A Review of Heart of Dakota

Monday, May 4, 2015

The following is a review of Heart of Dakota.

I had heard of them a few years ago, but glanced over their website, got confused, and gave up before I had the chance to even understand how the program worked.  That's about the time I chose Sonlight.
Looking back, I can't help but wish I'd taken the time to better understand how Heart of Dakota works, as we might have found a great match way back then!

Heart of Dakota is a Christ-centered, literature based multi-level, multi-age full curriculum for homeschool.  It is gentle, engaging, challenging, and planned in a very detailed, easy to follow way.   They offer levels from Pre-K to High School.  There are no real 'grades', but instead, suggested age outlines with their own themes.

The years typically progress in 2 year increments so your child could place in more than one 'guide' (or year) at any given time.  This offers flexibility based on the child's abilities, your preference of themes, etc.

Everything you need (in my opinion) is there except for some additional Language Arts in the higher grades and your Math.  Although the program does make suggestions and script in math ideas and activities in the lower manuals.

Plans are done in a daily layout, which I LOVE!  Rather than looking at an entire week of plans in very tiny print on a small grid, I am looking at boxes layed out in larger font with easy-to-see and follow descriptions.  DAILY.  Not weekly, DAILY.  I can't say enough how much I prefer this layout to the multitudes of weekly plans I've seen.


Guides for Little Hearts for His Glory (5-7 year olds), and Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory (6-8)

An example of the daily schedule from Beyond Little Hearts (yes, this is all for one day).

A pile of books from Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory

Titles from Bigger Hearts for His Glory (the next level up - age 7-9)

Core Books for Little Hearts for His Glory

Core Books and additional titles for Beyond Little Hearts

More titles from Beyond Little Hearts...

Our Emerging Reader set for Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory

Some of the read-aloud titles from Beyond Little Hearts that I found at the Library



A look at week one of Heart of Dakota:


One week of HOD is packed with so much!  We did not complete either full week, and we were doing lots - far more than we would typically do.  This is literally the first packaged 'curriculum' I've found that actually filled the days.  And that has been one of my biggest frustrations with many programs - there just wasn't enough!   So, I'd be paying for a program, then adding hours of supplementary activities and reading.  (This is what led me to not having a 'program' at all!)

The only things I feel I would 'add' to Heart of Dakota is character study (although this is even woven in to many of the lessons and books) and probably some Picture Study.  There is Science, but not as much Nature Study as I like, so I might weave in Nature Studies too, but not all the time.  (We often do Nature Study based on the seasons.)

As I did tons of research about HOD, I realized that our best bet was actually to place all three of our children in separate guides.  I would have never even thought of doing this a few months ago!  As I looked over the placement charts and considered the needs of the individual children, I knew we had to at least try a year of having them do 'their own thing'.  They are present for read-alounds and share much of the learning but all the math, language arts, history narrations, geography, and science is individual.  I'm very curious to see how it works out but after one week, I can already feel a reduction in competition and stress between our children.  When I discussed having their 'own programs' with the kids, they were extremely excited about the idea, especially my eldest son, which surprised me. Having said this, many parents do combine their children when using HOD.  I just made the choice to try them separately this year, and I think it will work out well for us.

As far as I can tell, Heart of Dakota is similar to Sonlight, in that - you may want to consider placing children in the lower guide if there are 2 options.  For example, I could have placed Alex (6 1/2 years old) in Beyond (for 6-8 year olds) but after looking at the placement chart and reading through other Moms' thoughts, I decided to place him in Little Hearts (for 5-7).  It's a perfect fit.  I could have put Audrey in the Bigger Hearts level (for 7-9) but I chose to put our 8-year-old in Beyond (for 6-8 year olds).  These fits have been perfect so far.  A good challenge but doable and giving them the ability to excel.

I really, really love how Heart of Dakota gives so many options.

For example, when ordering, there is one main package that is required to actually accomplish the program.  (This is called the Economy Package).  You can do the programs with only this package purchased.  Many of the additional titles (which are not required but recommended to enrich your studies) are available at the Library, through Amazon, etc.  Or you can purchase direct from them in a big package if you prefer to just have them all on hand.  You can order Science packs and also extension packs which offer harder books for studying with older students.  You can also switch out titles you may not like or may already own!  (Love this!)

You can select your own Language Arts and Math with not a problem, just follow along with your own curriculum!

My *ONLY* negative comment about Heart of Dakota is the level of Math in the lower guides.  Although Little Hearts was perfect in every other way for Alex, the math is far too easy.  Same with Audrey.  When I look at the level of difficulty in the read-alouds, history, activities, etc... I feel the Math activities given don't quite line up for us.  Having said that, this is very minor as we can take it or leave it with hands-on Math, and for the higher grades, you are plugging in your own Math anyways.  We did, however, implement some of the Math ideas and the kids loved them, even though they were simplistic for their ages.



So... because posts like this one have been SO HELPFUL for me in me making decisions about homeschooling programs, I wanted to offer some help to those seeking.

Here's a look at some of what we did in one week of Heart of Dakota.  Remember this is a combination of Unit 1 (Week 1) of both Little Hearts for His Glory and Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory.  (We have Audrey in Beyond, and Alex is Little Hearts... we are still deciding on whether to place Simon, our just turned 10 year old in Bigger with extensions or Preparing... I'll be able to decide when I receive the curriculum from the states!)

From Little Hearts:

  • We focused on Matthew 19:14 for our memory verse.  The kids practiced the verse using all kinds of fun ways to remember - tossing a stuffed animal and switching off on who says which word, adding actions, bouncing a ball, etc.  We also listened to the song from "Hide 'Em in Your Heart".
  • We talked about the meaning of history.  History is really God's story.  We read about how God created the world from nothing and how God made man in His image in History for Little Pilgrims.
  • In Science we talked about light and how God created light, how time is calculated in years and one year is when the earth travels around the sun (we did a dramatic play activity for this), the properties of the sun/earth/moon, and we also discussed land animals vs. water animals by doing a fun game.
  • We did a neat rhyme with lots of gross motor action about animals and continents.
  • For an art project, Alex tore pieces of paper to create a collage with glue.  He then used his cutting skills to cut a cross and paste it in the center of his collage.  We then discussed how Christ is the center of all history. 
  • We discussed textures and played a game where the kids picked items with various textures out of a bag and had to use adjectives to describe the objects (ie: smooth, hard, scratchy, bumpy, fuzzy, etc.)
  • We read the first several chapters of The Adventures of Reddy Fox by Burgess.
  • Alex did a tactile exercise using a baggie filled with liquid soap to practice proper letter and number formation.
  • I added the Language Arts (as is typical for HOD).  Alex practiced number formation, letter formation, and worked on his reading and phonics (we are using Alpha Phonics for this)
  • For Math, Alex is using Singapore 1.  He also worked on his 'cutting' activities from our cutting activity book (which he really loved more than I expected...), and enjoyed a few of the scheduled math activities such as driving cars along numbers that were taped with masking tape to the kitchen floor!

Much of this can be seen in the HOD preview of Unit 1 of Little Hearts, which is available here.


From Beyond Little Hearts:


  • The memory verse for week 1 of Beyond was Psalm 4:8.  This tied into our history readings and we also enjoyed the song from Hide 'Em in Your Heart Volume 2.
  • Our readings for history were from American Pioneers and Patriots.  Our children all loved this book so much!  It is a living history book with narratives about different families from the times of the pioneers.  Our first story was about Pedro and Catalina and their family's journey from Spain to Florida.  We also started a basic timeline.
  • For read-aloud "story time" we read Squanto, which we all really enjoyed.  We also did the narrations and a biography project to go along with the genre of book (biography).
  • For Geography we worked on memorizing the position of the continents and major oceans on the map.  We took an idea from Draw Write Now and made large cut outs of the continents using basic circles and ovals.  Audrey then practiced placing them and the oceans in the correct position.  She couldn't do it at the beginning of the week but now does it perfectly, with ease.
  • Science exploration included an experiment with water to show how a moving current moves objects (we used the bathtub, boats, and a baster for this), as well as an experiment showing how blubber protects animals from freezing cold ocean waters.
  • Poetry was the poem, "The Storm".  We read aloud many times, made an art project and the kids (Simon and Audrey) used it for copywork.  At the end of the week, I cut up a print-out of the poem and had the kids put it back together again.
  • For Art, the children made shields, covered them in tin foil and added a special memory verse (Psalm 18:1-6) along with decorations and pictures.
  • For Math, Audrey is doing Teaching Textbooks 4, but we also enjoyed some of the fun and simple activities with HOD.  For example, she used a story mat with a draw cabbage patch/carrot patch and we used cotton balls as 'bunnies' to tell addition and subtraction stories.
  • For Language Arts, Audrey is following along in the guide with the Emerging Readers set.  (Readers are scheduled for you!).  She is currently reading The Beginners Bible.  I didn't need to add more than what was given with HOD except for some simple cursive practice.


Much of this can be seen in the HOD preview of Unit 1 of Beyond Little Hearts, which is available here.




Some snapshots:


Tossing a teddy bear back and forth while practicing Unit 1's memory verse. 



Math from Beyond.




Math from Little Hearts.


This week's 'Story Time' read-aloud.  The theme was biographies, so we chose Squanto.  The children loved it and we discussed many aspects of history and biography.



Alex, practicing cutting and number formation.

Discussing the properties of the sun, the earth, and the moon for Little Hearts.


Finding the continents, the oceans, and tracking how the Pioneers would have crossed the ocean from Spain the Florida.

Blubber Science Experiment... does fat protect your hands from cold water?  (Yes!)


The stuff I say we 'never do' - workbooks.  However, I got this at a local educational store to help Alex with letter formation (he already prints but his penmanship is very sloppy.  He actually LOVED doing these and finished a whole book in the first week.  (You never know....!)

Same thing here for cursive for the older two.  We will likely be ordering "Happy Cursive" which is recommended by HOD.

Tactile fun... practice number formation.

Talking about textures with a game for Little Hearts


Playing with water and currents

Enjoying the beautiful sunny deck and working on Language Arts

Poetry Copywork


Poetry Copywork combined with an art project from ARTistic Pursuits.


A biography project for our reading of Squanto in the "biography" genre of read-alouds

Simon's biography project.



A couple photos of the core books from Little Hearts for His Glory:





One of the core books we've been enjoying rom Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory -








This program is awesome.

See more at http://www.heartofdakota.com.


Blessings!






20 comments:

  1. Looks like a great way to learn! I LOL at the chicken joining in during reading time...It looks like something that would happen around here. My youngest son used to read aloud to some patient hens!

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  2. I could have written your post on the struggles with Sonlight. I actually love Sonlight, but I have always wanted the girls to DO something with the materials we had been reading. I, too, looked at HOD at the beginning of our homeschooling, got confused and just left looking into it more deeply. I was really intentional this year, as I didn't want to do Core G and above, so I really looked into HOD. Hours and hours of reading through all the introduction PDFs and the first week PDFs, asking questions on the forums, finding the Facebook groups, etc. Everything that I had been trying to add (unsuccessfully) to SL is right there all laid out for me. I really hope it works for us! I ordered Beyond for our youngest, and while I really wanted to get RtR for our 12 and 11yo's, I already have the materials for Core F, so I must stay with it one more year there. I'm hoping since F has the notebooking and activities it will feel more like what I had wanted with SL all along. I got really burned out making notebook pages, scheduling relevant activities, then finding out I didn't really have time to do those activities because we had 20+ books to read still for the year. HOD just seems more balanced.

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    1. Sounds lovely! I'm glad you were able to invest in Beyond. We've been loving it so far! I'm sure it will work out with Core F... Sonlight really is a great program for thousands of homeschoolers... just didn't quite have what we needed... ;)

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  3. I've used 7 of HoD's guides, but am just now starting the younger guides. I hope to see more photos of your year. I'm doing Little Hearts with my youngest son this year, too. Thanks for this post. I hope it's encouraged others to look into HoD. I think it's a rather unheard of curriculum, but it's a hidden gem!

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  4. Oh.my.word! This is one of the very best explanations of HOD I have ever seen :) We have used HOD from Beyond to RtR. We will be using Preparing (for the first time) and Rev to Rev next year. I had combined my boys the first year in HOD because I didn't understand how it worked as much. Like you said, it takes a while to understand how it all works at first. They did great that year, but like you my kids are very competitive. My youngest was never going to keep up with his older brother, so I chose to separate them the following year into their own guides. It works beautifully! We love, love HOD :)

    Thank you for sharing with others how great HOD really is. Visiting the website is confusing for a lot of people. I remember not giving it a chance until I had a catalog in hand. That really helped me to see what it was really all about. It's fun to see someone share the love of something that works so well for my family. All your beautiful pictures really capture how much fun kids can still share while being in their own guide. I hope you have a fabulous year <3

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    1. Thank you, that means a lot! :) It is my joy to share great curriculum with friends... :) I just pray it can be a blessing to someone! Thank you for your sweet words! Xo

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  5. We LOVED using Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory! It was really up there with our love for FIAR and I hope that you will find it just as enjoyable. I'm looking forward to HOD this coming school year. I did blog many of our weeks and I think I have some free printables that you may find useful in your adventure ahead.

    http://mudpuddlesoup.blogspot.com/p/printables.html

    Sweet blessings!

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  6. I always enjoy reading your blog. I am also searching for something different to make home education more...doable for our family as we enter our 6th year. Thank you for sharing your experience with HOD. I was wondering are the lessons short? How do you manage your time with the kids doing three separate guides? My 3 kids are the same age as yours.Can the older kids complete some of the work without your assistance?

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    1. Hi! Well, I'm not sure how I'll be managing my time... haha.. it's been challenging, very VERY busy. Some of the read-alouds are done together. And that's part of what makes HOD so great - you can switch our read-alouds in following years, even using the same guide. The core books stay the same but all your chapter book choices can be switched up... so we enjoy some reading together as a group. The lessons are short, yes, but there are quite a few of them... various 'boxes' as HOD calls them. My son is 10 and able to complete work on his own with guidance... same with my daughter who is 8... ::)

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  7. I love your blog. How do you manage your time since all three kids have separate guides? Are the lessons short? Can the older kids work independently or do you go through all the assignments with them? I am looking for something to use with my 3 kids(same age as yours) in July.

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    1. Hm... I replied to this before...? Um... I don't do too well with managing time... haha. We have a clip board system which I will share very soon... helps a lot!!! :)

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  8. ♥♥♥ Cass, I love how you can be so eloquent when you ramble, haha! Loved reading this post. So much goodness in it. Love how your week went, excited to hear what you will do with Simon, and hope you have a really great year with HOD!

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    1. Thanks Michelle... what can I say, I'm a professional 'talker'... been in training since childhood... haha! :) We chose Bigger for Simon... more on that in an other post... ;)

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  9. Thank you so much for this post! Reading a genuine, honest and heartfelt review really helps me get a a better sense of the curriculum. We are wrapping up our first year, and finally found a decent groove, so I am hesitant to rock the boat....yet yearn for more. So thank you for not only discussing HOD, but your thought process before purchasing as well as your implementation. After reading this I am definitely going to look more into HOD. Thank you!

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    1. Wonderful! It is my joy to share my heart... its always my hope that my ramblings can help another Mom on her journey. :)

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  10. Cassandra, your blog is my absolute favorite. It encourages me when I need that push. We too have started HOD, and love it. I'm feeling the need to stay home more so that we can dive a little deeper into our studies. However, the kids have some really neat enriching activities during the week. It seems like I'm not balancing this all out. How many days a week do you stay home all day? Do you school year round? Thank you!!

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    1. Thank you so much (hugs!). I'm so happy and deeply thankful that this little space can encourage you!!! :D HOD is awesome, what guide(s) are you doing? I hear you with staying home. We do 4 days a week where we are home from at least morning to 2pm... and that time is mostly dedicated to 'school' though the kids are always building something, creating something, outside, doing something with the chickens, you name it. But we try to stay focused as best as possible. Each child takes turns and we read together often... I'd say it usually takes from 9am to at least noon to accomplish our 'stuff' sometimes into 1pm... 1:30.... depends on the day. ;) And yes, we do 'school' all year around, though in July we slow things down and change it up... we likely won't do HOD. We will do our language arts/math and nature studies... lots of read-alouds, as that is never seen as 'school' anyways! In August we usually start again full-on (which is really not that full on, to be honest)... usually about mid August. I think I will put up a post about year-round homeschool soon, since so many have been asking how we do this and why. :) Also, I'm working on a post about how I organized HOD coming up for Monday... ! Much love. Hope this helps.... we try to keep activities to a minimum. We have 1 that we love (sports day for homeschoolers) and we stick to it. That's all we do that is 'organized' as I prefer a more 'normal', family style setting for outings. We often visit a local farm co-op for a stroll and to purchase things at the market as well... those types of things usually happen between 2-5pm once our work is done and our chores are done. ;) Much love to you.

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  11. This is so great! :D
    I just started looking at HOD. Quick question, one book = one school year, right? Like, my 6yr old wouldn't redo the same book until she's eight (or wherever the age range is) :)
    We are homeschooling necxt year, and I'm soooo excited!

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