6 1/2 – 7 hours a day (4 days a week)

High School: U.S. History II = 6-7 hours a day (4 days a week)

Note: In the guides from Preparing Hearts on up, an increasing portion of the day is independent. To be effective, work done independently will still need to be monitored and checked.

I hope this series of tips has been of help to you!

This is the last tip in our series of things to consider when looking at the length of your school day. Each of these tips I’ve shared over the past weeks have helped me so much through the years! I pray they may be a help to you too!


School day too long? Check your times for each subject with the author!

Have you trained your children in Charlotte Mason style skills?

Is your child placed in the right guide?


Homeschooling Multiple Children During a Health Crisis

Dear Carrie,

We’ve loved homeschooling with Heart of Dakota for years now, but my second son was recently diagnosed Type 1 diabetic. I feel we are in a health crisis right now, and I have multiple children My oldest is 9 years old and works fairly independently in Preparing. I’d like to keep him moving forward, as he is doing so well and is loving his year. Our 8 year old son (diabetic) is on unit 15 of Bigger. In attempting to start my 5 year old in Little Hearts…, I’m overwhelmed. I also have a 2 year old. I feel they are each placed correctly. But, a lot of my time is now spent managing my son’s blood sugar, preparing meals, and such. Even though we truly enjoy Heart of Dakota, I’m struggling. What should I do? Thanks in advance for your advice!


“In a Health Crisis Mom of 4”

Dear “In a Health Crisis Mom of 4,”

A diabetes Type 1 diagnosis is a big life change, and you have to give yourself a chance to adjust! My grandpa and father had diabetes later in life, and my nephew was diagnosed with Type 1 when at 14. So, I can glimpse a little bit of the adjustments you are currently going through. I also see that you have a two-year old at your house, so you are one busy momma!!

Your 10 year old son can keep moving forward in Preparing Hearts.

Thank you for sharing about each of your children!  It sounds like you’ve placed them well.  I agree that it makes good sense to keep your Preparing Hearts child moving forward. That child is more independent and the routine of doing the guide consistently will continue to be good for him.

Your 5 year old has several good options to slow down the pace in Little Hearts.

Your 5 year old can definitely slow down the pace and wait to do Little Hearts… full-speed. You can downsize to doing phonics, math, handwriting, and the Rod and Staff workbooks from Little Hearts daily. Or, if you prefer, you can do Little Heart’s two-page plans half-speed. This can be as simple as doing the left side one day and the right side the next day. Either way, this would get your school time down to about 45 minutes a day for your kindergarten child. I did find with a couple of my own boys that doing Little Hearts half-speed worked for us for a season. It kept things changing and fresh too. I felt like I was still moving forward and had the option of going to full-speed whenever I was ready.

Your 8 year old can slow down the pace to half-speed in Bigger Hearts until you both adjust.

For your Bigger Hearts child, you can definitely shift down to half-speed for a time. This will help as you adjust to the new medical needs at your house. You may even find that slowing down will help your Bigger Hearts child produce more careful work. As you adjust a bit, you can slowly move your Bigger Hearts child up to full-speed. You can just keep your 5 year old at half-speed for the rest of this school year.

Slow steady progress is still progress forward!

Take heart that even slow, steady progress forward is still progress! It is amazing how much you can get done through the years if you just keep slowly moving forward. That has been my encouragement through the years, and I hope it can be yours as well!