How can we squeeze what we have left for high school into 2 years?

Dear Carrie

How can my daughter squeeze American History, Economics, Government, and Geography into her 2 remaining years of high school?

My daughter has two years of high school left after this year. This is her first year using Heart of Dakota. She is doing World History and loving it! Sadly, she still needs American History, Economics, Government, and Geography. We are trying to figure out how she can squeeze all of this into her 2 remaining high school years. I had two ideas. One, she could do HOD‘s USI and USII, which include Economics and Government. Then, maybe she could squeeze in a 1/2 credit Geography course (from a different curriculum) over the summer? Or, could just Mapping The World with Art be a ‘squeeze-in’? But, I hate for her to miss HOD’s World Geography guide and all those amazing books. She really cannot tell you where anything in the world is located.

So, that brings me to idea two. She could do HOD’s World Geography (in its entirety) and one of the American History guides. Then, I’d have her squeeze in reading a few books for the other part of American History to get the full story. Her 8th grade brother is going to be doing MTMM this next year. Maybe I could put her in that with him (with extensions and beefing up)? Then, I could have her do World Geography the next year with him. She could then just squeeze in some books to get the first part of American History. Does this sound doable? She will already be graduating a year late…she will be 19 1/2. So, we really do only have 2 more years of school to squeeze it all in.  Do you have any ideas how to squeeze this all in, and what guide to skip? Thanks!


“Ms. Please Help Us Squeeze What We Have Left for High School Into 2 Years”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Us Squeeze What We Have Left for High School Into 2 Years,”

Thanks so much for sharing about your daughter! We have some good options for her to complete what she has left for high school. We might even be able to avoid the ‘squeeze’ feeling! Since she is doing the World History Guide now, and I am assuming it is going well, it would be quite a bit of backward motion to go back to MTMM. It would be better for her to stay within the realm of the high school guides instead, just to keep forward motion and to keep her well-placed skill-wise.

Option 1: World Geography for 11th, American History I (with Government) for 12th, with Economics As a Slight ‘Squeeze-In’

With this in mind, I see a couple of options as possibilities. One option would be to do the World Geography next year for her junior year and then to do the first American History guide with Government for her final year. This would mean she would need to add as a slight ‘squeeze-in’ Economics. It might be possible to do this either with World Geography or with American History, depending on whether she does all of the credits offered within each guide. It is typically acceptable to study a portion of American History, as long as a full credit is earned in that study. So, if she did not get to the final American History guide that would be alright. She would still earn a full credit of American history for completion of the first American history guide. She would also earn another 1/2 credit for Government.

Option 1: American History I (with Government) for 11th, American History II (with Economics) for 12th, with Geography… No ‘Squeeze-In’ Required

Another option would be to do the last two American History guides (including Government and Economics) and omit the World Geography Guide. In this scenario, you would have to earn the Geography 1/2 credit you mentioned is required. There is quite a bit of mapping within both the American History guides. I’m not sure if your daughter had any mapping or geography her freshman year, but there is some in the World History guide as well, and there are definitely geography concepts regularly discussed. So, I am thinking that among the 3 HOD high school guides she would earn her 1/2 credit of Geography.

Which two HOD guides do you want her to have before she graduates?

So, then it is just a matter of deciding which two HOD guides you desire for her to have before she graduates. Do you desire for her to have the World Geography and the first American History guide? Or, do you desire for her to follow the last two American History guides? Either plan will work. If she does do the World Geography guide, I would have her do it next year, followed by the American History I guide her senior year. You could also look to determine which extra credits in the guides are most helpful (i.e. Logic, Foreign Language, Bible, World Religion and Cultures, etc.). It may also help to look at the sciences in the guides and see if she is in need of those as well. This may provide more clarity.

Either plan will work, so I’d choose the one that makes the last two years be less of a ‘squeeze’!

If she does not do the final HOD guide, she will miss British Literature. However, with the titles read for literature within the World Geography and the World History Guides, a 1/2 credit in British Literature could be awarded (alleviating that problem). The first American History guide will contain American Literature, also solving that problem. So, it truly is a matter of deciding which two guides fit her needs best! If you choose to have your daughter do the last 2 American History Guides, then she will cover Economics (earning 1/2 credit) within the final American History Guide. So, you won’t have to add that yourself! I’d just choose the plan that makes the last two years be less of a ‘squeeze’ and get to enjoying your remaining high school years together!


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Short on time? In a pinch, try these time saving tips!

From Our House to Yours

Short on time? Try these time saving tips!

Sometimes errands, appointments, and activities can make a day short on time. Or, even just an unexpected event (like the cleanup of an overturned lidless jelly jar dripping jelly down the entire back of the fridge). (BTW, I’d like to know who didn’t put the lid back on the jar?!? I have an idea.) Well, whatever the reason, if you find yourself short on time in your Heart of Dakota homeschool day, try these time saving tips!

Time Saving Tip #1 – Record Oral Narrations

If I am short on time, I have my children record their oral narrations. I find this works especially well if I have an appointment that is just for me. After they record their oral narrations, they text them to me. Then, I can listen to them as I am driving. Sometimes, I think they try even harder when recording themselves. They hear how they sound and want to do their best!  However, oral narrations usually are meant to have a (live) audience. So, I don’t make a habit of this, but if I’m short on time, it works great!

Time Saving Tip #2 – Do Grammar Orally

I love R & S English for its thorough and solid treatment of grammar! Really, I have seen the results, and it is so worth the time. However, when I am short on time, I do grammar orally instead. For diagramming, I quickly sketch the diagrams on a markerboard. To diagram orally, I have my kiddos just point to where they’d diagram each word as they say it. At one point, I was teaching 3 different grammar lessons a day. So, this was a real time saver if I was short on time!

Time Saving Tip #3 – Have Older Children Help

Each child has gifts from the Lord. If I am short on time, I call upon my older children’s gifts and talents! For example, my oldest son loves math. So, if I am short on time, I have him pop in and teach a lesson to one of my two other sons. He’s good at it, the children love it, and it saves me time! Likewise, if I am short on time, I have my middle son pop in to oversee a science experiment or to read aloud for Storytime. He enjoys helping in both of these ways, and he is good at it. I figure this is good training should they have their own homeschooled children someday. I think their wives might appreciate the help now and then!

Time Saving Tip #4 – Move Dictation or DITHOR

Dictation is planned 3 of the 4 days of the week. If I am short on time and it is a day dictation is planned, I move it to the day it’s not planned.  This way, we are still doing dictation 3 days a week, but it’s on a day I have more time. Drawn into the Heart of Reading (DITHOR) is also planned just 3 of the 4 days of the week (other than in Beyond and Bigger). So, DITHOR is another thing that can be moved to the day it’s not planned. Of course, the day I move it to will be longer then! However, I find that it is worth it to help on a day I’m truly short on time.

Time Saving Tip #5 – Make a Pile and Correct Work Later

I like to correct work that is completed right away if possible. This immediate feedback is good for kiddos, so I have what I call ‘margin‘ in our schedule for correcting. ‘Margin’ is just really extra time planned for each block of teaching/meeting time. If I am short on time and in a hurry, I drop the ‘margin’ time from our schedule. Instead, I have the kiddos make a pile on the kitchen counter of what needs to be corrected. I ask them to have the work open to the page that needs correcting, along with the guide on top. Each child creates his own pile. So, when I get home, I can quickly correct each pile.

Time Saving Tip #6 – Use a Markerboard

I love the questions that are planned in the guides. One of my favorite ways to assess how my kiddos are doing is simply to enjoy the discussion questions that are planned. However, if I am short on time, I have my kiddos answer the questions by jotting short phrases on a markerboard. Then, I either quickly ask them the questions, having them refer to their markerboards as they answer, or I just have them leave their markerboards out for me to skim their answers later.

Time Saving Tip #7 – Have a Go-To Meal Kiddos Can Fix

Many times I can get my teaching done, but I have to leave for an appointment around lunch. Teaching my kiddos to fix at least one meal on their own really helps! My go-to meal when the kiddos were little was simply cereal with milk and toast. As they got older, my go-to meal was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with applesauce cups. Now that they are much older, they can fix many meals. However, my go-to meal is frozen pizza in our toaster oven. The oven shuts off on its own, so I don’t have to worry about them accidentally leaving it on. This time saving tip gets me out the door and to my appointment on time!

In Christ,




A Suggested Sequence of Guides for a 14 Year-Old

Pondering Placement

Question: What placement and guide sequence should I use for my 14 year-old?

We’ve homeschooled my 14 year-old since kindergarten, but he’s behind two grade levels. I’m counting him as an 8th grader. I’ve tried to push total texts with him, but it’s just not working. Presently, he’s using IEW SWI-B. He’s almost finished with the first book of Fix It grammar. He read The Sign of the Beaver and did a Progeny Press guide. He doesn’t like reading, probably because he’s too into video games. He’s never done dictation. I have had him narrate some. He’s using MUS math but is behind in that too. Looking at the placement chart, Resurrection to Reformation might be a fit, other than dictation. I like the fact that Heart of Dakota uses some of the IEW material. That is a plus for me. Is this type of study even possible? I guess I just need some insight for a placement and guide sequence to use?

Carrie’s Reply:

In thinking through your son’s age and in pondering what he has done thus far, I do think he will make steady progress as you move through the Heart of Dakota guides. Often you will see the most fruit in your second year of HOD. This is because the skills taught in one guide help prepare your child for the next guide. The layering of skills over time produces strides in learners as time passes that are definitely noticeable. So, be encouraged that your son can make needed gains in his difficult areas! I am confident we can find a sequence of guides that works well for him!

A Suggested Sequence of Guides

For now, I think we can go into Resurrection to Reformation considering this to be his 8th grade year. This will give him earth science exposure. This would mean that for high school he would follow the sequence below:

  • 9th grade Revival to Revolution (last half of English 5 and Advanced EE Physical Science for high school as scheduled in guide)
  • 10th grade Missions to Modern Marvels (all of English 6 – as scheduled in the guide and Chemistry with beef ups as scheduled in guide)
  • 11th grade World Geography (first half of English 7 – as scheduled in the guide – possibly IPC as scheduled in guide or other science)
  • 12th grade World History (last half of English 7 – as scheduled in the guide and Biology as scheduled in guide)
A Short Explanation of This Sequence of Guides

This sequence will give him needed credits in American History, Geography, and World History. It will also give him a steady rise in skills in the language arts area and cover his needed sciences. For math, it would be good to get through a minimum of Algebra I and Geometry (with a possible hope of also doing Algebra II – albeit in a introductory way). We can address the sciences as we go to be sure he is getting what is needed in that area each year as it arises.

A Reading Suggestion for This First Year in This Guide Sequence

In pondering that we would be considering your son as an 8th grader this year, we have a bit more wiggle room in using this year as a skill-building year in this sequence (picking up needed teaching in some key areas). With that in mind, I would lean toward doing Level 6/7/8 of Drawn into the Heart of Reading Student Book along with the Boy Set from Creation to Christ. Since you won’t get to Creation to Christ with your son, you can use the CTC Boy Set with Drawn into the Heart of Reading (as there is one book for each genre). This set will work well for your son’s age and should include topics of interest. Or, if preferred, you can choose different books that are at this reading level.

Some Language Arts Suggestions for the First Year of This Guide Sequence

When you begin your son’s RTR guide, I’d recommend you begin Medieval History-Based Writing Lessons (setting aside SWI-B even if he did not finish it). Be sure to follow the plans within the RTR guide for Medieval Writing Lessons, as we omit some assignments and stretch others out longer. I think Rod and Staff 5 (first half only – doing a lesson each time it comes up in the plans twice weekly) will be a good fit as well. Charlotte Mason studied dictation exercises are in the back of the RTR Guide. You will want to begin your son at a level where he is having to repeat a passage only once or twice a week. Otherwise, he will be at a frustration level. The RTR Guide tells you when to do studied dictation.

Some Thoughts on Packages for the First Year of This Guide Sequence

I would also encourage you to either have your son read the Basic Package or do the Extension Package but not do both. This is due to the new level of work and skills that will be required already within the RTR Guide. I would allow your son to choose between the two sets to see which he desires to read. The Basic Package is scheduled in the daily plans. The Extension Package is scheduled by day in the Appendix.

The Importance of Completing All That Is Scheduled Within This Suggested Sequence of Guides

It will be important for your son to fully complete all that is scheduled within each day of plans within this sequence of guides. Some of the assignments may feel young at times, as he is on the highest age range of the guide. However, the skills gained by reading and following written directions, adjusting to the volume of the readings, becoming comfortable in writing across the curriculum, and being trained in a higher level of independence, when combined with regular skill practice will all be needed in preparation for high school next year. Try to keep in mind that if you skip a box, you skip a skill. I think this is a workable plan, which we can revisit as your son progresses. But, I hope this suggested sequence gets you started!



A Mama with Fatigue and a Daughter Needing Time with Her

Dear Carrie

A Mama with Fatigue and a Daughter Needing Time with Her

My 8 year-old daughter was placed perfectly in Beyond. Then, she was sick for a good week. My other three children were sick for the next two weeks. We’ve all finally recovered, but it left us all so tired. My daughter has had a hard time returning to school. I’ve asked what’s wrong, and today she told me she doesn’t like to have to wait for mommy. I told her she can get out her copywork on her own. She can do the history by herself too, as I have it on CD. She keeps asking to do something together. Maybe I am expecting her to be too independent. She CAN read the history. The poetry copywork can be a bit much. I battle fatigue and other issues. For now, I’ve just put it aside. I’m too tired. She’s continuing to use CLE for some subjects, but I still prefer Beyond.


“Ms. Please Help This Mama with Fatigue Get Back to Beyond”

Dear “Ms. Please Help This Mama with Fatigue Get Back to Beyond,”

One thing that struck me in your post was your feeling of guilt over the current status of school at your house. As mamas, we can really get bogged down in guilt if we aren’t careful. It sounds like you have had a bout with sickness that has drained all of you. This is very trying on everyone, but most of all on the mama!

Encouragement to Address Both the Fatigue and the Guilt 

So, first I would encourage you to address the fatigue, and then address the guilt. To address the fatigue, I would get the kiddos to bed earlier and/or possibly let them sleep in an hour later in the morning for a few days or longer. I would also encourage you to try to get to bed earlier and to sleep a bit later in the morning, if you can. Usually after an illness, everyone’s sleep cycles are messed up. Extra sleep is needed to reset. Next, I would encourage all of you to drink a lot of water to flush out any lingering toxins. If you aren’t taking probiotic, you might consider adding something like that for a month or two. We have done so with our family and seen a difference. Vitamin D3 would also most likely be a help. It has made a huge difference in me!

To avoid further fatigue, you can return to schooling doing only half-days.

Next, I would encourage you to start back to schooling doing only half-days. This will take one hour and 15 minutes a day to do half-speed Beyond. I also think this will relieve the guilt, as you’ll feel that you are finally moving forward. I would strive to do a half day every day consistently. As far as the Beyond poetry copywork, it is up to you as the parent to decide how much she is copying each day. If she is fatigued by the amount of copywork, then she is copying too much. From what you’ve shared, I think it would be a good idea to pull her copywork back to two lines done well each day. I also wouldn’t add anything to Beyond except what is in the guide. Doing other things like CLE on top of what is in Beyond will make your daughter’s day longer.

I would make a point to read aloud the Beyond history, science, and Bible, as it is important to figure out how to go forward.

Next, I would encourage you to make a point to read aloud the Beyond history, science, and Bible to your daughter (even if she can read them herself). It is you that she is wanting, and reading aloud those areas actually goes very quickly with the history taking 5-7 minutes, and the Bible and science less than that. You can read from your bed if needed, as I know I have had to on many occasions! In sharing these thoughts, I am not intending to minimize the fatigue that you are experiencing in any way. Instead, I am wanting to encourage you to be realistic that this is a lingering part of your life right now. So, it is important to figure out how to go forward in this stage.

What to Do If the Fatigue Is Too Much to Do Half-Speed Beyond

If the fatigue is such that you cannot do Beyond half-speed, you may want to consider doing a completely independent program for a year. Then, next year you could revisit placement in Heart of Dakota. I share this because it is tough on kiddos to bounce back and forth between curricula and to be in a constant state of never really finishing anything. With this in mind, I would decide to do one or the other and set a goal to finish whatever you choose.

Questioning Our Children Isn’t Always Helpful

I would also encourage you to decide what is best for your family right now, rather than questioning your daughter to figure out what she wants. I know I often questioned my oldest son (who has graduated now) in the past. With a lack of continuity, kiddos lose their perspective as to what doing a curriculum really feels like. They can only remember parts of it, and if its been awhile since they were in the pattern of doing school with it daily, the thoughts they have about it will be scattered at best. Questioning children also gives the impression that they can pick the curriculum. It also makes them think you will stop and start things based on their will. This is honestly giving children more power than they should have at that young age.

The Importance of Making a Plan to Function Within the Current Reality

It is amazing to me in my own homeschool journey that every year sees some new situation or unexpected problems at our house that could prevent us from schooling. As the years have passed I have discovered that if I am going to homeschool, I have to make a plan of how to function within the reality that we have at the time, instead of waiting for everything to return to normal. Often, the situation we are experiencing is the “new normal.” I share this not to discourage you but to encourage you to assess the situation and see if you can school within it. Or, if you simply cannot… then to recognize that as well.

The Lord will help you and honor your heart if you lay your requests at His feet!

Sometimes, the best curriculum is the one that gets done. For us that is Heart of Dakota. For you it might not be right now. Just know that the Lord will help you and will honor your heart if you lay your requests at His feet. I pray He will surround you with His love and that you will feel His peace in your decisions.


How to Make ‘Plans’ to Enjoy Your Homeschool Life – Right Now

From Our House to Yours

How to Make ‘Plans’ to Enjoy Your Homeschool Life – Right Now

Making plans to enjoy your homeschool life might sound silly. Especially if you equate ‘fun’ with ‘sporadic’ and ‘unplanned,’ this concept of making plans to have fun might seem depressing. However, as busy as life is for most homeschool moms, I think making ‘plans’ to enjoy your homeschool life might be the only way you really DO enjoy it! The first part of making plans to enjoy my homeschool life is picking a curriculum I enjoy. Heart of Dakota takes care of that! Another part of enjoying my homeschool life is just making sure I have time to homeschool. However, what I do within that set aside time is a big part of enjoying my days as well. Likewise, taking time off to have breaks in homeschooling is yet another big part of enjoying my overall homeschool life. If you are not enjoying your homeschool life, the good news is, you can – and right now! But, how?

How to Make Plans to Enjoy Your Homeschool Days

Each homeschool day has Heart of Dakota plans to complete, and I enjoy my days most when we successfully finish those plans. However, how we go about completing those plans makes a big difference in how much I enjoy our days! To enjoy my days, I had to first think about what my children and I really enjoy. For example, to finish my plans and to be to work on time, I need to plan to start my day early. However, to plan to enjoy starting my day early, I plan to first make my favorite hazelnut cup of coffee and take it up to my room. I also plan to teach in my room in my pj’s while drinking that coffee. I love this relaxed start to my day, so I can actually enjoy starting at 6:15 AM (first with my Bible Quiet Time, and then with my children arriving one at a time in segments from 6:50 to 7:50 AM). My kids love this start too!

How to Plan for Small Vignettes of ‘Fun’ to Enjoy Throughout Your Day

So, I already shared my first ‘vignette of fun’ involving coffee and pj’s. My second vignette of fun I plan for is our break at 8:45 AM. I love listening to Christian praise music! I also love hearing my sons sing, hum, or whistle along! Cooking/baking is another thing I love! So, this second vignette of fun for me is turning on Christian music while I make breakfast and drink favorite coffee #2. My sons love music while they do their chores and love eating homemade breakfasts, so this is fun for them too! A third vignette of fun for me is simply reading aloud HOD materials on the couch. I turn on the fireplace, we grab fuzzy blankets, and I’m usually drinking favorite coffee #3 at this time.

My third vignette of fun is just a break alone for me and for my sons. Emmett, my youngest son, loves to make homemade hot cocoa. So, around 11 AM, he takes a break to make hot cocoa with whipped cream, marshmallows, and even sprinkles sometimes. He puts them all on a tray and takes them to our addition. They’ve kind of turned this into a ‘boys’ club‘ meeting, no mom allowed time. Fine with me. I am having a break of my own! No plans. Just a break for whatever. No more coffee though (I had you worried, didn’t I?!?). My fourth vignette of fun is exercise. I know, not everyone thinks of exercise as fun, but I do! So, from around noon to 12:30 or so, I exercise while my sons work on independent work.

How to Make ‘Plans’ to Enjoy ‘Unplanned’ Days

I sometimes equate ‘fun’ with sporadic and unplanned. However, taking off unplanned days often means we don’t finish our school year on time. So, my way around this is to make ‘plans’ to enjoy ‘unplanned days.’ I do this by adding about 7 or more extra days before the end date we want for our school year. That way, I know I have at least 7 days throughout the year that I can just take off at any time. Sometimes I surprise the boys and say, “We’re taking today off! What should we do?!?  Where should we go?!?”  Other days, I surprise them the night before, letting them know we’re sleeping in and taking a lazy day off at home tomorrow, to do ‘whatever’ anyone wants to do. Finally, I make ‘plans’ to enjoy ‘unplanned days’ for each of our birthdays, Valentine’s Day, days around Christmas, fishing/hunting days, etc. We have no set plans on these days, other than we are taking them off.

Life is meant to be enjoyed – today!

Jesus said, …I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)  Life is meant to be enjoyed – today! It will not do to tell yourself you will enjoy your life when                        (fill in the blank – i.e. when the kids are older, when we move, when there is a job change, when my youngest graduates, when we don’t have so many little ones, when I’m not pregnant, when I’m done homeschooling, when my husband retires, when I’m healthier). Jesus does not intend for us to put enjoying our life on hold. He came that we may have life, to the fullest, today! If you are downtrodden, if you find yourself complaining about your life, make a change! Or, make lots of changes! Even my Dad, with pancreatic cancer, tried very hard to enjoy his life. This was not possible every day. However, he did enjoy most days! People visited him and left happier than they came.

What can you do to enjoy your homeschool life, right now?

So, let’s brainstorm! What can you do to enjoy your homeschool life, right now? We often think we need big changes, but in reality, little changes pack a big punch! I know a homeschool mom of 6 who plans to run down her country road. She loves it! She ‘plans’ for this every day, even though she has always had a baby in the mix. This is her vignette of fun! Another mom I know sleeps in while her husband teaches math. He loves math! She loves sleeping in! It works. When I had many littles, I loved to take walks with the stroller. I had picnics on blankets on the living room floor. Sometimes just a planned nap (for me) was heavenly! Moving my teaching time around and having my oldest play with my middle son while my baby napped made this possible! Don’t wait to enjoy your homeschooling. Or you may not be doing it next year. Enjoy your life – now! A happier mom makes a happier home. So, please! Make plans to enjoy your homeschool life – today!

In Christ,