Placement for Switching to Homeschool with Heart of Dakota Mid-Year

Pondering Placement

Please help me with placement for my 3rd grade daughter, as I switch to Heart of Dakota’s homeschool curriculum mid-year.

I am switching my 9 year old daughter to Heart of Dakota mid-year. We did Little Hearts for His Glory for first grade, and Beyond for second grade. Then, I thought I should try something else – not really sure why because we liked what we were doing. Now we are in week 18 of a different homeschool curriculum for 3rd grade. We are miserable. My daughter hates to write, and we have not done much notebooking or narrating this year. I am reading books to her, but we are not doing anything else with them. We’ve done a little copywork, but not much. We are doing math and spelling with other programs than Heart of Dakota (HOD). We’re also using BJU’s writing/English program a few days a week, but I am not seeing the growth in her like I did with Heart of Dakota (HOD).

The only two things I have liked this year are from Heart of Dakota.

I loved the look of HOD’s Emerging Reader’s Set, so I did get those. However, I am not having my daughter do any kind of literature study with them. I also liked HOD’s recommendation for R & S English 2, so we are doing that. Really the only two things I have liked doing this year are from HOD. She reads well and is really enjoying the books in the Emerging Reader’s Set. Right now, she is reading Tornado and can’t put it down! But then when she finishes reading, I don’t do anything with her. I feel like I’ve wasted this whole year. I’m not sure why it took me so long to realize it.

Should I switch my daughter to full-speed Bigger Hearts or half-speed Preparing Hearts?

So, now I know I want to make the switch back to HOD. But, I am wondering if I should just stop what we are doing now and switch to Bigger Hearts for His Glory? But then, she won’t finish all of HOD’s high school guides. So, would it be better to have her go half-speed with Preparing Hearts for His Glory? Help!!!

Carrie’s Reply:

Thank you for sharing about your daughter!  From what you’ve shared so far, I would lean toward placing her in Bigger Hearts. The jump up to Preparing with the struggles you mentioned in writing and narrating would be very challenging. Bigger is such a foundational year in helping kiddos grow in the areas of writing, reading, copywork, and spelling. I wouldn’t want your daughter to miss that. So, placement in Bigger Hearts makes good sense.

I would recommend finishing R & S English 2 and dropping BJU.

Whenever you head into Bigger, I would just finish Rod and Staff English 2 and move into Rod and Staff English 3. I wouldn’t use both BJU and Rod and Staff for English as you go up, because you’ll be double-dipping.  We don’t want her worn out from writing for grammar when we want to get her copying daily for practice. You wouldn’t need to continue on with BJU for writing either, as Rod and Staff will include writing in the coming levels when she is more mature and ready for it.

I would recommend using studied dictation for spelling, and I’d keep going with your math if it is working.

For spelling, I’d be inclined to switch her to studied dictation (as included in Bigger‘s Appendix). If you would rather continue with the spelling you are using, you surely could! However, I will say Charlotte Mason’s method of studied dictation is a very effective method for teaching spelling in a time conscious way. No matter what, I wouldn’t do both spelling programs though, as her day will get very long. If your math is working well, I’d just keep on going with it. If it is not, you can give your daughter the Singapore Primary Math placement test by clicking here.

I would finish the Emerging Reader’s Set and then move into Drawn into the Heart of Reading.

It sounds like she is doing well with the Emerging Readers, and she can just finish them out. I would have her start doing the follow-up comprehension questions with the remaining Emerging Reader’s Set books. Then, she can head into Drawn into the Heart of Reading Level 2/3 (DITHR). You can have her use the DITHR Level 2 Book Pack, or books of your own choosing. The Sample Book Ideas List provides some good books to choose from as well.

Full-Speed Bigger Hearts vs. Half-speed Preparing

Believe it or not, Bigger at full-speed with daily grammar, math, dictation, and DITHR will probably be harder than half-time Preparing. It sounds like your sweet daughter would be very well placed in Bigger and be challenged by the work. Being well-placed means that she will be getting what she needs as you head into each successive guide. Shooting too high can really result in frustration and in being unsure of how much to downsize each day to suit your child’s needs. It’s so much better to be accurately placed and know you can expect your child to do all that is within the guide each day. There are many families who will not finish all of the HOD guides, and that is fine. We can make sure that your daughter still gets what she needs to count credits for graduation and for her future plans.


Placement for Seventh and Eighth Grade Daughters

Pondering Placement

Please help me with choosing placement for my upcoming 7th and 8th grade daughters.

I need help with choosing placement in Heart of Dakota for my daughters going into seventh and eighth grade. (I also have a daughter going into ninth grade, but she is attending public school now.) We all enjoyed the left side of Missions to Modern Marvels (MTMM) this past year! For this reason, I thought about moving my 2 remaining daughters into World Geography next. However, I know it would be overwhelming for my younger daughter. Also, looking ahead, my eighth grade daughter will attend public high school in 9th grade. Since they offer no ancient history, I’m thinking to combine my upcoming seventh and eighth grade daughters in Creation to Christ (CTC). I know I could add the extension package and up the language arts and math, but I guess I’m not 100% sure about this placement.

A Little Background on My Sixth Grade Daughter Going into Seventh Grade

I thought I’d give a little background on my sixth grade daughter going into seventh grade. She has never used a complete HOD guide. She was able to do Drawn into the Heart of Reading (DITHOR) level 4/5 with the 4/5 Girl Interest books for her 5th grade year. However, since then, she has been through several therapy programs to help with her dyslexia. We have needed to make accommodations such as audio books or me reading aloud in most other subject areas. But now, she is testing at grade level for reading comprehension. So, I am planning to use DITHOR 6/7/8 level with her.

She does struggle more with both reading and writing. Although she can narrate and summarize, she often needs help getting through the initial reading assignments. She usually reads for a half hour or so a couple of times a day on her own. But, if she is required to do more than that, I need to read aloud to her, so she can rest her eyes (she has tracking issues, so it can be very tiring). Usually she comprehends well whether she is reading on her own or is being read aloud to. She prefers simpler language, as the effort she must make just to read doesn’t leave a lot of energy for her figuring out unfamiliar words or phrases. This does impact every subject area.

A Little Background on My Seventh Grade Daughter Going into Eighth Grade

My current seventh grader is an extremely self motivated student. She is doing eighth and ninth grade level work in most subjects. She did the left side of the MTMM guide this past year with her older sister. They both took a lit/grammar course as well. Looking at the placement she fits squarely in the MTMM category, but we did that guide this year. So, I feel she could probably move on to World Geography level work.

This daughter is used to writing two to three page long papers on various subjects. She has also completed all the writing and narrations (left side of page spread) from MTMM without any serious problems this year. Her writing and grammar experience is at or above grade level. This is true of her reading level as well. We have used DITHOR in the past several years, and she had done excellent with it!

Creation to Christ looks good, but so does World Geography!

The more I look at Creation to Christ, the more I think it would offer my younger daughter plenty of challenge because of her dyslexia, especially if we add the extension package and pick 6/7 books for DITHOR. Plus, she still struggles with the mechanics of writing. However, My older daughter probably fits best in the World Geography guide. She has studied the samples and read excerpts from many of the book over my shoulder, and she’s excited! However, I just don’t want to overwhelm her. She did well with MTMM, but we had several issues of her not reading directions well and having to redo assignments. I don’t want to push too hard, but the reality is she pushes herself and regularly asks for more. But then she is stressed if I offer more. Hmmm.  So, what do you think?

Carrie’s Reply:

Thanks for taking time to share about your daughters. That really helps, as we look at possibilities for each of them. In reading through what you’ve shared, I am inclined to think that it is wise to look at the two kiddos individually for placement. With your would be 8th grader doing MTMM’s left side this past year and weighing your younger student’s dyslexia in the equation, I think the two kiddos belong in two different guides.

I would place them where they each fit on the placement chart.

I’d be inclined to place them where they fit on the placement chart simply so that they each receive a forward moving experience skill-wise. Skills train kiddos academically for what is to come, and I also think that each HOD guide has a strong Biblical focus along with the skills providing your kiddos with hidden, unexpected spiritual-related gems at each level of their education.

I would place your younger daughter in Creation to Christ.

With this in mind, I would lean toward placing your younger daughter in CTC. The readings, following written directions, and written component of the left side of the guide would be a good fit. I think the poetry with watercolor painting from the right side of the guide would also be inspirational. The Genesis study with The Radical Book for Kids and the Geography of the Holy Lands would also be a part of her day, with the plans from the right side of the CTC guide. The parent reads aloud these two books, so she would not become fatigued with more reading.

Your older daughter could join your younger daughter for the Genesis/Child’s Geography part of the CTC plans.

If desired, you could have your older daughter join you for the alternating Genesis/Child’s Geography part of the CTC study. These studies would fit very well with the World Geography Guide topics your older student would be doing and be enjoyable for your older student to join in doing with you. We actually did this with my oldest son when he was in 8th grade and with my next son when he was doing CTC. It was a good time together for them, and my oldest hadn’t done those particular things previously, as I’d not yet written them. Placing your younger student in CTC would allow for growth in her areas of difficulty without overwhelming her. It would put her on a solid, forward-moving path skill-wise. Additionally, it would give her the exposure to the ancients that you desire.

I would place your older daughter in World Geography.

For your older daughter, I would lean toward the World Geography guide. The World Religion & Cultures study would be very timely, especially in light of the possibility of her heading to public school the following year. The explorer/history-based study of geography, woven with video footage and Biblical-based geography would provide a component to the study that she may not ever have the chance to receive again. It will impact how she views the world. Furthermore, it will give her a firm foundation for future, higher-level history studies to come.

I would also strongly consider having her complete the logic portion of the plans and probably the literature study. The Bible study is excellent as well and is included in the economy package. If you thought the Bible study in the World Geography guide would be too much for your older daughter, you could instead have her Bible study be the Genesis: Radical Book for Kids and Child’s Geography of the Holy Lands from CTC. I think this path would be a good one in meeting the needs of both students.




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!


Nine year old daughter – finish Beyond or start Bigger?

Pondering Placement

Placement Advice for My 9 yo Daughter 

Hello to Heart of Dakota! I hope you can help me! I need some placement advice for my 9 yo daughter. She is currently placed in Beyond…, and we are completing Unit 20. I feel like I have messed up her elementary years, so I am looking at the placement chart and seeking advice. She has struggled greatly with reading since we started, but she is working through the emerging readers now. We are currently reading the Christian Liberty Nature Reader. She now reads independently American Girl books and Magic Treehouse books, usually on her own in 2-3 days.

A Closer Look at Her Placement for Language Arts and Math

As for writing, she copies one stanza of the Beyond poem a day in about 10 minutes. Writing and copying is her least favorite part of school. Part of me wonders if it is because I have pushed her too much. I tend to be quite the perfectionist, so if she writes something that isn’t her best, I make her write it over. We are currently working through Spelling List 1 (Unit 20). As for language arts, we are working through the activities in the Beyond guide. And for math, I have intended to buy the Bigger guide and Singapore 2A and 2B. But, life circumstances put this on the back burner.

So, should I finish Beyond…, or start Bigger?

As for the length of the school day, it seems appropriate. She is my very creative child, so she tends to drag the “fun” activities out. I tend to save those for last. She LOVES Beyond, and her favorite part of the day is history and storytime.  So, should I continue to plug along with Beyond until we finish? Thanks in advance for your advice!

Carrie’s Reply:

Thanks so much for taking time to share about your daughter in regard to the placement chart! It really helps to gain an even fuller picture of your daughter’s skill level in various areas. I think from what you’ve shared, I see two possible options. Keeping in mind the fact that she is 9 and also keeping in mind her current skill level, I do think that she could begin Bigger Hearts now. I think it would stretch her in a good way.

She sounds ready to begin Bigger Hearts overall!

She may have to ease into some of the copywork length-wise, and you would have to be prepared to help her with the vocabulary cards and the notebooking assignments quite a bit, but that is true for most kiddos beginning Bigger Hearts. You could go half-speed for a little while to ease her into the guide, but then I do think it would be a good idea to pop up to full speed within a month or two if at all possible.

This would allow you to get her started on her English, get her going on the math she needs, and address her growth in reading. She would do List 2 in spelling, just beginning with the first set of words as directed in the plans.

But, a second option is to finish Beyond, but add to the language arts and math.

The second option I see, if you do not desire to begin Bigger Hearts now, is to add English 2 (doing a lesson a day) and Singapore 2A/2B to Beyond. You will also be adding DITHR to Beyond coming up as your daughter finishes the Emerging Reader set. This would be a back-up option if you feel that Bigger would be too big of a jump.

Typically, we do not recommend skipping forward in a guide, but with the gains that your daughter has made in reading and writing, and in looking at the placement chart with fresh eyes based on her age, I would say that your situation is an exception and your daughter could do Bigger Hearts if you feel it is best.





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.