Prepare for the school year by reading the guide’s “Introduction”!

Teaching Tip

Reading the guide’s “Introduction” is great preparation for the school year.

You may be beginning to turn your thoughts toward school. One of the best ways to prepare for the upcoming year is to read through your HOD guide’s “Introduction.” There is such a wealth of information in the “Introduction” that we should truly title it something else!

How does reading the “Introduction” help prepare you for the year?

The “Introduction” will give you a feel for how each area is handled in the guide and the goals for each subject. It will let you know what notebooks, binders, etc. are needed for each subject area. Reading the “Introduction” provides a great summary of what to expect for the coming year. The “Introduction” is the last part of the guide we write. In this way, we can be sure that it truly summarizes needed information for you in one place!

If you have students in different HOD guides, read only one guide’s “Introduction” each day.

If you will be teaching more than one Heart of Dakota guide, read the “Introduction” for different guides on different days. This will help you focus on one guide at a time and will keep you from getting overwhelmed.

Can you use the guide without reading the “Introduction?”

Of course you can skip reading the “Introduction” and just jump right in and teach. However, often when families do this they miss the big picture of the guide. They also miss out on some gems that are referred to in the “Introduction” and included in the Appendix.

So, let’s get started!

After more than 15 years of homeschooling my boys with HOD, I still read the “Introduction” at the start of my school year! So, grab a cup of tea or coffee, cuddle up with your highlighter, and read away. Just reading the “Introduction” will make you feel more prepared!


Top Ten Tips for Teaching Multiple Guides

Helpful tips for using “Little Hands to Heaven” with your child with autism!

From Our House to Yours

Helpful tips for using “Little Hands to Heaven” with your child with autism!

Recently, I’ve had many homeschool moms beginning Heart of Dakota’s preschool with children with autism. I thought that it might be helpful to share about this topic, as we do have many families with autistic children who enjoy using HOD. Why, you ask? Well, the guides are predictable. Work takes relatively the same amount of time each day. Furthermore, the boxed format of the guide appeals to autistic students. So, the same organizational things many families enjoy about Heart of Dakota, children with autism enjoy as well! Below you will find my answers to questions from a fellow homeschool mom beginning preschool with her son with autism. She found it helpful, so I thought I’d share it here in case it may be an encouragement to other homeschool moms with children with autism!

Complete the guide in a predictable way with picture cues, so progress can be easily seen.

Completing the guide in a predictable, routine order is important for children with autism. You can make this clearer by having a picture for each part of the plans. Your son can then put a sticky note over the picture, or if you want to make photocopies of the pictures, he could put a sticker over each thing as he completes it.

This can be as simple as putting a picture of the Bible for the “Bible Story” box, a picture of hands for the “Fingerplay” box, a picture of a “Cross” for Bible Activity, and so on, all on one sheet of paper, preferably in black and white. This need not be beautiful, but if he can see visual images of the boxes he needs to complete and either cover them up with a sticky note or put a sticker on them as he completes them, he can see the progress he is making and when he will be done.

Do the boxes of plans in a routine order, in a routine place as free of distractions as possible.

Likewise, doing the boxes of plans in a routine order, in a routine place that is as free of distractions as possible is so helpful for children with autism. For example, you can first read the Bible for Little Hands to Heaven (LHTH) in a quiet area together, like on a couch not right by any windows (to avoid bright light/over-stimulation), sitting next to one another side by side (so as to not require direct eye contact). Maybe next you would do the Fingerplay together, then the Bible Activity. These 3 things could all be done in the living room area, preferably not near doors, bright windows, or loud stimuli. They could all be done at 9 AM, in the same place, in the same order.

Put sticky notes or a stickers on the visual representation of each box of plans to celebrate completing the work.

You could then go to the kitchen table and have him put a sticky note or a sticker on the visual representation of it. Maybe then you could have a snack to celebrate his completing half the work. You can let him know he is half done! Hooray! You can try listening to the Music as you have your snack, not super loud, but to enjoy it. Then, he can put a sticky note/sticker on the ‘music’ image to show he’s done with that!

Then, after the snack/music, you can do the letter activity at the same place, the kitchen table. Give him time to process (6 second rule, give at least 6 seconds before repeating an instruction). This works so well with children with autism! Be direct/concrete in directions, and calmly give time to quietly process what you’ve said. Then, he can put a sticky note/sticker on the image of the ‘letter’ image. Finally, you can do the bottom rotating box of the plans.  Then, you can celebrate being done by letting him choose a free time activity/award he likes.

You can always break the day into two 15 minute sessions as well. 

These are just ideas, of course! However, seeing simple images of what needs to be done, covering them up/putting stickers on them as boxes of plans are completed, planning a routine way/place to do the boxes, choosing quiet/less bright/less noisy areas, giving extra processing time and then efficiently moving on to the next task, and giving a planned break/snack, are all ways to help your child with autism enjoy his 25-30 minutes of predictable time in LHTH each day. You can always try to break his day into two (15 minute) sessions as well.  I hope this helps, but let me know if you have further questions!!!  Just give it time, and you will see such progress!!!

In Closing

Carrie and I both taught in the public school setting prior to us having our own children to homeschool (Carrie for 11 years, and me for 7 years). The school we taught at was designated as a school to integrate children with special needs, primarily in the classroom setting. Our last year we co-taught and had 11 out of 28 students with special needs. We had multiple students with autism over the years, and we loved them all dearly! However, I just want to encourage you that the home setting is much more suited to children with autism than the classroom environment.

How we wished we could work with children with autism alone!  So much more could have been successfully and happily accomplished! ( I have found the same to be true with my own sons I homeschool as well.) I am so glad you have chosen to homeschool your son, and I know the two of you will have an amazing homeschool journey together with Heart of Dakota! God bless!

In Christ,


Teaching Boys Good Habits Right Away

Pondering Placement for Boys

Teaching Boys Good Habits Right Away

I bought Heart of Dakota’s Little Hands to Heaven (LHTH) for my 3 turning 4-year old son. When it came time to start, he fought me on it! He was not excited to start like his sister was at that age. So, after a few days I set it aside. Since then, he has shown interest in the R & S Workbooks. He does them really well when he wants. He sees his older siblings doing their guides and has gotten more interested. So, we tried doing the first week of LHTH again. He just doesn’t seem as engaged as his older sisters were. I am doing Little Hearts for His Glory (LHFHG) with my 6 year-old daughter, but I don’t think that would be a good fit for him yet. It is too advanced for him. What should I do?

Carrie’s Reply in Regard to Teaching Boys:

I’ll share a few things I’ve discovered in my homeschool journey with my own 4 boys. One thing to be aware of is that many little boys will battle you just to battle. They have in their little minds what they want to do (which often is play), and they don’t want to be told otherwise. It’s important to remember that with homeschooling your role has shifted now with you being both the teacher and the mama.

Teaching Boys the Habit of Respectful Obedience

One thing that helps my boys is for me to tell them that if they went to school, they would have to do what their teacher said. When they are at home, the same is true now, because I am their teacher. This means when I tell them to do something, I expect them to respect me and obey. If they do not obey, there will be consequences. At our house, for a quick effective consequence, we had our little boys stand with their nose in the corner for not obeying. We had them stand 30 seconds up to a minute for each year of their age. They were not to look out from the corner, or we would start the timer again. When they came out of the corner, they needed to say why they were there and then apologize and behave differently. If not, it was back to the corner. For us, that was very effective.

How Carpet Squares Help Little Boys Focus

Next, for my little ones, I got a carpet square for them to sit on (one per child). I sat on my own carpet square. This delineates a space for them to be. To start our LHTH, we always got out the carpet squares and sat down. Then, we read the Bible story first. I held up the Bible and showed the pictures to my little one. He stayed on his carpet square, and I stayed on mine. This effectively ended all wrestling that had previously happened when I tried to keep my little one on my lap, and also ended any rolling around on the floor!

This also helped our boys see me as the teacher!

This also showed me as the teacher sharing the book with him. It helped establish my role. Honestly, teaching LHTH is much more about establishing your role as a teacher than it is about tricking your child into having fun. Your child will eventually have fun doing LHTH, once your role is established. Until then, your son will battle you for control by simply refusing and complaining. After I read the Bible story, then I asked the questions. I expected some answer, but I didn’t drag the activity out. Next, we put on the music and marched around the room while it played. We marched in a circle and kept even the marching in control (i.e. no falling down on the ground, pushing, etc.). I marched too.

Thoughts on Boys and the Fingerplays

Then, we came back to our carpet squares and did the fingerplay. My boys had to participate, or we would start over. I said a line and did the motion, then they said a line and did the motion (echo style). We did this the first 2-3 days of the fingerplay. The last 2-3 days we did it together with no echoing. They had two chances to start right in with me, or they went to the corner. I don’t allow any eye-rolling or silliness with the fingerplay, but we did have fun and smile.

The fingerplays actually are meant for the two sides of the brain to communicate with one another doing both sounds and motions at the same time. This takes coordination of the two sides of the brain, making the fingerplays have a hidden element. The motions also provide a great cuing system for the sounds later when your child begins to read. We only did the fingerplay once, so the whole activity even with echoing was over in just minutes. My boys need to be able to do what I tell them for just a few minutes cheerfully, even if it something happens not to be their favorite thing. This is because my time is important, and as a teacher I expect to be obeyed.

Boys and Hands-on Activities

Next, we went on to the letter activity or the hands-on activity. We typically left the more art-oriented things (or things needing to be done at the table) to be done last. In this way, we moved to the table last of all. Boys tend to love hands-on activities, so they would often keep enjoying this activity while I moved on to teaching an older son!

You can start LHTH half-speed to help train your son.

For now, I would work on doing LHTH at half-speed, doing 3 boxes each day. I would work on having your son come to school right when you call him and work on making sure he obeys you. To help him obey, I would make sure to do his school in the morning at about the same time, so he knows it is coming. Boys do better knowing what is coming! If he does not obey, I would warn him once and then give an effective, quick consequence each time he does not obey. You may find yourself giving more consequences than doing school right now. However, keep your cool and stay calm. If you do use the corner, then when he returns, after he apologizes, cheerfully go back to the school again.

Boys don’t like to be randomly pulled away from playing to do school, so routine helps.

Make sure that you do not pull him away from play randomly to do school, or he will really battle you. Instead, have his school begin after he has just completed something that has a definite ending point, like an educational DVD. Keep his routine the same, so he knows that school always comes after the same thing in his day. You want him to expect school and know it is coming.

Boys rarely battle when they see you as the teacher with an established routine to follow.

I say all of this to help you see that LHTH is about training your son to see you as the teacher and to obey you the first time you ask him to do something. This is so important to his schooling to come and will save you many battles along the way in the future. If you don’t feel that you want to train him now, then don’t start LHTH. When you do start, know you are about the training and will need to devote time to it each day. My hope is to give you some practical advice that helped me be a better teacher. I enjoy school with my older sons today, because the routine was established when they were younger. We battle very little with our older ones thanks to the foundation laid in the younger years.


Spend 1-2 Years in Little Hands to Heaven

From Our House to Yours

Spend 1 Year in Little Hands to Heaven (LHTH)

Little Hands to Heaven (LHTH) is Heart of Dakota’s preschool guide written for children ages 2-5. I have used this guide with all three of my sons at different ages and paces. My oldest son, Wyatt, used LHTH when he was 4 years old back in 2003. This was the first year LHTH was published! He used it 5 days a week, finished it in 1 year, and then he moved into Little Hearts for His Glory.

Spend 1 1/2 Years in Little Hands to Heaven (LHTH)

My middle son, Riley, used Heart of Dakota’s LHTH when he was 3 1/2 years old. He used it 3-4 days a week. This worked perfectly, as it gave me extra time to focus on my oldest son’s school and my newborn baby! Riley finished LHTH in about a year and a half, and then he moved into Little Hearts for His Glory.

Spend 2 Years in Little Hands to Heaven (LHTH)

My youngest son, Emmett, used LHTH when he was 2 1/2 years old. He saw me homeschooling his older brothers and just couldn’t wait to start! I decided to go half-speed using both Bibles. I read from the easier Bible first, did the Fingerplay, the letter activity, and the Bible activity the first day. Then the second day, I read from the harder Bible, repeated the Fingerplay, reviewed the letter flashcard, and then did the remaining boxes (music and the rotating box). This really filled a need I had back then! I had mommy time with my little guy, but it didn’t add much time to my already busy day. Using both Bibles kept it fresh each day, and doing the Fingerplay and the letter flashcards both days helped him really remember his letters and sounds. I think he was an early reader because of this!

One other way to spend 2 years in LHTH is to use the 2/3 LHTH Package the first year. Then, the second year, use the 4/5 LHTH Package. With this plan, you go through the guide twice, but you use different Bibles and different devotionals each time.

Combining a 2 1/2 and a 5 Year-Old in Little Hands to Heaven (LHTH)

One other way to spend your time in LHTH is to (for example) combine a 2 1/2 and 5 year-old in it. In this combining scenario, the 5 year-old must get the most out of it. So, I’d choose the 4/5 LHTH Package with the 5 year-old in mind, and whatever the 2 1/2 year-old got out of it would be a bonus!  Then, the following year, the then 6 year-old would move into Little Hearts, while the then 3 1/2 year-old would use LHTH with the 2/3 Package, spreading it out over 1  1/2 years. This works well if you have a 5 year-old that still needs to learn letters and sounds.

Combining a 3 1/2 and a 5 1/2 Year-Old in Little Hands to Heaven (LHTH)

Another way to spend your time in LHTH is to combine a 3 1/2 and 5 1/2 year-old. Either the 3/4 or the 4/5 LHTH Package could be used, based on which devotional you prefer. You’d spend about 1 1/2 years in LHTH, doing it 3-4 days each week. For the 5 1/2 year -old, you’d add any kindergarten language arts/math from Little Hearts, based on whatever you feel the 5 1/2 year-old needs. Kindergarten fine motor skills (Do It Carefully and Finding the Answers), handwriting (A Reason for Handwriting K or Italic A), phonics (The Reading Lesson or Reading Made Easy), and math (Essentials A and B) could all be added to beef up LHTH for a 5 1/2 year-old.

After 1 1/2 years in LHTH together, the children would be 5 and 7 1/2 years old when starting Little Hearts for His Glory. The 5 year-old would use the K options, and the 7 1/2 year-old would use the 1st grade options. Perfect!

Hope you enjoy these different ways you can spend your time with your little ones in LHTH!

In Christ,


A defined space helps your little ones listen better.

Teaching Tip 

A defined space helps your little ones listen better.

Do you have little ones with whom you’re doing school? If so, it really helps to define the space in which they need to sit and listen while you read.

What is a simple defined space for a 2-4 year old?

When my little ones were between the ages of 2-4, I usually had them sit on my lap.  Then, I held the Bible in front of us to read the story for Little Hands to Heaven. If you have a child who is a “wild wiggler” and doesn’t sit well on your lap, then move on to my next suggestion!

What can you use as a defined space if you have a “wild wiggler” or multiple little ones?

If you have a “wild wiggler” or multiple little ones, use carpet pieces or large, foam floor puzzle squares to define space instead.  These pieces or squares can be used to delineate the spot where each child should sit.  This becomes the defined space in which your child needs to remain during the Little Hand’s Bible reading. As you read, hold the book up beside you with the pictures facing your child.  Read from the side, so you can show the pictures as you read.

What is a simple defined space for a 5-6 year old?

For my Little Hearts for His Glory kiddos, I move to sitting on the couch.  I “anchor” my child beside me with my arm around him/her while I read. If you have two kiddos doing Little Hearts, it works well to anchor one child on either side of you!

Try defining your child’s space today, and see if your reading time goes better.

While these sound like simple suggestions, having defined boundaries for your child during reading time can make a big difference! Try it today, and see what you think!