Setting Up for U.S. History I

From Our House to Yours

Setting Up for U.S. History I

So, I’ve placed my children, had my Heart of Dakota  ‘box day,’ and am setting up for high school U.S. History I (USI). My first step is to read through USI’s Introduction/Overview, Appendix, and first week or month of plans. This helps me envision my year and understand what my guide covers. Each high school credit includes its own specific course description, required resources, course materials, and suggested grading. So, taking time to read through these is time well spent.

Setting Up the Front of My U.S. History I Binder

First, I slide the preprinted full color U.S History I Journal cover in the front of my 1  1/2 inch 3-ring binder. Second, I print the Overview 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). Likewise, I include the Earning Credits and Possible Grading Scale in my binder to show how credit was earned.  Third, I print the first week of plans (click here), which is a nice overview. Some states require a completed portfolio for meeting with a principal or umbrella school. The Introduction and first week of plans give an excellent overview for this. (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.)

Setting Up the Rest of My U.S. History I Binder

I continue setting up the rest of my U.S. History I binder. Behind the First Week of Plans, I place USI’s notebook pages inside clear page protectors. Throughout the homeschool year, my student takes out each notebook page he is using for the week. Then, when he is done with each page, he simply puts it back in a page protector for safe keeping. This makes a beautiful keepsake of our year of spent doing U.S. History I!

Preparing for the Living Library Extra Credit Work

If my student is doing the U.S. History I Living Library 10% extra credit option (which is an option I personally love for my children to do), from the USI Appendix, I photocopy the “Double-Entry Journal Assignment” sheet. I have my student glue it in the front of a bound and lined composition book of his choice. This way, he can refer to the example to know the format expected for his journal assignments. I simply keep the notebook with his completed double-entry journal assignments on hand as a record of his extra credit work for the year.

Setting Up the Book of Centuries’ Binder

For the Book of Centuries (BOC), the USI Introduction suggests using a 1 inch 3-ring binder. This already comes preprinted and 3-hole punched.  So, I just slide the preprinted full color BOC Notebook cover in the front of my binder. Then, I place the 3-hole punched BOC pages in the binder. (If you used World Geography or World History the years before, you’ve already done this step). Then, I add the extra pages needed for the 17th-19th A.D. Centuries. As many different BOC pages are used at a time and there is gluing involved, I don’t put these in clear page protectors.  Next, following the “Course Materials” section in the USI Introduction, I print the History Through the Ages: U.S. History I Timeline Figures from the Timeline Figures CD. I put these in a pile in order and staple the top left corner to keep them together. Last, I slide the stapled together timeline pages inside the front of my BOC binder’s pocket.

A Few Other Noteworthy Things About Setting Up for the U.S History I Course

Throughout the year, my student follows the USI daily plans to make photocopies for U.S. History Map Activities and from Great Documents from U.S. History. I help with making these copies the first time they come up in the plans. Then, my student follows the directions to do this on his own. We file his completed maps in the back of his U.S History I journal. I also let my student know he will need a DVD player for The American Testimony DVD Set. He will also need about thirty-seven (I like a few extra) 3″ x 5″ index cards for the Day 3 Talking Points assignments.  Likewise, he will need a yellow highlighter and a pink or green highlighter (or small yellow and pink or green sticky notes) for his key word narrations.

Setting Up for the Government/Civics Course in U.S History I

For the Government/Civics Course, U.S. History I’s Introduction suggests using a 1 inch 3-ring binder. Following the directions in U.S. History I’s Introduction, I print the video transcripts, answer keys for quizzes/tests, and the “Grade Book” on p. xxi-xxii from the A Noble Experiment: Teacher Resource CD. I also use a folder to hold any loose pages. Next, I decide whether to remove the quiz and test pages from the back of the A Noble Experiment: Student Activity Book. Or, I just leave them intact and remove them as needed throughout the year. Finally, I make sure to have a DVD player on hand for my student to watch the A Noble Experiment DVD lessons, as well as the DVD Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (which can be rented when it is assigned in Lesson 41 of A Noble Experiment).

Getting Ready for Bible

For Bible, students keep a prayer journal. Any bound book with lined pages can be used. We found some beautiful options at our local Christian bookstore! Next, I photocopy “Preparing Your Heart for Prayer” from the Appendix of the U.S. History I guide. I have my student fold this and put it inside his Prayer Journal cover to highlight as he uses it for his daily Bible Quiet Time. Students also need their own Bible  to look up Scriptures each day. So, enjoy choosing whichever Bible you and your student would like best. Likewise, make sure your student has a CD player handy to listen to When Morning Guilds the Skies. Finally, we choose a Common Place Book. Any keepsake-like bound, composition book with lines to copy memorable passages throughout the high school years can be chosen. Walmart  had many lovely, inexpensive options!

Getting Ready for English III

For English III, I use either 3 bound and lined composition books (1 for English Grammar, 1 for Literature, and 1 for Composition), OR I use 1 large bound and lined composition book with 3 section dividers (1 for English Grammar, 1 for Literature, and 1 for Composition). If my student is still completing his dictation levels, I use 4 composition books, OR 1  large book with 4 section dividers. I label this “English III.” Likewise, I make photocopies (one for each novel and a few extras to have on hand) of the “Literary Synthesis Sheet” from USI’s Appendix.  Then, I photocopy a handful of the “Word and Idea Helper” sheets from the Appendix as well. I 3-hole punch all of these and keep them in my student’s binder, or put them in a folder if I didn’t choose to use a binder. The Common Place Book already mentioned in the above Bible section is also used for English III.

Getting Ready for Constitutional Literacy, Spanish II, Chemistry, and Math

For Constitutional Literacy, I get 1 bound and lined composition book for my student to record his “Probe” research question responses. I print the Constitutional Literacy Answer Key to Workbook Questions, 3-hole punch them, and put them in a 1/2 inch three-ring binder. We plan to have a DVD player handy for my student to watch the Constitutional Literacy DVD lessons. For Spanish II, I plan for my student to listen and practice with assigned Spanish CD tracks as scheduled in the Spanish II: Student Books. Likewise, I use the Spanish II: Teacher’s Guide “Audio Scripts” section to help my student write the assigned audio CD number and Track number on the blank next to each CD icon in each unit of each Student book. I might do this as it comes up in the plans, or all at the beginning of the year, whichever I prefer.

For Chemistry, I get a bound and lined composition book for my student and label it “Chemistry.” Next, if I am dong the lab, I gather all needed “Experiment Supplies” noted on p. v-ix of Discovering Design with Chemistry. If I am choosing to give the chapter tests, I copy each chapter test from the Answer Key and Tests for Discovering Design with Chemistry. I place these in a folder. For Math: Algebra II, I gather whatever special materials are noted in the Algebra II course I chose. Or, if my student is doing Geometry instead, I refer to the World History Geometry course materials section to gather materials.

Thoughts on Record Keeping

For high school, I keep my student’s completed notebooks, binders, and workbooks. I put these all in order on a shelf each year, along with the checked off Heart of Dakota guide itself. Together these create a detailed record of the work that has been done to earn credit. Using, I create my student’s transcript. I also keep on file any required paperwork for my state, such as approved homeschool exemption forms and completed standardized test results. Each state can vary slightly in requirements for homeschooling, so be sure to check out your own state’s requirements at

Label Sticky Tabs to Mark Places in the U.S. History I 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. If you are going to do things more as they come up in the plans, rather than how I’ve previously described setting up for U.S. History I, then you would also want to make sticky tabs for “LITERARY SYNTHESIS,” “WORD AND IDEA HELPER SHEET,” and “DICTATION,” placing them in the WH guide’s Appendix. One final thing I liked to do is make a photocopy of the Narration Tips, Written Narration Tips, and Written Narration Skills.  Carrie does give permission to photocopy these. I keep these lists for me and for my student to reference throughout the year. However, you can just put another tab in USI’s Appendix for “NARRATION TIPS,” if you’d rather.

Shopping for Supplies

Carrie’s plans use readily available household supplies, and many options are suggested. However, to get ready to begin USI, I just stock up on usual art supplies – like colored pencils, thick and thin markers, a few permanent markers and high-lighters, glue (sticks and liquid), scissors, construction paper, tape (masking and clear), a ruler, a yardstick, sticky notes/tabs, paints/paintbrushes, cotton balls, yarn/string, etc. I also stock up on index cards and page protectors. Finally, a flashlight, paperclips, 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 U.S. History I’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,


Should ‘In Their Sandals’ writing pieces be a certain length?

Dear Carrie

Should I push for my son’s ‘In Their Sandals’ writing pieces to be a certain length?
My son is using In Their Sandals with the U.S. History I guide. He is finishing up his first story. The directions say that there isn’t a set amount of words, number of paragraphs or length required. My son is one who isn’t going to write something lengthy unless directions specifically say to do that. His first story has good sentence structure and vocabulary. It tells the story, but there isn’t a lot of extras. It is fairly short. So, my question is, what if children don’t write very long stories?  And if so, would you say that was okay? Or, should I push for him to make his stories a certain length or number of words? My son and I are both used to EIW where you knew exactly what was expected in the previous Heart of Dakota guides. So, this one is just a little tougher for me to grade and figure out expectations.
“Ms. Please Help Me with Length Expectations of In Their Sandals Writing Assignments”
Dear “Ms. Please Help Me with Length Expectations of ‘In Their Sandals’ Writing Assignments,”

As we did In Their Sandals, I found that the length of my son’s writings varied quite a bit throughout the year. Since this writing program has more of a creative writing bent, I think that it’s fine to have pretty big variations in length. Grading-wise, as long as my son did a good job completing the planning sheets, made sure to include what was asked of him in the writing, tried to apply the grammar/writing tools mentioned, and did his best proofing and editing, I allowed quite a bit of leeway in the length. This is because for this program it is meant to be freeing for the students not to have a set length to attain. Rather, students can write in a way that suits their intended purpose.

One goal for ‘In Their Sandals’ is to encourage development of a student’s voice, so there are purposefully fewer constraints and greater leeway in length requirements.

For In Their Sandals, if we place a certain length requirement on the student, he/she will begin writing to attain the length rather than allowing the writing be whatever length it needs to be in order fulfill the idea in his/her head. Freedom in writing – figuring out how to take an idea from its inception to finish – with fewer constraints is actually a skill to be developed for this year of writing. It can be tough to write outside of a formula, yet that is where a student’s voice develops and appears. From what you’ve shared, it sounds like your son did very well with this first assignment. I would be pleased with his work.


P.S. Check out our Top Ten Christian Homeschool Questions!

Should we combine U.S. History I and II to have a lighter 12th grade year?

Dear Carrie

Should I combine U.S. History I and U.S. History II, so my son’s 12th grade year is lighter and he can pursue other interests?

Dear Carrie,

My son is currently doing Heart of Dakota‘s World History for 10th grade and enjoying it! Contemplating his next year, however, I’m wondering if it’s possible to combine the U.S. History I and II history portion? Our state only requires (1) credit of American History. While I’m sure the material is worth spending multiple years on, my son is anticipating a lighter course load his senior year. He wants some time to pursue other interests. If this is inadvisable, do you have any other suggestion? Thank you in advance!


“Ms. Combine U.S. History I and II for a Lighter Year and to Pursue Other Interests Or Not”

Dear “Ms. Combine U.S. History I and II for a Lighter Year and to Pursue Other Interests Or Not,”

Many states require only 1 year of American History. Often that year of history does not even have to cover all of American History, making it fine from the state’s perspective to cover only a portion of American History as both the USI and USII guides do. This means that it would be fine to use either USI or USII to fulfill your state requirements. College requirements are often more rigorous than state requirements, so you may wish to check the requirements for any colleges your son may be considering before making any decisions.

I would suggest your son does U.S. History I next.

If your son is doing World History, I would be inclined to suggest he go into USI next. This will give him needed credits in Government and in American Literature, along with the required credit he needs in American History. It would also give him the needed Chemistry credit and allow him to continue along the foreign language path. In addition, he would be able to complete the New Testament Survey for Bible (after doing the Old Testament Survey in World History).

I like the options this leaves for your son’s 12th grade year.

I like that this choice leaves your options open for his senior year when he gets there. Much can change between a student’s junior and senior year. The USII guide has 1/2 less of a credit (with 6 1/2 possible credits) than the USI guide (with 7 possible credits). This makes the USII guide less time consuming than USI. The science is also lighter in USII with its astronomy/geology/paleontology focus instead of the more math-based Chemisty in USI.

I would not advise combining U.S. History I and II.

I wouldn’t advise trying to combine USI and USII for history, as it would be way too heavy both in volume and required output. You would also lose the connections by pushing through too much material too quickly. I will share that my two oldest sons truly enjoyed completing USII for their senior years. Since by the time they reach their senior year students (who have come up through HOD) have honed their reading, writing, critical thinking, and independent work skills, the senior year feels easier overall than previous years. It is a time of reaping what has been sown.

We purposefully front-load  a student’s credits the first 3 years.

At HOD, we choose to front-load a student’s credits the first three years of high school to be sure students are earning needed credits right from the beginning. This helps make the senior year less stressful and more enjoyable. From a personal standpoint, I would hesitate to miss the USII guide if at all possible, simply because there is such wonderful training for life in the Economics and Finance options, along with the apologetics course for Bible and the Speech course. The books in the literature study are not to be missed in my opinion, and the history part of the course is so helpful in understanding the times we live in today.

The science course may be a student’s last opportunity to know how to refute science that does not align with God’s Word. Simply being able to logically explain the creation-based perspective as adults when they visit museums, national parks, and planetariums makes doing the Astronomy/Geology/Paleontology course worthwhile! I pray this will help as you ponder your options! It is exciting to see students grow and mature. Congratulations on the hard work that has led to this point with your son!!



Rekindle Hope and Patriotism with U.S. History I for High School

From Our House to Yours

Rekindle hope and patriotism with U.S. History I for high school!

Heart of Dakota’s U.S. History I is sure to rekindle hope and patriotism!  Within its pages, students discover how America’s struggling beginnings gave way first to sufferings. But then, these sufferings produced perseverance.  Then, that perseverance produced character.  And finally, that character produced hope!  Which it can still produce today!

So, what credits are covered in U.S. History I?

Well, students actually can earn up to 6 1/2 full credits in U.S. History I.  Credits include 1 full credit in U.S. History I, 1 full credit in Bible, 1/2 to 1 full Government, 1/2 credit in Constitutional Literacy, 1/2 credit in Spanish, 1 full credit in English, 1 full credit in Math, and 1 full credit in Science with lab.  This guide is written for students ages 15-17. However, it can be extended for students in 12th grade by adjustments to the 3 R’s and science. There are 4 days of plans each week, and they are all noted on a 2-page spread. Finally, students can expect to spend about 7 hours, 4 days a week, to complete their work.

What does the “Learning Through History” part of the program look like?

First, the “Learning Through History” part of the program sets students off on an adventure with America: The Last Best Hope. Starting with the 13 colonies, students ‘meet’ those who labored to create our democratic republic. Then, in Faith of Our Fathers, students ‘meet’ the men and women who answered the Lord’s call to evangelize America. Next, in The Book of Heroes, students ‘meet’ George Washington, Daniel Boone, Louisa May Alcott, Robert E. Lee, and George Washington Carver.

Then, students see the power of the penned word in Great Letters in American History and in Great Documents Within U.S. History. They also ‘meet’ America in a more visual way in The American Testimony DVD Set. Additionally, students delve into U.S. History Map Activities and the U.S. History Atlas. These resources helps students visualize sweep and influence of key events. Finally, students delve more deeply into history with our Charlotte Mason inspired Living Library! This incredible book/audio set has been selected for its narrative quality and its connections to U.S. History I.

What kind of work do students do in U.S. History I?

First, students keep a full-color Book of Centuries using Amy Pak’s timeline figures. Next, in their full-color U.S. History I Journal, students make many different kinds of entries. For example, entries include analysis of primary source documents, notes from DVD viewing sessions, multi-paragraph narrations, in-depth interpretation of maps, critical thinking questions regarding U.S. documents, written opinions using excerpts to support conclusions, history-related shared talking points, and quotations in context. Finally, assessments such as key word, summary, detailed, topic, typed, opinion, and recorded oral and multi-paragraph written narrations keep the beloved Charlotte Mason flavor of the plans intact.

What can students expect in Government and Spanish?

First, students delve into Government by exploring its political heritage and studying the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Next, students discuss contemporary issues affecting our nation with DVD and workbook sessions within A Noble Experiment. Then, they discover what’s gone wrong with America’s legal system and economy and how to fix it within “Whatever Happened to Justice?” Finally, students round out the “Learning Through History” part of the plans with the Spanish Homeschool Curriculum Kit. This full color course teaches Spanish through audio CDs of dialogue. Furthermore, students learn to write Spanish well in daily written assignments.

What does the “Learning the Basics” part of the program look like?

The “Learning the Basics” part of U.S. History I teaches essential skills that meet academic and spiritual needs. First, students draw closer to the Lord with The Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Study: A Survey of the New Testament. Additionally, students’ Bible time includes Scripture memorization, a prayer journal, and a hymn study. Next, daughters partner with parents by delving into home, life, and spiritual life management in Beyond Beautiful Girlhood. Likewise, sons partner with parents by diving into how to find God in the heart of daily conflicts and decisions in Everyday Battles. Finally, both sons and daughters enjoy Stay in the Castle and the Seven Royal Laws of Courtship to find and marry the person whom God has created just for them!

What is included in language arts in U.S. History I?

Students enjoy a balanced language arts approach in U.S. History I. They  read 8 novels, 8 short stories, 4 primary sources, 1 full-length autobiography, and 1 play with our Charlotte Mason inspired American literature plans. Timeless favorites like The Prince and the Pauper, The Scarlet Letter, Rip Van Winkle, Man Without a Country, Up From Slavery, The Purloined Letter, The Robe, The Virginian, The Lilies of the Field, and more provide a fresh approach to high school American literature.

Furthermore, introductions, readings, annotations, oral narrations, written narrations, Common Place Book entries, and guided Literature Journal reflections including literary devices, Scriptural connections, in-depth discussions, and literary synthesis assignments all provide higher level assessments without taking away the joy of reading. Moreover, for composition, students use In Their Sandals, which helps them experience the Bible personally by writing 8 Scripturally-based stories. Finally, students finish out this balanced English credit by using grammar, writing, and English skills with Rod and Staff English. Dictation skills with included dictation passages round out this balanced language arts approach.

What do students learn in Constitutional Literacy?

Students can get the most out of their Government course by choosing to also do Constitutional Literacy. With over 500 minutes of engaging video instruction, constitutional expert Michael Farris walks students through the history, theory, and application of the Constitution and what it means for future American self-government. Moreover, professional video footage with beautiful photographs, timelines, and special effects will have students on their way to beginning their voting career as an informed citizen, well versed in the content and meaning of the U.S. Constitution!

What can students expect in Chemistry and Math?

Next, students move on to earn their science credit with lab in Chemistry with Dr. Jay Wile!  Discovering Design with Chemistry is a college-prep, high school chemistry course. This includes visually appealing narrative text, comprehension checks with detailed answer keys, 46 experiments with fully described expected outcomes, and calculations with completely worked out solutions. Lastly, students round out their “Learning the Basics” part of the plans by choosing from one of our many math options.

In Christ,