The checkmark method: a way to save sanity while teaching multiple guides!

Teaching Tip: 

Here is a sanity-saving tip for tracking your child’s work each day!

This week’s tip is a sanity saver for my family, especially as we are running multiple HOD guides each year! The “checkmark method”  is a very simple and effective way to keep track of what work has been completed and corrected each day.

Are you using your HOD guide as a correcting tool?

You may not know it, but your HOD guide was designed to aid you in keeping track of your child’s work. On each two-page spread of plans, your child’s work is conveniently divided into boxes. Each box contains assignments to be completed and corrected. Once a box has been completed and corrected, simply make a small checkmark in the top corner of the box. This checkmark shows that all work within the box has been completed and corrected.

Why is it it important for the parent to check the boxes?

The two operative words for our household in checking the boxes are “parent” and “corrected.” We used to let our kiddos check their boxes as they completed their work. Our boys sometimes became overly zealous in checking boxes before the work within the box was actually completed. At other times they missed things that were assigned within the box. Then, they checked the box off thinking they were done. This method left us unsure of whether the work had actually been corrected. So now, we make sure only the parent does the box checking! We check the box after the work has been corrected by the parent first.

Having a parent check the boxes provides a quick visual of what remains for your child to complete.

A checkmark in the corner of the box provides a quick visual of what has been looked over by a parent. At a glance, both parent and child can also see what still needs to be completed and corrected.

The checkmark method keeps your child accountable.

The checkmark method keeps your child accountable because he/she knows every box is going to be checked. With this method, only the parent can say when the work is truly done. Try this simple tip today! See if it makes it easier for you to keep track of correcting.


Carrie’s Past Schedule for High School, MTMM, PHFHG, & LHFHG

Dear Carrie

Could you please share your past schedule for MTMM, PHFHG, and LHFHG, along with your oldest son piloting a high school guide?

I have used your past Heart of Dakota schedules to make my own schedules. The schedules have been such a help! Though my schedules aren’t exactly the same, I use yours as a template. I remember a post a long time ago that you did around 2012, I believe. You had not written your high school guides yet, but your oldest son was piloting much of what you ended up writing in the guide. Your other sons were using MTMM, PHFHG, and LHFHG. My children will be using these guides soon. I want to print your schedule and pattern mine after it. Could you please share your past schedule for these guides? Thanks in advance!


“Ms. Please Help Me Use Your Past Schedule to Plan My Future Schedule”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Me Use Your Past Schedule to Plan My Future Schedule,”

I’d be glad to help by posting my past schedule for 2012-2013! Blessedly, I found that past schedule on the Heart of Dakota Message Board. I shared general tips about my schedule at the start of the post. Then at the end, I posted my detailed schedule for each son. As you read about that past schedule on the Heart of Dakota message board, I’ll share the post in its entirety below, in the hopes that it will help you plan your future schedule!

General Schedule Tips

I’ll just share that I try hard to stick to the start, end, breakfast, lunch, and recess times routinely in our days. The other time increments I view as guidelines that fluctuate, however those guidelines do help me know if I am lagging way behind in my day. So, for me the times listed really help keep me moving forward on track.

Schedule Tips to Keep the Day Moving

If I see a child (or multiple kiddos) are falling way behind in their day, I jump in and help them catch up. To do this, I might do all of an English lesson orally, assigning none to be done on paper. Or, I may write out the math problems from the textbook to help the child move more quickly. I might downsize a math assignment a bit if needed. Or, I might put away or set out a child’s materials open to needed pages to move him along.

I may write a younger child’s answers to DITHR, while he dictates them to me to save time. Or, I might sit right by a child pointing out text or redirecting while he works to keep him on task. I might read directions aloud from an older child’s guide while he follows them, or I might send the kiddos for a much needed break while I quickly check their work to see why they might have fallen behind. Anyway, these are just a few ideas of how you can partner with your kiddos to keep them on track and happily moving through their day.

Our Schedules for Piloting High School, MTMM, PHFHG, and LHFHG

Below find our schedules for the 2012-2013 school year. Cole was in his junior year of high school, piloting much of our high school plans for the new high school guides. Shaw was doing MTMM. Greyson was doing Preparing. Beau was doing LHFHG. All of the boys finished their guides by the end of the school year, except Beau who continued to finish his remaining 4 weeks of LHFHG at the beginning of the next school year.

The approximate times for the various subjects are in parentheses. I also designate for my younger kiddos in which room they need to do each subject. These room designations are also listed in parentheses. For my older kiddos, I only designate a room if they must be in that area at that specific time. Otherwise, they are free to choose where to do their work, as they have proven to be responsible. Times the kiddos meet with the teacher are noted in bold. As you can see from the schedule below, I had groups of times where I was overseeing two kiddos (or more at once) with varying subjects. It was a bit chaotic at times, but it did work! I needed to have a break built into my schedule mid-afternoon form 1:30-3:30 for work, so this is why the schedule looks the way it does!

Cole’s Grade 11 Schedule: Piloting and Trying Potential Ideas for Our High School Guide (Part 1)

6:30-7:00 Get up / Make bed / Groom / Eat Yogurt (30 min.)
7:00-7:25 Quiet Time (25 min.) (Mom’s study)
7:25-7:50 Bible (25 min.) (Mon.-Thurs.) (Family room)
7:50-8:20 Spanish (30 min.) (Family room)
8:20-9:00 American History (40 min.) (Family room/TV as needed)
9:00-9:15 Breakfast (kitchen table) (15 min.) Do not be late!
9:15-10:00 Essentials in Writing (45 min.)(Mom’s study)
10:00-10:45 Chemistry (Mom’s Study/Experiments at kitchen counter) (45 min.)
10:45-11:20 Grammar (Mon./Wed.) Greek (Tues./Thurs.) with Mom at kitchen table (35min.) Be sure to come on time. Eat snack after completing Grammar or Greek assignment.
11:20-12:00 Economics (Mon./Tues./Wed.) Finance (Thurs.) (40 min.)(Either Family room or Mom’s study)
12:00-1:00 Math (Set timer for 60 min. and stop) Go to Mom with problems. (Mom’s study at glass table)

Cole’s Grade 11 Schedule (Part 2)

1:00-1:30 Lunch (Do not be late.) (30 min.)
1:30-2:30 Recess outside with your brothers (60 min.)
2:30-3:00 Playtime with Beau (30 min.)
3:00-3:30 Playtime with Grey (30 min.) After playtime with Grey, put away any corrected subjects prior to beginning Lit.
3:30-4:30 BJU Literature and Novels (60 min.) (Mom’s study) Discuss literature questions with mom as time allows during day or do in evening.
4:30-5:15 Art of Argument (Mon./Wed.) Music Appreciation (Tues./Thurs.) (45 min.) (Family room or Mom’s study)
5:15-6:00 Whenever you finish school: Pack Orders (45 min.)
6:00-6:30 Whenever you finish packing orders: Computer (30 min.)
6:30-7:15 Dinner

Shaw’s Grade 8 Schedule: Missions to Modern Marvels (Part 1)

6:30-7:00 Get up / Make bed / Groom / Cinn. Applesauce (30 min.)
7:00-7:25 Storytime (25 min.) (Family Room in Addition) Orally narrate into ipod as needed.
7:25-8:05 Picking orders (40 min.) (Tues.-Fri.)
8:05-8:35 Bible Quiet Time (30 min.) (Morning Room)
8:35-9:00 Reading About History (25 min.) (Morning Room) Narrate to me before breakfast if needed.
9:00-9:15 Breakfast (kitchen table) (15 min.) Do not be late!
9:15-9:40 Geography/Timeline/Worthy Words/Economics (25 min.)(Family Room addition at game table – not in morning room during Beau’s school) Note: You will discuss Worthy Words with mom in afternoon, but do your index card answers now.
9:40-10:10 History Project (30 min.) (Kitchen Counter/Morning Room)

10:10-10:30 Independent History Box (20 min.) (Morning Room) Discuss questions with me in afternoon.
10:30-11:10 Grammar/Dictation with me at kitchen table (40 min.) Be sure to come on time. Eat snack when working on Grammar and dictation assignment at end.
11:10-11:40 Playtime with Beau (30 min.) (Living Room: Games from cupboard)
11:40-12:15 Drawn into Heart of Reading (only on days when no Write with the Best) Write with the Best (as scheduled in MTMM Guide)(45 min.) (Kitchen Table with Mom to start/Morning Room for assignment)
12:15-1:00 Math (45 min.) (Mom’s Room) Go to Mom first to go over assignment. Work on assignment in her room.

Shaw’s Grade 8 Schedule (Part 2)

1:00-1:30 Lunch (Do not be late.) (30 min.)
1:30-2:30 Recess outside with your brothers (60 min.)
2:30-3:00 Playtime with Greyson (30 min.)
3:00-3:30 Computer (30 min.)
3:30-4:30 Science Exploration (30 min.) (Morning Room to read/ Experiments: Kitchen Counter)
4:00-4:30 President Study / State Study (30 min.) (Family Room at game table or Kitchen Counter) Mom will help you with the State Study.
4:30-5:00 Nature Study / Biblical Worldview (30 min.) Do what you can on your own and finish the rest with Mom at 5:00. (Morning Room)
5:00-5:30 Meet with Mom to go over the day’s work (30 min.) Do Socratic Discussion from Worthy Words, give any oral narrations, go over each box in the plans. Then, put away corrected materials and books.
5:30-6:30 Free Time in Room (60 min.)
6:30-7:15 Dinner

Grey’s Grade 4 Schedule: Preparing Hearts for His Glory (Part 1)

8:15-8:30 Get up / Make bed / Brush Teeth/ Get Dressed (15 min.)
8:30-9:00 Computer (30 min.)
9:00-9:15 Breakfast (kitchen table) (15 min.) Do not be late!
9:15-9:25 Cheerful Cursive (10 min.) (Kitchen Table)
9:25-9:45 Independent History Study Box (20 min.) (Family Room or Kitchen Table) Do not bother Cole or Shaw during this time! If done early, go on to next subject.
9:45-10:10 Mom goes over Independent History Study Box, then does Reading About History Box (25 min.) (Family Room)

10:10-10:30 Geography/Timeline/Research/Vocabulary (20 min.) (Kitchen Table with Mom)
10:30-11:00 Playtime with Beau (30 min.) (Living Room/Playroom)
11:00-11:10 Snack (10 min.) (Kitchen Table)
11:10-11:30 Bible Study with Mom (20 min.) (Family Room or Kitchen Table)
11:30-11:50 Dictation/Grammar (20 min.) (Kitchen Table)
11:50-12:20 Science (Greyson reads directions to Mom and goes over assignment with me first.) (30 min.) (Family Room/Kitchen Counter)
12:20-12:40 History Project (20 min.) (Kitchen with Mom)
12:40-1:00 Storytime with Mom (20 min.) (Family Room)

Grey’s Grade 4 Schedule (Part 2)

1:00-1:30 Lunch (Do not be late.) (30 min.)
1:30-2:30 Recess outside with your brothers (60 min.)
2:30-3:00 Playtime with Shaw (30 min.)
3:00-3:30 Playtime with Cole (30 min.)
3:30-3:50 Math with Mom (20 min.) (Kitchen Table)
3:50-4:20 Drawn into the Heart of Reading with Mom (30 min.) (Family Room or Kitchen Table)
4:20-4:40 Poetry with mom (20 min.) (Kitchen Table)
4:40-5:30 Free Time (Computer only if not done in morning.)
5:30-6:30 Time in Room (60 min.)
6:30-7:15 Dinner

Beau’s Grade 1 Schedule: Little Hearts for His Glory (Part 1)

8:45-9:00 Get up / Make bed / Brush Teeth/ Get Dressed (15 min.)
9:00-9:15 Breakfast (kitchen table) (15 min.) Do not be late!
9:15-9:45 Left Side of LHFHG (except Rhymes) and Storytime (30 min.) (Morning Room)
9:45-10:30 DVD – Quietly! No long movies of any kind! (45 min.) (Living Room)
10:30-11:00 Playtime with Greyson (30 min.) (Playroom or Living Room)
11:00-11:10 Snack (Kitchen Table) (10 min.)
11:10-11:40 Playtime with Shaw (30 min.) (Games from cupboard – Living Room) At end, Shaw, please help Beau get onto his computer game for today.
11:40-12:10 Computer (30 min.) (Living Room/Playroom)
12:10-1:00 Play in own room upstairs (40 min.) (Beau’s bedroom)
1:00-1:30 Lunch (Do not be late.) (30 min.)

Beau’s Grade 1 Schedule (Part 2)

1:30-2:30 Recess outside with your brothers (60 min.)
2:30-3:00 Playtime with Cole (30 min.)
3:00-3:30 Free Time (30 min.)
3:30-3:45 Fine Motor Skills with Mom (15 min.) (Kitchen Table)
3:45-3:50 Rhymes in Motion with Mom (5 min.) (Living Room)
3:50-4:10 Phonics with Mom (20 min.) (Kitchen Table)
4:10-4:30 Math with Mom (20 min.)(Kitchen Table)
4:30-5:30 Play on Own (30 min.)
5:30-6:30 Play in room upstairs (60 min.)
6:30-7:15 Dinner


Sharing from Different Guides with “5 Minute Fun Times”

A Heart of Dakota Life

How can children in different guides share experiences with one another without making their day too long?

My sons are each 3 to 4 years apart in age, and they have always each placed best in different Heart of Dakota guides. Having each of them properly placed these many years has been such a blessing! They each shine in their own guides. However, what do you do when one child sees what another child is doing and wants to do it too? Heart of Dakota is so much fun, it can be tempting for a child to want to do it all – even if it’s not part of the guide he/she is doing! However, it is not so fun when the school day goes way too long because of it, or when older children constantly upstage younger children because they’re just better at most things. Maintaining that balance is important. For these reasons, I started “5 Minute Fun Times.”

What are “5 Minute Fun Times?”

“5 Minute Fun Times” are simply fun times that can be shared with siblings in different guides within 5 minutes. Certain things lend themselves well to this. For example, if someone bakes something for a history project, everyone can take 5 minutes to eat it and compliment the baker.  Or, if it’s someone’s turn to share a poem, we can all take 5 minutes to sit on the couch, listen to the reader, and clap at the end. Likewise, if the 3 year-old’s guide calls for a re-enactment of the Red Sea parting and the Israelites crossing, I can quickly assign everyone a part, have them each throw on a quick costume, and take 5 minutes to act it out.

When are “5 Minute Fun Times” not a good idea?

If something takes more than 5 minutes, or if it is clearly an assignment for just that child to enjoy, then the “5 Minute Fun Time” is not a good idea. For example, even though my olders might enjoy doing my little one’s art projects, it is better they don’t stop their school to do so. First, because they will get behind in their own guides (which take longer, as they are older). And second, because my little one can enjoy showing off his art project later without thinking his art project is “less worthy” (as more than likely, his older siblings would have done his art project quicker and better).

“5 Minute Fun Times” usually take place at the culmination of something.

It is important to know at what point to have everyone join in. Usually, we join in for “5 Minute Fun Times” at the culmination of something. If it is a cooking project, the one child whose guide the project is in does the cooking. When it is time to eat the treat, everyone is part of that. If it is a science project, the child whose guide the experiment is in sets it all up, and maybe will demonstrate the outcome quickly for the rest. The rest are observers or assistants. If it is a poetry reading, only the child who is to share does so. The role of everyone else is to be the encouraging audience. If it is a re-enactment, the child whose guide it is in leads it and gets first pick at which role to play. The rest of the children are the subordinates.

Most of the time each child is enjoying his/her own guide.

So, overall, most of time each child is enjoying his/her own guide and joining in only now and then for a 5 minute thing that gears itself toward celebrating together with the others. Having children do the things in their own guides separately keeps their things special, and it cuts down on the comparing. There is just a lot more interest as they share with one another, if they didn’t all do each other’s things. Not to mention, we all like finishing on time, so we have time for things other than school the rest of the day. I find other informal sharing naturally takes place during meal times. It seems everyone enjoys showing off their things to each other around lunch or supper time. I love that they each did their own thing, and they were able to do it well.

Each child shines in his/her own guide, but “5 Minute Fun Times” and informal meal times provide wonderful times to share!

I wanted to post pictures of this and try to explain it, as I’ve had people ask me how my children are learning together if they are in separate guides. They are doing things together, but not all doing each other’s guides. That would be too much to do in a day! Yet, they are sharing through 5 minute fun type activities, as well as at meal times when they proudly show their work to one another and hang it on the fridge or set it on the counter to tell Dad about when he gets home. This is just one way of sharing, of course, and not everyone does it this way, but we’ve found each child really shines in his guide this way, and yet they are all enjoying hearing about and participating in bits and pieces of each other’s learning as well.

A Few Pictures of “5 Minute Fun Times” from the Past

Making music and marching to it, an activity from LHTH

LHTH activity of flying…

Re-enacting The Last Supper, a Bible activity from LHTH

A LHTH Bible story re-enacted…


Bigger Hearts testing of the planes lift, drag, etc…

The Gold Rush, a history activity from Bigger Hearts

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Bigger Hearts, sinking the Philadelphia (only Riley built the boat, and Wyatt only helped with the “bombing” )…

Drawn into the Heart of Reading re-enactment of battle for kickoff…

Bigger Hearts re-enactment of history story…‪ ‪

Find the camouflaged bug, a science activity from Bigger Hearts…

RTR, playing history game made from history project..

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Eating history project as Wyatt reads about the history event from his RTR notebook (but only Wyatt did the baking)…

RTR, going on the Crusades, Wyatt set it all up, and the rest of the children joined in only on the activity part, Wyatt directed it all…

Poetry Reading from RTR…

In Christ,



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!


Moving on! Why Heart of Dakota students only do each guide once…

Heart of Dakota Tidbit

Moving on! Why Heart of Dakota students only do each guide once…

Did you know that even though our guides have an age range listed for them we only do each guide once? We do not recommend repeating a guide with the same child. One of the reasons for the age range is to make sure that your child is place in the correct program according to the skills that he is able to perform. A great place to start when considering which guide to place your child in is our message board which can be found at

Have a great weekend!