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).



September Library Builder: Save 10% on the Preparing Hearts Basic Package!

Library Builder

Use coupon code SEPTEMBER-LIBRARY for 10% on this month’s Library Builder book set: The Preparing Hearts Basic Package!

We are excited to continue our  Heart of Dakota Library Builder book set promotion! On the 1st Wednesday of each month we will be promoting one of our book sets with a 10% coupon code. For this month’s special, use coupon code SEPTEMBER-LIBRARY on our website for the entire month of September to apply the savings to your order. The coupon applies to the Preparing Hearts Basic Package set of books.   To view all of the books in this set, just click here! (Scroll down until you see the “Basic Package” section.)

How is the Basic Package used in Preparing Hearts? 

Well, we could tell you, but why reinvent the wheel? Carrie and Julie have already done an excellent job of outlining how these books are used in Preparing Hearts’ Introduction, so why don’t we have a look at that together?

(From the Introduction of Preparing Hearts for His Glory):

Daily storytime sessions are linked to the “Reading About History” box of the plans by a similar historical time period. These books provide the historical backdrop for each time period, or a panoramic view of history, while the “Reading About History” readings provide a more factual view. These scheduled read-alouds are highly recommended, unless you need to economize. Complete listings and book descriptions for these books can be
found in the Appendix. These books are sold as a set in the Basic Package,
or sold individually, at

The True Story of Noah’s Ark by Tom Dooley
Tirzah by Lucille Travis
Classic Treasury of Aesop’s Fables by Don Daily
A Triumph for Flavius by Caroline Dale Snedeker
Fountain of Life by Rebecca Martin
Viking Quest I: Raiders of the Sea by Lois Walfrid Johnson
The Door in the Wall by Marguerite De Angeli
The Wonderful Winter by Marchette Chute
The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson
Twenty and Ten by Claire Huchet Bishop and Janet Joly

Each unit includes the following activities in coordination with the
“Storytime” read-aloud assignments:
*Day 1: personal connections are shared that relate to the story
*Day 2: differences between the characters’ lives and the students’
lives are identified based upon the historical time period of
the story
*Day 3: the main character’s faith is evaluated for its impact on the
character’s life and the story
*Day 4: oral narration is practiced by retelling the story

Use coupon code SEPTEMBER-LIBRARY to save!

To apply this month’s savings, just enter coupon code SEPTEMBER-LIBRARY on our website when you check out! We hope these books will be as treasured to you as they are to us!

Have a great rest of the week!
Heart of Dakota

PS: If you’d like a more in-depth look at what using Preparing Hearts looks like in your home, have a look at this article!

Third or Fourth Grade Homeschooling – Preparing Hearts for His Glory

Prepare for the school year by reading the guide’s “Introduction”!

Teaching Tip

Reading the guide’s “Introduction” is great preparation for the school year.

You may be beginning to turn your thoughts toward school. One of the best ways to prepare for the upcoming year is to read through your HOD guide’s “Introduction.” There is such a wealth of information in the “Introduction” that we should truly title it something else!

How does reading the “Introduction” help prepare you for the year?

The “Introduction” will give you a feel for how each area is handled in the guide and the goals for each subject. It will let you know what notebooks, binders, etc. are needed for each subject area. Reading the “Introduction” provides a great summary of what to expect for the coming year. The “Introduction” is the last part of the guide we write. In this way, we can be sure that it truly summarizes needed information for you in one place!

If you have students in different HOD guides, read only one guide’s “Introduction” each day.

If you will be teaching more than one Heart of Dakota guide, read the “Introduction” for different guides on different days. This will help you focus on one guide at a time and will keep you from getting overwhelmed.

Can you use the guide without reading the “Introduction?”

Of course you can skip reading the “Introduction” and just jump right in and teach. However, often when families do this they miss the big picture of the guide. They also miss out on some gems that are referred to in the “Introduction” and included in the Appendix.

So, let’s get started!

After more than 15 years of homeschooling my boys with HOD, I still read the “Introduction” at the start of my school year! So, grab a cup of tea or coffee, cuddle up with your highlighter, and read away. Just reading the “Introduction” will make you feel more prepared!


Top Ten Tips for Teaching Multiple Guides

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,