See the complete review in 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.
The Heart of Dakota program is a comprehensive, Charlotte Mason oriented curriculum in 12 volumes that can be used for preschool through high school. Many of the courses can be extended to cover older students by using additional resources; schedules for those resources are in an appendix in the main book. Titles and grade levels covered are:
Little Hands to Heaven, ages 2-5
Little Hearts for His Glory, ages 5-7
Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory, ages 6-8
Bigger Hearts for His Glory, ages 7-9 (extending to ages 10-11)
Preparing Hearts for His Glory, ages 8-10 (extending to ages 11-12)
Hearts for Him Through Time: Creation to Christ, ages 9-11 (extending to ages 12-13)
Hearts for Him Through Time: Resurrection to Reformation, ages 10-12 (extending to ages 13-14)
Hearts for Him Through Time: Revival to Revolution, ages 11-13 (extending to ages 14-15)
Hearts for Him Through Time: Missions to Modern Marvels, ages 12-14 (extending to ages 15-16)
Hearts for Him Through High School: World Geography, ages 13-15 (extending to ages 16-18)
Hearts for Him Through High School: World History, ages 14-16 (extending to ages 17-18)
Hearts for Him Through High School: U.S History I, ages 15-17 (extending to twelfth graders)
In this review, I will cover the series up through Hearts for Him Through Time courses. I review the high school courses in a separate review.
The courses are biblically based from a Protestant point of view. While this is obvious in the bible lessons, it also underlies history, science, and other subjects.
Each volume is a one-year curriculum, divided into 33 to 35 units, each of which will take one week to complete. The large book for each course is your primary resource. It lays out daily lesson plans that really cover everything that you need for that level! Subject areas covered and the amount of emphasis upon each vary from volume to volume. Instructions for learning activities are written out in each manual.
While some of the activities at lower levels for math and grammar direct you in the use of other resources, at upper levels most of math and grammar is learned through other resources. Read-aloud assignments also rely upon other books.
In every volume, each daily lesson plan is divided into two parts: Learning the Basics and Learning through History. Each subject area is presented in a box with between nine and twelve boxes per daily lesson plan. This makes it very easy to see what needs to be done for each area. Lessons begin with history each day. The Learning through History parts of the lesson on the left-hand page are designed like a unit study. Daily assignments for history tell you which pages to read in the history book or Bible storybook (or your own Bible) and the key idea upon which to focus. That key idea is also incorporated in Bible, art, thinking skills, science, or some of the other lessons for that day. Learning the Basics activities on the right-hand page don’t necessarily relate to the theme, but they cover language arts, math, and other needed subjects. For all subject areas, specific pages (tracks in the case of audio CDs) are assigned in each day’s lesson plans for the other required resources. This is a huge time saver.
The four Hearts for Him Through Time volumes (upper elementary levels) have essential sets of student notebook pages. These are printed in full color and are not reproducible, so a set will be needed for each student. These pages include map work, graphic organizers for students to complete, plus space for writing assignments.
Beginning with Bigger Hearts, extension resources and activities are listed so that you can accommodate older learners and teach more than one child the same subject matter at least part of the time. Reading schedules are included in an appendix in each volume rather than within the lessons.
Author Carrie Austin says that completing all of the activities should take about 1½ hours a day for Little Hearts, 2 to 2½ hours per day for Beyond Little Hearts, and about 3½ hours per day for Bigger Hearts. It becomes much more difficult to predict time requirements for upper level volumes since students do more independent work and you will be making a number of choices depending upon the needs of each student. Although the assumption is that you will complete all subject areas each day, you will find that skipping a subject now and then won’t cause lasting harm, particularly in the first three volumes.
Science experiments and activities are included in all volumes, and you are referred to other books for additional science reading at each level. Science notebooking assignments are added beginning with Bigger Hearts, while recording data and observations with lab work are added at upper levels. In the elementary grades, science focuses on fewer topics per year than we typically find in textbooks, but science lessons do a great job of covering those topics interestingly and in-depth with plenty of observation and experimentation.
For the youngest levels, hands-on math activities are given in the manuals, then assignments are made from Singapore Math books at the appropriate level. Upper elementary through junior high levels drop the hands-on activities for math but continue to provide Singapore Math schedules. Math assignments are very specific with alternative page assignments at the back of the book for the different levels of Singapore Math books that you might be using. (You can substitute another math program if you prefer.)
... [Reviews of each level are included in 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.]
I like the way Carrie Austin has combined elements of unit study, living books, and textbooks in a format that makes it very easy for the parent or teacher to know exactly what to do each day. Art and math lessons might take a little more preparation time than other subjects, but other than that, lesson prep time is very minimal. The variety of learning methods should appeal to children of various learning styles.
While courses follow a historical chronology, you can begin at any level. For each course, you can purchase the main lesson plan book by itself and gather the other resources on your own, or you might want to purchase one of the economy, basic, extension, or deluxe packages. Package options become increasingly complex as you move up to higher grade levels. See the publisher's website for all of the options.