Posts Tagged ‘Heart of Dakota’

One of the things that I am finally getting a grip on is that Pookie will take longer to teach than Little Miss has done. Yes, I always knew it in my head but my heart was another issue. In many ways, Pookie is showing a lot of intelligence. There are other areas however where extra time and work is greatly needed. So, with that in mind, I am doing something a bit different this next term.

A fact that I have come to realize is that Pookie loves to be kept busy. Yes, he does like some down time, but overall, he is happiest when he is occupied with something. I have purposely kept his number of workboxes per session down to about 4-5 activities. I felt that would exhaust his attention span. He is teaching me a different way of thinking. Depending on the activities he is doing, there are days when he wants to do more. He loves variety and does show a great aptitude for catching on to new things. Given too much down time, he actually gets bored and cranky. I honestly believe that he enjoys the challenge of the lessons some days. Maybe not every lesson, but I do see the excitement quite often. Academically, if you look at the overall picture, he is still solidly in the preschool level. Conceptual learning and abstracts are still out of his realm of understanding. So, instead of going from Pre-K to 1st grade he is going to do Kindergarten.

I love the Heart of Dakota curriculum that we have been using. He seems to enjoy it as well. The only problem that we have is that it goes by too quickly for him. The entire program for each day only takes about 1-2 hours, depending on the hands-on activity he does that day. Pookie needs more than that. He needs more activities to reinforce what he is learning. As I was reading through Sue Patrick’s book, The Workbox System: A User’s Guide, I was reminded of her ideas for giving her son several activities that each taught the same concept. While each may contain the same information, the different approaches helped the child to grasp and retain the information better.

So, with that in mind, here are my thoughts on how to proceed with Pookie. First, continue with a Pre-K/Kindergarten level until I am sure he has mastered the information. To me, that is common sense. You cannot built a sturdy home on a shaky foundation. Your child’s academic progress is no different. They need that same solid foundation to progress effectively. What I am changing up is how I go about his education. This upcoming term, I will be blending two similar curricula into one as well as continuing with Montessori styled activities.

My Father’s World Kindergarten program is very good with teaching the basics, such as the alphabet and numbers. In many ways, it reminds me of a good Pre-K curriculum. There are worksheets and hands-on activities for Pookie to do each day. They spend an entire week on each letter of the alphabet to help insure that the child is learning the letter and it’s sound.

Heart of Dakota’s Little Hearts for His Glory program is for children ages 5-7 years old. It covers all the basic school subjects, including science and history. There are plenty of hands-on activities as well. In the teacher’s guide, there are options to the math and reading/phonics program. Here is where blending the two curricula will work.

In the mornings, Pookie will be doing the My Father’s World curriculum.  We will be working on lapbooks that correspond to the week’s lesson theme as well.  Being as this curriculum is the gentler approach of the two, it will be perfect for mornings when Pookie is the most active and preferring a lot of hands-on projects.

In the afternoons, we will be doing the Heart of Dakota program.  By afternoon, Pookie is ready for that cuddle time with me on the couch as I read to him.  As we go through the books, I ask him to point out various items in the pictures to be sure he is paying attention to the details.  Because he had all morning to get the wiggles out of his system, he will be more ready in the afternoon to work on those few assignments that require him to sit at the table or desk.

Intermittently throughout the day, he will have two 15-minute breaks in the morning and again in the afternoon to free play or simply chill out.  He will also have a snack break halfway through the morning and again halfway through the afternoon, in addition to his lunch break.  Each of these curriculum programs are short in duration each day.  Even doing both, Pookie will not be overwhelmed.  I will always have the option to scale back a bit and do each program at half-speed if needed.  This is just another way of saying that I will take two days to complete a single day’s lessons for each program.  It would take twice as long to complete the programs, but with Pookie, we cannot do long breaks anyways.  The longer time period for completing the programs would work in his favor.

Montessori style activities will always be a part of his day for years to come.  He thrives on the hands-on learning.  Through it, he is able to show his knowledge and understanding.  They also address his need for sensory input each day.  From sensory bins to sorting activities and beyond, Pookie will have plenty of things to do that will stimulate his senses and broaden his learning opportunities

There are many adaptations that I still am making to worksheets in order for Pookie to be able to do them successfully. I will post some of those ideas in an upcoming blog. Many of the adaptations are similar to past ones, such as turning cut and paste activities into file folder games. There are a few new ones however that may give ideas for you to try.

I am really looking forward to the upcoming school term.  I have tentatively planned to start the new term in June, after we get back from a church youth camp.  Now that I have a good sense of what Pookie’s homeschool routine will be, I am working on Little Miss’ curriculum plans in more detail.  Both she and Pookie are getting curious about what they will be learning.  Every so often, I take out a hands-on element from their upcoming term so they can explore it a little.  It is capturing their curiosity and interest in a big way.  Pookie is especially showing interest in doing the Melissa and Doug Beginners Pattern Block Puzzles.  I am enjoying watching his excitement towards learning.  As long as their is interest and excitement, he is guaranteed to learn, which in turn gives me much hope for his future.


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I can’t believe that August is only days away.  It is amazing how it can seem so far away in May, only to blink and find yourself preparing to turn the calendar page.  With August, comes the beginning of the new school term.

While we are using Heart of Dakota’s curriculum again this year (we love it!) I chose to do unit studies in place of their suggested science curriculum.  I based the unit studies on the science lessons suggested in the lesson manuals.  For example, Little Miss’ lessons for the first couple of weeks will be based upon the Ocean and life at the seashore.  I found on Homeschool Share a free unit for the book, “Pagoo” by Holling C. Holling.  This will be a portion of Little Miss’ unit study.  It is a chapter book about a character named Pagoo that explains the life cycle of a Hermit Crab through the crab’s experiences in the story.  Each chapter has it’s own notebooking activity.

For Pookie, I am going to use the book, “Hello Ocean” by Pan Munoz which teaches the 5 senses in relationship to a child’s visit to a beach.  Homeschool Share has a free lapbook for this story also.

This is one of the aspects of Heart of Dakota curriculum that I enjoy the most.  We can purchase the economy package, then add our own science lessons to it.  The lesson manual in the economy package is thorough and has science activities in it to go along with each day’s studies.  You are able to do these activities, yet still add your own to it as a substitute for their suggested materials.

Another aspect of the final days of homeschool preparation is making the kids special “Back to Homeschool” gift bags.  This is becoming a tradition in our family.  It is based off of the idea of the German Schultuete or school cone.  The German tradition was to make a cone to be filled with school supplies and a few little extra goodies to make a child’s first day of school fun.  These were originally given to Kindergarten or 1st grade children though here in the US, families who have adopted this tradition often do it for all their children.

This year I am planning to wrap a gift box to put the kids’ goodies into.  A festive gift bag would work just as well.  If you are interested in making the school cone, you can find a tutorial at Alpha Mom’s blog.  For Little Miss, I am adding things like a blank book, stickers, glitter crayons, water color paints, decorative pencils, and a couple of her favorite treats.  Pookie’s will contain items such as jumbo crayons, water colors, small containers of play dough, a sensory toy, and a couple of treats.

Overall, I am feeling very little stress in getting ready for the new school term.  Amazing!  This is likely to be the least stressed I have ever been in preparing lessons.  Yet, another great reason why I love heart of Dakota!  Now, the only things left to do is to put a few books on hold at the library and maybe purchase a book or two from Amazon.

I decided to do a master schedule for the workboxes.  I will post about that in a future post.

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For the past week, it has been like Christmas at our home.  At least, you would think so from the excitement that Little Miss has shown.  We ended up placing the orders with Heart of Dakota and Keepers of the Faith as planned.  Both gave fast service, though HOD did arrive first.  I realised as I looked over the curriculum that as of this year, we will only need to purchase the consumable materials for Pookie as he becomes ready for each level of advancement.  Little Miss will get new materials each year, as she is older.  We will be able to store the course materials for each year until Pookie is ready to advance to each level.  This will make it really easy in the future.  I plan to buy the consumables for reading & grammar that Pookie will need ahead of time.  Math will be bought just before he is ready for it.  At this point, his math is still taught completely hands-on so I have no idea what he will be doing 2 years from now.

With each delivery, Little Miss became excited.  It doesn’t help that Momma has discovered the joys of buying everything online.  LOL   Whenever the delivery van arrives, she is very animated.  Pookie looks on with his usual nonplussed expression, but was curious about his readers.  He loves books, so was looking at the covers with great interest.

One of the purchases that I had made was books 3 & 4 in the McGuffey’s Reading (Phonics) and Writing (Grammar) workbook series for 1st grade.  It turned out to be the perfect starting point for Little Miss’ studies.  She will be using the McGuffey Curriculum in reading and writing each year from now through 8th grade.  I wanted her to have a strong foundation in the program so am starting 2nd semester books to finish out 1st grade.

I am very impressed with this McGuffey curriculum.  As one would expect, it is based upon the McGuffey readers.  Little Miss loves it and she is doing very well with it.  The lessons start of gradually, yet build upon each other at a steady pace.  She reads lessons from the McGuffey Primer & Pictorial Primer as a part of the reading & writing lessons.  Some of the words right now are more review than anything, but it is solidifying the foundations.  She reads level 1 & 2 books on her own each day also.

As I looked through the materials, I see where I will have to take it much slower with Pookie when he is ready to use them.  It is very adaptable though.  I may end up writing a portion of the lesson out on paper for him if the full lesson is too much for him to do at a time.

After calling Keepers of the Faith to let them know the curriculum arrived & thanks for the great service, I spoke to them about Pookie.  They gave me some sound ideas on how to take his hands-on lessons to the next level.  I will share those when we begin implementing them.  In the process, I found out about their penmanship curriculum.  I ended up ordering that for Pookie also.  It amazes me that I am actually buying Kindergarten materials for him.  It has to be taken slowly, but I truly believe that he will be ready for it.  He is showing that he is able to catch on to some things rather quickly.  The biggest obstacle being his level of ability to express what he knows.  By and by, he is getting there though.

Now comes the work for me to get everything organized and purchase all the extras.  (Can we say Amazon shopping time? LOL)  Little Miss will be doing a lot more notebooking for her school work next term.  I decided to buy her a separate binder for each subject.  At the end of the school year, I will transfer all the notebooking pages into 1 larger binder.  This will provide a record of her work if it should ever be needed.  There is also a year’s supply of paper, pencils, and other basic school supplies that I will be buying ahead of time.  The goal is that by late August, all school related supplies will have been purchased for both children.  I already have most of the supplies.  It feels so good to be ahead of the game with this.

I am going to make new workbox tags for each child.  The tags will be better paired with the subjects that they will be doing.  I am also getting the lesson planner book printed and bound this week.  I realize that HOD curriculum has it’s lesson planner already, but I am wanting to combine the HOD lesson plans with the Reading and Writing curriculum from Keepers of the Faith.

Another thing that I am doing differently this next term is having both kids’ lessons planned out on the same page.  On one page is a grid for lessons worked independently for both children.  On the back is a grid for all the subjects worked on together.  Of all the adaptations that I am making for next term, this one will be the most helpful to me.

Next term, the workboxes will be much easier to implement.  Little Miss will have either a workbook or a notebooking page to do for each subject.  That will be easy to organize in her work files.  The completed notebook page will be added to the binders after she completes the page.

Pookie’s workboxes will be equally as easy to use.  He will have a little more writing to do.  I plan to continue doing a lot of hands-on lessons with him as well.  The way his lessons are set up, he will have enough workbox activities to allow him to become more accustomed to the workbox system.

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We’ve are more than halfway through the school term and I am busy getting plans made for next year.  The current term has been very enlightening.  I love discovering the children’s potential and seeing what they are able to accomplish.  Both children has exceeded the expectation.  Little Miss finds a certain amount of excitement when challenged with her studies.    With that in mind, I am changing things up slightly for her.  Pookie has been the biggest surprise.  He is constantly proving that even though he is completely nonverbal, he is very bright.  He is slightly behind his typical peers in his studies, but not nearly as far behind as what people may expect.  he grasps new information rather quickly, but does need much practice to retain the things he learns.  It is truly a case of “if you don’t use it, you will lose it” where he is concerned.

We are continuing with Heart of Dakota curriculum for both children next term.  It has worked out very well for them and keeps their interest.  I love the format on how it is planned out.  There is much reading involved, which is something we enjoy as a family.  I also love the fact that you can purchase their very basic curriculum and add in the math and other programs that you choose.  This allows you to truly customize the curriculum to fit your child’s needs.

For Little Miss, she will be using the Bigger Heart for His Glory curriculum for 2nd & 3rd graders.  This will cover her studies for Bible, Art, History, Geography, and Science.

For Language Arts, we will be using the McGuffey Curriculum sold by Keepers of the Faith.  The Reading Series covers Phonics, Spelling, along with Reading Comprehension.  The Writing Series will cover Phonetics, Spelling, and Grammar.  As a part of the McGuffey Curriculum, we are including Spencerian Penmanship as her cursive writing course.  This is a beautiful script that is very easy to learn.  Seeing just how “girlie” our daughter is, she is loving the idea of learning to write using letters that are so elegant.  I am looking forward to it also.  I used to love doing calligraphy, so this is very similar.

Pookie’s will be using the Little Hearts for His Glory curriculum.  For a Math curriculum, we will be using Singapore Essentials Math for Kindergarten.  I still have a teacher’s manual for a Penmanship course from Rod & Staff that I had used with Little Miss 2 years ago.  I will be using it for Pookie’s writing practice.  I also still have the entire set of Rod & Staff’s preschool workbooks that Pookie is currently using to give him much needed writing and coloring practice.  We will be adding a page or two from those into his workboxes for additional practice as needed.

Both children are going to be continuing their work on the Keepers of the Faith programs.  Little Miss has graduated up to the Keepers at Home program.  Pookie is still working at the Little Contenders of the Faith program.  We do the Biblical character trait lessons together with both kids taking part.  At this point, Pookie simply listens to the lessons and Little Miss answers the questions.  He is still taking part and listening, obsorbing te information as we go along.

We will be doing a lot of notebooking activities for both of the children next term.  Once we got the hang of it, we have really enjoyed putting those pages together.  It is always fun to watch them sit with Daddy when he is home and show him their school notebooks.  Little Miss especially takes a lot of pride in sharing her notebook.

I have some fun trips to the zoo planned.  I found some great worksheets for the Zoo which the kids will be putting together into a notebook after our next visit.  We are blessed that the Oklahoma City Zoo has a family pass we can afford.  This will allow us to take unlimited numbers of trips to the zoo over the upcoming year.  (Note:  I will be posting the Zoo printables link list in a post tomorrow)

I hope that this overview gives you a good idea of what we are planning thus far.  I still have some adjusting to do on the actual lesson planning part of it but that will come once I have the books all in hand.


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Well, homeschool convention season is about to begin.  Each year, at this time, I have been looking at ways to make the educating of my children more efficient and effective.  I take note throughout the year of what works and what doesn’t.  This is what I have learned this year.

1.  Both of the kids have very similar learning styles.  While Little Miss is able to work on her written assignments much easier on her own, Pookie needs assistance.  Other than that one major difference, they both thrive on hands-on projects and enjoy reading or being read to.

2.  Both kids are working much better when the workboxes are in use.  Anytime we step away from using a variation of the workbox system, both kids seem to flounder and have trouble staying on task.

3. Pocket chart style visual schedules for each child is critical.  I had tried the hook & loop schedule cards and strip but that was a problem  Little Miss didn’t like it as well and Pookie wouldn’t stop playing with his.  He is compulsive about textures and would peel the cards off just to touch the hook & loop tape.  It became too much of a distraction.

4. Frequent breaks are a blessing.  Each child receives a 15 minute break after completing 1/3 of their work.  Another words, Little Miss gets a break after every 4 workboxes since she does 12 workboxes a day.  Pookie is doing 9 per day, so has a break after every set of 3 workboxes.

5. I am designing a new lesson planner.  I love all of the wonderful ideas available online, but I am finding that I need to fine tune my planner to match our specific needs.  I am putting together a 2-page spread weekly planner sheet.  It will have space to record the subjects that the kids do separately with another section for the subjects that they do together.  This will cut the size of my binder in half.  I am also designing a form that will allow me to better record Pookie’s TEACCH tasks. The 3rd form that I am adding to the binder is a progress sheet for the Keepers of the Faith programs that the children are both doing.

Our curriculum choice for next year is to continue with Heart of Dakota, with the addition of a couple of subjects from Keepers of the Faith.  We have been very happy with Heart of Dakota, so want to continue with it.  I will write more about their curriculum in a future post.

Overall, the school year has gone very well.  It just needs a bit of tweaking here and there.  I am loving this journey.  Watching the kids as they learn new skills and information is a delight.  Going to a Charlotte Mason style of teaching was the best decision that we could have made for our children.  They are thriving in it and finding excitement in the act of learning.

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With spring in the air, it is only natural here on the homestead to start thinking about gardening.  Being homeschoolers, this is also the perfect time to start a unit study about plants.  The unit study is mainly covering science only, with a bit of art and reading thrown in.  I have added this onto our current Heart of Dakota curriculum.

The main resources that we are using are:

Ecology for Every Kid by Jan Van Cleave

Organic Gardening for Kids by Elizabeth Scholl

Sprouting Seed Science Projects by Ann Benbow & Colin Mably

Kids Pumpkin Projects by Deanna F. Cook

Discovering Science Plants workbook by Franklin Schaffer Publications


Our first project is to soak about 4 seeds each from 4 vegetable varieties.  We chose pumpkin, sugar peas, corn, and green beans.  The seeds are soaking overnight so that tomorrow Little Miss can dissect a seed from each variety to compare them.  Some seeds are monocot, meaning that they have 1 first leaf.  Others are dicot, meaning that there are 2 first leaves.  She will be charting which seeds are monocot and which are dicot.  Her are project will be to draw the cross-section of a seed showing it’s various parts.  Pookie is also doing the project but will be coloring a picture of a sprouting seed that I drew for him today.

Jan Van Cleave’s book has activities that demonstrate the connection between animals and plant life through habitats.  She also has a section on the definition of a weed and what use they are in nature.

Organic Gardening for Kids teaches children about composting and basic garden skills.  There are many terms that the children will learn as well as how organic gardening benefits us.

Sprouting Seed Science Projects contains 10 chapters that go through the entire process of how seeds are scattered, growing conditions, and the process of how they sprout & grow.  Each chapter has it’s own science experiment to go along with it.  All look fun and very educational.

Discovering Science Plants workbook is an actual unit study complete with the worksheets to go along with the lessons.  I happened upon this gem at a used book store.  The front of the book has the lessons, which are all very short, with the worksheets following.  It is rated for Primary Grades.

Kids Pumpkin Projects is the book I was so excited about last year.  We found it at the library, but sadly it was too late in the growing season to reap the most benefit from the book.  It starts out in spring with kids planning out their pumpkin patch and goes through the growing season from the planning stages through harvest.  Throughout the book, there are recipes and activities that are both educational and fun for the kids and mom!  Little Miss is wanting to grow her own patch of pumpkins to sell next autumn.  This is the perfect book to help turn her “cash crop” into a homeschool project.

Little Miss is especially excited about this unit.  She is still doing the science lessons in her Heart of Dakota curriculum, but wanted to do this additional one.  Her proud moment today was learning about monocots & dicots.  She is making a poster using plant pictures to classify them as a monocot or dicot.

On a side note, Little Miss is also using this time to work on her plant color wheel that she wanted to do earlier.  The color wheel is based upon the various color families that vegetables & fruits belong to.  Each color family provides specific nutrients to our diet.  She is making a wheel that shows which family each of the fruits & vegetables we eat belong to and what nutrients they provide.

This is one of the reasons why we love homeschooling.  While she is getting a sound education through her curriculum, we also have the freedom to pursue these other areas that interest her the most.  By giving her that ability, we are able to teach her far more than if we made her “stick to the program” and not allow her to reach out to other things.


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For about 2 years now, Little Miss had been working on the Keepers of the Faith program.  The program is based on Biblical principles.  The program is similar to scouting, but can be done as a family or as a club.  Unlike scouting, there are no dues to be paid other than your own personal expenses for materials or awards.  The cost is very minimal.

Little Miss started out in the young girls’ program, Little Keepers of the Home.  This year, Pookie has begun the young boys’ program, Little Contenders for the Faith.  At age 7, they advance to the older children’s programs of “Keepers of the Home” and “Contenders for the Faith.”

A fair portion of the program is based upon academic skills.  Young children who learn to recite, write, and the phonetics of their ABC’s can earn the “ABC’s” award.  Like in scouting, the kids earn these acheivement awards which come in the form of a pin or a charm.  I purchased fabric to make each of the children a banner on which to display their award pins.

I have always known that Little Miss loves earning the pins.  She gets so excited about it!  Her Daddy and I make a big deal out of any new awards she receives.  He gives the handing out of the award as much attention as though she were receiving an honors award.  He recognises the hard work done and praises the kids for their efforts.

Last week, I received a box from Keepers.  In it was Little Miss’ new manual.  She graduates up to the “big girls” program this year.  The box also contained a few awards that were earned over the past few months.  She was thrilled!  One special award though was a real treat to hand out.  Amazingly, Little Miss was more excited about this one than her own awards.  Pookie had completed a unit study with lapbook on the Creation story from the Bible.  Among the awards in the box was one called “Creation.”  This is Pookie’s first achievement award.  When he was handed his award, he carried it all around the room.  He kept turning it over and over as he studied it carefully.  Little Miss also got a Creation award for her unit study, but she seemed unfazed by that.  She was too busy smiling with pride at her brother.

Looking over the awards that Keepers makes available, there are many that both kids will be able to work towards over the next 8 years or so tha tthey are of age to be in that program.  The awards have suggested guidelines on what a child should do to receive it, but they are also open to your own customizing to fit your child’s ability levels.  This is what helps to make it possible for Pookie to also earn awards.

Seeing his complete enthrallment, as well as Little Miss’ joy, at receiving the awards makes it even more important to us.  Kids love working for them.  Though Pookie may not fully comprehend what the awards are all about, he sure was happy to get it.  We will be setting aside a special spot just for the displaying of their award banners.  By making them something that we hold as something to be proud of, they will continue to work towards earning them.  Not that simply getting an award should be the goal, but that they learn that we respect and take pride in the efforts that they make.

Each week, there is at least one activity in their workboxes that goes to an achievement they are working on.  By reading through the suggested activities for each award, I am able to match the requirements to whatever curriculum they are doing.  There are awards for each of the states in the USA, for example, which means that when she does a unit study on our home state she will earn that award.  She is currently learning how to crochet.  Once she makes a couple of  projects, she will earn that award.  Pookie will earn the ABC’s award as soon as he is able to write each letter.  Currently, I am teaching him the letters and their sounds.  As he is non-verbal, I am able to know if he understand phonics through use of a chart.  I say the sound and he points to the letter that makes that sound.

If you are looking for a special way to encourage and reward your children for their school efforts, take a look on the Keepers’ website.  They have a wide array of topics and skills to choose from.  Their service is fast and very courteous.  I have been pleased with each order I have received from them.  The true joy though is in seeing the pride that Little Miss has in her accomplishments and Pookie’s happiness.


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