How can we do RTR’s science, but replace just the Astronomy book?

Dear Carrie

My daughter wants to do RTR’s science, but what could replace the Astronomy book she already used?

I’ll be switching to Heart of Dakota for my daughter, who will be in 6th grade next year. She will be doing the Resurrection to Reformation guide. I noticed one of the science books for that is Apologia Astronomy. Unfortunately, she has used that, though she never finished the last lessons. Would you have a replacement option for science for her situation? I’d still want to follow the science suggested by the guide. I love the look of all the other science books! I just don’t think she’d want to go through the astronomy book again. I’d really appreciate your help and insights!


“Ms. Please Help an RTR Student Who Already Did the Astronomy Book”

Dear “Ms. Please Help an RTR Student Who Already Did the Astronomy Book,”

Since some families have already used the Astronomy book, it makes for an interesting problem. If the children have used the Astronomy book two or more years ago, then we would advise following the plans as written with the science part of Resurrection to Reformation, choosing either option 1 or 2 as needed. Redoing the Astronomy book when the child is older, and doing it in conjunction with Heart of Dakota‘s plans, will be a much different experience than the child had when going through the Astronomy book previously.

You can use Our Weather and Water in place of the Astronomy book.

However, if children have read the Astronomy book within the last two years, one unique option would be to use Our Weather and Water for the first 11 weeks of the science in place of the Astronomy book. Even though Our Weather and Water is actually scheduled in the Appendix as a replacement for the last 11 weeks of Resurrection to Reformation, this is a workable plan. The only problem is that since the Astronomy book is actually scheduled for the first 13 weeks, you’d have two additional weeks. During these weeks, you’d either have no science, or you’d want to stretch Our Weather and Water out before you begin the next scheduled science book.

This would allow you to go on and use the rest of the science plans as written.

Nevertheless, then you could go on and use the rest of the RTR science plans as written. This would involve using the rest of option 1, which includes A Child’s Geography, Galileo, Newton, and Exploring Planet Earth to finish out your year. It is not how we wrote the guide, but is one way to stay closer to what we have written and still use the recommended resources. I think it is a very viable option for the unique situation! If you did wish to order this combination from us, you would simply add Option 1 science to your cart and substitute Our Weather and Water for the Astronomy book to receive the package discount and the science set you need for your special situation.



A Suggested Sequence of Guides for a 14 Year-Old

Pondering Placement

Question: What placement and guide sequence should I use for my 14 year-old?

We’ve homeschooled my 14 year-old since kindergarten, but he’s behind two grade levels. I’m counting him as an 8th grader. I’ve tried to push total texts with him, but it’s just not working. Presently, he’s using IEW SWI-B. He’s almost finished with the first book of Fix It grammar. He read The Sign of the Beaver and did a Progeny Press guide. He doesn’t like reading, probably because he’s too into video games. He’s never done dictation. I have had him narrate some. He’s using MUS math but is behind in that too. Looking at the placement chart, Resurrection to Reformation might be a fit, other than dictation. I like the fact that Heart of Dakota uses some of the IEW material. That is a plus for me. Is this type of study even possible? I guess I just need some insight for a placement and guide sequence to use?

Carrie’s Reply:

In thinking through your son’s age and in pondering what he has done thus far, I do think he will make steady progress as you move through the Heart of Dakota guides. Often you will see the most fruit in your second year of HOD. This is because the skills taught in one guide help prepare your child for the next guide. The layering of skills over time produces strides in learners as time passes that are definitely noticeable. So, be encouraged that your son can make needed gains in his difficult areas! I am confident we can find a sequence of guides that works well for him!

A Suggested Sequence of Guides

For now, I think we can go into Resurrection to Reformation considering this to be his 8th grade year. This will give him earth science exposure. This would mean that for high school he would follow the sequence below:

  • 9th grade Revival to Revolution (last half of English 5 and Advanced EE Physical Science for high school as scheduled in guide)
  • 10th grade Missions to Modern Marvels (all of English 6 – as scheduled in the guide and Chemistry with beef ups as scheduled in guide)
  • 11th grade World Geography (first half of English 7 – as scheduled in the guide – possibly IPC as scheduled in guide or other science)
  • 12th grade World History (last half of English 7 – as scheduled in the guide and Biology as scheduled in guide)
A Short Explanation of This Sequence of Guides

This sequence will give him needed credits in American History, Geography, and World History. It will also give him a steady rise in skills in the language arts area and cover his needed sciences. For math, it would be good to get through a minimum of Algebra I and Geometry (with a possible hope of also doing Algebra II – albeit in a introductory way). We can address the sciences as we go to be sure he is getting what is needed in that area each year as it arises.

A Reading Suggestion for This First Year in This Guide Sequence

In pondering that we would be considering your son as an 8th grader this year, we have a bit more wiggle room in using this year as a skill-building year in this sequence (picking up needed teaching in some key areas). With that in mind, I would lean toward doing Level 6/7/8 of Drawn into the Heart of Reading Student Book along with the Boy Set from Creation to Christ. Since you won’t get to Creation to Christ with your son, you can use the CTC Boy Set with Drawn into the Heart of Reading (as there is one book for each genre). This set will work well for your son’s age and should include topics of interest. Or, if preferred, you can choose different books that are at this reading level.

Some Language Arts Suggestions for the First Year of This Guide Sequence

When you begin your son’s RTR guide, I’d recommend you begin Medieval History-Based Writing Lessons (setting aside SWI-B even if he did not finish it). Be sure to follow the plans within the RTR guide for Medieval Writing Lessons, as we omit some assignments and stretch others out longer. I think Rod and Staff 5 (first half only – doing a lesson each time it comes up in the plans twice weekly) will be a good fit as well. Charlotte Mason studied dictation exercises are in the back of the RTR Guide. You will want to begin your son at a level where he is having to repeat a passage only once or twice a week. Otherwise, he will be at a frustration level. The RTR Guide tells you when to do studied dictation.

Some Thoughts on Packages for the First Year of This Guide Sequence

I would also encourage you to either have your son read the Basic Package or do the Extension Package but not do both. This is due to the new level of work and skills that will be required already within the RTR Guide. I would allow your son to choose between the two sets to see which he desires to read. The Basic Package is scheduled in the daily plans. The Extension Package is scheduled by day in the Appendix.

The Importance of Completing All That Is Scheduled Within This Suggested Sequence of Guides

It will be important for your son to fully complete all that is scheduled within each day of plans within this sequence of guides. Some of the assignments may feel young at times, as he is on the highest age range of the guide. However, the skills gained by reading and following written directions, adjusting to the volume of the readings, becoming comfortable in writing across the curriculum, and being trained in a higher level of independence, when combined with regular skill practice will all be needed in preparation for high school next year. Try to keep in mind that if you skip a box, you skip a skill. I think this is a workable plan, which we can revisit as your son progresses. But, I hope this suggested sequence gets you started!



How does the writing in Resurrection to Reformation build good writers?

Dear Carrie

Can you tell me a little about the writing in Resurrection to Reformation? I know it’s Medieval History-Based Writing using IEW. However, I know there are other things that round out writing too. Are there any other things you can tell me about the writing in Resurrection to Reformation? We are using Heart of Dakota’s Creation to Christ now. However, we did an online class for writing instead of what was planned in Creation to Christ. We are not liking the online class. I wish we had just stuck with the writing in CTC. I’m just thinking ahead for next year when we move up to Resurrection to Reformation. I want my son to be a strong writer. I am familiar with IEW, but I want to know more about the rest of the writing in RTR. Thanks in advance!


“Ms. Please Help Me Build a Strong Writer”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Me Build a Strong Writer,”

One thing to keep in mind about writing is that it is a skill progressive subject. Some kiddos are more natural writers than others. However, all kiddos can learn to be writers if they are regularly exposed to great writing. Students are exposed to great writing through the literature that they read in Heart of Dakota (HOD). They become even better writers by receiving practice in modeling great writing. Students do this through oral and written narration in HOD. They become still better writers when they are taught strong grammar and sentence-building skills by using an excellent English program. This is why students use Rod and Staff English in HOD. Finally, students become the very best writers they can be by rounding out their writing repertoire by being taught the specific skills of writing. This is why students use various formal writing programs in HOD.

The skills needed to progress as a writer come from many different areas.

So, you can see that the skills needed to progress as a writer come from many different areas. We strive to address all of these areas within HOD. This means that as the student progresses down the HOD path, he/she will gain the skills needed to become a better writer (incrementally a little at a time). This also means that depending on how much experience the child is gaining in each of these areas, he/she may have a differing level of success with the various writing programs within HOD from other students.

The child’s literature, narration, grammar, dictation, and writing experience in HOD work together to eventually produce a writer!

So, while it may seem like certain writing programs work better for certain kiddos, it truly is the sum total of the child’s literature/narration/grammar/dictation/writing experiences that add up to success. This is why when looking at writing to help place a student in a Heart of Dakota guide, we typically ask questions about the other language arts areas as well. All of these areas work together to eventually produce a writer!

Students new to HOD should begin with the writing program that is in the guide they placed.

For those who are new to HOD, we typically suggest beginning with the writing program that is within whatever HOD guide the student ends up using for the rest of his/her day. This is because the student will make gains as we begin addressing all areas needed to improve as a writer throughout the daily plans. The writing program is just one component of that progress.

Each writing program within HOD emphasizes a different facet of writing and is kept in balance with the rest of the written assignments in the guide.

Yet, each writing program within HOD is selected to emphasize a different facet of writing. It is scheduled to give balance to a child’s school day (keeping in mind all other subjects and the volume of writing within those). So, your child will also feel better balanced skill-wise and time-wise if he/she does the writing program scheduled within the guide. The writing programs are also scheduled with the parent’s teaching time in mind, providing an ebb and flow from guide to guide. So, there are many benefits to doing the writing programs scheduled within your guide.   Of course, it is fine to borrow a program from a previous guide, if you feel your child will be overly challenged with the program scheduled in your current guide.


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

Setting Up for Resurrection to Reformation

From Our House to Yours

Setting Up for Resurrection to Reformation

So, I’ve placed my children, had my Heart of Dakota  ‘box day,’ and am setting up for Resurrection to Reformation (RTR). My first step is to read through RTR’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 RTR Binder

First, I make a color photocopy of my RTR cover and insert it in my binder. If you don’t have a color copier, black and white looks nice too! Or, I just slide in the extra preprinted full color RTR Student Notebook cover. 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. (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, Geography, and History Projects 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 RTR’s history notebook pages inside clear page protectors. My child takes out the notebook page he is using for the week and puts it back in the page protector for safe keeping when he is done. If I have an older child using the history extensions, I place any completed 3 paragraph summaries or written narrations including his opinions here as well. Next, I label my second tab “GEOGRAPHY.” I place any of my child’s completed A Child’s Geography Vol. I: Explore His Earth travel logs or completed Map Trek assignments here. Then, I label my third tab “HISTORY PROJECTS.” I place any completed flat projects that are not part of the History Notebook here.

Label Science Tab Dividers 

For science, RTR’s Introduction suggests using either a 3-ring binder with clear page protectors, or a bound sketchbook with unlined pages for the notebook assignments. It also notes lined paper should be used for the written narrations. Personally, I like to use a separate 3-ring binder for RTR’s science. I just find it easier to keep it all organized in one place. However, you can choose whatever you’d most prefer!  If you do choose to use a 3-ring binder for science, Carrie suggests making three tabbed sections.  So, following those directions, I label my first tab “NOTEBOOK ENTRIES.” Behind this tab, I place my child’s completed science notebook assignments. Then, I label my second tab “WRITTEN NARRATIONS.” Behind this tab, I place my child’s completed written narrations. Finally, I label my third tab “SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS.” Behind this tab, I place any of my child’s completed science lab forms.

Label Language Arts and Math Tab Dividers

For language arts and math, there are many options. I could add more tabs to my history 3-ring binder or start tabs in a new smaller 3-ring binder. Or, I might not have a binder at all, but instead simply keep on hand the actual notebooks and workbooks in their entirety. If I choose to add to my history 3-ring binder, I would label my fourth tab “LANGUAGE ARTS.” For DITHOR, I would choose some completed workbook pages to include. Likewise, for the R & S English 4 or 5 written work and for the spelling/dictation written work, I would choose a handful of completed pages for the binder. For Medieval History-Based Writing, I would include samples of my child’s key word outlines, mini-lesson assignments, first drafts, and final drafts in order for each writing piece.  Finally, I’d label my fifth tab “MATH” and include some completed math workbook pages.

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 and label a composition notebook ‘DICTATION.’ For SCIENCE, I photocopy 37 (nice to have a few extra) Science Lab sheets from the Appendix. For GEOGRAPHY, I either print the Map Trek maps and some A Child’s Geography travel log choices, or I do this as it comes up in the plans. Personally, I like to print all of the already labeled Map Trek maps in color and the maps for my student to write on in black and white at the start. However, you can always view the colored maps on your computer screen instead of printing them and just print the black and white maps. In contrast, I like to print the A Child’s Geography travel logs as they come up in the plans, so my child can choose the layout he prefers.

Setting Up for Grammar, Math, Shakespeare, and Common Place Book Entries

For the written work in English GRAMMAR, I label a lined composition book ‘GRAMMAR.’ 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 choose a lined notebook, I label it ‘MATH.’ For SHAKESPEARE, I put the notebooking pages in a small 1/2 inch separate binder and slide the full-color notebook cover in the front. Finally, I choose a special lined and bound book for my child’s COMMON PLACE BOOK, which is described in the Handwriting/Copywork section of RTR’s Introduction.

Setting Up for Storytime and Medieval History-Based Writing 

For STORYTIME, I paper-punch the top left corner of 12 lined or unlined index cards (as noted in the Storytime section of RTR’s Introduction). I label 2 cards each with the following: Vivid Descriptions, New Vocabulary, Plot Twists, Strong Moods, Great Lines, and Life Lessons. Then, I put the cards on the ring. (Or, you can just do this as it comes up in the Storytime daily plans if you prefer!) Next, I follow Carrie’s directions for printing what I need to for compiling my Medieval History-Based Writing Student Resource Book.

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 6/7/8 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 6/7 Book Pack, I see ’10 days’ next to Biography: Behind Rebel Lines. So, I divide the total number of pages or chapters in Rebel Lines by 10 and fill out the first 10 days of the Reading Calendar accordingly. Then, as I see ‘5 days’ next to Biography: America’s Paul Revere, I divide the total number of pages by 5. As there are 46 total pages, I divide 46 by 5 and fill in the reading calendar for about 9 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 RTR 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.” Likewise, if I have a child using Science Option #2’s, I put a sticky note in the Appendix for the Option 2 Our Weather and Water plans. 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 RTR

There are a few special items needed for RTR. By this time I already know which items I’ll need, because I wrote them in the margin of my Introduction or first week of daily plans earlier. Some things I’ve noted are a world map or globe, and a children’s Bible. I also noted I’d use Wikipedia for the history research, but if you are not using Wikipedia, you’d need one or more comprehensive history encyclopedias. Another note I had in my margin was to get a dictionary for the Storytime ‘New Vocabulary’ assignment. Or, you could use your computer search engine or phone as a dictionary resource, if you prefer. I also noted I’d need a CD player for What in the World? for the Independent History Study box, as well as for the Philippians CD for Bible Quiet Time.

Teacher and Student Narrations Skills’ Lists

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 RTR 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 RTR, I just stock up on usual art supplies, like crayons, colored pencils, thick and thin markers, glue (sticks and liquid), scissors, construction paper, tissue paper (colored), tape (masking and clear), a ruler, a yardstick, playdough/modeling clay, paints/paintbrushes, cotton balls, yarn/string, etc. I also stock up on index cards, page protectors, and a few catalogs. Finally, a flashlight, deck of cards, 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 RTR’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 Christ,