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

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! πŸ™‚


  • Proverbs31Woman

    Always love your posts and pics πŸ™‚
    I was wondering how you organize your day with 3 guides? I guess it's a bit early to ask being in your fist week. I am considering doing only 1 guide this year, 2 guides next year and possibly 3 guides the year after. So seeing you jump into 3 guides makes me wonder how you're doing it? I will be doing SL Core B along with an HOD guide (most likely Bigger) with my oldest this year.
    BTW Your daughters handwriting is beautiful!

    • Cassandra

      Thanks! πŸ™‚ So… how we organize our day changes daily… ha. Basically, we do what works. We generally homeschool from about 9am-1pm. In this time period, the kids rotate with work. I will take individual time with each child to do things that need my direct help. Then I will 'assign' certain things they can do individually (esp the older 2) while I help other children do their work that needs guidance. It's really not so bad.. The kids have really enjoyed having their own guides. I won't lie – it certainly is more time consuming during the day then having them all doing a unit study together as we've done in the past – but it is working out very well and I actually kind of wanted the day to take longer, to be honest! I have 10 hours to fill and being done in 2 hours isn't always helpful with the flow of the day. Often times the other children will join in on one child's Science or read-alouds… so there's lots of stuff to do… I tend to 'jump' into things, but I've had no issues. Being very organized has been a must though… I couldn't do it if I hadn't taken the 2 weeks to prep everything. It would be too overwhelmind without the printouts and clipboards the way I created them… so it's all right in front of us – we know what to do. πŸ™‚ Hope this helps!

    • Proverbs31Woman

      I'm just realizing you responded! Thank you for the info! πŸ™‚ You've done a wonderful job! Whenever I see your posts of anything I can't wait to get started myself. HOD, AAR… gonna be a busy year for us! πŸ™‚
      Are you also using AAS? I want to use this too but also trying to figure out how to fit it in my day. Like you mentioned I guess the organization is what makes it all work. I will have to spend time organizing myself as well to make our year run smoothly, almost everything I'm using this year is new to me other than math.

  • dk

    Just found your blog and love it! It's encouraging me to get more organized with my three in various levels of HOD. My oldest will be in Bigger Hearts. I would love to use some of your printouts. Are they available anywhere besides Facebook?

  • Anonymous

    So thankful to find this!!!

    Can I ask why the extra printables? I am new to HOD and just learning the program. Are these printables used to complete assignments listed in the guide or are these extra things you've chosen to do? If the latter, would you mind explaining why you felt the need to add?

    I love your clipboard idea! Please keep sharing as you are able πŸ™‚

    Thank you again!

    • Cassandra

      Hi Karie – it is a combination. I wanted to add because we really like to do Notebooking. As for the printables – much of it is just making your day to day life easier with the program- so creating the space for the child to do the work that will be asked in the guide. None of them are necessary. You can do it as you go… πŸ˜‰ We actually did not continue with HOD, as I found it too difficult to keep up with with me 3 kids. It is a fantastic program though and I believe families will be richly blessed by this curriculum, if that is what you are looking for, it is wonderful.

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