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.





Tired and Overwhelmed Young Homeschool Mom Asking for Help

Dear Carrie,

I am a young overwhelmed homeschool mom who needs some tips to help us be more productive with homeschooling. My daughter is in 1st grade in Heart of Dakota now. Last year I overbooked us with too many extracurricular activities. Lesson learned! This year we bought a house, moved, had a baby, and just sold our first home on Friday. But, I feel like I am drowning and cannot accomplish much of anything. My children are 7, 3, and 3 months. I have made reading and math a priority, but I cannot seem to keep us disciplined to do Little Hearts full-speed on a daily basis. She might even be ready for Beyond…, but I’m afraid to introduce a guide that takes longer when we cannot even finish LHFHG.

I think the biggest problem area for us is that I do not start my day early enough. I am NOT a morning person, and the waking every 3 hours to nurse does not help. My shower in the morning is my coffee, but that puts an even later start to the morning. Meal planning and prepping is another big drain! It seems to take at least 1-1.5 hrs to get everyone fed and the dishes cleaned after every meal. And dinners take longer! My oldest loves Heart of Dakota when we get to it! I’d love to start my 3 yo with Little Hands… when she turns 4 yo soon. Thank you in advance from a very tired and overwhelmed mommy!


“Please Help This Tired and Overwhelmed Mommy Make Time for Homeschooling”


Dear “Please Help This Tired and Overwhelmed Mommy Make Time for Homeschooling,”

Thank you for sharing here! My tips vary a bit due to your specific situation, but I want to encourage you! Small changes make big gains! Since you’ve just moved and have a new little one, you are in a transition phase in life. With this in mind, I would seek to do the following:

Not everyone is a morning person!
  1. Accept that you are not a morning person. I am not one either. With this in mind, set a time that you can realistically begin school each day, and then stick to it. I began school at 9:00 or 9:30 for many years (until my older sons, who are more morning-focused workers could get up on their own and begin without me)!
Focus on half-speed LHFHG for 45 minutes by setting aside distractions.
  1. Make sure that when you begin school you are focused on school. Set aside the distractions (i.e. mess, phone ringing, doorbell ringing, laundry, meals, texting, computer) as much as possible. For now, I would downsize to half-speed LHFHG. Do the left page one day and the right side the next. Do this until your house gets in order. It will only take 45 min. a day this way, and you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel! You can still do reading every day but make sure that it takes 15 min. or less to do reading. You can alternate days of math, doing it every other day for now until your house gets into shape. Can you set aside everything except school and caring for your little ones for 45 min. a day? Definitely. At the end of the year, you can assess again and see if she is ready for Beyond. For now, use the materials that you already have and work on moving through LHFHG steadily until year end. Think of this as much about routine as it is about the skills.
You can start Little Hands… half-speed with your little one.
  1. When you get ready to start your little one on LHTH, do it half-speed too. This means 3-4 boxes one day and the other 3-4 the next day. This will add 15 min. to your day. Can you school for an hour a day total every day? Yes! Manageable goals done every day mean steady progress forward. This is better than random forward motion.
Plan how your kiddos will spend the rest of their day to buy yourself extra time for other tasks.
  1. Next, have some sort of plan every 30-45 min. or so for your kiddos throughout the rest of the day. This may sound exhausting, but in reality it will save your sanity. List all of the things each child does throughout the day, and make a loose schedule for each child to keep them rotating along through things during the day (changing every 30-45 min). Use your timer to time their activities and have them clean up when the timer rings. Doing this will buy you 30 min. here and there throughout the day that you wouldn’t get otherwise.
Routine breakfasts and lunches save the day!
  1. Make a routine easy breakfast menu that is the same every week for Mon-Fri. Do the same for lunch. Type it and post it on the fridge. Enlist your older child to help make breakfast and lunch. Keep the menu easy prep-wise and clean-up wise. Having the same menu each week for breakfast and lunch helps you know what to shop for and helps your kiddos know what to get out when it is time to eat. It will cut down significant time in preparation and clean up too. Make dinner your bigger meal and use your crock pot for that as much as possible to save you prep. before dinner. Assign each child a “set the table” and a “clean-up after meals” chore(s) to do. Keep the chores the same all the time, so your kiddos get good at them and always know what “their” chores are to do automatically.
This is a good time to set routines that help get your house and homeschooling in order!
  1. Think of this time as a time to get your house in order, grow your baby up a bit, set some routines in place, and figure out how to calm the chaos. Start schooling steadily at a similar (realistic) time every day and school in a similar order. If you do this for even a week or two, you’ll begin to see the benefits! Make sure you allow yourself to sleep when you can. Think of this as a plan you’re striving to work up to! You can do this!!!




P.S. Please check out our new youtube video that has an overview of Little Hands to Heaven!  Please ‘like’ and ‘subscribe’ to help us become ‘branded!’  Thanks!!!

Kindergarten or First Grade with Heart of Dakota: A Solid Start and a Great First Impression to Homeschooling

From Our House to Yours

Little Hearts for His Glory 

Kindergarten and/or first grade is such an exciting ‘first’ for our children, isn’t it?  They are at the age where we feel we are truly starting their schooling.  It’s exciting and worrisome to us parents all at once!  Because children are not required to do kindergarten in South Dakota where we live, kindergarten became our ‘let’s give homeschooling a try’ year.  My husband was not so sure.  I was not so sure I was so sure.  But, the risk seemed minimal, as we didn’t have to ‘do’ anything to declare we were homeschooling. So, we decided to give it a try and use Little Hearts for His Glory!  Written for 5-7 year olds, it seemed just right!  With a choice of resources for LA, math, Bible, and science, it recognized our little one  was more ‘kindergarten’ in one area and more ‘first grade’ in another. But, I could just customize the homeschool year for him, so it didn’t matter!

A Happy Start Equals a Strong Finish

Well, fast forward, and I guess we must have liked it!  We just graduated our oldest son, having done Heart of Dakota all the way to 12th grade.  For the record, best thing we’ve ever done.  Part of the reason we loved homeschooling so much all these years was our happy start to it!  First, with Little Hands to Heaven.  But, then really next with Little Hearts for His GloryI could just tell we’d found our ‘home’ in homeschooling.

A Complete Kindergarten Or First Grade That Leaves Time for Naps and for Play

I’m old enough to remember kindergarten being half-days.  Morning kindergarten.  Afternoon kindergarten.  Why did they do half-days?  Well, I think they realized little ones couldn’t be in school all day. Their attention span just wasn’t up to that long of a day, and neither was their energy level.  Naps.  Little ones need naps or at least down time.  They just tucker out.

I remember my mom sharing how when she subbed for kindergarten, little ones during nap time on mats would inch close to her.  One by one nap time mats moved as close to her as possible until they could almost touch her.  I think they just wanted to feel close to her. Well, I loved how close my little ones felt to me doing Little Hearts for His Glory!  I also loved how we did enough school to cover all the bases, while still leaving time to nap and to play.

Children wonder what school will be like, and their start to it makes its mark on their forever impression of school.

In homeschooling, kindergarten or first grade is a child’s first impression of what ‘real’ school will look like.  Children wonder. Will they be good at school?  Is school going to be interesting?  Will school be fun? Is school going to overtake all of their life so there is no free time left?  Will their teacher love them?  Well, praise the Lord, yes, at least to the last ‘wondering’ question.  Their teacher in homeschooling will love them.  But, the rest of the questions are good food for thought!

Little Hearts for His Glory answers children’s ‘wondering’ questions with a resounding ‘you will love homeschooling and be good at it too!’

Enter Little Hearts for His Glory!  Thorough? Yes.  Complete – all subject covered!  But, to name the nuts and bolts – formal phonics, daily handwriting, fine motor skills, math with hands-on activities, and read alouds with follow-up skills.  Interesting?  Yes!  A one year chronological sweep of history via amazing books, cuddle up reading time via more amazing books, science experiments via even more amazing books.  Fun? Uhh, yes.  Science experiments, dramatic play, art activities, rhymes in motion, and critical thinking games. Christ-centered?  Yes.  Please, let us start our homeschooling with Christ – He is the foundation after all, right?!? Bible study, corresponding music, devotional time together.

So to sum it up…

First, Little Hearts… is history-focused and Christ-centered:
  • Bible Memory Work
  • Devotional Topics
  • Science Discovery
  • Art Projects
  • Dramatic Play
  • Thinking Games
  • Rhymes
  • Gross Motor Skills
  • Music

Second, Little Hearts… focuses on integral language arts and math skills. It includes the areas listed below:

So, first impressions are important!

It feels like the pressure of the world beginning homeschooling.  There is bound to be opposition.  Family may not support you. Friends may not understand you. Acquaintances/the world may skeptically question you.  Deep down, you may not even be sure what you are doing is right.  Well, deep breath.  Little Hearts… has you covered.  Children begin their homeschooling learning all they need to know while still thinking ‘Wow! This isn’t so hard after all!  I am GOOD at school!’  Likewise, parents begin their homeschooling equipped with all they need to know while still thinking ‘Wow!  This isn’t so hard after all!  I am GOOD at homeschooling!’

Bonus for both parent and child – school doesn’t take all day!

1  1/2 hours a day. That is totally doable for child and parent! No pre-planning or late night prep work gathering strange supplies.  Moreover, no weekend have-to trips to the library.  Finally, no last minute make this or that to have the homeschool day work.   Just get up, open your guide, and enjoy your teaching!  Your little ones will be able to show you their best because their day is not overly long.  They can actually pay attention and give you their 100% best!  Likewise, you’ll be able to give them your best for the same reason.  Kindergarten/first grade is what makes or breaks homeschooling.  So why not start knowing you’ll be able to finish?

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

In Christ,


P.S.  If you check out the placement chart and your little 5 yo is not quite ready for Little Hearts…, click here to check out Little Hands to Heaven!  And don’t worry about ‘missing’ using Little Hearts – remember you can just use it for first grade!