Why shouldn’t I just place my children where they would fit next in the history cycle?

Dear Carrie

Why shouldn’t I just place my children in Heart of Dakota where they would fit next in the history cycle?

I love the history cycle, which is why I love what I see in Heart of Dakota! Had I known about Heart of Dakota when I began homeschooling, I wouldn’t have to ask this question. I would have just started at the beginning and worked my way through the guides. However, sadly, I just found Heart of Dakota. I’m hooked. I’ll be using it for sure. But, oh, I do love moving through the history cycle! I’ve been using family learning with another homeschool curriculum. It is not working. No one is properly placed. I want a change. We need a change! However, old habits die hard.

The old me wants to just force fit everyone into the next period of history we’d study. The new me wants to – NEEDS to – make sure my kids are each placed in guides that actually fit them.  Help me get my thoughts right on this! Help me have peace of mind! Why can’t I just place my children in HOD where they’d fit in next in the history cycle?


“Ms. Please Help Me Get My Thoughts Right on the History Cycle”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Me Get My Thoughts Right on the History Cycle,”

It is amazing to me in homeschool circles, how much emphasis we give to the history cycle in planning our children’s homeschool years! In fact, it is so much this way that as a new homeschool mom twenty-plus years ago, I was sure that the history cycle was to be the focal point of my children’s homeschool plan for all of their years of schooling. To point out how misguided the incredible emphasis on this focus could be, consider if we made other decisions in our life like this.

Let’s compare the history cycle to an exercise cycle to illustrate the dangers of making the history cycle supreme.

What if, as adults, there was a “set” 4 year exercise sequence that all adults followed, however this sequence did not take into account any variables that may affect your success in this plan. For example, prior to starting this exercise plan, no account would be taken of what you weighed, what your previous workout history had been, or whether or not as a woman you were pregnant or had just had a baby, and no thought would be given to your age, or even to your gender in considering the best exercise plan for you. Let’s just say that all persons followed this same 4 year exercise sequence no matter what, and what’s more you had to complete this exercise plan in sequence no matter how you changed over the years.

How successful would this plan be for you?

Ask yourself, how successful would the exercise plan be for you? Would you feel that all of your needs were considered in placing you in this type of a plan? Now, before you say that this is ridiculous, think of how closely this parallels the thinking that the history cycle should dictate what our children do from year-to-year and how little placement by this guideline takes into account the needs of your individual children?

The history cycle is only one small piece of the learning puzzle.

At HOD, placement is based mainly on family dynamics, mix of personalities, and individual needs of family members. It is not based on the history cycle, because this kind of placement does not take into account the family’s needs but instead makes the history cycle the supreme focus and deciding factor. While we do include the history cycle at HOD, and we do love history, you’ll notice that on the HOD Board (when placing families) we rarely ask what a family has done in the past for the history cycle. This is because the history cycle is only one small piece of the learning puzzle, and decisions based solely on the history cycle overlook much of the academic and spiritual needs of the individual children.

Just as the history cycle is only one indicator used for placement, so is age.

Age is also only one indicator used for placement. At HOD, within our placement chart, you’ll notice that the target ages on our guides overlap. This is because age is only one piece of the puzzle that needs to be considered prior to finding the correct fit. You’ll find that families with similar aged kiddos often follow different HOD paths and end up in different HOD guides, based on their child’s skill level and their family dynamics.


Switching to HOD: How to choose guides considering the history cycle?

Dear Carrie

My first attempt with Charlotte Mason didn’t go well. Can you help me with switching to Heart of Dakota and with choosing guides considering the history cycle?

Dear Carrie,

I LOVE the look of Heart of Dakota!! It seems to incorporate all that I was wishing to do this year in our homeschool, being our first Charlotte Mason attempt. Unfortunately, we’ve kind of lost our way. I’m hoping that maybe HOD can get us back on track.  I don’t know if it will be completely possible. This year I have a 15 year old son (9th grade) and a 10 year old son (5th grade). Can you help me with switching to Heart of Dakota and with choosing guides considering the history cycle?

We are up to the year 1700 in our studies, in our 22nd week. Revival to Revolution looks like it could work for us, but we’d have to stop what we are doing for history and pick it up for next school year. Is that even advisable? Could I add to it for the then 10th grader, so we are in the same time period? I would love any advice you can give!


“Ms. Please Help with Choosing Guides and Considering the History Cycle”

Dear “Ms. Please Help with Choosing Guides and Considering the History Cycle,”

I am glad you are switching to Heart of Dakota, as I believe you will love our Charlotte Mason-inspired plans! Our guides are complete, easy-to-use, and full of wonderful living books for a solid literature-based education.  As you think through what would be the best fit for your two kiddos, I’ll encourage you to do a few things that will really help make it clearer as to where they fit best.

Put aside thoughts of the history cycle and the science texts your students have covered and look at each as individuals.

First, put aside any thoughts of which history cycle your students have covered, except for perhaps your high school student only if certain history requirements must be met for credit. Next, set aside any ponderings about which science texts your students may have already used. Last, place your students as individuals, putting aside any thoughts of combining.  Use the first page only of the placement chart to place each student.

Correct placement in HOD is based on the skills shown on the first page of the placement chart. 

If you do these things, you will truly see where each child fits best and in which program. Correct placement in HOD is based on the skills shown on the first page of the placement chart. These skills are required to complete all areas of the guide. So, if you place a child based on the history cycle or on the science program, you may have an inaccurate placement. This makes all of the rest of the guide a poor fit. Not to mention, it would be compounded in the years to come, as one guide prepares a child very well for the next guide in line!  So with that in mind, for a link to the placement chart, click here.

Skills are important in placement in Heart of Dakota.

I know this will feel different than the approach used for placement found in other homeschool companies. The reason for this is that, at HOD, the skills are very important in placement. This is because CM type skills build from guide to guide (as well as the difficulty of the material and how the skills are applied). Even if you end up reusing a science text or a history text that you may have already read, you’ll find that when the text is done in the CM style used in our guides (and likely is read independently by the student), it will feel completely different!

Our oldest son had to repeat a history cycle when we switched to a more CM-style curriculum, and it still worked well!

We have had this experience ourselves with our own oldest son, as have other moms on the message board who have repeated a text. I had my oldest son repeat a history cycle he’d just done when we switched to a more CM-style curriculum. I found it still worked well, and he gained so much!  If you get a chance to pop back and share where each of your students fit as individuals on the first page only of the chart, then we can help you fine-tune their placement!  Just give us a call for our placement specialist to help, or post on the Main Board of our Message Board, or order our catalog for further placement help! We look forward to hearing back from you when you get a chance.


P.S. To read more about answers to commonly asked questions about how we approach placement and why, click here!