Don’t overthink it! Just dive into Little Hands to Heaven!

Heart of Dakota Life

Don’t overthink it!  Just dive into Little Hands to Heaven!

I started Little Hands to Heaven (LHTH) when my boys were 3 1/2 years old. I homeschooled 4 days a week, and this worked so well, I planned on doing the same with my youngest son, Emmett. However, the dynamics had changed in our homeschooling. Though only 2 1/2, little Emmett was well aware I was homeschooling his two older brothers. They each had me to themselves and were having such fun. No surprise Emmett wanted that too! Oh, it wasn’t like I forgot Emmett! (Who can EVER forget a 2-year-old?!?) I had lists of ideas! Read his Bible. Do a puzzle. Color something. Throw a ball. Sing the alphabet. However, the end of the day came, and somehow I’d failed to do ANY of those things. I felt so guilty! Over 10 years ago, I realized I needed to stop overthinking it and just dive into LHTH!

My “Dive-In” Moment with LHTH Over 10 Years Ago

From a post I wrote on October 5, 2009:  I was overseeing the semi-independent parts of Beyond and CTC today, and my little one was hopping all over wanting my attention. He was doing his “patty-cake” and “head and shoulders” rhymes (getting about every other word right), and I thought, “What am I waiting for? He’s dying to do LHTH. Why not dive in and do it?

A Happy “Dive-In” Day with My Little Emmett

So, I pulled LHTH out and did half of Day 1. He LOVED it! Before I knew it, he was strutting around shouting, “A, A, Adam” and doing all of the animals from the fingerplay, having a great time. He kept shouting, “Emmie do more school, mom!!!!” It was just too cute. I was going to start when he was 3 1/2, but I don’t think either of us can wait that long. Why oh why have I been overthinking this? I just needed to dive in and begin!

A Half-Speed Plan to Try

I think I’ll go half-speed. I have both Bibles, so I think I’ll read from the easier Bible first, do the Fingerplay, the letter activity, and the Bible activity the first day (that’s what we did today). Then the second day, I’ll read from the harder Bible, repeat the Fingerplay and review the letter flashcard, and then do the remaining boxes (music and rotating box) I haven’t done yet. I can tell this is going to fill a need I’m having right now. I’ll still have him do the Lakeshore boxes and Kumon books for fun the other mommy time I have planned, but I can see he’s going to flourish with LHTH. It was just such a great day – I had to share it with you all!

In Closing

I know lots of you are moms of many. You might be feeling the same way I as feeling 10 years ago. If so, I just want to encourage you, dive in! Give LHTH a try, even if it’s just half-speed. Don’t overthink it! Just begin. LHTH is easy to add to your day. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say adding LHTH for your little one(s) makes your day easier. Little ones demand attention, and we know they deserve it. However, we are pulled many ways as moms of multiple children. Simply doing LHTH with little ones helps them be happier, helps us feel better as moms, and teaches them some important skills along the way.  If you are on the fence, dive in! Your little ones will thank you.

In Christ,



Thoughts on Geometry: A Guided Inquiry after VideoText Algebra?

Dear Carrie

Could my son do Geometry: A Guided Inquiry after he finishes VideoText Algebra?

My oldest is finishing up HOD’s 8th grade guide but doing VideoText Algebra. He is almost done with Module C now, so I expect him to complete the rest of the VideoText curriculum in 9th grade. He has done well with the program. I’m considering using the Geometry Modules but curious as to other options. My question is what the math plan for 10th – 12th would look like if we chose to not do VideoText Geometry. Would he do Geometry: A Guided Inquiry in 10th and then be ready for Foerster’s PreCal with Trig in 11th? And then what would be our options for 12th…Calculus? Other? Thanks in advance!


“Ms. Please Help with Geometry After VideoText Algebra”

Dear “Ms. Please Help with Geometry After VideoText Algebra,”

Yes, you are right!  If you did HOD’s Geometry: A Guided Inquiry, then you would move into Foerster’s Pre-Calculus next. Foerster’s Pre-Calculus may be a bit of a step up after VideoText Algebra, as Foerster’s Algebra II and Trigonometry is quite meaty and rigorous. So, you would definitely want the Math Without Borders flash drive lessons, schedule of assigned problems, and solution’s manual to use with Foerster’s Pre-Calculus!

Options After Completing Geometry and Foerster’s Pre-Calculus

Then, for your son’s senior year, you could consider either doing Foerster’s Calculus or doing College Algebra through Either option would work.  However, if VideoText is working well for your son, you may simply want to continue on that path.



The older overshadows the younger – continue to combine? Or, separate?

Dear Carrie

Should I separate or combine, when the older overshadows the younger?

I’ve been looking over the first week of HOD’s Preparing Hearts plans. (They look wonderful!)  I am wondering how to do the Independent sections with two kids? Would they work on the science readings, experiments, and notebooking together? Or, would you have one do the Independent History reading, while the other is working on Science, and then switch? I also have another question for you. My older son overshadows the younger one frequently. They are only a year apart in age but more like 2 years apart developmentally. I have often thought about separating them. Part of me would like to start Preparing in the fall with my 10-year-old and continue with Bigger for my 8-year-old. But, then I will also have a 5-year-old in Little Hearts. How hard would it be to do three programs? I don’t love the ‘overshadowing’ feeling. Or, do you have any other ideas?


“Ms. Please Help Me Decide How to Deal with Overshadowing”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Me Decide How to Deal with Overshadowing,”

I understand that an older child constantly overshadowing a younger child can be difficult. If you choose to keep your children combined, I’d probably have them do the experiments together but schedule the rest to be done separately. But, you could easily do their independent work the other way you described as well.  As far as your question about separating or combining, I pictured my own sons when you mentioned the older ‘overshadowing’ the younger. My older son would often overshadow my younger son if they did their readings and assignments together.

It really depends on how independent your older son is.

In this situation, it really depends on how independent your older son is. My oldest is independent and strong-willed. He’s always very much enjoyed being in charge of his learning (with me being the helper). From a young age, the more of his day he could take over on his own, the happier he was. So, if this is the case with your older son, you could use the first 9 weeks of the school year to “train him” to use the Preparing Hearts guide very independently. You could be doing Bigger and Little Hearts at half-speed during this “training period.” After the training is over, you could bump Bigger Hearts to full-speed, while still keeping Little Hearts at half-speed. Once you hit your stride with Preparing and Bigger, you could then bump up Little Hearts to full-speed. This would be one way to deal proactively with the overshadowing.

I’d require a high standard of work from your oldest during this “training period.”

If you choose to do this, during the “training period,” I’d require a very high standard of work from your oldest. I’d set the timer and keep him on schedule. I would also schedule the places where he is to do his work, as well as when he is to do his work. Have him check off his items and hand them all in. Go over the directions in each box with him as you check his work to make sure he followed them all. This will teach him to read directions carefully.

What You’d Each Still Be Doing

In Preparing, you would still be scheduling some time to do the questioning and discussions scheduled in the Reading About History box. However, he could be doing the readings himself. You would be doing the Bible discussion of the Psalms scheduled on Days 1-2  but he’d be independent on Days 3-4).  You’d also be teaching the Charlotte Mason-style poetry lesson, and most likely doing the Storytime read-alouds. But, the rest of the guide can really be done independently at his age. I did still teach the grammar lesson to my oldest, dictate his passages for spelling, and do the DITHR discussions together on alternating days as scheduled. Either option would work! This is just some food for thought on one way to overcome the overshadowing for good!




How HOD Projects Decorate and Adorn Our Home

From Our House to Yours

How HOD Projects Decorate and Adorn Our Home

In Heart of Dakota, students get to respond to their Charlotte Mason living books’ readings in all sorts of ways. Through the years, our sons have especially enjoyed responding to their readings with their history projects. While we cannot keep all of the projects, they have used many of them to decorate their bedrooms. Even more of their history projects adorn the rest of our home. Each time we walk through the house, we take a trip down memory lane. As our sons lay their heads down to sleep, they do so in the company of many of their Heart of Dakota history projects. This blog is dedicated to a few of those special decorations!

The Preparing Hearts for His Glory Timeline Adorned Our Doors

Each of our sons loved making the Preparing Hearts for His Glory staircase timeline. First, Wyatt’s timeline adorned our left closet door in our entry. Then, Riley’s timeline adorned our right closet door in our entry. When it came to Emmett, I remember him sadly saying he didn’t have any place for his timeline because both entry closet doors were taken! When I told Emmett he could hang his timeline on his bedroom door, he beamed! The timelines adorned those doors for a very long time and were a ready reference for the chronology of major historical events.

The “What does your name mean?” Project Adorned the Inside of Our Sons’ Bedroom Doors

Each of our sons enjoyed looking up what his name meant for a history project. After they wrote what their names meant, they drew small pictures around it to describe themselves. These namesake projects adorned the inside of their bedroom doors for many years. I loved that they could see why we chose each of their names! What a neat project!

Cinnamon Fish with Scripture Hang from Our Sons’ Doorknobs

Our sons enjoyed making their cinnamon fish project. I love the Scripture they wrote and glued to their fish. We also all love the cinnamon scent we catch a whiff of every time we open and close their doors.  These fish adorned their doors by hanging from their doorknobs until they finally crumbled.  We all got years of enjoyment out of them! Just when one child’s fish would break, our next son was in that guide and making a new fish for his door!

Favorite recipes adorn the inside of our kitchen cabinet doors!

They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach! I think this is also often the way to a boy’s heart! Our sons have loved making all of the recipes in Heart of Dakota’s history projects. Not to mention, our entire family has loved eating them! In fact, we love many of them so much that the boys copy the recipes and hang them on the inside of our kitchen cabinets. Cornbread, cookies, pastries, quick breads began to overtake our inside cabinet doors until they decided to make their own recipe binder of them. What delicious recipes!!!

Other Memorable Heart of Dakota ‘Decorations’

Our house is adorned by so many memorable Heart of Dakota decorations. Headpieces and helmets hang from bedposts. Cacti adorns dressers, and pottery is a holder for morning vitamins. Posters hang on walls, and the ‘armor of the Lord’ adorns stuffed animals. Portfolios of watercolor paintings and poetry copywork line our shelves as keepsake pieces. But above all, my favorite keepsakes are my children’s Bibles and Common Place Books. Highlighted Scriptures memorized through the years in their Bibles continue to encourage them to hide the Word in their hearts. Common Place Book scriptures and quotes keep meaningful thoughts at the ready for perusing at any time. Many Heart of Dakota things adorn and decorate our home.  I hope some of them reside in your homes for a time as well – until fresh ones take their place.

In Christ,

Recovering from the holiday season? Consider starting school half-speed!

Teaching Tip:

Are you still recovering from the busy holiday season?

As the new year is underway, are you still recovering from the busy holiday season? If so, it can feel daunting to launch back into school again. Yet, often the routine of school is just what is needed to get your days back to normal.

You could consider starting school half-speed.

To help you get back into the routine of school, you could consider starting half-speed. Easing into school this way is easier than starting full-speed, yet it starts the process of getting back into the school mindset.

There are several easy ways to go half-speed.

Through the years, we have gone half-speed with our guides in many different ways. Going half-speed can be as easy as doing the left page of plans one day and the right page the next day. Another way to go half-speed is to count the number of boxes on your two-page spread and divide by two. Then, choose half of the boxes to do one day and half of the boxes to do the next day. Other options for going half-speed will work too. Just be sure to finish an entire day of plans before moving on to the next day. Simply check off the boxes as you complete them, so there is no confusion as to which boxes remain.

How long can you go half-speed?

Typically, going half-speed with a guide is not a permanent solution. At our house, we have downshifted to half-speed in times of illness, stress, holiday breaks, busy work schedules, days with therapy or doctor’s appointments, or when we are first beginning a new guide. Usually, after a time half-speed no longer feels like enough.

How can you move up to full-speed gradually?

If we did stay at half-speed for an extended time, we tried to add one box each week until we were at full-speed. This meant we were sometimes finishing up one day of plans and starting on a new day of plans in the same day. While not ideal, it did work. Getting up to full-speed is always our end-goal.

How can schooling continue when you or your child is very sick?

With our son Greyson’s multiple hospitalizations last year, we had to downshift to what he was able to do. This means we did only one or two boxes in the plans for many days. Other days he was too sick to do any school. When he got some better, we tried slowly adding one more box of plans as he seemed able. At the time, it seemed like we were barely progressing. Yet, in looking back we only lost half a year of school instead of the whole year. During the summer, he did his guide half-speed four days a week. He didn’t mind, since he was finally starting to feel better. Doing even a little when you can is still progress!

When life is busy, half-speed works.

Maybe you are at a place in your life right now where full-speed is working great. If so, keep going! Just remember that when life is busy, half-speed works.