Placement Help for Changing to Heart of Dakota Mid-Year

Pondering Placement

Placement Help for Changing to Heart of Dakota Mid-Year

I will be changing my 9 year-old son back to Heart of Dakota (HOD) mid-year. He completed Little Hearts for His Glory for first grade and Beyond for second grade. Then, I switched to something else. I don’t know why really because we loved HOD. Now my son is in week 18 of this other homeschool program for 3rd grade. We are both so unhappy. My son now hates to write. This program doesn’t have much notebooking or narrating this year. Basically, I am reading books to him, but we are really not doing anything else. We’ve done a little copywork, but not much. We use other programs than HOD for math and spelling. A few days a week, I’m using BJU for writing and English. We are both missing HOD terribly. I’m also just not seeing the growth in my son like I did with HOD. Please help me with changing my son back to HOD mid-year!

My son’s two favorite things this year have been the two I’ve kept from HOD.

I knew my son would love reading HOD’s Emerging Reader’s Set.  So, I did get those. However, he hasn’t been doing any kind of literature study with them. I also liked HOD’s recommendation for R & S English 2, so we are doing that. Really the only two things we have liked doing this year are from HOD. He reads well and is really enjoying the books in the Emerging Reader’s Set. He’s reading Tornado and can’t put it down! But then when he finishes reading, I don’t do anything with him. I’m just so depressed about homeschooling. I feel like I’ve wasted this whole year. Changing my son back to HOD – and soon – is a necessity.

I’m pondering changing my son to full-speed Bigger Hearts or half-speed Preparing Hearts. Thoughts?

So, now I know I want to make the switch back to HOD, even though it is mid-year (and then some). But, I am between two placements – stopping what we are doing now and changing to Bigger Hearts for His Glory? But then, he won’t finish all of HOD’s high school guides. So, would it be better changing to half-speed with Preparing Hearts for His Glory? What are your thoughts, Carrie?

Carrie’s Reply:

From what you’ve shared so far about your son, I would lean toward changing what your son is doing by placing him in Bigger Hearts. The jump up to Preparing with the struggles you mentioned in writing and narrating would be very challenging. Bigger is such a foundational year in helping kiddos grow in the areas of writing, reading, copywork, and spelling. I wouldn’t want your son to miss that. So, placement in Bigger Hearts makes good sense.

I’d suggest finishing R & S English 2 and changing from BJU

Whenever you head into Bigger, I would just finish Rod and Staff English 2 and move into Rod and Staff English 3. I wouldn’t use both BJU and Rod and Staff for English as you go up. This would be double-dipping.  We don’t want your son worn out from writing for grammar when we want to get him copying daily for practice. You wouldn’t need to continue on with BJU for writing either, as Rod and Staff will include writing in the coming levels when he is more mature and ready for it.

I’d suggest changing to studied dictation for spelling and continuing with your math.

For spelling, I’d be lean toward changing him to studied dictation (which is included in Bigger‘s Appendix). If you would rather continue with the spelling you are using, you surely could! However, I will say Charlotte Mason’s method of studied dictation is a very effective method for teaching spelling in a time conscious way. No matter what, I wouldn’t do both spelling programs though because his day will get very long. If your math is working well, I’d just keep on going with it. If it is not, you can give your son the Singapore Primary Math placement test by clicking here.

Your son can finish the Emerging Reader’s Set and then move into Drawn into the Heart of Reading.

It sounds like he is doing well with the Emerging Readers Set (ERS), which you can feel so good about. Rather than changing from that, he can just finish the ERS out. I would have him start doing the follow-up comprehension questions with the  ERS books he has left. Then, he can head into Drawn into the Heart of Reading Level 2/3 (DITHR). He can use the DITHR Level 2 Book Pack or books of your own choosing. The Sample Book Ideas List provides some good books to choose from as well.

Changing to Full-Speed Bigger Hearts vs. Half-speed Preparing Hearts

Honestly, changing to Bigger Hearts full-speed with daily grammar, math, dictation, and DITHR will probably be harder than changing to half-speed Preparing Hearts. It sounds like your son would be so well-placed in Bigger and be challenged by the work. Being well-placed means that he will be getting what he needs as he moves into each successive guide. Shooting for a challenge level can really result in frustration and in being unsure of how much to downsize each day to suit your child’s needs. It’s so much better to be accurately placed and know you can expect your child to do all that is within the guide each day. There are many families who will not finish all of the HOD guides, and that is fine. We can make sure that your son still gets what he needs to count credits for graduation and for his future plans.

Blessings,
Carrie

Is your child placed in the right guide?

Teaching Tip

Is your child placed in the right guide?

At Heart of Dakota, correct guide placement is so important! This is because we do not have one-size fits all placement advice. Instead, we look at each child as an individual to determine his/her best placement. One of the gifts of homeschooling is being able to meet our children where they are and teach from there. So, correct placement makes a huge difference in how successful your child is in school. It also makes a huge difference in how much time a guide will take each day.

Wise counsel will help you determine your child’s best placement.

This is where wise counsel comes in to charting a good path. Surround yourself with wise counsel on this important decision from those who have used Heart of Dakota with their children. These wise advisers can help you talk through an accurate placement plan for your child. Remember that each child is a unique individual with unique needs. This means that placement may look different for same-aged students. By following the age line on our program selection chart, you can see several possible options for each age.

Editor’s note: If you’re looking for wise counsel, our Message Board is a great place to look! In addition to our wonderful community, Carrie and Julie also have a combined 18,000 personal responses to our users there. It’s a wonderful place to engage and learn with other homeschool moms!

Different family dynamics may result in differing guide placements.

Another factor in guide placement is family dynamics. Whether you desire to combine a student with another sibling is a factor in guide placement. Using our placement chart will help you determine whether children in your family could possibly be combined. Due to skill level some combinations work while others do not.

Different children in a family may have a different path.

Looking at each child as an individual means that different children in a family may have a different path. For example, one child may do Creation to Christ at age 9. Another may do the same guide at age 10. A third child may do the guide at age 11 or 12. Each of these placements will work, as long as the child is well-placed according to skill and family dynamics.

If a child is routinely struggling in a guide, it’s wise to check for correct placement.

If you find a child is routinely struggling with a guide, your child may be incorrectly placed. Or, if a guide seems way too easy, perhaps a move forward is needed. Sometimes changing guides is easier than tweaking guides for years to come. We are here to help with placement questions. To discuss your child’s placement, feel free to call us at 605-428-4068. Or, ask questions on the Message Board. As you ponder ask the Lord for discernment, and I know He will answer!

Blessings,
Carrie

Can you point me in the right direction for math?

Dear Carrie

Can you point me in the right direction for math for my middle children?

I have five children happily using Heart of Dakota! My question is about math. My oldest is doing great using another math. The two youngest started with Singapore Math, so there’s no problem there. The two I need help with are my middle children, who are 9 and 11. I didn’t know anything about Singapore Math until a couple years ago. By then, we’d already purchased the math we were planning on using. I decided to give the one we had a try. Well, they did alright overall. However, mental math concepts haven’t been great. Now, I am thinking I’d love to use Singapore Math with these two. However, they’d be frustrated to go way back in levels, and that is where they’d probably place. Can you give me a little direction as to what I should look into from here? Just looking for some advice from a trusted source!!

Sincerely,

“Ms. Please Help Point Me in the Right Direction for Math”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Point Me in the Right Direction for Math,”

I must admit that I tried my share of math programs with my oldest son. I did a year each of BJU, Abeka, Math-U-See, Calvert, Strayer-Upton, MCP, Teaching Textbooks (2 years of this), Math Essentials, Life of Fred, and VideoText (three years of this). I was always looking for the “perfect” fit for my mathy son and never finding it. I wish desperately I had used Singapore Math with him. However, there were no U.S. editions at that time (and I just didn’t want the headache of adding in non-U.S. weights/measures/money etc.). I think it’s safe to say I tried going nearly every possible direction in math with my oldest son!

Rather than changing directions, staying the course with the math you have could honestly be the best choice.

In looking back, it would have been better if I’d just stayed the course with any of these programs. Some were stronger than others, however my constant switching eventually gave my son the feeling he wasn’t good at math! It also left some pretty big holes in his math learning. So, my first advice would be to minimize switching as much as possible! It could be a change in direction is not needed, and staying the course with the math you have would honestly be best.

I see math as a ‘sit down with my kids’ subject now!

Also, in looking back, I have since realized that I wasn’t as available to my son with his math as I should have been! I have remedied this with my next kiddos. I make sure I sit and go over the lesson and stay with them to help them as they work the problems. Math is my “sit down with my kids” subject now!

Be sure to be available during math to give good guidance, direction, and every bit of help necessary.

My own oldest son was mathy, so I just let him go on his own much of the time. Eventually, when he hit bumps in the road and needed more direction, I couldn’t help him very easily (because I hadn’t stayed with him on the math journey). It is tough to just jump into various math programs on the fly. So, my second piece of advice is to make sure you are available during your kiddos’ math sessions and that you are giving good guidance, direction, and every bit of help needed to help them succeed.

Make sure you do not expect mastery of every concept.

The next thing I realized is that math programs regularly go back over what was taught before and teach it again, more deeply at each subsequent pass. This means that I need to know that mastering the material is not the goal at every level. In many levels, simply exposing kiddos to the concept is the goal. So, if I expect mastery of every concept, my goal differs from the math text goal. This means that I’ll think they need more practice to truly master something, and the text is already moving on! So, if I digress and add more practice, then my kiddos get frustrated and so do I when they don’t master a concept. More practice then equals more frustration.

If I instead realize that we were just to touch on the concept as exposure, and we’re coming back to it later when the child has had a chance to grow and mature more in his/her thinking, then my math experience will be so much better! So, my third piece of advice is to make sure you do not expect mastery of every concept! This is an exhausting way to learn math.

It could be time for a change in direction, or it could be staying the course is the best direction to take.

With all of this in mind, it may be possible that you can stay the course with your current program. If, instead, you are having tears every day, even with keeping in mind all I’ve shared above, then it may be time for a change in direction. With your 9 year-old, you are definitely not too late for Singapore. I would give the placement test and see where to place that child and begin there. With your 11 year-old, I would also give the placement test just to see where that child will place. This will help in determining what should happen next for that child. For more details about giving the placement test, click here! But before switching directions, especially with your 11 year-old, just be sure you need to! Sometimes, staying the course ends up to be better.

Blessings,
Carrie

What are the cons to having youngers just “listening in”?

Dear Carrie

Why you don’t advise having children younger than the target age range of the HOD guide listen in with the older student’s guide?

I am new to Heart of Dakota, and I just ordered your catalog. The first thing that jumps out at me is I just love Heart of Dakota’s book choices! I have a gap between my children. My oldest is 10 years old, and my other two are 6 and 2 years old. I think our 10 year-old places in Creation to Christ according to your placement chart online. My 6 year-old places in Little Hearts for His Glory. I thought about just reading aloud everything from Creation to Christ to the 6 year-old. The 2 year-old can listen when he’s not destroying the house. However, I have a hunch my 6 year-old might be missing out if I do this. The 2 year-old might be lost or scared – some of the books look grown up. I guess I am wondering why you don’t recommend having children younger than the target age range of the HOD guide simply listen in with the older student’s guide?

Sincerely,

“Ms. Please Help Me Understand the Cons of Just Listening In”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Me Understand the Cons of Just Listening In,”

Good question! To help you understand the cons of just listening in, I’ll share a personal story! When I went to college, I had just turned 18. I had been a certified nurse’s aide in high school and had worked weekends and summers at our local nursing home.  So, I’d decided I wanted to make nursing my major. However, at that point in my life I was already weary of school (due to my own perfectionist tendencies). I also didn’t want to accumulate much college debt. So, I enrolled in a 2 year nursing program, where I would have my R.N. degree in only two years time!  When the admissions advisor found out my certified nurse’s background, she quickly assured me I’d be able to catch on. I could just listen in and do what I could do. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I was excited to start.

In the opening hours of the course, I quickly realized that I was the ONLY person in the class who was not already an L.P.N. (licensed practical nurse).   I inquired from the class instructor whether I should have my L.P.N. to be in the course. But, she assured me that it wasn’t necessary. I’d catch on just listening in and doing what I could do. By noon, I was certain she was wrong! I made it through taking the vitals. After that, I knew I was in over my head when we had to draw blood, which I’d never been trained to do (but all other class members did very easily)! I felt like a bystander. I knew I was in over my head. By 1:00, I was in the guidance office, changing my major to teaching! Listening in and just doing what I could do didn’t work for me!

Just “listening in” makes younger children feel like bystanders who are in over their heads!

I share this story to show you why it’s so important to us at HOD to make sure that each family member can contribute within his/her guide placement in a meaningful way. We do not want children to be bystanders or to be overwhelmed in their learning. Instead, we want them to be active participants who can do more than pass the time quietly trailing along, because they are truly in over their heads in every other area. We want to be sure each child is building the incremental skills needed for academic progress, spiritual growth, and character and habit training. This maturing independence helps a child contribute to the family circle and strengthens the dynamics and the bond within a family because each member is a valued contributor. We want each child to be able to do what we ask of him/her, so there is no need for continual skipping, adjusting, tweaking, or modifying.

Blessings,
Carrie

Choosing Upper DITHOR Book Pack and Student Book Levels

From Our House to Yours

Choosing Upper DITHOR Book Pack and Student Book Levels

Each of Heart of Dakota’s (HOD’s) upper Drawn into the Heart of Reading (DITHOR) book packs includes a range of reading levels within each set of books.  Specific reading levels are also noted individually for each book.  The 5/6 Boy Book Pack includes books ranging from 5.1-6.9 (fifth grade first month through sixth grade ninth month). Subsequently, the 5/6 Girl Book Pack includes books ranging from 5.1-6.8 (fifth grade first month through sixth grade eighth month). Moving on, the 6/7 Book Pack includes books ranging from 6.0-7.3 (sixth grade through seventh grade third month). Progressing on, the 7/8 Boy Book Pack includes books ranging from 6.3-8.5 (sixth grade third month through eighth grade fifth month). Similarly, the 7/8 Girl Book Pack includes books ranging from 6.2-8.3 (sixth grade second month through eighth grade third month).

Level 5/6 Boy Book Pack Samples

In general, the Level 5/6 Boy Book Pack has medium-sized chapters, less words on a page, and a few pictures. The Invisible Friend is read for 15 days and is the Mystery book selection. It has a reading level of 5.1. This makes it one of the easiest books in the Level 5/6 Boy Book Pack. There are 207 pages in The Invisible Friend. So, students read about 14 pages a day.

The Little Duke is read for 15 days. It is the Biography book selection. It has a reading level of 6.9. This makes it one of the hardest books in the Level 5/6 Boy Book Pack. There are 171 pages in The Little Duke. So, students read about 11 pages a day.

Level 5/6 Girl Book Pack Samples

In general, the Level 5/6 Girl Book Pack has medium-sized chapters, less words on a page, and a few pictures. The Secret of the Old Clock is read for 15 days and is the Nancy Drew Mystery book selection. It has a reading level of 5.4. This makes it one of the easiest books in the Level 5/6 Girl Book Pack. There are 180 pages in The Secret of the Old Clock. So, students read about 12 pages a day.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is read for 15 days. It is the Adventure book selection. It has a reading level of 6.8. This makes it one of the hardest books in the Level 5/6 Girl Book Pack. There are 181 pages in The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. So, students read about 12 pages a day.

Level 6/7 Book Pack Samples

In general, the Level 6/7 Book Pack books have longer reading assignments. They have no pictures, smaller font sizes, and are thicker chapter books with higher vocabulary and more mature topics. The Black Stallion Mystery is read for 15 days and is the Mystery book selection. It has a reading level of 6.1. This makes it one of the easiest books in the Level 6/7 Book Pack. There are 200 pages in The Black Stallion Mystery. So, students read about 13 pages a day.

The White Dove is read for 5 days. It is one of the Folk Tales book selections. It has a reading level of 7.0. This makes it one of the hardest books in the Level 6/7 Book Pack. There are 67 pages in The White Dove. So, students read about 13 pages a day. You can see the font is much smaller, the sentences longer, and the sentence structures more complex. Though The White Dove is small in size, it is more difficult to read. Just because a book is smaller, remember, that does not mean it is easier!

Level 7/8 Boy Interest Book Pack Samples

In general, the 7/8 Book Packs are thick chapter books. They have no pictures, more difficult sentence structures, higher level vocabulary, and more mature topics. They are chosen with the intent to prepare students for the high school level literature they will soon be expected to read. For example, in the Level 7/8 Boy Interest Book Pack, Caught in the Act is read for 5 days. It is one of the Mystery selections. It has a reading level of 6.3. This makes it one of the easiest books in the Level 7/8 Boy Interest Book Pack. There are 150 pages in Caught in the Act. So, students read about 30 pages a day.

Winter Holiday is read for 15 days. It is the Realistic Fiction book selection. It has a reading level of 8.1. This makes it one of the hardest books in the Level 7/8 Boy Interest Book Pack. There are 324 pages in Winter Holiday. So, students read about 22 pages a day.

Level 7/8 Girl Interest Book Pack Samples

In the Level 7/8 Girl Interest Book Pack, Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio, for example, is read for 10 days. It is one of the Nonfiction selections. It has a reading level of 6.2. This makes it one of the easiest books in the Level 7/8 Girl Interest Book Pack. There are 164 pages in Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio. So, students read about 16 pages a day.

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm is read for 15 days. It is the Humor book selection. It has a reading level of 8.3. This makes it one of the hardest books in the Level 7/8 Girl Interest Book Pack. There are 229 pages in Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. So, students read about 23 pages a day.

Choosing Between Book Pack Levels

In general, we would say error on the side of choosing that which is easier if between two levels.  The DITHOR Teacher’s Guide and Student Books will add challenge; we don’t want the books to be at a challenge level, but rather at a level that the student can read fairly well on his/her own. Keep in mind, the challenge at this level is in delving more deeply into the book. In-depth genre studies, story element instruction (i.e. plot, tone, mood, point of view, inference, etc.), moral reasoning with more mature Godly character traits in mind, and higher level comprehension are the skills to be taught. The goal is not to simply read as quickly as possible; speed reading books with little thought is a lower level skill. Rather, more mature skills that are high school level literature preparatory focused are the goals for these years.

Choosing Which Genre Your Student Will Read First

Heart of Dakota lists the reading levels for each book on its website, in its catalog, and on its Optional Book Recommendations paper sent with your order. Genres can be done in any order, so starting with the easiest reading level for a struggling reader makes good sense. Starting with whichever genre or book your student is most excited about for a strong, yet dispassionate reader makes good sense. If you have an average reader who enjoys reading, starting with the first genre (or any genre) makes good sense. Keep in mind the range of reading levels is intentional – not too big, not too small. Students’ reading and comprehension will gradually improve throughout the year. The range of reading levels Carrie carefully picked accommodates for that growth.

Choosing Which Level of DITHOR Student Book to Use

As far as the DITHOR Student Books, the 4/5 Student Book includes assignments every 3-4 out of 5 days, has a fair share of writing, and is assuming students have had some formal literature study of the genres and the story elements, building upon this foundation. The 6/7/8 Student Book includes daily assignments, requires daily writing, is more in-depth, and is written with high school literature preparation in mind.

In general, 6th grade students who have not had as much formal literature study of the genres and story elements or who are not accustomed to writing more do one year in the 4/5 Student Book and move to the 6/7/8 Student Book in seventh grade.  Seventh and eighth grade students who have had formal literature study of the genres and story elements, who are able to write well, and who are able to comprehend well place in the 6/7/8 Student Book.  Reading levels of book packs do not need to match Student Book levels.  So, for example, a sixth grade student who is an avid reader who does not write as well or who has not had formal literature study may use the 6/7 Book Pack with the 4/5 Student Book.

In Closing

I hope this helps you with choosing which level of book pack and which level of student book you’d like to use with your older student(s). If I look at a book inside and outside, know the total number of pages in the book, and know how many pages my student would need to read each day, I can usually choose what level is best for each of my sons. I hope you find the same to be true for you and find this to be an encouragement!

In Christ,

Julie