Placement for Multiple Ages of Preschool and Kindergarten Children

Pondering Placement

Question:  Please help me with placement for my multiple ages of preschool and kindergarten children!

Hello Heart of Dakota!  I have a question about placement for multiple ages of preschool and kindergarten aged children. I have a 3 year old, a 4 year old and a 1.5 year old. My two older kids will be 4 and 5 in the fall. I am wondering where you would place them? We have started Little Hands to Heaven with the older two, and they both really enjoy it!

Do you think I would be better off trying to draw out Little Hands for an extra half a year to be able to combine them both in Little Hearts the following year (a 6 and 5 year old)? Or, should I just go ahead and do all of Little Hearts with my son this coming year with a prayer that I don’t get overwhelmed running two, and down the road three programs? I’m just not sure what to do with my five year old this coming year if I do combine them. Only doing Little Hands doesn’t seem  like it would be enough for him even adding in math and phonics. But, my desire to combine them is strong. What would you do? I want learning time to be fun… oooh, I dislike making decisions like this!!  Please help!

Answer: As your two oldest children are close in age, combining them makes good sense.

Hello!  I agree that since your oldest two children are so close in age, it will be a good idea to combine them as much as possible down the road. So, with that in mind, I’d continue with Little Hands to Heaven (possibly 3-4 days a week for this year). Then, next year, I would pick it back up and finish Little Hands.

When your 4 year old is close to 5 (or seems ready), you can easily begin to add any K options from Little Hearts that she’s ready to do. Possible options would include a phonics program, the first handwriting workbook (A Reason for Writing K or Italic A), the Do It Carefully/Finding the Answers fine motor skills workbooks, and/or the Essentials Kindergarten Math A and B with hands-on activities from the Little Hearts guide. By adding the pieces you feel your oldest is ready to utilize when she’s ready, you won’t be holding her back in any way but will also get a chance to steep her in the Bible through Little Hands and keep her with your younger one.

If you do happen to go through Little Hands to Heaven faster that is fine too, as you could always slow Little Hearts down to half-speed when you get there. So, don’t feel like you must draw Little Hands out more than you’d like. Simply do what your kiddos are ready for, and you won’t go wrong.


P.S. For more info on Little Hands to Heaven, click here!

P.S.S. For more info on Little Hearts for His Glory, click here!

How to Help with the ‘Guess’ Part of Science Experiments

Dear Carrie, 

 How do I help my son answer the ‘guess’ questions in the science experiments correctly?   

My son is doing Preparing Hearts this year and really enjoys it!  The one thing he is having trouble with is the ‘guess’ part of the science experiments.  After he reads his science book, he goes to do his lab sheet.  He reads and copies the question, but when he tries to answer the question in the ‘guess’ part, he doesn’t always get it right. Sometimes he goes back and rereads the science reading but still can’t find the answer.  I’ve looked and can’t always find the exact answer either. At that point, I just tell him what I think he should write, but that frustrates him.  Lately, he doesn’t want to do the ‘guess’ part at all. So, my question is, how do I help my son answer the ‘guess’ questions in the science experiments correctly?


“Ms. Please Help My Son Guess Better” 


Dear “Ms. Please Help My Son Guess Better,” 

 I’m so glad you asked this! Your son not knowing the exact answer to the question is actually just fine.  In fact, the questions in Preparing Hearts are meant to make kiddos pause to ponder what they think. This is much like real scientists do when trying to answer questions they don’t know the answers to but hope to discover by conducting experiments. “Real” science brings up a question kiddos probably do not know how to answer. This makes them pause in a state of confusion and really take time to “wonder” about possible answers. It is that pausing and wondering stage that really results in real thinking. If we step in and automatically give kiddos the “one-right answer”, then the child automatically stops wondering.  

Charlotte Mason desired for the child’s mind to do the work.

Charlotte Mason would say that we desire for the child’s mind to be doing the work rather than the parent’s mind. The one whose mind is doing the work is really doing the thinking. So, if every time the child has a question, we step in and give them the right answer, they will soon cease to wonder. Instead, the parent will be doing the thinking in trying to explain the concept to the child. While this may be helpful for the parent’s learning, it teaches the child to just wait until the parent (or some other source) reveals the answer.  

We share Charlotte Mason’s goals for children by wanting them to question what they read, see, and hear.

Our goal through Heart of Dakota’s science is to present kiddos with interesting living books about science and scientists that get kiddos thinking and wondering about God’s world. We desire for them to question what they read, see, and hear. We want to get them thinking like a scientist, instead of just accepting whatever they are told.  If you really think about it, not so many years ago we had far less answers about science than we do now. How did those scientists think scientifically if they didn’t know the “right” answers?  

Children can always look up more information on a subject if they desire to do so.

If your child desires to look up more information to find out more about a subject broached in HOD then that is a good thing. If, however, you take the initiative and look up answers for your child in order to give the child the right answers, then that has become a parent led quest to find the answer to just tell or reveal to your child. Do you see the difference? 

HOD’s science is written to encourage children to think like scientists.

We pray your children will learn to think like a scientist through HOD’s science. That is a different matter entirely than just learning the answers with very little thinking involved. While our younger guides do often lead the young child to some sort of guess based on the material provided, our guides for older students move away from this more and more (as the student is more able to think on a higher level as he/she matures). We want to encourage this type of higher-level thinking as much as possible. As kiddos read about real scientists and the questions they sought to answer, students will realize that questioning is the beginning of scientific thinking. 




Creation to Christ: An Intriguing Ancients Homeschool Program for Ages 9-11, with Extensions for Ages 12-13

From Our House to Yours

Creation to Christ: An Intriguing Ancients Homeschool Program for Ages 9-11, with Extensions for Ages 12-13

With Heart of Dakota, there are flexible age ranges, which becomes more and more important as children grow and mature.  That is why our Creation to Christ ancients program is written for ages 9-11, but has extensions for ages 12-13. The Lord has gifted each child differently, and the older a child gets, the more those gifts begin to show themselves.  Likewise, children have areas that just are not their gifting. We all do! This is why, at Heart of Dakota, we value placement so highly.  If you call us for placement help, reference our placement chart, or ask for placement help on our message board, you will never be told just to ‘get the 11 year old box of things.’

Likewise, we will never just ask the ages of your children, lump them all together, and tell you which guide to use.  Proper placement is a bigger deal than that! It is an entire year of your life and of your child’s life!  We want to get it right.  We want to take children where they are and move them forward, and that is just what Creation to Christ does!

Creation to Christ teaches our children one timeline, not two!

If you are like me, you might have what I call two timelines running in your head.  The Bible timeline and the public school timeline. This is because at church we learned Bible history, and at school we learned history without the Bible.  At least, that is what most public schools teach due to separation of church and state.  As a Christian, I find this very sad!  How in the world could I learn about the ancients without learning about the Bible? It truly boggles the mind. Well, blessedly, having used Heart of Dakota, my children have just one timeline running in their heads, and it begins with Creation to Christ!

So, what does the history in Creation to Christ cover?

Told in story form, Creation to Christ provides students with a Biblical overview of ancient history.  Students learn about the Sumerians, Hebrews, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans. Biblical history is shown to be authoritative, and the history of ancient civilizations weaves in and out of Old Testament stories at the proper times in the overall narrative. An exciting overview of ancient Greece, ancient Rome, and of Christ’s life comes next, and the year concludes with the readings of the gospels of Luke, John, and Acts.

Full of ‘can’t put them down’ books, Creation to Christ’s ancients history weaves one pretty exciting coherent and memorable timeline. Narrative books make the ancients come to life in a way I’ve not seen any other ancients study do.  So, if your kiddos have done the ancients before, but find themselves coming into Heart of Dakota placing best in Creation to Christ, no worries!  Do the ancients again – they have not ‘met them’ in the same way, so it won’t be a repeat.

So, now that you’re excited about the ancients, what’s new in Creation to Christ?

What’s new in Creation to Christ? Quite a lot really.  In fact, you will feel the change coming in Creation to Christ, right about the time you feel the change coming in your children.  They are growing up.  They want to be more independent.  And even if they don’t, they should.  They have a few years to get ready for upper middle school, and then high school will be soon to follow.  If they don’t start taking steps toward higher levels of reading, longer assignments of writing, following more directions, and taking on more independence, they will not be ready for upper middle school – and believe me, it’s tough to ‘make it up’ later.

Students’ reading skills are taken up a notch – across all subject areas!

Creation Christ is the first year students independently read the books in the Reading about History part of the plans, and it is more difficult reading in both reading level and maturity of content. However, the readings are shorter, so they can be successful with this new step.  Science readings become longer from more difficult books, with Land Animals… being just one of the 6 science books they’ll read independently.  Likewise, they will usually move up a level in Drawn into the Reading, both in the Student Books and in the Book Packs.

Students write longer narrations, learn to edit their own writing, and begin a formal writing program!

In response to the history they read independently, students write 5-8 sentence written narrations, highlight the main idea in each written narration, and use the Written Narration Tips to edit. However, the guide narrows down the focus of the narration to just a portion of the history reading, and guided questions help students think about their narration before they begin writing. Likewise, students work through the Written Narration Tips one at a time when they are editing.  Once they consistently do #1, they work on doing #1 and #2, and so on.  A formal writing program, Write with the Best, is added to the balance of language arts. It is taught twice each week and uses excerpts from classical literature for writing instruction (i.e. Charles Dickens, Jules Verne, Wordsworth, etc.).

Students learn to start their day with their own Bible Quiet Time!

How exciting is that!?!  Using either the Illustrated Family Bible Stories or their own Bible, students begin their day with their own private Bible Quiet Time.  This is such an important habit to have, and it is one continued all the way through 12th grade (and  hopefully happily ever after)!  This Bible Quiet Time has all the facets you’d want in a Bible quiet time!  Reading from the Bible, praying with the 4 parts of prayer using the ACTS model, memorizing Philippians 2, singing the Scriptures being memorized along with praise music, and copying verses in a Charlotte Mason style Common Place Book to forever be remembered! Yeah, pretty neat.  You’ll be finding yourself wanting your own quiet time too if you haven’t had one!

Students get inspired by Robert Frost’s poetry and respond to it with water color painting!

“The heavens declare the glory of the Lord,” and Robert Frost’s poetry just simply celebrates the beauty of Creation.  Students begin by reading Robert Frost’s poems, move on to discussing the moods/meaning of the poem, learn about Robert Frost’s life, follow step-by-step directions to learn to water color paint a painting each week to match the poem’s meaning, and interactively share the poem by reading it to an audience (a.k.a. the family). Finally, every 9 week term, they choose a Robert Frost poem they’ve studied to memorize.  Very Charlotte Mason-like, don’t you think?!?

Students research a given topic in history and orally share their findings, and they also keep a prophecy chart!

Once each week students research a history topic inspired by the history study.  They use an index or a search engine to skim to find answers to provided questions.  Then, they share their findings orally.  What important skills are learned in this assignment!  They also keep a prophecy chart showing the fulfillment of Scriptures, so they can see God’s hand through history across time.

Students have new responses to their Storytime read-alouds!

So, you as the parent still read aloud the Storytime books, which is wonderful, because you will enjoy them just as much as your children do!  In fact, I highly recommend the History Interest Set, just because it is pretty neat to totally immerse yourself in the ancients, and those books are like a little time machine that seem to do just that. But, back to the responses!  Your kiddos will rotate through giving a detailed oral narration, doing an outline sketch narration, a short skit narration, a question and answer session, an advertisement speech for the book, a summary narration, and a making connections between the story and Proverbs session.  Now, doesn’t that sound fresh and fun?!? But, kiddos aren’t the only ones that get to have fun, you do too!

So, what new things do you get to do as the homeschool teacher in Creation to Christ?

A lot, really! You get to head up a Genesis study using The Radical Book for Kids, which is done 2 days a week. Intriguing readings, in-depth discussions, and meaningful connections to Genesis are all a part of your time together with your children. Also, you get to lead a Geography of the Holy Land study, which is done the other 2 days a week.  Narrative read-alouds, globe and map activities, discussions, and travel logs are just some of the neat things you’ll get to lead in this geography study that shows the many of the very places kiddos read about in their Bibles still exist today.

Many things from last year in Preparing Hearts for His Glory are still a part of Creation to Christ as well!

Many of your favorites from last year in Preparing Hearts for His Glory are still a part of Creation to Christ! Not everything is new, and skills taught previously are practiced and strengthened.

In closing, check out the Learning Through History part of the plans of Creation to Christ in list form below…
  • Corresponding History Readings
  • Prophecy Fulfillment Chart
  • Guided Written Narrations
  • Timeline Entries
  • Copywork: Quotes, Verses, and Literature Passages
  • Research Questions
  • Weekly Hands-on History Projects
  • Bible Passage Memory Work of Philippians 2 with CD “Bible Study in Stereo: Philippians 2”
  • Step-by-step sketching corresponding with Greece and Rome
  • Creation of a History Notebook
  • Oral Narrations
  • Mapping
  • Personal Quiet-time Bible Study of Old and New Testament stories
  • Choice of Read-aloud Options based on History Interest, Boy Interest, or Girl Interest
  • Corresponding Audio Overview of History with Diana Waring’s What in the World Vol. I
Check out the Learning the Basics part of the plans of Creation to Christ in list form below…
  • Classic Poetry from Robert Frost
  • Spelling: choice of three sets of dictation passages
  • Grammar Lessons using the Text Building with Diligence: English 4 or Following the Plan: English 5
  • Bi-Weekly Creative Writing Lessons using Write with the Best: Vol. I by Jill Dixon
  • Literature Study using Drawn into the Heart of Reading
  • Choice of Math
  • Daily Living Book Science Readings in the area of Life Science/Biology
  • Science Experiments with written lab sheets emphasizing the scientific process
  • Weekly Science Notebooking
  • Science Vocabulary, Comprehension, and Biblical Application Questions
  • Weekly Oral Science Narrations
  • A Study of the ancient roots and Biblical theology of the Christian faith
  • Focus on Geography of the Bible Lands

In Christ,


P.S.  You can check out our placement chart to see if Creation to Christ… is a fit for your kiddos! If your child places better in Preparing Hearts…, check out this blog post by clicking here!

P.S.S. Click on each link below for Creation to Christ..
P.S.S.S. New to HOD?  Check out our top ten questions!





As you begin planning a schedule for school…be realistic!

Teaching Tip 

As you begin planning a schedule for school…be realistic!

It is so easy to make a perfect school schedule on paper that falls apart in practice!  So, here are a few tips to help you make a more realistic schedule.

Consider whether you are a morning person.

When making a “school” schedule, be sure to take into account whether you are a morning person.  Then, set a realistic start time for your days. I am not a morning person!  So, for me breakfast at 9:00 with teaching at 9:30 is realistic. It is better to make a plan you can stick to rather than a “wishful” plan that quickly falls by the wayside.

Consider your child’s best work times.

It is also wise to take note of your child’s best work time.  Is your child a morning person?  Or, does he/she do better with a slower start? It is a good idea to schedule accordingly. For example, don’t schedule a child who has a hard time getting going in the A.M. with his/her hardest subjects first.

Consider your little ones first.

When planning for school, often our first thought is to schedule the school-age children.  If you have a 2 or 3 year old, it is more important to schedule that little one first.  If we expect our little ones to just “go with the flow,” what will happen?  A busy 2 or 3 year old can drag everyone else along as he/she quickly derails the day!

Spend some time over the next week noticing when you and your children are at your best.

As you begin mulling over a schedule, remember to be realistic with your expectations! Your year will run more smoothly if you schedule both you and your children when you are at your best!


The way you handle breakfast sets the tone for your day

A streamlined lunch is a huge help in the homeschool day

Charlotte Mason’s Picture Study Inspires Art Appreciation

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

Charlotte Mason’s Picture Study Inspires Art Appreciation

Charlotte Mason loved to inspire children to appreciate art by using the format of picture study. According to Charlotte Mason, We cannot measure the influence that one or another artist has upon the child’s sense of beauty, upon his power of seeing, as in a picture, the common sights of life; he is enriched more than we know in having really looked at even a single picture. (Volume 1, p. 309)

So, how do you do Charlotte Mason style picture study?

It is not as hard as one might think! In fact, many times people try to over-complicate Charlotte Mason’s picture study. Simply put, during picture study children spend time studying artist’s pictures, absorbing their details, and discussing what they noticed. In the process of picture study, the goal is for children to learn to appreciate art. Through picture study according to Charlotte Mason, Children learn not merely to see a picture but “to look at it”, taking in every detail. (Volume 6, p. 214-215)

So, what does Carrie have to say about her journey with Charlotte Mason’s picture study?

Our family pursued Charlotte Mason style picture study for many years before I wrote it into our guides. I must admit I was extremely skeptical about the simplicity of the Charlotte Mason approach to picture study in the beginning. But, I have become a firm believer in it as the years have passed! Because of picture study, my kiddos and I have learned to appreciate and love beautiful art. We spent time studying pictures, absorbing each picture’s details, and discussing what each of us individually noticed. Best of all, we did find we truly learned to appreciate art in the process. We also learned art study doesn’t have to be long or in-depth to resonate. It just needs to be meditated upon and shared.

So, when is picture study included in Heart of Dakota?

Heart of Dakota includes picture study one day in each unit of Resurrection to Reformation.  Parent and student get to do art appreciation together, so both can enjoy it! Art prints for the picture study either use full-color prints from Looking at Pictures or from the full-color “Art Gallery” provided in the back of the Resurrection to Reformation Student Notebook. Looking at Pictures with its 150 stunning illustrations in full color from The National Gallery in London (including entries from Leonardo, Rembrandt, Matisse, Seurat, Picasso, and many more) partnered with the full color Art Gallery in RTR’s notebook work together beautifully!

Closing Thoughts

I don’t know about you, but I am personally thankful we get to enjoy Charlotte Mason’s ideals in such a way that I can actually do them! If I were to try to do every Charlotte Mason ideal every day or even every homeschool year, I think I would fall down eventually. I feel I have the best of both worlds with the way Carrie has written HOD’s guides. The tenets of Charlotte Mason are always present in the guides – dictation, copywork, oral narrations, written narrations, timelines/Book of Centuries, and living books. But, the other Charlotte Mason led activities (such as hymn study, composer study, nature study, and picture study) rotate. Each gets their moment in the sun! We get to do each activity thoroughly and completely, so we can remember and enjoy it for years to come.

My children will never walk into an art museum without appreciating the art they see, and I have Charlotte Mason and Carrie Austin to thank for that!

 How do we prepare a child, again, to use the aesthetic sense with which he appears to come provided? His education should furnish him with whole galleries of mental pictures, pictures by great artists old and new. (Charlotte Mason, Volume 6, p. 43)

 We cannot measure the influence that one or another artist has upon the child’s sense of beauty, upon his power of seeing, as in a picture, the common sights of life; he is enriched more than we know in having really looked at even a single picture. (Charlotte Mason, Volume 1, page 109).

In Christ,