Placement Help for a 13 Year Old Son with an Extremely Busy Mom

Pondering Placement

Placement Help for a 13 Year Old Son with an Extremely Busy Mom

We’re new to Heart of Dakota, and I’m trying to place my 13 year old. His reading isn’t super strong. However, he’s not a struggling reader. We’ve had no previous exposure to dictation or narration. I’m an extremely busy mom with a baby on the way in 6 weeks, and I have difficult pregnancies. I have a 3 year old too. I’ll be teaching my 6 year old to read and starting Little Hearts for His Glory. We also live on a ranch with horses and chickens and a lot of responsibilities. We’ve already done some of the Apologia elementary sciences but not Land Animals. So I am wondering with my family dynamics and my son’s ability if starting him with CTC would be right or too easy. I originally wanted to start him with Revival to Revolution but am now thinking that would be way too hard. Help!

Reply: Placement Help for a 13 Year Old Son with an Extremely Busy Mom

I’d be glad to help with placement for your 13 year old son! From what you’ve shared, I would agree that placing him in CTC would be the best fit in pretty much every area. I would lean toward placing him in English 5, as CTC does only the first half of English 5 (with the second half in RTR). You can do much of it orally or on a whiteboard, with just a portion assigned to be done on paper each day. I do think it will be good for him to do Write the Best as scheduled in CTC for writing.

I would recommend Drawn into the Heart of Reading 4/5.

If you haven’t had much in the way of formal literature instruction, I would lean toward using Level 4/5 of Drawn into the Heart of Reading for one year. After that I would bump him up to Level 6/7/8 the following year. Even if you haven’t completed all of Level 4/5, I’d still move him up. Just make sure when you switch to Level 6/7/8, you do the genres you didn’t get to in Level 4/5 first. In that way, he’ll receive a balanced reading experience.

I would recommend doing the science as written in CTC, but add the Biology 101 DVDs.

As far as the science goes, I would lean toward doing it as written in CTC, however you may wish to add something like the Biology 101 DVDs for him to watch on the 5th day of each week, just to raise the content level a bit (since your son will be on the older age range of the guide).

I would recommend adding the CTC Extension Package for your son.

You’ll need the Extension Pack for your son in CTC, but not the Basic Package. This is because of your son’s age, and also because you will be doing another HOD program with a read-aloud already for LHFHG. In that way, you won’t need to do multiple read-alouds each day.

I think your 7 year old might enjoy The Reading Lesson for phonics.

I think you have a good plan coming together! As far as your 7 year old in LHFHG goes, you could consider The Reading Lesson with the downloadable CD for helping him learn to read. It is a good incremental approach and can be done cuddled on the couch in just short sessions each day. The downloadable CD is hugely helpful and entertaining.

I am sorry to hear about your difficulty pregnancies and pray for your babe and for you.

On a sidenote, I’m so sorry for your difficult pregnancies. I have had those too with every pregnancy I’ve had… bedrest and long hospital stays with babies finally coming early around 34-35 weeks (which was always a blessing for me to get that far). I pray for your babe to be here in God’s perfect timing.


Homeschool mom of 4 who doesn’t want to combine… tips? Scheduling ideas?

Dear Carrie

I am a homeschool mom of 4, and I am not comfortable combining, so what tips or scheduling ideas do you have?

Dear Carrie,

I am a homeschool mom of four children ages 7, 5, 3, 2. I’m excited, and after much research I am set on Heart of Dakota! However, I need some encouragement that it is possible to homeschool four children without losing your sanity. I really want this to be an extension of peace in our home. I’m not comfortable with combining them in the same programs, (2 and 2). So, any tips or scheduling ideas would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!


“Please Help Me with Scheduling Ideas for 4 Without Combining”

Dear “Please Help Me with Scheduling Ideas for 4 Without Combining,”

I’m not sure if you have had a chance to check out the scheduling thread. That may be worth a peek, and you can click here to check it out!

When working with LHTH, LHFHG or Beyond, I like scheduling 30 minutes to do the left side of the daily plans in one sitting for each guide. During this 30 minute session, I start with the history (or Bible) reading first and then end with the box on the left side of the plans that looks like I could get the kiddos started and they could finish on their own. Often that is scheduling the bottom left-hand corner box.

I minimize interruptions by planning ahead, and I teach the 30 minute left side of the guide in the morning.

During that 30 minutes time, I make sure I won’t have interruptions. I don’t answer the phone, put in a load of laundry, or leave the child’s side. Any kiddos who need me come to me, however they are NOT to interrupt unless it’s a severe emergency. I makes sure about scheduling the baby to happily play with toys in his crib or playpen for that 30 minutes. I make sure the older kiddos are working independently. Often scheduling the middle kiddo to listen to a book on tape, to finish his chores, or to do an educational computer game works well. I also try to make sure to get my 30 minutes left side of the guide time in for each of my kiddos in the morning. This takes the pressure off because I’ve already finished a big chunk of the day’s plans by lunch then.

I start with something independent, so I have time for grooming for baby and me.

Since I’m not a morning person, I take that into account and scheduling my kiddos to start with something independent the first part of the day helps. That way, I have time to get the baby (and me) dressed and groomed. I can check everyone’s rooms and make sure everyone has eaten before launching into my teaching for the day. Yet, my kiddos are already underway during that time doing their first subject pretty independently. Additionally, I like scheduling the kiddos to have at least one or more subjects out of the way before joining me for their 30 minute left side session.

I like to to plan 45-60 minutes of playtime for my 4-6 year olds after breakfast.

I do like scheduling my 4-6 year olds to play an extra 45 – 60 minutes in their room after breakfast in the morning too. This gives me time with my olders to quietly work on their tougher subjects before the little ones descend upon us for the day.

We enjoy a morning recess 45 minutes each day and eat lunch together.

We all do still like scheduling a morning recess together for 45 minutes every day. Usually, we typically go out around 11:00. Also, we all eat lunch together, which my oldest begins getting ready while I’m finishing with the youngers. (We keep it very simple following the weekly menu on the fridge).

It also helps to do the LHTH toddler/preschooler earlier in the day so that the little one feels like he/she has had time with mama. Once he’s been with me, he’s more content to go play. Otherwise, that little one is begging for my time all day! Hope these tips help!


Homeschooling promotes the family as a unit and creates strong ties that last!

From Our House to Yours

Why homeschool? Homeschooling promotes the family as a unit and creates strong ties!

My dad attended a small country school from kindergarten to 8th grade. He had about 12-15 children in his school. Only 1 or 2 students were his same age, and 1 teacher taught them all. Dad rode his horse to school. When he arrived, he would tell his horse to ‘go home.’ The horse would obediently head back home on his own. Children took their lunches to school. They would play baseball, even though they were short players. They would play board games and improvise rules, as they had a wide range of ages. At the end of the day, Dad’s parents would tell his horse to ‘go to school.’ The horse would obediently head back, so Dad could ride him home. The children in country school were like one family that learned to look out and care for one another. They formed strong ties that last still today!

Homeschooling promotes the family as a unit and has strong ties that last!

As little girls, my sisters and I used to pretend we were teaching in Dad’s country schoolhouse. We had chalkboards, books, paper, and one filing cabinet we covered with blue and white checked contact paper. What fun we had! We only had a class of 3, but we loved every minute of ‘school.’ Real (or public) school was alright, but not nearly as much fun. Class sizes were big and the homey feeling was gone. How we missed our one-room schoolhouse at home! Maybe that is why all 3 of us girls decided to homeschool, or maybe it was because our best ‘teacher’ was always our mom. In homeschooling, our family works together as a unit. We form strong ties, and we look out for one another.

In homeschooling, strong family ties can last long past the homeschooling!

My dad has now passed away, but he used to love getting together with past classmates at the All School Reunion. In fact, he actually attended the reunion more than 50 years! When my dad and mom moved to town, my dad surprised my mom by coming home and saying he’d invited his whole class over. There weren’t that many, but still! Even though my dad’s passed away, my mom still gets invited to the reunions, even though she really didn’t attend the school. I guess she just became part of the ‘family.’ In homeschooling, we may not have the ‘right’ number of people or the ‘right’ age of people for everything, but we improvise, and we have all the more fun! Everyone is part of the ‘school.’ No one is left out. And that kind of bond creates strong family ties that last, long past the homeschooling.

In Christ,



Composition in the Form of Written Narration Begins by Age 10

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

According to Charlotte Mason, composition in the form of written narration should begin by age 10.

When children narrate, they tell back in their own words what they have just read or heard. Charlotte Mason considered oral narration as the earliest form of composition. She used the words “narration” and “composition” interchangeably. Charlotte Mason had children under age 9 take care of their composition instruction by orally narrating. She had them intertwine these narrations with history, science, reading, and the like. By age 10, children were ready to begin composition in the form of written narration. At Heart of Dakota, we agree!

According to Charlotte Mason, in written narrations, the child and the author should be trusted to be left alone together.

According to Charlotte Mason, composition in the form of written narration is “as natural as running and jumping to children who have been allowed to read lots of books.” If they orally narrate first of all, they will compose sooner or later, but they should not be taught “composition” as a separate body of information to be learned. Instead, it is important that the child and the author be trusted to be left alone together. There should be no middle-man such as a teacher telling the child what the book said, or about what to think. According to Charlotte Mason, our business as teachers is to “provide children the material for their lessons, while leaving the handling of that material to themselves.” In short, we are not to hamper them by too many instructions. At Heart of Dakota, we agree!

According to Charlotte Mason, reading living books and narrating from them helps children develop their own individual style.

Children who have gotten into the habit of reading good literature absorb what they will from it themselves, in their own way, whether it’s a lot or a little. Reading living books and narrating from them helps children to begin to form their own literary style. Because they have been in the company of great minds, their style will not be an exact copy of any one in particular, but will instead be shaped as an individual style from the wealth of materials they possess to create a natural style of their own. At Heart of Dakota, we agree!

According to Charlotte Mason, written narration done properly develops self-expression and individual literary style.

Narration done properly develops the power of self-expression and invites a child’s personality to become part of the learning process. A child should choose vocabulary he finds appealing, make it his own, and then give it forth again with that own unique touch that comes from his own mind. This is why no two narrations should be exactly alike. It is also why teachers should not expect their children to give the same narration they would have given. At Heart of Dakota, we agree!

Written narration requires higher level thinking than fill-in-the-blank and multiple choice questions.

Narrating requires a higher level of thinking. Consider the skill it takes to fill in blanks or choose from multiple-choice answers. Now, consider the skills it takes to retell a story you have just heard or read! Clearly the latter proves to require higher-level thinking. In order to demonstrate the complex skill of narrating, try your hand at it yourself. Now that you’ve read much of this blog post, try this! Walk away and get a sheet of paper to write down all that you can remember. Or, would you find it easier if you were now given multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, or true/false questions instead?

Oral and written narrations improve children’s composing abilities and public speaking skills.

Narration provides far more information about children’s comprehension because they must answer without the support clues provided by questions. Charlotte Mason replaced the quiz, test, chapter review, and book report by something far more effective. Why? She found what children take time to put into their own words is retained because it has become their own. With narration, you’ve just found the key to really knowing what your children know! This is why, even after children have become skilled at writing narrations, oral narrations are continued. Maintaining oral narrations keeps improving both a child’s composing ability and his public speaking skills. There is simply not a better way to “test” a child’s comprehension and retention than oral and written narration!

Heart of Dakota’s guides include step-by-step tips on how to teach, practice, and edit written narrations.

Once written narrations are assigned, each Heart of Dakota guide includes clear, step-by-step tips on how to teach and practice the skill of written narration. We provide both teacher and student tips for written narrations before, during, and after the narration process. Furthermore, we provide a Written Narration Skills List to guide students through the process of incrementally working toward editing their written narrations, which is different than revising, mastering one small step at a time.

We begin formal written narration instruction in Preparing Hearts for His Glory once weekly. We continue composition in the form of written narration through 12th grade, incrementally progressing this Charlotte Mason inspired skill in length, complexity, and depth. Our final U.S. History II high school guide includes eight types of written narration: detailed, recorded, summary, key word, highlighted, topic, opinion, and persuasive. We based these types of written narrations upon the composition assignments Charlotte Mason assigned herself, according to her own detailed descriptions.

In Closing…

In closing, here are a few inspiring quotes from Charlotte Mason in regard to composition in the form of written narrations…

Children in this Form (Ages 9-12) have a wider range of reading, a more fertile field of thought, and more delightful subjects for composition. They write their little essays themselves (referring to written narration), and for the accuracy of their knowledge and justice of their expression, why ‘still the wonder grows’. They’ll describe their favorite scene from “The Tempest” or “Woodstock”. They write to ‘tell’ stories from work set in Plutarch or Shakespeare or tell of the events of the day. They narrate from English, French, and General History, from the Old and New Testament, from “Stories from the History of Rome”, from Bullfinch’s “Age of Fable”, from, for example, Goldsmith’s or Wordsworth’s poems, from “The Heroe’s of Asgard”: in fact, Composition is not an adjunct but an integral part of their education in every subject. (Vol. 6, p. 192)

Having been brought up so far upon stylists the pupils are almost certain to have formed a good style: because they have been thrown into the society of many great minds, they will not make a servile copy of any one but will shape an individual style out of the wealth of material they possess; and because they have matter in abundance and of the best they will not write mere verbiage. (Vol 6, p. 194)

At Heart of Dakota, we agree!

In Christ,


Why homeschool? A small class size means more personal attention!

From Our House to Yours

Why homeschool? A small class size means more personal attention!

One of the most well-documented ways to improve student achievement is to reduce class size. Students in small classes score higher on tests, receive better grades, and attend school more regularly. They also show increased persistence, motivation, and self-esteem. The benefits of reducing class size in early grades have been proven to last well into the later grades. Furthermore, gains in upper grades associated with smaller class size can even surpass the gains in the lower grades. Teachers are often asked what the most effective way to improve their teaching would be. Their response? Reduce class size. So, why homeschool? You have a very small class size, which means more personal attention from the teacher for children to do their very best!

With a small class size, we can better see our children’s strengths!

In homeschooling with Heart of Dakota, we can give our children personal attention day in and day out. With our small class size, we can simply better see our children’s strengths. We might see one child is better at math, so we can move this child along more quickly. Perhaps we might see another child is better at reading, so we can choose a higher level of DITHOR. Possibly we might see yet another child is better at drawing, so we can give more time for creative projects. We might see in still another child the mind of a young budding scientist, so we can give extra time for experiments. With a small class size, we can better see our children’s strengths and adjust our homeschooling accordingly!

With a small class size, we can better see our children’s struggles!

In homeschooling, we can give our children personal attention each and every day. With our small class size, we can better see our children’s struggles. We might see one child struggles with math, so we can spend longer on fact memorization. Perhaps we might see another child struggles with reading, so we can spend longer on phonics. Possibly we might see yet another child struggles with writing, so we might experiment with different pencils, grippers, and paper. We might see in still another child the struggle to focus and pay attention, so we can choose a quieter room with less distractions, or we can add more time to get up and move. With a small class size, we can better see our children’s struggles and adjust our homeschooling accordingly!

With a small class size, we can better provide space, supplies, and resources for our children!

In homeschooling, we can always give personal attention to each child. With our small class size, we can better provide space for our children to spread out and work. We can also provide enough supplies for our children. Each child can have his own art supplies, his own work area, and his own place to leave out creative projects that are ongoing. Likewise, we can better provide resources for our children. Each child can do his own science experiments, his own demonstrations, and his own art projects, rather than watching one teacher or a few children do them. Similarly, each child can have his own computer to work on, his own books to read, and his own favorite chair to sit upon. With a small class size, we can easily provide enough space, supplies, and resources for each of our children!

In Closing

In homeschooling, even with a very large family, our ‘class size’ is still smaller than the average class size in other forms of education. Why not start giving your children some personal attention within the ‘small class size’ of your family, by homeschooling them right within your own home today?

In Christ,