Organizing Heart of Dakota (and a small Review of Heart of Dakota)

Saturday, May 30, 2015

I thought I would share how I organized our children doing Heart of Dakota.  If you are curious about what Heart of Dakota is or why we chose this program for our homeschool, I encourage you to read this post.

I would like the kind of preface this by saying that not all this is necessary to successfully enjoy HOD.  I have been known to go a little crazy with organization...  also, the way I organize might not be the way everyone else will - and that's ok!

I post this for two reasons. One - I'm a bit crazy about organization and love it dearly, so posting about my organization is almost like organizing all over again.  *wheee!*    Two - (and most importantly) I truly pray my posts can help other homeschool Moms glean ideas about how they might be able to organize their homeschool days and experience peace in the journey.  Many have asked about how I organized HOD, so... here we go:

Organizing Heart of Dakota  

This post shows organization for:

-Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory (Audrey, age 8)

-Bigger Hearts for His Glory with extensions (Simon, just turned 10)

The thing that really struck me about HOD from the beginning is the crazy amount of support available from a huge community of HOD Moms.  Whether on the Facebook groups (I'll link to them at the bottom of this post), or through the HOD forums on their site, there is always someone willing to help and encourage.  

There are also a huge number of pre-done files available for many of the guides.  I created quite a few printable files and simply uploaded them into the groups to share, as so many other Moms have done.  This makes it easier for all of us!  Team work is so lovely, isn't it?!

I wanted to give a peek at a Clip-board System.  This is one way homeschool Moms might like to organize their daily tasks...

Here's how it works:

There are actually 4 Clip-boards in use right now in our home... and I'm pretty sure my husband thinks I'm crazy.  But, it's working very well, so I'll share.  

For years, I have had one huge binder with all our work spread out and listed for me to see.  There would be 4 pages covering individual and group work. It was small print, all in cursive (because I would pen it all in), and difficult to follow.   My older children started commenting that it was hard to understand and they wanted to know 'how much more work they had to do'...

In a nicer way, they wanted to track their progress and plan their time wisely, right?  *wink*

So, Heart of Dakota gives guides where each day of the week (unit) takes up a full double page spread with boxes describing each area of study.  I love this layout and we use the guides for following along with daily tasks.  We call this our 'guide work' and we follow this fairly closely and check off boxes as they are accomplished.

The Clip-Board system is two-fold-

FIRST - there is a Clip-board with checklists for all the stuff that isn't specifically stated in the guides.  Each child has their own checklist for the week or unit.  So, for instance, Audrey's guide for Beyond Little Hearts will prompt us to complete Language Arts, but it won't say specifically what lesson to do, etc.  I have to pencil that in.  (Which is part of the flexibility of HOD that I love!).

Rather than have messy guides all penciled in and hard to follow, I created each child their OWN checklist.  These are all put on one clipboard that I can carry around and they have full access to throughout the day.  (How much easier is a clip-board than a huge heavy binder!?)   The kids play a role in reading, following along, and checking off their work throughout the day.

It has been working BRILLIANTLY.  They can easily see what is expected for each day, and how they have (or haven't!) progressed.

Here's a look at checklists for Little Hearts, Beyond, and Bigger for 1 week:

I also created one additional sheet to help me pencil in our morning devotions, character studies and any additional reading or activities we will do throughout the week.  Very simple, but helpful for me.  These are the 4 pages on our 'checklists' clipboard. (One Weekly Checklist for each child plus my Additional Plans sheet.)

I also recently created this simple Chores and Responsibility Chart.  It has been working well.  The two 'nonnegotiables' are in type and two boxes are left empty for us to fill in as they are needed/accomplished.

Below is the second part of our new "Clip-Board System" that we've implemented.  I spent about 15-ish hours prepping EVERYTHING I would need for doing Heart of Dakota with the three children this year.  It was a lot of work, but, hey- our year is completely organized and ready to go, so I'm pretty excited about that!

I created the sheets I wanted but couldn't find already made, then printed off all their needed worksheets and organized them by unit in a simple file folder (I think it was about $10 at Staples a few years ago).  Because we are using three different guides, I just put packets together with paper clips to separate each child's work by unit.

At the start of each new week or unit, I simply pull out the required packet and stick it on that child's personal clip-board.  They can easily see their Clip-board work for the week and have truly enjoyed the visual ease and organization of the system.

It is so wonderful to start each week knowing I already have all my print-outs done!  No staying up until 1am on Sunday nights printing and organizing!  Hooray!

Our son's Bigger Hearts for His Glory weekly 'clip-board packet' includes:

One Character Card- these are beautiful, bright, print-out cards with the character trait highlighted in the guide along with the unit's memory verse.  I laminated them so they will last a long time...  (The Mom who made these is wonderful, you can download these cards for free on her blog!)

Two Science Lab Sheets

One Vocabulary Page

One Science Note Booking Page

One History Note Booking Page

One Poetry Page

Any other required pages for either Story-time Activities, Language Arts assignments, Art Projects, etc.

Our daughter's Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory weekly 'clip-board packet' includes:

One Memory Verse Card- I just created these to laminate, they correspond with the weekly memory verse and are available for free in the Files section of the Facebook page for Beyond (I'll link below).

Two Science Notebooking Sheets- I just want to clarify that not everyone who uses Beyond will implement a Science Notebooking page for their child.  I am using these because my daughter is an advanced 8 year old using Beyond and enjoys notebooking quite a bit.

One Vocabulary Page- Once again, I added this.  The program doesn't use Vocabulary pages or Vocabulary assignments until Bigger, but Audrey LOVES doing her Vocab pages! (I show them below.)

One History Note Booking Page- Once again, these are an added supplement to 'beef up' Beyond

One Poetry Page- I created these as copywork/poetry pages. They are also available for download on the Beyond Facebook page.  So far, Audrey loves them.  The poems are listed and used in the guides, I simply typed them out, added boxes for copywork and a drawing.
Any other required pages for either Story-time Activities, Language Arts assignments, Art Projects, etc.

For Little Hearts, all Alex has is his laminated Memory Verse (this is a really cute, free download of train cars) and maybe a copywork page.  Very simple for him.

 We do not use a 'work box system' as some families use, but we have a bit of a simpler version of something similar.

What we have is a simple Ikea Trofast unit, which we have used and loved for nearly 10 years.  We use the shallow bins from Ikea, and they work wonderfully for school book storage.  Each child has one row of bins.  Alex is green, Audrey is white, and Simon is yellow. 

This might seem really silly to blog about, but someone shared how they organized their kids' books in stacked rolling bins once, and it helped me so much!  I finally got a visual for how I can help our children learn to retrieve AND put away their own books.  This has worked for us because they know exactly where their Math, Language Arts, and Clip-board work is kept.  When they need it, they go get it.  When they are done, they put it back.

Top Row: Math
Middle Row: Language Arts
Bottom Row: Heart of Dakota Books and Clip-board work

 Once the children have accomplished their week's worth of Clip-board work for Heart of Dakota, they store it in their binder to keep a nice, organized, tidy record of their hard work!

A Peak at a week of Bigger:

This is not all the work we did, but it's a good peak...

Along with Bigger, Simon is using Teaching Textbooks for Math (he's starting Book 6 this week), Beginning Wisely for Grammar, oral and written narration for creative writing and composition, along with stacks of living books for everything in between.

Here are some of the books we read in week one.  Simon loved ALL of them!  Journeys in Time and A First Book in American History (learning about Columbus) for history and geography, Ben and Me for his biography "story time" read aloud (LOVE THIS BOOK!), One Small Square Seashore for Science.

Binder tabs for Bigger.

A simple timeline.  Figures can be downloaded on the Facebook group for Bigger.

A start at mapping some of the first explorer's journeys.  We will map Columbus and Cabot in the first 2 weeks.  This file was created by another Mom and has lots of great Note Booking pages... free on the Facebook group! (Don't you love it!?)

Practise with identifying and placing the continents and oceans in proper placement on a round surface.

Science Notebooking page, looking at how the moon affects tides.   I created these for every unit and they are free for download in the Bigger Hearts Facebook group (I linked to it at the bottom of this post).

A Peak at Beyond:

Along with Beyond, Audrey is using Teaching Textbooks 4 for Math,  All About Reading and  Preparing the Build for Language Arts and Reading, along with Draw Write Now for additional copywork and drawing.  She's also working on cursive practice and reading tons of readers through the HOD Emerging Reader Program.

Two absolute favourite books for Audrey.  American Pioneers and Patriots is one of the spine books for Beyond.  We chose Helen Keller as our Storytime read-aloud for the biography genre.  Audrey LOVED this book.

Tabs for Audrey's Beyond binder.

A simplified Vocabulary page for a more advanced student in Beyond.

One of the Storytime activities (drawing the main character and showing something about their personality...!)

One of the lovely History Notebooking pages another wonderful Mom made for use with Beyond.  These are also available free for download in the files section of the Beyond Facebook page.

This is a peak at one of the Poetry Copywork pages I created for use with Beyond.  Each one is different and the whole year is done for you!  You can download them, once again, on the Beyond Facebook page.

Science Notebooking page.  (Also available free on the Facebook group!)

  A Peak at Little Hearts:

Some of the Core Books for Little Hearts used in week one.   Alex enjoyed each one of these - especially the Family-Time Bible and History for Little Pilgrims.  All three children are enjoying the Adventures of Reddy Fox...  not surprised!  Thornton Burgess is great!

Art from Little Hearts, Unit 2.

I truly hope this post is in some way helpful to you.  So far, we are truly loving Heart of Dakota and would highly recommend it to similarly minded homeschoolers!

An Update about Competition in the Homeschool...

I am very glad to have separated the three children into their own guides.  Over the past few weeks (since started HOD), there has not been one single argument between our two eldest children.  This is almost unheard of in our homeschool.  I mentioned in my previous post about HOD that I wanted to try putting our children in different guides in hopes of offering them their *own* work.  I was hoping this would help with the crazy competitive behaviour we had going on - and it has.  I can't even begin to express me relief and the peace that has washed over our days.  It's been wonderful and I'd highly recommend this set-up for highly competitive siblings.  

Links that may be helpful for community and downloading many of the notebooking and worksheet files:

More Snapshots from our first few weeks of Heart of Dakota:

Beyond Vocabulary:

Beyond Notebooking/Art - Horizon:

Bigger Science:

A game from Beyond:

Alex enjoying Simon's science from Bigger:

Beyond Science, Poetry, History Notebooking:

More Bigger Science:

Little Hearts Science - can you identify the spices?  (Learning about smell)

Alex, enjoying some cutting challenges:

Thanks for reading! :)

A Review of The Pirate and the Firefly from BH Kids

Saturday, May 30, 2015

About the book...

I was honoured to review The Pirate and the Firefly by Tara McClary Reeves and Amanda Jenkins, published by BH Kids.   I have read several titles from this publisher and love every one of them.  This book was also a blessing to our family.  All three kids enjoyed the story, however, our two youngest (age 8 and 6) were most suited to the age range of the book.

The main themes of the story are wisdom and friendship.   Actually, I would say the theme is also wisdom IN friendships!  What does it mean to be a good friend?  How do you know when another child is a good friend?  What does it mean to be a leader instead of a follower?  How can I follow Jesus and be a good friend?  How can I stand up for what is right?  

These are all questions contemplated by young Oliver as he walks through some trying situations with his group of 'pirate' friends.  After the leader of the group forces the boys to do a pretty sneaky and unkind thing (stealing candy from a neighbourhood candy shop), Oliver is left feeling unhappy and uneasy about all he was dragged into that day.  

The next day he has a similar experience at the "Captain" of the group's birthday party.  He is made fun of, pulled into being nasty to a little girl and goes home feeling defeated and mistreated.

In the evening, however, the little "Pirate" is met by a wise Firefly who encourages him to cling to what he knows is right and question what 'good friends' truly look like.  He gives advice I hope and pray will also be planted deep inside our children's hearts: "Oliver, people who want you to do things that are wrong or dangerous are not true friends.  But God wants to be our best friend and He loves us more than anyone else does."

Oliver is encouraged to imagine what it would look like to follow God instead of his 'friend' who is mistreating him.  He is reminded of the truth in Psalm 1, and he imagines making right all the wrong he was part of doing.  (I literally teared up at this part, such a beautiful image of children being brave, standing strong, and walking with the Lord at a young age, praise God!)

I just loved the message in this book, especially as our children are started to get a bit older and starting to play more with children their age who aren't always the best influence.  I want to remind them and encourage them to consider what makes a good friend.  Both so that they can choose wisely their friends, and also BE a good friend!

And most importantly, so they can learn to rely on Christ as their ultimate life-long friend.


Making a Friendship Treasure Map

I love the PARENT Connection features in so many of the titles from this publisher.  These are sections that connect the content and theme of the book to scripture, activities, and discussion questions.

The PARENT Connection for this book (printed on the last page) included the following sections:

  • Remember: review Psalm 1:1-2 for memory work 
  • Read: a selection from Samuel about the friendship David and Jonathan shared 
  • Think: several questions about friendship and how it relates to Christ and God's Word
  • Do: A Friendship Treasure Map activity

I'm sharing our Friendship Treasure Map activity below:

For the Treasure Hunt, I started by simply writing several adjectives to describe a good friend on cardstock index cards.  I used words like: caring, kind, gentle, honest, patient, etc.  I then gave them colors according to each of my three children.  Pink for Audrey, blue for Alex, green for Simon.  These were for the purpose of giving them specific cards to search for, rather than competing with one another for the same cards.

Early in the morning I sketched a basic map of our backyard and then hid the index cards all over the yard.  I put "X" on the map in the colours for each child (Simon's were trickier than Alex's).

In the afternoon, the kids got to look at the Treasure Map and search for their cards.  Once they found them, we piled them up, read them, and had a chat about what truly makes a good friend.  It was a fun activity for them and I believe it really stimulated good conversation and thinking!

Love the last line in this sweet book:

There's no better friend than Jesus, and His way is always the best choice!

Thanks for reading!

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