Alexander the Great: Brilliance and Brutality

History with Heart of Dakota

Who was Alexander the Great? 

Conqueror, explorer, leader, and visionary. These are just a few of the words that describe Alexander the Great. Born the son of legendary warrior-king Philip II of Macedonia, Alexander went on to outshine his father.  Philip transformed Macedonia from an unremarkable country to a ruling power in Greece; Alexander made Macedonia the ruling power in the entire known world. His conquests would stretch the Macedonian empire from the mountains of his homeland, to the sands of Egypt, to the expanses of Persia, all the way to the banks of the River Beas in India.

Personality of a Genius 

Alexander was a genius in more ways than one. First, his grasp of military tactics was unequaled in his day. He perfected the use of the phalanx – a tactic which his father had introduced. The phalanx was an infantry formation where soldiers grouped tightly together with each man’s shield protecting himself and his neighbor. In addition to this, each man also carried an 18-20 foot pike which he would thrust outwards from the shield wall. (Wasson) In a time where armies usually fought in a haphazard manner depending on sheer force of numbers to win, the phalanx gave Alexander’s soldiers a huge advantage. Oftentimes, enemy soldiers would simply break off his phalanxes like water off a rock. In addition to this, Alexander had distinct knack for sensing his enemy’s weakest position and massing his men to exploit it. Therefore, when his phalanxes came crashing through there was usually no stopping them.

Second, Alexander was a genius when it came to leading his men. He routinely made a point of leading the charge in battle rather than staying back in safety. Initially, he also insisted on sharing his men’s hardships. For instance, while marching his troops through the desert, according to biographer Peter Green, “…when a helmetful [sic] of muddy water had been found for him in some nearby gully – but no more was to be had – he laughed, thanked the donor, and then tipped the water out into the sand. So extraordinary was the effect of this action that the water wasted by Alexander was as good as a drink from every man in the army.” (434) Alexander lead by example, as all great leaders do. When his men saw him facing and overcoming the same challenges they faced, it inspired greatness in them as well.

Fatal Flaws

Nonetheless, Alexander was far from perfect. “Like many brilliant men,” historian John Gunther writes, “he was unstable…he ran from one extreme to another…” (46) While he could be caring and understanding, he also could be irrational and violent. He had a burning temper which resulted in him murdering some of his most faithful soldiers, such as Clitus and Parmenion. Also, during his final years he firmly believed himself to be descended from the Greek god Zeus. Those who did not acknowledge this were executed. (Gunther 138-139) Sadly, with no god to serve except himself, Alexander – once great – ended his life in drunkenness and confusion.

Lasting Impressions

Even though Alexander’s life was dramatically short (he only lived to be 32!) what he accomplished in that time has had repercussions that affect us to this day. His use of soldiers as disciplined units formed the gold standard in military tactics for hundreds of years afterward. In addition, by bringing many different countries under one empire, he spread the use of a universal language – Greek. Many scholars believe this was instrumental in spreading the Gospel 400 years later. He also founded many different cities – some of which remain to this day. (Many of these he named Alexandria, after himself.) Ultimately, much like God had used prior civilizations and kings to carry out His purpose in history, God used Alexander the Great to mold the world according to His own plan.

Which HOD guides can you find Alexander the Great in? 

Alexander the Great can be encountered in several of Heart of Dakota’s guides! You can find him in Little Hearts, Preparing Hearts, Creation to Christ, World Geography, and World History. You can also find a more in-depth study of him in John Gunther’s book Alexander the Great, which students can read in the extension package for Creation to Christ.


Green, P. Alexander of Macedon, 356-323 B.C. (University of California Press, 2013).

Gunther, J. Alexander the Great. (Sterling Publishing, 2007).

Wasson, D.L. The Army of Alexander the Great. (Ancient History Encyclopedia, 2014). 

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,

Should I separate my 3rd and 5th graders, and if so, who should I move?

Pondering Placement

Question: Should I separate my 3rd and 5th graders, and if so, who do I move?

Our two sons are in Unit 10 of Preparing Hearts for His Glory (PHFHG). My younger son just turned 9 and is in 3rd grade. My older son is almost 11 and in 5th grade. Full-speed is too heavy a workload for my 3rd grader. It takes him twice as long to read and write than what is listed as approximate times. He’s also unable to do the science independently. The reading is above his level. I’m having him skip boxes to stay on the same unit as his brother. My 5th grader is spot on going full-speed. I DO want to separate them in the future when the guides become more independent. My question is this: should I separate them now? If so, who do I move? We never did Bigger Hearts for His Glory (BHFHG), but I’m not sure I can do these guides at the same time.

Carrie’s Reply: I’d either separate your 3rd and 5th graders, moving your 3rd grader down to Bigger Hearts, or I’d slow Preparing Hearts down to half-speed and add the extensions.

From what you’ve shared, it sounds like your 3rd grader places in Heart of Dakota’s Bigger Hearts. Based on this, one option would be to separate them by moving your 3rd grader down to Bigger. I am thinking that you would likely need to read the history readings to your son if you moved him to Bigger (at least at first and with A First Book in American History and the storytime). However, you could consider doing the science a bit more independently, as suggested in this thread.

If you separate your sons by moving your 3rd grader down into Bigger Hearts, you can probably move him toward more independence.

You may be able to move toward doing Bigger more independently with your son if you move him down. With my second son, who was an early writer and excellent reader, we did Bigger more independently than I did with my subsequent kiddos. You can click here to to read my post where I described the way I did Bigger with my second son.

Your older son in Preparing Hearts could also move toward more independence.

You could also move toward more independence in Preparing with your older child. We also did this with my second son, who was ready for more independence. For example, if your oldest son was ready to read the history readings on his own, this would help. Charlotte Mason said a child of age 9 on up who can read his own material should. It aids in retention, making connections, and retelling. Also, if your older son can begin reading more directly from the guide and doing as much as he can to prepare ahead for his times with you (as we mentioned in the above links for Bigger), then this would help too.

If you don’t separate your sons and instead keep them together in Preparing, I’d slow it to half-speed and add the extensions for your older son.

If you decide to stay with Preparing for both kiddos, I would definitely slow it down so that your younger son is doing all that is in the plans without skipping anything. I would also add the Preparing Extensions for your older son. Supposing you do this, I think you will be able to tell if Preparing at a slower speed with extensions is enough for your older child. If it isn’t, then you’ll want to allow that older child to move ahead at full-speed in Preparing more independently (which he is going to do once he gets to CTC anyway) rather than continuing to add more and more material to fill time for the older child just to keep the kiddos together.

If you do end up going full-speed in Preparing with your older son, you can either continue going half-speed in Preparing with your younger son, or move him down to Bigger Hearts full-speed.

In the event that you do end up continuing full-speed Preparing with your older child, you could either go to half-speed Preparing with your younger son or move him down to full-speed Bigger. Honestly, full-speed Bigger will have more of the skill-building that it sounds like your son is needing than half-speed Preparing. Those are just a few things to ponder. It can be challenging to find the right fit at times, but it is worth the effort to search for the correct combination. No matter what though, I wouldn’t continue doing Preparing the way you are currently doing it with your younger son. There is just too much that he is missing to adequately prepare him to enter CTC in the future. Hope this helps as you ponder your options!


Setting Up for Preparing Hearts for His Glory

From Our House to Yours

Setting Up for Preparing Hearts for His Glory

So, I’ve placed my children, had my Heart of Dakota  ‘box day,’ and am setting up for Preparing Hearts for His Glory (PHFHG). My first step is to read through PHFHG‘s Introduction, Appendix, and first week or month of plans. This helps me envision my year and understand what my guide covers. As each Introduction includes options (i.e. one large binder or several smaller binders, etc.), I like to note my chosen options in the margin of the Introduction. This way, I can easily make my shopping list later based on my notes. Likewise, it is important to read through the beginning pages and “Getting Started” section in the Appendix  of Drawn into the Heart of Reading (DITHOR).

Setting Up the Front of My PHFHG Binder

First, I make a color photocopy of my PHFHG cover and insert it in my binder. If you don’t have a color copier, black and white looks nice too! Second, I print the Introduction of the guide off the Internet (click here). I use the Table of Contents as my attendance record, noting the dates we completed each unit (i.e. Unit 1:  Sept. 2-6, 2019). Third, I print the first week of plans (click here), which is a nice overview. If your state requires a completed portfolio for meeting with a principal or umbrella school, the Introduction and first week of plans give an excellent overview of what is covered. (Carrie gives permission for the Introduction and First Week of Plans to be printed or copied for portfolio compilation. However, any other photocopies or retyping of plans would be a copyright infringement.)

Label History, History Projects, and Science Tab Dividers 

Next, I label tab dividers for my binder. My goals are to show what my child did and how he progressed in skills. So, I label my first tab “HISTORY.” Behind this tab, I place my child’s completed history written narrations (from the Reading About History box of plans), as well as my child’s completed Draw and Write Through History assignments (from the Independent History Study box of plans). If I have an older child who is using the history extensions, I place any completed 2-3 paragraph summaries or pictures with one paragraph summaries here as well. Next, I label my second tab “HISTORY PROJECTS.” I place any of my child’s history projects that happen to be flat here. Then, I label my third tab “SCIENCE.” Here, I place my child’s completed science notebooking assignments and lab sheets.

Label Language Arts and Math Tab Dividers

Next, I label my fourth tab “LANGUAGE ARTS.” I place any completed assignments from Poetry Day 2’s creative writing lessons here. If my child did DITHOR, I either choose some completed workbook pages to include, or I just keep his entire DITHOR 4/5 Student Book. Likewise, for the cursive workbook (if my child is doing cursive this year instead of last year), for the R & S English 3 or 4 written work, and for the spelling/dictation written work, I either choose a handful of completed pages for the binder, or I just keep the entire workbook and notebook(s). Finally, I label my fifth tab “MATH” and include any completed math workbook pages, or I just keep the entire workbook.

Things Either to Do at the Start Or to Do As They Come Up in the Plans

If I want to use photocopies of DICTATION instead of the Appendix, I photocopy the passages. I also label a wide-lined composition notebook ‘DICTATION.’ For VOCABULARY, I follow the directions on Unit 1, Day 2, of the daily plans to either get a composition notebook and label 2 pages for each letter of the alphabet, or get a card file with index cards and alphabetical tabs. I’ll need between 75 and 175 index cards, with the number of cards needed based on how many of the 3-5 weekly vocabulary words I choose to have my child do. For SCIENCE, I photocopy 37 (nice to have a few extra) Science Lab sheets from the Appendix and put them in a folder. For TIMELINE, I follow the directions on Unit 1, Day 4’s timeline plans to create prepare either for the accordion-style timeline or for the on-the-door timeline.

Other Things to Do

For the written work in English GRAMMAR, I label a lined composition book or notebook ‘GRAMMAR.’ For the Day 4 HISTORY written narrations, I choose either a lined notebook or loose-leaf paper.  If I chose a notebook, I label it ‘HISTORY WRITTEN NARRATIONS.’ Either way though, I include the written narrations in the binder behind the ‘history’ tab. For the Day 3 SCIENCE questions, I label a lined composition book or notebook ‘SCIENCE QUESTIONS. For MATH, I choose to either have my child write directly in the textbooks/workbooks, to use loose-leaf paper, or to use a lined notebook. If I chose a lined notebook, I label it ‘MATH.’ Finally, I choose a special lined and bound book for my child’s COMMON PLACE BOOK, which is described in Unit 1, Day 4’s Bible Study box.

Setting Up for Drawn into the Heart of Reading (DITHOR)

You can either set up DITHOR at the start or do it as you move through the plans. If I do this at the startI fill out the DITHOR 4/5 Student Book “Reading Calendar.” Using HOD’s “Optional Book Recommendations,” I fill in the page numbers to be read each day. For example, if my son is using the DITHOR Level 3 Book Pack, I see ‘5 days’ next to Biography: Louis Braille. So, I divide the total number of pages or chapters in Louis Braille by 5. As there are 10 chapters, I just write “Ch. 1-2” on ‘Day 1’ of the Reading Calendar, “Ch. 3-4” on ‘Day 2,’ and so on.

Then, as I see ’10 days’ next to Biography: Alexander Hamilton, I divide the total number of pages by 10. As there are 114 total pages in Alexander Hamilton, I divide 114 by 10 and fill in the reading calendar for about 11 pages a day. I might do this for each genre or just the first one. Also, I might choose my first genre kickoff in my DITHOR Teacher’s Guide.

Label Sticky Tabs to Mark Places in the PHFHG Guide

Next, I label sticky tabs to mark places in my guide. I label the first tab “DAILY PLANS,” placing it on Unit 1, Day 1. Then, I label the next tabs “DICTATION,” “POETRY,” and “MATH,” placing them in the Appendix.  Likewise, if my child is using the extensions, I label another tab “EXTENSIONS.” If I am photocopying the Science Lab sheet as it comes up in the plans, I label another tab “SCIENCE LAB.” Finally, for DITHOR, I label 2 tabs “DAILY PLANS,” placing one in the teacher’s guide and one in the student book.

Special Items for Preparing Hearts for His Glory

There are a few special items needed for PHFHG. By this time I already know which items I’ll need, because I wrote them in the margin of my Introduction earlier. Some things I’ve noted are a world map or globe, and a children’s Bible for Bible Study. I also noted a Webster’s dictionary for Vocabulary. One final thing I liked to do is make a photocopy of the Narration Tips: Teacher’s List, How to Narrate: Student’s List, Written Narration Skills: Teacher’s List, and/or Written Narration Skills: Student’s List.  Carrie does give permission to photocopy these. I keep the teacher’s list for me to reference and the student’s list for my child to reference. However, you can always just put another tab in your PHFHG guide and label it “NARRATION TIPS,” if you’d rather.

Shopping for Supplies

Carrie’s plans use readily available household supplies, and many options are suggested. For example, the plans may call for either a bean bag and a basket, or a rolled up pair of socks and a plastic bin. I just skim the History Project and Science plans every month or so, to look for the one-off supply. However, to get ready to begin PHFHG, I just stock up on usual art supplies, like crayons, markers, glue (sticks and liquid), scissors, construction paper, tissue paper (colored), tape (masking and clear), a ruler, a yardstick, playdough, paints/paintbrushes, cotton balls, yarn/string, etc. I also stock up on index cards, page protectors, and a few catalogs. Finally, I’ve found a flashlight, deck of cards, CD player (for Lead Me to the Rock), bouncy ball, paperclips, paper plates, food coloring, marker board with dry erase markers, and q-tips/toothpicks are also nice to have on hand.

Sorting Resources into “Things We Need Now” and “Things We Need Later” Bins or Totes

One of the last things I do is get two canvas bins.  I use one for ‘things we need now’ and the other for ‘things we need later.’ As I read through each box of my first week of PHFHG’s plans, I put each needed resource in the bin  for ‘things we need now.’ I put the remaining items in the bin for ‘things we need later.’ Throughout the year as we finish using resources, I put them in the back of the ‘things we need later’ bin, and I move the next books or resources we need into the ‘things we need now’ bin or tub. This way, my ‘things we need now’ bin only contains what we need for each week. Another benefit is the ‘things we need now’ are always mobile! Likewise, I put many art supplies in a tool turnabout, so these are mobile too!

In Closing

As you can see, the steps you take to set up will vary based on your personal preferences. I’m writing this post so the end result is a lovely 3-ring binder portfolio with tabs alongside a completed timeline, notebooks, workbooks, and/or card files. This will be a wonderful way to show what your child has done! However, there are many options. For example, instead of one large binder,  I sometimes choose several small 1 or 2 inch binders (i.e. one for history, one for science, etc.). Or, I sometimes buy one big 4-subject tabbed notebook, and label the sections GRAMMAR, HISTORY, SCIENCE, and MATH. Usually, I base this on my child. If he prefers several small binders or notebooks, we do that. Or, if he prefers just one large binder and notebook, we do that. So, by all means, set up your year how YOU’D like!

In Christ,



Placement: PHFHG or CTC for a 10 yo newly independent reader and writer?

Pondering Placement

Would you recommend Preparing Hearts or Creation to Christ for a 10 year old who is a newly independent reader and writer?

I’ve been pouring over the HOD Message Board and catalog! My daughter is a 10 year old 4th grader. She’s taken time in becoming independent in reading. Last year, she did really well with Bigger Hearts, but she only made it through Unit 24. She didn’t continue into Preparing Hearts because she was not reading independently. This year, we spent lots of time with intense phonics review and lots of reading. She also completed Singapore 3B, Dictation Level 2, Rod and Staff 3, Writing with Ease, and Level 2 readers. She can read and orally narrate, and she can write about 3-5 very simple sentences. One minute I’m convinced she should be in PHFHG. Then, I switch to CTC! She might not be ready for DITHOR 4/5. I’m very unsure. She’s self-motivated but can be a complainer if she thinks she can’t do something. My worry is the reading!

Carrie’s Reply: Preparing Hearts for His Glory is my placement recommendation.

Thanks so much for sharing about your daughter! With what you’ve shared so far, I’d be inclined to suggest Preparing Hearts for her placement, based mostly upon her reading and writing level. Additionally, CTC is quite a step up in independence, in amount of reading, and in 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 had that child go through the stepping stones that are built into Preparing Hearts.

I’d recommend DITHR 2/3 along with the Level 3 DITHR Book Pack.

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 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, but 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 at half-speed, Level 3 dictation, and the narration and writing skills planned in Preparing.

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). 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 further recommend Singapore 4A, the Deluxe Package of Books for the Newly Independent Reader, and the Science.

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