Parent and Student Roles in Homeschooling Work with Heart of Dakota

From Our House to Yours

What are the roles of the parent and the student in homeschooling with Heart of Dakota?

Roles of the parent and student vary based on the student’s age, the assignment, and the guide.  Little Hands to Heaven through Bigger Hearts for His Glory have younger target age ranges of 2-9 years old.  In these guides, much of the work is teacher-directed or semi-independent.  Starting with Preparing Hearts for His Glory through U.S. History II, assignments are designated as “T,” “S,” or “I.” This helps facilitate the progression of skills, so students successfully take on independent work.  Gradually, from year to year, from guide to guide, students are preparing first for middle school work.  Then, they are preparing for high school level work.  Finally, they are preparing for college level work, should they so desire to go.

As they grow and mature, their role changes, and so does ours as their teacher.  Charlotte Mason was an advocate of having students take on independence as soon as they were able.  Heart of Dakota helps make this transition easier by planning for it in each guide.  So, my focus of this From Our House to Yours is to show how HOD’s guides are designed to help parents and students with changing roles.

Why are the letters “T,” “S,”, and “I” part of the boxes in Heart of Dakota’s plans?

Parents and children can easily see what needs to be done each day in Heart of Dakota’s guides. Two-page plans with boxes for each part of the plans make it clear what needs to be accomplished daily. As students mature, HOD guides switch to a 4-day a week format. Boxes of plans begin to note whether assignments are intended to be “T” teacher-directed, “S” semi-independent, or “I” independent. This helps kiddos learn to take on independence gradually and successfully. Skills that were teacher-directed in one guide, move to be semi-independent in the next guide. Likewise, skills that were semi-independent in one guide, move to be more independent in the next guide.

How do the plans being designated as “T,” “S,” or “I” work help both parents and students?

The plans in HOD’s guides make it clear what each person’s role is in each assignment. So, the teacher is doing the reading and the leading for the “T” boxes. The student is doing the reading and the following of directions for the “I” boxes. Finally, the teacher and student share the tasks in the “S” boxes. I’ve found the “T” boxes to be such a help to me for my son who wants to do everything independently. For him, it is a good thing we have planned teacher-directed tasks, or he would do it all without me! In contrast, I’ve found the “I” boxes to be a help to me for my son who wants to do everything with me. For him it is a good thing we have planned independent work, or he wouldn’t do anything without me!

So, what is an example of parent and student roles in Creation to Christ?

In Creation to Christ, the parent still does the reading for the Storytime part of the plans. I chose the History Interest Set, and it has been amazing!  So far, my favorite book has been Traveling the Way.  This little gem of a book was probably one I would have passed on, if I’d only glanced at the cover.  It just goes to show, you truly cannot judge a book by its cover!  Anyway, we thoroughly enjoy this time together! My role is to read aloud the history interest book, and Emmett’s role is to listen carefully to the reading.  After the reading, students move through the following rotation of follow-up skills in the plans…

  • give a detailed oral narration
  • rotate through the following 4 narration activities: an outline sketch, a short skit, a question and answer session, and an advertisement speech for the book
  • give a summary narration
  • make connections between the story and Proverbs
What is an example of parent and student roles in World Geography?

In World Geography, we both read Bob Schultz’s Practical Happiness on our own.  We annotate separately, using different colored pens/pencils.  Then, we meet to discuss the reading and our annotations.  I love this time together!  We have discussed so many timely subjects for a young teenage boy.  My role as a parent is no longer to simply read aloud, but to help my son grow and develop into a strong Christian man.  Pretty important roles for both of us!  We enjoy sharing our opinions about the devotion, and we have drawn so close to one another because of it.  It is easy to talk about our faith in the Lord because of this time together.  I’m so glad for these roles this year for both of us!

Finally, what is an example of parent and student roles in U.S. History II?

In U.S. History II, Wyatt watches Dave Ramsey’s DVD on personal finance, answering questions as he watches.  We meet together to discuss his answers and journal questions.  My role is to share our family’s approach to spending, to saving, and to budgeting.  I’ve shown him our monthly budget, as well as our checking and savings account.  We’ve talked about how we set aside money each month for special things.  We put homeschooling, new furniture, vacations, clothing, Christmas, birthdays, etc., in the category of being ‘special.’  Together we budget money for these special things ahead of time. Often times, we must work extra hours to save money for them as well.  My role is to help my son develop his own budget, linking his earnings to his spending and saving.  What an important role for each of us!

Changing roles for parent and student keep homeschooling fresh and exciting!

In conclusion, our roles as parents and students are ever changing as students mature.  This is a necessary part of helping our children grow into responsible adults.  The ‘T,’ ‘S,’ and ‘I’ part of the daily plans help both parents and students be successful with changing roles.  This is one thing I have truly loved about using Heart of Dakota!  From PreK through 12th grade, my role as a parent always bring fresh, new and exciting things to my day!

Likewise, my children look forward to the changes in their role as  students from year to year.  They value the independence they are able to take on, the say-so they are able to have, and the opinions they are able to express.  They also value the time with me, as we are meeting for important reasons.  Most of all, we both value the progress made – the encouragement and celebration that comes from children becoming successful young adults.  What a privilege to be a part of!

Riley’s 15 Year Old Birthday Breakfast  Celebrating Another Year of Growth

In Christ,


P.S. To read more about encouraging your students to do the independent part of the plans on their own, click here!

Before and After Pictures Show Progress in Homeschooling

From Our House to Yours

Snap Before and After Pictures to Show Progress 

Many of us are in the homestretch of completing our homeschooling year with Heart of Dakota. Students might be nearing the end of their Heart of Dakota guide. Or in contrast, as homeschooling has flexible pacing, students may be starting a guide or in the middle of a guide. If your student is in the middle or end of their guide, this post is for you!  Heart of Dakota guides are front-loaded, with all skills being taught right away.  This allows students to improve their skills day by day, week by week.  One way to celebrate this progress is to snap “before” and “after” pictures!

As all of our kiddos our nearing the end of their guides, we decided to celebrate progress with each other!  First, I asked each of them to choose an assignment they felt they’d shown the most improvement in.  Next, we shared them with each other and snapped pictures.  Finally, we shared them here with you!  This has been such fun!

Emmett’s Before and After Pictures for Creation to Christ:  Most Improved in Notebook Assignments 

Before… Comments by Emmett:

  • notebook writing was very large
  • my notebook writing ran together
  • not even sure what I drew for the notebook illustration in Box 4
  • totally missed completing an notebook assignment in Box 6
Before… Unit 3 CTC Notebook

After… Comments by Emmett:

  • notebook writing neater and fits in boxes
  • timeline assignment more colorful
  • illustrations in notebook improved
  • completed all my notebook assignments well
AFTER… Unit 26 CTC Notebook







Riley’s Before and After Pictures for World Geography:  Most Improved in One Sentence Summary Assignment 

Before… Comments by Riley:

  • writing of the summary was too small
  • spelling in the summary was not right
  • didn’t fill the box completely with my sentence

After… Comments by Riley:

  • included all elements needed for the one sentence summary
  • remembered to box, circle, cloud, star my summary without being reminded
  • summaries were more descriptive and interesting to read
Before and After Pics from Units 3 and 30 of World Geography
Wyatt’s Before and After Pictures for U.S. History II:  Most Improved in Opinion Narrations 

Before… Comments by Wyatt:

  • opinions were randomly presented
  • wasn’t clear what was my opinion and what was fact
  • my opinions interrupted the storyline of my retelling

After… Comments by Wyatt:

  • better job evenly expressing my opinions throughout the narration
  • improved at clearly presenting them as my opinions
  • my opinions were interspersed so the story retelling went smoothly
Before… Unit 15 on Left; After… Unit 31 on Right from U.S. II History

As you near the end of your homeschool year, whenever that may be according to your chosen pacing, why not celebrate?  One great way to show progress in homeschooling is to snap “Before” and “After” pictures.  Hope this idea helps your family celebrate the progress your kiddos are making in Heart of Dakota!


In Christ,


P.S. To read more about Creation to Christ’s notebooking, click here!

P.S.S. To read more about written narrations as a form of assessment, click here!

P.S.S.S.  To read about another way to share favorite homeschool assignments, click here!





Written Narrations As a Homeschool Form of Assessment

From Our House To Yours

What is a written narration?

I thought I’d make the focus of this weekly check-in written narrations.  So, just what is a written narration, you might ask? Well, a written narration is an assessment requiring students to use writing to tell back what they’ve just read or heard. Students use this Charlotte Mason inspired written skill in response to the reading of living books. Authors of living books write in a narrative style and are passionate about what they are writing about.  Heart of Dakota uses living books as the primary reading material for virtually every school subject in homeschooling. Therefore, it makes sense that a common form of assessment in Heart of Dakota’s plans is the written narration.

What makes written narrations a good form of assessment?

Using written narrations as an assessment encourages children to share what they have read with accuracy, personality, originality, and spirit. This is the opposite of using worksheets, quizzes, and tests as a form of assessment. Students often find  writing a narration to be the harder of the two assessments.  Why? Probably because the student does not have any aid in writing a narration. Multiple choice answers, true or false questions, or fill-in-the-blank quizzes aid the student in giving (or guessing) the proper response. In contrast, students rely wholly on their own memory and knowledge of the topic in written narrations. There is certainly a place for both forms of assessment!  Heart of Dakota does use both. However,  when students retell what they are reading, they better remember what they have read. So, this is the preferred method of assessment whenever possible.

What do written narrations look like at various ages?

Heart of Dakota’s plans take away the guesswork for what kinds of narrations we as teachers of our children should expect. First, students follow clear step-by-step instructions in each Heart of Dakota guide. Students carefully follow the noted parameters particular to each written narration assessment. Second, students always write narrations in response to reading a living book. However, the subject they write about may vary.  Students often write narrations in response to history readings, but they can write them in response to science, literature, etc. Finally, whatever the subject matter, students always write narrations in response to reading outstanding books! So, to show what written narrations look like at various ages, I’ve included one from each of my kiddos below…

Creation to Christ Written Narration
World Geography Written Narration
U.S. History II Written Narration
What improvements in written narrations should be expected?

Incrementally, the parameters of written narrations get harder as students age and mature. Some improvements can definitely be expected! But, what are they?

Expect an increase in the reading level and maturity level of books. 

To begin with, you can expect an increase in the reading level of living books in which written narrations are given as an assessment.  The Creation to Christ reading was Streams of History: Ancient Rome.  In World Geography, students read  A Book of Discovery, and in U.S. History II students read America: The Last Best Hope Volume II.

Plan for the length of the written narrations to increase each year.

In addition, you can expect an increase in length of the written narrations.  Students write 5-8 sentences in Creation to Christ. In World Geography, students write a length of 3-4 paragraphs. By U.S. History II, students write a length of 5 paragraphs.

Anticipate editing abilities to gradually improve as students move down the Written Narrations Skills checklist.

Furthermore, you can expect an increase in a student’s ability to edit using Heart of Dakota’s Written Narration Skills checklist.  I still do the editing in Creation to Christ.  We do not address every skill on the Written Narration Skills checklist. In World Geography, we share the editing process and most skills on the Written Narration Skills checklist are addressed.  By U.S. History II, the student edits his own written narration, and the entire Written Narration Skills checklist is usually addressed.

Plan for more difficult and varied types of written narration assessments as students mature.

Last, you can expect an increase in difficulty and variety of types of written narrations. In Creation to Christ, students use guided questions to help aid their writing of a general written narration. Students in World Geography must include the main topic, main ideas with supporting details, author’s style, and a strong opening and closing sentence. U.S. History II students must include all of these elements.  But, they must also list 5 topics from the given options in the guide.  They must also include names, dates, and events pertinent to the reading.

Finally, to conclude this written narration From Our House to Yours…

Many of us homeschool moms did not grow up in schools that used written narrations as a form of assessment. Hopefully, this shows what written narrations are, what written narrations look like at different ages, and what improvements to expect!

In Christ,


Sharing Time of Favorite Homeschool Assignments at the Kitchen Table

From Our House to Yours

Sharing Favorite Homeschool Assignments Around the Kitchen Table

Our children often naturally share what they are learning in their homeschool Heart of Dakota guides with each other. With a literature-based homeschool curriculum, the books are so engaging that conversation about them just happens. With Heart of Dakota, every subject is taught by reading excellent literature. So, with each retelling, students better retain happenings in history, science, literature, etc.  As we eat virtually every meal together, a common sharing place of what’s been learned is around our kitchen table.

Encouraging Discussions by Asking What Children Are Reading or Learning Lately

Lively discussions about books, authors, poets, history events, scientists’ discoveries, etc., are common and need no facilitation on my part. To encourage this type of conversation, I often ask what interesting things they’ve been learning lately. Of course I know what they’ve been learning, because I am the teacher of them all. But, it gives them a chance to informally share with one another what they remember most about what they’ve learned. That’s always interesting for me to hear!

Taking a Few Minutes to Share Favorite Assignments from the Day

One day this week, I asked each of them to share their favorite assignment they did for homeschool for the day. I also asked them to give a few reasons why it was their favorite. This was such fun for me to hear! Below are pictures of what they each shared, along with the reasons why they chose each of these as their favorites.

Wyatt: U.S. History II’s British Literature Prisoner of Zenda
This is my favorite U.S. History II assignment today because I…
  • love the book; the plot is amazing
  • like to give my opinion in my literature journal in response to questions, rather than fill in answers to questions
  • easy to do the night before school, as I love reading good books in my room before bed anyway
Riley: World Geography’s Book of Centuries Timeline Entries
This is my favorite World Geography assignment today because I…
  • love to color each of the pictures
  • like the idea of keeping this same book of timeline entries all through high school
  • enjoy reading the captions under the pictures
Emmett: Creation to Christ’s History Project Making of a Mezuzah
This is my favorite Creation to Christ assignment today because I…
  • like to make it, bake it, and add decorations to it
  • love to pull out my secret Scripture message as a big reveal when I show people
  • think it’s neat the Scripture message talks about Jesus’ resurrection because we just had Easter
Try a sharing time at your next lunch or dinner!

Conversation about Heart of Dakota’s learning requires little prompting. Once and awhile when you are together for a meal, consider having each of your children share their “favorite” of the day. There’s no judgment here. Anything can be a favorite! Also, no need to draw it out. A few minutes for each child is more than enough. The children enjoy it when I share my ‘favorites’ I had with each of them as well. I think because I’ve always been willing to do this, they don’t feel put on the spotlight and easily share.  We find lunch is a great time to facilitate sharing. However, dinner time is another wonderful time to share, as often times fathers are at this meal. I hope this helps you stop to enjoy sharing some favorites of Heart of Dakota once and awhile! Try it a few times, and you might be surprised how often it just begins to happen on its own!


In Christ,


Celebrate Students’ Progress by Comparing Work from Start to Finish

From Our House to Yours

Heart of Dakota’s guides include front-loaded plans for the intentional building of skills from start to finish!

Students soon discover that Heart of Dakota’s guides are front-loaded with skills. All year long, students strive to show progress in these skills from unit to unit.  Students find some of the skills to be totally new, and these are the most challenging.  They find other skills were introduced previously in an earlier guide but have another level of difficulty added.  Finally, students recognize other skills were previously introduced and are being maintained with continued practice.  One of my favorite things to do is to celebrate progress by comparing our children’s work from start to finish!

Celebrating Progress in Creation to Christ’s Prophecy Chart from Start to Finish 

The Skills Taught

Creation to Christ‘s prophecy chart assignment includes many skills. First, students find and read Old Testament verses.  Then, students find and read New Testament verses.  Finally, students compare them to show how God has had a plan for “His-story” since the beginning of time.  

From Start to Finish

When this skill was first introduced, Emmett wrote a few phrases that stood out to him.  Gradually, Emmett progressed in this skill and found the most important words to show the fulfillment of the prophecy.  Finally, he wrote lengthier more inspirational portions of the Scripture, and this is where it gets exciting!  This is when he truly made the connection how amazing it is that God plans THAT FAR in advance!  He made an incredible connection here! I cannot imagine studying the ancients and missing that connection.  Christ is the fulfillment of the prophecies, and because of Him our future is bright!  

Celebrating Progress in Creation to Christ Notebooking Pages from Start to Finish

The Skills Taught

Students follow directions to organize their work in full-color notebooking pages for the first time in CTC .  With guide in hand, they need to carefully read step-by-step directions to complete each unit in their notebook.  Teacher and student share the CTC guide at this point, as it’s used as teacher’s guide and a student planner.  Students must locate box numbers within the pages and follow directions to complete each assignment.  They must note whether the plans say to write in cursive or print, as both skills are practiced in CTC.  Finally, each box of plans is linked to a different connection to the history theme.

From Start to Finish

When Emmett first began writing in his notebook, he had trouble carefully following directions.  He sometimes wrote in the wrong boxes, wrote outside the boxes, forgot steps, wrote in cursive instead of print, etc.  Now, he has learned to read directions carefully, to follow them in order, and to check his spelling.  What progress!

Celebrating Progress in Creation to Christ’s History Projects from Start to Finish

The Skills Taught

Three days of each unit are devoted to completing a history project in connection with the  history theme.  Students follow step-by-step directions for the history project that are given directly in the guide.  About 20 minutes each of the 3 days is devoted to the completion of one history project.  The skills needed to complete a project from start to finish take time to develop.  Students quickly learn that a missed step equals lost time and a project that may not turn out.  These skills are invaluable.  Many future high school and college courses include the completion of projects as a large portion of the final grade.  Portfolio-based assessments are a part of many syllabi.

From Start to Finish

Emmet completed the project he is holding 100% on his own, as I was sick with the flu.  It has many steps, and he followed them all.  His coloring isn’t perfect, but he did master the skill of following steps to complete a project over multiple days.  He was so proud of his history project!  There is much satisfaction in independently completing a project well from start to finish.  It is something to be celebrated!

Take Time to Celebrate 

I hope this encourages you to take a moment to reflect on the progress you’ve seen in Heart of Dakota!  Try comparing assessments at the start of your student’s portfolio to assessments near the end of your student’s portfolio.  I bet it will give you both cause to celebrate!  We need to do this from time to time because progress on this homeschool journey deserves attention.  We needn’t wait for the end of the journey to celebrate! Steps along the way are worthy of celebration too, so why wait?

In Christ,