Sunday, December 18, 2016

Heart of Dakota Resurrection to Reformation - My Review

One of these days I may stumble across the perfect curriculum for our homeschool...really.  We freely bounce around, trying out what we think might be a good fit, and typically don't like it and continue on with BiblioPlan (which we have been loosely using for several years now).  We took a chance and decided to do an 8 week trial of a very popular curriculum, Heart of Dakota!  It was quite different for us since it splits the girls up at their own level putting Kayley in the guide Resurrection to Reformation (studying the middle ages) and Maggie in Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory (studying early American History).

There are many, many things that we really like about Heart of Dakota (HOD).  There are several things that we didn't like, which prompted us to tweak and then eventually to drop HOD all together.  We really enjoyed our tour and after Christmas may take a tour of something else entirely...who knows?  But, here are my thoughts on Heart of Dakota....

Heart of Dakota is an unapologetically Christian Homeschool Curriculum that is Charlotte Mason Inspired.  It is an engaging curriculum and just all around fun!  Guides are divided up by a range of ages, for instance, Kayley was placed in Res to Ref which is recommended for children ages 10-12 extending up to 14.  She was on the very young end of the guide but she met the challenges with gusto and did really well.   Maggie, in Beyond, was also at the lower end of her guide and did just fine.

When placing your child in the program it is recommended to spend plenty of time comparing skills to determine correct placement.  Correct placement is essential in order for the guide to challenge but not overwhelm your student.  I do feel like both girls were placed well in their respective guides.

I am going to talk about Kayley's guide, Resurrection to Reformation.

Guides are divided into a daily layout, which is really nice, it gives you a lovely overview of what is expected each day...  The boxes in Kayley's guide were labeled with either I (for independent work), S (semi-independent) or T (teacher directed.)  I really, really didn't want to write in my guide, so a big thanks to another HOD Mom for showing me how to use Tabs to mark completed work each day!

We found right away that there was NO way that Kayley could read the history on her own.  In the first several weeks we were either reading from Peril and Peace, Famous Men of the Middle Ages, or The Story of the Middle Ages by Harding (which Kayley called "the pink book").  Kayley could've handled parts of the reading on her own...Famous Men is actually a great book full of biographies with tons of pictures, Peril and Peace isn't too bad either, but the dreaded pink book made Kayley cringe when I got it out...

TWEAK #1:  I ended up reading out loud and translating every few paragraphs... this added quite a bit of time into our school day because some of the readings are pretty long.

We were told if your child was not used to the "old english" type of books that they may struggle...  Even after an 8 week tour of Ambleside Online we still struggled with the Story of the Middle Ages...  About mid-way through the guide the student starts reading Mystery of History Vol 3, which would've been awesome I have no doubt.  At the point in history (about week 6) when I no longer understood where we were in the timeline I knew there was no way Kayley was clued in.  Sure enough, when questioned she just didn't know...and didn't understand.  It was a bummer, because, ironically enough, neither did I!  And I love history.

Ok, a few other things.  Story time selections were EXCELLENT.  We read The Forbidden Gate and Mystery of the Silver Coins.  Both were so, so good.  For Story time the student created an index card and listened for key elements in the story and documented them.  Things like strong moods, great lines, and plot twists.  This was a really simple way to get Kayley thinking about what we were reading and identifying literary elements.  It created some really good conversation too.

TWEAK #2:  We skipped Bible since it really didn't fit our religious views.  No biggie.  We cover scriptures in our Joy Basket anyway and didn't need duplication.

TWEAK #3:  We skipped the rotation box that included Poet and Artist since we did that as a family in our Joy basket...and then we skipped the "devotional Bible" days too since reading about womanhood as a "budding rose" was making my not-girly daughter throw up in the back of her mouth...

Language Arts uses Rod & Staff for grammar, which was perfect because we are happy R&S users for 2 years now....  For writing, Institute for Excellence in Writing Medieval.  This is a great program that really teaches a reluctant writer how to get started.  

TWEAK #4:  We dropped IEW because with the 2x per week written narrations it was just TOO much writing.  We couldn't keep up.  And Kayley's written narrations are really good...and that's good enough for now for our family.

For spelling they use dictation.  We started experimenting with studied dictation in our 8 week trial of Ambleside, but by week 5 I was a little frustrated with the sentences found in the back of our guide.  I felt like they were wrongly punctuated, I was told by other HOD moms that it is "correct."  (But, I really don't think it is??)  I was told by a couple of HOD moms that the goal isn't to teach punctuation but spelling...  (what?! yeah, but what?!)   Another mom mentioned that I could just correct it and move on, but really?  Why should I even have to do so?  
Maybe I'm far off but I'm nearly positive that Charlotte Mason wouldn't want you to put something incorrect in front of your child...  It bothered me.  A little.  

TWEAK #5:  Ok, it bothered me nough to switch back to Spelling Wisdom for dictation.

For literature, HOD uses their own program called Drawn into the Heart of Reading...  It was a pretty good program but worksheet based.  We are pretty anti-worksheet in this house.  The more worksheets we were doing, the more burdensome reading became. cannot have THAT!   So, 
TWEAK #6:  We dropped the worksheets and by Week 4 we dropped the reading guide altogether in favor of "just reading."  Joy of reading reinstated.

Ok, what else?  Right, Science!
Science was a big fat hit!  Kayley loves reading from the Astronomy book, we downloaded a free notebook from the Monarch Room and Kayley did great with it.  The experiments were a lot of fun.  No tweaks in science at all!  In fact we are still using it!

Each week your child also does a craft project of some kind.  These were great too.  Sometimes messy, sometimes not but every one she did was a lot fun.

The student notebook was really the favorite of the curriculum.  It is very pretty with lots of boxes to fill in.  (We are a big "box checker" family)  Each week your student writes a postcard based on a research topic.  (There were several weeks that both of us were hunting for the answers to fill in this box and didn't always find them all).  There is a timeline section, a place to write your written narrative for the week, a biography section, a map and so forth.  I think the student notebook was the #1 selling point for Kayley.  She really enjoyed note booking.  And it really does make a lovely keepsake.

I think my only issue with the notebook is that, for all the writing Kayley did, she had very little retention.  I would try going back and asking a question from a week before and she just didn't know. I think this really stemmed from being lost in history (darn pink book) and then writing down the answers but not really understanding the material.

Oh, and you also couldn't really skip a subject or tweak much or you'd be left with a gaping empty box!  And us box-checkers cannot handle that!

In summary:

Fun!  Craft Projects!  Student Notebook!  Story time Selections!  Science!

CONS:  Too much writing.  Too much time.  Too little retention.

And really, I think this was the biggest CON for our family...  This curriculum was SO busy, SO full, SO rich, that it just took SO long to get it done.  By week 6 it was a source of contention.  I was frustrated that I was trying to get dinner on the table and Kayley wasn't done.  Poor girl, it wasn't her fault!  She worked hard.  She worked diligently.  She did a good job.  She could handle the assignments.  She just couldn't get Day One done in one day and it really upset her.  In the end, we started doing a lot of tweaking...then eliminating...and no matter how much we tweaked and eliminated, our school day was still just taking TOO long.

Maybe she wasn't placed well in her guide?  But, I don't think so.  In reading through the HOD message boards I learned that her guide really "should" take about 5 hours per day.  Maybe we are just really spoiled homeschoolers but that is too long for our family...and so...we called it quits.

So, all in all, there are my thoughts on HOD Res to Ref.  We really did enjoy much of the curriculum and I think there is always a possibility that we may revisit it again one day.

If you are still here, thanks for thanks for sticking it out and reading this long review!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Charlie the Tramp {Review & Giveaway!}

Think back...maybe way back...and tell me, do you remember Frances?  I don't remember a ton about the adorable little badger, but I do remember her desperately liking bread and jam, and I remember when she had a new baby sister and when she ended up running away.  (It didn't work out that great.)  There were several Frances books and each one was cuter than the last.  I have since checked them all out from the library for MY kids to enjoy.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Russell and Lillian Hoban were the authors of a cute critter other than Frances!  Meet Charlie, an adorable little beaver who decides that, instead of being a beaver, he wants to be a "tramp" when he grow up.

Charlie decides that being a beaver is just way too much work...he doesn't want to practice swimming, diving and holding his breath under water.  He doesn't want to keep his teeth sharp.  As tramp he can carry a little bundle with a stick, sleep outside when the weather is nice, and do little odd jobs for a meal...  Well, of course his parents are concerned, because surely Charlie doesn't want to be a tramp?  But, he does, so with his parents blessing, Charlie goes off a-tramping.

I won't tell you about his adventures as a tramp or what he decides to'll just have to read the book to find out!  It is a cute story with a happy ending.

Originally published in 1966, Charlie the Tramp is in it's 50th Anniversary hardcover edition.  As a Charlotte Mason homeschooler I have to say that this book fits the bill as a non-twaddly, early reader.  Just perfect for reading aloud or the emerging readers in your family!  

You can purchase Charlie the Tramp from your favorite retailer!

Great News!
I have also been blessed with a second copy of Charlie the Tramp to giveaway to one reader of Swinging on Small Hinges!  Enter below!  Raffle ends December 8th at midnight.

Thanks for swinging by!

“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255:  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”):  Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize of the giveaway.  Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller /FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again.  Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

A Trip to Ha Ha Tonka

For Black Friday we made a quick trip to Ha Ha Tonka to walk off our Thanksgiving Dinner.  It was chilly, but a perfect day to go for a hike!


A much needed selfie! 

We hiked the stairs...both down and back up again!
We were pretty tired.  

Kayley and Papa at the bottom...

Eventually we all made it to the bottom!


Friday, October 28, 2016

Rip Van Winkle and the Pumpkin Lantern {Book Review & Giveaway!}

In October 1730, young Rip Van Winkle sneaks into a graveyard and comes face-to-face with the ghost of William Blaxton, the legendary first settler of Boston.  Warning Rip that the city is in danger, the ghost gives him a mysterious gift:  a pumpkin lantern with power over life and death.  Before fading into midnight, the ghost tells Rip to take the lantern to Feathertop, a mythical pumpkin-headed scarecrow.  
Pursued by Mistress Hibbing, a witch of terrifying power, and hunted by the nightmarish Midnight Minister, young Rip must rely on the aid of Jonathan Edwards, a stern and secretive preacher, and Nathaniel, a talkative, know-it-all raven.  Guided by the magical light of the lantern, Rip races across New England to find Feathertop, save Boston, and become a most unlikely hero!
Rip Van Winkle and the Pumpkin Lantern by Seth Adam Smith is a perfect read for Halloween!  I am not quite finished with the book yet (so I don't know how it ends!) but I wanted to get this review out there before Halloween came and went!  Here are my thoughts on the book so far...

Rip was found as a baby in a cemetery by a young couple with no children.   Crazy right?  Literally, they found Rip in an open grave, laying at the bottom, nearly dead with cold.  Pulling him out of the grave they warmed him back to life, named him Rip (as in "Rest In Peace") and raised him as their own.  What they didn't know is that was born with Rip magical powers.  He can talk to plants and they talk back!  As Rip grows, more and more adopted children join his family, and life is good.  Until the sickness arrives.  Devastated at the result the sickness has on his family Rip slips into longer performing magic and feeling directionless.

One sleepless night, Rip looks out his window to see a stranger with yellow eyes.  The stranger looks right at him and Rip feels drawn to follow.  Sneaking out of the house that night brings him back into the graveyard...  and he runs right into the ghost of William Blaxton! Blaxton gifts him with a mysterious pumpkin lantern, charging him with using the lantern to become a "light in the wilderness" and save the city of Boston from the darkness.  With the help of a preacher and a talking Raven, Rip sets out on his journey to defeat the evil Mistress Hibbins & the terrifying Midnight Minister and bring light and truth back to Boston.

This is my first time reading a fiction book by Seth Adam Smith and I have enjoyed it very much!  Pulling you into fanciful scenes with fantastic descriptive power takes the reader on the journey with Rip!  It's been hard to put down!  I can't tell you how it ends since I don't know yet, but I can tell you that I can't wait to find out!  Will Rip save Boston?  I hope so!

Seth described this book as a fable about overcoming depression and the importance of finding the "light in the wilderness."  Learn more about Seth Adam Smith by visiting his website at or on Instagram @sethadamsmith.

Rip Van Winkle and the Pumpkin Lantern by Seth Adam Smith can be purchased from your favorite retailer!  I am also giving away one copy to a lucky reader here at Swinging On Small Hinges.  Enter using the giveaway tools below!

Disclaimer:  I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed here are my very own.  Thank you so much for swinging by!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

America's Struggle to Become a Nation, Timeline of the Revolution {Homeschool Curriculum Review}

Are you looking for a simple way to teach history to your 4th-6th graders this year?  I know I am overwhelmed every year as I constantly bounce around trying to find a curriculum that I love.  Some years I think I've got it and then our homeschool evolves, my children's interests change and suddenly I am looking for something that will meet our ever-changing needs.  This year it was all about simplifying.  If you too are looking to simplify your homeschool then this new American History program published by Master Books may be just what you are looking for!

The new Timelines of the Revolution series is a 2-part set, The Fight for Freedom, Biographies of the American Revolution and America's Struggle to Become a Nation, Timeline of the Revolution.  I was given America's Struggle to Become a Nation with coordinated teacher guide to review and I'm excited to tell you all about it!  This new series, written by Rick & Marilyn Boyer of, helps students from grades 4 - 6 understand how our nation came to be.  Staunch patriots, Rick & Marilyn present American History from a Godly perspective and really help children understand the blessings of liberty and the importance of not just remembering, but treasuring, our heritage.  These 2 books are all you need to set students on the path of patriotism and a love of American history! 

The text contains 34 chapters, one for each week of the school year.  Each chapter is divided into 3 separate reading sections creating easy places to divide up the work through your week.  As you can see in the Teacher Guide, the recommended schedule is a five day per week plan, but this program lends itself to flexibility and can be used as a 4 day plan as well.  Each section includes a question/answer worksheet.

What we love about America's Struggle to Become a Nation:
-First of all the pictures are ah-mazing!  The full color illustrations throughout the book are beautiful!
-The Teachers Guide makes is super easy to figure out what each daily assignment is.  Box-checkers that we are, we love a guide that lets us check something off.  The teachers guide also allows for inputing and tracking grades if your homeschool requires that.
-Lengthy quotes dotted throughout the book serve as source documents, which is something that is challenging to find in a homeschool curriculum for children this age.
-Lessons are bite-sized allowing for great flexibility and holding your child's attention.
-Quarterly and bonus quizzes are located in the back of the teacher guide for your convenience.  This is a handy tool that can even be used orally to check for understanding.
-One of our favorite parts - each chapter includes a couple of projects to complete.  For example: memory work selections (like the pledge of allegiance), journal entries, designing posters, writing newspaper articles, building a fort, and research opportunities.
-Wait, I changed my mind, I think maybe this is our favorite part:  Uncle Rick stories are punctuated throughout the text.  And many of you already know how I feel about Uncle Rick, but if you need a refresher you can read all about the "this is my Uncle Rick too" moment here!
-The price is great!  As of this posting the America's Struggle to Become a Nation 2-book set is only $36.99 at!

Other thoughts about America's Struggle to Become a Nation:
-The curriculum is designed for grades 4-6 but my 5th grade daughter did struggle to understand the meaty concepts without help so I believe that a parent or teacher will need to treat this book as a read-aloud for students who are not strong and motivated readers.  This works great for us since we do many subjects as read-togethers still, but if you are looking for a curriculum your child can do completely independently this may not be a good fit.  Master books offers .pdf download samples of both for you to read over before deciding. 

We really enjoyed reviewing this product and I plan to keep it and use it for next year when we begin our studies in American History!  

Check our more products from Rick & Marilyn Boyer by visiting their website at!

Disclaimer:  Thank you so much to Rick & Marilyn Boyer and MasterBooks for the wonderful opportunity.  I was given this product free of charge in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed here are my very own.  Thank you so much for "swinging by!"

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Sheriffs of Savage Wells by Sarah M. Eden {A Proper Romance Book Review}

A Proper Romance by Shadow Mountain has struck again!  I have adored every single book I have read so far and once again, A Proper Romance did not disappoint!  A bonus, Sarah M. Eden is one of my favorite authors.  You can read a couple of my reviews of her other books here.  In this new book we get a feisty heroine, Paisley Bell, who is determined to be the new Sheriff of Savage Wells, Wyoming.

The small town of Savage Wells is barely big enough for the people who call it home; it certainly isn’t big enough for more than one sheriff. 
Yet when famed lawman Cade O’Brien rides into town, he finds he’s not the only man ready to take on the job. What’s more, one of his competitors is a woman. 
Paisley Bell loves her town and the eccentric people in it. She’s been the acting sheriff for months and isn’t too keen on relinquishing the job to anyone else. Not only does she love the work, but she also needs the income to take care of her ailing father. 
It’s a true battle of the sexes, and sparks fly between the two as Cade and Paisley banter and boast, neither one ready to acknowledge the attraction they have for each other. But when Paisley’s former beau shows up, along with a band of bank robbers, Savage Wells is suddenly faced with the kind of peril that only a sheriff can manage. Who will be man enough—or woman enough—to step up, claim the badge, and save the town?

Paisley Bell is something else.  She spent several months covering for an inept and distracted sheriff, even going so far as to bringing in a notorious gang of outlaws (of which she got no credit).  When the town of Savage Wells decides to hire a new sheriff, Paisley throws her name in the pool of candidates, much to the chagrin of Cade O'Brien, well-known law man and certain shoo-in for the position.  What Cade doesn't know is that Paisley is not going to give up easily and he quickly discovers that she can best him at many of his own skills.  She is quick, witty, a sharp-shooter, and level-headed in dangerous situations.  The more they compete with each other to try to win the title of sheriff, the more they begin to respect one another, and heaven-forbid...maybe even admire one another?  Yes!  :)

I rarely read books where the heroine is a feisty "I can do it myself type."  I admit to being more of a "Cinderella story" type person, but I couldn't put this book down!  For all of Paisley's bluster, she is tender and softhearted and I grew so fond of her character.  The book left me hanging a little in the end...maybe it is to keep us wondering until a 2nd book comes out?  After all, I'm very worried about Dr. Gideon MacNamara.  I mean, hello!  He's handsome...and single...and so nice! 

The Sheriffs of Savage Wells can be purchased from your favorite retailer!  You'll love it!

Want to learn more about Sarah M. Eden?  

Want to keep up with ALL the Proper Romances?  

Disclaimer:  I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed here are my very own.  A hearty Thank You to Shadow Mountain!!!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The One With the Selfies...

Because, hey, why not?

How cute is the baby Milo photobomb in the back? 

Someone is giving me rabbit ears? 

Gramma photobomb!

Mr. Potato Head. 

Couldn't miss R2D2 either... 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Our Disney Vacation 2016

This will be a picture intense post! We had such a wonderful trip and a fun time on our Disney Vacation this year! We spent 1 day at Lego Land, 4 Days at Walt Disney World and 3 Days on the Disney Cruise!  Wow!  We were exhausted but we had so much fun!  Here are lots of pictures:

Riding the Island in the Sky. 

I didn't take very many pictures on this trip...and it was kind of refreshing to not be constantly fumbling for a phone or camera...but in the end we didn't have very many.  

At Norway in Epcot. 

The girls did passports on their trip around the World Showcase. 

Kayley feeding Milo.   

It rained...  a LOT! 

And when it wasn't raining it was wickedly hot! 

Our chariot awaits! 

Our room on the cruise.  Maggie's bed is the couch and Kayley's dropped down from the ceiling.  We had a great concierge come to set up our room each evening and put it back together again each morning.  He always folded a towel in a funny shape... I wish I had thought to take a few pictures of them...they were cute. 

Playing aboard ship...   

The view of the main the deck.   

Little girls in big portholes. 

In the Millennium Falcon. 

On the dance floor at the Oceaneer Club.  Don't be deceived...there really were about a trillion more people on board than it looks right now... 

In Andy's room... 

Back on the Melennium  Falcon!

Out to sea...  Quite a view.  No land in sight.  
(Remind me to tell you about how sea sick I was bad.) 

The guys got facials...  
(us girls did too, sorry no incriminating photos of us!  LOL)


Playing a really fun detective was all over the ship.  The pictures come to life and you solve mysteries... 

I ate escargot.  Really.  (and caviar!)
I feel so cultured now. 

Beautiful sunset! 

Pirate Night!  ARRR! 

At Disney's private island, Castaway Cay. 

Hmmm...  something washed ashore. 

Snorkeling!  It was everybody's first time and really neat.

My treasure I found while snorkeling. 

Kayley's snorkeling treasure! 

The view from our private cabana. 

Mount Rustmore. 

Island girls! 

We had a great time!  We cannot wait to go cruising again!

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