Why are you homeschooling?

A Heart of Dakota Life

Why are you homeschooling?

The answer to this question is so important to know, as it acts as a compass for our homeschooling. Knowing why we are homeschooling helps us find successes big and small in our school days. It helps us know when we’re accomplishing what we hope to accomplish. Likewise, it helps us make decisions better. We can go back to why we are homeschooling and see what decision best fits within that framework of goals. Using Heart of Dakota for homeschooling has helped me stay true to our reasons for homeschooling. So, here are my reasons for homeschooling, in no particular order of importance (other than #1 is #1)…

We want the Lord to be an integral part of our homeschooling!

He is not an extra, not a maybe, not an option, not a once in awhile – but the center of what we are learning.

Our homeschooling should be a place we can share our personal relationship with the Lord, often.

We want our homeschooling to help open the door for discussions about faith and Godly character qualities we desire in ourselves as well as our children. Likewise, we want to share the Good News of the Lord as much as possible in our homeschooling, as well as have ample Bibles, devotionals, Bible studies, praise music to adequately do so.

We want the atmosphere for our homeschooling to be the one we create within our own home.

This atmosphere should be one of important purpose, delight in learning, and a cheerful attitude toward our work in school together.

We want me to be the one who is responsible for the teaching of our children.

On the rare occasion I am unable to do this, we want a family member to be the teacher. We also want this person to teach within our own home, if at all possible.

We want to make homeschooling a priority by always having enough time for me to homeschool at home each day.

This means saying ‘no’ to other things sometimes, which is alright!  It also means carving out enough time to truly be able to homeschool each day by making my routine/schedule reflect that.

We want each of our children’s homeschooling work each year to be well-fitted to their individual needs.

Each child should be able to do what is asked of him each year confidently and successfully.

We want our children to encourage each other in their homeschooling.

Our family thinks time is always well spent listening to the stories/poems/narrations someone has written, clapping for someone’s performance, playing someone’s history project game, complimenting someone’s artwork, enjoying someone’s reading project, complimenting someone’s notebooking, asking questions about someone’s newly found knowledge in history/science/etc.

We want to homeschool our children all the way through high school, Lord willing.

Furthermore, we want to help them with their academic choices after high school, praying the Lord will provide guidance in this.

We want homeschooling to be a part of our life, not the whole of it.

We want to keep our homeschooling time focused and uninterrupted. This is important so we finish in a timely fashion. That way, I have time left in the day for personal interests and family time with my husband.

We want our own family and extended family to provide the socialization of our children as much as possible.

We want to take full responsibility for helping our children to learn good socialization skills. To do this, we need to choose to live near family. We also need to spend significant time with each other and with family members of all ages.

We want to encourage our children to be each other’s friends, as well as to encourage friendships among cousins.

To do this, we want to provide ample opportunity for them to spend time with us as well as to spend time together their cousins.

We want our homeschooling to be filled with excellent living books.

Using excellent literature in as many subject areas as possible keeps the love of learning strong all the way through high school.

We want hands-on learning to be a daily part of our homeschooling.

Having three sons, hands-on learning is especially important.

We want our homeschooling to gradually lead our children to successful independence within learning.

This helps our children be successful with secondary and post-secondary learning as well.

We want our homeschooling to prepare our sons to be strong providers for their future families.

Because of this, solid academics and training in good independent work habits is a must.


I made this list back in 2011! When my husband and I are faced with decisions big and small, we consider why we are homeschooling, and we try to make the best decision we can based on that.  Your list might be very different from this list, and that’s just fine!  There is no one right list.  As you get ready for your coming homeschool year and must make decisions big and small, consider making your own list. Second to prayer, it’s one of the best ways to make a clear decision.  I pray for us homeschool moms that the Lord will help us along our journey of homeschooling, as we all know it is not always easy. May we find the joy in knowing why we are homeschooling, and in doing what we need to do each day to make this happen!


In Christ,


How do I prepare my dyslexic son who is an emerging reader for Preparing?

Dear Carrie,

My son is almost 9, and we are half-way through Bigger. We found out he was dyslexic about two years ago, and he STRUGGLES with reading. He did Beyond last year and loved it! The only thing we adjusted was the spelling. It was too much for him, so we didn’t do it. This year in Bigger, I have added the spelling, and he is doing better. He is doing the Emerging Readers Set in Bigger, and I have added All About Reading too. He does much better with the Emerging Reader’s Set because he is able to use the pictures to help decode.

That leads me to history. The history books in Beyond had a lot of pictures! The Bigger Hearts… history books don’t have many pictures. Having him rely solely on listening to the content has been difficult, as he’s dyslexic. So, I have been omitting much of the Bigger… history readings and supplementing with many picture books.

I have had to read everything out loud in Bigger. His favorite part In Bigger is the Storytime box. I got the Boy Interest set, and he has enjoyed them a great deal! However, Math is a struggle because he is dyslexic and cannot read his word problems. I started Heart of Dakota first with my daughter. I have already gone through Preparing with my daughter (and absolutely loved it!!) However, I don’t see my dyslexic son being able to do anything independently simply because he cannot read well. So, my question is how can I prepare my dyslexic son who is an emerging reader for Preparing?


“Please help me prepare my dyslexic son for Preparing”


Dear “Please help me prepare my dyslexic son for Preparing,”

Thanks so much for taking time to share about your son. It is so helpful to gain a better picture of what he is able to do!  I’d be happy to help answer your question about how your dyslexic son as an emerging reader can prepare for Preparing!  Reading issues aside, it isn’t uncommon for kiddos to find Bigger to be a step up in listening content and in writing. Bigger is purposefully meant to move kiddos toward listening to higher level books with fewer to no pictures. This is so they can practice the skills of comprehending without the aid of the illustrations.

Developing listening comprehension without the aid of illustrations is a skill that takes time.

Comprehending without the aid of illustrations is a process that takes time. Kiddos often are not good at this skill right away. Their attention can wander as listeners. Because of this, they may struggle in being able to remember much from the readings at first. However, as time passes, they get better and better at this important skill. It is encouraging that your son enjoys the Storytime read-alouds. This means he is headed in the right direction listening-wise! I also think you have your son accurately placed, and you have a good understanding of Heart of Dakota having used it with both your daughter and your son!

History read-alouds are more difficult than Storytime read-alouds.

As a general rule, history books that are more factual are more difficult than Storytime read alouds. So, I would encourage you at this point to move away from adding picture-style books to Bigger’s history.  Instead you can use the history read aloud books as scheduled… knowing this is another level of a skill that will take time to develop. Just keep in mind that it is a necessary stepping stone as he matures even further as a listener (and comprehension-wise), even though he is dyslexic and is an emerging reader.

Follow-up activities are specific to the history read-alouds, so changing the books makes it difficult to be successful with the assigned work.

The history readings in Bigger… have skill-based follow-up activities, timeline, vocabulary cards, art projects, poetry, etc. Since everything on the left side of the Bigger Hearts plans each day goes with the history reading, it is probably confusing not to have read the corresponding history reading which sets up the activities. So many skills are wound into the activities on the left side of the guide. Going forward it will be important to do what is in the plans so he gains the skills needed for Preparing Hearts. Many of the skills your son will be gaining are not reading-related. So, in spite of his reading difficulties, he will still need the skills wound within the Bigger plans. In fact, with dyslexic reading challenges, listening skills become all the more important!

Discontinuing supplementing will give your son time to focus on the skills in the guide, so he can keep progressing.

I would encourage you to stop the urge to supplement. This includes not doing 2 reading programs, which is more than likely fatiguing for him as he is dyslexic. Since he is having success with the Emerging Reader’s Set, I would continue with that.  Following the reading schedule and answering the oral comprehension questions will continue to move him along in both reading ability and comprehension. Give this at least 18 weeks to work on its own. Bigger is designed to build a huge array of skills that take time for kiddos to gain. Having done Bigger Hearts 4 times now with 4 very different sons, I can say that it is a slow burn that brings big results over time. You will see the fruit from Bigger in Preparing Hearts. It just takes time to reap what you sow.

Celebrate the progress your son is making in reading and try not to compare.

As far as your son’s emerging reading goes, it sounds like you are progressing in this area! It is not uncommon for kiddos to have difficulty when decoding multi-syllable words or for kiddos to struggle as they move to more words on a page and fewer pictures. So, take heart that your son is making good, steady progress. Often it is true that if you have an older sibling who was a natural reader first, then when a younger one struggles it seems all the more pronounced. We had this very scenario at our own house!! Also, remember that the difference between when boys and girls mature as readers and writers is also a factor. So, in looking at your son just try to focus on the forward motion he is making.

Make time for hearing and vision tests, and then encourage free reading time with easier picture books.

Be sure that both his hearing and his vision have been tested in the past year. That way you can rule out any concerns in either of those areas. Then, keep steadily plugging along with what is working for him in reading. For your son’s free reading time, be sure to allow him to read easier books with many pictures, comparable to the level of the Emerging readers. This will build his confidence and his enjoyment of reading. Kids often free read at a level or two below what they can really read, as they don’t want to work so hard to gain meaning.

It’s just fine for you to read aloud the math story problems for your son for now.

As far as the math story problems go, I would just read those aloud to your son. Since math is a time to be thinking about mathematical concepts, there is nothing wrong with reading the story problems aloud for him to aid in that process. I often read the math story problems aloud to my younger boys. That way they can focus on the math rather than on decoding the words before even getting to the problem.

Going half-speed in Bigger will give your son time to progress in all the skills needed to be ready for Preparing.

If you need to move to half-speed Bigger for awhile in order to do everything in the plans as written I would suggest that you do so. Just make it a goal not to move onto the next day of plans until you’ve done everything from the day before. Bigger is such a key teaching and learning year, it can be hard to make up for missing the rich set of skills wound within every box of plans if you fast forward past them.

It will also be important that your son does as much of the writing as he can that is in Bigger each day. So, if you have to slow down in order for him to do the written portions than I would definitely do so. Otherwise, if you rush forward without taking time for your son to gain needed skills, then each subsequent guide will have to be modified more and more until all you have left is a reading aloud program because the rest of the skills will all be too difficult.

Here are a few tips in regard to copywork, notebooking, and the reading of the books in Bigger!

As far as writing goes, you can write a sentence of the poetry copywork and have him write his own version right below yours. Then, you could do the rest of the copying for him with the goal of having him copy more as he is able. He can eventually move toward copying more as he is able. As far as the science lab and notebooking assignments, you could move toward having your son do a small portion of the writing in these areas and work up to eventually doing more. Just keep in mind that you are meant to be helping him with every part of Bigger and also that you are meant to be doing all the reading aloud. Then you can rest easier knowing you are doing exactly what you need to do by helping him along the way.

These few tweaks will help your son continue to move forward in Bigger so he can prepare for Preparing.

With just a couple of tweaks that I mentioned above, you can move forward in Bigger knowing you will be preparing your son for the next step up. One of our own sons struggled with reading too, and he has had slow but steady progress in this area. He is gaining every year! We did do Preparing at half-speed at first for awhile to help him grow into the guide before going full-speed with it. Remember that in Preparing, you are still reading aloud the history. It is just the Deluxe Package and science books that the child is reading. Slow and steady wins the race, so keep on with Bigger, and your son will be ready for Preparing!




First Grade or Second Grade with Heart of Dakota: Customizable, Inspirational, Foundational

From Our House to Yours

Each child is fearfully and wonderfully made, and Beyond Little Hearts… accounts for those differences!

Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory is a complete one-year homeschool guide for children ages 6-8.  It is typically used for either 1st or 2nd grade, and it works great for either!  This is where homeschooling starts to get interesting, doesn’t it?  Gifts each child has been given by the Lord begin to show themselves, as do challenges.  Every 6, 7, or 8 yo child is not the same!  Praise God – He fearfully and wonderfully made each little child!  We wouldn’t want them to all be the same! The good news is Beyond… is customizable, inspirational, and foundational!

Heart of Dakota recognizes that each child will begin to demonstrate different needs.  Rather than just handing each child an identical box of homeschool books and resources, Beyond… offers multiple levels for skill-based areas of school, like language arts and math.  But, for the more general subject areas – like history, poetry, Bible study, science, art, music, etc. – the resources are the same.

How is Beyond Little Hearts… customizable?

Beyond… is customizable in all the right places!  In Language Arts, you can choose among phonics, emerging readers, or independent readers.  There are even choices within each of those choices!  Let’s look at phonics/reading instruction first!

When to Choose The Reading Lesson

If your little one is needing a first trip through phonics or had a less than happy first trip through phonics with something else, The Reading Lesson with CD/download would be a good choice.  It is purposefully black and white, so your child can focus on the shape of the letters (quite important for a first trip through phonics).  It’s also only 20 lessons, so with a 34 week homeschool year, if your little one hits a bump in the road and needs to slow down, you can without getting behind.  The CD/download also offers additional practice with other words that follow the same lesson.  Plus, it’s fun!  A circus theme where they earn tokens to ‘spend’ at the circus – very motivational and independent (and not much can be independent at this age, so what a bonus).

When to Choose Reading Made Easy

If your little one has made a first trip through phonics but needs one more trip through a harder phonics, or if your little one is seeming to be advanced, or if your little one is older (as in 7 or 8), Reading Made Easy is a great choice!  This program is by a favorite author of ours, Valerie Bendt.  It’s thorough, hands-on, and well-scripted for the parent.  It also has the option of a written component via workbooks. They don’t require a lot writing, are fun, and are a great addition to the program if your child is writing.

When to Choose the Emerging Reader’s Set

If your child is already reading a Level 1 or Level 2 book like Frog and Toad Are Friends quite smoothly, only pausing to sound out one longer word maybe every other page or so, he would begin the Emerging Reader’s Set.  This is an awesome set of books that starts easier and get incrementally harder throughout the year! It has a schedule in the back of the Beyond… guide with 3-4 oral comprehension questions.  Don’t be dismayed if your child isn’t ready for this set when doing Beyond…!  The Emerging Reader’s Set is also a part of Bigger Hearts as a reading option.

When to Choose Drawn into the Heart of Reading

If your child is advanced, reading chapter books fairly easily, and writing sentences independently, he/she would place well in Drawn into the Heart of Reading 2/3.  Few students place here for reading in Beyond…  But, if your fearfully and wonderfully made little one is gifted with being very advanced in reading, this option is for him/her!  This is an outstanding reading program for kiddos ages 7-15 years old.  Carrie wrote it, and it has won a lot of awards because it is a literature program based on amazing books that teaches all of the genres and story elements.  It includes everything you’d want in a literature program – all the skills with the enjoyment of a book club feeling.  Again, don’t be dismayed if your child isn’t ready for this in Beyond…!  It’s offered as a reading choice in all the guides to come up to Missions to Modern Marvels!

So, what else is customizable?

Singapore Math is also customizable.  Often considered a year advanced, it is best to give the free placement test to determine what level to use. Beyond… has hands-on math plans for 1A/1B, so just the workbooks are needed.  Beyond… has a schedule in its Appendix for 2A/2B, so both the textbooks and workbooks are needed.  Or, if you prefer hands-on plans for 2A/2B, you’d get only the workbooks and the Bigger Hearts… guide, as this has hands-on plans for 2A/2B.  (You can let HOD know you bought Bigger Hearts… already the next year when you order the rest of the Bigger Hearts… Economy Package, and we will credit back your package savings then.) If your child places in 1B, just do 1B/2A for the year.  It all works fine!  Click here for the placement test, making sure to choose the Primary Math placement test.

There is also a choice of 2 spelling lists in Beyond…’s Appendix.  The second is harder than the first.  Both lists have daily plans in the Beyond… guide.  Finally, there is a choice of Storytime read-alouds.  You are reading these aloud to your little one, so choose the set you are most excited to read and they are most excited to listen to!  All 3 sets have amazing books, but 1 set will do!  Choose from Classic, Boy Interest, or Girl Interest packages.

So, what is inspirational?

Charlotte Mason was a big proponent of having a balance of disciplinary and inspirational subjects in school.  Beyond… has both!  First, the American history books you are reading are incredibly inspirational!  Second, the Morning Bells devotional, corresponding music Hide ’em in Your Heart, and Bible Study are sure to inspire!  Third, the classical poetry will tug at your heart and get your creativity flowing.  Fourth, history projects, art projects, and science experiments offer even more creative responses to wonderful history and science living book readings!

So, what is foundational?

A lot, really.  This is an important year though, right?  Foundational skills like reading, writing, math, spelling, grammar, copywork, Bible, history, science, geography, timeline, Charlotte Mason beginning oral narration skills, genre and story element instruction, Godly character traits with personal application – these are all a part of Beyond…!

Check out the rundown of Beyond… below…
  • Bible Memory Work
  • Devotional Topics
  • Science Discovery
  • Art Projects
  • Geography Exploration
  • Timeline and History Activities
  • Poetry and Rhymes
  • Gross Motor Skills
  • Music
  • Copywork
  • Spelling Practice
  • Basic Grammar Skills
  • Introduction to Capitalization and Punctuation
  • Reading Choices
  • Narration
  • Storytime Genre Studies
  • Guided Literature Discussions
  • Story Element Lessons
  • Godly Character Lessons
  • Math Exploration

And don’t stress about how long this is going to take!  

So, now I’ve worried you, haven’t I?  That list has you wondering just how long school will take with Beyond… Well, don’t stress – just 2 to 2 1/2 hours a day.  How can it be, you ask?  Well, all of the above things are not done daily.  Children complete them in a balanced, rotating way.  So, you are able to teach many important things, both disciplinary and inspirational subjects, in one day.  Just use common items in your kitchen or basic art supplies – that’s all you need.  I LOVE that so much!  Who has time with little ones to run to the store, run to the library, or plan and prep for homeschooling all week?  No one.  So why do it?  Beyond… doesn’t require any of that.

So, there you have it!  I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory!  Next time, I’ll introduce you to Bigger Hearts for His Glory. In the meantime, enjoy checking out the printable Introduction and first week of plans of Beyond Little Hearts and our 10 most commonly asked questions!

In Christ,


P.S.  If you check out the placement chart and your little 6-7 yo is not quite ready for Beyond Little Hearts…, click here to check out Little Hearts for His Glory.  And don’t worry about ‘missing’ using Beyond Little Hearts – remember you can just use it for second grade!

The way you handle breakfast sets the tone for your day

Teaching Tip

The way you handle breakfast sets the tone for your day.

As the school year is approaching, it is good to consider how you are going to handle breakfast. Since breakfast is often the start of the school day, it can really affect how your day begins! We’ve tried a variety of things through the years for breakfast in hopes of a smooth start to our day.

What are some possible ways to do breakfast?

To get you thinking of possible options, I’ll share two very different ways that we have approached breakfast. One way is the simple, stagger-start breakfast. The other way is the more involved, family-style breakfast. We have used both ways through the years. Each has been successful in its season!

What is an example of a simple, stagger-start breakfast?

On this breakfast plan, we alternated oatmeal and scrambled eggs. These two simple options are easy to use when stagger-starting your eating times. While this is not rocket science, I will share why this works well.

First, oatmeal can be made and left on the stove on warm in a big kettle. It is quite forgiving as to when it is eaten. So, once it was made, my older kiddos could eat it when their day began bright and early. My younger kiddos could eat it when they wandered down later. We also had yogurt and fresh fruit on oatmeal days.

On scrambled egg day, we simply had each child crack one or two eggs in a cereal bowl. They stirred the eggs with a fork and placed them in the microwave. In our microwave, it took 45 seconds for 1 egg and 1 min. 15 seconds for two. Once the eggs were done, our kiddos added either a bit of cheese or salt. This was another easy hot breakfast that could be made individually as the kiddos were ready. We added toast with peanut butter and half a banana to the meal on egg day.

These simple breakfasts gave my older boys a hot meal right away. It also allowed them to get started on their work when the house was quiet. Last, it provided a hot breakfast right away for my little ones.

What is an example of a more involved, family-style breakfast?

The second way is a more involved, family-style breakfast. This is the way we do breakfast now. We returned to this type of breakfast after my husband took over breakfast preparation. He is a morning person, and I am not, so I was thrilled for him to do breakfast! With five “men” in our household, bigger breakfasts became a necessity.

Our breakfast also has the new feature of needing to be grain-free, gluten-free, low refined sugar, and restricted dairy. So now, we do the following:

Monday: almond flour pancakes and fruit

Tuesday: eggs and sausage patties

Wednesday: blueberry waffles with fruit

Thursday: eggs with bacon

Friday: smoothies with grain-free granola

My husband begins breakfast prep around 8:35. He actually sets up his breakfast equipment the night before. The boys all sit down together for breakfast at 9:00. The older boys have already gotten more than an hour of school in by then. Yet, they opt to wait to eat. They love eating together with the other boys and enjoy the bigger breakfast! My husband actually sets the timer, and breakfast is done in 20-25 minutes.

Consider how you could streamline your breakfasts.

While you may not love these particular choices, maybe they will get you thinking of how you could streamline your breakfast. How can you get your kiddos going in the morning without all of the production that breakfast can bring?

Think about whether you want to eat breakfast together or whether stagger-starting would work better.

Since we all sit down together for both lunch and our evening meal, these are our family together times. For me, this means breakfast can be either family-style or stagger-started. Ponder your breakfast, and consider how you could gain a good start to your day. See what works for you in the approaching school season!


Tired and Overwhelmed Young Homeschool Mom Asking for Help

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.