5th and 7th Grade Placement When Using 3 Guides Already

Pondering Placement

I use 3 HOD guides with my younger children and want to start using it with my 5th and 7th graders, but how can I add just 1 more HOD guide when my 7th grader wants to be by herself?

I already love using Heart of Dakota with 3 children! I’m using Little Hands with my preK son, Little Hearts with my first grader, and Bigger Hearts with my 2nd grader. I like it so much I’m considering using it with my 5th and 7th graders. However, since I’m already using 3 younger guides with more teaching time, I only want to add 1 guide. I was going to add Creation to Christ, but they don’t want to “do school together” like we have in the past. My 7th grader wants to be able to do it all “by herself” without my interference. Could I combine my 5th grader with my 2nd grader in Bigger Hearts? Or, should I combine my two oldest in CTC, even though my 7th grade girl doesn’t want to? She hasn’t expressed it too much, just asked could they please “not do it together”?

Carrie’s Initial Reply: Could you please share about your 5th grade son in regard to the first page of the placement chart? (Parent response below)

My just turned 10 year old has a mathematical mind and is a problem solver. He’s an excellent reader and loves to read Diary of a Wimpy Kid. He’s never narrated, has messy handwriting, and hates to write. I homeschooled him for 1st-3rd, and he went to public school for 4th grade. His learning slowed down in public school! They didn’t do much grammar, and they didn’t have history; they had “social studies”. He retained nothing from science, as they didn’t do any science experiments. He places between Bigger and Preparing on the placement chart. I just ordered Singapore 5A/5B and Rod and Staff 5 for him. He looked at the Bigger guide I’m using with my 2nd grader and got really excited. The hands-on activities are right up his alley. I’ve caught him peeking at the Stories of Great Americans book already. So, I know he’ll love the history!

Carrie’s Response with English and Literature Recommendations

Based on what you’ve shared thus far, and about your desire not to do two more guides, I do think your son could be placed in Bigger Hearts with Extensions. I would recommend that he do Rod and Staff English 4 instead of English 5, and do a lesson daily 4 days a week. I would also recommend that he do Drawn into the Heart of Reading (DITHOR) with the level 4/5 Student BookI’d recommend the 4/5 Boy Interest Set. You could just do DITHOR 3 times weekly in order to lighten your load.

Carrie’s Response with Math Placement Recommendations

As far as math goes, I would give him the Singapore Math U.S. Primary Edition placement test. I’d begin with the test for 3A and see if he passes. Make sure not to aid, help, or explain in any way, or the results will not be accurate. It would not be uncommon for a 5th grader who is new to Singapore to have to start back somewhere between 3A and 4B, simply due to the differing scope and sequence. I wouldn’t start a 5th grader who is new to Singapore in 5A/5B, as it will assume that he has had the Singapore method and foundation laid in 3B on up to guide and help him. Since you just ordered your English 5 and Singapore 5A/5B Math, you can return them and exchange them for the texts you need from us instead. We want to be sure that you have what you need to have a successful school year!

Carrie’s Request for Placement Information About the 7th Grader

As far as your 7th grader goes, if my experience with kiddos her age is correct, she is deeply desiring independence due to her age and increasing maturity level. She probably feels excited about any guide that will insure she is not combined with her younger sibling. I would be interested to hear where she places on the first page only of the placement chart when you consider her all by herself (no combining scenarios in mind). It is possible that she may fit in Resurrection to Reformation instead. If you get a chance to share a bit more about her reading, math, grammar, writing, independence level in regard to our placement chart, and about her ability to read her own materials that would be great!

Placement Information Shared Regarding 7th Grade Daughter (Parent response below)

My daughter places between Resurrection to Reformation and Revival to Revolution. She is a voracious reader and writer. She loves to draw and is very talented. Her weakness is math. The idea of her being “above” Creation to Christ appeals to her. I showed her Resurrection to Reformation in the Heart of Dakota catalog, and she is super excited! As she has not done much in the way of narrating, oral or written, I think RTR will be a better start for her.  I started Bigger Hearts with my 5th grade son, and he is loving it already! Now, I just need to order the extensions for him and RTR for my daughter.

Carrie’s Final Recommendation Thoughts

I think you will enjoy Bigger Hearts with extensions for your 5th grade son. I’m also excited for you to begin Resurrection to Reformation with your 7th grade daughter. I think you will both enjoy the independence in that guide, as well as the mother/daughter Biblical girlhood study that celebrates your daughter’s maturing. Thank you for ordering from Heart of Dakota; we depend on that support – God bless!


As you begin planning a schedule for school…be realistic!

Teaching Tip 

As you begin planning a schedule for school…be realistic!

It is so easy to make a perfect school schedule on paper that falls apart in practice!  So, here are a few tips to help you make a more realistic schedule.

Consider whether you are a morning person.

When making a “school” schedule, be sure to take into account whether you are a morning person.  Then, set a realistic start time for your days. I am not a morning person!  So, for me breakfast at 9:00 with teaching at 9:30 is realistic. It is better to make a plan you can stick to rather than a “wishful” plan that quickly falls by the wayside.

Consider your child’s best work times.

It is also wise to take note of your child’s best work time.  Is your child a morning person?  Or, does he/she do better with a slower start? It is a good idea to schedule accordingly. For example, don’t schedule a child who has a hard time getting going in the A.M. with his/her hardest subjects first.

Consider your little ones first.

When planning for school, often our first thought is to schedule the school-age children.  If you have a 2 or 3 year old, it is more important to schedule that little one first.  If we expect our little ones to just “go with the flow,” what will happen?  A busy 2 or 3 year old can drag everyone else along as he/she quickly derails the day!

Spend some time over the next week noticing when you and your children are at your best.

As you begin mulling over a schedule, remember to be realistic with your expectations! Your year will run more smoothly if you schedule both you and your children when you are at your best!


The way you handle breakfast sets the tone for your day

A streamlined lunch is a huge help in the homeschool day

All in the family!

Heart of Dakota Tidbit

All in the family!

Did you know that the children who are pictured on the front of Little Hearts for His Glory, Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory, Bigger Hearts for His Glory, and Preparing Hearts for His Glory are our boys? The beautiful girl who is pictured is our niece from Texas, Rachel.

Have a great weekend!

The way you handle breakfast sets the tone for your day

Teaching Tip

The way you handle breakfast sets the tone for your day.

As the school year is approaching, it is good to consider how you are going to handle breakfast. Since breakfast is often the start of the school day, it can really affect how your day begins! We’ve tried a variety of things through the years for breakfast in hopes of a smooth start to our day.

What are some possible ways to do breakfast?

To get you thinking of possible options, I’ll share two very different ways that we have approached breakfast. One way is the simple, stagger-start breakfast. The other way is the more involved, family-style breakfast. We have used both ways through the years. Each has been successful in its season!

What is an example of a simple, stagger-start breakfast?

On this breakfast plan, we alternated oatmeal and scrambled eggs. These two simple options are easy to use when stagger-starting your eating times. While this is not rocket science, I will share why this works well.

First, oatmeal can be made and left on the stove on warm in a big kettle. It is quite forgiving as to when it is eaten. So, once it was made, my older kiddos could eat it when their day began bright and early. My younger kiddos could eat it when they wandered down later. We also had yogurt and fresh fruit on oatmeal days.

On scrambled egg day, we simply had each child crack one or two eggs in a cereal bowl. They stirred the eggs with a fork and placed them in the microwave. In our microwave, it took 45 seconds for 1 egg and 1 min. 15 seconds for two. Once the eggs were done, our kiddos added either a bit of cheese or salt. This was another easy hot breakfast that could be made individually as the kiddos were ready. We added toast with peanut butter and half a banana to the meal on egg day.

These simple breakfasts gave my older boys a hot meal right away. It also allowed them to get started on their work when the house was quiet. Last, it provided a hot breakfast right away for my little ones.

What is an example of a more involved, family-style breakfast?

The second way is a more involved, family-style breakfast. This is the way we do breakfast now. We returned to this type of breakfast after my husband took over breakfast preparation. He is a morning person, and I am not, so I was thrilled for him to do breakfast! With five “men” in our household, bigger breakfasts became a necessity.

Our breakfast also has the new feature of needing to be grain-free, gluten-free, low refined sugar, and restricted dairy. So now, we do the following:

Monday: almond flour pancakes and fruit

Tuesday: eggs and sausage patties

Wednesday: blueberry waffles with fruit

Thursday: eggs with bacon

Friday: smoothies with grain-free granola

My husband begins breakfast prep around 8:35. He actually sets up his breakfast equipment the night before. The boys all sit down together for breakfast at 9:00. The older boys have already gotten more than an hour of school in by then. Yet, they opt to wait to eat. They love eating together with the other boys and enjoy the bigger breakfast! My husband actually sets the timer, and breakfast is done in 20-25 minutes.

Consider how you could streamline your breakfasts.

While you may not love these particular choices, maybe they will get you thinking of how you could streamline your breakfast. How can you get your kiddos going in the morning without all of the production that breakfast can bring?

Think about whether you want to eat breakfast together or whether stagger-starting would work better.

Since we all sit down together for both lunch and our evening meal, these are our family together times. For me, this means breakfast can be either family-style or stagger-started. Ponder your breakfast, and consider how you could gain a good start to your day. See what works for you in the approaching school season!


Tired and Overwhelmed Young Homeschool Mom Asking for Help

Seven Time Saving Tips for Multiple Read Alouds in Homeschooling

From Our House to Yours

We all love, love, love the Charlotte Mason living book read alouds!  But, what if you have multiple read-alouds and not much time due to some difficulty going on in your life?

Our children are each more than 3 years apart and very different in skills and maturity.  Consequently, they place in 3 different Heart of Dakota guides.  We’ve actually loved using multiple guides because each child thrives and is appropriately placed.  Therefore, there is no tweaking, no skipping, no comparing, and no supplementing. Little ones are finished earlier and have less independence.  Older ones have longer school days and more independence. Likewise, skills are appropriate for their ages and materials are appropriate content and maturity-wise. However, if you happen to have many children placed in different younger guides who cannot read, you will have multiple read-alouds.  I’m thinking of helping you dear ladies when I write this blog. So, the subject of this blog will be 7 time saving tips for multiple read alouds!

First Tip: If you have older students who can read well, make sure they are doing the reading for all the “I” boxes of their plans.

Starting in Resurrection to Reformation, the Storytime part of the plans can be either “T” teacher-directed with the parent doing the reading, or “I” independent with the student taking over the reading (as long as they are able).  We have found our kiddos enjoy reading it on their own at this point anyway, so that would be a first suggestion if you have older students. Or, if you can’t bear to let go of this, set a timer for 10 minutes.  Read aloud until it rings, and then your older student can finish the reading independently. Then, you can just do the short Storytime follow-up with them.

Second Tip: If you have older kiddos, have them take a turn reading to the youngers.

If you are using several younger guides with multiple read-alouds, and you have older students as well, try having those older students take a turn reading aloud – our younger sons have loved this! They can cuddle up on the couch, choose a reading corner, or have a cup of hot cocoa together.  The books are amazing in Heart of Dakota already, and often times older kiddos enjoy rereading books they’ve had read to them before!

Wyatt Reading Traveling the Way to Emmett for Creation to Christ’s Storytime
Third Tip:  Look to your extended family members for help!

Family members can often see when you are going through a tougher time in life and want to help but don’t know how!  A family member (husband, mother, father, mother-in-law, father-in-law, older child, aunt, uncle, etc.) can easily help by reading aloud a chapter a day in a recording device.  We gave a book or two to multiple family members and had them record a chapter read aloud at a time, and then we had them for years to come to be enjoyed!  Now that my father as passed away, these recorded read-alouds are especially precious, and they saved me some time when I needed it! I know Mike’s mother recorded read-alouds of her reading a set of Storytime books each summer for the Austin’s sons.  Those read-alouds are also precious, and the recordings have been put to good use for many years!

Our mom has read aloud to all 7 sons/nephews through the years!
Fourth Tip:  Choose a time of your convenience to record yourself reading a chapter each day.

Sometimes it is just more convenient to read aloud a chapter a different time of day than you are homeschooling!  Our phones are easy recording devices these days, so why not record yourself reading a chapter each day from one of the multiple read-alouds at a time of your convenience? I spend a fair share of time waiting, how about you?  Waiting for appointments.  More waiting in my car for my kiddos.  Still more waiting for someone running a little late. Why not use that time to record yourself reading a chapter? All you need is a Storytime book and your phone. I’d do this for the oldest child’s read-alouds first, as you can then use it again when your younger child does that guide!

Fifth Tip: Try moving one of the multiple read-alouds to bedtime. 

This is great to do for a younger child, as often times reading a book before bed is a fun, cuddle time that is a wind-down for sleeping well! Often times families are doing this anyway.  Why not read aloud one of the living books in your Heart of Dakota plans?  Just be sure to have the guide nearby and do the short follow-up, and doing it at night is easy-peasy!

Sixth Tip: See what books you can order on audio or on audible!

Many books are now available on audio or on audible. However, one very important caution for this time saving tip…make sure your child still has the book and is following along in it! This is important for building reading comprehension skills and vocabulary.  It may be tempting to just have kiddos listen to books, but Charlotte Mason would not have been a proponent of this.  Real books held in one’s hand foster connections not made otherwise. We found some used cassettes of books online one year and just used a tape player. I know this is old school, but this was inexpensive and while it was not as much my favorite as me reading the books aloud or a family member, it really helped me through that busy, busy year when I had many doctor’s appointments for my newborn!!!

Seventh Tip: Start recording yourself as you read aloud to your oldest during the homeschool day.

You’re already reading aloud!  Why not just record yourself doing it?  Sure, it may not be perfect.  The baby may cry in the background.  A phone or doorbell may ring.  That’s ok!  As long as it’s clear enough, it’s good enough.  Just put some gusto into your reading.  I’ve found it often drowns out the worst of background noise. You may as well start this with the oldest child, so the youngers can enjoy the readings later.  Who knows?  They may be as precious one day to your children as my dad’s recorded readings are to me today!!!

Wonderful memories of my Dad here with my son, Wyatt, and my sister, Carrie!!!

I hope this gives you some practical time saving tips for multiple read- alouds!  The summer is often a perfect time to try some of these tips – especially if you want family members to help!  So, why not give one of these time saving tips a try this homeschool year?

In Christ,