Bigger Hearts for His Glory Notebook Question

Dear Carrie

My question is about the new Bigger Hearts for His Glory Notebook!  But, first a little background!  

I have a question about the new Bigger Hearts… notebook, but first I want to share a little about our family! We have used Heart of Dakota now for 3 years, and I AM ACTUALLY GETTING ALL OUR SCHOOL DONE!  GLORY HALLELUJAH! I’m loving the structure and heart behind HOD! I feel that this is right for us! As a reformed curriculum junkie, I have quit frantically trying to find “it.” I love how uncomplicated HOD makes schooling! It has been a joy and so peaceful in my house the last few years. We are learning as a family, though we are doing separate guides, and it keeps us balanced!

Heart of Dakota is a literature-based program that works well with many little ones!

If you are considering HOD, I highly recommend it. I have an 8.5 year old, 6 year old, 3.5 year old, and an almost 2 year old. Like I mentioned, we are able to finish our school every day! It has been manageable – and FUN! I. HAVE. HAD. FUN. teaching and watching my kids enjoy our homeschooling. In the past I tried a different literature-based program, because I wanted to read to my children. The thing was I couldn’t get all the HUGE amount of reading done.

The key concepts help keep us on track!

With so many moving bodies and interruptions, I was constantly getting behind and frustrated. Especially frustrated by not being able to tie the concepts together for my daughter. HOD’s key concepts keep us on track, and I love how the lessons are woven together. A BIG thank you to Mrs. Austin from this momma!!!

So, now that my oldest is moving into Bigger Hearts, here is my question about the new notebook!

We are getting ready to order Bigger Hearts for His Glory.  I wondered if I order it now, is the guide now updated to match the new notebooking pages?  If the Bigger Hearts… guide isn’t yet updated, will the new notebooking pages work with the old guide? Thanks!


“Momma of Many Littles Asking about Bigger Heart’s Notebook”

Dear “Momma of Many Littles Asking about Bigger Heart’s Notebook,”

Thank you so much for sharing about your family! We had such fun creating the new notebooking pages for Bigger Hearts…!  It has been something I’ve wanted to do for awhile but until I finished writing the high school guides, I just didn’t have the time. When creating the notebook pages for Bigger Hearts, I tried to stay as close as possible to the previous notebook assignments in earlier versions of the Bigger Hearts guides.

In the end, I would say that about 75%-80% of the notebooking assignments will work quite closely to the way I wrote the plans in the previous versions of the Bigger Hearts guide. The other 20%-25% of the assignments also correspond with the plans in previous versions of the guide. But, the student may not know exactly what to do with the page as their part has changed. You can click here for samples of the notebook pages.

A large foldable timeline is also included in the notebook pages.

There is also a large foldable timeline to assemble at the end of the notebook pages. If you have an earlier version of the Bigger Hearts guide, you can find assembly directions for the Bigger Hearts timeline on Unit 1 – Day 5 in the “Timeline” Box of the sample plans on our website. We have updated those sample pages, so they show the 2018 version of the plans. You can click here for those plans!

I hope this helps! Of course, if you have a previous version of the guide it still works as written without the new pages. Either way, happy notebooking!





Summer is a great time for chore training!

Teaching Tip

Summer is a great time for chore training!

Summer is a wonderful time to train your children to do various chores around the house. We use the summer to train each of our kiddos to do a set of chores appropriate to his age. Then, during the school year the child is easily able to do these chores well, with less checking and monitoring!

How many chores can you expect a child to perform well?

Each child has 1-3 chores we train him to do very well. These chores are the child’s responsibility until he grows another year older. Each year the chores shift, allowing each child more responsibility as he matures.

What types of chores can you train children to do?

Chores can range from dust busting after meals, to clearing table, to loading and unloading the dishwasher. Taking out the garbage, wiping the counters, and sorting and folding laundry are other chores that can be taught. Older children can tackle lawn care, snow removal, house cleaning, putting away groceries, and making quick meals. The chores we assign go beyond typical “picking up.”

Routine “picking up” is also a daily responsibility.

All of our kiddos are expected to put away their school books, make their beds, and keep their bedrooms tidy. Our older kiddos also take turns doing a “clean sweep” of the house in the evening before bedtime. This sweep involves systematically tidying each room and putting away out of place items. These routine tasks are in addition to our boys’ other assigned chores.

Why is summer a great time for chore training?

Chore training takes time and diligence! This is why summer is a great time to tackle this task with consistency. Try chore training with your children. When the school year rolls around again, you will be glad that you did!


Habit Training That Helps the Homeschool Year Go Better

Comparing Standardized Testing Using the CAT or Iowa Basics Tests for Homeschool Students

Dear Carrie

Which test between the CAT and Iowa Basics do you recommend, and why?

We are using and enjoying Heart of Dakota now, and we really like the Charlotte Mason method included. I live in MN, so starting in 2nd grade, I will need to have my kids tested. I have been reading about the more common tests. I’m leaning towards either the Iowa Basics test or the CAT. I want to administer the test at home. My son has some mild learning/processing issues, so I’m a bit nervous about having to test him. The timed sections may be an issue. I really dislike standardized tests, especially coming from a Charlotte Mason philosophy. But, you have to do what you have to do, right?  So, my question is, which test between the CAT and Iowa Basics do you recommend, and why?


“Ms. Please Help Me Choose a Test”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Me Choose a Test,”

This is such a good question! For our older boys, we did the Iowa Basics Skills Test for many years. We did do all the portions. I tested my boys yearly simply because I wanted to be sure we were covering all of our bases. Our boys did outstanding on the tests in all areas including science and social studies.

By the time we had four boys needing testing, due to time constraints, I switched to the CAT test. We did it through Seton. We also switched to the CAT Core Battery/Survey Edition to make the testing even shorter. My boys did very well on the CAT Survey also ending up in the 98th-99th percentile. The older boys had very similar scores to those they had gotten on the Iowa Basics Skills Test. I loved the shorter test time!

Let’s take a closer look at the CAT survey!

In comparing the two tests, the CAT Survey is much shorter time-wise to give to your child. This means it also has fewer questions. With fewer questions, each question a child misses has a greater impact on his/her score. The CAT Core Battery/Survey only focuses on the core areas of reading-related skills, language arts/grammar, and math. It does include grammar parts of speech, where the Iowa Basics Skills does not specifically include parts of speech.

At the younger levels, specifically grades 2 and 4, the CAT Survey is not written in as grade-specific a way. This makes the test questions seem all over the map, as far as level of difficulty goes. At the upper levels of the CAT Survey, this is less of a problem, and the test seems to level out. They may have corrected some of these issues in the new Terra Nova 2/CAT 6, but I have not yet given that version. The CAT does not require any credentials by the instructor in order to administer.

Let’s take a closer look at the Iowa Basic Skills Test!

The Iowa Basics Skills Test definitely takes longer to complete and includes many more questions. This can be a good thing though, as each question the child misses has less of a negative impact on his/her overall score. The Iowa test is more grade specific, making the questions feel more grade appropriate. There are also more questions for each subject areas tested giving a better overall picture of the child’s performance.

I felt the Iowa Test gave me a better picture of where my kiddos were in each area. You must be approved as a tester to give the Iowa Basic Skills Test. BJU or Seton approves testers.  You just need to provide proof of a bachelor’s degree. You can also order the test through them. To see a comparison of the various tests here, click here.

You can lessen the time it takes to give the Iowa Test by giving only the required portions.

One thing you could consider would be to give only the reading-related, language, and math portions of the Iowa Test. This would help lessen the time required to test. You can do this if your state does not require all portions to be given. Our state has now moved toward only requiring the reading, language, and math portions.

Math computation has also typically been an optional part of the Iowa Test. Usually there is a sticker on that portion of the test identifying it as optional. The timed math computation part of the test stressed my boys out. So, we later omitted it since it was optional. The rest of the test seemed just fine. You can often choose to do the research section of the Iowa Test or not. You’ll also find the Grades K-2 of the Iowa Tests are untimed, which is wonderful for those little ones!

You may want to consider the way the different tests handle the reading with younger students.

If I remember correctly, you read the Iowa test to the student in the younger grade levels K-2. You do not read the CAT Survey to the student at the second grade level on up. This makes it harder if the student is not reading well. The teacher is not to explain things to the student during the test but is there to administer the test. There are examples at the beginning of each section to go over with the student to make sure the student understands what to do on each part prior to beginning each new section of the test.

You might want to check which tests your state prefers.

Typically the Iowa and the CAT are accepted almost everywhere. The PASS test is not as recognized and may not be as readily accepted. Most states just require standardized testing from recognized tests like the Iowa, CAT, and the Stanford but often do not require a particular test. I also gave the Stanford test for years in my public school teaching days. You can give an online version of the Stanford test through Seton. I have not used this version in our homeschooling. But, you can give a complete or an abbreviated version of the test. You don’t need a bachelor’s degree to give the test, as you give the test online. You could check with your state department of education for what is required by your state.

Either test will work, so pick whichever test you prefer!

Either test will work! We typically test over multiple days at our house, doing only 2 tests in one sitting (or 3 shorter ones). With the CAT Survey test, we only did one test session each day. When we did the CAT longer battery or the Iowa Test, we sometimes did two testing sessions a day. We did one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

Here are a few testing tips!

The boys take the test after they are well-rested and fed. They take a brief break in between the tests to go to the restroom and have a drink of water. We make sure it is quiet while we are testing. The boys and I pray before we test. We try to give the test in a well-lighted, calmer area of our home. I set the timer, but I place it on a counter further away from where they are working. This way they are not constantly seeing the timer but can refer to it as needed. I warn them at the halfway mark of the time, and again as we get closer to the time being up. But,we try not to make the time their primary focus.

It is wise to pay attention that your child has not skipped filling in a bubble or has not filled in two bubbles on the same line as they take the test.This can make the child be off one line all the way through the test. We circulated the classroom and watched for this in the public school classroom too, as this is very traumatizing to children. I think your child will do just fine!  Testing at home is a friendlier environment than testing at school!


P.S. As always, proper placement in Heart of Dakota’s guides takes into account where children are skill-wise and helps them move forward in skills.  For answers to our top ten asked questions, click here!

A little bit of playtime can go a long way!

Teaching Tip

A little bit of playtime can go a long way!

If you have little ones, here’s a tip you can put into practice during summer break! This summer, train your little ones to have a 20-30 min. playtime alone in a designated safe area at least once daily.  For really young ones, the playpen or the crib can serve as the designated area.  For kiddos aged 3 or older, a gated play area can work well. For kiddos closer to school-age, playtime in their bedroom can be an option.

What can the kiddos do during this designated playtime?

During playtime in the designated area, we had certain toys for the child to play with during that time. When the kids were younger, we kept those toys/books in 5 lidded storage tubs numbered days 1-5.  Each day, we just pulled out the next numbered tub. We stored the tubs under our bed. When the kiddos got older, we listed safe toys from our playroom on index cards numbered 1-5 instead. We placed the index cards on a ring on our fridge.  We flipped to a new card each day to know which toys to set out for playtime for that day.

Focus on getting your young ones to have some playtime alone in a safe space.

There are many different variations you could use to accomplish this goal.  The focus needs to be on the little one having a bit of playtime alone in a safe environment. This is so helpful during the school year and makes for a happy little one and a happy mama! Don’t despair if the training takes some time. Just remember you are training for the future.


Train Your Children During Extended Break Time!

Should I combine my daughter and son in Beyond Little Hearts?

Pondering Placement

A Little Background

Hello to the Austin Family! I am so glad to be here ready to use Heart of Dakota! I am a mother to four: ages 2.5b, 4.5b, 6.5b, and 8.5g. We have homeschooled on and off for the past 4 years. Right now our two oldest children just finished at our private church academy. Our 4yo just finished 4K.  I was ready to combine the children this year using Beyond… , but my hubby was not 100% on board with homeschooling. God has changed his heart! He is seeing the need to homeschool, so we are preparing for this summer schooling.

Placement Question:  Should I combine my daughter and son in Beyond Little Hearts…, or separate them?

Our children have been separate using BJU, which does not hold their interest. I know I am going to use Beyond… with my 6.5 yo son.  But, I think our 8.5yo daughter could possibly do Bigger… My only “fear” is that she is a reluctant reader. She ‘knows’ that she doesn’t read well. This has come from her fear of reading in front of other children that are younger than her and read better. Actually, when she is reading something at home, she reads OK. But, I know she could improve greatly. Would you combine her with her brother using Beyond…? Or would you go ahead and put her in Bigger…? She does great in Math, Bible, and other things, but she truly struggles with Reading & English.

Carrie’s Reply: I would keep your 6 and 8 year old together in Beyond.

Thanks so much for sharing about your daughter!  From what you’ve shared, I would combine 6 and 8 year old together in Beyond...  Since your kiddos will be coming from private school to homeschooling, it’s always best to allow for a period of adjustment. Jumping into a curriculum that would really challenge your oldest, like Bigger…, wouldn’t allow time for that.

This will give time for your daughter to gain in reading, writing and English skills.

Also, since your oldest is still gaining as a reader and gaining English skills as well, Beyond… is the better placement in those 2 key areas. We consider the 3 most important areas for correct program placement to be reading, writing, and math.

Summer is a great time to try to combine and see if you like this placement.

If you start in the summer and feel your oldest has made significant gains by the end of summer, you could always reconsider moving her to Bigger… at that time. However, if she is thriving with Beyond…, I would continue to combine and finish the program with her.

You have several good options to choose from for reading.

As far as the reading goes, you would probably want the Emerging Reader Set for your oldest. Click here to view that set, so you can determine if that is the correct placement for her. If that set seems too easy, then you would be ready for Drawn into the Heart of Reading and possibly one of the book sets that goes well with that program. Click here for the link for the Level 2 book pack.

You can give the math placement test for the best math level to use.

Also, as far as math goes, if you are wanting to use Singapore, you can take the placement test to see which level is best for your kiddos. Click here for the test – just be sure to choose the Primary Mathematics U.S. 3rd Edition. Then, once you’ve determined their math levels, just drop us a line with your further questions on the Main Board of our message board!  The moms are super encouraging!  Or, give us a call!  We can help answer questions or help put together your order to combine two kiddos.