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!


Extension Package: More Mature Reading, Follow-up Skills, and Assignments for Older Students

Dear Carrie

Is the Extension Package just an extra set of books, or does it include skills that are pertinent to students being older?

Dear Carrie,

I used Heart of Dakota and loved it! We then put our daughters in public school due to health problems. But, I’m excited to be returning! I looked at the placement chart. My daughters place best in Preparing Hearts for His Glory. My daughter, who is in 4th grade this year, is a very slow reader.  On the contrary, my daughter in 5th grade is a very advanced reader. However, due to the writing, both of them are not ready for Creation to Christ. So, I have placed them in Preparing Hearts for His Glory.  My question is about the Extension Package.  Is the Extension Package just a set of more books? If so, I probably will just let her choose other books on her own. Or, does the Extension Package include reading and assignments that are pertinent to her being a 5th grader?


“Ms. Please Help Explain the Extension Package”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Explain the Extension Package,”

The Extension Packages are so much more than just extra books to read. I’m glad you asked!  If you have a child in the extension range, they are actually a needed part of the program. This is because I chose the books to show a different part of history or a different point of view than what is being covered elsewhere in the history study. The books are designed to deepen the study in this manner.

Older students in the extension package age range need to be reading their own history at a higher reading level.

The books are also intended for the student to be reading on his/her own in order to raise the reading level of the history material being studied by the older child. This is necessary in Preparing, because if you are still reading aloud the history as scheduled in the guide, an older child should also be reading his/her own history material.

Follow-up assignments are designed to address higher level skills for older students.

The oral narrations, written narrations, and notebook assignments are designed to address skills that an older student should be practicing and showing progress in due to their age level. These assignments aren’t meant to be optional for an older student. So, if you choose to forego the extension books for a child in the extension range of a program, you are missing the part of the program that makes it extend for that age level.

Extension package book are interesting, engaging, and enjoyable.

Finally, the extension books are also very interesting and engaging, and kiddos who do the extension books do truly enjoy them!  If you have a child in the extension range, you should plan for these books to be a daily part of Preparing Hearts as intended. Drawn into the Heart of Reading is the place to allow your daughter to read books of her own choosing. DITHR works with any books you choose and will work well in that capacity for your older daughter.



P. S. To read more about Heart of Dakota, click here!


Placement for Seventh and Eighth Grade Daughters

Pondering Placement

Please help me with choosing placement for my upcoming 7th and 8th grade daughters.

I need help with choosing placement in Heart of Dakota for my daughters going into seventh and eighth grade. (I also have a daughter going into ninth grade, but she is attending public school now.) We all enjoyed the left side of Missions to Modern Marvels (MTMM) this past year! For this reason, I thought about moving my 2 remaining daughters into World Geography next. However, I know it would be overwhelming for my younger daughter. Also, looking ahead, my eighth grade daughter will attend public high school in 9th grade. Since they offer no ancient history, I’m thinking to combine my upcoming seventh and eighth grade daughters in Creation to Christ (CTC). I know I could add the extension package and up the language arts and math, but I guess I’m not 100% sure about this placement.

A Little Background on My Sixth Grade Daughter Going into Seventh Grade

I thought I’d give a little background on my sixth grade daughter going into seventh grade. She has never used a complete HOD guide. She was able to do Drawn into the Heart of Reading (DITHOR) level 4/5 with the 4/5 Girl Interest books for her 5th grade year. However, since then, she has been through several therapy programs to help with her dyslexia. We have needed to make accommodations such as audio books or me reading aloud in most other subject areas. But now, she is testing at grade level for reading comprehension. So, I am planning to use DITHOR 6/7/8 level with her.

She does struggle more with both reading and writing. Although she can narrate and summarize, she often needs help getting through the initial reading assignments. She usually reads for a half hour or so a couple of times a day on her own. But, if she is required to do more than that, I need to read aloud to her, so she can rest her eyes (she has tracking issues, so it can be very tiring). Usually she comprehends well whether she is reading on her own or is being read aloud to. She prefers simpler language, as the effort she must make just to read doesn’t leave a lot of energy for her figuring out unfamiliar words or phrases. This does impact every subject area.

A Little Background on My Seventh Grade Daughter Going into Eighth Grade

My current seventh grader is an extremely self motivated student. She is doing eighth and ninth grade level work in most subjects. She did the left side of the MTMM guide this past year with her older sister. They both took a lit/grammar course as well. Looking at the placement she fits squarely in the MTMM category, but we did that guide this year. So, I feel she could probably move on to World Geography level work.

This daughter is used to writing two to three page long papers on various subjects. She has also completed all the writing and narrations (left side of page spread) from MTMM without any serious problems this year. Her writing and grammar experience is at or above grade level. This is true of her reading level as well. We have used DITHOR in the past several years, and she had done excellent with it!

Creation to Christ looks good, but so does World Geography!

The more I look at Creation to Christ, the more I think it would offer my younger daughter plenty of challenge because of her dyslexia, especially if we add the extension package and pick 6/7 books for DITHOR. Plus, she still struggles with the mechanics of writing. However, My older daughter probably fits best in the World Geography guide. She has studied the samples and read excerpts from many of the book over my shoulder, and she’s excited! However, I just don’t want to overwhelm her. She did well with MTMM, but we had several issues of her not reading directions well and having to redo assignments. I don’t want to push too hard, but the reality is she pushes herself and regularly asks for more. But then she is stressed if I offer more. Hmmm.  So, what do you think?

Carrie’s Reply:

Thanks for taking time to share about your daughters. That really helps, as we look at possibilities for each of them. In reading through what you’ve shared, I am inclined to think that it is wise to look at the two kiddos individually for placement. With your would be 8th grader doing MTMM’s left side this past year and weighing your younger student’s dyslexia in the equation, I think the two kiddos belong in two different guides.

I would place them where they each fit on the placement chart.

I’d be inclined to place them where they fit on the placement chart simply so that they each receive a forward moving experience skill-wise. Skills train kiddos academically for what is to come, and I also think that each HOD guide has a strong Biblical focus along with the skills providing your kiddos with hidden, unexpected spiritual-related gems at each level of their education.

I would place your younger daughter in Creation to Christ.

With this in mind, I would lean toward placing your younger daughter in CTC. The readings, following written directions, and written component of the left side of the guide would be a good fit. I think the poetry with watercolor painting from the right side of the guide would also be inspirational. The Genesis study with The Radical Book for Kids and the Geography of the Holy Lands would also be a part of her day, with the plans from the right side of the CTC guide. The parent reads aloud these two books, so she would not become fatigued with more reading.

Your older daughter could join your younger daughter for the Genesis/Child’s Geography part of the CTC plans.

If desired, you could have your older daughter join you for the alternating Genesis/Child’s Geography part of the CTC study. These studies would fit very well with the World Geography Guide topics your older student would be doing and be enjoyable for your older student to join in doing with you. We actually did this with my oldest son when he was in 8th grade and with my next son when he was doing CTC. It was a good time together for them, and my oldest hadn’t done those particular things previously, as I’d not yet written them. Placing your younger student in CTC would allow for growth in her areas of difficulty without overwhelming her. It would put her on a solid, forward-moving path skill-wise. Additionally, it would give her the exposure to the ancients that you desire.

I would place your older daughter in World Geography.

For your older daughter, I would lean toward the World Geography guide. The World Religion & Cultures study would be very timely, especially in light of the possibility of her heading to public school the following year. The explorer/history-based study of geography, woven with video footage and Biblical-based geography would provide a component to the study that she may not ever have the chance to receive again. It will impact how she views the world. Furthermore, it will give her a firm foundation for future, higher-level history studies to come.

I would also strongly consider having her complete the logic portion of the plans and probably the literature study. The Bible study is excellent as well and is included in the economy package. If you thought the Bible study in the World Geography guide would be too much for your older daughter, you could instead have her Bible study be the Genesis: Radical Book for Kids and Child’s Geography of the Holy Lands from CTC. I think this path would be a good one in meeting the needs of both students.




Placement for Multiple Ages of Preschool and Kindergarten Children

Pondering Placement

Question:  Please help me with placement for my multiple ages of preschool and kindergarten children!

Hello Heart of Dakota!  I have a question about placement for multiple ages of preschool and kindergarten aged children. I have a 3 year old, a 4 year old and a 1.5 year old. My two older kids will be 4 and 5 in the fall. I am wondering where you would place them? We have started Little Hands to Heaven with the older two, and they both really enjoy it!

Do you think I would be better off trying to draw out Little Hands for an extra half a year to be able to combine them both in Little Hearts the following year (a 6 and 5 year old)? Or, should I just go ahead and do all of Little Hearts with my son this coming year with a prayer that I don’t get overwhelmed running two, and down the road three programs? I’m just not sure what to do with my five year old this coming year if I do combine them. Only doing Little Hands doesn’t seem  like it would be enough for him even adding in math and phonics. But, my desire to combine them is strong. What would you do? I want learning time to be fun… oooh, I dislike making decisions like this!!  Please help!

Answer: As your two oldest children are close in age, combining them makes good sense.

Hello!  I agree that since your oldest two children are so close in age, it will be a good idea to combine them as much as possible down the road. So, with that in mind, I’d continue with Little Hands to Heaven (possibly 3-4 days a week for this year). Then, next year, I would pick it back up and finish Little Hands.

When your 4 year old is close to 5 (or seems ready), you can easily begin to add any K options from Little Hearts that she’s ready to do. Possible options would include a phonics program, the first handwriting workbook (A Reason for Writing K or Italic A), the Do It Carefully/Finding the Answers fine motor skills workbooks, and/or the Essentials Kindergarten Math A and B with hands-on activities from the Little Hearts guide. By adding the pieces you feel your oldest is ready to utilize when she’s ready, you won’t be holding her back in any way but will also get a chance to steep her in the Bible through Little Hands and keep her with your younger one.

If you do happen to go through Little Hands to Heaven faster that is fine too, as you could always slow Little Hearts down to half-speed when you get there. So, don’t feel like you must draw Little Hands out more than you’d like. Simply do what your kiddos are ready for, and you won’t go wrong.


P.S. For more info on Little Hands to Heaven, click here!

P.S.S. For more info on Little Hearts for His Glory, click here!

Nine year old daughter – finish Beyond or start Bigger?

Pondering Placement

Placement Advice for My 9 yo Daughter 

Hello to Heart of Dakota! I hope you can help me! I need some placement advice for my 9 yo daughter. She is currently placed in Beyond…, and we are completing Unit 20. I feel like I have messed up her elementary years, so I am looking at the placement chart and seeking advice. She has struggled greatly with reading since we started, but she is working through the emerging readers now. We are currently reading the Christian Liberty Nature Reader. She now reads independently American Girl books and Magic Treehouse books, usually on her own in 2-3 days.

A Closer Look at Her Placement for Language Arts and Math

As for writing, she copies one stanza of the Beyond poem a day in about 10 minutes. Writing and copying is her least favorite part of school. Part of me wonders if it is because I have pushed her too much. I tend to be quite the perfectionist, so if she writes something that isn’t her best, I make her write it over. We are currently working through Spelling List 1 (Unit 20). As for language arts, we are working through the activities in the Beyond guide. And for math, I have intended to buy the Bigger guide and Singapore 2A and 2B. But, life circumstances put this on the back burner.

So, should I finish Beyond…, or start Bigger?

As for the length of the school day, it seems appropriate. She is my very creative child, so she tends to drag the “fun” activities out. I tend to save those for last. She LOVES Beyond, and her favorite part of the day is history and storytime.  So, should I continue to plug along with Beyond until we finish? Thanks in advance for your advice!

Carrie’s Reply:

Thanks so much for taking time to share about your daughter in regard to the placement chart! It really helps to gain an even fuller picture of your daughter’s skill level in various areas. I think from what you’ve shared, I see two possible options. Keeping in mind the fact that she is 9 and also keeping in mind her current skill level, I do think that she could begin Bigger Hearts now. I think it would stretch her in a good way.

She sounds ready to begin Bigger Hearts overall!

She may have to ease into some of the copywork length-wise, and you would have to be prepared to help her with the vocabulary cards and the notebooking assignments quite a bit, but that is true for most kiddos beginning Bigger Hearts. You could go half-speed for a little while to ease her into the guide, but then I do think it would be a good idea to pop up to full speed within a month or two if at all possible.

This would allow you to get her started on her English, get her going on the math she needs, and address her growth in reading. She would do List 2 in spelling, just beginning with the first set of words as directed in the plans.

But, a second option is to finish Beyond, but add to the language arts and math.

The second option I see, if you do not desire to begin Bigger Hearts now, is to add English 2 (doing a lesson a day) and Singapore 2A/2B to Beyond. You will also be adding DITHR to Beyond coming up as your daughter finishes the Emerging Reader set. This would be a back-up option if you feel that Bigger would be too big of a jump.

Typically, we do not recommend skipping forward in a guide, but with the gains that your daughter has made in reading and writing, and in looking at the placement chart with fresh eyes based on her age, I would say that your situation is an exception and your daughter could do Bigger Hearts if you feel it is best.