On the brink of high school? Check out these benefits of homeschooling with HOD!

From Our House to Yours

The Benefits of Homeschooling Through High School with Heart of Dakota

Do you love homeschooling, but find yourself unsure about continuing through high school? Well, if you do, I understand! As my oldest son was on the brink of beginning high school, I remember questioning what to do next. Blessedly, that was when Carrie decided to write guides for high school for Heart of Dakota, which made my decision much easier. But, still, even then, it was honestly a leap of faith! Shortly after our first years of homeschooling high school, I was asked the benefits I saw from it. I responded with a post on our message board. Nearly 7 years later, I am just about ready to graduate a second son. I still see the same amazing benefits I posted so many years ago! For those of you on the fence about this, I hope this post convinces you to give high school (with Heart of Dakota) a try!

First Benefit: Strong Academics That Go Deeper Than the Surface

I do care about strong academics. I grew up in a family of educators, and I paid a pretty penny to get my master’s degree in education. It is just in my blood to care deeply about strong academics. Not in the sense that my son needs to have an off-the-charts SAT/ACT score, mind you, but in the sense that I want him to be intelligent in a well-rounded sort of way.

I want him to be able to walk into an art museum and know something about art when he’s looking at the paintings on the wall. Furthermore, I want him to hear a stirring speech where someone quotes George Washington and have the essence of who the man George Washington was rather than be able to join in on the rattling off of the quote. I want him to hear about a science breakthrough and weigh if it’s in line with what God says about that. Finally, I want him to love America not because it’s perfect but because he knows what men and women did so we can be free.

Second Benefit: Personal Connections, Rather Than Robot-Like Answers

I want him to be able to read something and remember what struck him about it – not to remember what struck me about it, and not to remember what a textbook writer wants him to remember about it, and not to quote it back encyclopedia-like to me as if memorizing dates or events makes you get what those incredible moments were about. No, I want him to weigh his own opinions in light of what we he has learned reading about history, science, Bible, etc. in a Charlotte Mason-connected way, rather than in a searching for the one-right answer way he thinks somebody else wants him to say. HOD has strong academics, but the kind that I want, not the kind that will have my son robot-like spitting out answers.

Third Benefit: Build Relationships and Make Sense of Hard-to-Understand Things

I care about the relationship I have with my son, so I want time to talk to him about what my husband and I stand for. Likewise, I want time to instill in him the qualities and habits we find to be most important. I want him to be able to talk to little kids and grandpas, and I want him to want to talk to ME. The discussions we have in HOD are not throw-away ones. They are the ones that matter. They are of the kind that make me think of things my parents have said that stuck in my head for years.

Books like Practical Happiness, studies like World Religions and Cultures, Total Health or Pilgrim’s Progress… these discussions are important. They are helping us make sense of hard to understand things around us – the tough stuff. Wyatt and I don’t have the perfect relationship, but we sure love each other a lot, and we can talk about anything thanks to the HOD discussions that have opened that door that teenagers tend to slam shut about now.

Fourth Benefit: Knowing the Lord Personally

I want my son to know the Lord personally – not just to be able to quote this or that, not just be able to regurgitate facts. I am talking about REALLY knowing God. Getting up with Him every day to do a Bible Quiet Time, singing hymns of praise together to Him, crying out to Him in prayer, talking through decisions with what He wants in mind.

I want my son to see the Bible as the end all – the alpha and omega – the sole standard he can depend upon to lead him in the right direction all of the time. Not separating Him out or putting Him in one little part of our day, but including Him in everything – science, history, even grammar! And the list goes on. God is everywhere in HOD. You couldn’t get away from Him if you tried. He becomes our Way of Life. There’s no point in trying to come to school without your Bible or go through one school day without Him in HOD. He’s ever-present.

Fifth Benefit: Maintain a Healthy Balance of Using Time Wisely

Balance – I care about this, and so does my son. He wants to know what he is going to have to do each day and about how long it’s going to take him, and he doesn’t appreciate it being off-kilter. We only have so much time in the day. So, we can’t spend 2 hours on history one day and 30 minutes the next. We don’t want to have days we do nothing creative or hands-on, and we don’t want to have days we do nothing sit-down.

Routine. Habits. Very Charlotte Mason-like, and very reassuring and confidence building. This is what you’ll do this year, and you can count on it being balanced with no big ‘oh no this 5 minute thing is going to now take 2 hours’ type doomsday feeling. We love school, but we have other things to do too, and knowing what we need to do to get school done each day routinely makes the rest of our life work.

Sixth Benefit: Don’t Forget the Fun Stuff

Don’t forget the fun stuff! Charlotte Mason bought rubber boots for her students so they could walk outdoors every day, even if it was raining. Reading devotionals together, studying art and doing projects with it in a fun way, keeping a Common Place Book, looking at God’s creation and marveling at what we see, doing experiments, a real education doesn’t happen if you are only sitting down in a chair with a pencil or a book in hand hours on end.

Seventh Benefit: Language Arts Done Right

Language Arts done right – Charlotte Mason just got it. She knew how to teach children to THINK about what they read, and then to put into WORDs what they learned personally. No one right answer. That is a toughie when first getting to know Charlotte Mason. We do all long for that one right answer, that elusive answer key that we can gaze at and say, “Yes. Correct.” And there is a place for that. Just not in response to living books. The way Heart of Dakota teaches language arts using Charlotte Mason ideals – they keep our children LOVING books.

At one point in my life, I did not want to read even just one more book. Ironically, I was at the point in my life where I had 4.0 GPA in college. I was graduating at the height of my education in my masters, and all I could think was, “Please don’t make me read another book.” Tests. Quizzes. Papers. Essays. Never any heart in any of it. Never the chance to really say what I thought or get passionate about what I was reading. Just figuring out what my professor wanted me to say or how he/she wanted me to respond to receive the proverbial “A.”

Were it not for HOD, I myself might not have become interested in reading again. My son always has his head in a book. Always. He LOVES to read, and even out of school, the books he loves all get orally narrated to me or anyone who will listen. And he’s not a big talker normally either. HOD just makes a kid love books.

In Closing

I know there are more reasons, but these are the big ones. It all boils down to me feeling like there is no way Wyatt would ever get this kind of ‘education’ anywhere else. I care about the mind, but I also care so very much about the heart, and the soul of my son. And I think this is going to be probably the best thing I’ve done with my life. My greatest contribution on this earth will probably be the ones I leave behind, and that is going to be due in part, to the way I am blessed to be homeschooling them. I’m glad you asked this. It made me think, and when I am weary or discouraged, I will return to this post time and time again. May you find your peace and inspiration moving forward to high school with your own sons and daughters.

In Christ,


Switching to Heart of Dakota for High School

Pondering Placement

Switching to Heart of Dakota for High School

I used another curricula through 7th grade for my oldest son. He has completed (by the end of this year) all of the history time periods. I really am thinking that Heart of Dakota will be the best fit for him for high school. However, I would like to have him complete one of the middle school guides for 8th grade. I want him to be familiar with the flow of Heart of Dakota. Even though he would place in MTMM, I don’t think that would be best, as we are studying that same material now. (We are even using Story of the World 4). My thought was to place him in Revival to Revolution. I would add the extensions and the advanced science package. I am a little nervous about the switch, but my heart keeps coming back to this curriculum! What would you advise for placement?

Carrie’s Reply to Placement Questions About Switching to Heart of Dakota for High School

Normally, we would encourage you to place your son in MTMM if that is where he fits best on the placement chart, even if he is switching to HOD from another Charlotte Mason-style curricula. However, if you feel that he has done that particular time period this past year, then it would be workable to consider Revival to Revolution instead.

Switching to Revival to Revolution would give a good introduction to Heart of Dakota.

I do think that Revival to Revolution would give you a good introduction to HOD. Your son would also be able to get into the pattern and the feel of the guides prior to high school. There is a jump between Revival to Revolution and World Geography. So, you may want to take another look at MTMM just to be sure that there is as much overlap in content as you think. Yet, I do think switching to Revival to Revolution is a workable plan in your placement situation.

Your son should also switch to Drawn into the Heart of Reading 6/7/8, as well as the correct levels of grammar and math.

In order to be well-prepared for the high school literature in the World Geography guide, you would want to do Drawn into the Heart of Reading Level 6/7/8 with the level 6/7 or 7/8 book pack as part of whichever HOD guide your son is switching to. You will also need to make sure to have the correct level of grammar and math in place too! I pray you enjoy HOD as much as we have and are!


Using Voice Memos for High School Recorded Oral Narrations

From Our House to Yours

Using Voice Memos for Recorded Oral Narrations

I have loved listening to our sons’ oral narrations through the years! From their first fledgling CM narrations in Heart of Dakota’s younger guides to their later finely crafted narrations in the  high school guides, I consider it such a privilege to witness their progress firsthand. I confess I especially enjoy their high school oral narrations. With all the guidance and practice in the younger guides, by high school, I pretty much just get to enjoy listening. The first high school guide, World Geography, assigns five kinds of oral narrations. Students give key word, summary, detailed, topic, and key word typed oral narrations. By the second high school guide, World History, students add recorded narrations to their repertoire. We have found using voice memos makes recorded oral narrations so easy!

Press ‘Voice Memos’ to Record and Pause As Needed

This year in USI, Riley has added opinion and highlighted narrations to his cache, while still practicing the other kinds of oral narrations. When it comes to managing recorded oral narrations, we find using voice memos to be so effective! Why? Well, first, he can just press ‘voice memos’ on his phone to begin. Second, he can press ‘pause’ anytime during the recording to collect his thoughts. Third, he can do this completely independently, which means he can always give his oral narration directly after he completes the reading. I always think this makes for the best narration possible. Fourth, he can text me his voice memo when he is done. This means I can enjoy listening to his recorded narration on my phone anytime and anywhere!

Riley’s Voice Memo He Texted Me Today

I homeschool from early morning to early afternoon, and then I head to work. Right before I left for work today, Riley texted me a recorded voice memo of his Monroe Doctrine oral narration. I hit ‘play’ before I left our driveway. What fun I had listening to his voice memo as I drove to work! While I don’t always do this and often have his book in hand to skim as I listen, today I was running out of time. I sure appreciated being able to listen to his narration as I drove! After parking my car, I took a moment to text him back how much I loved his narration. He texted back to thank me with lots of happy emoticons. This kind of immediate feedback, while not always possible, was wonderful! I’m not a huge fan of media. However, voice memos of recorded narrations has been a blessing.

In Closing

Recorded voice memos give students a chance to pause to choose their words more carefully. They also give students a chance to hear themselves narrate, as they can listen to their recorded narrations when they are done. I find this does more to do away with poor narrating habits than almost anything else! Hearing oneself say ‘and then’ dozens of times makes the need to start sentences in a variety of ways more obvious. Likewise, an excessive amount of short sentences or a plethora of lengthy sentences recorded make clear in moments of listening the need to vary sentence lengths. Personal style emerges in high school oral narrations. This is just plain fun for me as a mom to see develop! While not everything is pronounced exactly right, Riley gave a wonderful narration. I’m going to try to link it here for you to hear…

In Christ,


Why I Love Pride and Prejudice.

History with Heart of Dakota

What’s so special about Jane Austen?

When it comes to classic literature, Jane Austen’s books will always have a special place in my heart. What makes her easier to read than, say, Sir Walter Scott, is that her lively sense of humor transcends time periods and is still easily-understandable in today’s age. Where most authors of her time kowtow to the societal structures of the Regency Era, Jane enjoys poking fun at their foibles. As she says through the voice of Mr. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, “For what do we live, but to make sport of our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?” (Austen 407)

Nonetheless, she is not so slap-happy with her sarcasm that she pokes fun at everything indiscriminately. She paints true virtues in positive tones and portrays wrongdoing without making light of it. As a rule, she respects what is respectable, detests what is detestable, and laughingly pokes fun at everything in between.

Another strength of Jane Austen’s literature is that her characters feel unshakably-real. Rather than being flat, the majority of them have relatable strengths or weaknesses. The way they think and act seems uncannily familiar – even to 21st century readers.

These qualities are all especially evident in Jane Austen’s magnum opus: Pride and Prejudice.

Historical backdrop

In today’s world of empowered women, it is difficult to imagine the different world that was the Regency Era. At that time, the options women of low social standing had were quite limited. While men were able to get an education at universities such as Cambridge, women were unable to attend such universities. Also, aside from employment as governesses, there were extremely restricted avenues for women to earn money through employment. (Even Jane Austen herself, though she earned some money through the sale of her novels, was very much the exception and not the norm.)

Finally, there was little-to-no chance of women being able to inherit an estate. (This would only be allowed in rare cases by privilege of nobility.) Therefore, in order to obtain financial security, women were expected to marry – and marry well. In the midst of all this – at a time where ladies were expected to be ornamental and materialistically-minded – Pride and Prejudice’s main character enters the scene.

Elizabeth Bennet

Elizabeth Bennet is easily one of my favorite protagonists of all time. While she generally stays within the boundaries of civility expected of her as a lady, she is teasingly-defiant of some of society’s sillier conventions. She is not so reverent of social politics that she is afraid to laugh at their inconsistencies. Rather, she is irreverently-unimpressed by the distinctions which title and rank alone could afford a person. She differs greatly from Regency Era expectations of women to be seen and not heard – even going so far as to tease some of the novel’s most formidable gentry!

Nonetheless, Elizabeth shows good sense and intelligence where it is necessary. Though she is a flawed character who has weaknesses like any other person, she readily admits where she was wrong and does not remain stubborn and unyielding for long. As a reader from modern times, I find Elizabeth Bennet to be a breath of fresh air from the traditional heroines of books from that era. Not so progressive as to be obnoxious, Elizabeth Bennet nevertheless exists in a manner that outclasses her times.

Timeless themes

Another reason Pride and Prejudice is so timeless is because its themes are still relevant in today’s culture. A key theme is to never judge someone based on your first impression. (Fun fact: Jane Austen originally titled the book “First Impressions” before settling on “Pride and Prejudice”.)

Another key theme is the wisdom of choosing who you marry carefully. This is especially relevant today! Many young people (myself included!) have questions about relationships on their minds. They want to see what a healthy relationship looks like. They want to see what character traits to look for in someone they might date/court. Tired of being hoodwinked by Hollywood, they  hunger to know what love really looks like.

This, my friends, is where Pride and Prejudice shines! It is far more than a manners and morality tale; it is an honest look at what character traits make a man or woman. In the novel, you see the good, the bad, and the ugly. You see stupidity, selfishness, and pride put on full display. But you also see character traits reminiscent of the Proverbs 31 woman and the Ephesians 5 man shining for all to see.

Ultimately, Pride and Prejudice perceptively demonstrates that while marriage is a huge blessing, rushing headlong into marriage often does more harm than good. “Marriage alone is not a virtue,” Jane Austen seems to counsel us. “It’s who you marry that makes or breaks your success.”

Where in HOD can you find Pride and Prejudice?

You can find Pride and Prejudice in the English credit section of our US History II high school curriculum. For those who want to dive deeper into the Pride and Prejudice experience, there is an option that includes an excellent BBC miniseries adaption starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. (Personally, I would highly-recommend seeing it; it’s true to the book and the acting is FANTASTIC!)


Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. (Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2004).

How should I have multiple students annotate high school literature?

Dear Carrie

How should I have multiple students annotate high school literature?

I have six children, and we have enjoyed using Heart of Dakota from Little Hands to Heaven to MTMM! We have found part of the beauty of HOD’s literature-based curriculum is how reusable it is! So, now that my oldest will be starting World Geography for high school I have a question. Since there is annotating, will I need to buy the literature package six times? Or, how should I handle annotating when I have multiple students? Thanks in advance!


“Ms. Please Help with How to Annotate with Multiple Students”

Dear “Ms. Please Help with How to Annotate with Multiple Students,”

I have just had each child annotate in a different colored pen. For things that they are directed within the guide to annotate, the child would still need to underline using his/her own pen color to show that the direction has been followed, even if a previous child had annotated the same passage. This way, at a glance, it is easy to see if the current child did the assignment.

Students remember what they annotate due to both the physical act of marking a passage and the mental picture of the marked page.

I like writing within the book at the high school level to annotate, as it feels more interactive to physically mark the page. This physical act of marking a passage combined with taking a mental picture of the marked page, somehow seems more memorable. When I was in college, I used to memorize my notes word for word and visualize the highlighting or marking in my notes as part of that process. When I took tests, I could actually recall the way my notes looked on the page to help me sift and sort through information to find the answers. I liken annotating to that process of seeing the marks on a page and focusing more closely on the marked information.