Repeating guides?

Heart of Dakota Tidbit:

Repeating guides? 

We really enjoy the opportunity to meet homeschool families each year at various conventions around the country! It is often through conversations at conventions that we discover some interesting misconceptions about how to use our guides. One interesting misconception is that some families think that they are meant to repeat the same guide two years in a row with the same child. We can see how this assumption could happen as our guides have age ranges listed instead of grade levels. However, upon completion of one guide we are assuming the child will head right into the next guide (as the guides are written to be used one right after the other). The progression of skills is important, and one guide prepares your child well for the skills needed in the next guide.

Have a great weekend!

Placement Help for a 13 Year Old Son with an Extremely Busy Mom

Pondering Placement

Placement Help for a 13 Year Old Son with an Extremely Busy Mom

We’re new to Heart of Dakota, and I’m trying to place my 13 year old. His reading isn’t super strong. However, he’s not a struggling reader. We’ve had no previous exposure to dictation or narration. I’m an extremely busy mom with a baby on the way in 6 weeks, and I have difficult pregnancies. I have a 3 year old too. I’ll be teaching my 6 year old to read and starting Little Hearts for His Glory. We also live on a ranch with horses and chickens and a lot of responsibilities. We’ve already done some of the Apologia elementary sciences but not Land Animals. So I am wondering with my family dynamics and my son’s ability if starting him with CTC would be right or too easy. I originally wanted to start him with Revival to Revolution but am now thinking that would be way too hard. Help!

Reply: Placement Help for a 13 Year Old Son with an Extremely Busy Mom

I’d be glad to help with placement for your 13 year old son! From what you’ve shared, I would agree that placing him in CTC would be the best fit in pretty much every area. I would lean toward placing him in English 5, as CTC does only the first half of English 5 (with the second half in RTR). You can do much of it orally or on a whiteboard, with just a portion assigned to be done on paper each day. I do think it will be good for him to do Write the Best as scheduled in CTC for writing.

I would recommend Drawn into the Heart of Reading 4/5.

If you haven’t had much in the way of formal literature instruction, I would lean toward using Level 4/5 of Drawn into the Heart of Reading for one year. After that I would bump him up to Level 6/7/8 the following year. Even if you haven’t completed all of Level 4/5, I’d still move him up. Just make sure when you switch to Level 6/7/8, you do the genres you didn’t get to in Level 4/5 first. In that way, he’ll receive a balanced reading experience.

I would recommend doing the science as written in CTC, but add the Biology 101 DVDs.

As far as the science goes, I would lean toward doing it as written in CTC, however you may wish to add something like the Biology 101 DVDs for him to watch on the 5th day of each week, just to raise the content level a bit (since your son will be on the older age range of the guide).

I would recommend adding the CTC Extension Package for your son.

You’ll need the Extension Pack for your son in CTC, but not the Basic Package. This is because of your son’s age, and also because you will be doing another HOD program with a read-aloud already for LHFHG. In that way, you won’t need to do multiple read-alouds each day.

I think your 7 year old might enjoy The Reading Lesson for phonics.

I think you have a good plan coming together! As far as your 7 year old in LHFHG goes, you could consider The Reading Lesson with the downloadable CD for helping him learn to read. It is a good incremental approach and can be done cuddled on the couch in just short sessions each day. The downloadable CD is hugely helpful and entertaining.

I am sorry to hear about your difficulty pregnancies and pray for your babe and for you.

On a sidenote, I’m so sorry for your difficult pregnancies. I have had those too with every pregnancy I’ve had… bedrest and long hospital stays with babies finally coming early around 34-35 weeks (which was always a blessing for me to get that far). I pray for your babe to be here in God’s perfect timing.


How can I beef up Bigger for 5th graders so they are ready for CTC?

Pondering Placement

How can I beef up Bigger Hearts for fifth graders so they are ready for Creation to Christ?

We are lovers of Heart of Dakota and completed LHTH, LHFHG and Beyond! However, then we discovered our twins have dyslexia. We had many issues and took a hiatus from HOD. I tried to keep a Charlotte Mason approach but didn’t do so well. We did manage to read aloud Preparing’s history books, most of the science, some read alouds, and a few extensions. I love Carrie’s book selections! Now we are ready for a new chapter. My twins just turned 10 last week and will be in 5th grade. I’m going to put them in Bigger. I am thinking to then skip Preparing. My question is how can I beef up Bigger so we can make a smooth transition into Creation to Christ? I’m so excited to be back. I really need the structure I get with HOD. Otherwise, I feel like a wanderer with no clear direction.

Carrie’s Reply: The easiest way to beef up Bigger is to add the extensions.

Welcome back! It sounds like you have a good plan forming. As I was thinking through some of what you shared, I do think that Bigger sounds like a good placement for your twins. The easiest way to beef up Bigger is to use the Extension readings as assigned in the Appendix. I’d recommend reading those aloud to your kiddos if time permits, since the reading level is likely a barrier for them to read the extension books independently.

You could possibly omit the Storytime books, but then you would definitely need to do DITHR.

You could possibly forego the Storytime books in lieu of the Extension books to add greater depth to the study. However, the Storytime books have excellent literary skills that you would then miss. In this scenario, you would for sure need to do DITHR then, in order to compensate for losing those skills from the Storytime box. I hesitate to suggest this option, as it would benefit your kiddos so much to have the Storytime and follow-up skills as a daily part of their learning.

I would wait to decide what to do next until you are within 8 weeks of finishing Bigger Hearts.

In looking ahead, I would honestly wait until you are within 8 weeks of finishing Bigger to decide what to do next. This is because kiddos grow and change so much in a year’s time. By the end of Bigger, we will have a better idea of whether they should just head into Preparing, or whether they can make the jump to CTC. Even if they need to head into Preparing, doing the guide fully along with the readings will provide a very different experience from simply reading the books aloud. Not to mention it would be a terrific stepping stone for your kiddos to do the “I” boxes in Preparing by reading their own assigned material (which they may be able to do in a year’s time).

Whether you use Preparing or CTC next, your next step after Bigger will be a good one.

Kiddos often like hearing stories more than once, and Preparing is a whirlwind tour through all of world history. There is so much content that it actually would be good to cover it again. So, either way your next step after Bigger will be a good one. For now, I would just settle into Bigger and enjoy the journey. There are so many skills wound within Bigger that I think you will have a good year of growth ahead of your twins.


Trying to decide between Beyond Little Hearts and Bigger Hearts?

Heart of Dakota Tidbit:

Trying to decide between Beyond Little Hearts and Bigger Hearts? 

Bigger Hearts for His Glory is rightly considered our most teacher intensive guide as there are many tedious skills that are being taught every day that will enable your child to gain their independence, but one thing to consider is that the guide right before it called Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory is more rigorous done at full speed, than Bigger is at half-speed. So, if you are looking at placement and your child falls right between these two guides, you can consider Bigger at half speed (left page one day, right page the next) or Beyond at full speed (left and right page).

Have a great weekend!

Switching to HOD: How to choose guides considering the history cycle?

Dear Carrie

My first attempt with Charlotte Mason didn’t go well. Can you help me with switching to Heart of Dakota and with choosing guides considering the history cycle?

Dear Carrie,

I LOVE the look of Heart of Dakota!! It seems to incorporate all that I was wishing to do this year in our homeschool, being our first Charlotte Mason attempt. Unfortunately, we’ve kind of lost our way. I’m hoping that maybe HOD can get us back on track.  I don’t know if it will be completely possible. This year I have a 15 year old son (9th grade) and a 10 year old son (5th grade). Can you help me with switching to Heart of Dakota and with choosing guides considering the history cycle?

We are up to the year 1700 in our studies, in our 22nd week. Revival to Revolution looks like it could work for us, but we’d have to stop what we are doing for history and pick it up for next school year. Is that even advisable? Could I add to it for the then 10th grader, so we are in the same time period? I would love any advice you can give!


“Ms. Please Help with Choosing Guides and Considering the History Cycle”

Dear “Ms. Please Help with Choosing Guides and Considering the History Cycle,”

I am glad you are switching to Heart of Dakota, as I believe you will love our Charlotte Mason-inspired plans! Our guides are complete, easy-to-use, and full of wonderful living books for a solid literature-based education.  As you think through what would be the best fit for your two kiddos, I’ll encourage you to do a few things that will really help make it clearer as to where they fit best.

Put aside thoughts of the history cycle and the science texts your students have covered and look at each as individuals.

First, put aside any thoughts of which history cycle your students have covered, except for perhaps your high school student only if certain history requirements must be met for credit. Next, set aside any ponderings about which science texts your students may have already used. Last, place your students as individuals, putting aside any thoughts of combining.  Use the first page only of the placement chart to place each student.

Correct placement in HOD is based on the skills shown on the first page of the placement chart. 

If you do these things, you will truly see where each child fits best and in which program. Correct placement in HOD is based on the skills shown on the first page of the placement chart. These skills are required to complete all areas of the guide. So, if you place a child based on the history cycle or on the science program, you may have an inaccurate placement. This makes all of the rest of the guide a poor fit. Not to mention, it would be compounded in the years to come, as one guide prepares a child very well for the next guide in line!  So with that in mind, for a link to the placement chart, click here.

Skills are important in placement in Heart of Dakota.

I know this will feel different than the approach used for placement found in other homeschool companies. The reason for this is that, at HOD, the skills are very important in placement. This is because CM type skills build from guide to guide (as well as the difficulty of the material and how the skills are applied). Even if you end up reusing a science text or a history text that you may have already read, you’ll find that when the text is done in the CM style used in our guides (and likely is read independently by the student), it will feel completely different!

Our oldest son had to repeat a history cycle when we switched to a more CM-style curriculum, and it still worked well!

We have had this experience ourselves with our own oldest son, as have other moms on the message board who have repeated a text. I had my oldest son repeat a history cycle he’d just done when we switched to a more CM-style curriculum. I found it still worked well, and he gained so much!  If you get a chance to pop back and share where each of your students fit as individuals on the first page only of the chart, then we can help you fine-tune their placement!  Just give us a call for our placement specialist to help, or post on the Main Board of our Message Board, or order our catalog for further placement help! We look forward to hearing back from you when you get a chance.


P.S. To read more about answers to commonly asked questions about how we approach placement and why, click here!