Guide Placement for My 5 ½ Year Old Kindergarten Son in Heart of Dakota Homeschooling

Pondering Placement

Question: Hello to the Austin family! Could you please help me with placement in Heart of Dakota for homeschooling my  5 1/2 year old son? He will be 6 in October, and this fall will be his kindergarten year. What placement would you suggest for my kindergarten 5 ½ year old son? Looking at the first page of the placement chart he is…

  1. 5  1/2 years old and turning 6 in October
  2. ready for phonics instruction
  3. at the beginning stages of writing
    • dislikes handwriting and coloring
    • writes the ‘J’ and the ‘u’ in his name really well, but the ‘d, ‘a,’ and ‘h’ are questionable
    • occasionally writes from right to left instead of left to write (but this is sometimes normal, and he’s not dyslexic)
    • can draw a stick figure and most of the body parts
  4. ready for gentle intro to basic parts of speech
    • he was a little late to the game with speech due to allergies
    • he tested for speech therapy and did not qualify
  5. math will be no problem, as he is strong in this area

With handwriting being second on the placement chart in order of importance, would Little Hands to Heaven be best? Although with him just finishing Pre-K, perhaps Little Hearts for His Glory for kindergarten would be a better fit? I know it is not advised to repeat the same guide twice, so I don’t want to repeat Little Hearts. Which guide would you suggest I place my kindergarten 5 1/2 year old son in this year?  Any advice is appreciated!

Reply: Thanks for sharing your findings about your son in regard to the placement chart!

That is always the first and best step to determining placement! We find this information incredibly helpful, as every child is different in needs and skills. As I was reading through your initial post, I think Little Hearts… would be a good fit for your son. It sounds like he fits well there on the placement chart overall. Much of what you shared as far as fine motor challenges isn’t that uncommon for boys upon entering Little Hearts. Your description actually fit my own third little guy when he began Little Hearts as he was turning 6.

Three Factors to Consider When Choosing Placement Between Little Hands… and Little Hearts…

There are three factors to consider when choosing Little Hearts… or choosing doing Little Hands… with Little Heart’s… kindergarten options. First, we want to consider your son’s age. Second, we want to consider the fact that he has already been through quite a bit of kindergarten readiness. Third, he seems to really make strides when you work with him one-on-one. In conclusion, all of these factors make me lean more toward Little Heartswith the K options.

An Easy Pacing Schedule for Your Kindergarten Son and for You

This could perhaps be done just 4 days a week, stretching 9 weeks into the next school year to finish. This plan would allow him to grow up a bit before getting to Beyond. But, it would also keep him moving forward more closely with his age-mates. While I dislike comparisons, age does help give us some guidelines when we’re trying to decide between two good options. In your son’s case I think it tilts the decision more in favor of Little Hearts.

Once you get Little Hearts… and its resources that go with it from us, you’ll be able to tell better. You’re also welcome to return anything within 30 days for a full refund or in exchange for something else. This should help ease the decision-making process a bit!



P.S. For more on placing your child in the right guide, click here!

Sharing Time of Favorite Homeschool Assignments at the Kitchen Table

From Our House to Yours

Sharing Favorite Homeschool Assignments Around the Kitchen Table

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

Encouraging Discussions by Asking What Children Are Reading or Learning Lately

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

Taking a Few Minutes to Share Favorite Assignments from the Day

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

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

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


In Christ,


Are your expectations realistic as to how long your school day should be?

Teaching Tip

This is the next post in our series of things to check if your school day seems to be too long. I know this can happen to any of us, and hopefully these tips may help!

When you think back to your school days, how long were they?

In public school, my days were close to 8 hours. I also had a couple of hours of homework at night and on the weekends. Of course, the school day at home can and should be shorter! But, what should our expectations be for a homeschool child?

Are your expectations realistic as to how long your school day should be?

Sometimes in our quest for the “shorter day,” we forget that school is meant to be a big part of our child’s day. It is meant to be very important! This means school is not something to “get over with,” so we can get on with our day. Instead, much of our day should be focused upon school.

Is school a priority at your house?

As your child’s teacher, teaching should be a priority and a focal point of your day. It is easy for meals, laundry, cleaning, and caring for little ones to become the focal point of the day. While these are all very important, school needs to be a priority. Molding your day around school takes a different mindset than molding school around your day. Plan for meals, laundry, cleaning, and caring for little ones in a way that doesn’t derail your school day.

How can you make school a priority?

Strive for 30 minute chunks of time to work with individual children. Then, take a brief 5- 10 minute break to move your other needed tasks along. Wait to do grocery shopping, baking, extensive meal preparation, and longer tasks until the afternoon. Strive not to answer the telephone, the doorbell, emails, or texts during school time unless absolutely necessary. Dock your devices and focus on school. Make the time until lunch very productive school-wise. Do your main teaching up until lunch. Then, after lunch finish up whatever remains. Save more independent subjects for students to do after lunch. Don’t drag school out all day. Make it a priority and finish in a timely fashion. Then, move on to your other tasks.

How much time does each guide take?

Little Hands to Heaven = 30 minutes a day (5 days a week)

Little Hearts for His Glory = 90 minutes a day (5 days a week)

Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory = 2 – 2 1/2 hours a day (5 days a week)

Bigger Hearts for His Glory = 3 – 3 1/2 hours a day (5 days a week)

Preparing Hearts for His Glory = 4 hours a day (4 days a week)

Creation to Christ = 4 – 4 1/2 hours a day (4 days a week)

Resurrection to Reformation = 4 – 4 1/2 hours a day (4 days a week)

Revival to Revolution = 4 1/2 hours a day (4 days a week)

Missions to Modern Marvels = 4 1/2 – 5 hours a day (4 days a week)

High School: World Geography = 6 1/2 hours a day (4 days a week)

High School: World History = 7 hours a day (4 days a week)

High School: U.S. History I = 6 1/2 – 7 hours a day (4 days a week)

High School: U.S. History II = 6-7 hours a day (4 days a week)

Note: In the guides from Preparing Hearts on up, an increasing portion of the day is independent. To be effective, work done independently will still need to be monitored and checked.

I hope this series of tips has been of help to you!

This is the last tip in our series of things to consider when looking at the length of your school day. Each of these tips I’ve shared over the past weeks have helped me so much through the years! I pray they may be a help to you too!


School day too long? Check your times for each subject with the author!

Have you trained your children in Charlotte Mason style skills?

Is your child placed in the right guide?


Ways to Study for Charlotte Mason Dictation Passages

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

Charlotte Mason’s Method of Studied Dictation

Heart of Dakota uses Charlotte Mason’s method of studied dictation to teach spelling beginning in Bigger Hearts for His Glory.  Charlotte Mason’s dictation emphasizes the studying of a passage in order to fix it within one’s mind. Students practice the habit of making a mental or a photographic image of the text. This includes paying attention to how words are spelled, where capital letters are found, and which punctuation marks are used. Training the mind to capture correct images of words, sentences, and eventually passages is a powerful tool in spelling. Often it does more for kiddos who have struggled with spelling than any amount of memorizing rules can do.

Three Different Sons, Three Different Ways to Study for Dictation

When my three sons first began studying for their dictation passages, I gave them helpful tips on how to study. I’d point out the paragraph indentation, any difficult words to spell, and any punctuation marks. Then, I’d give each of them as much time as they needed to study the passage on their own.  They would call me when they were ready, usually within 5 minutes.  Interestingly enough, each of my sons developed their own unique way of studying for dictation.

Study Method #1 – Wyatt’s Way of Studying:
Passed 9 Dictation Passages in a Row

Wyatt would read the passage in his head first a few times.  Then, he’d get a black dry erase marker and a white markerboard.  While reading the passage  through another time, he’d jot on the markerboard anything special to remember.  So, for example, he’d write the first word of the paragraph indented and capitalized.  If there was a punctuation mark after a word, he’d write the word and then the punctuation mark following it.  Any words that were difficult to spell also made it on the list.

All of these notes were jotted like shorthand, moving sequentially from left to right on the markerboard.  They were even written on the proper place on the markerboard within the right ‘lines.’ Of course, there were no lines on the markerboard. So to me, it just looked like a bunch of floating words and punctuation marks on the markerboard. I finally asked him what he was doing. Imagine my surprise when he explained his method to me!  When it came time for me to read the passage to him,  the markerboard was put aside.  This method of studying for dictation worked well for Wyatt!

Study Method #2 – Riley’s Way of Studying:
A Silent Successful Way of Studying for Dictation

Riley’s method was quite simple.  He studied the passage in complete silence.  All the studying was going on in his head.  When I asked him how he was studying it, he simply said he was reading it in his head.  He said he just pictured it as he read. This method of studying dictation worked well for Riley!

Study Method #3 – Emmett’s Way of Studying:
Nana and Emmett Doing Dictation Together

Emmett’s method is much like his personality, talkative and exuberant.  He talks through the entire passage out loud.  As he reads, he gives commentary on the passage.  For example, “Hmmmm.  ‘Flo-rence’ with a ‘c’ ‘e,’ NOT with an ‘s’ at all.  Oooh!  ‘Night-in-gale’ – that’s really 3 words, Mom!” He also circles on the page anything he wants to remember, like capital letters and punctuation marks. Finally, to practice spelling difficult words, he closes his eyes and spells them out loud.  He tells me he is picturing the word.  Then, he opens his eyes and either shouts “Got it!” or “Shoot!”  If he says “Got it!”, he spelled it right. If he says “Shoot,” he spelled it wrong, and he studies the word again. Then, he closes his eyes and tries again until he can spell it out loud and shout “Got it!” This method of studying dictation is working well for Emmett.

Finding Your Own Way to Study for Charlotte Mason Dictation Passages
Dictation Builds Strong Spelling and Careful Writing Skills

In summation, dictation is an excellent way to train our children to write carefully with good spelling and mechanics.  It is a good idea to model how to study the passage to our students. Drawing attention to capitalization, punctuation, and easily misspelled words is especially helpful. However, students may find their own unique method of studying for dictation, and this will probably be their best method. Therefore, personal study methods are to be encouraged. Hopefully my sons’ methods will help you and your children find success in exploring your own personal dictation study methods!

In Christ,

Homeschooling Multiple Children During a Health Crisis

Dear Carrie,

We’ve loved homeschooling with Heart of Dakota for years now, but my second son was recently diagnosed Type 1 diabetic. I feel we are in a health crisis right now, and I have multiple children My oldest is 9 years old and works fairly independently in Preparing. I’d like to keep him moving forward, as he is doing so well and is loving his year. Our 8 year old son (diabetic) is on unit 15 of Bigger. In attempting to start my 5 year old in Little Hearts…, I’m overwhelmed. I also have a 2 year old. I feel they are each placed correctly. But, a lot of my time is now spent managing my son’s blood sugar, preparing meals, and such. Even though we truly enjoy Heart of Dakota, I’m struggling. What should I do? Thanks in advance for your advice!


“In a Health Crisis Mom of 4”

Dear “In a Health Crisis Mom of 4,”

A diabetes Type 1 diagnosis is a big life change, and you have to give yourself a chance to adjust! My grandpa and father had diabetes later in life, and my nephew was diagnosed with Type 1 when at 14. So, I can glimpse a little bit of the adjustments you are currently going through. I also see that you have a two-year old at your house, so you are one busy momma!!

Your 10 year old son can keep moving forward in Preparing Hearts.

Thank you for sharing about each of your children!  It sounds like you’ve placed them well.  I agree that it makes good sense to keep your Preparing Hearts child moving forward. That child is more independent and the routine of doing the guide consistently will continue to be good for him.

Your 5 year old has several good options to slow down the pace in Little Hearts.

Your 5 year old can definitely slow down the pace and wait to do Little Hearts… full-speed. You can downsize to doing phonics, math, handwriting, and the Rod and Staff workbooks from Little Hearts daily. Or, if you prefer, you can do Little Heart’s two-page plans half-speed. This can be as simple as doing the left side one day and the right side the next day. Either way, this would get your school time down to about 45 minutes a day for your kindergarten child. I did find with a couple of my own boys that doing Little Hearts half-speed worked for us for a season. It kept things changing and fresh too. I felt like I was still moving forward and had the option of going to full-speed whenever I was ready.

Your 8 year old can slow down the pace to half-speed in Bigger Hearts until you both adjust.

For your Bigger Hearts child, you can definitely shift down to half-speed for a time. This will help as you adjust to the new medical needs at your house. You may even find that slowing down will help your Bigger Hearts child produce more careful work. As you adjust a bit, you can slowly move your Bigger Hearts child up to full-speed. You can just keep your 5 year old at half-speed for the rest of this school year.

Slow steady progress is still progress forward!

Take heart that even slow, steady progress forward is still progress! It is amazing how much you can get done through the years if you just keep slowly moving forward. That has been my encouragement through the years, and I hope it can be yours as well!