‘Pop Back and Forth’ to Teach Multiple R & S English Levels Simultaneously

From Our House to Yours

‘Pop Back and Forth’ to Teach Multiple R & S English Levels Simultaneously

I thought I’d share how I teach multiple R & S English levels at one time! Emmett is using R & S English 5 in HOD’s Revival to Revolution, and Riley is using R & S English 8 in HOD’s USI high school. I like to have each sit at their own table in adjacent rooms, so they are not distracted by each other, but I can easily pop back and forth between them.  Emmett sits at the kitchen table, and Riley sits at the dining room table.

I start with the youngest studying his oral review questions and answers.

I start by having my younger son, Emmett, study his oral questions and answers in his R & S English teacher’s guide. He is a visual learner, and reading the questions and answers in print helps him better retain the information. Usually within a few minutes, he tells me he his ready. I then take away the guide and orally ask him the questions. He rarely misses any, but if he does, I have him study the teacher’s guide again. Then, I ask just the one he missed one more time. It is amazing to me how much better he does on reviews since we have been doing this!

I pop over to the oldest to do his oral review questions, while the youngest silently reads his lesson.

Emmett then silently reads his R & S English pupil text lesson. While Emmett is silently reading his lesson at the kitchen table, I call Riley to the dining room table. Riley studies his oral questions and answers in his R & S English teacher’s guide. When he says he is ready, I take away the teacher’s guide and orally ask him the questions. Just as I did with Emmett, if he misses any, I have him study again and ask that question one more time. After this, Riley reads his pupil text lesson silently at the dining room table.

I pop back to the youngest to orally do his lesson, while the oldest silently reads his lesson.

About this time, Emmett is done silently reading his lesson. So, I pop back to the kitchen table. We then work through the lesson together orally. I often have him take a few minutes to ‘study’ and ‘think through’ his answers for a section before asking him to orally answer. It is amazing how much better he does then! Emmett can rush and be a bit of a ‘blurter’ otherwise. Having him study a section and think through his answers prior to answering them orally has helped him go from answering many questions wrong to answering almost every question right! As we are working orally through the lesson, I look ahead and mentally note which written part I want to assign him to write the answers for in his notebook.

I pop back to the oldest to orally do his lesson, while the youngest writes the section I’ve assigned in his notebook.

We keep moving through the lesson orally until Riley calls out to say he’s done reading. If Emmett and I get to the section I want him to write before Riley calls out to me, I skip the section I want him to write, and finish out the rest orally. Whenever Riley calls out to let me know he is done reading though, I quickly finish the section Emmett and I are orally doing and then have Emmett do the written section I chose for him to write in his notebook. While Emmett is independently doing his assigned written section, I pop back over to Riley. We work through his lesson orally. Whenever Emmett calls out he is done with his written section, I quickly finish the section Riley and I are orally doing and then have Riley look ahead to choose a written section to do in his notebook.

I pop back to the youngest to correct his written work and orally finish his lesson, while the oldest does his written work, and then finish out orally with the oldest.

I pop back to the kitchen table. Using the teacher’s guide, I correct Emmett’s written work and assign a grade for it. We then work through any remaining questions orally. Emmett is done, so I pop back to Riley’s dining room table. I correct Riley’s written work and assign a grade for it. We then work through any remaining questions orally. Voila! Both are now done with grammar, and in a fraction of the time it used to take me to teach multiple levels!  Hooray!  I know it sounds chaotic to pop back and forth, but it isn’t.  It works great and is a real time saver! Maybe you’d like to give it a try!

In Christ,




How HOD Projects Decorate and Adorn Our Home

From Our House to Yours

How HOD Projects Decorate and Adorn Our Home

In Heart of Dakota, students get to respond to their Charlotte Mason living books’ readings in all sorts of ways. Through the years, our sons have especially enjoyed responding to their readings with their history projects. While we cannot keep all of the projects, they have used many of them to decorate their bedrooms. Even more of their history projects adorn the rest of our home. Each time we walk through the house, we take a trip down memory lane. As our sons lay their heads down to sleep, they do so in the company of many of their Heart of Dakota history projects. This blog is dedicated to a few of those special decorations!

The Preparing Hearts for His Glory Timeline Adorned Our Doors

Each of our sons loved making the Preparing Hearts for His Glory staircase timeline. First, Wyatt’s timeline adorned our left closet door in our entry. Then, Riley’s timeline adorned our right closet door in our entry. When it came to Emmett, I remember him sadly saying he didn’t have any place for his timeline because both entry closet doors were taken! When I told Emmett he could hang his timeline on his bedroom door, he beamed! The timelines adorned those doors for a very long time and were a ready reference for the chronology of major historical events.

The “What does your name mean?” Project Adorned the Inside of Our Sons’ Bedroom Doors

Each of our sons enjoyed looking up what his name meant for a history project. After they wrote what their names meant, they drew small pictures around it to describe themselves. These namesake projects adorned the inside of their bedroom doors for many years. I loved that they could see why we chose each of their names! What a neat project!

Cinnamon Fish with Scripture Hang from Our Sons’ Doorknobs

Our sons enjoyed making their cinnamon fish project. I love the Scripture they wrote and glued to their fish. We also all love the cinnamon scent we catch a whiff of every time we open and close their doors.  These fish adorned their doors by hanging from their doorknobs until they finally crumbled.  We all got years of enjoyment out of them! Just when one child’s fish would break, our next son was in that guide and making a new fish for his door!

Favorite recipes adorn the inside of our kitchen cabinet doors!

They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach! I think this is also often the way to a boy’s heart! Our sons have loved making all of the recipes in Heart of Dakota’s history projects. Not to mention, our entire family has loved eating them! In fact, we love many of them so much that the boys copy the recipes and hang them on the inside of our kitchen cabinets. Cornbread, cookies, pastries, quick breads began to overtake our inside cabinet doors until they decided to make their own recipe binder of them. What delicious recipes!!!

Other Memorable Heart of Dakota ‘Decorations’

Our house is adorned by so many memorable Heart of Dakota decorations. Headpieces and helmets hang from bedposts. Cacti adorns dressers, and pottery is a holder for morning vitamins. Posters hang on walls, and the ‘armor of the Lord’ adorns stuffed animals. Portfolios of watercolor paintings and poetry copywork line our shelves as keepsake pieces. But above all, my favorite keepsakes are my children’s Bibles and Common Place Books. Highlighted Scriptures memorized through the years in their Bibles continue to encourage them to hide the Word in their hearts. Common Place Book scriptures and quotes keep meaningful thoughts at the ready for perusing at any time. Many Heart of Dakota things adorn and decorate our home.  I hope some of them reside in your homes for a time as well – until fresh ones take their place.

In Christ,

Checking Middle School Work in a Quick and Efficient Way

From Our House to Yours

Checking Middle School Work in a Quick, Efficient Way

Emmett, my 12-year-old seventh grader, is using Heart of Dakota‘s Revival to Revolution curriculum this school year. He is in Unit 18 now, which is halfway through the guide. By now, we have really hit our stride in checking his work in a quick and efficient way. As more boxes of plans become “I” independent, we as homeschool moms still need to check to make sure the work is complete. However, checking work need not take forever! A homeschool mom I helped on the phone asked this very question. After I’d shared some ways I correct Emmett’s “I” independent work, she told me this would be a great blog post for me to write. What a good idea! Here goes!

First Teaching Block: Efficiently Checking Bible Quiet Time and State Study/Research

I find I can check work quickly and efficiently during my teaching blocks of time. By my first teaching time, Emmett has completed his independent Bible Quiet Time and State Study boxes. To check Bible Quiet Time I correct his Hidden Treasures, circling incorrect answers, underlining any misspelled words, and writing their correct spelling in the margin. I do the same with his Common Place Book, when it is assigned. He makes any needed changes, and I make sure they are fixed. Next, I ask him if he prayed using his Prayer Starters and if he practiced his Scripture verses. (Simply asking makes him accountable.) On Day 4, he says his verses for me with the Bible open between us (so I can see it and he can refer to it if he gets stuck).

Next, I check his State Study, which is super easy. Using the answer key, I circle any incorrect answers. I don’t write the correct answers in the margin for him. Instead, he uses his State Study resource to fix them. One day a week he does Research instead of State Study. To check his Research, I have him read aloud his bulleted notes on the back of his signer cards. (I find he writes more neatly knowing he will be reading aloud his answers to me.)  I then underline any misspelled words or misinformation; he can usually fix them on his own. (If he can’t, I have him look at The Signers book for help or jot the correct spelling on a sticky note or markerboard for him.) And just that quick, two “I” boxes are corrected efficiently already!

Second Teaching Block: Efficiently Checking Reading About History and Independent History Study

By my second teaching block, Emmett has completed Reading About History and Independent History Study. For Reading About History, assignments rotate. To efficiently check his written narration, I have him read it aloud to me. I either use the sticky note method or the markerboard method to edit it. He makes any corrections right away. If it is an oral narration day, I listen to his narration using Appendix guidelines. On the period artwork day, I underline any capitalization/spelling mistakes in his caption in his notebook. As the caption is copywork from his guide, I have him use his guide to fix any errors. Then, I ask him the questions from the guide. For the U.S History Atlas/globe assignment, I ask him the questions in the guide. Or, if we are short on time, I might just ask him if he did it. (Simply asking makes him accountable.)

For the Independent History Study box, assignments rotate. For copywork, I underline misspelled words and have him look up the spelling in the resource he copied from to fix it. Or, if it is a drawing/coloring day, I make sure he did what was assigned. (Note: This is not an art assignment. It is a response to history. So, if you have a less than perfect artist, as long as he/she did the work as neatly as possible and it is complete, that is ‘good enough!’) If it is an audio day or a ‘read the timeline’ day, I ask him to share a few of his favorite or most interesting things he heard or read. Or, if we are short on time, I might just ask him if he listened to his audio or read his timeline. (Simply asking makes him accountable.)

Third Teaching Block: Efficiently Checking Rotating History and Storytime

The rotating history box includes four different assignments. To efficiently check the Timeline, I make sure he drew and colored each entry. I also underline misspelled words and mark missing capitalization or punctuation. Emmett uses his guide to fix any errors. For Poetry, I ask if he read his poem. Then, I check his copywork of the poem. I underline/mark any spelling or capitalization/punctuation errors. Emmett uses the poem in his guide to fix any errors. For Geography, I use the teacher’s answer map to correct his student map. I ask any questions in the guide about the map or the atlas. For Worthy Words, I ask if Emmett read it. Then, I ask the follow-up questions in the guide. For Storytime, I still enjoy reading aloud to Emmett. So, after reading it, I ask the questions or listen to the narration. Two more boxes quickly and efficiently checked!

Fourth Teaching Block: Efficiently Checking Science Exploration and Inventor Study

Science Exploration Education has an answer key, so I just use the key to correct the Logbook. I circle any wrong answers, and Emmett fixes them. If I am not there to see the experiment, Emmett takes a few pictures of it and texts them to me. To check the Inventor Study, I ask if he read the assigned book. Then, I check his Inventor Student Notebook. I underline any misspelled words and mark any capitalization/punctuation errors. He uses his book/guide to fix them. If it is an oral narration day, I either listen to his oral narration or have him record it and text it to me. If it is a ‘review the timeline’ day, I ask him to share a few interesting things he remembers. And just that easy, voila! The last two “I” boxes are quickly and efficiently checked!

In Closing

In closing, I find it important I check each “I” independent box somehow. If I don’t, their work suffers. Either they start omitting things, or they don’t do their work as well. I find simply asking if they read the assigned pages helps with accountability. When asked, it is difficult for students to say they read the pages when they didn’t. They would actually then be lying, and they don’t want to do that. Likewise, checking the written “I” independent work for errors helps students learn to write more carefully. Fixing marked errors in copywork by using the book/guide helps them learn to to be more accurate. Students realize they might as well take care to copy things right the first time this way, rather than copy them wrong and have to redo it. I hope these few simple tips can help with checking independent work quickly and efficiently!

In Christ,


Using MATHhelp.com for High School Algebra II

From Our House to Yours

Using MATHhelp.com for High School Algebra II

Riley and I are using MATHhelp.com for high school Algebra II this year. MATHhelp.com is one of the math programs recommended by Heart of Dakota. We are both really enjoying it!  Riley likes the teacher in the video lessons. He says the lessons are clear with sequential steps that are easy to follow. I would agree! The teacher is just so earnest and likable as well. He stands at the whiteboard and talks through each step, writing as he talks. The charts he uses to plug in information for formulas are quite innovative! He finds ways to make difficult formulas seem easy to use. Riley always did fine with math, but just never really enjoyed it. Well, with MATHhelp.com, he is truly enjoying his math!  I am too!

How to Find Out More About MATHhelp.com

On the MATHhelp.com website, you can watch sample videos and view sample lessons. You can also go through their ‘guided tour’ and ‘homeschool user guide’ for a quick overview. These samples give good information about MATHhelp.com. By watching the videos, looking at the lessons, and listening to the guided tour, you will more than likely be able to tell quite quickly if MATHhelp.com will be a good fit for you and your student. Much like the actual videos and daily work we do, these initial ‘helps’ given are efficient and time conscious. They won’t take long for you to go through, and they will make it clear if MATHhelp.com will work for you and your student.

Steps for Using MATHhelp.com Each Day

The steps are fairly easy for using MATHhelp.com. First, we print the course notes. These are short and contain any formulas or special notes needed. Second, we watch the Instruction video. We don’t take any additional notes as we watch. Third, we work through the Practice problems on paper while looking at them on the computer. If we get stuck, we click to see the problem fully worked out on the computer. Fourth, on the computer we look over the Worksheet problems with their fully worked solutions. We don’t actually work through these problems, but rather look for the unique, one-off kind of problems and how they are solved. Fifth, Riley does the Test. On harder lessons, I sometimes do the test too, and we compare answers. These are multiple choice and graded by the computer. Done!

In Christ,

P.S. Keep in mind you can easily modify these steps if you prefer! For example, your student can print and complete the Worksheet problems each day. Or, you can assign the reviews if you’d like!  This is all very flexible! I’ve just shared one possible way to approach this that we are enjoying!


To combine, or not to combine; that is the question!

From Our House to Yours

To combine, or not to combine; that is the question!

To combine, or not to combine; that is the question we so often ask! Well, you can easily combine with Heart of Dakota, just like you can with other curricula. However, combining is not always what’s best for children or for moms. As a young mom new to homeschooling nearly 20 years ago, I was repeatedly told I would need to combine my children for homeschooling to work. Why? They said it was “easier,” and otherwise I’d “burn out.” Well, as a veteran homeschooling mom, I have a different message for you today! The truth is combining works very well in some situations! But, not combining works very well in some other situations! Much like “one size fits all” clothes don’t fit everyone, combining does not fit everyone either. So, how do you know when to combine and when not to?

It is best not to combine when children are further apart in ability and maturity.

When children are further apart in ability and maturity, it just makes good sense not to combine. They have totally different needs from each other. Let’s say for instance that a younger child is not reading and writing well. But, an older child is reading chapter books and writing paragraphs. Charlotte Mason would say you should move that older child toward reading his/her own material in all subject areas (roughly around age 9), as this promotes better retention and narration skills. If you pair a 9 year-old child ready for this type of independence with a younger sibling not yet close to reading, you must then read everything out loud to both of them so they can be combined. This results in combining actually taking longer than teaching separate programs. Likewise, it prevents the older child from moving on to skills more appropriate for his/her age.

Likewise, it is best not to combine when children are further apart in writing skills.

If an older child is writing well and ready for written narration instruction (Charlotte Mason said roughly around the age 10), but is paired with a younger sibling not writing, the parent is forced to find something else for the younger child not yet writing to do (often something that is a skill far below this skill that is independent, such as coloring, as they cannot read or write yet). There is nothing wrong with coloring, but then at what point does the younger child receive that excellent guided written narration instruction that the older child received? Often they don’t, as the older child is always on to the next harder skill, while the younger child is still just doing something to “tread water” while the older child finishes.

As the gap widens, it often becomes apparent not combining would be better.

Often the gap widens. Then, you as a parent are forced to continue to read everything aloud as the younger child cannot read independently yet. Or, because the older child has continued to move up in guides, you find that even by the time the younger child can read, the reading is so incredibly difficult, that younger child still cannot read the material – which means either you are still reading aloud to the duo (again the older student missing vital independent skills), or you see how important it is you separate the two at this point, more than likely because you are hoarse from reading pages aloud that were never meant to be read aloud by you.

Combining children who are far apart in abilities can set a precedence of continually teaching to the older child’s needs.

Combining in this type of situation can set up a precedence to be teaching to the older child’s needs instead of the younger child’s needs, and over time the younger child will just need something different. You can see how, because the older child never did get to read the material on his/her own, the parent never did have time freed up to work with the younger child, who really probably needed more instruction earlier on.

It works well to combine children who are fairly close in ability. 

Now imagine two children who are quite close in ability. The younger is doing phonics and writing individual letters, while the older is just starting to read 3 letter words and is just beginning to write 3 letter words. Combining these children together makes much sense! They will both require the parent to read the learning materials aloud, and they will both require time to grow into reading and writing independently. There is no reason they cannot both do the same history, science, poetry, Bible reading, etc., and while they may need separate reading and math instruction, this is fairly easy to accomplish.

It works well to combine children who are both reading and writing fairly well.

Likewise, imagine older children, who are both reading and writing fairly well; one is reading chapter books, and one is reading longer chapter books. Heart of Dakota makes it easy to combine these children, as the younger child can do the program as is, and the older child can do the extensions. If the older child is writing pages, and the younger child is writing paragraphs, both can easily receive instruction on written narration practice, with one completing more than the other. Combining is a winning situation here, as long as the younger child is not being asked to listen to material that is too mature for his/her ears.

When considering combining, it is important not to fool ourselves into thinking it will automatically be easier.

When combining, it’s important not to fool ourselves into thinking it will automatically be easier because it is one program to teach vs. several programs to teach. Sometimes just finishing the 4-year-old’s school in 30 minutes, and finishing the 6-year-old’s school in 2 1/2 hours because that’s where they place best, is super easy compared to trying to slow things down so the 4-year-old can catch up to the 6-year-old, or trying to rush along the 4-year-old to catch up to the 6-year-old.

Combining can be the perfect answer for children who are close in abilities, who work well together, and who place in similar guides anyway.

Other times, combining is the perfect answer for children are close in abilities, work well together, and place in similar guides anyway. I will say either way, the single biggest factor in making homeschooling multiple children easier is when children reach the age of being able to read materials on their own – both directions in guides and materials in living books – they do so. The next biggest factor would be when they are writing fairly well on their own, they do so. It is necessary for children to move toward this independence in their learning as along with it comes age appropriate skills. I hope this helps as you consider what’s best for your children – whether it is combining, or not combining!

In Christ,

P.S. Outside circumstances also can play a part in whether or not to consider combining (i.e. working outside the home many hours, children with health concerns with many doctor’s appointments, being in poor health yourself, and having a very large family and being stretched thin, etc). Thinking back to the wonderful ladies I’ve met at book fairs, on the phone, and online, these are also important things to consider when choosing whether to combine or not.