Weekly Review: August 19-23

This is what I do to prepare each week. Let me be clear, Heart of Dakota is a completely open and go curriculum with no additions or planning needed. I find it helpful for me personally to have a checklist. The biggest reason for this is I am using three guides. The first four guides are scheduled for a five day week and every guide after that as a four day week. I love having an extra day to have for field trips and catching up if we missed something. I also feel like I have more freedom to skip something and come back to it if needed. So at some point towards the end of the week…or on Sunday night…I sit at our kitchen table and write on my weekly grid all the activities for the week. I really loves this part of the week because I get a chance to look ahead, anticipating all the fun in store!

Little Hands to Heaven: Unit 21

This week we studied the letter Q and read through Jesus’ birth. It was quite fun having Christmas in August! For our storytime I pulled out several books from my box of Christmas stories and we read through several of those. Our favorite was The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy. It is about a puppy who asks his mother for a boy for Christmas and his mother says is fine as long as he can find one! It is super sweet and ends with the puppy finding more than he had hoped for!

Little Grace isn’t so little anymore! This will be the third time I complete Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons with one of my children. Somehow I feel it may be bitter sweet at the end. She is doing fabulously already! She was so excited to read the words at and me this week. One of the most amazing treasures I have received from homeschooling is being there for all of these sweet moments of learning.

I also started back with Touch Math again this week. Grace begs for more, more, and more learning so I try to do what I can to encourage her desire to know more. Touch Matht has been a great hands-on learning tool to introduce the ideas of more and less, equals, and other early math concepts. I use clear mats I purchased from Target to slip the pages I print into each day.

Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory: Unit 3

The first time I went through Beyond it was our first year homeschooling. I am appreciating it so much more this second time through. Beth is fully engaged during the history readings which is partly due to the wonderful history selections, but also having completed Little Hearts for His Glory. She has matured a lot through schooling and we have had some wonderful discussions.

Beth definitely enjoyed our history activity this week. She was slightly disappointed not to include a new entry on her timeline, but this made up for it! We played a game which helped her think more about the persecution of the Pilgrims. The bottom of the steps was the jail because this was where the Pilgrims who refused to worship God the way King James was requiring went. Depending on the roll of the dice she either obeyed the king or chose to worship the way the way she felt the Bible said she should. She ended up in jail…and was quite happy about it! We talked about how jail is not usually a place you want to be, but if you are there because you are following God, then it is okay. 

She is illustrating the poem Uphill here. Using both the upper and lower guides at the same time has given me such an appreciation for the full Heart of Dakota curriculum. Everything is intentional and there is no such things as busy work with this guide. I love how the poems and Scripture study always relate to our history readings. The connections between disciplines are seamless. This year is truly starting out wonderfully for Beth!

Preparing Hearts for His Glory: Unit 2 (1st half)

Rose was thrilled we started Life in the Great Ice Age this week. We firmly believe the Bible’s account of creation, completely rejecting the idea of evolution because it does not fall in line with the Genesis account. Resources like these were not available to me when I was in grade school. It is blessing my socks off to learn alongside my daughter. Rose devours all things historical and scientific. I really have to hold her back and limit how much she reads! I don’t think we’ll be going half-speed much longer.

While Rose does enjoy learning new words, she’s had to adjust to completing her history vocabulary each week. She completed it more quickly this week, but we’re still only doing 3 of the 5 words. I plan to work up to the 5 words by the end of the year.

Ahhh, grammar…need I say more? The English teacher in me can’t help but love it! Rose says she really liked diagramming. Yeah, she pretty much melted my heart when she told me that!

We took some time to study a little bit about microscopes using a unit from In the Hands of a Child. You can click on the picture to see a full review!

Math has been a bit bumpy this year. There is a big jump from the last grade-level to the next in Rod and Staff. I’ve restructured a bit and pulled my husband in for advice since he is very mathematically minded. I think we’ve got things figured out for the most part. I’m not a fan of switching curricula when we hit a bump. I am, however, considering supplementing with something which will engage her a bit more.

We had some really fun moments this week and this was one of my favorites. Beth was working on a vocabulary page when she said, “Hey guys! Come quick! You have to see this!” I love seeing my girls excited about learning, discovering together, and sharing with one another. 
How was your week?

Week in Review: August 12-16

This week was a little smoother than last week, but we’re still trying to find our groove! We’ll get there eventually. Last year I stagger started as was suggested by other experienced Heart of Dakota moms. I should have done that again and plan to next year. Ah, the wisdom of experience. I would encourage you to connect with moms using the same curriculum, no matter what that curriculum is. There are message boards and facebook pages for just about everything you can imagine. Utilizing these as well as personal friends who use the same materials as you helps you have good collaboration. I also like bouncing ideas off of other moms who may have more experience and know if what I am thinking is wise.

Little Hands to Heaven: Unit 20

We did a handful of activities we missed in Unit 20 of Little Hands from last week. She was also very excited to finish Bigger Steps, the “B” book from Rod and Staff’s About 3 series. Last year I limited her to one page a day, much to her chagrin. She really needed to move slowly to give her motor skills time to develop. I’m so glad I forced her to stick to this as her fine-motor abilities have very much improved since last fall. Now I allow her to do 2-4 pages a day.

The “C” book, Coloring and Cutting, uses shapes to help teach the colors. Every color has an assigned shape so they can begin to do more on their own. It has mostly been coloring, but there is some handwriting and I’m assuming there will eventually be cutting!

Grace is not yet reading, but she is very observant! This activity wants the kids to coloring the pain cans the colors written on them. Down the side are the various shapes with the color words in them. I helped her remember which shape was which color and then told her to look for the matching words to color the paint cans. She completed this perfectly and was so very proud of herself!

Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory: Unit 2

Beth loves this guide so far. She is thoroughly enjoying the history readings and math. The only part she is reluctant to do is the emerging readers set. I have a strong suspicion this is because the first book is a Bible we have read over and over. I’m seriously considering skipping to the next book in the schedule because of this. Most of the emerging readers are on a 1st or 2nd grade level. She is actually reading on a higher level than this, but because I want to work more on comprehension I want her to finish them.

This is the “I” book of Rod and Staff’s ABC series called Inside and Outside. We are sad to be at the end of this series as she loves it so much, but after checking out the “J” book online I really think she has surpassed the levels intended. I may end up getting it for her because she just loves them so much.

In math Beth completed the speed drill in one minute for the first time! She was so excited about this! She is farther in the workbook than the speed drill indicate because when the speed drills were initially scheduled her handwriting speed was holding her back, causing a great amount of frustration. I decided to wait a bit and now she is doing quite well. It is exciting for me to see her feeling so accomplished with her math.

For spelling Beth is still using All About Spelling, but I use the Heart of Dakota spelling as well. On Friday or Monday morning she takes a “pretest” of 20 words found for each unit in the back of the guide. The words she misses or has to think about a while become her spelling list. This week’s list included next and when which she originally spelled neckst and wen. On Monday Beth writes each word 5 times. On Wednesday she writes a sentence with each word. For now she is dictating a sentence to me and then copies it in her spelling composition book. We’re also working on word spacing which is why she’s using her pinky as she writes. She takes the test on Friday and got both words correct!

Working on a timeline has been great fun for Beth. She’s watched her older sister do this for two years now so she feels very grown up. I typically write down the entry for her to copy and give her some guidance on how to draw the symbol.

Preparing Hearts for His Glory: Unit 1 (week 2)

After a rough start last week we’re now going half speed through preparing until the point at which I feel Rose is ready to handle full-speed. I’m so thankful for the great HOD moms who helped me work through this decision. I’m prepared for this guide to last 2 years if it needs to, but also happy to move up to full-speed if she is ready at some point this year. I originally intended Bigger Hearts for His Glory to stretch out over two years. After 4 units at half-speed, however, she was only taking about 1 1/2 hours for school. That was the point we moved into full-speed mode!

I do not add a lot to our HOD guides, but vocabulary is one area we supplement with. It isn’t so much that I feel HOD is lacking in this area as I want her to be fully ready for the SAT when the time comes. I use Wordly Wise because I feel it solidly prepares kids from the first books to think the way the SAT test encourages thinking. Right now Rose is doing a lesson a week with a test on Fridays which she is completing quite well. I plan to finish these books faster than in a year as they are written.

Diagramming!!!!!!!! I love diagramming sentences, and no it isn’t because my background is in English! To be honest, I was only taught diagramming by my father, never once in school that I recall. Rose is only in 3rd grade, but she is already starting to learn the basics which I just love about Rod and Staff grammar. I know this is one of those things many grumble about from school-days, but honestly, understanding how words fit together properly really does help you build a correct and understandable sentence. Not to mention in the future Rose will understand direct and indirect objects more easily because of their placement in the sentence. So yahoo for diagramming!

And then there is math…this is Rose’s least favorite subject. It isn’t that she struggles, she just gets bored with it. Singapore was a struggle in 1st grade and Rod and Staff was an excellent switch for us in 2nd. I think the problem is she much prefers words over numbers. For example, word problems are a much more enjoyable portion of the work for her than just rote practice. I still strongly believe in Rod and Staff and I am really not one to switch up curriculum unless there are major issues. Still I’m starting to consider some different options.

Rose’s first timeline entry of the year! I’m not sure why, but it doesn’t really feel like the year has started until we begin our timeline. I just love this concept for learning history and I love how Heart of Dakota is so consistent with their timelines.

This year’s timeline is written on index cards and will be a lot of fun for her to complete!

Rose and Beth are too old for naps, but they still do best when they have quiet time either reading or working on a craft. Quite often they hang out on their bean-bag chairs with me and we all read. On this day they sat on the couch and read while I read in one of their chairs. I realized my girls rarely actually see me read and I thought this was something I should remedy. While Grace naps in the afternoons we now all ready for 30-60 minutes. This has been a lot of fun! Our kitty-cat Zoe quite often joins us as well.

Well that was our week! I’ve also been posting some really great reviews from the TOS Review Crew, Mom of Masterbooks, and a handful of other companies. You can see some of my recent postings below.

Little Hearts for His Glory

We use Little Hearts for His Glory from Heart of Dakota Publishing as our Kindergarten curriculum. The first time I completed this as a K-4 program to prepare my un-preschooled daughter for public school kindergarten.  It definitely suited my needs at the, but after using it for kindergarten I enjoy this program even more.
One of the nice aspects of the entire Heart of Dakota curriculum line is they can be used for various grade levels. You simply choose the options which best suit your needs. This also allows students to be combined for history and science while still working at their own level for math, handwriting, and reading. I prefer not to combine my girls within guides, but I like knowing I have the option one day if I ever choose to.
Grace often draws while I read her history aloud.

I love that the curriculum is all-in-one and very cohesive. History readings are the core of the program going along with the Charlotte Mason idea of education.  All other subjects are connected to this core with the exception of handwriting, reading, and math. Each week activities for science, history, rhymes, and Scripture memory are completed. Showing my children how all the subjects relate seems to bring a deeper understanding to what they are learning.

Heart of Dakota activities get my girl excited!

I appreciate that the history spines are biblically grounded and we even read quite a bit of Scripture as part of history. Teaching my girls history and science from a biblical worldview is something I will never take for granted. As we were studying creation during the first week I was thinking of how much I had prepared my older daughter, thinking we would be sending her to public school, that she would be taught things that were different from what we believe the Bible teaches. Knowing I don’t have to tell my children anymore that they may be taught fallacy is an added benefit to homeschool I had not considered before.

Two of our favorite parts are the weekly rhymes and read alouds. Each week we learn a new rhyme which emphasizes a concept learned from history. The read alouds are classic American folk tales which involve characters from Thorton Burgess, Uncle Wiggly, and Beatrix Potter. These classic stories are enhanced with questions to get little minds thinking about right and wrong choices as well as predicting what will happen next in the story.
As with the entire Heart of Dakota line, math, handwriting, and thinking skills have suggested items, but are not required to make the program work. The recommended programs are Earlybird Singapore, A Reason for Handwriting K, and Rod and Staff books D and F or 1st grade Thinking Skills.
We are using the Singapore math, but will switch over to Rod and Staff for 1st grade. I also am using A Reason for Handwriting, but will also begin using Rod and Staff for this when we finish the book.

**Update 2015**

For my third time through this guide we are using Math Mammoth (Our final settling ground for math!) and a combination of Fundanoodle and A Reason for Handwriting for the handwriting. 


Finally we have chosen to use the 1st grade Thinking Skills because she completed the Rod and Staff D and F options in K-4. I really love the ABC series from Rod and Staff and have allowed her to continue with G,H, and I for this year as well. It is only a couple of extra pages and provides extra critical thinking activities.

**Update 2015**

The 1st Grade Thinking Skills book is no longer in print and so we have stuck strictly to the Rod and Staff ABC series. 

Because we complete Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy lessons prior to Kindergarten we use Abeka’s K-5 and 1st grade reading really cement her phonics solidly. We also use All About Spelling, level 1 as it is a phonics based spelling program. In addition to these allow my girls devour any books they want. I am thrilled to have avid readers who can’t get enough reading to satisfy them!

**Update 2015**

With Grace after finishing the Abeka Phonics we moved into the Emerging Readers used in Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory and Bigger Hearts for His Glory. She was ready and has loved reading all of these classic stories included. 

Already learning geography in Kindergarten!

I have found a home in Heart of Dakota Publishing. I feel so very confident teaching my daughters because of the easy open-and-go setup, unit cohesiveness, and overall simplicity of the activities. I could not ask for a more well rounded and balanced curriculum. 

Bigger Hearts for His Glory

I use Bigger Hearts for His Glory for our 2ndgrade program. As with all of the Heart of Dakota curriculum guides all other subjects are tied to the history spines. For this guide we are focusing on the period of explorations to the early 1900’s.
One of the nice aspects of the entire Heart of Dakota curriculum line is they can be used for various grade levels. You simply choose the options which best suit your needs. This also allows students to be combined for history and science while still working at their own level for math, handwriting, and reading. I prefer not to combine my girls within guides, but I like knowing I have the options one day if I ever choose to.
Studies of history include weekly entries on a timeline, narration, vocabulary work and notebooking entries. This is the first guide in the series where narration is formally used. This concept took some getting used to as I had never experienced narration before Heart of Dakota. It is briefly touched on in the previous guide, Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory, but I felt like I was floundering a little bit at the beginning. The biggest help I found in this area was searching for YouTube videos for examples of narration.
In addition to history read alouds there are weekly activities which explore geography, historical life, and more. These are always hands on and very engaging. I try to always take pictures of these activities because my girls have so much fun!
Science always relates to what we are learning in history and includes weekly narration, experiments, and notebooking entries. The experiments are very hands on and include written record of a question we are answering, a hypothesis, a picture showing the experiment, and finally a conclusion statement. This seemed like a lot at first, but I do appreciate that my children are being exposed to a formal scientific process even before they realize that is what they are doing.
A weekly poem is studied as well as introduction to some of the more formal aspects of poetry like rhyme scheme and symbolic meaning. With my background in literature I truly appreciate this gentle approach to teaching poetry at a young age.
Bible study focuses on a passage to memorize (1-2 verses) from Proverbs and daily discussion about the verse. These verses have brought out some great discussions, but more importantly I see the principles learned showing up outside of our school time. I am so encouraged when I see my daughters begin to follow after Christ on their own. The Scripture also always relates to something learned about in history that week.
Spelling is learned through a Charlotte Mason method called dictation. The students study a short passage (usually 2 sentences and several extra words) then try to write the passage without any punctuation or spelling errors as it is dictated to them. This was another part that is new with this particular guide. I like the way it is taught, but also wanted to give my daughters more formal rules and so I have added All About Spelling in addition to the dictation. We work this out by doing alternating days of dictation and All About Spelling.
Finally is something near and dear to my heart…grammar! I know that sounds a little crazy, but my background is teaching junior high English. I cannot begin to tell you the struggle I had with grammar when I was teaching full time before the kids came along. I am so pleased with the grammar choice from Heart of Dakota which is Rod and Staff. There are no frills or fancy gimmicks, but it is very strong even in the earliest level which is taught along with this guide.
I believe my favorite part about the grammar is that it is very biblically based, which honestly surprised me. The very first lesson teaches that God created language, that He is a God of order, and that our language reflects this order. That is just so beautiful to me!
As with the entire Heart of Dakota line, math, handwriting, and reading/literature have suggested items, but are not required to make the program work. The recommended programs are Singapore, Cheerful Cursive, and Drawn Into the Heart of Reading. We have chosen different programs for each. For math we are using Rod and Staff grade 2, for handwriting we are using A Reason for Handwriting T and C for cursive, and for literature I am using a more informal approach. We are reading the recommended books from Drawn Into the Heart of Reading for the 2/3 level, but are simply discussing the book as it is read. You can click on the various links to read reviews about these differentiations in our program.
We have found our education home with Heart of Dakota. Without these guides my girls would still learn all they needed to, but it certainly wouldn’t be as much fun!

Little Hands to Heaven

Little Hands to Heaven is an all-inclusive preschool curriculum I discovered when my oldest daughter was almost 2! That was way back in 2007 and I’m using it again this year for a third time!

This is the youngest guide in the Heart of Dakota Curriculum series. It includes all of the elements of a solid preschool program including Bible, letter recognition, pre-reading instruction, number recognition, counting, art, pattern recognition, color recognition, music, drama, thinking games, and much more! The interactive activities are lively and creative allowing even very young children to participate fully.

Each unit is 5 days long and includes a unique poem to teach basic phonic sounds while reinforcing the Bible lessons for the week. A special motion is assigned to the letter and sound for easy review. Daily music selections retell Bible stories and weekly drama games are included which allow children to explore their emotions. Number recognition and counting is also reviewed weekly. The art projects are simple enough for the very young with optional older child instructions.

The thing I find most beautiful about this curriculum is how all of the learning disciplines connect together. This is a feature found in all levels of the Heart of Dakota Curriculum. I appreciate the time the author, Carrie Austen, took on even the youngest guide to connect Biblical truth to all other aspects.

I used this with my older two daughters, but wasn’t very committed either time. I had a new baby in the house with both of them and it just wasn’t a priority. Now that we’re officially homeschooling until further notice my youngest daughter begged to begin lessons. I was more than happy to pull this guide out once again, this time with better focus. It has become such a sweet time for my little girl and I to play and learn together! I’m so grateful for guidance as I would be lost as to what to include for preschool and definitely wouldn’t be able to connect it all together the way Carrie has!