Nervous About Homeschooling in High School to Be Ready for College

Dear Carrie

I love Heart of Dakota and am excited by what I see is to come each year as we progress!  I especially see much progress now that I have each of my students placed properly, which is exciting to me! However, when I look far ahead, I get nervous about homeschooling in high school so my students are ready for college. So, how does HOD prepare students for college? How does HOD high school take a student from simply doing what is planned to being able to take a syllabus and knowing how to complete work more independently?  Thanks in advance for taking time to calm my nerves about homeschooling in high school!


“Ms. Nervous About Homeschooling in High School”

Dear “Ms. Nervous About Homeschooling in High School,”

This is such an important topic that is near and dear to my heart!  Many truly amazing homeschool moms feel they cannot homeschool through high school.  Let me put your fears to rest! You can, and Heart of Dakota can be your best help!  I’ll begin by sharing that at HOD it is definitely our desire to prepare kiddos as best as possible for college, should the Lord lay it upon their hearts to go. Our guides are written to help students earn needed credits expected by most colleges.

More Than Enough Credits

We take a 4 x 4 +2 approach to this by including more than 4 social sciences (i.e. geography, world history, two years of American history, government, economics), 4 years of English/composition, 4 years of math, 4 years of science with lab, and 2 years of foreign language. We also include 4 years of Bible and additional courses beyond that such as Health, Fine Arts, Logic, World Religions and Cultures, Speech, etc. This is our first step toward making sure students are adequately prepared for what lies ahead.

Plans encourage independence, initiative, responsibility, and time management.

Students gain independence in a variety of skills as they move through the HOD Guides. They must accomplish a wide range of tasks each day with minimal supervision. Getting behind has its natural consequences as the work load continues to move forward daily. The guide does not adjust itself for students who are not completing their work on time. So, the plans set goals for the day, and the students must figure out how to meet them. Simply telling students what to do does not equate to students doing it! Instead, completing assignments on time requires initiative, planning, time management, diligence, and follow-through (all essential college skills). Consider that the HOD guide’s directions are a training ground where students learn essential skills needed for success in life!

Reading and writing skills are rigorous and train students well for college requirements.

Another area in which HOD shines is in its level of required reading and writing each day. The guides are rigorous in their expectations in these two areas.  So, students can readily do the two most common portions of any college level class. They can readily read and write, manage their time well, and independently incrementally complete work!  Having these skills intact helps students have an easier transition into meeting college requirements.

Deep thinking is encouraged as well.

Our guides also require students to think deeply about a variety of areas, often foregoing the easy route and opting for assignments that require higher level thinking which must be put into words. Years of oral and written narration practice prepare kiddos to put thoughts from their mind into words and/or onto paper cohesively and creatively.

Long-term projects help students learn to budget their time over multiple days and weeks.

This brings us to the question of long-term projects and their place within the curriculum. I do believe that long-term projects are good as students learn to budget their time over multiple days and weeks. As such, we have included projects in every guide leading up to the high school guides, spreading one project over a week or longer in each guide. Drawn into the Heart of Reading also has projects at the end of each unit. We have included long-term projects in all of our high school guides as well.

College will be an adjustment, but our goal is to make that adjustment as seamless as possible.

College will certainly be an adjustment! But, our goal is to make that adjustment as seamless as possible. Two of my own sons are doing online courses for college right now. They have transitioned very well. My sons find college to be easier than their high school courses in some ways! Though they are both pursuing very different majors, they both use their time well! They quite naturally figure out how much to study each day, so they are prepared to finish on time.

I firmly believe HOD prepares kiddos for the needed skills required in college. Students who do the guides as written should find themselves able to adjust to the expectations college brings. I also believe that for students who do not go on to college, the well-rounded education received within HOD will help them all throughout life in whatever they pursue!

“Head” and “Heart” knowledge are both so important!

I cannot conclude without mentioning that the high school years are very important years for molding our students’ character, strengthening their faith, directing their attention to God’s Word, pouring their hearts into living as Christ desires, and seeking God’s will for their future. These are the goals that matter for eternity. This is why the HOD high school guides regularly address these heart issues. If we lose are children’s hearts in the pursuit of academics, what have we gained? Head knowledge does not equate to heart knowledge. So, we must address both! This was a priority from start to finish in writing our guides.  I pray our graduates are strong in both ‘head’ and ‘heart’ knowledge, all to the glory of the Lord!


P.S.  To read about some of our graduates who have been featured in our Heart of Dakota Graduate Spotlight, click on the links below and arrow down in the link to read about…



Tanner and Taylor


Isaac and Eva

Preschool with Heart of Dakota: Complete, Christian, Short, and Fun

From Our House to Yours

Little Hands to Heaven – a great preschool whether you’re just starting out or finishing strong!

Preschool with Heart of Dakota’s   Little Hands to Heaven is complete, Christian, short, and fun.  What could be better for this exciting time?!? Our little ones are full of life and energy, and they are raring to go!  As homeschool moms, we may be at the start of our homeschooling and raring to go too, dreaming about homeschooling our first precious blessing from God.

Or, we may be somewhere in the middle of our homeschooling. Realistically, multiple children with many needs can lessen the excitement of beginning to homeschool another little one.  It can be tempting to always focus on the oldest, who is forever entering new and exciting stages.  Especially if our own education was less than satisfying (which let’s face it, for most of us homeschool moms, it probably was).  We begin to love learning alongside our oldest child, and beginning to teach another little one can become, well, less exciting. In short, though we love each little blessing the same with all of our mama’s heart, we may be weary.

Well, wherever you are in your homeschool journey, if you have a preschool aged child, I want to encourage you! Little Hands to Heaven for preschool truly is a doable blessing. Each week I’d like to focus on a new guide in this blog series. So, let’s start with preschool first, and each week, let’s ‘grow up’ a guide at a time together!

Letter Activity Fun
Do you long for something more meaningful than just letters… letters… letters… numbers… numbers… numbers… for PreK?

Everything you want your preschool to include is already a part of Little Hands to Heaven!  I like it because it reminds me of a mini-kindergarten.  Many other preschool programs only focus on letters and numbers… the whole year.  Don’t get me wrong!  Letter recognition, letter formation, letter sounds, and early math skills ARE important, and they are a part of Little Hands.  However, that can get a little dry day after day, for both you and your little one. In contrast, Little Hands… adds pizazz with a mini-version of Kindergarten subjects like history, art, Bible, devotions, and music.

Bible Activity Connection

Furthermore, Little Hands… has history – BIBLE history!  What can be better than that?  It’s Christian. It’s chronological. Moreover, it’s inspiring.  Finally, it’s planting seeds that are hopefully sown upon fertile ground.  It keeps Christ front and center from the start, and the Bible history theme each week connects all the skills being taught.  Pretty memorable!  Which is exactly what we want for our little ones.  Skills meets retention meets the Lord.  A winning combination!  Not to mention, all the get-up-and-move parts of the plans! Dramatic plays, active exploration, fingerplays, art projects – your little one needs to move, and Little Hands… has that covered!

Dramatic Play
Okay, so to recap, let’s check out Little Hand’s… complete line-up below:
  • letter recognition, letter formation, letter sounds and motions
  • early math skills
  • Bible history and activities
  • devotional topics
  • art projects
  • dramatic plays
  • active exploration (science/health topics)
  • fingerplays
  • music
Fine Motor Skills and Letter Review
So, now you may be wondering, with all these great skills, will you have the time to teach Little Hands…? 

The answer is definitely ‘yes!’ No matter what stage of life you are in! Twenty-five to thirty minutes.  That’s all!  Your preschooler will demand that much attention anyway.  Why not give it in a planned, well-balanced, meaningful way?  You young, new homeschool moms may be saying, “Hmmmm.  I’m not sure that’s enough time.”  You seasoned, veteran homeschool moms may be saying, “Hmmmm. I’m not sure that I have enough time.”

Well, young moms, it is enough, and the good news is, you can add in other fun things if you want – like walks in the park, picnics in the backyard, or read-alouds and field trips galore. Veteran moms, you do have the time, and it will erase the guilt of not spending quality time alone with your little one.  And if you truly don’t have the time, an older child can enjoy teaching Little Hands… to a younger sibling, and you can come in on the parts you care most about!

Making a Color Book with Older Brother
Added benefits -you don’t need to plan ahead, leave your home, start a certain time of year, or buy extra things to do Little Hands!

Open-and-go.  Get up and teach!  Did you get to bed late caring for everybody but yourself?  Was there little sleep for you last night because you were up with a sick child… up tossing and turning… up because you aren’t feeling well yourself?  Is it November, and you wanted to start something with your little one in August but haven’t? Well, grab some coffee, stumble out of bed, and open that guide.  That’s all there is to it.  Buy one Little Hands… package. You have what you need… and it won’t cost you much… and you can reuse it.  Plus, the plans are not attached to holidays, seasons, or months.  So, anytime is a good time to start Little Hands!

One more surprising bonus – you actually get to be ‘fun mom!’

These are my sons’ words, not mine.  Let’s just be clear, when I was fun and young, I wasn’t so fun. I was trying to prove myself to all those people who thought homeschooling might not be ‘enough,’ and I prodded… quizzed… questioned… my poor oldest son too much.  Still, he thought when we did Little Hands… I was ‘fun mom’ – thank you, Lord!

Then, when there were health concerns for me and for my family when I began homeschooling my middle son, again, NOT ‘fun mom.’  Still, somehow when we did Little Hands… I was ‘fun mom’ again – who knew?!?

And then when I began homeschooling my last son, I was sure ‘fun mom’ was seriously out of commission.  I was weary, gals.  Somehow, miraculously, ‘fun mom’ reappeared apparently!  I know, because my son called our Little Hands… ‘playschool,’ not preschool.  And he brought his Little Hands… guide to me begging to do ‘playschool.’  New mercies… never-failing.  Turns out being ‘fun mom’ was awesome!  Often in the midst of some not-so-fun-things in life.

Fun Follow-up Activities That Use Whatever You Have on Hand

So, there you have it!  I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting Little Hands to Heaven!  Next time, I’ll introduce you to Little Hearts for His Glory! In the meantime, enjoy checking out the printable Introduction and first week of plans of Little Hands, as well as some of our most common questions!

In Christ,


Use coupon code LB-BHC for 10% off the Deluxe Package – Classic Interest in Bigger Hearts for His Glory!

Library Builder

Use coupon code LB-BHC for 10% on this month’s Library Builder book set: The Deluxe Package – Classic Interest in Bigger Hearts for His Glory!

We are excited to continue our  Heart of Dakota Library Builder book set promotion! On the 1st Wednesday of each month we will be promoting one of our book sets with a 10% coupon code. For this month’s special use coupon code LB-BHC on our website for the entire month of July to apply the savings to your order. The coupon applies to the Bigger Hearts for His Glory deluxe package – classic interest set of books.   To view all of the books in this set, just click here!

This set of books contains nine read-aloud titles, one for each genre of literature that is scheduled in the storytime part of the plans in  Bigger Hearts for His Glory. Each book is used for 20 days of the plans.

How is the Storytime part of the plans in Bigger Hearts for His Glory used throughout the year?

(From the Introduction of Bigger Hearts for His Glory):

Daily storytime sessions are based on literature that is read aloud from the following nine genres: Biography, Adventure, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, Nonfiction, Humor, Realistic Fiction, and Folk Tale. Each type of literature is read aloud for 20 days, except for Folk Tale which is read aloud for 10 days.

The instructions and activities are written to be used with any literature. This flexibility allows you to use your own discretion in selecting literature to read aloud to your students. The structure also allows you to select the pace at which you’ll complete your read aloud selection.

Each 5 day unit in the guide includes the following reading activities in coordination with the read-aloud assignments:
*1st Day: introduce and study different types of literature
*2nd Day: model narration to foster comprehension
*3rd Day: identify and analyze a different story element for each genre
*4th Day: relate personally to one Godly character trait, compare Biblical and book characters, and make a bookmark as a reminder of the trait
*5th Day: practice narration by retelling the story in a variety of ways

Use coupon code LB-BHC to save!

To apply this month’s savings, just enter coupon code LB-BHC on our website when you check out! We hope these books will be as treasured to you as they are to us!

Have a great rest of the week!
Heart of Dakota

Bigger Hearts for His Glory Notebook Question

Dear Carrie

My question is about the new Bigger Hearts for His Glory Notebook!  But, first a little background!  

I have a question about the new Bigger Hearts… notebook, but first I want to share a little about our family! We have used Heart of Dakota now for 3 years, and I AM ACTUALLY GETTING ALL OUR SCHOOL DONE!  GLORY HALLELUJAH! I’m loving the structure and heart behind HOD! I feel that this is right for us! As a reformed curriculum junkie, I have quit frantically trying to find “it.” I love how uncomplicated HOD makes schooling! It has been a joy and so peaceful in my house the last few years. We are learning as a family, though we are doing separate guides, and it keeps us balanced!

Heart of Dakota is a literature-based program that works well with many little ones!

If you are considering HOD, I highly recommend it. I have an 8.5 year old, 6 year old, 3.5 year old, and an almost 2 year old. Like I mentioned, we are able to finish our school every day! It has been manageable – and FUN! I. HAVE. HAD. FUN. teaching and watching my kids enjoy our homeschooling. In the past I tried a different literature-based program, because I wanted to read to my children. The thing was I couldn’t get all the HUGE amount of reading done.

The key concepts help keep us on track!

With so many moving bodies and interruptions, I was constantly getting behind and frustrated. Especially frustrated by not being able to tie the concepts together for my daughter. HOD’s key concepts keep us on track, and I love how the lessons are woven together. A BIG thank you to Mrs. Austin from this momma!!!

So, now that my oldest is moving into Bigger Hearts, here is my question about the new notebook!

We are getting ready to order Bigger Hearts for His Glory.  I wondered if I order it now, is the guide now updated to match the new notebooking pages?  If the Bigger Hearts… guide isn’t yet updated, will the new notebooking pages work with the old guide? Thanks!


“Momma of Many Littles Asking about Bigger Heart’s Notebook”

Dear “Momma of Many Littles Asking about Bigger Heart’s Notebook,”

Thank you so much for sharing about your family! We had such fun creating the new notebooking pages for Bigger Hearts…!  It has been something I’ve wanted to do for awhile but until I finished writing the high school guides, I just didn’t have the time. When creating the notebook pages for Bigger Hearts, I tried to stay as close as possible to the previous notebook assignments in earlier versions of the Bigger Hearts guides.

In the end, I would say that about 75%-80% of the notebooking assignments will work quite closely to the way I wrote the plans in the previous versions of the Bigger Hearts guide. The other 20%-25% of the assignments also correspond with the plans in previous versions of the guide. But, the student may not know exactly what to do with the page as their part has changed. You can click here for samples of the notebook pages.

A large foldable timeline is also included in the notebook pages.

There is also a large foldable timeline to assemble at the end of the notebook pages. If you have an earlier version of the Bigger Hearts guide, you can find assembly directions for the Bigger Hearts timeline on Unit 1 – Day 5 in the “Timeline” Box of the sample plans on our website. We have updated those sample pages, so they show the 2018 version of the plans. You can click here for those plans!

I hope this helps! Of course, if you have a previous version of the guide it still works as written without the new pages. Either way, happy notebooking!





Seven Time Saving Tips for Multiple Read Alouds in Homeschooling

From Our House to Yours

We all love, love, love the Charlotte Mason living book read alouds!  But, what if you have multiple read-alouds and not much time due to some difficulty going on in your life?

Our children are each more than 3 years apart and very different in skills and maturity.  Consequently, they place in 3 different Heart of Dakota guides.  We’ve actually loved using multiple guides because each child thrives and is appropriately placed.  Therefore, there is no tweaking, no skipping, no comparing, and no supplementing. Little ones are finished earlier and have less independence.  Older ones have longer school days and more independence. Likewise, skills are appropriate for their ages and materials are appropriate content and maturity-wise. However, if you happen to have many children placed in different younger guides who cannot read, you will have multiple read-alouds.  I’m thinking of helping you dear ladies when I write this blog. So, the subject of this blog will be 7 time saving tips for multiple read alouds!

First Tip: If you have older students who can read well, make sure they are doing the reading for all the “I” boxes of their plans.

Starting in Resurrection to Reformation, the Storytime part of the plans can be either “T” teacher-directed with the parent doing the reading, or “I” independent with the student taking over the reading (as long as they are able).  We have found our kiddos enjoy reading it on their own at this point anyway, so that would be a first suggestion if you have older students. Or, if you can’t bear to let go of this, set a timer for 10 minutes.  Read aloud until it rings, and then your older student can finish the reading independently. Then, you can just do the short Storytime follow-up with them.

Second Tip: If you have older kiddos, have them take a turn reading to the youngers.

If you are using several younger guides with multiple read-alouds, and you have older students as well, try having those older students take a turn reading aloud – our younger sons have loved this! They can cuddle up on the couch, choose a reading corner, or have a cup of hot cocoa together.  The books are amazing in Heart of Dakota already, and often times older kiddos enjoy rereading books they’ve had read to them before!

Wyatt Reading Traveling the Way to Emmett for Creation to Christ’s Storytime
Third Tip:  Look to your extended family members for help!

Family members can often see when you are going through a tougher time in life and want to help but don’t know how!  A family member (husband, mother, father, mother-in-law, father-in-law, older child, aunt, uncle, etc.) can easily help by reading aloud a chapter a day in a recording device.  We gave a book or two to multiple family members and had them record a chapter read aloud at a time, and then we had them for years to come to be enjoyed!  Now that my father as passed away, these recorded read-alouds are especially precious, and they saved me some time when I needed it! I know Mike’s mother recorded read-alouds of her reading a set of Storytime books each summer for the Austin’s sons.  Those read-alouds are also precious, and the recordings have been put to good use for many years!

Our mom has read aloud to all 7 sons/nephews through the years!
Fourth Tip:  Choose a time of your convenience to record yourself reading a chapter each day.

Sometimes it is just more convenient to read aloud a chapter a different time of day than you are homeschooling!  Our phones are easy recording devices these days, so why not record yourself reading a chapter each day from one of the multiple read-alouds at a time of your convenience? I spend a fair share of time waiting, how about you?  Waiting for appointments.  More waiting in my car for my kiddos.  Still more waiting for someone running a little late. Why not use that time to record yourself reading a chapter? All you need is a Storytime book and your phone. I’d do this for the oldest child’s read-alouds first, as you can then use it again when your younger child does that guide!

Fifth Tip: Try moving one of the multiple read-alouds to bedtime. 

This is great to do for a younger child, as often times reading a book before bed is a fun, cuddle time that is a wind-down for sleeping well! Often times families are doing this anyway.  Why not read aloud one of the living books in your Heart of Dakota plans?  Just be sure to have the guide nearby and do the short follow-up, and doing it at night is easy-peasy!

Sixth Tip: See what books you can order on audio or on audible!

Many books are now available on audio or on audible. However, one very important caution for this time saving tip…make sure your child still has the book and is following along in it! This is important for building reading comprehension skills and vocabulary.  It may be tempting to just have kiddos listen to books, but Charlotte Mason would not have been a proponent of this.  Real books held in one’s hand foster connections not made otherwise. We found some used cassettes of books online one year and just used a tape player. I know this is old school, but this was inexpensive and while it was not as much my favorite as me reading the books aloud or a family member, it really helped me through that busy, busy year when I had many doctor’s appointments for my newborn!!!

Seventh Tip: Start recording yourself as you read aloud to your oldest during the homeschool day.

You’re already reading aloud!  Why not just record yourself doing it?  Sure, it may not be perfect.  The baby may cry in the background.  A phone or doorbell may ring.  That’s ok!  As long as it’s clear enough, it’s good enough.  Just put some gusto into your reading.  I’ve found it often drowns out the worst of background noise. You may as well start this with the oldest child, so the youngers can enjoy the readings later.  Who knows?  They may be as precious one day to your children as my dad’s recorded readings are to me today!!!

Wonderful memories of my Dad here with my son, Wyatt, and my sister, Carrie!!!

I hope this gives you some practical time saving tips for multiple read- alouds!  The summer is often a perfect time to try some of these tips – especially if you want family members to help!  So, why not give one of these time saving tips a try this homeschool year?

In Christ,