HOD Guides: A Journey to Enjoy Not a Race to Complete

Teaching Tip

Think of the Heart of Dakota guides as a journey to enjoy rather than a race to complete.

Are you getting closer to the end of your school year? If so, you may feel like rushing or cramming things in to finish your guide by a designated time. I encourage you to resist that urge. Instead, think of the sequence of Heart of Dakota guides as a journey to be enjoyed each step of the way. One guide’s skills will prepare your child well for the next guide to come. So, it’s best to use each guide to its fullest along the way.

Do you feel like rushing or doubling up days to finish your guide on time?

You may have had a year full of life’s unexpected surprises, or maybe you began Heart of Dakota later in your year. Either way, there is little benefit to doubling up days or doing multiple days in one in order to finish “on-time.” However, there is a huge benefit to solidly teaching the skills that are wound within each guide one day at a time. This steady progress forward will help students practice and form skills they will need life-long!

So what should you do if you find yourself “behind” in your progress by “year-end”?

First of all, accept where you truly are in the guide. No amount of rushing will change that fact. Second, make a realistic plan to teach a day within a day until your designated break date. During your break, reassess whether your children are still correctly placed in their current guide(s). Most likely, their current placement will still be best. If you have gotten very far off track for an extended period of time, it is possible that your children may need to be placed in a different guide. Third, after your break, either pick the guide back up where you left off or begin your new guide(s). Steady progress forward pays big dividends.

What did our family do when we were “behind”?

I share this tip with you, because I know from personal experience what it’s like to be “behind.”

In one of our years of schooling, we were behind by 10 weeks by year-end. The year had started with some medical challenges that ground our year to a halt before it even began! My husband finally stepped in and set a finish date for school regardless of where we were in the guide. During our break, we reassessed our boys’ placements. Our older sons needed to move forward to a new guide. So, after our break, they did. Our younger sons needed to keep going in their current guides. So, after our break, they did. For our younger sons, we just picked their guides back up where they had left off. Once this decision was made, I felt a huge sense of relief! We felt like we had done what was best for our boys in a difficult year.

We would love to help you too!

If you need help deciding whether your children are correctly placed for the coming year, please contact us! We would love to help!!


Why Doesn’t Heart of Dakota Use a Weekly Grid for Their Lesson Plan Format?

Parent and Student Roles in Homeschooling Work with Heart of Dakota

Help for a Child Who Has a Math Disability

Pondering Placement

Question: Hello to the Austin family! My 11 yo son is in Preparing… in Heart of Dakota now and doing great going full-speed! However, math is another story.  Could you please help me with placement in Heart of Dakota’s Singapore Math for my son with a math disability?

A Little Background on His Math Struggles

My 11 yo son used another math program (ACE) this year and has 1 ½ books left before he is done with the 2nd grade level. This has not been the best math curriculum for him. But, we used it as he could do it by himself, due to other time constraints I had. I now have more time to spend with him on the subjects in which he struggles. I am considering the Singapore math Heart of Dakota recommends. My question is if Singapore can be used successfully with a child who has a math disability? Thank you for help in pondering this placement!

Reply:  Thanks for sharing about your son’s math background!

This is an interesting dilemma. With the age of your son in mind, and considering the challenges he has had in math thus far, Singapore Primary Math could work well. The reason for this is because it is easier to move at a varying and/or accelerated pace through Singapore than it is with other programs that are more lock-step and have large volumes of daily work for each level.

Be sure to give the Singapore Math placement test first!

Singapore Math has a free and accurate placement test.  I would definitely give him the placement test, by clicking here.  Be sure to give him the placement test for the Primary U.S. 3rd Edition. I would begin with the 2A test and see how he does. I would be inclined to think he might begin in 2B, but with testing you will know better.

Be sure to assist your son during math time by sitting near him and drawing his attention to the word bubbles!

Since math is a challenging area, I think you will have to commit to sitting with him or being available nearby to help often as needed. Be sure to teach the Singapore method in the word bubbles of each lesson, as this will help! Then, I would move quickly through what your son knows and spend longer on what he does not. In this way, you could cover more ground. Be sure to use the U.S. Edition of Singapore, as the other editions have too much volume added to them which will slow you down.

Once you place your son, you can click here and scroll down on the following to order the needed levels of Singapore. This honestly may be a good option with only a semester or so of instruction time to move forward. I hope this helps!



Does having my child with special needs write create bad spelling habits?

Dear Carrie,

My daughter with special needs is able to read, but spelling is a huge issue. I am wondering for a child that can’t spell if writing practice is counter productive? I’m worried having her write things out is actually reinforcing bad spelling habits. I’ve been having her do beginning dictation with Heart of Dakota. But, I wonder if written narrations, where she is creating ideas herself, is just maybe reinforcing poor spelling in her mind? I do correct it. But, she still sees it when she writes it wrong the first time, and she makes the same mistakes over and over. What should I do? I guess my question is, does having my child with special needs write create bad spelling habits? Thanks in advance!


“Please Help with Special Needs Spelling in Writing”

Dear “Please Help with Special Needs and Spelling in Writing,”

Thanks for sharing about your daughter! Charlotte Mason viewed the mind to function like a camera.  As we see words spelled in written form over and over, we begin to think the word ‘looks right’ even if it is spelled wrong.  That is why spelling programs that include misspelled words for students to correct are detrimental to truly learning proper spelling!

You are so right that writing a word and seeing it incorrectly multiple times fixes the “wrong” spelling in your daughter’s mind, until the wrong way starts to look right!  So, whenever you do something where your daughter will write, copy a portion of it on the markerboard. She can then look at it to copy it on her paper correctly. Also, never have her copy so much that it wears her out. This will cause her copying to quickly go downhill, as I’m sure you know.

Or, if it is difficult for your daughter to copy from markerboard to paper correctly, you can write on paper instead. Just leave a space below each line for her to copy directly under your text letter by letter. Hope that helps!



Planned Meeting Times Make Correcting Homeschool Work Easier

How can planned meeting times help with correcting work more easily?

Plans may differ in level of involvement of teacher and student. But, they have one thing in common… the teacher must make sure the work has been done. This may be done by asking noted questions, checking written work, listening to the student, assisting in editing, etc. But, no matter how correcting is done, it is the teacher making sure all work is completed properly. One thing that makes correcting Heart of Dakota homeschool work super easy is to do it during planned meeting times!

This week, I’ll share how I correct work for my son who is using Creation to Christ. Next week, I’ll share how I correct work for my son in World Geography. Finally, the following week, I’ll share how I correct work for my son in U.S. History II.

Planned Meeting Time for Correcting Creation to Christ’s Bible Quiet Time and Teaching Dictation and Math

For all planned meeting times, Emmett must come with his guide, his books he’s used, and all completed work.  He must also bring any subjects I will be teaching during our meeting time.  For the first planned meeting time, he has completed his Bible Quiet Time.  I also teach dictation and math during this first meeting time.  For Bible Quiet Time, I simply ask him if he did each part and then follow the question up with additional checking.  Children are generally honest when asked direct questions!  I have the guide in hand, he has his Bible in hand, and we meet upstairs first thing in the morning.

Our conversation (which is in italics) during this first planned meeting time goes something like this…
  • Did you read pages 123-124?  What did you find most interesting about it? Oh, I love that part about Jesus too!  Did you pray your prayer of ‘supplication?’  Do you want to share what you prayed for, or is it more private? Ok, that’s ok!  I keep some of my prayers private too!
  • Highlighting your verse in your Bible was part of this lesson.  Can you show me your highlighted verse? Good job!
  • Did you sing with your Phil 2 CD?  Oh good, singing praises to the Lord is so important!  Why don’t you sing or say your verses for me?  Thanks – great job! (I only have him say his verse 1 or 2 times a week.)
  • Today was a day you were supposed to copy your verse in your Common Place Book.  Can you show me that?  Oh shoot!  You forgot!  Let’s do it now then.  Next time, try to read your plans more carefully and have your work done by the time we meet, ok?  But, good job overall!
  • Finally, I end this first planned meeting time teaching dictation and math.  I correct both of these immediately, with answer keys in hand.  I help him fix any mistakes in his dictation and math.
  • Then, we check off Bible Quiet Time, dictation, and math!  Hooray!
Planned Meeting Time for Correcting Creation to Christ’s Reading about History and Teaching Storytime, Genesis Study or Geography of Holy Lands, Poetry, and History Project

Emmett and I meet on the couch for this meeting time, as we like to cuddle up and read there.  First, Emmett shows me his Reading about History work he completed independently.  Next, I read his Storytime and do the assigned follow-up skill with him.  Then, I read either his Genesis study or his Geography of the Holy Lands.  We do any follow-ups and then read his poetry.  Finally, we discuss what he needs to do to finish his poetry on his own.  We also read through his History Project box directions, and I help him set up for that at the kitchen table.

Genesis Study on the Couch Together
Our conversation (which is in italics) during this second planned meeting time goes something like this…
  • Did you read p. 83-85 of Ancient Rome?
    • Research – Day 1:  Where did you look to find your research answers? Then, I ask the research questions.  The directions say to answer one or more of the questions, so I don’t require answers for them all.  He has his answers jotted on a markerboard ready to share.
    • Copywork – Day 2:  Can you read me the portion you chose from today’s reading you found memorable?  Be sure to read with pencil in hand, so you can make any corrections you think you need to as you read.  Let’s see your picture you drew.  Great job!  Please fix these things. (I put a sticky note with editing corrections next to the box for easy reference.  He corrects these immediately.)
    • Timeline – Day 3:  Can you show me your timeline entries?  Oh, I love the shield especially!  Can you use your guide to fix the spelling on the caption though?
    • Written Narration – Day 4: Did you read p. 90-94 of Ancient Rome?  Please read aloud your written narration.  Please be sure to have pencil in hand, in case you notice any corrections on your own as you read.  Good job fixing that misspelled word!  I loved the part your chose about Jesus’ resurrection too!  You still need to highlight the main idea though.  Do you see, here, where it asks you do that in your guide? Let’s find the main idea together.  Looking at your editing checklist, you did a great job with indenting and choosing a topic sentence!  You’re missing some punctuation though.  Listen to me read this, and see where I pause so you know where to add punctuation.  Let’s fix the misspelled words too.  We fix this all quickly together.
  • Finally, I end this second planned meeting time teaching his Genesis Study or Geography of the Holy Lands.  We do any follow-ups questions.  Map work is saved for the kitchen table, and I use the map answer key to correct it there.  Finally, we read his poetry and make a plan for what he needs to do to finish it on his own.  We also read the directions for the history project and make a plan for him to complete that.
  • Then, we check off Reading about History and Genesis or Geography Study!  He finishes his poetry and history project independently at the kitchen table.
Creation to Christ History Project
 Planned Meeting Time for Correcting Creation to Christ’s Poetry and History Project, and Teaching Grammar, DITHOR, and/or Write with the Best

Emmett and I meet at the kitchen table to first quickly correct his poetry and his history project.  (If it is a sharing day for the poem, we meet in the addition, and he shares with me and his brothers.) Next, I teach grammar, Write with the Best, and/or DITHOR, depending which are scheduled for the day.  Then, I go through his Independent History Study and Science Exploration directions with him.  We set out anything he needs to complete these.  Finally, he finishes the independent parts of DITHOR, grammar, and WWTB with me nearby to help.  I correct them as soon as he’s done, and he finishes his day with his independent history study and science.  These are left out on the kitchen table for me to correct before or after lunch.  As this is getting long – sorry – I won’t include my conversation during this block!

Creation to Christ Science Exploration
Planned meeting times help me stay on top of teaching and correcting!

Planned meeting times help ensure I get both my correcting and my teaching done.  Usually around 3 meeting times have worked well with my younger children.  Two meeting times have been enough with my older children.  The times with older students are much shorter in keeping with the increase in independent work. Planned meeting times make every child feel special.  Important skills are taught from year to year, and meeting times help none to be missed.  Meeting times also mean I’m done with both my teaching and correcting by early afternoon.  My kiddos are too!  This makes our homeschool time a happy time! It is kept in balance, so we can enjoy both our homeschooling and our free time.  Try some planned meeting times in your day!  You may find you love it – just like we do!

In Christ,

P.S. To find out more about having a written routine, click here!

Summer is coming! Are you allowing distractions into your day?

Teaching Tip

As summer is coming, are you allowing distractions to creep into your day?

If you’re anything like me, as I’m getting closer to summer I seem to get distracted more easily. I allow things to creep into my school time that aren’t technically school-related. I find myself whipping together preparation for the evening meal, folding laundry, talking on the phone, or answering emails. Instead, I really need to be focused on schooling during school-time. Usually I know better than to do this, but lately distractions have been creeping in more and more.

Try focusing on school and minimizing the distractions.

So, today, I returned to focusing on doing just school (without letting my time and attention stealers creep in). We finished in a MUCH more timely fashion and my kiddos enjoyed their school day more too! What a good reminder to me to do what I usually do and just focus on school during school-time. This leaves me more time later to do all of my other tasks when school is done! Plus, my kiddos had free-time which they love too! Try focusing on school during school-time today, and see if your day goes better.


A Wonderful Idea From a Veteran Homeschool Momma!