Heart of Dakota Publishing offers a comprehensive curriculum in 12 volumes that can be used for preschool through high school. I review the Heart of Dakota (HOD) courses for PreK through eighth grade here. The four courses for high school level, titled Hearts for Him Through High School, differ enough from younger level courses that they need a separate review. (Note: Junior high level courses have optional Self-Study Extension Packages that make those courses adaptable for ninth and tenth graders as well.) Titles of the high school level courses are:
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)
Hearts for Him Through High School: U.S History II, ages 16-18 (available soon)
Hearts for Him Through High School courses are essentially lesson plans that direct you in the use of many of other resources. However, the guide books apply interdisciplinary skills across the curriculum, often through work in companion notebooks or journals as well as the other books that are used with each course.
Each volume is a one-year curriculum divided into 35 units, each of which will take one week to complete. Each week’s unit has lesson plans for four days, leaving the fifth day for you to use as you choose. If a student completes all activities it should take about 6.5 to 7 hours per day on each of the four days. Of course, there will be great variations in time required based upon the rate at which students read and accomplish their work.
HOD has designed their courses so that students gradually do more and more independent study. By high school level, students are completing most of their work on their own. To make that possible, HOD has selected many resources that provide the teaching with videos, CD-ROMs, or other formats that support independent study. However, some interaction is still required for some of the resources used in each course. In particular, oral and written narrations as well as dictation work, all based on Charlotte Mason methodology, require interaction with at least one other person. Instructions for narrations as well as the dictation passages are at the back of each book.
In every volume, each daily lesson plan is divided into two parts. On the left-hand page is the first part which is titled either Learning through History or Learning through Geography. Here you find assignments for geography or history, “Living Library” reading, and foreign language, plus assignments for world religions and cultures, government, or fine arts depending upon which course you are in. On the right-hand page, Learning the Basics shows assignments for Bible, composition and grammar, math, literature study, and science. There are also sections for health, constitutional literacy, or logic depending upon the course. Each subject area is presented in a box showing the “key idea” or goal of that lesson along with specific assignments for most subjects. This makes it very easy to see what needs to be done for each area.
Math is an exception since students might use one of HOD’s recommended courses or yet another course. The box for math simply says, “You may write an assignment next to the star.” However, there is extensive information about scheduling all of the recommended math programs in the introductory material for each course. A parent can enter lesson plans for math in advance if they wish to do so.
Front matter in each of the Hearts for Him Through High School books explains the resources for each subject area that are to be used and the number of high school credits earned in each subject area. A number of pages are used to provide course descriptions, required resources lists, course material, and detailed grading sheets for each component of the course. You might want to use these pages to check off assignments and record grades. These pages can go directly into a student’s portfolio for record keeping when a course has been completed.
For each subject area, the courses generally use a number of resources rather than just one. The large number of resources used, and the fact that many of them are designed for independent study with videos makes the cost for all resources for any one level higher than it might be for other homeschooling options. However, some resources are used over more than one course. The number of resources included in the complete courses might also seem daunting because of the number of pages to be read, but in addition to some being used over a few years, sometimes students are assigned only selected portions from a resource.
Each course has one or more companion student journals or notebooks. These are packets of full-color, three-hole-punched pages students will need to use throughout the course. You will need to provide your own binders for each set of pages. In each journal or notebook, they will write narrations, take notes, complete video viewing guides and graphic organizers, compile map work, and analyze primary source documents. These pages are not reproducible, so each student needs his or her own sets of pages.
In addition to the pre-printed journal and notebook pages, students will maintain other journals such as a prayer journal, a Common Place Book for entries from their literature reading, and a Literature Journal.
History and geography use a number of resources in each course. See the course descriptions below for details. A conservative political outlook shows up in resource selections for history, government, and economics. For each course there is a “Living Library” component, a selection of a dozen or more books or audio CDs that enrich studies on the history or geography themes for the year. These books are not required but are highly recommended. While the Living Library books are not used to meet the requirements for a student’s English credits, they do often require some literary analysis skills in assignments that accompany the reading. HOD provides a reproducible "Double Entry Journal Assignment" page in the appendix of U.S. History I, and "Literary Syntheses Sheets" are included in the appendices of some courses to be used with either Living Library titles or literature selections. Assignments in the lesson plans list page numbers from particular editions of each book or CD, so this is a situation where using a library book might not work if the layout and page numbering differs from that of the preferred edition sold by HOD. With that said, the Living Library books are optional. If you have a student who is easily overwhelmed you might use only a few or none of these books with a course.
In all of the courses, the English component includes resources for grammar, composition, and literature. Rod and Staff's texts Building Securely and Preparing for Usefulness are each used over two years for grammar and composition. World Geography and World History also use Essentials in Writing for composition while U.S. History I uses In Their Sandals. For literature, World Geography uses Fundamentals of Literature (BJU Press) along with a set of five or six novels—choose either the boy or girl set. The other courses don’t use a foundational literature text but, instead, have much lengthier lists of literary works to be read. Literature study gradually moves into deeper literary analysis year by year, so activities vary from level to level. Students are encouraged to mark up and annotate books as they read. HOD uses many different methods for student responses to literature. For example, they might discuss questions with a parent, write in response to specific questions in the lesson plan, complete a Literary Synthesis Sheet, or copy a passage into their Common Place Book.
Book of Centuries by Merlin DeBoer, a timeline book, is required as a one-time purchase that will be used through all of the high school courses. Each course has a separate set of timeline figures to be used with the Book of Centuries.
While I like HOD's approach to foreign language for those students who need only two credits in foreign language and want to study Spanish, others will need to use different resources. Spanish begins with Getting Started with Spanish by Linney and Orta the first year then shifts to the more demanding Alpha Omega LifePac Spanish 1 course which is used over the next two years rather than just one. This provides only a half credit per year in foreign language. (The fourth year plan is to cover half of Alpha Omega's LifePac Spanish 2.) You might want to complete the entire Spanish 1 course in one year (very challenging!) or use other foreign language options either to teach a language other than Spanish or to accumulate more credits. Keep in mind that some very competitive colleges and universities expect more than two credits in foreign language. (See this website that recommends aiming for four years of the same foreign language.)
Bible lessons include study of the Bible itself along with the study of great hymns and maintenance of a prayer journal. Courses present a biblical worldview that is strongly Protestant. This is evident not only in Bible resources but across the curriculum.
Overall, these are comprehensive courses that will prepare students for college, and there is quite a bit of flexibility to adjust to suit the needs of different types of students. You can purchase individual resources or you can purchase packages. Economy packages provide the essential items for covering history or geography and Bible for each course. You can choose other packages for each level for both core subjects and electives. Courses require significant amounts of both reading and writing. Students struggling in either area might do better with one of the junior high level courses and its extension package that transform it into a high school level course.
Students who are able to handle the work should be very well prepared with the required academic knowledge. But HOD courses go beyond the academics to build skills in other areas such as notetaking, summarizing, oral and written presentations, critical thinking, applying and presenting a Christian worldview, and practical finances,
I’ll provide more specifics regarding each course below.
Hearts for Him Through High School: World Geography
World geography replaces the history strand in this course, but its chronological study of geography inevitably includes quite a bit of history. Potentially, it provides up to 6.5 credits: one credit each for English, math, geography, Bible, and science, and one-half credit each for world religions and cultures, logic, and foreign language.
Among the many resources for teaching geography, Bible, and world religions and cultures are The Archaeology Book by David Down, A Book of Discovery by M.B. Synge, Mapping the world with Art by Ellen Johnston McHenry, The Seven Wonder of the World by Ron Tagliapietra, Must See Places of the World DVD set, World Religions: An Indispensable Introduction by Gerald McDermott, But Don’t All Religions Lead to God? by Michael Green, and Rooted and Grounded by Lisech, Lisech, and Harris.
Science uses Integrated Physics and Chemistry (Paradigm) with an optional lab manual and kit.
Three options for Algebra 1 are suggested with detailed recommendations for scheduling in the introduction in the course book.
Heart of Dakota notebook/journal sets for this course are Expedition Journal and the World Religion and Culture's Notebook.
Hearts for Him Through High School: World History
Through Hearts for Him Through High School: World History, full credits can be earned for Bible, world history, English, biology, and geometry. Health and Spanish coverage provide one-half credit each, and fine arts lessons might earn from one-half credit to a full credit.
Some of the resources used for world history and Bible are People, Places, and Events of World History (Paradigm); Short Lessons in World History: Fourth Edition (J. Weston Walch); King Alfred’s English by Laurie White; Trial and Triumph: Stories from Church History by Richard Hannula; Critical Thinking Using Primary Sources in World History by Wilson and Herman; The Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Study—A Survey of the Bible: Old Testament; and All-In-One Curriculum for The Pilgrim’s Progress (Answers in Genesis).
Biology is taught with A.C.E.’s course, but you have the option of using either PACE booklets with one DVD only for the lab work or else the PACE booklets with 12 DVDs that teach all of the lessons plus the lab DVD. Students fill in lab reports while watching the lab DVD, but they do no hands-on lab work themselves.
The Total Health course provides one-half credit for health.
Three options are suggested for geometry with detailed recommendations for scheduling in the introduction in the course book.
The Fine Arts Package for a half credit includes God and the History of Art DVD set by Barry Stebbing, Short Lessons in Art History by Phyllis Clausen Barker, and Art Gallery Notebook by Merlin DeBoer. You can expand the course for a full credit by adding hands-on art activities with the See the Light: Art Projects DVD set by Pat Knepley.
Heart of Dakota notebook/journal sets for World History are World History Journal and the Art Gallery Notebook.
Hearts for Him Through High School: U.S. History I
Students can earn up to 6.5 credits with the U.S. History 1 course. One full credit can be earned for work in history, Bible, English, math, and science. One-half credit each can be earned for government, foreign language, and Constitutional Literacy. Constitutional Literacy would fill an elective slot since this is not a required course.
U.S. History 1 begins with the Age of Exploration and continues through the Reconstruction period after the Civil War. This course is politically slanted in a conservative Christian direction with its use of resources such as Never Before in History by Amos and Gardiner, America: The Last Best Hope: Volume I by William Bennett, The American Testimony DVD Set 1: United States History from 1492 to 1877 (EduMedia), and Faith of Our Fathers: Scenes from American Church History edited by Mark Sidwell. These and other resources are used in conjunction with primary source documents found in Great Documents in U.S. History: Early Settlement to Reconstruction by Richard Kollen and Great Letters in American History by Rebecca Price Janney as well as other resources.
The Government Package for this course uses A Noble Experiment along with Whatever Happened to Justice? Students can earn a half credit completing that package, and they can also add the Constitutional Literacy Package for another half credit if they wish.
The set of literature for this course includes such titles as The Robe, The Scarlet Letter, Rip Van Winkle, Man Without a Country, and The Miracle Worker.
Bible study shifts to the New Testament with The Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Study—A Survey of the Bible: New Testament plus a study of great Christian hymns. Two books presenting a courtship model are included as part of the Bible course: Stay in the Castle and Seven Royal Laws of Courtship by Jerry Ross. In addition, you will also choose either the girl or boy option with two more books on Christian development and maturity.
Science uses Berean Builders’ Discovering Design with Chemistry course which includes a lab kit.
As in the other courses, there are three recommended courses for covering a second year of algebra with detailed recommendations for scheduling in the introduction in the course book.
Heart of Dakota notebook/journal sets for this course are U.S. History 1 Notebook and the World Religion and Culture's Notebook.
Hearts for Him Through High School: U.S. History II
This final course completes the study of U.S. History, enabling students to earn up to 7 credits. One credit each can be earned in history, English, math, Bible, and science. One-half credit each can be earned for economics, Spanish or Latin/Greek, finance, and speech.
Key resources for history are The Last Best Hope: Volume II by William Bennett and The Mystery of History: Volume IV by Linda Hobar. Among other history resources for this year are Great Documents in U.S. History: Age of Reform to the Present Day by Richard Kollen, The American Testimony DVD Set 2 (EduMedia), and Key Decisions in U.S. History: Vol. II by Croes and Smith. Living Literature titles that support history studies include such books as Six Days in October, Hattie Big Sky, Nisei Daughter (for girls), Eric Liddell (for boys), A Night Divided, Escape from Saigon, and Careful Enough.
The religion component has an apologetics flavor with the I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist course. This is used along with either Created for Work for boys or Girl Talk for girls.
Economics is taught from a free market perspective with resources such as Economics: A Free Market Reader, The Myth of the Robber Barons, and The Money Mystery. Teens learn practical financial skills through the Money-Wise DVD and Money Matter for Teens.
English uses the last half of Rod and Staff's Preparing for Usefulness along with a number of books, CDs, and DVDs such as Hamlet, The Hawk and the Dove, Jane Eyre (with an optional DVD), A Christmas Carol, and Murder in the Cathedral. Composition work is done with literature journal assignments.
The resources for Speech are Secrets of Great Communicators and How to Become a Dynamic Speaker.
The science course is an interesting combination of Astronomy with Geology and Paleontology for one-half credit in each area. Lab work accompanies both sections of the course. A Survey of Astronomy text is used along with other resources such as The New Astronomy Book and a DVD series What Your Aren't Being Told About Astronomy. Geology and Paleontology are studied primarily with the book Fossils, Dinosaurs, and Cave Men. This entire course has a strong creationist/anti-evolution perspective supported with resources such as Evolution's Achilles' Heels DVD and Censored Science: The Suppressed Evidence.
Math options include continuing with VideoText Geometry and Trigonometry or using Foerster's Precalculus text with the Math Without Borders flash drive teaching videos.
For foreign language, students can continue with the second year of Alpha Omega's course or use two introductory resources for Greek and Latin: Getting Started with Latin and It's Not Greek to Me.