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...
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. Oh...no...we 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!
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!