Does every family with multiple kids the same ages as mine do the same exact placement?

Dear Carrie

Does every family with multiple kids the same ages as mine do the same exact placement?

I am a mom of four children ranging from ages three to ten years old. My husband is a pastor. Other pastors and also missionaries we know are using Heart of Dakota and have highly recommended it to us. I have been looking at your website, and I am excited about what I see! My catalog is on its way. As I wait for it to arrive, I have been starting to look into placement. Heart of Dakota seems to be complete, but not a usual boxed curricula. I see overlap of ages for the guides, which makes sense to me. I’ve read your message board, and even found some posts about placement for kids about my children’s ages. However, I haven’t found an exact match for our children. Is there one right exact placement for them I should be making? I mean, if I say they are ages 3, 6, 8, and 10 years old, do you suggest the same guides for me you’d suggest for somebody else with kids those ages? Thanks!


“Ms. Please Help Me Know If I Only Have One Exact Placement Available to Me”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Me Know If I Only Have One Exact Placement Available to Me,”

At Heart of Dakota (HOD), we do not have an exact placement for children solely based on age. If you’ve ever purchased any kind of clothing that is marked “one-size fits all”, you have likely discovered the reality that one-size truly does NOT fit all! I’m thinking of supposedly “one-size fits all” gloves, p.j.s, and workout pants that I’ve tried. Unfortunately, I found out that my “size” was not in the “one-size fits all” category!   I share this example because many homeschool curriculums take the “one-size fits all approach”, offering the same advice and same path to everyone.

Rather than one exact placement for everyone, we give you options!

At HOD, rather than one exact placement, we give you options to ponder of possible paths that could best meet your family needs. These recommendations are always based on what you share with us about each of your individual children. One unique aspect of HOD is that we have written our guides so that you can choose whether to combine or not to combine your children for their learning. This flexibility allows you to choose what is best for your family, rather than providing a “one-size fits all path”. At HOD, we don’t dictate to you whether you need to combine your children or whether you need to separate them. Each family situation is unique and is looked at in an individual light.

Rather than one exact placement, you have the flexibility to combine or separate.

Rather than one exact placement, you have flexibility through the years. Our guides also allow you the flexibility to move back and forth between combining or separating your children along the homeschool path, if needed, allowing for changes over the years in family dynamics and situations. Each year, you can reassess, to be sure of which path should be followed each step of the way, giving you a customized fit. So, rather than one exact placement, we work with you to find the right placement considering individual children’s needs and family’s needs!


Dry Bones, How They’re Connected, and What They Have to Do with Charlotte Mason

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

The toe bone is connected to the foot bone… The foot bone is connected to the heel bone… 

In elementary school, my health class memorized a song called Dry Bones. I didn’t know it at the time, but this song references Ezekiel 37:1-14, where Ezekiel prophesies that the dead in the Valley of Dry Bones will one day rise again at the Lord’s command. The song tells the sequence of bones, starting with the toe bone connected to the foot bone, the foot bone connected to the heel bone, and moves upward all the way to the head bone. Though there are many variations of this song, the song usually ends with “Now hear the Word of the Lord.” This week I was reminded of Dry Bones for an odd reason! Though the song is about how bones are connected, I was reminded of the song by how Heart of Dakota’s subjects are connected! And Charlotte Mason has a lot to do with it!

The Storytime ‘Bone’ Connected to the Write with the Best ‘Bone’

For MTMM’s Storytime, Emmett has been reading Factory GirlIn Factory Girl, 12-year-old Emily works in an overcrowded sweatshop for just four dollars a week. She works eleven hours straight, clipping threads from blouses as fast as she can. Emily’s boss shouts for her to snip faster, or she’ll be fired. However, if she snips too fast, she’ll ruin the blouse and be docked pay. Emily’s family will starve without her pay. When a reporter arrives and begins to expose the factory’s terrible working conditions, Emily begins to hope for a better life. Archived, real-life photographs brought this book to life for Emmett. At 13-years-old, Emmett is close to Emily’s age, and the life she led as a factory girl was surprising. This living book made such an impact on Emmett that he was soon connecting this Storytime ‘bone’ to his Write with the Best ‘bone.’ Let’s see how!

The Write with the Best ‘Bone’ Connected to the Science ‘Bone’

For Write with the Best, Emmett needed to write a persuasive essay. He immediately connected his Factory Girl Storytime ‘bone’ to his Write with the Best persuasive essay ‘bone.’ He took notes, made an outline, and wrote his essay all about working conditions in the Gilded Age. Writing this essay made such an impact on Emmett that he was soon connecting this Write with the Best ‘bone’ to his Science ‘bone.’ Let’s see how!

The Science ‘Bone’ Connected to the Biblical Self-Image ‘Bone’

As Emmett was reading Factory Girl and writing his Write with the Best essay about immigration laws in the Gilded Age, in science, Emmett was reading about Marie Curie. This brilliant woman and her husband discovered the elements polonium and radium. Marie loved her life’s work so much, and it was a passion her husband shared with her as well. As Marie continued to work in her lab, her health began to fail. She had poor working conditions, and due to her constant exposure to radioactive materials, she eventually died.

As Emmett and I discussed the assigned questions in his Marie Curie book, he commented that Marie Curie’s working conditions in her lab were also terrible, but in a different way than Emily’s in Factory Girl. Marie loved her long hours in her lab! She loved working there, and she didn’t know the conditions were harmful. However, Marie did have her lab workers who were also in poor health take fresh air vacations, only to have them return to the lab’s poor working conditions. This, Emmett felt, was not right. Before long, Emmett was connecting this Science ‘bone’ to his Biblical Self-Image ‘bone.’ Marie had a good self-image because her work was her purpose. Emily had a poor self-image because her work was pointless. However, the best self-image comes from knowing you are a child of God.

The Biblical Self-Image ‘Bone’ Connected to the Reading About History ‘Bone’

The day after we finished discussing our Biblical Self-Image lesson from Who Am I? And What Am I Doing Here?, we moved to our Reading About History lesson. It was primarily about Madero replacing Diaz as Mexico’s president. But, it also had connections to Lazarus being raised from the dead. And THIS is where I connected the song Dry Bones to all of this Charlotte Mason, Heart of Dakota-style of learning! Yes, I admit MY connection is the weakest, but as I began to type this “More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment” post, I began humming the tune Dry Bones. I just had to find a way to share this. In the end, the point is: a Charlotte Mason education helps kiddos make connections. Those connections are real, and they are memorable. What an amazing way to learn!

In Christ,


New Year’s Resolutions… Past and Present

From Our House to Yours

New Year’s Resolutions… Past and Present

I love the start of a new year! New beginnings offer new opportunities for change, and ladies, change can be good! Around my mid-November birthday, I start pondering my New Year’s resolutions. Before I look forward, I like to look back. If I reflect on the current year while I’m still in it, I tend to have more clarity. I pull out my journal and jot down my thoughts on what was good and what was not. No year is perfect! I am not perfect. However, it helps for me to look at my roles in life: Christian, wife, daughter, mother, homeschool teacher, sister, aunt, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, and now even great aunt! Also on the mental list are employee, friend, and church member. Whew! No wonder we are sometimes weary as women trying to be the best we can be!

Long Past New Year’s Resolutions Still Living On Today

I have made New Year’s resolutions for many years. Some have been on the list for awhile. Others are just a natural part of my life now. I do them without thinking. I date my husband once a week. Every time I drive to Sioux Falls, I call my mom. The first of each month, I balance the budget. Weekdays, I set aside time needed to homeschool. Chores are posted and done before breakfast. I have set school breakfast and lunch menus we rotate through. At the start of each homeschool year, I make a calendar. I make and print homeschool schedules for each person. Exercise is a real part of my life. Bible quiet time is the way I start my weekdays. Many of the positives in my life today are the result of New Year’s resolutions that became habits, one year at a time.

New Year’s Resolutions for 2021

What New Year’s resolutions do you have? Last year I read through the Everyday Living Bible. This 2021, I’ll start reading the Battlefield of the Mind Bible following a 3-year reading plan. I plan to add a short devotional each day as well. I also have a goal to read a book from my ‘wish pile’ each month. Another goal is to lose 25 pounds and to try one new exercise. For homeschooling, I am planning on giving my all to helping my youngest son have a strong start to HOD’s high school. Likewise, I’m planning on helping my middle son have a strong start to college. Additionally, I’m planning on helping my oldest son finish college strong. I want to plan a 50th birthday vacation, with a focus on outdoor adventures. I hope to get better at sending birthday cards using a monthly birthday card sorter. And the list goes on!

What New Year’s resolutions are you excited about this 2021?

So, what New Year’s resolutions are you excited about this 2021? Dream a little! Write them down. Will you meet all of your resolutions? Probably realistically not. However, even if you meet one, that one new resolution could be a habit for the rest of your life. If you do one resolution a year, in 25 years, you’ll have 25 new awesome habits! What New Year’s resolutions would most impact your homeschooling? Try your hand at one or two! How about your marriage? Your relationships? Your health? Give some new resolutions a try! If we have no goals, it’s tough to see if we met them. Life is meant to be lived today! Remember, Jesus came that we may have life, and have it to the fullest. Taking steps to live a full, joyful, Christian life is a way we can say thanks!

In Christ,


Upholding One Another on This Homeschool Journey

From Our House to Yours

Upholding One Another on This Homeschool Journey

I believe we need to uphold one another on this homeschool journey. Homeschooling can be lonely. However, we can have each other’s backs! As homeschool moms, we need to guard against unhealthy comparisons. There is no one perfect way to homeschool. One homeschool mom stays home full-time. Another homeschool mom works part-time. Still another homeschool mom works full-time, while her husband, mom, sister, or friend helps teach. Likewise, one homeschool mom has no outside help. Another homeschool mom hires a part-time tutor, a cleaning lady, a babysitter, or a part-time nanny. Moreover, one homeschool mom teaches Monday through Friday, from September to May. Another homeschool mom teaches nights and weekends, year-round. Furthermore, one homeschool mom makes every meal from scratch. Another homeschool mom orders every meal to be delivered. The point is, we can be different kinds of homeschool moms and still uphold one another.

Upholding Our Children on This Homeschool Journey

I believe we need to uphold each of our children on this homeschool journey. As homeschool moms, we need to guard against unhealthy comparisons. There is no one perfect homeschool student. One student is an early riser who works best in the morning. Another student is a night owl who works best at night. Still another student is an ‘in the middle’ who works best in the afternoon. Likewise, one student loves everything creative. Another student loves everything logical. Moreover, one student excels at reading, writing, and spelling. Another student excels at math and science. Still another student is more average or below average, but has a penchant for helping others. Furthermore, one student is a messy who works best ensconced in piles of books, surrounded with noise. Another student works best when things are neat as a pin and quiet as a mouse. The point is, children can be different kinds of students and still uphold one another.

Negative Thoughts… Negative Comments… Not ways to uphold one another as homeschool moms!

I have spoken to homeschool moms on the phone who sheepishly share they don’t cook, or they have someone clean their home. Likewise, I have spoken to homeschool moms who quietly confess they don’t bake homemade bread or keep a garden. Moreover, I have spoken to homeschool moms who brokenly share they have piles of laundry, uncorrected schoolwork, and crayon writing on their walls. Why are we so hard on ourselves as homeschool moms? I think it is (sometimes) because we are so hard on each other! We need not be negative Nellies with negative thoughts and negative comments about each other. I truly believe we need to guard against this! Mary talking bad about Gina for hiring a cleaning lady is just as wrong as Gina talking bad about Mary’s house being a mess. Homeschool moms, we must uphold one another!

Negative Thoughts… Negative Comments… Not ways to uphold one another as homeschool students!

I have spoken with children at conventions who sheepishly share they are the ‘slow one.’ Likewise, I have spoken with children at conventions who confidently share they are the ‘advanced one.’ Where do children get these unhealthy comparisons? Negative thoughts, negative comments are not ways to uphold our children as homeschool students. Moreover, I have spoken with children who quietly confess they are ‘behind,’ while a sibling proudly states he/she is ‘ahead.’ If children are combined and it leads to unhealthy self-images like this, believe me, it would be best to separate! Homeschool moms, we must uphold our children and teach them to uphold each other!

Let us uphold one another on this homeschool journey!

It is not easy to love one another, yet it is what we are commanded to do. When we are prone to unhealthy comparisons, the root is often jealousy or pride. If you’ve ever spent real time talking to fellow homeschool moms, you know, not a single one of us is perfect. Mary can’t keep her house clean because she has chronic fatigue and eight children. Gina needs a house cleaner because her husband expects her to work and homeschool, and he really likes a clean house too.

As Christian women, we can do better. We can uphold one another and know what one mom needs to do to keep homeschooling may be different from what another mom needs to do. Likewise, all children are made in the image of God. Every child has a God-given purpose, as well as unique gifts and talents. In a moment of weakness, let’s cling to the thought that we need each other! As homeschool moms, we have the power to uphold each other and our children. Let’s do this, together, one day at a time!

In Christ,


Charlotte Mason’s “Presence” in Our Average High School Day

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

Charlotte Mason’s “Presence” in Our Average High School Day

By the end of this homeschool year, I will have graduated my second son, Riley. Though I have mixed emotions, the most prevalent one is gratitude. I just feel incredibly blessed to have been Wyatt’s and Riley’s teacher. I look forward to finishing my teaching strong over the next four years with my last son, Emmett. Homeschooling is just such a blessing. We have a way of life I would not trade for anything. Faith, family, and a love for learning – all an amazing daily part of our homeschooling. One primary thing I am eternally grateful for is God’s abiding presence in our day-to-day learning. Another secondary thing I am especially grateful for is Charlotte Mason’s presence in our schooling each day. I was worried she might disappear in high school, but she is alive and well.

Charlotte Mason’s “Presence” in U.S History II’s Day 2 Plans of Unit 14

Riley and I just finished U.S. History II’s Unit 14, Day 2’s plans today. This was just an ordinary day. However, ordinary days seem extraordinary to me during the senior high school year. Everything just comes together beautifully. In this blog post, I thought we could see how Charlotte Mason’s presence makes each high school day special by just looking at a random day like today.

Charlotte Mason’s “Presence”… found in reading living books for history, completing Book of Centuries timeline entries, and copying famous quotes for Living Library

Riley read some amazing living books today!  Starting with the U.S. History box of plans, Riley read Mystery of History. In response to the reading, he added three entries to his Book of Centuries. Moving on to his History Activities box of plans, Riley read more of his Mystery of History book. His U.S. II notebook included multiple quotes from Gandhi that were taken from his reading. Beneath each quote, Riley noted the quote’s context, its significance, and any insight it provided into Gandhi. He also shared his own thoughts and reactions to each quote. Moving on to the Living Library box, Riley read A Room of My Own. He responded to his reading with a Triple-Entry Journal Assignment. In this assignment, he copied a favorite quote, explained its context, and shared his reflections on it. Now, that’s quite a Charlotte Mason “presence,” isn’t it?!?

Charlotte Mason’s “Presence”… found in reading living books for Economics and Finance, in studying citizenship, in learning Latin, and in studying the Bible

In Economics, he read Economics: A Free Market Reader. We then had a wonderful discussion about the circumstances under which a government should be able to use its power to compel citizens to comply. We moved on to Latin, where Riley translated sentences written in Latin to English. Next, came Finance with Dave Ramsey – a man truly passionate about this topic! Riley read Foundations in Personal Finance and answered written questions in response to his reading. After he watched Dave’s DVD, he completed journal questions about student loan myths and shared his answers with me. As he quoted Dave and excitedly shared his answers, this really turned into an oral narration. Likewise, after reading and annotating his Bible box’s I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, he gave another impromptu oral narration after sharing his workbook answers. Yet another indicator of Charlotte Mason’s “presence” in high school!

Charlotte Mason’s “Presence”… found in reading living books and doing copywork for Science, in British Literature poetry study, and in studying Great Communicators in Speech

In Science, Riley read The New Astronomy Book and watched the DVD What You Aren’t Being Told About Astronomy. After answering workbook questions, he moved onto his notebook. In his notebook, he completed copywork regarding “What You Aren’t Being Told About Uranus and Neptune.” He was so intrigued by this! As always, he did his copywork in cursive – he reserves cursive writing for copywork, which he deems as more special than other writing. In British Literature, Riley read and annotated The Devotional Poetry of Donne, Herbert, and Milton. In response, he did the “For Reflection or Discussion” questions and completed a narration entry in his literature journal. Finally, in Speech, Riley read about another amazing speech and continued to apply what he learned to take steps to become a better communicator.  Charlotte Mason’s “presence” found again!

In Closing

Charlotte Mason’s “presence” can be found all through Heart of Dakota’s high school, and I find it such a blessing to have her present. At a time when many curriculums fall away from much of what makes education an atmosphere, a discipline, a life, Heart of Dakota’s high school holds steady. For those of you looking ahead to high school who love Charlotte Mason, I just want to give you a glimpse of what is to come. Her presence remains throughout, all the way to the end of the homeschool journey – and let me tell you, it’s a glorious end.

In Christ,