A Look at Each Subject Area

When it comes to homeschooling, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the different subjects that need to be covered and the various ways to approach them. At Heart of Dakota, we believe in a Christ-centered, living books, hands-on approach. This leads to a unique way of schooling through the years. Here is a quick look at how we address each key subject area:

History

In the area of history, you’ll notice that our programs begin with the Bible and then move into early American history. We believe that it is important to start with the Bible first and foremost, since it is truly the beginning of all history.  This is why our youngest program, Little Hands to Heaven, is based on daily stories from God’s Word and each day’s activities revolve around the Bible story for that day.

Our next guide, Little Hearts for His Glory, gives a broad overview of history from Creation through present day and emphasizes God’s plan throughout history. Overall in this guide, children learn a great deal of Bible history and U.S. history – with brief introductions to a few famous people and world events.

Next, Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory and Bigger Hearts for His Glory move into American history for several reasons. After having our oldest son move through the time periods chronologically from the Ancients to the present, we found we would have preferred to wait to discuss myths, legends, other gods, and pagan cultures until he was older and more ready for these concepts. We also found the studies of the earlier time periods were often filled with weighty topics, barbaric behavior, and many stories of cruelty. Even in watered down fashion these don’t seem to be appropriate topics for young children.

Instead, we wanted our young children to be inspired by stories of American heroes. We wanted to lead them to see God’s providence in the history of our nation. Since the ancient times are so far removed from the world that we live in today, it seemed more logical to begin our study with the heritage that surrounds us daily. By reading history stories closer to the time period in which they live, students can enter the past and see it come to life.

In all of our guides, along with the history stories, we also incorporate hands-on activities. While kinesthetic learners especially benefit from this type of learning, all children enjoy variation in their day. Before you say that you aren’t up to hands-on activities, you should know that all of our activities are written to be quick, educational, safe, easy to clean up, and require only items you readily have on hand.

Additionally, Bible study, devotions, poetry and rhymes, music, timeline, narration, notebooking, geography activities – and in the upper programs – research, projects, audios, drawing, primary source documents, discussions, and mapping are integrated with the history stories.  Studies of the signers, presidents, and states are also included in various guides.  This well-balanced integration of subjects keeps learning fresh and interesting while encouraging students to make memorable connections.

Next in our guide sequence, with Preparing Hearts for His Glory, we move into a one-year overview of world history. As biblical history is integrated into the narrative, students see that the flow of history is really one continuous story. This overview also gives students some “mental pegs” on which to hang information as they take an in-depth look at the various time periods in our guides for the middle years.

Our 4-year guide sequence for the middle school years takes a chronological, in-depth journey through the 4-year history cycle.  Creation to Christ takes a intriguing, deeper look at the ancient time period by weaving Biblical history with secular history.  Resurrection to Reformation focuses on the joy of Christ’s Resurrection, along with life in the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the Reformation.  Revival to Revolution studies the exciting time of the Great Awakenings through the Industrial Revolutions. Finally, Missions to Modern Marvels takes a look at modern missions and modern times.  As part of the 4-year cycle, Biblical and American history are integrated with world history. 

Our 4-year high school guide sequence begins by first exploring lands and seas from one end of the earth to the other via World Geography.  Next, in year two, students expand their horizons even further by setting off on a chronological, globe-trotting cultural adventure through World History.  Moving on to year three, in U.S. History I students discover how our nation’s story is full of both tragedies and triumphs along with hope for rekindled faith and patriotism.  Finally, in U.S. History II, students end their high school journey by taking inspiration from those who envisioned a better country and in turn, encourage students to go forth themselves to boldly make a better tomorrow.

Science

For science, we want our young children to see the world as a fascinating miracle, rather than seeing science as a dry body of facts to be memorized. So, you’ll discover that our programs for the early years focus on hands-on activities and experiments to help children appreciate the wonder of God’s Creation.

In Little Hearts for His Glory and Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory, the science activities are linked to additional reading in a Christian Liberty science text. The goal is for children to be reminded of how amazing our Creator is and to learn to see His handiwork all around us. The connections between text and activity are at times loosely made in order to keep a hands-on science approach linked to a God-honoring text.

As children get older, and their attention span grows, so does their thirst for knowledge. To encourage that desire, once children reach Bigger Hearts for His Glory, science becomes a daily subject. It is structured around daily reading assignments from a handful of fascinating biographies and living books.  Along with the readings, we include a combination of narration, notebook assignments with labeled drawings and copywork, and questions and experiments with lab sheets emphasizing the scientific method.  These activities are linked with the daily science readings.  This pattern continues throughout Preparing Hearts for His Glory and during our four Hearts for Him Through Time guides for the middle years as well.

At this stage, it is easy to skip hands-on experiments or to get bogged down in complex explanations.  So, our programs include hands-on science activities once or twice each week that will excite your scientist, without requiring additional preparation or planning from you.

All of our science activities are written to be quick, educational, safe, involve few directions, and require only items you readily have on hand. They have the added benefit of being written for your scientist to complete with minimal help from you. This saves you from having to “take over” dangerous or complicated parts of an experiment. It also guards against your science activities becoming a demonstration that you end up doing while your child watches.

In our series for the middle years, narrative Christian texts paired with engaging scientific biographies keep science interesting.  Creation to Christ emphasizes life science and biology.  Resurrection to Reformation focuses on earth science including astronomy.  Revival to Revolution features a physical science emphasis, complete with Exploration Education’s unique model-building kit along with a biographical inventors’ study.  Missions to Modern Marvels provides an introduction to chemistry, a fascinating look at creation vs. evolution, and the Chemistry C-500 experiment kit along with a Genetics & DNA kit.

In high school, we shift our focus to four years of college preparatory science.  In year one, we pair well-known author John Hudson Tiner’s twelve Christian Integrated Physics and Chemistry booklets/assessments with MicroPhySci’s thirty-six labs.  Next, in year two’s Biology, we pair ACE’s twelve visually appealing Christian PACEs with labs you can watch or perform.  In year three, we introduce you to Dr. Jay Wile’s Discovering Design with Chemistry, which blends narrative text/detailed comprehension checks with forty-six experiments.  Finally, in year four’s Astronomy and Geology/Paleontology’s course we offer a fresh alternative to physics!  With ten fascinating Creation-based resources/DVDs, easily doable labs, and well-balanced assessments, we think you’ll love finishing high school with this innovative course!   

Language Arts

The area of Language Arts includes oral language, handwriting, spelling, writing, grammar, mechanics, usage, and vocabulary. Often, reading or literature study is placed under the language arts umbrella as well. In homeschooling our own sons, we found that if we weren’t careful the area of language arts could either become a workbook nightmare or end up requiring hours of teaching time every school day. Either way, it can take up a large portion of the precious school day.

To address these concerns, you will find that our programs use a systematic approach to language arts. By rotating the teaching time for each area, the time spent daily on language arts is greatly reduced.

For oral language, students memorize and recite weekly Scripture verses. They also learn to narrate or tell back what they’ve heard or read. Choral reading rhymes or poetry each week focuses on another area of oral language practice. For handwriting, students work on copywork daily. For spelling, students focus on learning to spell a basic body of frequently used words. Next, they move on to studied dictation to cement their spelling skills.

As students become more confident spellers, they are guided to complete specific, purposeful writing assignments. Students learn to write weekly written narrations and receive guided writing instruction in a variety of writing methods.  For the purpose of becoming a better writer, students receive solid instruction in grammar, mechanics, and usage. Vocabulary study is addressed in our literature program and later along with our history and science topics.

Reading

Once your child is able to read independently there is a temptation to do one of the following two things: A) Send them off to read endlessly on their own with little or no accountability. B) Add so many activities or questions to the study of literature that there is no room left to actually enjoy reading the book.

Our programs are written with the overall goal of gaining an appreciation of different types of literature. Short lessons and assignments foster understanding of the basic story elements without dissecting the text too far. Story discussions encourage shared enthusiasm for the story’s plot. Narration practice solidifies understanding. And most importantly, weighing the character’s actions in light of the Bible guides children to learn to read with discernment.

At Heart of Dakota, we love literature and all of its variety. We carefully screen thousands of books before choosing the quality literature we recommend in our programs. We look for books that will inspire or entertain without bringing in questionable content. Whenever possible, we try to include books that emphasize Godly character traits or that bring a historical time period to life. As an added benefit, just in case you may not always agree with our literature selections, many of our programs allow you to select your own literature for use with our guides.

Math

Math can either be an area of great frustration or of great joy. We have had both experiences in our homeschool. With our own children, we wanted math in the early years to be an enjoyable experience that fosters an “I can do this” attitude. It is so important to lay a solid foundation for later math concepts without overwhelming the student.

It is also easy to go into overdrive with a mathematically gifted child without looking further down the road. It’s important to use care not to overburden any child with too quick of a pace or with endless problems, until his/her enthusiasm eventually wanes or the understanding is lost in the shuffle.

Another concern is that many programs require so much teacher presentation time for math that if you have multiple students you could spend hours just presenting math lessons every day. We do enjoy teaching math at our house, but is that much presentation really necessary?

Our programs are written to balance quick, hands-on lessons with short written assignments. Together, these provide a firm foundation in mathematical thinking, without overwhelming the student or the teacher. As students move out of the primary years, the textbook replaces the hands-on learning, moving students from concrete to pictorial lessons instead. This allows students to visualize each concept prior to practicing it in their workbook. Short lessons also encourage more focused attention from the student which results in fewer mistakes and less reteaching.  Our upper level math programs were selected to emphasize problem-solving and critical thinking, cement core math skills, and prepare students well for the future.

Bible Study

And finally, we come to the most important area in our programs: Bible study. While homeschooling our first son, we found it too easy to place Bible into one time slot and study it as a separate “subject”. This made the Bible seem to be of equal importance as all of the other academic subjects. We wanted our children to know that the Bible is special and that it’s more important than anything else. To do that, we realized the Bible needed to be integrated throughout our day as much as possible.

Our programs weave God’s word throughout our readings, our poetry, our history, our science, our writing, our music, our study of English, and our memory work. Using this method, our children are reminded to measure their thoughts, words, and deeds all throughout the day with God’s word. Our programs also have a daily Bible study time, which we pray will train our children in the habit of seeking God’s word daily.

In the hustle and bustle of the school day, it is easy to forget that our most important goal is to help our children glorify God with their lives each day. Our programs strive to be a daily reminder of that goal. Glorifying God is the only goal that matters for eternity.