Weighted Grading for Foerster’s Algebra

Dear Carrie

Weighted Grading for Foerster’s Algebra 

We are starting our first year of high school, and we are so excited to be using Heart of Dakota (HOD)! Weighted grading, however, is brand new to me. I really appreciate the weighted grading instructions provided in the World Geography guide. What a tremendous help! I know there are multiple math options for Algebra I, so I understand why the guide says to refer to the math text for grading. However, I looked at the Foerster’s text, and I am still at a loss on how to grade it. Any help is appreciated! Specifically, I am wondering what you would suggest for weighted grading in Foerster’s Algebra? Thanks in advance, Carrie!


“Ms. Please Help Me with Weighted Grading of Foerster’s Algebra”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Me with Weighted Grading of Foerster’s Algebra,”

At the high school level, the way that you weight your grades can vary widely. Almost any combination of daily work, reviews, and assessment grading will work. For example, you could use daily work as 50 percent of the weighted grade, or you could change that percentage up or down. Daily work can just be earned by effort and completion (and correcting one’s mistakes). This is because quite often in daily work the material is new, and as students are trying to learn new concepts they often falter. So, grading students first efforts at something new is not a true grade.

At the high school level, I’d lean toward a weighted grading of 30 percent for tests and 20 percent for reviews.

Next, let’s consider how to handle weighted grading for tests and reviews. At the high school level, completion of chapter reviews often takes up a portion of the assessment grade. So, I might lean toward 20 percent for chapter reviews and 30 percent for tests. Again, these percentages can be changed up or down.

Open-book testing is another grading option used in high school and in college.

Another option that is used for grading with increasing frequency is for tests to be open-book. Or, instead you might allow your student to write down on an index card any helpful formulas or notes to be used during the test. This was something that was done in my college math classes. I learned to write very small!

Weighted grading varies greatly and is the instructor’s prerogative. 

Even at the college level, where tests are weighted much more heavily, there is quite a bit of variation as to how much other output students are required to complete for the rest of their grade. Some courses are almost wholly test-based, and others split the grading out more with a large amount of other output. My oldest son’s college classes have varied widely in how the grading is weighted. It is often the instructor’s prerogative. Since you are the instructor, your prerogative reigns. You just need to be able to justify how you arrived at the grade.


Will R & S English 7 still benefit my high school student if she completed other programs?

Pondering Placement

Will my daughter benefit from doing R & S English 7 for 9th grade if she has already completed several other grammar programs?

My 9th grade, 15 year-old daughter will start using Heart of Dakota’s World Geography this coming year. My placement question is actually about grammar. She has already previously completed Analytical Grammar twice in her 6th and 7th grade years. Last year for 8th grade, she used the high school reinforcement book from Analytical grammar along with Easy Grammar Plus. She has always done most of her grammar on her own now. My question is will she still benefit from R & S English 7? She has been independent in this area and used to correcting her own work. I will confess, I’d love to hand her the teacher’s manual and student book and let her do this on her own. I’m not sure if I’m supposed teach it at this point, but I do want her to get all the benefit she can from English these high school years.

Carrie’s Reply:  Yes, I think your daughter would still benefit from using R & S English 7.

In my opinion, I think that your daughter would still benefit from using Rod and Staff English 7 because it integrates writing and a whole host of other English skills within the program. This will provide a different feel from what she’s already had in the past.

How My Oldest Son Completed R & S English in High School

As far as using Rod and Staff English, I’ll share that at our house my oldest son preferred to do his lessons orally with us rather than write out all of the answers. However, due to time constraints for his senior year, he did benefit from doing the last half of English 8 just the way you are describing in your post. He did the lessons and checked them himself using the Teacher’s Guide key. He did share that it was more difficult, and less interesting, to do Rod and Staff English this way. However, it did work for him for that season. 

How My Next Son Completed R & S English in High School

With my next son in line,we still went over his lessons regularly. However, he did enjoy writing out the answers ahead of time to save time during the meeting with us later. Sometimes he had the whole lesson done before he ever met with us. To me, this was still of benefit to him as well. We just orally did whatever he had left. With my younger kiddos, we definitely meet each time with them and do 2/3 of the English lesson orally and 1/3 on paper.

Students do benefit from some oral discussion and application, simply because English is a spoken as well as a written language.

So, with your older daughter you can decide how best to approach Rod and Staff English to best fit your needs and hers. There are benefits to both ways! It may be a changing approach from year to year, depending on what your schedule allows. I do feel that kiddos benefit from some oral discussion and application of the English lessons, simply because English is a spoken as well as a written language!


Do the high school guides incrementally build in skill level?

Dear Carrie

Do the high school guides incrementally build in skill level as you go up?

I’m a homeschool mom of five, and I’ve loved using Heart of Dakota since 2010!  I am wondering if the high school guides are pretty much written at a certain skill level? Or, do they continue to progressively build in skill level as you go up? I’m curious if they incrementally build like the younger guides, where one guide prepares the student for the next guide in line. Or, are they written to be done in any order, with approximately the same level of reading and writing skills in each? Obviously this wouldn’t apply to the math portion, as that would have to build up in a certain way. However, I’m wondering about the rest of the guide. No matter what, we’ll be using Heart of Dakota, but I’m just curious! Thanks in advance, Carrie!

“Ms. Curious About Whether the High School Guides Build Incrementally”

Dear “Ms. Curious About Whether the High School Guides Build Incrementally,”

This is a good question! Like the younger guides, the high school guides do build incrementally upon the skills from the previous guides. So, as you progress through high school the level of the skills increase as do the type of skills. Some skills also bow out while others rise to replace them.

Though it is best to move through the guides in sequence, it is still key to place students where they fit best according to the placement chart.

The best path through Heart of Dakota (HOD) is definitely in sequence if at all possible. However, we do know that some families coming to HOD from another curriculum may have to borrow from upper guides (or possibly even lower guides) to put together their needed high school credits. It is still key to place students where they fit best according to the placement chart though. If students are well-placed in a lower guide and are not able to complete all of the high school guides prior to graduating, they will still be receiving a strong education that meets them where they are and incrementally moves them forward.

You will see a range of ages using each of the high school guides.

Of course, all of the guides are suitable for a range of ages, and the high school guides are no exception. So, you will definitely see a range of ages using each of the high school guides. In the comments for the World Geography section of our catalog, there are comments from 15, 16, and 18 year-olds (all of who successfully used the World Geography Guide with some modifications in math and science). I hope this can be an encouragement to you as your oldest enters high school!


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!


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,