A Look At Our Year With Heart Of Dakota Curriculum

As we wrap up our school year I thought it would be good to take a look back at our year using the Heart of Dakota Curriculum and share some thoughts on how the year went.

Every year it seems I change some things in our school year. History is the biggest subject I switch around on, because there are so many good programs out there and it’s not as difficult to move to a different program if you stay in the time period needed. I’ve learned to try and not switch around in math and science as much now, because those subjects do seem to build on each other.

I had used Heart of Dakota years ago when my children were younger, and loved all the books we read together. It was a lot for me to stay on top of though, so we only used it one year since I had to read everything out loud at the time.

Years later the wonderful books used in Heart of Dakota were calling my name again, and I felt that familiar tug to get back to my Charlotte Mason roots (I was blessed with a high school Charlotte Mason type education). I thought we surely could handle doing Heart of Dakota again since my oldest three are strong readers.

In a way it was a successful year. I’m glad we used the curriculum this year, but it still wasn’t quite what I had hoped for.

Here is what was successful and not so successful about our year with Heart of Dakota.

8th grade ~ We used Mission to Modern Marvels for 8th grade this year and overall I think this was the most successful guide and the best experience. I have no regrets over picking this for our son to use, and even though we didn’t use it to the absolute fullest he has learned a lot.

This guide was the most independent, and I feel that is one reason we were the most successful with it. He also enjoyed the time period and we finally let him dive into learning more about WW2, Hitler, and all the heartbreaking history that goes along with that.

We strictly did the history part, and stayed with Apologia for Science and Teaching Textbooks for math, with no regrets. He did read through some of the science books that went with the guide, but we didn’t do any of the assignments that went with it.

He loved learning about the Presidents, but the DVD set that came with it didn’t seem to match well. We had trouble finding the exact spots of where to turn it on each day.

He did read through the Basic Package literature books, and since he loves to read this was a favorite part of his day!

What we didn’t do – Hands on history projects were rarely done, as I’m not a mom that is big into crafts. My children would love it, but I can only handle so much! If it’s something that is easily done and we have the supplies, I’m ok with them doing. We just don’t plan ahead and go out and buy what we need.

Dictation – I feel like this was my biggest mom fail for the year! We didn’t use the dictation part of the program, even though I really wanted to!

Poetry – I had my son read through the poems, but we didn’t sit and discuss it together.

Nature Journaling – I bought the nature journals from The Good and The Beautiful, and he worked through that some this year instead of the one that came with the program.

I probably made the program even more independent then I should have, but it’s what worked for us. He did come and do oral narrations to me, so I heard what he was learning. We made him redo several written narrations when it felt like he just copied from the book, so it was a good learning experience to make sure and use your own words.

Overall I was pleased with the books used, with what he learned, and have no huge regrets.

6th Grade – We used Resurrection to Reformation for 6th grade, and looking back I almost wish I had gone with the Revival to Revolution one. He ended up studying the Reformation time period more than once and was really tired of that period in history. Thankfully the Mystery of History volume 3 saved the day, and he loved reading it! He told me he ended up learning a lot more in the time period (like the 100 year war), and it was mainly from the Mystery of History book.

This guide needed more of me, and I made a huge mistake of not ordering a geography book on accident. It was the book he needed to do the maps throughout the book and I should have just ordered it after I realized how crucial it was!

It felt like it didn’t take very long for him to do his assignments each day. He is a fast reader, and because we didn’t do every single box in the book I wish I would have added more assignments for him. I know some people disagree with this thought, but it would have been better for this child.

Like the other guides, we didn’t do the dictation, it was my original plan but I couldn’t seem to pull it off.

Overall my son felt like the year was just ok. He said it wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t his favorite, I think due to the time period and that he had read several of the books before. It’s a struggle to keep up on what books he has read!

4th Grade – Our daughter used Preparing Hearts For His Glory. Depending on how you look at it, this was the biggest flop in our school year, or it was ok. I’m choosing to say it was ok.

We started out trying to do the guide together. As the year went on I became less and less involved (pregnancy, and trying to stay on top of the younger girls school and being hands on in grammar with the oldest three). We made the decision to just have her read all the books included in the guide, but we didn’t use the guide.

She would come and tell me what she was learning, and I was pleased with how I saw her being stretched in her reading this year. She turned 10 in March and is reading through the Anne of Green Gables book (her choice) and loving it! That’s my end goal, to have a child who loves to read because I feel they can learn anything then.

As with the boys we only used this guide for history. She read an Apologia science book and used the notebook with it, and went through Teaching Textbooks for math. I’m hoping her math skills continue, she gets upset if she gets anything less than 95% each day!

I love knowing that I don’t feel like I need to screen the books they read with Heart of Dakota. The books are carefully chosen and always align up with our reading standards.

Do I regret using Heart of Dakota for this school year? No, not at all.

Am I going to use Heart of Dakota next year? No.

It was a hard decision because I thought for sure we would do the world geography program for 9th grade. With a baby coming in August I’m choosing curriculum based on the fact that the newborn will need mama, and I’m also considering the requests of my children. My daughter wants something more textbook like, which fits her personality.

I’ll be sharing more about what we are using later, but for now I wanted to give you all a summary of our year with Heart of Dakota.

I think that Heart of Dakota can work with a large family, but it takes a lot of dedication from the mom. I always have to remember that I’m a work at home mom and have to juggle more than one thing. The older guides are my favorite when they are more independent, and especially if you have children who love to read.

Our Year with Heart of Dakota Curriculum






Two New Homeschooling Books That Are Must Reads

I normally try to get one or two new homeschooling books each year. They keep me going and give me fresh perspectives. After traveling around to 3 different homeschool conventions, I left all those conventions with only purchasing 2 different books. It took some restraint, but I was so pleased with what I purchased!

The two new homeschooling books that are must reads for everyone this year are the following.

Better Together and Read Aloud Family Books

Better Together: Strengthen your family, simplify your homeschool, and savor the subjects that matter most by Pam Barnhill

The Read-Aloud Family: Making meaningful and lasting connections with your kids by Sarah Mackenzie

I had the opportunity to visit with both of these ladies at the Texas homeschool convention and attend the sessions they did. I left the sessions so encouraged and renewed. I’ve read to my children over the years and we also have had seasons of doing morning times very successfully.

This hasn’t been the year where I have felt successful in doing either of those things well.

Between moving, remodeling, being pregnant, and overall struggling through a really hard year as a family, morning time and reading aloud were not top priority.

I have deeply missed it.

The connections you form with your children are priceless when you sit on the couch together and read to them. The attitudes of your children can be so much better when you take that time together in the morning, and then send them off to tackle the day.

Better Together and Read Aloud Family Books

I read most of The Read-Aloud Family book on the way home from Texas. I will say I was slightly hesitant to get this book because I knew that what I allow my children to read can be a little more conservative than what might be suggested in the book.

I shouldn’t have been concerned.

The book actually stretched my thinking on what I have, or have not allowed my children to read and gave me a lot of good food for thought.

The first few chapters are not just on reading to your children, it was more on how fast life goes by and how crucial it is to slow down and enjoy those moments with your children. Sarah’s heartfelt story of how desperately she wanted to get this parenting thing down right when her first was born was one I could relate to.

From there on out the chapters go into how to set your day up for read aloud success, how to keep children quiet (or at least halfway quiet!) during read aloud time, how to read aloud to different age groups of children together, and so much more!

This is definitely on my must read list for every homeschooling mom this year!

Better Together and Read Aloud Family Books

The Better Together book is one that I have not had a chance to dive into yet, but I’ve skimmed through it and I can tell it’s another must read book. If the concept of morning time is new to you, or you just want some new ideas and a look at how someone else handles morning time, this is the book for you!

Morning time will not look the same in each household. That’s why it’s important for each family to make it unique and not try to copy some other family. If you have 3 children it’s going to look different then if you have 7. A new baby or a super noisy toddler will change your morning time versus just having older children.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that just because you have a 12 year old or a 15 year old that they are too old for morning time. I still have our 14 year old involved in morning time, which right now consists of a Bible story, singing at hymn at the piano, praying together, and reading Heidi together. We are not doing Latin or memorizing poems and scriptures, or doing art studies together. It just didn’t feel like the year for it; but we will have a season in life again where we do those things.

If you need a new boost of encouragement or a fresh perspective for your new school year, I highly recommend these two excellent books!









Homeschooling the Middle School Years

Homeschooling the middle school years have been a mixture of fun times and challenging moments. But that sums up any homeschooling year.

To be more specific, the challenging moments come because of the age of the child you are teaching. You are working hard to encourage them to be independent learners and, more importantly, to learn discipline and to stay on track with doing their school.

The fun times come when you see them enjoy learning new things, and the moment you don’t have to hold their hand through every assignment.

Homeschooling the Middle School Years

I’ll freely admit – I was nervous to approach the middle school and high school years; and I’m still a little nervous to homeschool high school, simply because of all the record keeping and transcripts. Outside of that, I think it will be great.

My oldest is 14 and in 8th grade this year. He has an October birthday and I decided to not start him early in Kindergarten and I still don’t regret that decision. He will be 18 when he graduates, and I think the extra time as an 18 year old to figure out what he wants to do after high school will be a blessing.

The biggest thing I’ve learned from homeschooling middle school years is that it’s a great time to work on your weaknesses without the demands of a more rigid high school schedule. 

If you need to get caught up on certain subjects, middle school is the time to do that. It’s also the time to not get really behind on subjects. I’ll explain in more detail….

My son is not a math wiz. He loves history and science and is right on track with that, but the last few years have been a struggle in math. He has been a year behind in math but I knew eventually we would catch up. This year the math tutor that works with him really encouraged me to have him skip the 7th grade year in Teaching Textbooks and go right into Pre-Alegra, which is a normal level for an 8th grader. So far it’s working out well, and I’m so hopeful that we will stay on track in math during high school now.

The middle school years are also a nice time to let your children spend extra time on their interests. During the more rigorous demands of high school they might not have quite as much time to focus on one subject that they really enjoy, but the middle school years are perfect for that.

Our oldest son and daughter playing at their orchestra concert.

My son loves to read and he loves history. Because of that I didn’t go with a more traditional history curriculum (something like Notgrass, which we have used and enjoyed), but instead put him in Heart of Dakota so he could have plenty of living books to read.

What are the hardest challenges of middle school?

For us it’s been all about attitudes more than academics. We stress so much over teaching a child to read and write, and we don’t want our children to be behind. Generally a child ends up figuring it out (of course their are exceptions where a child has learning challenges and needs help), but character issues can be more and more time consuming the older a child gets.

Letting my son drive the RTV at Nana’s house in the country. 

Lay the foundation when they are young and expect good character out of them. Use training tools like Character Badges to visually show them what good character is and why they are being corrected for poor behavior. But go beyond that and read to them from Bible story books (our favorite is The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine Vos) and point out examples found in almost every story of the strengths and weaknesses of that person’s character. I’m still including our 14 and 12 year old in our morning Bible story time, and it’s a blessing to teach all my children together, from 14 down to 2.

Learning to figure out your child’s personality and what character weaknesses they have are crucial, and the younger you figure it out the better. Sometimes it’s smooth sailing through the middle school years, and other other times a child starts wanting their own opinions to be heard, and their sour attitudes show just as strong as that screaming 2 year old throwing a fit.

Don’t be afraid to challenge your child and push them in their weaknesses. They can bluster and fuss and say “I can’t do it” 20 times a day, but in the end it’s your job to push them through and encourage them to do hard things.

If you are not big on doing tests in elementary grade, sometime in the middle school years might be a good time to get them used to taking tests. You could do just one subject, but it’s a good training for the high school years and their grades don’t go on their transcript.

Overall try not to stress the middle school years. Enjoy them as much as you can and spend these years forming good bonds with your children that will prepare you for the high school years!






The Good and The Beautiful Kindergarten Curriculum

I don’t often find myself so in love with a curriculum that I call it perfect, but that’s the way I feel with The Good and The Beautiful Kindergarten Curriculum!

The Level K Primer course book is a brand new book that was recently released to help close the jump between the Preschool and Level K book. It is a much needed book in the Language Arts series and I’m so thankful that Jenny Phillips took the time to write it!

I have a child in the Pre-K book, and then a child quickly going through the level K book. My daughter that is in the Pre-K book would have a hard time jumping right into level K because it puts a student right into long and short vowels, and learning how to read them.

The Good and The Beautiful Level K Primer Book

The Level K Primer book gently brings a student along the journey of learning mastering letters, learning long and short vowels, and reading simple words. It does this in a gentle pace for the student, keeping them engaged through activities, verbal communication with the teacher, tracing letters, cute pictures, and more.

This book also teaches the difference between a lowercase b and d, which has always been a problem for my children. I love how clear they make it, giving the student easy ways to remember the difference between the two letters.

The good and the beautiful level k primer book

When should your child start this book? 

I appreciate how clear the guidelines are for starting this book.

The following criteria should be met:

He or She can sing most of the alphabet with or without the help of a parent.

He or She knows the majority of letters and their sounds but has not mastered all of them.

He or She can count to ten.

He or She knows basic shapes and colors.

It’s also made clear in this book that a child does not need to master this book. It’s an introduction to reading and principles such as long vowels.

Each lesson takes around 15-20 minutes to do with your child, and it tells you as the teacher exactly what to say! I am so thankful when curriculums write it out this way. With teaching multiple children and juggling toddlers, I don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to say. It helps relieve my mommy brain to just read it. 🙂

Included with this Level K Primer book is a little reading book that is so adorable and sweet!

Full of beautiful pictures that children will enjoy, the book contains simple words for a beginner reader. This gives a child such confidence to feel like they are reading from their own little book!

My First Reading Book

My First Reading Book

My First Reading Book

Overall I can’t recommend the Good and the Beautiful Kindergarten curriculum highly enough! The price is also excellent at just $33.97 for the set. You can purchase the PDF alone but I strongly suggest just getting the physical copy. By the time you print all these color pages out (and you really need it to be color!) you can easily end up spending more than if you had just purchased the printed books.

Find It Here

I’d love to know if you are using anything from The Good and The Beautiful in your school! 

*This post is sponsored by The Good and The Beautiful. All thoughts are strictly my own.