DITHOR Lessons and Projects with Two Students in Different Levels

Dear Carrie

How does a DITHOR lesson and project look with two students in different levels?

Dear Carrie,

How does a DITHOR “lesson” look with two students in different levels? I’m trying to figure out how we do this when they’re reading different books. If my boys are in different levels (older reading 4/5 and younger reading 2/3), but we are studying the same genre, do I choose the same project for them? Thanks!


“Ms. Please Describe a DITHOR Lesson and Project for Two Students in Different Levels in Heart of Dakota

Dear “Ms. Please Describe a DITHOR Lesson and Project for Two Students in Different Levels,”

You can choose the same project for your two students if desired, or you can do different projects. I often let my boys choose from among the project options. Sometimes they choose to do the same project, and other times they choose to do a different project. I just have the planning meeting with them on the “first” project day, as laid out in the guide. Then, I typically break the task down for them, so they know what to do each day for 5 days. I keep the project time each day the same as a typical DITHOR lesson, so in that way the project does not take over our day.

I use the first day of our scheduled DITHOR time to map out the pages they’ll be reading and choose a kick-off.

One thing I do to keep DITHOR going well throughout the year, is on the first day during our scheduled DITHOR time, I just sit down with the kiddos and map out the pages they’ll be reading in their Student Books and also choose a kick-off. I count that as my first DITHOR day. Then, I put the guide away, and the next day we do the kick-off. As each day passes I just teach through the guide, one day at a time, and when I get to the project day, we just pick the project and map it out. Then, we put the guide away. The next day we begin the project.

I plan DITHOR right within my school day to avoid planning in the evenings.

This way, I don’t have to do planning at night ahead of time but can just sit down and do it when it comes up in my DITHOR time during the school day. If I need a bit of planning for DITHOR in which the kiddos aren’t needing to be present, I send them to do their next subject instead. It sometimes adds a few days to DITHOR to do it this way, but it keeps us going forward steadily and keeps me from having any planning to do in the evenings. It makes DITHOR fit right within the school day, and I’m never caught unprepared. DITHOR truly can be open-and-go, as long as you’ve chosen the books to read. But, if I do come across something I’m not ready for, I just stop and plan it then and there and then do it with the kiddos the next day.

My oldest two sons reaped the benefits of DITHOR in high school level literature.

My oldest two sons really reaped the benefits from DITHOR with a seamless transition to high school level literature. Their moral discernment far outweighs what I had book-wise when I was their age too! They actually choose to read classic novels and enjoy themselves in the process. Their love of reading was truly encouraged with DITHOR, and I am thankful daily for the discussions we had about literature in light of the Bible throughout their elementary and middle school years thanks to DITHOR. I hope you have a great start to DITHOR!


Do you have trouble getting the evening meal together?

Teaching Tip: 

Do you have trouble getting the evening meal together?

Do you have trouble getting the evening meal together, when school and laundry seem to take up much of the day? I have trouble if I don’t have a plan in place for getting the evening meal on the table. So, here is my plan for avoiding the “what shall we have for dinner” panic!

Once a week, make a list of evening meals for each day of the upcoming week.

On Friday, I make a list of evening meals for the week. I list the days of the week on a sticky note. Then, I list the meal including side dishes for each day. I make the list in pencil, so I can change the day for the meal if needed. I always plan one easy meal my hubby or older sons can make for nights when I might be gone. It works best to make the list of meals for the week prior to making the grocery list.

Place all needed recipes for the week in an envelope attached to a kitchen cabinet.

I place all needed recipes for the week in an envelope attached to my kitchen cabinet. This way, I can easily refer to my recipes to see what to add to my grocery list. I also have easy access to the needed recipes as I am cooking or baking. As the week progresses, I love knowing that I have the ingredients for what I am planning to make! Even though it takes me a couple of hours on Friday afternoon, it is worth it to get organized for the week.

Place the list of meals on the refrigerator door.

I place the note with the list of meals for the week on the refrigerator door. This makes it easy for me to see what I am making each day. My boys also can easily see what is for dinner…which they love! This quick reference also helps me see what I could prepare ahead for the evening meal.

Lunch time is a great time to do a little dinner preparation.

My kiddos head outside for their recess after lunch. I find this to be a great time to get a bit of my dinner prep underway. If the evening meal has a crock pot part, I put it in during this time. If it isn’t a crock pot type meal, I might scrub potatoes or cut up needed veggies or fruit. Or, I might put ingredients in my bread maker or bake a batch of muffins during this time. I just make sure that the cooking prep doesn’t exceed my kiddos recess time. Otherwise, I find it hard to return to teaching after recess. By getting a bit of dinner prep out of the way, I have an easier time when the evening meal arrives.

Try planning ahead for a week and see what you think!

Planning ahead has become essential for me in feeding our family. As our 4 boys are growing, they are really getting to be big eaters! This makes the evening meal an important one in their eyes. Try planning ahead for a week and see if it helps you too!


A streamlined lunch is a huge help in the homeschool day

Seven Things to Consider When Choosing a Start and End Date for Homeschooling

A Heart of Dakota Life

Scheduling Your Homeschooling Year with a Calendar

With Heart of Dakota, you can begin homeschooling at any time! Heart of Dakota does not link its plans to seasons, months, or days of the week.  So, your ‘start’ and ‘end’ of your homeschool year might be different than the more traditional mid-August to May school year. Our ‘start’ is usually in September after Labor Day. Usually our ‘end’ is at the end of May at the latest.  Whenever your ‘start’ and ‘end’ of the year may be, scheduling your homeschooling year with a calendar can help you keep the big picture in mind.

An overall pacing goal is to complete a Heart of Dakota guide each year. 

In general, an overall pacing goal can be to complete one Heart of Dakota each year. This keeps students steadily progressing in their homeschooling.  Taking calendar in hand and mapping out when approximately homeschooling will be done usually ensures we get it done.  I also take great satisfaction in knowing we are on track and steadily moving toward our finish date!  Or, if we are getting off-track, I can see our year will go longer, and that usually motivates me to get back on track.  It motivates my kiddos to stay on track too!  We love our homeschooling, but we love our summers off too!

You can use a calendar-at-a-glance when scheduling your homeschool year.

Although we don’t follow our public school’s schedule for homeschooling, I do like to use their calendar.  It fits on one piece of paper, and it has holidays noted (though not always by the name I call them as a Christian).  I print off the calendar and use a pencil to circle whatever I know we need to take off for the year.  This helps me map out the year in general, which gives me a better idea of when I need to start so I end when I want to end!

Seven Things to Consider When Choosing a Start and End Date for Homeschooling

There are seven things I think are helpful to consider when choosing a start and an end date for a homeschooling year.  I’m sure there are more!  But, at least for me, these are the biggies!

First, consider state standards for homeschooling.

It is always best to make sure you are meeting state standards when choosing your start and end date for homeschooling. You may need to do standardized testing at certain grade levels and times of the year, so this may impact your start and end date. It may be necessary to ‘report’ your homeschooling progress each year to a principal, an assigned mentor/teacher, or an umbrella school. You can check current state standards at HSLDA’s website.

Second, it is a good idea to consider your weather.

Weather can play a big role in when it is best to homeschool! Winters in South Dakota are lovely to see, but often it is best to view them from inside a warm home looking out a window!  So, we homeschool ‘hard’ through the winters.  Even if we are on ‘4 day a week guides,’ for example, we complete 5 days’ worth of plans during most of the winter. If you live in Florida or in Arizona, you might homeschool ‘hard’ through the hot, hot summers.

Third, jobs may impact homeschooling.

Jobs can really impact homeschooling.  Maybe your husband is in the military, maybe your husband travels, or maybe you have a part-time job as well. My husband travels a lot and is especially busy through pheasant hunting season, as he also guides.  I also travel to book fairs for my work at Heart of Dakota, so this is something to consider as well.

Fourth, travel plans effect homeschooling.

When you travel can really impact when you are able to homeschool. Though some homeschool families travel all the time and make it work very well, for many families travel happens more occasionally, which means ‘normal’ homeschooling is harder to do. Vacations, weddings, graduations, holidays, and business trips all should be part of the overall plan for homeschooling.  We often plan these things ahead of time, so adding them to the overall plan for the year just makes sense.

Fifth, sick days should be added.

Hopefully not many sick days will be needed, but planning ahead for them helps it not be such a surprise should you need them! Unplanned outings, such as my husband’s taking the boys fishing or hunting when the weather or his schedule cooperates are part of this as well.  I usually plan a cushion of 2 weeks for unexpected days we need to take off, and that has usually been enough.

Sixth, you might want to spread out your first week of plans over 2 weeks.

If you are new to Heart of Dakota and beginning multiple guides or upper guides, you might want to spread out your first week of plans. This can be as simple as taking 2 weeks to do 1 week’s worth of plans.  Yes, this will add a week to your homeschool year, but solid training of how to do the guide properly at the start helps your student get the most out of the guide for the entire year.

Seventh, pacing can be slowed to half-speed at the start if need be.

Especially if your child is on the youngest side of the target age range of a guide, if you start to find he/she needs more time to grow into it, you can always change to half-speed for awhile.  You would still homeschool on the days you’d planned to on your general calendar.  However, you’d just do the guide half-speed for awhile.  This can look many ways, but in general, half-speed just means taking 1 day’s worth of plans and spreading the boxes over 2 days.  Half-speed for awhile can be a nice “Plan B” pacing option.

Circle any dates on your year-at-a-glance calendar that fit the above 7 Biggies.

Once I’ve met with my husband, called my extended family, chatted with our kiddos, and considered my thoughts on the matter too, I pull out my calendar. I circle any dates I know we need or want to take off. From this, I could determine when we needed to start, so we could finish when I wanted to finish. For example, here are some dates I circled that we planned to take off this past homeschool year…

  • Aug. 30 – Sept. 3: family vacation
  • Dec. 8:  b-day for son
  • Nov. 13-17: boys deer hunt with Dad
  • Nov. 23: Thanksgiving hosted at my house
  • Dec. 15 and Dec. 22:  Fridays to Christmas shop and bake goodies
  • Dec. 25-28: Christmas vacation
  • Dec. 29-Jan. 2: travel to wedding in TX
  • Feb. 14:  Valentine’s Day
  • Mar. 8: b-day for son
  • Mar. 9: fishing with Dad while I’m at book fair
  • Mar. 26: b-day for son
  • Mar. 30: fishing with Dad
  • Mar. 13: fishing with Dad while I’m at book fair
  • May: overflow sick days as needed
In closing, I realize that life often does not always go according to plan.

Life does not always go according to plan, and I realize the best laid plans of man are not always the best plans.  Truly only God makes the ‘best’ plans.  However, we do have an orderly God, Who loves to make good plans for us. I have always found it best to try to display this character trait of His in my life by planning ahead the best I can for my homeschooling.  If it doesn’t go according to my plan, then His plan took over, and that’s all the better!  However, with a plan in hand, I can make homeschooling my children in a Godly way a priority, and I’ve always found He seems to honor that.  Happy planning, ladies!

In Christ,