Does your child have an easy-to-follow schedule that can be seen at a glance?

Teaching Tip 

Does your child have an easy-to-follow schedule that can be seen at a glance?

Do you love schedules or loathe them?  Either way, there is one helpful item that we have found our students need.  It is a list of subjects in the order the subjects “ideally” should be completed each day.  Without such a schedule, the child remains completely dependent on you to dictate the day.

A schedule doesn’t need to be fancy.

This listing of subjects can be hand-written or typed.  It is helpful to use the subject names from the boxes in the Heart of Dakota guide.  It also helps to note a time allotment behind each subject.  This way the students have some idea of how long the subject is expected to take.  On our list I also include the room of our house where I expect the child to complete the subject. I write start and end times next to each subject (but this part of the list is purely optional).

You can use the same list all year!

We use the same list all year. We place the list in a plastic page protector.  Each day our students check off each subject with a dry erase marker.  At day’s end, they use a dry eraser to clear the schedule for use again the next day.

Freedom comes when the order of subjects remains basically the same.

Keeping the subjects in the same basic order each day really pays off in setting a routine. Your student will come to expect which subject comes next, saving both of you time.  The actual time on the clock when each subject occurs is less important than the routine.  Even if the time of day at which you complete those subjects varies from day-to-day… the order remains the same. Try making a simple, easy-to-follow schedule for your child and see what you think!


Please Explain How to Set Up a Routine Instead of a Schedule

Charlotte Mason’s Nature Journals in Missions to Modern Marvels

Dear Carrie

How are nature journals planned in a Charlotte Mason way in Missions to Modern Marvels?

Dear Carrie,

My daughter and I have enjoyed Heart of Dakota’s way of including a rotation of Charlotte Mason fine arts. She loved the watercolor painting and poetry in Creation to Christ. Next, she was thrilled with the art and picture study in Resurrection to Reformation. Then, she oohed and ahhed over Revival to Revolution’s music appreciation and composer study. Now, we see there is a Charlotte Mason style nature journal in Missions to Modern Marvels. We’re tentatively excited, but we tried our hand at nature journals when my daughter was much younger. She just didn’t do very well with it. I think I tried it way too young with her and expected way too much. So, my question is, how are nature journals planned in a Charlotte Mason way in Missions to Modern Marvels?


“Ms. Please Explain How Nature Journals Are Done”

Dear “Ms. Please Explain How Nature Journals Are Done,”

We’re very excited about the Charlotte Mason style nature journal we have planned in Missions to Modern Marvels! It is titled Nature Drawing and Journaling and is an outstanding product created by Barry Stebbing of How Great Thou Art! This resource was exactly what we were looking for, as it incorporates a love for nature, includes lessons on drawing from nature, guides students in keeping a nature journal, and works to look at nature as God’s glorious handiwork.

As this describes it so well, here is the product description of Nature Drawing and Journaling!

Nature Drawing and Journaling is a unique combination of nature journaling instructions, reflections, and space for your own work. Nature Drawing and Journaling will keep you observing & thinking for as long as you have time. Filled with Barry Stebbing’s 40 years’ worth of insights on studying nature and keeping an art journal, with patience and practice you’ll be able to create your very own! Supply lists, instructions on what a journal is (and is not), and hints on starting your own are provided. The journal pages feature journal entries, full-color illustrations, a quote at the top, and often full-page reproductions of Barry Stebbing’s journal.

Nature-inspired poetry pairs beautifully with Nature Drawing and Journaling!

In tandem with the nature journaling twice weekly, we included nature-inspired poetry from Wordsworth, Longfellow, and Whitman. We spend 12 weeks, which is a Charlotte Mason-style term, on each poet. Nature-based poems provide inspiration for journaling and give lovely narrative to describe God’s handiwork.

An Overall Look at Charlotte Mason’s Fine Arts Skills in Heart of Dakota

With this last choice of doing nature journaling in MTMM, we have done the Charlotte Mason fine arts skills in a 4 year rotation (as you have already mentioned). We did watercolor painting weekly along with Robert Frost’s poetry in CTC. Then, we did art appreciation with picture study in RTR. Next, we did music appreciation with composer study in Rev2Rev (plus classic paintings included throughout the Student Notebook). Finally, we did nature journaling in MTMM.

Additionally, we did classic poetry every year from Beyond Little Hearts on up. We did sketching practice with instruction through Draw and Write from CTC through MTMM. Not to mention, we scheduled hymn singing and hymn appreciation in both Bigger Hearts and MTMM.  I won’t get into high school and Charlotte Mason’s fine arts skills here, but I will just say, I think you and your daughter are sure to enjoy that balance as well!



Placement Help for My Older Son Who Is Struggling More Than Younger Brother

  Pondering Placement

Please help me with placement for my older son who is struggling more than his younger brother.

I’ve used Heart of Dakota with my littles and loved it!  This year, I just started Heart of Dakota with my 9 yo and 12 yo. I need help with placement for my older son, who is struggling more than his younger brother. My 12 yo is allergic to the pencil. He has possible attention problems, and he is an avoider of work in any form.  We placed him in CTC with his 9 yo brother.  To describe the 9 yo, he is an advanced reader and a self-paced learner. Our 12 yo is struggling. I know part of it is attitude. He has some obedience and preteen issues. He struggles with transitions, distractability, and what he needs to do next.

I have many other children to homeschool. I need him to be able to do this, but I think he might have dysgraphia.

With many other little kids all needing my time and direction, I NEED him to be able to do this. Consistently. But, he can’t. I can’t stop what I’m doing with the others every time he finishes to redirect him.  He ends up with unfinished work. I think he is dealing with dysgraphia. I’ve heard the word before, but I just (as in the last 10 minutes) looked into it more fully. We’ve always used Charlotte Mason. Consequently, he has had a heavy oral workload. I think CTC’s written expectations are hitting him hard. My difficulty is deciphering how much is “don’t want to” and how much is “can’t”.  I guess my question is in placement. How do you expect the best from your children while not expecting them to be something/someone they are not?

Answer: It could be your son just needs help from oral to written work, and Preparing Hearts is the guide that does that.

I am so glad that you are sharing this! There are a few things that reverberated with me.  Your older son really struggles with writing, and he has mainly had an oral CM foundation. In looking at the progression of writing, the guide that transitions from oral to written narration is Preparing Hearts. I fear that expecting your 12 year old, no matter what his age, to suddenly be at the level of independence and written work that CTC expects is setting him up for failure. If you are to the point where you are going to being downsizing his writing, then I think a look at Preparing Hearts for your son would be timely.

If we place him in a guide in which we can expect him to do all that is required, we can help him gain needed independence.

I can see that with a 12 year old, it would be preferable to place him in CTC. However, in looking down the road, this placement will always leave you downsizing. It will take away the chance for your son to truly gain the level of independence needed. This is because he will need you by his side to complete what he is being asked to do. Why? Because he did a guide too high at the start. Instead, I’d encourage you to place him in Preparing Hearts with extensions. Then, you can expect him to do ALL of what is required. I also think he’ll need to do Drawn into the Heart of Reading and Rod and Staff. He can move toward doing more written work in both those areas by year end in preparation for CTC.

To avoid having a younger sibling in a higher program, I’d place both children in Preparing.

In considering moving your oldest son down to Preparing, you could also move your 9 year old, unless that child is truly doing everything in CTC right now full-speed and it suits him perfectly. Since he is only 9, I’d be leaning toward moving him down as well to avoid the older child having a younger sibling in a higher program. I think I would put both kiddos in Preparing. Correct placement would also help you know that you can expect them to do everything in the guide. This makes the subjects non-negotiable, which requires less thinking to weigh if your kiddos really can do what is being asked of them.

I have a few sons who needed practice or guidance in the area of writing due to frustration.

My oldest son was allergic to a pencil too, and he really grew into a writer through the years by the time he graduated. So, sometimes it is just that the child hasn’t had much practice or guidance in the area of writing, and it is frustrating them. My third son is a lefty, who has to be a righty, due to an injury to his fingers years ago. He is not a writing lover anyway, and it is a challenge to him. Yet, he has come so far. I try not to compare him to my other boys and just remember that each child has his own strengths and weaknesses. Writing will never come easily to him, yet it is coming! Many kiddos who are challenged in writing sound like they have dysgraphia. Some do, yet many do not.

Independence can take time to gain if a student has not done much reading or independent work on his own.

Another consideration is that if your son has never had much beyond reading on his own for independent work, then independence can take time to gain. A child also needs to be trained and able to do what we are asking him to do independently in the guide. This may mean that he needs the building blocks of the lessons in Preparing Hearts to allow him to be confident of what we asking him to do independently in CTC. I know this these thoughts will take some ruminating upon. However, be encouraged that over time the right placement will not leave you exhausted, but instead leave you encouraged! I want that experience for you!


P.S.  To find out more about HOD in general, click here!


Why does Heart of Dakota use different writing programs each year?

Dear Carrie

Why does Heart of Dakota use different writing programs each year?

Dear Carrie,

I just wanted to ask why Heart of Dakota uses different writing programs each year? I like all that I see in Heart of Dakota, and I’m quite a researcher!  However,  I was wondering what the benefits are of using different sources from one year to another? Write With the Best, IEW, The Exciting World of Creative Writingthey are all so different. I just wondered why one writing program isn’t chosen to continue with year after year?  Thanks in advance for answering my question.


“Ms. Wondering Why Use Different Writing Programs”

Dear “Ms. Wondering Why Use Different Writing Programs,”

You are correct!  We have purposely chosen to use different writing programs from year to year in Heart of Dakota. Writing has a definite progression of skills and certain types of writing that are easier to accomplish than others. So, we keep this in mind as we move through the guides. Various writing programs also have different strengths and appeal to different types of learners, which is something that should not be overlooked. Can you imagine if all of our great writers had been exposed to only one particular writing “program” that they all were required to use year after year?  Would it produce as much variety as we see in great writing, or could it instead feel stifling to some writers?

Writing is a highly creative and personal process.

It’s important to remember that writing is a highly creative and personal process. While it does have certain skills that need to be taught, it also requires much more individual expression and output. Thus, it requires a different approach than subjects like math or English, where a certain set of skills are taught and an exacting output is required. In math and English it makes perfect sense to stay the course with a single program. Yet, in writing, it is true that “variety is the spice of life” (and the spice of writing)!

Different writing programs have different strengths.

Having the freedom to choose among the different writing programs available, let’s take advantage of the strengths within each program. Students then can be exposed to a variety of writing experiences and writing approaches. Yet, students can still maintain solid skill progression when formal writing programs are integrated with the writing across the curriculum as scheduled in the HOD guide. Our approach also allows us to be better balanced in seeing the writing program as just one piece of the HOD puzzle each year. This helps us create a puzzle that is put together piece by piece, year by year, so one cohesive picture emerges.

The result? Each student’s own beautifully crafted puzzle. Not the same exact puzzle as another student’s puzzle. But rather a uniquely personally crafted puzzle, with different pieces taken from different writing programs that when put together, create one original masterpiece. Then, a writer is born. So, let us start putting together the pieces of the puzzle to make some new ‘masterpieces’ today!


Consider your child’s personality when scheduling artistic subjects

Teaching Tip

Consider your child’s personality when scheduling artistic subjects.

Do you have a child who loves to take his/her time when doing any assignment that requires drawing?  If so, you may wish to consider placing subjects that require drawing or artwork as the last subject.  One of our sons really enjoys doing each art-related assignment meticulously. While this results in beautiful work, it can also make this mama want to constantly hurry him along! This results in stress for both us.

Schedule art-related subjects last in the day.

The solution for me was to schedule any art-related assignments within my son’s HOD guide after lunch.  This was when he did his last subjects of the day.  In that way, my son could take as long as he wanted to complete the assignment.  He’s on his own time then, and I am not rushing him. This is because I try to be done with most formal teaching from his HOD guide by then.

Various assignments can fall into the artwork category.

Notebooking assignments and lab sheets for science often fall in this category.  Timeline entries and Draw and Write entries fall in this category for us too. The painting assignments in CTC, the composer study in Rev2Rev, and the nature journal in MTMM are also in this category.

Even if you don’t have a child who is artistic, any assignment with drawing typically takes more time.

Once you figure out which drawing assignments are taking more time, consider placing these last in the day.  This will help keep the rest of your schedule on-track. And, when your child is on his/her own time, he will be less likely to drag an assignment out.  Try a schedule redo and see if it helps your day run more smoothly!