Our easy-to-use substitution policy!

Heart of Dakota Tidbit:

Our easy-to-use substitution policy!

Did you know that it is very easy to use our Substitution Policy? Here is a great example of how one of our families used it when placing their order:

“May I  please substitute the following:

CTC Economy Package–
I have:
    – Child’s Geography (34.95)
    – What in World (21.99)         Total (56.94)
I would like to have:
    – RTR student pages (36.95)  
    – Swallows and Amazons (14.95)  Total (51.90)

CTC Basic Package:  Option 1 – History
I have:
    – Archimedes (14.95)
    – Cleopatra  (7.99)       Total (22.94)
I would like to have:
    – Shining Sword (10.95)
    – Diary of American Boy (9.95)       Total (20.90)

CTC Extension–
I have:
    – Cat of Bubastes   (32.95)
    – Famous Men of Rome (16.95)   Total (49.90)
I would like to have:
    – RTR Student Pages (36.95)
    – RTR Shakespeare pages (10.95)    Total (47.90)”

Want to learn more?

For more information about our substitution policy, have a look at our FAQ page here!

Have a great weekend! 🙂

Repeating guides?

Heart of Dakota Tidbit:

Repeating guides? 

We really enjoy the opportunity to meet homeschool families each year at various conventions around the country! It is often through conversations at conventions that we discover some interesting misconceptions about how to use our guides. One interesting misconception is that some families think that they are meant to repeat the same guide two years in a row with the same child. We can see how this assumption could happen as our guides have age ranges listed instead of grade levels. However, upon completion of one guide we are assuming the child will head right into the next guide (as the guides are written to be used one right after the other). The progression of skills is important, and one guide prepares your child well for the skills needed in the next guide.

Have a great weekend!

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!


Simplify and Love Your Homeschool Life by Enlisting Help

A Heart of Dakota Life

Simplify (and Love) Your Homeschool Life by Enlisting Help

Using Heart of Dakota is already a great way to enlist help to simplify and love your homeschool life! However, as a homeschool mom, you have probably already discovered, homeschooling is not for the faint of heart. It takes real dedication, hard work, and a team effort. In the last “A Heart of Dakota Life” post we learned how important it is that we #1: Don’t Go It Alone! We can do this by first turning to the Lord as our source of strength.  This week, we continue with our second way to simplify and love our homeschool life by enlisting help from those around us!

#2 – Help Is All Around You

“What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and the work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow.”  – Martin Luther

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in various forms.  – 1 Peter 4:10

What we do in our house as homeschool moms can sometimes feel insignificant. Loads of laundry, dirty dishes, meal after meal to make, and in the middle of it all – homeschooling to accomplish. If we are not careful, we can begin to think of our position as being lowly. This is simply not true!  What we do in our house is worth so much! Our position and our work are sacred, and as such, pleasing to God. This is not because of the position we hold, but on account of the obedience from which our work flows. When we choose to homeschool our children in a Christian way, we are serving the Lord.

Though homeschooling is definitely a daunting task, the Lord did give us help! Each person in our family has gifts that God gave to be used to serve. Encouraging each member of our family to be faithful stewards of these gifts can show us, help is truly all around!

What are you doing that someone else could do?

Think of how many tasks you do each day as a homeschool mom!  If you were to write down every little thing you did each day, the list would be quite long, I am sure. One day when I was feeling overwhelmed I did just that. I pulled out a piece of paper and set it on the counter. Every time I did something, I wrote it down. Yes. My day went long with all that writing, but at the end of the day, I realized how many things I was doing that someone else could just as easily do. By trying to do everything, I was not letting my family do hardly anything. One person doing all of the serving all of the time doesn’t work. It creates one exhausted, somewhat bitter person serving, and the rest of the people not learning to serve – even if they want to.

Take inventory of the help.

So, I encourage you to set a piece of paper out on your counter and jot down all you are doing throughout the day. This doesn’t have to be an ‘everything every day’ list. Just do it fairly quickly, mindfully throughout one day – I want you to get to the ‘help’ fairly quickly!!!  Once you have made your list, it is time to take inventory of the help! One easy way to do this is to begin by circling the tasks only you can do. Be careful here! Just because you can do it better, it doesn’t mean you are the only one who can do the task. Yes, you probably are the neatest at folding washcloths. However, folding the washcloths is something even small children can do. So, don’t circle that one as a ‘mom only’ task.

Divvy tasks by having the youngest child who can do the task do it.

Once you have circled the tasks only you can truly do, look at the remaining tasks with your youngest child in mind (not including the baby). Put your youngest child’s name next to every task he/she can do. Then, move on to your next oldest child and do the same. Continue until you are out of children. This way, you can begin to divvy out tasks by having the youngest child who can do the task do it.

Fine tune your list by considering gifts, talents, and preferred ways to serve.

Finally, fine tune your list by considering each person’s gifts, talents, and preferred ways to serve.  Keep in mind there are tasks no one may love. That’s ok – that’s part of serving, and they still have to be done. However, surprisingly, a task one person dislikes may be another person’s preferred way to serve. For example, my oldest son loves all things outdoors. My middle son does not. So, my oldest son enjoys scooping the snow, getting the mail, and feeding our pets. My middle son, on the contrary, prefers making our smoothies, bringing me coffee, and consolidating the trash. Our youngest son loves listening to music. So, he starts our Christian music, unloads the dishwasher, and sets the table. These are just examples of how our children are serving in our home in the morning.

Take Action

So, today, why not set out a piece of paper and jot down what you are doing? Why not be mindful of you serving well by doing only the heavy thinking, grown up, tougher tasks as a homeschool mom no one else but you can do? Why not begin to encourage your children to serve in your home? Even if you just assign and teach each child one or two tasks – those are one or two tasks multiplied by however many children you have that you won’t be doing anymore! Serve, but serve wisely, and encourage your children to do the same by mindfully planning for ways for each person to serve. Help is all around you! Enlist it and get to enjoying a simpler, happier homeschool life!

In Christ,


P. S. To find out more about Heart of Dakota in general, click here!

Tired and Overwhelmed Young Homeschool Mom Asking for Help

Dear Carrie,

I am a young overwhelmed homeschool mom who needs some tips to help us be more productive with homeschooling. My daughter is in 1st grade in Heart of Dakota now. Last year I overbooked us with too many extracurricular activities. Lesson learned! This year we bought a house, moved, had a baby, and just sold our first home on Friday. But, I feel like I am drowning and cannot accomplish much of anything. My children are 7, 3, and 3 months. I have made reading and math a priority, but I cannot seem to keep us disciplined to do Little Hearts full-speed on a daily basis. She might even be ready for Beyond…, but I’m afraid to introduce a guide that takes longer when we cannot even finish LHFHG.

I think the biggest problem area for us is that I do not start my day early enough. I am NOT a morning person, and the waking every 3 hours to nurse does not help. My shower in the morning is my coffee, but that puts an even later start to the morning. Meal planning and prepping is another big drain! It seems to take at least 1-1.5 hrs to get everyone fed and the dishes cleaned after every meal. And dinners take longer! My oldest loves Heart of Dakota when we get to it! I’d love to start my 3 yo with Little Hands… when she turns 4 yo soon. Thank you in advance from a very tired and overwhelmed mommy!


“Please Help This Tired and Overwhelmed Mommy Make Time for Homeschooling”


Dear “Please Help This Tired and Overwhelmed Mommy Make Time for Homeschooling,”

Thank you for sharing here! My tips vary a bit due to your specific situation, but I want to encourage you! Small changes make big gains! Since you’ve just moved and have a new little one, you are in a transition phase in life. With this in mind, I would seek to do the following:

Not everyone is a morning person!
  1. Accept that you are not a morning person. I am not one either. With this in mind, set a time that you can realistically begin school each day, and then stick to it. I began school at 9:00 or 9:30 for many years (until my older sons, who are more morning-focused workers could get up on their own and begin without me)!
Focus on half-speed LHFHG for 45 minutes by setting aside distractions.
  1. Make sure that when you begin school you are focused on school. Set aside the distractions (i.e. mess, phone ringing, doorbell ringing, laundry, meals, texting, computer) as much as possible. For now, I would downsize to half-speed LHFHG. Do the left page one day and the right side the next. Do this until your house gets in order. It will only take 45 min. a day this way, and you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel! You can still do reading every day but make sure that it takes 15 min. or less to do reading. You can alternate days of math, doing it every other day for now until your house gets into shape. Can you set aside everything except school and caring for your little ones for 45 min. a day? Definitely. At the end of the year, you can assess again and see if she is ready for Beyond. For now, use the materials that you already have and work on moving through LHFHG steadily until year end. Think of this as much about routine as it is about the skills.
You can start Little Hands… half-speed with your little one.
  1. When you get ready to start your little one on LHTH, do it half-speed too. This means 3-4 boxes one day and the other 3-4 the next day. This will add 15 min. to your day. Can you school for an hour a day total every day? Yes! Manageable goals done every day mean steady progress forward. This is better than random forward motion.
Plan how your kiddos will spend the rest of their day to buy yourself extra time for other tasks.
  1. Next, have some sort of plan every 30-45 min. or so for your kiddos throughout the rest of the day. This may sound exhausting, but in reality it will save your sanity. List all of the things each child does throughout the day, and make a loose schedule for each child to keep them rotating along through things during the day (changing every 30-45 min). Use your timer to time their activities and have them clean up when the timer rings. Doing this will buy you 30 min. here and there throughout the day that you wouldn’t get otherwise.
Routine breakfasts and lunches save the day!
  1. Make a routine easy breakfast menu that is the same every week for Mon-Fri. Do the same for lunch. Type it and post it on the fridge. Enlist your older child to help make breakfast and lunch. Keep the menu easy prep-wise and clean-up wise. Having the same menu each week for breakfast and lunch helps you know what to shop for and helps your kiddos know what to get out when it is time to eat. It will cut down significant time in preparation and clean up too. Make dinner your bigger meal and use your crock pot for that as much as possible to save you prep. before dinner. Assign each child a “set the table” and a “clean-up after meals” chore(s) to do. Keep the chores the same all the time, so your kiddos get good at them and always know what “their” chores are to do automatically.
This is a good time to set routines that help get your house and homeschooling in order!
  1. Think of this time as a time to get your house in order, grow your baby up a bit, set some routines in place, and figure out how to calm the chaos. Start schooling steadily at a similar (realistic) time every day and school in a similar order. If you do this for even a week or two, you’ll begin to see the benefits! Make sure you allow yourself to sleep when you can. Think of this as a plan you’re striving to work up to! You can do this!!!




P.S. Please check out our new youtube video that has an overview of Little Hands to Heaven!  Please ‘like’ and ‘subscribe’ to help us become ‘branded!’  Thanks!!!