A Hybrid Approach to Beyond Little Hearts and Bigger Hearts for 6-8 Year-Olds

From Our House to Yours

A Hybrid Approach to Beyond Little Hearts and Bigger Hearts

Heart of Dakota’s (HOD’s) Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory (Beyond) has a target age range of 6-8 years old. This means the bulk of the guide is geared toward children within this target age range. So, the history, geography, timeline, science, Bible study, devotional, music, art projects, poetry activities, and read-alouds all are very appropriate for children ages 6-8. These subjects are more inspirational, and as such, have a wider range of appropriate placement. In contrast, language arts and math are more disciplinary subjects. These subjects have a smaller range of appropriate placement. They require more fine tuning. There are already multiple levels of reading, spelling, math, and copywork in Beyond’s plans. However, what if you are combining a 6 year-old with an 8 year-old that is just ready for more in language arts and math? Well, you take a hybrid approach!

A Hybrid Approach to Handwriting

Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory (Beyond) already has writing options for copywork. Students use classical poetry provided in the Appendix of Beyond for copywork. You can already customize handwriting by choosing how many lines of the poetry each student copies. Younger students might begin by copying one line of poetry each day. Older students might copy four lines of poetry each day. But what if your 8 year-old is advanced in handwriting and is ready for cursive? Well, you take the hybrid approach by adding either Cheerful Cursive or Italic D from the Bigger Hearts guide!

A Hybrid Approach to Math

Beyond has two math options. The first option includes 1A/1B Singapore Math. The Beyond guide has wonderful hands-on daily math plans to teach the 1A/1B math. In the Appendix of the Beyond guide, there is a second option for using 2A/2B Singapore Math. This schedule uses the textbook to teach 2A/2B, with the workbook to follow. However, if you prefer hands-on math plans to teach 2A/2B, or if you have one super smart little one that places in Singapore Math 3A/3B, it’s time to take the hybrid approach! How? Well, you use the Bigger Hearts teacher’s guide. With daily hands-on math plans for 2A/2B, by using the Bigger Hearts guide, you don’t even need to buy the 2A/2B Textbooks. So, really, by using this hybrid approach for 2A/2B, you’re getting the Bigger Hearts guide for nearly $30 less (the guide less the cost of the textbooks).

A Hybrid Approach to Spelling

Beyond includes two spelling options already. Spelling list one is easier than spelling list two, and both are included in Beyond’s daily plans and Appendix. However, if your 8 year-old is ready for harder spelling in the form of Charlotte Mason’s studied dictation, it is time to take the hybrid approach! The Appendix of the Bigger Heart’s teacher’s guide includes Dictation Level 2. This is the first of eight levels of studied dictation, and it is the next, harder level of spelling instruction after Beyond’s spelling list two. So, if you have an 8 year-old in Beyond who is ready for studied dictation, take the hybrid approach by adding the dictation plans from the Bigger Hearts guide!

A Hybrid Approach to Grammar

Each Day 5 of each weekly unit in the Beyond teacher’s guide already includes an activity to teach a grammar skill. The grammar lessons in Beyond usually don’t require much writing, so they are perfect for 6 or 7 year-olds ready for grammar but not ready for a lot of writing! However, if your 8 year-old is ready for daily grammar with more writing, it’s time to take the hybrid approach! Just add the Bigger Heart’s R & S English 2 grammar plans for your 8 year-old!

A Full or Partial Hybrid Approach

So, if you have an 8 year-old or nearly 9 year-old using Beyond for a core guide, either solo or combined with a younger sibling, consider a hybrid approach! Choose a full hybrid approach for an 8 year-old ready for more in all language arts and math areas. Or, choose a partial hybrid approach for an 8 year-old ready for more in just one or two areas. Either way, you can easily use a full or partial hybrid approach alongside Beyond as your main guide. Better yet, you won’t be out your Economy Package savings the following year when you use Bigger Hearts as your main guide! Just let HOD know you already purchased your Beyond guide from them the year before, and HOD will still apply your $20+ package savings when you order the rest of the Economy Package later. Hope you enjoy some of these hybrid approach ideas!

In Christ,



Help for My Struggling Speller

Dear Carrie

Help for My Struggling Speller

I am getting ready to start the second half of Heart of Dakota’s (HOD’s) Bigger Hearts with my 8 1/2 year-old son for his “3rd grade” year. He is still a struggling speller. Therefore, he does not write sentences yet. This is something I really want to work on before starting Preparing Hearts. I’ve not used the spelling lists in our manual. I was using an outside spelling curriculum, but I just haven’t seen many results. Should I start with the word lists in Bigger Hearts and go from there? Do you have any suggestions for me to help my struggling speller? Can you explain your thoughts about spelling in general? Thanks in advance!

“Ms. Please Help Me with My Struggling Speller”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Me with My Struggling Speller,”

Thanks for sharing about your son! This is a good question. Spelling in the early years is often quite tied to a child’s reading. This is because kiddos at the early stages of spelling are often sounding out their spelling words as they write them. So, in the early years, as your child’s reading progresses, the spelling will lag a bit behind that reading progress in coming along too. That is not to say that in the long haul spelling and reading progress are always linked as that is not necessarily true, since the spelling words get longer and harder.

Regular practice in capturing the correct mental image of a word is the skill that needs to be developed.

Another thing to keep in mind for kiddos that are struggling spellers is that more drill is not really what they need. Regular practice in capturing the correct mental image of a word is the skill that truly needs to be developed in order for the mind to know whether a word that has been written is written correctly. This is the skill that is being developed in Beyond Little Hearts and Bigger Hearts.

It is also one of the reasons why the other writing the child is doing during that season of learning is kept to copywork or copying from a correctly written model. This is because we don’t want the mind capturing the incorrect image. Having a child inventively spell many words results in the incorrect spelling beginning to “look right” in the mind’s eye. So, to prevent this same thing from happening during spelling lessons, be sure to immediately erase any incorrectly spelled word and have the child copy the correct spelling over top of the erased word instead.

Spelling time can be thought of as ‘mental training time’ rather than thought of as ‘memorization of specific words’ time.

Think of spelling time as mental training rather than seeking memorization of specific words. In that way, every error is an opportunity to swoop in and retrain the mind. Be vigilant as you do the spelling lessons. As soon as an incorrect letter is written in the spelling of a word, erase it away and redirect to the correct image (showing the index card with the correct spelling upon it). Be sure to use a dark colored marker on a white index card too when writing the spelling words (as directed in the guide). This helps the mind capture the image of the word even more clearly. Over time you will see continued progress with your struggling speller.

Dictation builds on the mental picturing skills practiced with the spelling lists in Beyond and Bigger.

Dictation builds on the foundation of mental picturing that is practiced in the spelling lists in HOD’s Beyond and Bigger. This is where kiddos actually start to pay more attention to spelling in the context of sentences. It is the moment where they realize spelling is about writing a string of words correctly. It is mental imaging taken to the next level. This is often where kiddos start doing a bit better in spelling, if they had a hard time in the word lists that they did before beginning dictation. This is because in dictation they are putting to use the mental imaging and beginning proofreading and auditory skills they practiced in Beyond and Bigger and are applying them.

Studied dictation teaches many skills that help struggling spellers.

Through studied dictation, kiddos learn to transfer the skills of capturing a correct mental image of a string of words, of hearing the sentence and repeating it back correctly, of writing the words in the correct sequence (including all punctuation and capitalization), and of proofreading and correcting their work to make sure the right mental image remains (rather than the wrong one). Over time, these skills transfer to kiddos’ proofreading their own written work in other subjects. You can see this is all a part of spelling, but it is a process that takes years to internalize. This is why I encourage you to keep on going, patiently guiding and diligently correcting. You will see progress as the years pass. Just make sure not to put the focus on word memorization but rather place the focus on the ultimate long-term goal of writing correctly and proofreading in daily work.

With these methods, even struggling spellers will make gains in the area where it really counts.

So, I would definitely encourage you to follow the plans for spelling in Bigger Hearts for the last half of the guide.  My own third little guy struggled with the spelling lists in Beyond and Bigger too. He improved as he headed into dictation, even though he is by no means a natural speller. In CTC, he really started to show some carryover and improvement in his daily written work. Now, he refers back to his reading material to copy the correct spelling of words within his written narrations. This is another moment where capturing the correct mental image of words (i.e. names and places) and transferring them to paper in written narrations comes in handy. I share this to encourage you! Over time with these methods, even struggling spellers will make gains in the area where it really counts.




Use coupon code MAY-LIBRARY for 10% off both variants of the Emerging Reader set!

Library Builder

Use coupon code MAY-LIBRARY for 10% off both variants of the Emerging Reader set!

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 MAY-LIBRARY on our website for the entire month of May to save 10% on both variants of the Emerging Reader set. To view all of the books in this set, just click here!

How does the Emerging Reader set work?

The only difference between the two sets is the Bible. The Early Reader’s Bible is a little bit easier for your child to read than the Beginner’s Bible.

Regardless of which Bible you choose, these books will be a great resource for your beginning reader! We suggest that this set of books be used right after phonics instruction. Since each book in this set gets progressively more difficult to read, the strength of your child’s reading ability will be constantly moving forward to that of an independent reader. Just follow the Scheduled Books for Emerging Readers found in the Appendix of Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory and in the Appendix of Bigger Hearts for His Glory. The schedule listed in the Appendix has been carefully planned to utilize interesting books that gradually increase in reading difficulty throughout the year.

Use coupon code MAY-LIBRARY to save!

To apply this month’s savings, just enter coupon code MAY-LIBRARY 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

PS: Here’s a helpful teaching tip on getting the most out of the Emerging Reader set!

I’m in a Placement ‘Pickle’ After Taking a Longer Break

Pondering Placement

I’m in a Placement ‘Pickle’ After Taking a Longer Break

I’m in a pickle. Just over a year ago, my daughter had almost finished Beyond, and my son was about halfway through Bigger. Our son was having trouble staying on task. He isn’t a motivated student, and he had heart issues to work on. So, we took a longer break from Heart of Dakota. I now need to decide “what’s next.” The other night, lying in the dark and trying to quiet my own voice so I might hear God’s, the thought plunked in my head …. “HOD“. What? Is this my idea or His? Then this flood of memories hit me: washing our house like the Hollanders, playing games, hauling an egg in a container of flour all. over. the. house. Good memories. Heart warming memories. But, I’m in such a placement pickle! I wouldn’t even know where to pick it up again.

A Little Background on My Daughter

My 8 1/2 year-old daughter just started R & S Math 4, has had no formal grammar, and only does copywork for writing. We did read the Bigger Hearts Storytime and DITHOR books all last year. But, I’d just order a different Storytime set and DITHOR set. I just had my daughter try some lessons from R & S English 2, and they went well. She could keep her math and English.

A Little Background on My Son

My 10 1/2 year-old son just began R & S Math 5, completed English 2 back in Bigger, and does copywork in cursive and free writing in print. In Bigger’s dictation, he got to #40. Last year, he read the HOD DITHOR books I bought. I would place him in 4/5 or maybe 5/6. The pickle is I don’t know if I should put my son with his sister in Bigger with the extensions, or if I should place him in another guide? If another guide, which one? Preparing? CTC? If I look at the guides by age, I get a sinking feeling about putting him CTC when I see the amount of work and independence required. I’ve never had him tested, but he just seems to have some sort of slight delay. He is a smart guy, but he has issues following and  understanding directions. Hmmm. A placement pickle.

A Little Background on the Two of Them and the Rest of the Family

Ironically, being with his sister isn’t too competition-filled. He’s perfectly content to let her steal the show. It’s when he has MORE work/HARDER work than she does that he starts comparing and complaining (i.e. “Why do I have to do x, y, and z and SHE doesn’t?? I never finish at the same time as she does!” )  When I mentioned to him that if he did Bigger again I would be adding an additional reading assignment for him (the extensions), he complained. Preparing is one that I’d consider for him, but I’m concerned he’d give me grief about how his assignments are harder than his sister’s. I also know Bigger and Preparing are pretty teacher intensive. So, I should also mention that I’m going to start my littlest, 5 year-old son in Little Hearts for His Glory, so I’ll have 3 students. Placement pickle.

No matter what, I just have to say it’s really GREAT to be back with HOD! I just love HOD and feel… at home!

No matter what, I want to say it’s really GREAT to be back here with HOD! Over the last couple of days I’ve really been welling up with excitement and at the same time, peace. It’s hard to explain, but I just take it as God’s hand. Everyone has been so wonderful, as always. I find the boards here to be such a awesome place of support and advice. Just another reason I love HOD and feel… at home. I feel like one of the reasons I have been led back to HOD is because there hasn’t been much joy in the homeschooling part of our home. I’m hoping that will return. So, would you please help me with this placement pickle?

Carrie’s Reply to This Placement Pickle:

It’s good to “see” you! Thanks for taking time to share your journey with us. We all know that each family is different and that finding the right fit can be a process. As we work through this placement process, a couple of things keep coming to mind when I’m reading this thread. If I am misreading this, I apologize, but I’m feeling your concern over getting your plate too full and also feeling your concern over how hard to push your son without it becoming a daily battle. Be encouraged that these are concerns we all have! But, I do think it is wise to address those as we look at a potential plan to get you out of this ‘placement pickle’ for your year.

Advantages of Combining in Bigger Hearts

From what you’ve shared, it sounds like your daughter will fit well in Bigger. Since you have been away from HOD for a bit and never really got through Bigger, it is possible that your son could also join your daughter there. This would help with your workload, making it more manageable, and would also leave you some options as to how much to push your son.

Bigger with Extensions, DITHR, and R & S English for Your Son

Bigger with extensions for your older son, with the addition of DITHR and Rod & Staff English sounds like it might be a good step up for him. Doing DITHR and Rod & Staff English daily (as scheduled in Bigger) sounds like it would up the writing component for him quite a bit. As the year progresses, having him also do the twice weekly oral and twice weekly written narrations (even if it is just a paragraph) with the Bigger Extensions would continue to raise the bar. But, you could work up to that, simply beginning with having him do the Extension reading and oral narrations first. The Bigger Extension Pack also has once weekly science readings with brief questions to answer which would up the level of science.

Language Arts Options for Each Child

If you combined your kiddos in Bigger for most things, I think your daughter could do English 2 (as scheduled in Bigger). Your son could do English 3 or English 4. It sounds like your daughter could do the Emerging Readers or DITHR 2/3, depending on her level. Your son could do DITHR 4/5 (with the 4/5 Boy Set of books). One thing to ponder is that it helps to do a guide that still allows enough time for you to do English and DITHR as scheduled, as these are two of the 3 R’s (making them so important). If you get yourself spread too thin, you might find that you are regularly skipping DITHR or English, or both.   I do think combining your kiddos in Bigger would allow time to do that.

I’d try combining in Bigger first to see if it might be a fit.

If you did pursue the combining in Bigger path, and later felt your son needed to move forward, you could always assess again and move him forward if needed. In addition, there are many skills taught in Bigger that are realized in Preparing, so your time spent teaching and training the kiddos in Bigger is always worthwhile. I do think pondering doing both Bigger and Preparing is a pretty heavy load. There are mamas that do pull it off and have it go well, however they have settled in for longer days, knowing those two guides together can be a challenge. I’m not saying that you could not pull off Bigger and Preparing, but I’m more inclined for you to try combining in Bigger first to see if this might be a fit. If it is, it would be a blessing to you as you journey. Sometimes what is best for a season or a year changes the next year, but for this moment in time these are my thoughts.

In Closing

Anyway, just a few thoughts to ponder that should fix this placement pickle quite nicely! Feel free to share your own thoughts too! I’m so glad that you have had a chance to sift and sort through options and pray over them to find the Lord’s leading. What a blessing it is that we can gather together here to encourage one another on this journey! I’m so glad that you found some threads that were an encouragement as you pondered. The board is full of wisdom, and full of families seeking the Lord’s best however that looks for them.


Help My 2nd Grader Grow into the Amount of Writing in Bigger Hearts

Dear Carrie

How can I help my 2nd grader grow into the amount of writing planned in Bigger Hearts?

My son is in 2nd grade and doing HOD‘s Bigger Hearts for His Glory. He loves it all, except the amount of writing. He does poetry copywork every day and sometimes Bible verses. Additionally, he writes within his science notebooking, dictation, and sometimes history activity writing. I switched him to doing Rod and Staff 2 orally because he couldn’t handle the writing. He also does one sheet daily from Abeka’s language arts. All of this together is too much for him. He is overwhelmed, and his handwriting is getting worse. I would say in a day, he does the Abeka sheet and one other area mentioned above. I’ve been doing Rod and Staff 2 with him orally. I placed him in Bigger Hearts, and I think it is the right placement. But, how can I help him grow into the amount of writing he should be doing?


“Ms. Please Help My 2nd Grader Grow into the Amount of Writing in Bigger Hearts”

Dear “Ms. Please Help My 2nd Grader Grow into the Amount of Writing in Bigger Hearts,”

First of all, take a moment to rejoice that your kiddo is doing well and enjoying Bigger overall. That is a wonderful thing! Next, I just want to encourage you that many kiddos struggle with writing of ANY sort. It is something to grow into, just like learning to read or learning to do math problems.

To reduce the amount of writing, I recommend doing most of Rod and Staff orally.

As far as English, there’s no need to do Abeka in addition to Rod and Staff. So, I’d pick one or the other. Since your little guy doesn’t enjoy writing, I’d choose Rod and Staff, as it is easy to do orally. In the Introduction to Bigger, I actually recommend doing almost all of Rod and Staff orally, and only assigning one small portion to be done in writing each day. So, you’re actually doing Rod and Staff the way we intended by doing it almost all orally!

We rotate assignments to keep the amount of writing in balance each day.

Next, in the daily plans, we actually rotate the writing assignments around, so you’re not doing all of those writing assignments on any one given day. So, make sure you’re following the plans as written, and that will help you not to get overloaded with too much writing.

Try reducing the amount of writing by omitting the optional poetry copywork.

As far as writing activities go, you’ll need to keep the scheduled dictation. However, you can reduce the amount of writing by omitting the poetry copywork. In Bigger Hearts, the poetry copywork is only suggested but not scheduled daily or required. If your little one is doing cursive, then the poetry copywork could be skipped. I know that we didn’t do it with my second son, and it was fine.

Other Suggestions for Lessening the Amount of Writing

That will leave one other writing something each day to be done (either copying a Bible verse, doing a history notebook assignment, doing a science notebook assignment, or doing a science experiment form). With each of those assignments, you can lessen the amount of writing by writing the beginning part of a sentence or even a sentence or two for your son. Then, just have your sweetie finish the rest. You can gradually move up to requiring a little more of it to be written by the student until you eventually work up to full-speed by the end of the year. Make sure not to do more than one vocabulary word either (and you can even do the writing for your student on that one, taking dictation, until he can work up to doing it himself).

Many kiddos need to grow into the amount of writing required, so just ease into it to find success!

Writing will always be an area that takes some growing into for MANY kiddos. No matter what program you use, there will be writing required. Just allow your child to ease into it, gradually moving up as he’s able, and you’ll eventually find success!


P.S. Looking for ideas for going half-speed in Bigger Hearts or in Preparing Hearts with a child for other reasons?  Click here to find some half-speed options with daily language arts and math!