Simplify Your Homeschool Life by Enjoying the Comfort of Home

A Heart of Dakota Life

Simplify (and Love) Your Homeschool Life by Enjoying the Comfort of Home!

Using Heart of Dakota is already a wonderful way you can simplify and love your homeschool life!  However, homeschooling is different than other schooling options because it primarily takes place in the home. That can be such a blessing if you let it be. As homeschool moms, we sometimes try to recreate a public school setting in our own homes. This is really not necessary nor advisable! While children in public, private, charter, and magnet schools alike are often confined to individual desks in one fairly cold and aesthetic classroom for most of their school day, homeschool children need not be. We, as homeschool moms, need not be either. Instead we can fully take advantage of the comfort of home by enjoying each part of it.

#3: Enjoy the Comfort of Your Home

There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.  (Jane Austen)

By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures. (Proverbs 24:3-4)

How do you feel about your home? Do you enjoy being there? Is it a place you find real comfort? Do you laugh in your home? When you look around, do you see things that bring you joy?  Have you made special memories in your home that you treasure? I remember reading Charlotte Mason’s quote that “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.”  I took that to heart. My husband and I decided that if we were going to homeschool, we were going to make our home a place we really wanted to be. In turn, we hoped this would make our home a place our children really wanted to be. Well, after 17 years of homeschooling, I daresay mission accomplished. Each one of our children truly loves not only being homeschooled in our home, but really, just being home. My husband and I love it too!

Rare and Beautiful Treasures

Our homes can be filled with rare and beautiful treasures, and these treasures need not cost a lot of money. First, I simply just love to see my children becoming wise, understanding more and more, and building their knowledge through homeschooling with Heart of Dakota. I love this not only because of the strong academics but also because of the Christ-centered focus of the guides. I see the first part of creating an atmosphere for education in our home as just making sure we invite the Lord to be a real part of it, every day.

Read in the Comfort of Your Home

Where do you like to read a book? I love to read a book cuddled up with a fuzzy blanket on the couch in my living room, preferably with the fireplace on and a steaming cup of coffee on the end table next to me. Why can’t our children enjoy reading books like this? Mine do. Each has his own place he likes to read, with his favorite blanket, and with his favorite snack or beverage. Heart of Dakota adds living books that often become favorites to this ‘comfort at home’ picture, and voila! You have yourself an atmosphere for education in the comfort of your home that makes you and your children really enjoy being there!

Write in the Comfort of Your Home

Where do you like to write a letter, a card, or take notes on something? I love to write in a well-lighted area, on a sturdy surface at my kitchen table, with a pencil or a gel pen of a color of my choice, with the perfect paper for the task. Why can’t our children enjoy writing like this? Mine do. Each has his own place he likes to write, with his favorite pencil or coloring utensil, and Heart of Dakota takes care of the proper paper for the task.

Meet with the Lord in the Comfort of Your Home

Where do you like to do your Bible quiet time? I love to do my Bible quiet time in my cozy bed, under my warm covers, first thing in the morning, in my pj’s, with my glasses on, with just my lamp on, with my door shut, with my favorite devotional and pretty journal and a steaming cup of hazelnut coffee on my bedstand that I stumbled downstairs to hastily make.  Why can’t our children enjoy doing their Bible quiet time like this? Mine do. Each does his own Heart of Dakota Bible time in his room in his cozy bed, under his warm covers, first thing in the morning, in his pj’s, with his lamp on, with his door shut, with his HOD Bible time and special Common Place Book, and tea or granola or a twilight turtle on his bedstand.

Take Action

I want to encourage you to simplify and love your homeschool life by taking advantage of the comfort of home!  What can you do today to fully enjoy teaching your children in your home?  Likewise, what can you do today to fully help your children enjoy being homeschooled in the comfort of your home? There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort, so why not start creating this atmosphere of education today?

In Christ,
Julie

 

Placement for Switching to Homeschool with Heart of Dakota Mid-Year

Pondering Placement

Please help me with placement for my 3rd grade daughter, as I switch to Heart of Dakota’s homeschool curriculum mid-year.

I am switching my 9 year old daughter to Heart of Dakota mid-year. We did Little Hearts for His Glory for first grade, and Beyond for second grade. Then, I thought I should try something else – not really sure why because we liked what we were doing. Now we are in week 18 of a different homeschool curriculum for 3rd grade. We are miserable. My daughter hates to write, and we have not done much notebooking or narrating this year. I am reading books to her, but we are not doing anything else with them. We’ve done a little copywork, but not much. We are doing math and spelling with other programs than Heart of Dakota (HOD). We’re also using BJU’s writing/English program a few days a week, but I am not seeing the growth in her like I did with Heart of Dakota (HOD).

The only two things I have liked this year are from Heart of Dakota.

I loved the look of HOD’s Emerging Reader’s Set, so I did get those. However, I am not having my daughter do any kind of literature study with them. I also liked HOD’s recommendation for R & S English 2, so we are doing that. Really the only two things I have liked doing this year are from HOD. She reads well and is really enjoying the books in the Emerging Reader’s Set. Right now, she is reading Tornado and can’t put it down! But then when she finishes reading, I don’t do anything with her. I feel like I’ve wasted this whole year. I’m not sure why it took me so long to realize it.

Should I switch my daughter to full-speed Bigger Hearts or half-speed Preparing Hearts?

So, now I know I want to make the switch back to HOD. But, I am wondering if I should just stop what we are doing now and switch to Bigger Hearts for His Glory? But then, she won’t finish all of HOD’s high school guides. So, would it be better to have her go half-speed with Preparing Hearts for His Glory? Help!!!

Carrie’s Reply:

Thank you for sharing about your daughter!  From what you’ve shared so far, I would lean toward placing her in Bigger Hearts. The jump up to Preparing with the struggles you mentioned in writing and narrating would be very challenging. Bigger is such a foundational year in helping kiddos grow in the areas of writing, reading, copywork, and spelling. I wouldn’t want your daughter to miss that. So, placement in Bigger Hearts makes good sense.

I would recommend finishing R & S English 2 and dropping BJU.

Whenever you head into Bigger, I would just finish Rod and Staff English 2 and move into Rod and Staff English 3. I wouldn’t use both BJU and Rod and Staff for English as you go up, because you’ll be double-dipping.  We don’t want her worn out from writing for grammar when we want to get her copying daily for practice. You wouldn’t need to continue on with BJU for writing either, as Rod and Staff will include writing in the coming levels when she is more mature and ready for it.

I would recommend using studied dictation for spelling, and I’d keep going with your math if it is working.

For spelling, I’d be inclined to switch her to studied dictation (as included in Bigger‘s Appendix). If you would rather continue with the spelling you are using, you surely could! However, I will say Charlotte Mason’s method of studied dictation is a very effective method for teaching spelling in a time conscious way. No matter what, I wouldn’t do both spelling programs though, as her day will get very long. If your math is working well, I’d just keep on going with it. If it is not, you can give your daughter the Singapore Primary Math placement test by clicking here.

I would finish the Emerging Reader’s Set and then move into Drawn into the Heart of Reading.

It sounds like she is doing well with the Emerging Readers, and she can just finish them out. I would have her start doing the follow-up comprehension questions with the remaining Emerging Reader’s Set books. Then, she can head into Drawn into the Heart of Reading Level 2/3 (DITHR). You can have her use the DITHR Level 2 Book Pack, or books of your own choosing. The Sample Book Ideas List provides some good books to choose from as well.

Full-Speed Bigger Hearts vs. Half-speed Preparing

Believe it or not, Bigger at full-speed with daily grammar, math, dictation, and DITHR will probably be harder than half-time Preparing. It sounds like your sweet daughter would be very well placed in Bigger and be challenged by the work. Being well-placed means that she will be getting what she needs as you head into each successive guide. Shooting too high can really result in frustration and in being unsure of how much to downsize each day to suit your child’s needs. It’s so much better to be accurately placed and know you can expect your child to do all that is within the guide each day. There are many families who will not finish all of the HOD guides, and that is fine. We can make sure that your daughter still gets what she needs to count credits for graduation and for her future plans.

Blessings,
Carrie

Extension Package: More Mature Reading, Follow-up Skills, and Assignments for Older Students

Dear Carrie

Is the Extension Package just an extra set of books, or does it include skills that are pertinent to students being older?

Dear Carrie,

I used Heart of Dakota and loved it! We then put our daughters in public school due to health problems. But, I’m excited to be returning! I looked at the placement chart. My daughters place best in Preparing Hearts for His Glory. My daughter, who is in 4th grade this year, is a very slow reader.  On the contrary, my daughter in 5th grade is a very advanced reader. However, due to the writing, both of them are not ready for Creation to Christ. So, I have placed them in Preparing Hearts for His Glory.  My question is about the Extension Package.  Is the Extension Package just a set of more books? If so, I probably will just let her choose other books on her own. Or, does the Extension Package include reading and assignments that are pertinent to her being a 5th grader?

Sincerely,

“Ms. Please Help Explain the Extension Package”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Explain the Extension Package,”

The Extension Packages are so much more than just extra books to read. I’m glad you asked!  If you have a child in the extension range, they are actually a needed part of the program. This is because I chose the books to show a different part of history or a different point of view than what is being covered elsewhere in the history study. The books are designed to deepen the study in this manner.

Older students in the extension package age range need to be reading their own history at a higher reading level.

The books are also intended for the student to be reading on his/her own in order to raise the reading level of the history material being studied by the older child. This is necessary in Preparing, because if you are still reading aloud the history as scheduled in the guide, an older child should also be reading his/her own history material.

Follow-up assignments are designed to address higher level skills for older students.

The oral narrations, written narrations, and notebook assignments are designed to address skills that an older student should be practicing and showing progress in due to their age level. These assignments aren’t meant to be optional for an older student. So, if you choose to forego the extension books for a child in the extension range of a program, you are missing the part of the program that makes it extend for that age level.

Extension package book are interesting, engaging, and enjoyable.

Finally, the extension books are also very interesting and engaging, and kiddos who do the extension books do truly enjoy them!  If you have a child in the extension range, you should plan for these books to be a daily part of Preparing Hearts as intended. Drawn into the Heart of Reading is the place to allow your daughter to read books of her own choosing. DITHR works with any books you choose and will work well in that capacity for your older daughter.

Blessings,

Carrie

P. S. To read more about Heart of Dakota, click here!

 

Give your children a Christian education for a fraction of the cost of private school!

From Our House to Yours

Why should you homeschool?… A Series on Reasons to Homeschool

We often get asked why we homeschool, and if you homeschool, I am sure you do too!  This series is something you can share with friends or families who are considering homeschooling. There are many valid reasons to homeschool. We have been sharing some of them in this Heart of Dakota From Our House to Yours series First, we talked about how you get to spend more time with your children. Second, we talked about how you know what your children did for the day. Third, we talked about how you get to run your own schedule. Fourth, we talked about how you can give your children immediate feedback. Fifth, we talked about how homeschooling is naturally the ideal education model of multi-age, multilevel, and looping. Today, we will talk about how you can give your children a Christian education for a fraction of the cost of private school.

Do you long for your children to have a Christian education?

Today more than ever, we as Christian parents long for our children to have a Christian education. We can see the changes in our public schools, and we know they are not good.  Private schools offer a Christian option for schooling, but we often find them to be too expensive, too far away, or too understaffed.  As Christian parents, we long to share our faith in Jesus with our children. Well, the good news is, with homeschooling, you can!

Does Jesus have a seat in your children’s school?

There’s an extra seat in our house where we homeschool. It is for Jesus, and He is invited every day. His wisdom governs our learning, and His light shines, so filling our house with love that it is transformed! It is now a ‘home’school because He has made His home there. Conversation flows freely, and we can talk with Him all day long.  Lord, what do you think about how the world began? Let’s read about that today in science. Lord, how would you like us to live? Let’s open our Bible for Bible study and see!  Lord, what can we learn from the past? What should we do in the present? And what can we expect in the future?  Let’s look at your Living Word and see how your plans show past history, history unfolding, and history to come!

It is difficult to have a Christian education where Jesus is not welcome.

We will find it difficult to give our children a Christian education where Jesus is not welcome. If our children cannot pray, read their Bible, or use educational materials that are Christian, how will they be able to receive a Christian education?  If Jesus is not welcome, our children will have a very difficult time becoming like Him. We wonder why children are so difficult to discipline, why they have behavior problems, and why they can’t get along. When we remove Jesus from their education, we will be hard pressed to find Him in their behavior.

A Word of Caution

One word of caution – just because you homeschool, it is not a guarantee your children will receive a Christian education. There is pressure today to leave Jesus out of homeschooling too. Government funded programs offer to pay a portion or all of your homeschooling costs – as long as the materials you use aren’t Christian. Various co-ops, programs, groups, etc. outside of the home offer to teach your children for you, but they leave Christ out of their teaching. Even homeschool curriculum programs that used to be solely Christian are publishing a second secular version of homeschooling materials. We too have been advised to do this, but we refuse.  Leaving Jesus out of our curricula would take the ‘heart’ right out of Heart of Dakota.  We have not given into that pressure, so please, don’t you either!

In Closing

In closing, one of the most important reasons why you should homeschool is you can give your children a Christian education. Open the door to Jesus by opening your mind to homeschooling.  Invite Him into your home and into your children’s education, and you will see more and more of Jesus in your children’s thoughts, words, and actions. Moreover, you will see Him in their hearts, souls, and minds – and THAT is an education that lives on forever.

In Christ,

Julie

Should I combine my high school students for electives?

Dear Carrie

Should I combine my high school students for electives, or is this more of a headache?

Dear Carrie,

I am wondering if I should combine my high school students for electives next year? My son will be doing Heart of Dakota’s World Geography in 9th grade. My daughter will be doing Heart of Dakota’s World History in 10th grade. So, I could have my 9th grader skip World Religion and Cultures (WRC) and Logic, to do Fine Arts and Health with his older sister. I had her do the WRC study and Logic this year. I would then have him do those two credits as a senior, since he will have done all the rest of the electives alongside his sister. The bonus would be that by that time, his younger brother would be in 9th grade, so he could do those with him. Would there be any benefit to choosing to combine my high school students for electives, or would it be more of a headache? Thanks so much for your help, Carrie!

Sincerely,

“Ms. to Combine or Not to Combine for Electives”

Dear “Ms. to Combine or Not to Combine for Electives,”

I can definitely see the reasons why you are considering combining your students for electives!  I’ll share a few thoughts that may help as you ponder what is right for your family. From a typical school perspective, electives are often just what they are named… elective credits.  In other words, these are credits that your student (or you as the parent) elect to include. These typically are not as necessary or as important as the required coursework.

HOD electives complement or enhance the credits already being earned in the rest of the guide.

I think what makes HOD electives unique is we designed the elective credits within each HOD guide to complement or enhance credits already being earned in the rest of the guide. So, we chose them to specifically be done in a certain year of study because they are more meaningful when combined with the other learning within the guide. We weighed subject content, time period, topic, or previous knowledge that we desire the student to have exposure to prior to completing the elective.

The World Religions and Cultures elective is partnered well with World Geography.

For example, the World Religions and Cultures elective will make much more sense and contain deeper connections when completed alongside the World Geography study. I wrote the two courses to complement one another. This foundation in World Religions and Cultures is also hugely helpful to have prior to progressing into World History the following year.

The Health elective is partnered well with World History’s Biology.

Another example is the Health elective in the World History guide. This study was written alongside the Biology study because the two courses complement each other very well. I also wouldn’t want a child below the World History level to study the Health too early, as it contains many mature topics that are better suited for an older student who is also currently studying the content within a biology course.

The Fine Arts elective pairs well with World History, and the Government and Constitutional Literacy electives pair well with USI.

The Fine Arts elective in the World History guide pairs very well with the study of World History. This is because study of the art and artists makes so much more sense within the framework of the study of history. Yet another example is the Government and Constitutional Literacy credits within the USI guide. The Constitutional Literacy credit is very challenging and definitely needs the Government study alongside it in order to make sense of what is being studied about the Constitution and the law. Both have overlap with the U.S. History study, and so together the three work to provide a fuller picture of the formation and governing of our nation.

Elective credits get progressively more difficult.

Another aspect of elective credit that is different in HOD is that the credits get progressively more difficult as the student’s critical thinking abilities, maturity, and level of academic skills rise. This is an often overlooked aspect when selecting electives, but in HOD it is very important. For example, the Logic study within the World Geography guide is scheduled at a time when students are ready to think more critically and logically. The fallacies students learn to spot in this guide are excellent training in how to think sequentially and logically, which is of benefit as students progress in the guides into more assignments that require these skills.

The World Religions and Cultures credit in the first year of study is meant to be easier than the Fine Arts and Health credits that are in the second year of study. The Government and Constitutional Literacy credits are meant to be much more challenging than the previous credits, which is why they are scheduled within the third year of study. Students below the third year of study would find these courses quite difficult, without first gaining the skills and knowledge within the World History guide (of various governments and types of law in past history – and their positives and negatives – and resulting successes or failures.)

Credits rise in difficulty and connect to other subjects.

So, within HOD, credits such as these are selected to rise in difficulty and to connect to other subjects scheduled within the guide. To do these credits out of order means that the harder credits may be done before we planned and that the easier credits may be done later than we planned. It also means that the connections and foundation we are planning for the student to have will not be there.

Electives play an important part in the intended balance within each guide.

The last thing to consider is the balance within each guide and the role that the elective credits play within that balance. Just as within any other HOD guide, all areas within the high school HOD guides are designed to complement and balance one another in reading level, quantity of pages, whether or not DVD viewing is included, the involvement level of the parent in the subject, the amount of writing required to complete the subject, and the way the assessments are handled. When courses are shifted from one guide to another, this balance is affected.

Elective credits are to be used in order, if possible, for these reasons.

So, while you can certainly do as desired with these credits, when writing the guide it was not my intention that the elective credits be used out of order for these reasons. It is no different in high school, with HOD, than it is with previous guides when it comes to borrowing subjects from one guide to add to another. It would honestly be easier to borrow a language arts, math, or science credit from another guide than it would be to shift around many of the elective credits.

I realize families who need only certain credits for graduation may need to tweak credits.

I do realize that for some families coming late to HOD, or for those families who need only certain specific credits for graduation, there may be more tweaking involved to get the needed credits. In those situations, my advice would differ in order to help the families get the credits they need in the least confusing way. I was thinking though, based on what you’d shared thus far, that wasn’t the situation you were asking about for your family. I hope this helps as you ponder what to do with electives!

Blessings,

Carrie