Heart of Dakota’s Poetry Study, R & S English, and Literature Help with CLEP Tests

Heart of Dakota Life

How Heart of Dakota’s Poetry Study, R & S English, and Literature Help with CLEP Tests

My son, Wyatt, is a junior in college this year. He has been able to save money and avoid college debt by taking CLEP and DSST tests alongside college courses. In fact, half of the 18 credits he’s earned each semester have been via passing CLEP and DSST tests. To study for CLEP tests, Wyatt uses either REA practice tests or Instantcert.

Wyatt prefers using REA practice tests to study when possible. Unfortunately, for English Literature and American Literature, there are no REA practice tests available. So, Wyatt used Instantcert to study instead. First, he studied for the English Literature CLEP and passed that. Now, he is studying for the American Literature CLEP. As we have talked off and on about the test study questions, I have found it interesting how often Heart of Dakota’s poetry study, R & S English, and literature studies come up!

CLEP Connections to HOD’s Poetry, R & S English, and Literature

As Wyatt studied for his literature tests, he found many connections to HOD’s poetry, R & S English, and literature. Wyatt made the comment that he remembered many of the poetic devices on the test from all his years of poetry study in HOD. Personification, alliteration, assonance, rhyme, meter, imagery, similes, etc. all readily came to mind. When it came to the study questions about varying stressed and unstressed syllables, Wyatt pulled out his old R & S English 7 book. He said reviewing R & S English’s examples and lessons on iambic and anapestic feet helped him on the test so much!

Finally, Wyatt mentioned that he couldn’t believe how many of HOD’s literature books/authors were part of the test. I actually just asked him to name some books/authors that were on the test that came to mind right now (we are at work together at the HOD warehouse). Here is his random list off the top of his head: Animal Farm, Jane Eyre, Little Women, Hamlet, anything Shakespeare, Through the Looking Glass, Ragged Dick, Treasure Island, Up From Slavery, Anne Bradstreet, the Federalist Papers, Emily Dickinson, The Purloined Letter, Bartleby the Scribner, The Scarlet Letter, Rip Van Winkle… then he said, “Mom, I could go on, but I better get back to work!”

In Christ,


Plug into Your Power Source

A Heart of Dakota Life

Plug into Your Power Source

Homeschooling is an incredible blessing, but it is not for the faint of heart. It takes real dedication and requires all you have to give. There are days that make your heart sing, and there are days that make your heart plummet. If you are going to make it to the end of your homeschool journey victoriously, you are going to need to plug into a power source. So, I ask you, what is your power source? Have you thought about that lately? If you haven’t, you should! What do you draw from as your power source? If you don’t have one, you need one – not just for a moment in time, but for every single day!

The Power Source that never fails!

There is only one Power Source that never fails! This Power Source is a 3-in-1 deal, which is why It packs such a punch! God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit – all Three working together as One on your behalf!  Now THAT is the Power Source you need to plug into that will never fail! Have you ever seen a 3-way lamp? You plug it in, turn the switch once, and a little light begins to shine. You turn the switch twice, and the light shines even brighter. Turn the switch thrice, and the light shines so brightly it illuminates the entire room! Well, that is the kind of Power Source you have available as a Christian 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Don’t be a lamp that is not plugged in; you’ll have no Power Source and no light to shine. You’ll be homeschooling in a very dark room.

Making Time to Plug into Your Power Source

As a homeschool mom, you are busy. Your time feels short, and the days fly by. I know very few homeschool moms who don’t eek out of every minute the full 60 seconds it has to offer. Every thing and every one seems to be competing for your time and for your attention. So, how do you have time to plug into your Power Source? Well, you make the time. That’s it. Plain and simple. It’s not fancy, but it’s true. You put time with the Lord and reading His Word into your schedule, and you do it. It’s not easy, but neither is living a life without your One intended Power Source! Picture that dark room again. You don’t want that to be you!

Plug into your Power Source, and let your light shine!

I’m not going to talk to you about time of day, length of time, or what you do during your time with God. Details create obstacles God did not intend for you to have. Simply set aside some time every day or night and get into the Word. God is not timing you with a stopwatch. He is not only available certain times of the day. God is not holding up a score card of 1 to 10 on how well you performed during your time with Him. He never sleeps. He’s available every moment of the day and the night. Best of all, He loves you and already knows your every thought and emotion. He simply wants a relationship with you! So, plug into your Power Source and let your light shine! It is well worth the time. Trust me – it is the number one thing you can do to better your homeschool days… to better your life.

In Christ,



Tips on What Order Works Well for the Boxes of Plans

Heart of Dakota Life

Tips on What Order Works Well for the Boxes of Plans

I love this time of year when I get to put together my homeschool schedule! The organizer in me comes to life, and I begin to craft my schedule to best fit our stage of life. Some things in my schedule change every year, but others remain the same. As you craft your schedule, I thought I’d share some tips on what order has worked well for us for the boxes of Heart of Dakota’s plans!

Try putting the Bible box of plans first! Then, follow up with the Corresponding Music box of plans!

God’s rightful place in our lives is first, so why not put the Bible box of plans first in our day?!? Whenever possible, I schedule Bible as the first box of plans for each child to complete. I want our children to learn to have their own personal Bible Quiet Time as a lifelong habit. It is my prayer that this habit continues long after our homeschooling is done. I have my sons do the Corresponding Music after/with their Bible Quiet Time or Bible Study, as these go together.

My son, Emmett, loves wood-working. I have said so often that I want to put God first in my day that he made me a little wooden cross. He suggested I put it on my end table next to my bed. Every morning I wake up, I see that little wooden cross. It reminds me that after all Jesus has done for me, the least I can do is start my day with Him! I want my children to do the same, and starting with the Bible box of plans and Corresponding Music conveys that!

Keep the Reading About History box of plans and the follow-up History box of plans together!

The Reading About History box of plans provides the backbone for all of the left side of plans. The follow-up history box(es) of plans are meant to be done after the reading of the books in the Reading About History box. In the younger guides, there is one rotating history box of plans. It is directly underneath the Reading About History box of plans, and it works great to do this box right after reading the history book.

In the older guides starting with Preparing Hearts for His Glory, there are multiple boxes of history plans. Each box of plans has its own purpose and teaches its own skill. After reading the history, it is a good idea to the rotating box of plans. The rotating history box of plans is found on the left side of the guide. In Preparing Hearts for His Glory, for example, the rotating boxes of history plans are Research, Vocabulary, Geography, and Timeline. After completing the rotating history box of plans, it is nice to do the History Project box of plans. This flow has a beginning reading, a rotating follow-up, and an ending project – all connecting the history theme beautifully!

Other Tips on What Order to Do the Boxes of Plans

There is a lot of leeway in how to choose to do the rest of the boxes of plans. I like to rotate seat work things with active, hands-on things whenever possible. Especially for active children, I like to keep things moving! I also like to alternate disciplinary and inspirational subjects. Click here to read more about that! If you are like me and are teaching multiple guides, I find it helpful to end with something my child can finish independently. For example, I might end my teaching block with the History Project because I can get my child started and then walk away to help another child as he finishes his project.

Finally, I take into consideration what might be too much in a row for particular children. For example, my older two sons liked to do their dictation, grammar, and math all in a row. My younger son did NOT like this! It was too much in a row for him. Another example – as a young child, one of my sons was a strong reader but not a strong writer. For this child, I spread out his writing. If he did a written narration in history, I made sure not to put his formal writing curriculum assignment next. A final example – one of my sons lost focus when reading too many books in a row. For this child, I spread out his reading. For example, I would have him do his DITHOR reading after lunch. Hope these tips help as you ponder what order you’d like to do the boxes of plans!

In Christ,

Scheduling: The “Shotgun” Approach or the “Slow Down” Approach

A Heart of Dakota Life

The “Shotgun Approach” or the “Slow Down Approach” to Scheduling

I know many of you have already placed your orders with Heart of Dakota for this upcoming homeschool year and have had your ‘box day‘ – how exciting! It will soon be that time of year when schedules are being made, put into practice, and tweaked. Back in 2012 on our HOD Message Board, we had some great dialogue about scheduling. At that time, I shared two different kinds of scheduling approaches. I called one the “Shotgun Approach” and the other the “Slow Down Approach.” I’ve switched between these two scheduling approaches throughout the past 17 years of homeschooling. I enjoy choosing my scheduling approach on a year by year basis. As you ponder what scheduling approach you’d enjoy this year, I thought I’d rewind back to 2012 and share this past post of mine:

The Shotgun Approach to Scheduling

I’ll call my scheduling in the past years the Shotgun Approach. The Shotgun Approach to scheduling involves getting up, getting going right away, blazing trails with no breaks for me, and finishing school by late lunch time. This approach worked for me very well for the past ten years. The kids were younger, the guides were shorter, I was younger, my husband was around more, my parents were healthy, and I had to work in the afternoons.  The Shotgun Approach was amazingly successful and very fulfilling for me for many years. Here is my Shotgun Approach for Revival to Revolution, for the  end of Bigger Hearts/start of Preparing Hearts, and for the end of Little Hands/start of half-speed Little Hearts from last year…

My Change from the Shotgun Approach to the Slow Down Approach

My change to the Slow Down Approach all started with this thought provoking post on our HOD Message Board. When I read this post, the first seed was planted that… maybe… just maybe… it would be possible to choose a slower, more relaxed scheduling pace – though you can see from my response, my initial thought was this would not be possible for me. Thanks to the message board post, I really sat down and pondered this days on end – weeks, really. In fact, I had spent forever working out my schedule for MTMM, PHFHG, and LHFHG, making it look much like past years’ schedules, which utilized the Shotgun Approach. Up until now, the Shotgun Approach had worked really well.

What Prompted My Scheduling Change to the Slow Down Approach

This year, however, I am going into this school year tired, physically, emotionally, and mentally – and this is after a summer break – though summer really ended up not to be much of a break after all. Women often work through things by talking with other women about them. Hence the beauty of the HOD board, right?!? Well, Carrie and I have figured this out about each other, and it often helps just to let the other gal talk, talk, talk, and then share lots of ideas until one or two strike(s) a chord.

Talking with Carrie, I realized what worked in the past for scheduling might not work best right now. Why?

– I am 40 years old, with thyroid trouble, and I am feeling my age.
– My husband is traveling more than he ever has in the past, and this is not going to change.
– My seventh grader is going to have a longer school day. I know this is necessary for his age, and I don’t want him rushing through things.
– My dad is going through chemo as a preventative measure against pancreatic cancer. I want to be there for my mom and him as much as possible.

– I need some real time to fill my soul that isn’t accompanied by 2000 interruptions.
– Also, I cannot see me constantly saying ‘no’ to all of my needs for the next 13 years it is going to take to homeschool my youngest child to the finish line.
– I want real time to discuss Biblical things planned in the HOD guides, with each of my children, but especially with my oldest so I can hang onto his heart.

Sooooo, my new scheduling is my version of a slower, gentler pace. I am excited to give this Slow Down Approach a whirl. It looks like this…

I love this Slow Down Approach to scheduling in the morning because…

– In this scheduling approach, the start time for me is later, which equals more sleep for me. I have time to cuddle with Emmett first because he loves this. We have cuddle up and read time in bed together by doing Little Heart’s Storytime, which we both love. I also have private time to talk about Riley’s Bible Quiet Time alone right after he did his part in his room.

– In this scheduling approach, I like the start time for each of the boys. I let Wyatt choose his, with the rule it could not be earlier than 6 AM (he chose 6:15 AM). I let Riley choose his, with the rule it could not be earlier than 7 AM (he chose 7:15 AM). Also, I planned for each of them to do school things they can do independently in their bedroom. This will not wake Emmett up too early, nor will it wake me.

– In this scheduling approach, I actually have enough time planned for chores and breakfast, so this will not be a RUSH. Also, I have enough time to get done what has to be done before we start our school day.

– In this scheduling approach, I like the longer teaching block of time with Wyatt first thing (1  1/2 hours). This includes checkpoints for what he has done already independently.

Other things I love about this Slow Down Approach to Scheduling…

– In this scheduling approach, Riley and Emmett play together first, which they love! They also worry they might not get their computer time. (We don’t have any other media time other than educational videos). So, letting them play together first and then do computer equals them coming to school work with a great attitude ready to work. This also gives me teaching time with Wyatt alone.

– I have checkpoints in place for Wyatt and Riley throughout day in this scheduling approach. Emmett is also with me fairly early on in the day, which helps me get him going.

– In this scheduling approach, we knock out dictation, R & S English, and math for my olders early on when they are fresh and focused.

– We have a BIG break in the middle of the afternoon (as in from 1:30 to 3:30 PM). This is great for the boys to run off some steam outdoors. Likewise, this is great for ME! I have my Bible quiet time, prayer, and journal alone in the house when it’s QUIET, and I can actually think.  Also, this is a good time for me to exercise, do phone calls, assess what needs to be done for work, etc.

– In this scheduling approach, the kids take a big break. Then, they come back to finish subjects they can do on their own, with just a bit of overseeing from me. This way, I can “float” between them as needed to help while also prepping for supper.

– In this scheduling approach, the kids have a quiet time and then have short outdoor play. I can work during this time and finish out supper as needed. Also, I don’t have to help them come up with a plan for a long afternoon all in a row of free time.

I feel at peace about this Slow Down Approach to scheduling.

I am excited about this slower, gentler scheduling approach, and much more ready to start now! After much prayer and pondering, I feel at peace now to begin this year. I am sharing all this in case being a fly on the wall for this gal chat Carrie and I had may be helpful to any of you wonderful ladies as you consider what layout for your day fits you best now. Maybe the Shotgun Approach would be a welcome change. However, maybe the slower, gentler Slow Down Approach would be a welcome change. Or, maybe you find yourself somewhere in between these two scheduling approaches. Either way, hopefully this can spark some thoughts about how your day can be set up best to work for YOU this year! My hope is we can all have the kind of year that’s just right for each of us right now – for whatever our stage of life is!

In Christ,



Take Time Off to Refresh

Heart of Dakota Life

Hello fellow homeschool moms! If you’re too busy to read this post, try listening to the audio version of it by clicking on the link at the bottom!

Take Time Off to Refresh

Do you find you need some time off from homeschooling to refresh? “Refresh” means to give new strength or energy to, to reinvigorate. I do find I need time to refresh, and for me, this time off comes in the summer. I find if I don’t really focus on the fact that I am trying to “refresh,” I can quickly make my summer look just like my homeschool year. Then, the “refreshing” never truly happens, and I return to homeschooling weary. “Refreshing” is both an adjective and a verb. As we Heart of Dakota moms know from teaching R & S English to our children, in very basic terms, an adjective describes and a verb is an action. I think both are important to our success of taking time off to refresh!

A Closer Look at “Refreshing” As an Adjective and As a Verb

According to Merriam-Webster, the adjective “refreshing” means having a renewing effect on the state of the body or mind, and it is the opposite of wearying. Some synonyms for the adjective “refreshing” are rejuvenating, restorative, reviving, and revitalizing. Other words related to “refreshing” are strengthening, corrective, therapeutic, beneficial, healthy, wholesome, and helpful. As far as I can tell, those are all good reasons to making this a part of our plan as homeschool moms!

According to Merriam-Webster, the verb “refreshing” means to bring back to former condition or vigor. Some synonyms for the verb “refreshing” are recharging, recreating, renewing, reviving, and restoring. Some words relating to “refreshing” are making over, overhauling, reclaiming, reconditioning, redesigning, redoing, rehabilitating, remodeling, and replenishing.

What does the opposite of “refreshing” look like?

Well, now let’s take a look at what the opposite of “refreshing” looks like. Some antonyms for “refreshing” are deadening, debilitating, draining, exhausting, numbing, sapping, weakening, wearying, unhealthy, and unwholesome. Yikes!  Now, those are some things we definitely want to avoid!

When is the last time you took real time to refresh, and what did you do?

We can all see from these basic definitions, synonyms, and antonyms that this is important to do. So, when was the last time you took time off from homeschooling to refresh? And what did you do? Did you really stick to “refreshing,” or did you just turn that time off into a wearying time? What is refreshing to one person is not refreshing to another. Figuring out what really fills your tank is important.

A Few Things I Have Found to Be Refreshing

I love God’s creation, and I also love to exercise – not the kind of exercise that is over-the-top training for something special though. Being on-the-move in motion is more my kind of exercise! Listening to podcasts, like Joyce Meyer’s Everyday Living, is soul-filling to me. So, one of my very favorite things to do is walk in the morning down our beautiful country road, while listening to Joyce’s podcast. I also love Christian praise music, so starting my day with a favorite playlist and good strong coffee fills my soul! Another thing I truly love is an organization project. Put a label-maker and some clear tubs in my hand, and I am one happy person! Morning Bible devotions are special to me too! Right now, I am reading through the Everyday Life Bible in a year. Love it! So, try your hand at finding what is truly refreshing to you, and see what you discover!


Don’t forget, our children need time to refresh too!

As you go about taking time to refresh, remember, our children need time for this too! They need time to do things they love that are not school related. While our summer break can be a great time to do extra learning, I either forego the extra learning or pick one important thing to do. For example, multiplication fact practice, typing instruction, or one unit in DITHOR are things I have had our children do in the summer. However, the rest of the summer break is a time for our kiddos to refresh too.

I purposely don’t micromanage their days. Rather, I look at our summer break as a time for them to try their hand at structuring their free time. Oh, they do have jobs, and there is mowing, of course. I do have them work into their day outdoor time, free reading time, and free time to do things with each other. But, there is lots of free time to figure out what to do! I think this is actually a skill lacking in kiddos today. They don’t know what to do with their free time! They’re too used to their every moment being planned.

A Few Things Our Sons Have Found to Be Refreshing

Each of our sons refreshes in different ways, though some overlap. Two of our sons love to read! Each can often be found with book in hand reading. Another son loves to tinker in the garage. He took my label maker to town and organized his own shop area! Another remodels nerf guns and set up shop in the basement. Still another son ordered a basketball training program to work out each day. Two took up running on the treadmill. A different pair set up an epic worldwide Axis and Allies board game to play together all summer long. Another son loves riding his three-wheeler and mowing (yes, I did say mowing – what’s not to love about that?). Shore fishing is yet another special activity for one son, and the list goes on! So, have your kids try their hands at what they find refreshing! See what they discover!

In Christ,


Click on the play button below to listen to the audio version of this post! Hope you enjoy this!