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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Heart of Dakota- The Fine Details Part 1- Language Arts


For the month of January I am contributing to a Virtual Curriculum Fair.. Each week is based off a certain subject. This week's subject is Language Arts. My sole purpose is to post about how I use the Heart of Dakota curriculum with my 10 year old. We are currently using the Preparing His Heart for His Glory set.

You can go to Homeschool Heart and Mind blog to learn more about how to participate and/or to read this week's curriculum posts.. So far as of this posting there is over 20 homeschool families adding curriculum reviews on the category of Language Arts..

If you've been wondering about curriculum to use for the Fall but haven't decided because you can't find enough information on it? Not enough pictures or details on the publisher's website.. That's what this curriculum fair is all about. To learn more about curriculum that other homeschooler's are currently using and loving. I know it's hard to make a decision on curriculum when you can't thumb through it yourself. Homeschool Heart and Mind thought this fair would help us learn more in depth before purchasing this coming year..


We started using Heart of Dakota this August 2011. I fell in love with the Charlotte Mason approach to how it works. I have been homeschooling since 2004, which puts me in my 8th year and after this time, I've done many things including putting together my own curriculum. After all of the work I've put into schooling, I am really happy to finally find a curriculum that is already put together where I don't have to do much thinking beyond opening the book and starting the day.

I will be breaking up my posts to go along with the subject the fair is talking about so it will help you understand in more depth how Heart of Dakota works, how we are using it and what is working and not working for us and why..

Please come back each week to learn more about Heart of Dakota (HOD)- Preparing Hearts for His Glory (PHFHG) if you are interested in using this curriculum or Heart of Dakota in general.. This particular curriculum is intended for 8-10 yr olds. I chose this one this year because my son isn't a solid independant reader when we started this and this allowed me the opportunity to be with him more, but also give him independant work that he can accomplish on his own. At the beginning of the school year he was 9. He just turned 10 a couple weeks ago. This year's curriculum doesn't have as much independant reading which is very helpful for my son this year.

Before I share about the Language Arts part of the program let me quickly describe how Heart of Dakota (HOD) works so you can get a general overview before I dig deeper into it.

HOD is a Charlotte Mason approach to learning. Each subject is designed to take a smaller portion of time than most other curriculum subjects. Allowing your child to learn but in smaller chunks and less pressure to learn large amounts at a time. This year's program Preparing Hearts for His Glory (PHFHG) is centered around history. Most of the projects, reading, timeline and studies are based off that days history lesson. It also includes Bible Study, Science, Poetry, Research, Geography, Language Arts, Math, and Storytime. A complete year's curriculum in one.

All of the lessons are build into the curriculum with the exception of the grammar, reading and math subjects. If you choose to use the suggested programs it is layed out for you what lesson to use each day. I would like to mention that we've decided to use a different curriculum than what is suggested by HOD for Language Arts. It suggests that the Grammar curriculum should be Rod and Staff. They have two options to choose from depending on the level your child is at. One is 'Beginning Wisely' and the other is 'Building with Diligence'. I already had a grammar curriculum set for my son before purchasing this curriculum and decided to use this. It didn't hinder his lessons at all through the HOD curriculum so it works for us.

I won't be discussing the Rod and Staff curriculum but what we've chosen to use that still goes with the Charlotte Mason approach. All other Language Arts aspects of the curriculum we use including Vocabulary lessons, and dictation which I will go more in depth here shortly.

Before I go into our grammar curriculum let me explain some lessons in the HOD curriculum we use to help you understand how it works. Each day's lesson is written out for you. Some days you will be doing a grammar lesson, some days a dictation lesson. Once a week you will be doing a vocabulary study which corresponds with that day's history lesson. Your child will use a dictionary to look up the chosen words and write them down in their notebooks or binder. The dictation study is one of my son's favorite's. Instead of vigorous spelling tests this approach allows him to learn to spell through reading sentences. Words appropriate for his age.

As you can see in the above picture, each lesson is numbered. Your child will not move onto the next lesson number until he/she mastered all the words in the passage. There's words below the passages to help the child learn new words and help them with the words in the sentence. Words that rhyme with the highlighted words.

At the beginning of each lesson you will give your child the words written directly off the paper. Allow him/her a chance to look over, read and understand what is written. Then you will give him/her a dictation lesson by saying one sentence at a time. He/she will then say the sentence out loud to you before attempting to write it down. You do this with each sentence until complete.

You then allow him/her to check her work, circling words that are mispelled. You will then have her/him practice these sentences during the week until all words are mastered. You then move onto the next lesson.

This curriculum includes Level 2, Level 3 and Level 4 words. Levels 2 and 3 have 102 lessons, and Level 4 has 103 lessons. You work at your own pace. Start at the beginning and have them work through it at their pace. You don't have to complete all levels in one year. It's just there for those children that are more advanced or can work quickly through each lesson.

Alright.. I would like to now discuss the Grammar curriculum that we've chosen to use this year alongside our HOD lessons. Writing Tales Level One by Amy Hastings Olsen.

Writing Tales follows a classical approach to teaching writing based on the 12 ancient levels of instruction from the Greeks called the Progymnasmata. This concept shows the student how to learn to write by copying well written models first. They will also learn the mechanics of the English language by studying and analyzing those same models.

Writing Tales Level 1 is divided into 30 lessons, each one five days long. 15 fables, fairy tales and legends are studied and rewritten. In odd numbered lessons the story is introduced, copywork is done, vocabulary is studied, the grammar lesson is taught and the rough draft written.

Further study is done with grammar lessons, with additional stories to read and analyze. A final draft is written with creative touches added. Grammar is included in the 30 weeks of study. The students will learn basic rules including capital letters, punctuation, quotes, and all eight parts of speech. Your child will recieve handwriting, vocabulary, dictionary skills and spelling.

Your child will concentrate on one fable for two weeks. First week you will be introduced to the story. The story gives the child the help in completing that units grammar lesson. For example I have samples of Lesson 3 as follows.

I feel the best part of this curriculum is the rough draft and final drafts that your child needs to complete in each unit. The first week the final lesson of that week is writing a rough draft. This is a retelling of the story in their own words but they are not able to change anything about how the story takes place.

In the final draft at the end of that unit they get to retell the story by changing things while keeping the same storyline. For example, they can change the character's. This particular story is about mice. He/she can make them any animal they would like. Give them names etc. My son absolutely loves this part of the unit. He gets to be creative in his writing.

Each unit has extra activities to help enforce the concept they are trying to learn. For example above is helping my son learn about nouns. He played a game with me on naming nouns associated with each category.. person, place etc.

Here is another example of extra activities provided for additional learning. Here above my son had to retell the story by creating a little storyboard.

Some of the lessons your child will cut out strips of the story they read and put them in the order of how it happened. I love this because it shows me he's comprehending what he's reading.

About the Teacher's Guide
I really feel the teacher's guide is easy to read and understand. Just like the HOD curriculum, you can literally pick it up and just start. There is a few things that you may need ahead of time but it says before you need it to allow time to obtain it if you don't have it already (library book).


The great part about this curriculum is that it has lesson plans for both individual and co-op classes. It's set up for five days a week but we've altered it to fit our HOD curriculum since HOD is four days a week. We just do an extra lesson at the beginning of each week. Level 1 is geared towards 3rd and 4th grade students. They also have a Level 2 which we plan to use as well for next year since it works so well with what we are using.. On most days we can have each lesson completed within 20 minutes.

Well, here is our Language Arts curriculum we are using and loving! I hope you received enough information about this curriculum to help you understand it better. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions.. Would love to help you out with whatever I can.. Come back next week for more information about Heart of Dakota and how we are using it.. Until then....

Check out the other homeschool bloggers that have participated in this week's curriculum fair by clicking on the links below.. Let them know you stopped by, by leaving a comment..

Reading on Time by Cindy Horton @ Fenced in Family
Playing with Words: the Language Arts by Christa Darr @ Fairfield Corner Academy
Reading and Beyond: Language Arts in Our Homeschool by Laura O in AK @ Day by Day in Our World
Language Arts that Work for Us by Melissa @ Grace Christian School
Learning Language at Our House by Jessica @ Modest Mama
Virtual Curriculum Fair: Language Arts by Christine T. @ Our Homeschool Reviews
The Learning of Language by Dawn @ tractors & tire swings
Reading and Spelling: Modifying the Magic by Pam @ Pam and Everyday Snapshots
An In Depth Look at All About Spelling by Missouri Mama @ Ozark Ramblings
Virtual Curriculum Fair: Let's Talk About Words by Debra @ Footprints in the Butter
Why We Love Classical Conversations Essentials (and how I know that is not a complete sentence!) by Nicole @ Schooling in the Sun
Virtual Curriculum Fair---Playing with Words: the Language Arts by Angie @ Petra School
Whole Language vs. Phonics by Christine @ Crunchy Country Catholic
It's All About the Art of Language by Brenda Emmett @ Garden of Learning
Watching Movies for Language Arts Class by Debbie @ Debbie's Digest
Only 5 Spelling Tests a Year! (Can we do that?) by LP @ justpitchingmytent
Playing with Words by Chrissy @ Learning is an Adventure
Language Art at Our House by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory
Virtual Curriculum Fair Week One Playing with Words: the Language Arts by Leah Courtney @ The Courtney Six Homeschool Blog
Playing with Words, the Language Arts by Cindy @ For One Another


  1. This is a great post, thank you for putting so much time into showing exactly what you are doing in Language Arts...I'm really thinking I need to take a closer look at Writing Tales for my 2nd child. ;0)

    And thank you for writing for the Virtual Curriculum Fair, your post is a wonderful addition.

  2. This looks great! Thanks for sharing. Writing Tales does look like a great curriculum.

  3. I am really interested in those Writing Tales! Thanks for such a detailed description!

  4. I've heard of Heart of Dakota but really didn't know what it was. I had no idea it had a Charlotte Mason approach. Thanks for the in depth look!


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