Should I start Little Hands if my son doesn’t comprehend its Bible well?

Dear Carrie

Should I begin Little Hands to Heaven if my son doesn’t seem ready to comprehend the children’s Bible in it well?

I lurk on the Heart of Dakota Message Board! I’ve gotten a lot of great insight there! My daughter is using Little Hearts, and she also used Little Hands, which we loved. My question is about my son. He’s 4, and he knows all his letters, sounds, shapes, etc. However, he struggles with listening. I haven’t started Little Hands (LHTH) for this very reason. I tried out the Bible from LHTH for his evening devotions. He really struggled to answer any questions after the reading. I think it is partly a disciplinary issue as well. After all, he can sit and listen attentively to a Thomas the Train book! I’d like to get him started in LHTH, but I’m concerned about his (lack of) listening and comprehension. So, should I begin Little Hands to Heaven if my son doesn’t seem ready to comprehend the children’s Bible in it well?


“Ms. Please Help Me Choose When to Start Little Hands”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Me Choose When to Start Little Hands,”

I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed Heart of Dakota with your daughter and will now begin it with your son! I just want to encourage you that it isn’t uncommon for young boys to struggle a bit with listening to Bible stories at first. This is because Bible stories have a harder vocabulary, have a much less predictable storyline, and do not have as many repetitive words or characters as stories like Thomas the Tank Engine do. So, listening to a Bible story is actually an exercise in higher level listening for a little child.

Comprehension can be influenced by the time of day.

How well a child comprehends a Bible story reading will also differ depending on what time of day the little one is asked to listen to the story. By bedtime, little ones are often weary, both physically and mentally. So, trying to process something new at that time is more work. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read aloud Bible stories at bedtime. It just means that we can expect less comprehension at that time of day as opposed to when the child is fresher, earlier in the day.

Children develop the skills to listen to Bible stories, which are more difficult read alouds, in LHTH.

Listening to more difficult read alouds, like Bible stories, is a skill that takes time to develop. The beauty of LHTH is that you will actually be able to see this skill develop as you travel through the guide. Since your son is 4, I’d lean toward starting LHTH, doing it 4 days a week. At age 4, he would likely be able to handle a day of LHTH in a day, since it takes 30 minutes or less.

Children may struggle for awhile, but soon they begin to answer the Bible questions better and better.

You can expect that he will struggle to answer the questions from the Bible stories for awhile (and this is not exclusive to little boys)! My sisters and I were talking awhile back about how surprising it was when our little ones finally began to answer some of the Bible questions in LHTH (and my older sister has little girls).

You can reread the line of the story with the answer to help your child answer the question if need be.

Until your little one is able to answer the questions, after asking the question if no answer is forthcoming, you could reread the line of the story with the answer in it to help prod your little one. Then, if the answer still isn’t coming, just tell the answer in a questioning type way. For example, if the question is, “Who did Abraham marry?”, and if your little one doesn’t know, reread the line of the story that says the answer. If your little one still can’t answer, then say, “Did Abraham marry Sarah?” In this way, the child can still answer, “Yes” at least (giving the guise of answering the question).

I hope you enjoy Little Hands to Heaven with your son as much as we did with each of our sons!



Why homeschool? You can share your faith with your children!

From Our House to Yours

Why homeschool? You can share your faith in God with your children on a daily basis!

Before my husband and I had children to homeschool, I taught other children in public school. Barb Wigg was a second grade teacher who I dreamed of my own children being taught by someday. She loved each and every child in her classroom, she played guitar and sang, she loved finding amazing books to read, she came early and stayed late, she loved teaching, but even more importantly – she loved Jesus. Perfect, right? Well, I was right about Barb Wigg – she truly was a fantastic teacher, and she probably still is today. Just one thing was wrong; she taught in a public school. And that meant as much as she loved Jesus, she couldn’t share her faith with her students.

2003: Wigg vs. the Sioux Falls School District

In October 2002, “The Good News Club” (or the “Club”) requested to use 5 of the 26 elementary schools in our school district after school hours. Many other groups met there already, like Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS). The Club’s request was also accepted. In December of 2002, Barb Wigg decided she would enjoy teaching in the Club. It was a Christian Bible study group for children, which Barb loved. However, when Barb attended the first Club meeting after school hours, the school district said she could not attend any more. Barb stood up for her rights, and that was the beginning of a long, expensive, and exhausting year in the court system. In fact, Barb Wigg eventually wound up in the United States District Court and on Fox News.

Changes in Our School District

Though Barb did win, and she did go on to teach children about Jesus after school hours, she still couldn’t share her faith with the children in her classroom. In fact, she had to be extra careful she didn’t share anything – ever – about her faith in her classroom because now the school district was watching. Very closely. In fact, they were watching all of us very closely. I saw many changes in our school district after that. Our Christian music teacher did her first Christmas concert without Christian songs. The school calendar committee changed “Easter Break” to “Spring Break,” and “Christmas” to “Holiday Break.” High school valedictorians had a ‘moment of silence’ instead of a prayer at graduation. The school talent contest banned violinists and pianists from playing Christian music pieces. Coaches quit praying with their players before games.

Even the most wonderful Christian teachers can’t share their faith with children in public schools!

As I had my own first son, my dream of having Barb Wigg as his teacher began to fade. Barb Wigg was still an amazing teacher, and she still had an incredible heart for the Lord! But I began to realize, even the most wonderful Christian teachers can’t share their faith in public schools.  I began to look ahead and try to handpick the best Christian teachers I could for my son. For first grade, there was ‘so-and-so,’ and for second grade there was ‘so-and-so,’ and for third grade there was ‘so-and-so.’ But there were a few problems with this. First of all, each of the ‘so and so’s were at different schools. Second of all, some grades didn’t seem to have any ‘so-and so’s.  Third of all, I was a Christian myself, and the truth was I knew I’d lose my job if I shared my faith with my own students. I had to assume other Christian teachers were in the same predicament.

In homeschooling, you can share your faith in God with your children every day!

Every day I wake up thankful I can share my faith in God with my children as I homeschool with Heart of Dakota. I don’t have to be careful what I say, what music I play, what books I read, what questions I ask, what discussions I lead. No, I can choose because I am the teacher in my own home, and as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. What an incredible blessing! What a gift to cherish! We start our day with Christian music. Each meal we begin with prayer. Throughout the school day, we pull out our Bibles to seek God’s wisdom. When we get the call my Dad has cancer, we cry and pray and pray together, as a family, right there in the middle of our homeschool day. Sometimes I run into my former students. They are old now! Married and with children themselves. We hug and catch up with one another, but one thought makes my heart ache – I taught them so much, but I didn’t teach them about God. That grieves me.

No one will share their faith in God with your children like you can.

Children can have the best teachers in the world, but no one will share their faith in God with your children like you can. You don’t have to be the most eloquent, you don’t have to have all the answers, you don’t have to be perfect – no one is. All you have to do is live it. Your greatest testimony is your own personal faith in God, your own relationship with Him, your own walk with Him. You have within your power to daily share your own faith in God with His greatest blessings He’s bestowed upon you – your children. Don’t convince yourself someone else can do it better. You can. You are the one for the job, and no one can do it better. Dig in!  Your children await.


In Christ,


Do you have a plan for laundry at your house?

Teaching Tip: 

Do you have a plan for laundry at your house?

Having a routine for dealing with laundry each week is a huge time saver. Laundry may seem like an odd topic to include on our teaching tip day! But, laundry can really interfere with teaching by taking up needed space for “school” and overtaking your house! So, I’ll just share a tip that may get you thinking of how to address laundry at your house.

How do we deal with sorting laundry each week?

As our family has grown, we’ve discovered that the sorting of whose clothes belong to whom can really take time. It also slows down the folding process. So, we’ve found it’s easier to keep the laundry more separated from start to finish. To do this, each of our bedrooms has a laundry hamper. Even within the bedrooms, we have individual clothes baskets for our boys. This reduces the amount of mixing of clothes among family members.

How do we schedule our laundry to be done?

We schedule our laundry to be done in smaller chunks each day to keep it more manageable. So, at our house, Monday is our littlest guy’s laundry day. Tuesday is towel day and also the day my hubby and I’s laundry is done. Wednesday is our third son’s laundry day. His laundry requires special laundry detergent, due to skin allergies. Thursday is our oldest son’s laundry day. Friday is our second son’s laundry day. Saturday and Sunday we have off from laundry.

What is our laundry routine?

Everyone just brings their own laundry downstairs in their hamper or basket on their designated day. The person whose laundry it is also helps fold and put away on his/her assigned day. This makes sense, as each person knows best where his/her own clothes go! Of course, we all pitch in to help fold and put away when we are in a hurry. We have a goal to get everything put away by bedtime. Sometimes, we don’t quite make it. But, having a school workspace free of folded laundry is a great motivator!

Try making a laundry plan and see what you think.

Having a plan for your laundry may really free you up from feeling like the laundry is never really done. Try making a laundry plan, and see what you think!


Oral Narrations: An Integral Part of a Charlotte Mason Education

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

Oral narrations are an integral part of a Charlotte Mason education!

A Charlotte Mason education is literature-based and full of living books that you just can’t put down!  Think about the best book you’ve ever read. As you were reading it, if you were asked to respond to it each day, would you have delightedly chosen to take a pop quiz about it with fill-in-the-blank, true/false, or multiple choice questions? Or, would you have much rather just told a friend about it, sharing all you remembered in a narrative way? Chances are, you’d prefer to tell someone about it over taking a quiz.  Even if you happen to be a rare quiz-loving person, which response would you be more likely to remember? Good books are meant to be shared, and Charlotte Mason knew that when they are shared, they are remembered – long after any quickly forgotten quiz. That is why oral narrations are an integral part of a Charlotte Mason education.

A Charlotte Mason education is based on using narration as the primary method of comprehension.

When children orally narrate, they tell back in their own words what they have just read or heard. Oral narration allows children to share their own version of the passage with accuracy, individual personality, spirit, and originality. In Charlotte Mason-style narration, children borrow words from the author to retell the story.  Narrations are often lengthy and detailed, and there is no “one right” answer or certain key points that “should be” in the narration. This is the way the child connects to and makes sense of the reading. Children can often give a candid heartfelt oral narration on a book they read years earlier, simply because they remember it so well due to having narrated upon it. A Charlotte Mason education is based on using narration as the primary method of comprehension because it is so effective.

Heart of Dakota’s guides include helpful tips for both the teacher and the student before, during, and after orally narrating.

Chances are, you didn’t grow up orally narrating in school, and more than likely, you’d love a little guidance in this area. Well, Heart of Dakota provides that! Each year Carrie wrote a new Heart of Dakota guide, she pulled out Charlotte Mason’s original volumes and reread all that pertained to the upcoming stages of learning students were entering. The result? Decades of Charlotte Mason research at your disposal right within your Heart of Dakota guides. Beginning with modeling oral narrations and moving to helpful tips for both teacher and student before, during, and after orally narrating – HOD has you covered. Likewise beginning with simple narrations and moving to detailed, summary, key word, highlighted, topic, opinion, persuasive, recorded, and typed narrations – HOD makes sure oral narrations grow and mature as your children do!

Narrating is an essential skill life.

Narrating is an essential skill in life.  To be able to give an opinion of a book, relay a telephone message, summarize a letter, give driving directions, write an article, or share a doctor’s instructions – are all examples of practical applications of narration skills.  Narrating is an important skill to learn.  You can begin to teach your children to narrate by following the steps in Heart of Dakota’s guides.  Just be patient, and have fun with it!  Narration is a way of life you will surely learn to love!

In Closing

In closing, here are a few Charlotte Mason quotes about narration for you to take inspiration from…

A narration should be original as it comes from the child- that is, his own mind should have acted on the matter it has received. – Charlotte Mason

Narrating is an art, like poetry-making or painting, because it is there, in every child’s mind, waiting to be discovered, and is not the result of any process of disciplinary education. – Charlotte Mason

In Christ,





What factors helped you decide to use Singapore Math?

Dear Carrie

What factors helped you decide to use Singapore Math?

Dear Carrie,

I really love Heart of Dakota, but I am torn about making a math decision! I’m curious why Singapore math was chosen as the math option for the curriculum packages. I do realize we may choose a program of our own. However, I am simply curious what drew you to choose Singapore over other programs. So, I guess my question is what factors helped you in deciding Singapore would be the one? Thank you!


“Ms. Please Share the Factors That Led You to Decide to Use Singapore Math”

Dear “Ms. Please Share the Factors That Led You to Decide to Use Singapore Math,”

I fear you may be sorry you asked! Bear with me! I have a rather long reply to this tough question. As you mentioned, you are more than welcome to choose your own math curriculum to use with any of our programs. We do realize that there are many excellent math programs to use. However, we have tried many of the big-name, and not so big-name, math programs for at least a year each. We found many of them didn’t fit our family well for a variety of reasons.

One deciding factor was many other math programs require too much teacher presentation and take too much time. 

I found many of the math programs we tried were just too time-consuming in the amount of teacher presentation required. As we added more children to our homeschool, I realized a 30 minute math presentation for one kiddo would quickly turn into 2 hours of math presentation when multiplied times my 4 boys. That would leave precious little time for the many other necessary school subjects. This was one of the deciding factors that helped me say ‘no’ to other math programs we tried.

Another deciding factor was some of the other math programs had too much prep, too much planning, or too many math problems.

Similarly, I found some of the programs required too much preparation or planning ahead of time prior to teaching. When I wasn’t prepared, my students were wasting time waiting on me. Other programs had way too much drill or too many problems daily for my non-math loving oldest son. So, I found I was tweaking which problems to do daily and eventually the programs hardly resembled the original program anymore. This was another deciding factor that led me away from using other math programs.

The main deciding factors were Singapore Math has short lessons, little prep, and higher-level thinking; plus, it is economical and in a convenient workbook form.

In keeping with the Charlotte Mason philosophy for math, I wanted a program with short lessons, some hands-on, almost no prep., in a workbook form (to cut down on time spent copying problems) that emphasized higher-level thinking and reasoning along with computation. I also wanted it to be economical if possible. So, when we began with Singapore we knew we’d found the fit for us. These were some of the main deciding factors for choosing Singapore Math.

Another deciding factor was I could easily write hands-on lessons to accompany the younger Singapore Math levels and schedules to utilize the original Singapore Math pacing.

Where the program lacked hands-on in the early years, I added in lessons in our guides to include that. The one problem we have found with Singapore is that the clean page layout and the few problems on each page makes it easy to assign too much daily, thus complicating what should be a short and sweet program. We compensate for that by including schedules in our guides that follow the original Singapore pacing, completing 2 workbooks in one school year. So, yet another deciding factor was I could easily write hands-on math lessons and schedules to fill in what I felt was lacking.

Multiple levels of Singapore Math plans in each guide help each child to have plans for the placement that fits best.

Our plans phase out the hands-on teacher lessons starting with 3A/3B and move toward the textbook/workbook schedule only at that point. With a strong hands-on background from the previous Singapore years, we’ve found the kiddos are ready for that change. We’ve included multiple levels of Singapore Math in each of our guides, so each child can be appropriately placed and have plans to accommodate that placement. We continue with Singapore Math through 6A/6B. Since Singapore has such a solid base in problem-solving and reasoning, and an advanced scope and sequence, the switch to almost any other program after that is a fairly painless one.

In Closing

In closing, the fact that I could include multiple levels of math in each guide and the fact that the transition to a different math program would be fairly easy were both final deciding factors in my decision. So, to make a long story short, all kids are different. We know one math program will not fit them all. But, we do want to share what we’ve found with other programs. We hope that Singapore Math is a good fit for some of you as well.