Does IEW’s Student Writing Intensive A have to be completed prior to IEW’s Medieval-History-Based Writing?

Dear Carrie

Does my son need to do the IEW Level A Course before he does Resurrection to Reformation’s IEW Medieval course?

My son has severe dyslexia, and our primary focus has been reading. Right now, he dictates his Creation to Christ written narrations to me, and I write them. However, he’ll be 12 next year, and he needs more writing instruction. I know IEW’s Medieval History-Based Writing Lessons are included with Resurrection to Reformation. He’d really enjoy the history connection, but I’m not sure he’ll be ready for it. Does this program require prior writing instruction? He is a motivated writer and is hard on himself. Nothing he writes for fun measures up to his expectations. I think he’s comparing his writing to authors’ writing he reads in all of those awesome living books! I’m wondering if Medieval writing lessons requires a prior writing curriculum, or if it will teach writing as a stand-alone? Do I need to do the Level A course from IEW first before doing the Medieval lessons?


“Ms. Please Help Me Know If My Son Needs to do the IEW Level A Course Before the IEW Medieval Course”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Me Know If My Son Needs to do the IEW Level A Course Before the IEW Medieval Course,”

I’m thinking that you’re asking whether your son needs to complete IEW’s Student Writing Intensive A prior to beginning Medieval-History-Based Writing. Your son actually does not need need to do IEW’s SWI-A first, as the instruction in Medieval History-Based Writing is so well-done that no prior IEW experience is necessary. I had one son who had done IEW- SWI A and B prior to Medieval History-Based Writing Lessons, and another son who had no prior IEW experience when coming to Medieval History-Based Writing Lessons. Both did equally well with the program (and my husband taught the lessons to my second son and did well even though both father and son had no prior IEW experience)! I also much prefer Medieval History-Based Writing Lessons to IEW-SWI.

There are two levels of instruction offered within Medieval History-Based Writing Lessons (Level A and Level B). Both are scheduled in the Heart of Dakota guide. As long as your son sticks to the Level A schedule, he will be fine. We would also encourage you to follow the Medieval Writing plans the way they are scheduled within Heart of Dakota, as we spread out the writing sessions to keep them more manageable, and we also omit several of the writing units that are either covered in Rod and Staff or are covered in other ways through Heart of Dakota.   The Heart of Dakota schedule also allows for some great connections between the history and writing portions of the plans!





Choosing Between Preparing Hearts and Creation to Christ

Pondering Placement

Choosing Between Preparing Hearts and Creation to Christ

My fourth grade daughter is just turning 10. She has taken her time in becoming independent in her reading. Last year she got through about Unit 24 in Bigger Hearts and did really well. She did not continue into Preparing Hearts because I wanted her to spend lots of time on intense phonics review and reading. Blessedly, she’s grown leaps and bounds in her reading. She can orally narrate and write about 3-5 simple sentences. Also, she’ll complete Singapore 3B, Dictation 2, Rod and Staff 3, WWE 3, and 3rd grade readers. She is self motivated. Yet, she can be a big complainer if she thinks she cannot do something. I’m not quite sure if she can do DITHOR 4/5. One minute I’m convinced she should be in Preparing Hearts then I switch to CTC. What do you think?

Carrie’s Reply to Choosing Between Preparing Hearts and Creation to Christ

With what you’ve shared so far, I’d be inclined to suggest Preparing Hearts. I am basing this mostly upon her reading and writing level. Creation to Christ (CTC) is also quite a step up in independence and in reading and following lengthy written directions. I would be hesitant to put a child who has been a bit of a late bloomer in reading into CTC without first having that child go through the stepping stones that are built into Preparing Hearts.

I’d recommend Preparing Hearts with DITHR Level 3 books.

I think that a year in Preparing Hearts would also keep her from being too overwhelmed with the addition of DITHR to her days. With this in mind, I’d lean toward having her do Preparing Hearts with DITHR Level 2/3 (if she hasn’t already done it) or 4/5 (if she has already been through DITHR 2/3). I’d also lean toward the level 3 Book Pack (which actually has a reading level in the range of 3.5-5.1). If you think that is too young, you could move into the 4/5 Book Pack. However, I would do that with some hesitation as you want to encourage her to feel good about her reading without overwhelming her.

I’d recommend R & S English 4 half-speed, as well as the Preparing Hearts poetry writing lessons.

I would have her move on into Rod and Staff English 4 at half speed, spreading each lesson out over 2 days. Then, I’d move onto dictation Level 3 (which is in the Appendix of Preparing Hearts). I would move away from Writing with Ease, as you’ll have too much duplication between that program and the writing across the curriculum we do in Preparing Hearts (through guided written narration, oral narration, and dictation). I would make sure to do the writing lessons from the poetry as scheduled in Preparing Hearts to build those writing skills that are not covered elsewhere in our guide or in Rod and Staff. She will also be getting quite a bit of writing instruction through Rod and Staff.

I’d recommend Singapore 4A and the Preparing Hearts Deluxe and Science packages.

She can also move easily into Singapore 4A as that is scheduled in the Preparing Hearts Appendix. I would have her do the Deluxe Package with Preparing and also the science too. These will be her independent areas and will do a great job of building independence incrementally.

I’d definitely encourage a year in Preparing Hearts with your daughter, rather than jumping ahead to CTC.

In looking down the road at the level of reading, written work, and independence required in CTC and RTR on up, I would definitely encourage you to spend a year heading through Preparing  first with your daughter. The leap from completing 2/3 of Bigger and then jumping to CTC would be very huge (without having Preparing in between first).



A Heart of Dakota Praise from My State Evaluator!

Pondering Placement

Editor’s note: For today’s Pondering Placement blog post, we wanted to take a moment to share this wonderful placement feedback from one of our users’ state evaluators! If you need help placing your child, we are happy to help! Visit our contact page on our website to find ways to get in touch with us. 

A Heart of Dakota Praise from My State Evaluator!

I have to say I have LOVED using Heart of Dakota this past year! I asked not too long ago for placement advice. We were behind in Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory. However, after talking through placement with Heart of Dakota, we decided to continue with Beyond and then move on to Bigger whenever we finished. So, I guess this is not really a placement question at this point! Instead, I just wanted to thank Heart of Dakota for your feedback, ideas and encouragement… especially Carrie and Julie! I also wanted to share the praise Heart of Dakota received from my evaluator!

My daughter was recently evaluated. In my state, I have to show proof she is progressing, so we do a portfolio review. Our evaluator has been around the homeschool world awhile. She has grown, adult kids. She is very popular and busy in our area (just a little background on her). It was our first time meeting her, so she was getting to know us and what we use for school. She didn’t know much about Heart of Dakota, so I made it a point to introduce her to HOD by showing her the guide. I pulled out all our books and the catalog, and she LOVED it all. Loved the book choices, the activities in all the boxes, the critical thinking integrated, the way we do spelling. She looked through it all and even took notes!!

I had posted before about having a hard time with my daughter in the area of math and memorizing math facts, and also taking a long time doing her copywork. Well, our evaluator determined my daughter has a visual memory deficit. But, she was encouraging in telling me the Lord has led me to the right resources to teach my daughter (even when I didn’t know what was happening with her!) See, He is in control at ALL times! She encouraged me to stay with Singapore Math and continue to patiently drill math facts (they will eventually stick), and continue the way we do spelling and copywork, it is the best way for her to learn with her visual memory deficit.

I know this is long, but I wanted to pass this along…to encourage you like I was encouraged! My evaluator actually gave me the same advice Heart of Dakota had already given me. Thanks to all at HOD for making this great curriculum available to us! Please share this with others who are pondering placement as an encouragement.



Comparing Skills in Preparing Hearts and Creation to Christ

 From Our House to Yours

Comparing Skills in Preparing Hearts and Creation to Christ

Are you comparing Creation to Christ (CTC) and Preparing Hearts for His Glory (PHFHG)? Does your child seem to be sort of between the two guides? Well, PHFHG is a wonderful program, but I have to tell you CTC is too. When trying to choose between two guides, the guide that fits your child the best skill-wise will be the guide he/she probably gets the most out of and enjoys the most in the long run. Why? Well, HOD’s assignments in history, storytime, and even in science, incorporate language arts skills within the follow-ups. The follow-ups get more in-depth, more difficult, and use higher level thinking in each subsequent guide. This is why the placement chart can help so much! It is accurate and will usually show you which placement to choose. For example, comparing PHFHG to CTC, here are some skill-based areas that come to mind (the numbers coincide)…

Preparing Hearts for His Glory – Comparing Skills “1” to “4”:
  1. Parents and students share the history reading. So, parents read part of the history with more difficult books, and students read the other part of history with much easier books.
  2. Students begin the year by dictating a 1-3 sentence written narration for parents to write and for students to then copy. They then progress to writing a 5 sentence written narration and hi-lighting the main idea of it by the end of the year.
  3. Students create a staircase timeline out of index cards. They then assemble their cards accordion-style or on a closet door.
  4. History projects are simple, and they have fewer steps of directions.
Creation to Christ – Comparing Skills “1” to “4”:
  1.  Students read all of the history, and it is more difficult reading in both reading level and maturity content than PHFHG’s readings.
  2.  Students begin the year by writing a 5-8 sentence written narration. They also utilize the Written Narration Tips to edit their narrations and hi-light the main idea.
  3.  Students begin using a History Notebook for their timelines. This special “Book of Time” will eventually span Creation to Present Day. So, by the time students finish Missions to Modern Marvels, they have a chronologically complete “Book of Time.”
  4.  Students’ history projects are more involved and have multiple steps of directions.
Preparing Hearts for His Glory – Comparing Skill “5”:

5.  Preparing Hearts for His Glory’s Storytime read-aloud has the following responses:

  • First Day: Share personal connections that relate to the story.
  • Second Day: Identify differences between the characters’ lives and the students’ lives based upon the historical time period of the story.
  • Third Day: Evaluate the main character’s faith or its impact on the character’s life and the story.
  • Fourth Day: Practice oral narration by retelling the story.
Creation to Christ- Comparing Skill “5”:

5. Creation to Christ’s Storytime read-aloud has the following responses:

  • First Day: Give a detailed oral narration.
  • Second Day: Rotate through the following four narration activities: an outline sketch, a short skit, a question and answer session, and an advertisement speech for the book.
  • Third Day: Give a summary narration.
  • Fourth Day: Make connections between the story and Proverbs.
Preparing Hearts for His Glory – Comparing Skills “6” to “9”:

6. Students complete Geography quick-finds that are more basic. They use the globe and/or a world map one time each week for their quick-finds.

7. For Bible Study/Bible Quiet Time, two days a week students begin to learn to have their own Bible Quiet Time with parents overseeing it. The other two days students discuss their Bible with their parents, identify mood/purpose of Scripture selection, and copy verses in a Common Place Book. Students also memorize short passages from Psalms and sing with music throughout the year.

8 & 9. Students discuss Robert Louis Stevenson’s poems. Students make personal connections with each poem. They also share the poem with someone creatively and memorize a poem each 12 week term. Parents teach a creative lesson one time each week using the poetry as a model. This is the creative writing portion for PHFHG.

Creation to Christ – Comparing Skills “6” to “9”:

6. Geography uses a more in-depth study of the Holy Land using “A Child’s Geography Vol. II” two days each week.

7. Bible Quiet Time is done daily and has its own “box” in the plans. The DK Family Bible (or a Bible of your own choice) is used. The 4 Parts of Prayer are taught using the ACTS model. All of Philippians 2 is memorized and is sung along with music, as well as copied in the Common Place book.
Bible Study is done 2 days a week with a parent using “The Radical Book for Kids,” which provides  an in-depth Genesis study.

8. Poetry: Students read Robert Frost’s poems. They discuss each poem’s mood/meaning, memorize one poem each nine week term, learn about each poet’s life, and follow multiple step-by-step directions to learn to watercolor paint a painting each week to match the poem’s meaning.

9. Writing: the formal writing program “Write with the Best” is taught twice each week for writing instruction. It uses excerpts from classical literature, and the literature is quite difficult in content (i.e. Charles Dickens, Jules Verne, Wordsworth, etc.).

Comparing the Level of Difficulty of Assignments and Assessments

As you can see, when comparing the skills in these guides, the level of difficulty of assignments and assessments increases from PHFHG to CTC quite a bit. When students move through HOD’s guides in order, they incrementally move through skill sets in all subject areas. This is why placement is so much more than just the language arts and math labeled boxes. If you find yourself comparing PHFHG and CTC, I hope this helps you see which guide would fit your student better. However, you can also print out the first week of plans of each guide to see. All “I” boxes are for the student to do independently, “S” semi-independently, and “T” teacher-directed.

In Christ,

Tweaking Placement and/or Pacing to Help in Unforeseen Life Challenges

Pondering Placement – Tweaking Pacing

Question: How would I go about tweaking pacing and/or placement for a few unforeseen life challenges? 

We’re currently using three Heart of Dakota guides, with a VERY distracting 2 year-old in the house. Three guides worked fine last year! However, due to unforeseen life challenges, I’d love your help tweaking placement and/or pacing. My 11 year-old is doing well in Creation to Christ. She’s appropriately challenged, able to work well independently, and my check-ins hold her accountable. She’s often done with her “I” boxes and waiting for me to finish with her brothers, so we can do her “T” boxes. So, I don’t think tweaking her pacing back to half-speed would help.

What about tweaking my 9 year-old son’s placement or pacing in Bigger Hearts?

My 9 year-old son in Bigger enjoys the History and Science very much. However, he is overwhelmed with the writing. He also finds the reading challenging (he has some eye-focusing issues that make those things laborious). I question whether he’ll be able to handle the Independence of Preparing next year. Bigger is taking us about 4 hours to complete, not counting Storytime or DITHOR (we try to cover those things at night.) He did okay in Beyond Little Hearts last year overall. Maybe you have some tweaking suggestions for pacing or placement for this son?

What about tweaking my 7 year-old son’s placement or pacing?

My 7 year-old is almost done with Little Hearts (LHFHG). He’s a little over halfway finished with The Reading Lesson. Although he’s still doing the handwriting workbook, he’s ready for more writing. I would place him in Beyond Little Hearts if we were coming fresh to HOD. Unfortunately, I loaned my Beyond things to a family member this year. My 7 year-old son is not at all ready for Bigger. He struggles with attention span and being able to focus. Maybe you have some tweaking suggestions for pacing or placement for this son?

What about tweaking pacing by slowing down my son in Bigger Hearts and pushing my 7 year-old along more quickly?

I’m now wondering whether I should slow down my child in Bigger to half- speed. I could then begin to work my younger son towards being ready to combine with his brother in a year or so. That would put my older son in the extensions as we move forward to keep him on grade level. Hopefully, my younger son would be ready to move forward with Bigger full-speed in a year. What are your thoughts? Would this be a disservice to my 9 year-old, or unrealistic for my 7 year-old? Sorry this got so long!

Carrie’s Reply: Try tweaking by combining your 7 year-old and 9 year-old in Beyond, but continue with full-speed LA and math in Bigger Hearts.

This suggestion is a bit on the unique side! However, I can honestly see it working better for you in the long haul than trying to hustle your younger child through Beyond, while your Bigger child treads water doing just the 3R’s for over a year. Homeschooling with a busy toddler can make schooling a challenge. With this in mind, and the fact that this little one will be a lovable distraction in the mix for awhile, I would lean toward having your 9 year-old bump back down to join your 7 year-old in a trip through Beyond. I know your 9 year-old just finished Beyond. However, your 7 year-old is so ready for Beyond! It is better to combine where the younger child is, rather than pulling a younger child up to always be towed along behind an older child.

Tweaking by combining in Beyond will lessen the amount of writing for your 9 year-old and the amount of teaching time for you.

Since you are struggling already to get DITHOR and Storytime from Bigger in your 9 year-old’s day, and Bigger is already taking you a lot longer than we’d like simply due to the writing challenges and possibly somewhat due to the eye issues your 9 year-old has, then it makes sense to bump that child back into Beyond where the writing load is less and the time overall to teach is less for you. This will allow you to devote needed time to DITHOR daily for your 9 year-old and will solve your Storytime issue as you’d combine your 7 and 9 year old-for that in Beyond. Choosing a different set of books to read aloud for the Storytime in Beyond will solve the problem of any repetition there for your 9 year-old in Beyond.

Tweaking by Doing Daily R & S English, Dictation, Cursive, Math, and DITHOR

For your 9 year-old, in this move to Beyond, I would keep going daily with Rod and Staff English, studied dictation, and Cheerful Cursive from Bigger. I would also keep going with your chosen math and do DITHOR daily for your 9 year-old as expected in Beyond. I would encourage you to additionally require daily copywork from poetry in Beyond in manuscript (even just a couple of lines a day) for your 9 year-old to build his writing muscles. This plan would allow you to keep the kiddos combined for the long haul and meet them both pretty closely to where they are at, since Bigger is a bit of a stretch for your 9-year old and LHFHG is a bit easy for your 7-year old.

Savor the Time with Your Older Child to Build 3 R’s and Strengthen Fine Motor Skills

I would do Beyond as written with your 7 year-old. For your 9 year-old, I would add the things I noted from Bigger. I’d focus on not rushing through Beyond to get to Bigger too early. I would savor the repeat time with your older child in Beyond. This will be time to build his 3 R’s and strengthen his fine motor skills daily. I believe this plan will save your sanity in the long haul and make school a joy once again!

Your family member has now had time to see whether Beyond is a fit for her family.

I would tell your family member (to whom you so graciously loaned your HOD materials) that due to a change in your plans you are in need of your Beyond Economy Package, science book, devotional, and music CD back. Then, I would purchase a new set of Storytime books to make that fresh. Your family member has likely had enough time to see whether she likes HOD enough to invest something in it. The Economy Package and the science, devotional, and music CD required to complete Beyond are not expensive (around $120 for all of those materials combined)! She could keep your storytime set for now (which will save her money).

Praying for God’s Grace and Wisdom for You

I pray God’s grace and wisdom on you as you seek His best for your homeschool. In looking down the road, I think this plan with the tweaking mentioned makes the most sense for the long haul. If you ever feel like your older child of the pair makes huge gains and is ready for more, you could always consider bumping that child forward a guide in coming years if needed.