Prepare for the school year by reading the guide’s “Introduction”!

Teaching Tip

Reading the guide’s “Introduction” is great preparation for the school year.

You may be beginning to turn your thoughts toward school. One of the best ways to prepare for the upcoming year is to read through your HOD guide’s “Introduction.” There is such a wealth of information in the “Introduction” that we should truly title it something else!

How does reading the “Introduction” help prepare you for the year?

The “Introduction” will give you a feel for how each area is handled in the guide and the goals for each subject. It will let you know what notebooks, binders, etc. are needed for each subject area. Reading the “Introduction” provides a great summary of what to expect for the coming year. The “Introduction” is the last part of the guide we write. In this way, we can be sure that it truly summarizes needed information for you in one place!

If you have students in different HOD guides, read only one guide’s “Introduction” each day.

If you will be teaching more than one Heart of Dakota guide, read the “Introduction” for different guides on different days. This will help you focus on one guide at a time and will keep you from getting overwhelmed.

Can you use the guide without reading the “Introduction?”

Of course you can skip reading the “Introduction” and just jump right in and teach. However, often when families do this they miss the big picture of the guide. They also miss out on some gems that are referred to in the “Introduction” and included in the Appendix.

So, let’s get started!

After more than 15 years of homeschooling my boys with HOD, I still read the “Introduction” at the start of my school year! So, grab a cup of tea or coffee, cuddle up with your highlighter, and read away. Just reading the “Introduction” will make you feel more prepared!


Top Ten Tips for Teaching Multiple Guides

Alexander the Great: Brilliance and Brutality

History with Heart of Dakota

Who was Alexander the Great? 

Conqueror, explorer, leader, and visionary. These are just a few of the words that describe Alexander the Great. Born the son of legendary warrior-king Philip II of Macedonia, Alexander went on to outshine his father.  Philip transformed Macedonia from an unremarkable country to a ruling power in Greece; Alexander made Macedonia the ruling power in the entire known world. His conquests would stretch the Macedonian empire from the mountains of his homeland, to the sands of Egypt, to the expanses of Persia, all the way to the banks of the River Beas in India.

Personality of a Genius 

Alexander was a genius in more ways than one. First, his grasp of military tactics was unequaled in his day. He perfected the use of the phalanx – a tactic which his father had introduced. The phalanx was an infantry formation where soldiers grouped tightly together with each man’s shield protecting himself and his neighbor. In addition to this, each man also carried an 18-20 foot pike which he would thrust outwards from the shield wall. (Wasson) In a time where armies usually fought in a haphazard manner depending on sheer force of numbers to win, the phalanx gave Alexander’s soldiers a huge advantage. Oftentimes, enemy soldiers would simply break off his phalanxes like water off a rock. In addition to this, Alexander had distinct knack for sensing his enemy’s weakest position and massing his men to exploit it. Therefore, when his phalanxes came crashing through there was usually no stopping them.

Second, Alexander was a genius when it came to leading his men. He routinely made a point of leading the charge in battle rather than staying back in safety. Initially, he also insisted on sharing his men’s hardships. For instance, while marching his troops through the desert, according to biographer Peter Green, “…when a helmetful [sic] of muddy water had been found for him in some nearby gully – but no more was to be had – he laughed, thanked the donor, and then tipped the water out into the sand. So extraordinary was the effect of this action that the water wasted by Alexander was as good as a drink from every man in the army.” (434) Alexander lead by example, as all great leaders do. When his men saw him facing and overcoming the same challenges they faced, it inspired greatness in them as well.

Fatal Flaws

Nonetheless, Alexander was far from perfect. “Like many brilliant men,” historian John Gunther writes, “he was unstable…he ran from one extreme to another…” (46) While he could be caring and understanding, he also could be irrational and violent. He had a burning temper which resulted in him murdering some of his most faithful soldiers, such as Clitus and Parmenion. Also, during his final years he firmly believed himself to be descended from the Greek god Zeus. Those who did not acknowledge this were executed. (Gunther 138-139) Sadly, with no god to serve except himself, Alexander – once great – ended his life in drunkenness and confusion.

Lasting Impressions

Even though Alexander’s life was dramatically short (he only lived to be 32!) what he accomplished in that time has had repercussions that affect us to this day. His use of soldiers as disciplined units formed the gold standard in military tactics for hundreds of years afterward. In addition, by bringing many different countries under one empire, he spread the use of a universal language – Greek. Many scholars believe this was instrumental in spreading the Gospel 400 years later. He also founded many different cities – some of which remain to this day. (Many of these he named Alexandria, after himself.) Ultimately, much like God had used prior civilizations and kings to carry out His purpose in history, God used Alexander the Great to mold the world according to His own plan.

Which HOD guides can you find Alexander the Great in? 

Alexander the Great can be encountered in several of Heart of Dakota’s guides! You can find him in Little Hearts, Preparing Hearts, Creation to Christ, World Geography, and World History. You can also find a more in-depth study of him in John Gunther’s book Alexander the Great, which students can read in the extension package for Creation to Christ.


Green, P. Alexander of Macedon, 356-323 B.C. (University of California Press, 2013).

Gunther, J. Alexander the Great. (Sterling Publishing, 2007).

Wasson, D.L. The Army of Alexander the Great. (Ancient History Encyclopedia, 2014). 

Comparing Skills in Preparing Hearts and Creation to Christ

 From Our House to Yours

Comparing Skills in Preparing Hearts and Creation to Christ

Are you comparing Creation to Christ (CTC) and Preparing Hearts for His Glory (PHFHG)? Does your child seem to be sort of between the two guides? Well, PHFHG is a wonderful program, but I have to tell you CTC is too. When trying to choose between two guides, the guide that fits your child the best skill-wise will be the guide he/she probably gets the most out of and enjoys the most in the long run. Why? Well, HOD’s assignments in history, storytime, and even in science, incorporate language arts skills within the follow-ups. The follow-ups get more in-depth, more difficult, and use higher level thinking in each subsequent guide. This is why the placement chart can help so much! It is accurate and will usually show you which placement to choose. For example, comparing PHFHG to CTC, here are some skill-based areas that come to mind (the numbers coincide)…

Preparing Hearts for His Glory – Comparing Skills “1” to “4”:
  1. Parents and students share the history reading. So, parents read part of the history with more difficult books, and students read the other part of history with much easier books.
  2. Students begin the year by dictating a 1-3 sentence written narration for parents to write and for students to then copy. They then progress to writing a 5 sentence written narration and hi-lighting the main idea of it by the end of the year.
  3. Students create a staircase timeline out of index cards. They then assemble their cards accordion-style or on a closet door.
  4. History projects are simple, and they have fewer steps of directions.
Creation to Christ – Comparing Skills “1” to “4”:
  1.  Students read all of the history, and it is more difficult reading in both reading level and maturity content than PHFHG’s readings.
  2.  Students begin the year by writing a 5-8 sentence written narration. They also utilize the Written Narration Tips to edit their narrations and hi-light the main idea.
  3.  Students begin using a History Notebook for their timelines. This special “Book of Time” will eventually span Creation to Present Day. So, by the time students finish Missions to Modern Marvels, they have a chronologically complete “Book of Time.”
  4.  Students’ history projects are more involved and have multiple steps of directions.
Preparing Hearts for His Glory – Comparing Skill “5”:

5.  Preparing Hearts for His Glory’s Storytime read-aloud has the following responses:

  • First Day: Share personal connections that relate to the story.
  • Second Day: Identify differences between the characters’ lives and the students’ lives based upon the historical time period of the story.
  • Third Day: Evaluate the main character’s faith or its impact on the character’s life and the story.
  • Fourth Day: Practice oral narration by retelling the story.
Creation to Christ- Comparing Skill “5”:

5. Creation to Christ’s Storytime read-aloud has the following responses:

  • First Day: Give a detailed oral narration.
  • Second Day: Rotate through the following four narration activities: an outline sketch, a short skit, a question and answer session, and an advertisement speech for the book.
  • Third Day: Give a summary narration.
  • Fourth Day: Make connections between the story and Proverbs.
Preparing Hearts for His Glory – Comparing Skills “6” to “9”:

6. Students complete Geography quick-finds that are more basic. They use the globe and/or a world map one time each week for their quick-finds.

7. For Bible Study/Bible Quiet Time, two days a week students begin to learn to have their own Bible Quiet Time with parents overseeing it. The other two days students discuss their Bible with their parents, identify mood/purpose of Scripture selection, and copy verses in a Common Place Book. Students also memorize short passages from Psalms and sing with music throughout the year.

8 & 9. Students discuss Robert Louis Stevenson’s poems. Students make personal connections with each poem. They also share the poem with someone creatively and memorize a poem each 12 week term. Parents teach a creative lesson one time each week using the poetry as a model. This is the creative writing portion for PHFHG.

Creation to Christ – Comparing Skills “6” to “9”:

6. Geography uses a more in-depth study of the Holy Land using “A Child’s Geography Vol. II” two days each week.

7. Bible Quiet Time is done daily and has its own “box” in the plans. The DK Family Bible (or a Bible of your own choice) is used. The 4 Parts of Prayer are taught using the ACTS model. All of Philippians 2 is memorized and is sung along with music, as well as copied in the Common Place book.
Bible Study is done 2 days a week with a parent using “The Radical Book for Kids,” which provides  an in-depth Genesis study.

8. Poetry: Students read Robert Frost’s poems. They discuss each poem’s mood/meaning, memorize one poem each nine week term, learn about each poet’s life, and follow multiple step-by-step directions to learn to watercolor paint a painting each week to match the poem’s meaning.

9. Writing: the formal writing program “Write with the Best” is taught twice each week for writing instruction. It uses excerpts from classical literature, and the literature is quite difficult in content (i.e. Charles Dickens, Jules Verne, Wordsworth, etc.).

Comparing the Level of Difficulty of Assignments and Assessments

As you can see, when comparing the skills in these guides, the level of difficulty of assignments and assessments increases from PHFHG to CTC quite a bit. When students move through HOD’s guides in order, they incrementally move through skill sets in all subject areas. This is why placement is so much more than just the language arts and math labeled boxes. If you find yourself comparing PHFHG and CTC, I hope this helps you see which guide would fit your student better. However, you can also print out the first week of plans of each guide to see. All “I” boxes are for the student to do independently, “S” semi-independently, and “T” teacher-directed.

In Christ,

What should I do for high school for my 14 year-old who struggles?

Dear Carrie

What should I do for high school for my sweet 14 year-old son who struggles?

My son is 14 and starting 9th grade next year. He struggles with dyslexia, slow processing, working memory issues, and organization/attention. I read history aloud to him in his current guide, Revival to Revolution, but he still has a hard time with comprehension. He often asks me to re-read what I’ve just read. Written Narrations are extremely difficult. He does the State Study, Independent History, and sometimes the notebooking on his own. However, he often has to redo assignments because he misread directions. He does okay with EE’s Science and loves the experiments, but the Inventor Study is hard for him. He does fine with R & S English 6. For DITHOR, I chose Mr. Poppers Penguins, as it has short chapters. He’s doing well with VideoText and enjoys Bible.

A Brief History of My Son’s Prior School Experience

My son attended public school from K-4th grade. He was diagnosed with apraxia of speech and sensory integration disorder, and put on the autism spectrum. Later, they determined he was not on the autism spectrum. So, he was placed in the classroom with a 504 plan due to dyslexia and anxiety. He wasn’t passing tests, and they wanted him on medication. So, we decided to homeschool, combining him with his brother in Bigger Hearts. It was hard, but he made it through PHFHG. When he started CTC, it became apparent he just couldn’t read. So, he did an Orton-Gillingham type program for 25 minute sessions with a therapist. He had some great tools to tackle reading and writing, so I tried to put him in RevtoRev. This is hard! He’s so sweet, well-mannered, and tries SO hard. I really struggle with the thought of high school next year. Help!


“Ms. Please Help My Sweet Son with His Struggles in School”

Dear “Ms. Please Help My Sweet Son with His Struggles in School,”

Thank you for sharing about your son! One thing that I am hearing in your post is the frustration and struggle that school is right now for both you and your son. While some struggle can just be a part of learning, overall we don’t want the entire day to be a struggle, nor do we want your son’s high school years to be a struggle! With this in mind, I think some perspective is needed. It sounds like you have gotten your son some help for his reading and have some new strategies to employ. However, he really isn’t able to get the full benefit from that training right now because the reading is too far above him. It’s also important to note that he would be on an IEP (with modifications) if he were in the public school, and you are already modifying for him anyway.

By placing your son in Creation to Christ, he will be able to complete all the guides through Missions to Modern Marvels.

So, with all of this in mind, I would be inclined to place him in Creation to Christ (CTC). This would allow him to complete all the guides through Missions to Modern Marvels (MTMM) by the time he graduates. We have had families follow this plan for their high school students in the past, and it would allow him to earn many of his needed credits. Since you are already having to modify anyway, it would be better to meet him more closely to where he is now and proceed forward, rather than having him struggle so much.

He will be able to do the CTC readings and plans more independently.

If he did CTC, it would be probable that he could do the readings himself. It would also be possible that he could do more of the boxes in the way in which they were truly written to be done. I agree that using a lower level book for Drawn into the Heart of Reading (DITHOR) is a good idea. It is important to meet him where he is and go forward from there. Otherwise, everything he does will always be a struggle and over his head.

Incremental steps toward higher level learning will be a huge benefit to him!

Correct placement will automatically ease some of your burden and his, by shortening the assignments and adjusting the workload for you. Doing full-speed CTC would be better balanced than doing half-speed Revival to Revolution (RevtoRev). Taking two years to do RevtoRev and another two years to do MTMM is not as good of a plan as doing CTC, RTR, RevtoRev, and MTMM. You can see that you will end up the same place in either plan (by completing MTMM as a senior). Yet, the education he will receive by doing four guides instead of two, and the incremental steps toward higher level learning he will gain will be of huge benefit to him!

Your son will benefit from the many building blocks in CTC just by doing the guide as it is written.

I would do CTC as written, except for doing Rod and Staff English 6. I’d even be inclined to do the Life Science/Biology as written, knowing this will be an area of modification anyway through the years. I would do the scheduled writing program, WWTB I too. There are so many building blocks in CTC for all areas of education that I think he could really benefit from as he matures. It would be an excellent stepping stone to what is to come.

An Encouraging Story from a Mom with a Similar Situation

To encourage you, I’ll share that you are not alone in considering doing CTC for your son’s first year of high school. There are many families who have done this in past. I will share that I had a mom who was in a similar situation to yours who did this several years ago. She has followed exactly the path you are considering with your son. Her son is now a senior, and she has called each year just to tell us how pleased she is with this path and what amazing changes she has seen in her son’s attitude toward school and his ability to work on his own.

He is also severely dyslexic. He also had behavior problems that caused him to be expelled from three schools prior to coming to Heart of Dakota at the last minute after his freshman year had officially begun. She says he is a new person now, not because his learning comes easily, but because he CAN do what he is being asked and feels good about being able to do it. He does his own reading and writing, even though it takes awhile. He began CTC partway into his freshman year and did it as written with the exception of doing No-Nonsense Algebra instead for the math. School does not have to be such a struggle to be a success!


Update from “Ms. Please Help My Sweet Son with His Struggles in School”

I just wanted to post an update and thank you, Carrie! Just hearing the reminder that my son would need an IEP and modifications in public school put a lot of things back in perspective for me. Also, I was very encouraged by your sharing about the student who did this plan for high school! So, we started Wednesday morning and WOW! What a difference! He read the history out loud to me. I helped a little when he got tired and read a paragraph here and there for him, but the reading level and length ended up being perfect. He completed the History Project box on his own and enjoyed it. We actually finished Unit 1 Day 1 within an actual day. I am so grateful for this advice. It is JUST what he needed. I don’t think I would have ever considered CTC on my own. Thank you!


How can I improve my 11-year-old’s writing and independence in CTC?

Dear Carrie

What can I do to improve my 11-year-old son’s writing and level of independence in CTC?

My 11-year-old son is combined with his advanced 12-year-old sister in Creation to Christ. Writing is hard for him, so I write down the events as I read the history. Then, he uses that list to type his written narration. He needs so much hand holding! He does have some learning issues, as well as dysgraphia. My kids were not independent in Preparing Hearts. My goal in CTC was to gradually have them gain independence, as we moved along. So, they read the science, but I’ve still been reading aloud the history. My daughter could read the history and understand it. But, my son could not! He’s even struggling reading Gentle Ben in DITHOR. I just don’t want school to be frustrating for him. He LOVES history and geography! I want him to continue to do so. Help! What can I do to improve my son’s writing and independence?


“Ms. Please Help My Son in CTC Improve His Writing and Independence”

Dear “Ms. Please Help My Son in CTC Improve His Writing and His Independence,”

Thanks so much for sharing about your situation. In looking at your kiddos, how important is it for you to keep them together? The reason I ask is because you could consider having your son go back and do Preparing Hearts without his older sibling. He could do the history readings independently, as well as the science and independent history box as much as possible. As he didn’t do these things independently before, it is possible it won’t feel like so much of a repeat. Plus, when you read material to yourself and follow directions in the guide on your own, often the assignment will turn out differently.

Doing all of the projects, activities, and written assignments in Preparing Hearts could improve his work in all the future guides.

Did your son do pretty much all of the projects, activities, and written assignments in Preparing (or did you downsize, skip, or change assignments to fit him better)? The reason I ask is because if you did downsize, skip, or change it may not be as much of a repeat as you’d think for him to do Preparing. Plus, it is possible that in the long haul this will be a better fit for him for all the future guides which come after Preparing.

Your daughter can begin reading the CTC history to herself, as well do the rest of the “I” boxes independently.

As far as your older child goes, I would have her gain more independence by starting to read the CTC history to herself now, since she is able to do it. I would continue having her read her science on her own. I would also encourage you to have her do all of the ‘I’ independent boxes as much on her own as possible, with help from you when she hits a roadblock. You can go over directions with her, but let her have the guide to work on her ‘I’ independent boxes as much as she can on her own. I want to encourage you that this will bless all of you eventually. Your daughter will feel more grown-up, and you will have more time to be with your son to improve his work.

Otherwise, your son could work toward more independence in CTC eventually.

If returning to Preparing does not seem like a fit, you could consider teaching your son more in CTC than we plan, with the thought of moving him toward more independence eventually. I would not hold your daughter back from working independently to do this. Instead, I would let her do the assignments as close to the way they were intended as possible. This means you would work more with your son, but let your daughter be more on her own. Since you shared that your son is able to read the science readings in CTC independently, I would be inclined to think that he could also read the history readings on his own to some extent. This is because the science readings in Land Animals are fairly difficult and are not as far away from the level of the history readings as you’d think.

You could alternate reading by paragraph with him at first.

You could potentially alternate reading by paragraph with him through the history readings, eventually handing more independence over to him. Just know that it is alright if he doesn’t pronounce everything correctly. Students reading to themselves don’t pronounce everything correctly either! If he is able to do most of CTC as written, with the exception of the independent readings, this may be an option.

If you try this and end up modifying almost all of CTC’s written work and readings, I’d place him in Preparing instead.

On the other hand, if you end up modifying almost all of his written work in CTC one way or another, and are modifying the readings by reading them aloud too, then I would be inclined to think he is in over his head in most areas. In this case, he would benefit from Preparing instead. I share this because if you were a new family just coming to HOD for the first time, I would lean heavily toward placing your son in Preparing and your daughter in CTC.

The “Written Narration Tips” are helpful for kiddos who struggle with written narrations.

As far as written narrations go, it’s a good idea to refer to the Written Narration Tips (Teacher’s List) in the back of the CTC guide. This helps give some perspective on how to handle written narrations. There are some tips for kiddos who struggle with written narrations that are very helpful. So, I encourage you to take a look at those as soon as you get a chance.

You can use the helps within the daily plans for writing as well. 

Also, make sure to use the helps within the daily plans of CTC for written narrations as well. Have your kiddos begin by copying the sentence starter provided in the written narration directions box on written narration day. Then, have your kiddos answer their way through the questions provided in the box as a guide for their narration. They can honestly write a one-sentence answer for each question and end up with a good written narration. These helps in CTC bow out more and more as the year progresses. However, they are a huge help in narrating to start. They remain in the Preparing box for written narrations all year though. So, if you do decide to place your son in Preparing those helps would remain.

Balance is key, but we want his year to be joyful – to stretch him a bit but not pull him to the breaking point!

As we ponder options for your son, I want his school year to improve to be joyful and to stretch him a bit but not pull him to the breaking point! Balance is key, and kiddos with challenges need a special dose of grace and very incremental steps to higher expectations skill-wise. Teaching kiddos with learning challenges is a special calling. I know the Lord has equipped you for this task, or He would not have given your son to you. It may be that his areas of challenge are just showing themselves a bit more now as his sister is older and is gaining faster than he is (and rightfully so due to her age). Sometimes the gap between kiddos takes awhile to show itself. It may be that it is just showing itself more now. This just may be the course their academic growth is taking.