Our Top Ten Christian Homeschool Curriculum Questions
After years of customer service, we began to notice a common trend in questions from our customers. With this in mind, here are the top ten questions we are asked about homeschooling with Heart of Dakota. We think you’ll find the answers useful!
1. How do I place my child?
At Heart of Dakota, proper placement is key to helping your child have the best year possible. We love to help with placement and have a variety of ways we do so. You can order our free full-color catalog, which will walk you through the placement process with helpful charts. Or, you can reference our placement charts online by visiting our Guide Placement Page. Or, you can post your placement questions on the Main Board of our free-to-join Heart of Dakota Message Board. Or, you can simply give us a call at 605-428-4068, Monday through Friday, to speak with one of our placement specialists. We hope to hear from you one of these ways soon!
2. Can I run multiple guides at the same time?
Absolutely! In fact, Heart of Dakota’s guides are written with this goal in mind. Our younger guides recognize little ones’ short attention spans and follow Charlotte Mason’s short lesson format. These guides are more teacher-directed, but they don’t take long to teach each day. Our middle and upper guides plan for step-by-step growth toward successful independent learning. In these guides, children incrementally take on independence with open-and-go plans that denote work as “T” teacher-directed, “S” semi-independent, and “I” independent. So, each year as children move up a guide, they successfully take on more independence, which frees up time for you to work with your younger children who are needing you more.
3. How can I combine my children?
Our guides make it easy to combine! Each Heart of Dakota guide has daily plans written with skills for a target age range in mind. This target age range is kept smaller, so combining can be successful for each child. Within each Heart of Dakota guide, the target age range is usually a 3 year span. With extensions, the maximum span to combine is typically 4-5 years. This is due to the fact that each guide has specific skills it teaches. Each guide also includes plans for multiple levels of math and language arts. This allows each guide to be customized to fit each child’s needs in math, phonics/reading, spelling/dictation, grammar, and writing. Starting with Bigger Hearts for His Glory and continuing through Missions to Modern Marvels, extension packages are also available. So, to combine, just choose the guide that best fits your younger child. Then, simply add the extensions and choose the higher-level math and language arts for your older child. Keeping within each guide’s target age range and considering the extension age range helps combining be a success for all involved!
4. How much will I be reading aloud to my children?
In our younger guides, you do all of the reading aloud. However, we purposefully keep the amount of reading in these guides short, so it is both enjoyable and doable. Once your children become independent readers, they begin to read the books themselves. Beginning in Preparing Hearts for His Glory, we transition children into independently reading a portion of their history and science daily. Each guide after that incrementally increases the level and amount of independent reading, while still offering read aloud options for parents who desire to continue to do so. In this way, children gradually take on reading more subjects independently as they grow and mature, so they are well-prepared first for middle school, and then for high school.
5. What math do you use and why?
Heart of Dakota uses Singapore’s Essential Math for Kindergarten, followed by the U.S. Edition of Singapore Primary Mathematics from levels 1A through 6B. This version of Singapore Math is one of the best reviewed math programs in the world. We like its higher-level thinking and reasoning skills. We also like the short lessons, minimal prep time, and inexpensive cost. Another benefit is students work directly in their workbooks, so they don’t waste time copying problems. Actually, we love everything about Singapore Math, other than we wanted more of a hands-on component in the younger years. This is why we wrote our own hands-on math plans for kindergarten through level 2B right within our younger Heart of Dakota guides. After Singapore Math 6B, Heart of Dakota uses Principles of Mathematics as a bridge to Algebra 1. A variety of math curricula choices are recommended for high school, so you can choose which fits your children best!
6. How is the science designed?
In the early years, science is appropriately more gentle and wide-ranging. It has a unit study feel, focusing on enjoyable, kid-friendly science experiments paired with readings from appealing Christian science texts. Once the child moves into the middle elementary years, science becomes a daily subject that includes a unique balance of experiments, notebooking assignments, and oral and written narrations, coordinated with fascinating readings from living books. In this stage, children are encouraged to take on the role of scientists by using the scientific method. In middle school and high school, science includes daily higher level science readings alongside deeper assignments and labs. Our primary goals for science are to keep it biblical, narrative, hands-on, engaging, complete, and practical in the home setting.
7. Should younger kids "listen in" with an older student's guide?
Our time-tested skill progression is respectful of how much a child can truly do at each age. This means the skills in each guide prepare your child well for the next in line, producing a successful learner over time. As part of our plans, younger children are not meant to be bystanders trailing along in an older child’s learning. Likewise, older children aren’t meant to spend time waiting for a parent to read aloud material that could be read independently, simply because the older child is paired with a younger sibling. Instead, we want each child to be an active participant in every part of learning. Charlotte Mason believed that children aged 9 on up should be reading their own school books – and we do too! This helps children make better connections, have better retention, and even write better responses to their readings. The target age ranges of our guides make sure each child is valued and can do what is asked in the guide.
8. How will we be learning as a family if we do separate guides?
Often times as homeschool families, we are almost always together! We are eating together, working together, playing together, being outside together, cleaning together, and making meals together. If your children place best in separate guides, then enjoy that special time alone with your child, cherishing the time. Family learning occurs whether you choose to combine your children or not! In fact, we have found that diversity in what our children are studying is a catalyst to all sorts of conversations. With a Charlotte Mason living books’ education, conversation flows back and forth easily, and everyone has something to share. Whether you choose to combine your children in smaller age increments, or choose to separate them, be encouraged you will still be sharing what you’re learning as a family – and better yet, you’ll have the freedom to choose what fits the unique dynamics of your family best!
9. Why can’t I just place my children based on the history cycle?
With Heart of Dakota, history is used as the backdrop for skill development. One of the primary focuses of our guides is to create lifetime learners who excel in a variety of subjects. Rather than basing placement on the history cycle, we base placement on family dynamics, the mix of personalities, skill levels, and the individual needs of family members. While we love history, and do include the history cycle in Heart of Dakota, we look at the history cycle as only one piece of the learning puzzle. Decisions based solely on the history cycle make history the supreme focus and deciding factor in placement. At Heart of Dakota, we value history, but we also value the academic and spiritual needs of individual children in the placement decision.
10. What should we consider when selecting a guide?
At Heart of Dakota, we are not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ kind of program! For us, placement is very personal. To help you have a successful homeschool experience, we first consider age, reading, writing, grammar, and math abilities. Then, we give you options with flexible age ranges and customizable plans. Our guides are written so you can find a fit whether you want to combine your children or need to separate them. Each family situation is unique and is looked at in an individual light. Our guides also allow you the flexibility to move back and forth between combining or separating your children along your homeschool journey. So there’s no need to feel the weight of the world when starting off – there’s more than one path to success, and at Heart of Dakota, we are dedicated to helping you find it!