Let the design of the HOD guide help you keep your day in balance.

Teaching Tip: 

Let the design of the HOD guide help you keep your day in balance.

My tip this week has to do with the design of our guides. Each guide is designed in a way that is meant to help you keep your days in balance.

The boxes in the guide work together to create a balance of skills each day.

Each box in the HOD guide has a specific pattern it follows each week. Each box also has a certain set of skills it is meant to help your child gain. The boxes work together to create a balance of skills each day. The boxes also work together to utilize a variety of learning styles across the day.

Following the daily plans lets the design of the guide work for you.

My tip then is to encourage you to follow the HOD plans by doing a day of plans within a day. This means striving not to shift boxes to a different day. It also means not grouping multiple days of the same boxes together on a single day or skipping boxes. While this seems like such a simple tip, you will truly reap huge benefits if you let the design of the guides do the work for you. This is because the design of the guides automatically sets a routine in place each day. This routine focuses on a balance of skills daily and hits all the learning styles daily.

When you tweak a guide, you remove the pattern and balance of skills and learning styles.

Often, when you tweak an HOD guide, you are removing the patterns that lead to independence. Tweaking also shifts the balance of skills that keep a child from frustration. Last, tweaking affects or omits the variety of learning styles that keep each day fresh without you even realizing it.

Try using the guides as written and see if your day feels more balanced.

I encourage you to try using the guides as written. You may be surprised over time to find that your child is happier and so are you!


Tips on What Order Works Well for the Boxes of Plans

Heart of Dakota Life

Tips on What Order Works Well for the Boxes of Plans

I love this time of year when I get to put together my homeschool schedule! The organizer in me comes to life, and I begin to craft my schedule to best fit our stage of life. Some things in my schedule change every year, but others remain the same. As you craft your schedule, I thought I’d share some tips on what order has worked well for us for the boxes of Heart of Dakota’s plans!

Try putting the Bible box of plans first! Then, follow up with the Corresponding Music box of plans!

God’s rightful place in our lives is first, so why not put the Bible box of plans first in our day?!? Whenever possible, I schedule Bible as the first box of plans for each child to complete. I want our children to learn to have their own personal Bible Quiet Time as a lifelong habit. It is my prayer that this habit continues long after our homeschooling is done. I have my sons do the Corresponding Music after/with their Bible Quiet Time or Bible Study, as these go together.

My son, Emmett, loves wood-working. I have said so often that I want to put God first in my day that he made me a little wooden cross. He suggested I put it on my end table next to my bed. Every morning I wake up, I see that little wooden cross. It reminds me that after all Jesus has done for me, the least I can do is start my day with Him! I want my children to do the same, and starting with the Bible box of plans and Corresponding Music conveys that!

Keep the Reading About History box of plans and the follow-up History box of plans together!

The Reading About History box of plans provides the backbone for all of the left side of plans. The follow-up history box(es) of plans are meant to be done after the reading of the books in the Reading About History box. In the younger guides, there is one rotating history box of plans. It is directly underneath the Reading About History box of plans, and it works great to do this box right after reading the history book.

In the older guides starting with Preparing Hearts for His Glory, there are multiple boxes of history plans. Each box of plans has its own purpose and teaches its own skill. After reading the history, it is a good idea to the rotating box of plans. The rotating history box of plans is found on the left side of the guide. In Preparing Hearts for His Glory, for example, the rotating boxes of history plans are Research, Vocabulary, Geography, and Timeline. After completing the rotating history box of plans, it is nice to do the History Project box of plans. This flow has a beginning reading, a rotating follow-up, and an ending project – all connecting the history theme beautifully!

Other Tips on What Order to Do the Boxes of Plans

There is a lot of leeway in how to choose to do the rest of the boxes of plans. I like to rotate seat work things with active, hands-on things whenever possible. Especially for active children, I like to keep things moving! I also like to alternate disciplinary and inspirational subjects. Click here to read more about that! If you are like me and are teaching multiple guides, I find it helpful to end with something my child can finish independently. For example, I might end my teaching block with the History Project because I can get my child started and then walk away to help another child as he finishes his project.

Finally, I take into consideration what might be too much in a row for particular children. For example, my older two sons liked to do their dictation, grammar, and math all in a row. My younger son did NOT like this! It was too much in a row for him. Another example – as a young child, one of my sons was a strong reader but not a strong writer. For this child, I spread out his writing. If he did a written narration in history, I made sure not to put his formal writing curriculum assignment next. A final example – one of my sons lost focus when reading too many books in a row. For this child, I spread out his reading. For example, I would have him do his DITHOR reading after lunch. Hope these tips help as you ponder what order you’d like to do the boxes of plans!

In Christ,

Thoughts on Shifting Things to Make Bigger Hearts 4 Days

Dear Carrie

Would you recommend shifting certain things each day to make Bigger Hearts a 4 day a week schedule?

Dear Carrie,

I love the design of Heart of Dakota‘s guides!  The balance you planned in each 2-page spread of plans is genius. I started the first few units of Bigger Hearts half-speed. Now, we are taking our summer break. When we come back, we will start half-speed for a bit. Then, I was thinking about shifting things around to make Bigger Hearts a 4 day schedule. However, I have learned a lot from using Heart of Dakota for the past decade. I know you have reasons for every bit of how you plan things. Before I consider this, I wanted your take on what this would do to the intended balance of the plans you wrote. Thanks!


“Ms. Please Explain Your Thoughts on Shifting Things to Do Bigger Hearts in 4 Days”

Dear “Ms. Please Explain Your Thoughts on Shifting Things to Do Bigger Hearts in 4 Days,”

Thank you for sharing you’ve enjoyed using Heart of Dakota for over a decade!  As you ponder the pacing of your year, one thing to remember is that each guide is designed to have a daily workload that is appropriate for the skill level of your student. Each day of plans is written with a careful balance in mind of visual, kinesthetic, and auditory assignments. Creative and more structured assignments are also balanced within a school day. Also, the activities on the left side and even some from the right side of the guide are meant to intertwine together as written within a day of school to allow kiddos to make connections.

When you shift boxes around, you lose the carefully timed workload, balance of skills, and planned connections.

I share all of this to say that when you start shifting boxes around, you lose the carefully timed workload, lose the balance of skills, and lose the connections that are designed to happen effortlessly. To show you what I mean, I’ll share this example. Imagine that you are a classroom teacher in a Christian school. Each week you spend your entire weekend and many nights writing a week of plans for your class. You work to be sure that each activity has a special purpose in that particular day, bringing out things from the history reading or the Bible or science that you desire your kiddos to relate together.

Each time you shift the plans, cohesiveness and connections are lost.

As you arrive on Monday, you discover that there is a two hour assembly scheduled for Monday that you were unaware was taking place when you wrote the plans. So, you begin shifting the plans, trying to keep what was really important together (which you can do fairly well because you wrote the plans). Now, later in the week there is a fire drill, and the plans shift again. Later in the week the guidance counselor stops in to talk about playground troubles, and more shifting occurs. By the week’s end, how well do you think those original lesson plans are functioning? How cohesive are they at this point? You sigh, and hope the next week will be better.

Shifting each week means your kiddos can no longer just follow the two-page plans.

If you do this shifting every week with HOD, you can quickly see what is lost! No longer can your kiddos just follow the two-page spread and know when the boxes are checked off they are done. No longer do you view your school day that way either, as you are constantly trying to squeeze more into less time.   At that point, you are pretty much rewriting the plans in a way that they were not designed to be taught. When we talk to moms who have shifted too many things in the plans, we often discover that they are on different days of plans in so many areas that both they and their kiddos are completely confused as to where they really are.

Homeschooling is a journey with steady progress forward rather than a race to the finish line.

I share this not to discourage you, but rather to encourage you with some wisdom I’ve gained through the years. As we homeschool our kiddos, we have to ask what it is we are racing to do? Why must we approach schooling in a way that has us cramming more into fewer days? Homeschooling is a journey that goes on for many years. It is not a race to the finish line, but rather requires steady progress forward.

I’d recommend teaching a day within a day and simply setting aside the guide on your day off.

So, if you have a child in Bigger Hearts and you need a 4 day schedule, I would recommend teaching a day within in a day (once you work your way up to it from half-speed). On your day off, simply set the guide aside. Then, when you return to your school, pick the guide up where you left off and go forward. Once you get to Preparing Hearts on up, you will switch to a 4 day plan anyway, so why not give your family every chance to succeed with Bigger Hearts by using it the way it was written? You always want to leave your kiddos begging for more in the early years, rather than leaving them (and you) barely getting done.  Enjoy the younger years, where the school day isn’t so long, because it will get longer soon enough!

Blessings to you as you ponder,