Heart of Dakota

Return to Categories


  • Reviewed on Thursday, July 16, 2015
  • Grades Used: 2nd / 3rd, 5th
  • Dates used: November 2014 - July 2015
Heart of Dakota is a curriculum that has a true following of enthusiastic users and is loved by many. It is in fact rare to find a review that is not highly positive about the benefits the mom and their children found through the Heart of Dakota guides.

This review is for the rest of us who found pros and cons in our Heart of Dakota experience.

If a mom with very young children is truly interested in Heart of Dakota I think they are in the best position to have a positive experience with this curriculum. A mom with a Kindergarten or first grade student can start with Little Hands with His Glory and work up through the guides. I think this would be the best way to use Heart of Dakota as a program, as long as the student stayed at pace with the building skills in the guides.

Each guide says it spans multiple ages and grade ranges. I didn't find this to be necessarily the case. I think the guides are tightly put together for a student who is at the same level in each area for each particular guide. If a student's skills are faster in one area or slower in another area it makes Heart of Dakota difficult to place into and to use. The older a child is coming into Heart of Dakota the more difficult they are to place.

Mrs. Austin intends moms to follow the guides exactly as written. The Heart of Dakota board, that Mrs. Austin is a part of to answer questions, indicates that the program is an intricate balance that needs to be used as written with all recommendations. Advice to do otherwise on the board is discouraged. I would actually agree with this advice for the most part. I did find that the program does best as written with recommendations. I used Creation to Christ in this way, except for using BJU math instead of Singapore and swapping out Write With the Best for IEW part way into CTC.

This program is a tightly woven guide that will work best for moms who agree with Mrs. Austin's scope and sequence, her built in independence and the timing of that independence, her timing of waiting for written narrations until 4th grade, and whose students are able to stay at pace with the guides in their learning. Eventually the guides are passed off to the student, which does include prayer suggestions to the student. This program will work best for moms who agree with the author in how she presents the material and wants the level of direction that the guides provide. It also will work best for students who will work under the authority of Mrs. Austin, and who will grow academically and spiritually in doing so.

I came into this program with three children who love to learn and are self-motivated learners. This program was not a good fit for my children who have always been home schooled. They are used to generating much of their learning on their own, or having mom and dad be their guides. I have always run school hours and been fairly structured in my schooling. They have had assignments from Kindergarten forwards. We have used other full curriculums. Heart of Dakota though is much more rigid in its approach then the freedom within a structure that I have generally provided in their learning.

I think the only comment I will make on the guides themselves is that they are without notes. Mrs. Austin does include general key ideas. I did find some inaccurate information in the key ideas. When the books are passed off to the student though mom does not know what is in them from the questions or key ideas except in a very surface way. One disadvantage then to the growing independence is the author of the books becomes the teacher instead of mom or even the guide.

I used Creation to Christ as WRITTEN. My main problem with it was a son who knew the content and learned the skills in the first three weeks.

The other guide I did was Beyond. It was too young for my second and third graders so I did modify it quite a bit. They didn't like Mrs. Austin's approach to Bible so we went back to our own Bible that they love. The science was much too young, so we ended up doing our own science as well.

I appreciated most of Mrs. Austin's book choices. I appreciated her attempts to integrate the Bible into the Creation to Christ study. I think she really has put a lot of work into putting out a full box curriculum. It will be interesting to see what it looks like in 20 years when her own life is less busy, and she has the time to go back and review what she has written.

If you are looking for a highly structured program that tells you exactly what to do down to very detailed directions of exactly what the student needs to write and how to make a craft. A program that has building independence, this may be the right program for you.


  • Reviewed on Tuesday, June 2, 2015
  • Grades Used: 4th
  • Dates used: 2014-2015
After researching and reviewing Heart of Dakota for a couple of years we finally decided to try it with my daughter. We chose Preparing Hearts for His Glory.

This curriculum has been the fit that I have been looking for. I love the unit study aspect of how everything, besides grammar and math, is weaved together in one learning sequence. One of the things that I appreciate the most is the independent study boxes. My daughter can learn science and history independently because of the way the curriculum is set up. She can also work on her timeline, and her story time can be done independently as well. This is a huge benefit when you are home schooling more than one child. The curriculum is played out in such an organized manner that there is no guessing. my daughter knows exactly what she is supposed to accomplish, and feels quite proud of herself when she is finished with her independent work.

We sound the readers to be fun, yet rich in content. we never grew tired of the stories that we read together. One of the books was named Grandpa's Box, and my daughter cried when we read the last page. To me, that is what homeschooling is all about. I love it when my kids are enjoying something so much that they don't want it to end.

I am a planner and organizer by nature, and this curriculum is perfectly organized and laid out. The boxes in the daily lessons are easy to understand, and even easier to accomplish without compromising a solid education. I couldn't be more happier then I am at the end of this year.

One thing that was also an encouragement to me was that I "like" Heart of Dakota's Facebook page... I had a specific question about whether or not I should finish this book of curriculum in the fall (because we did not complete it all inoneItearr) or if I should start the next book in the fall. It was so encouraging to me to get a response within 30 minutes giving me good advice to just continue the same curriculum in the fall, and to not skip ahead until I finish that guide. They encouraged me that this is a common practice with their study guides. The fact that someone wrote me back so quickly was a huge blessing. They put quotes on Facebook from time to time, and also educational tips.

I am very thankful that we found Heart of Dakota.


  • Reviewed on Sunday, September 21, 2014
  • Grades Used: Bigger Hearts through World History
  • Dates used: 2008-present
I would like to post a review of the World Geography guide. My family has used and enjoyed all the guides from Bigger Hearts to the brand-new World History guide. I cannot say enough about how much this curriculum has blessed our family!

In particular, the World Geography Guide was such a wonderful beginning to our high school years. We used it last year with our 10th grader and are using it again this year with two 9th graders.

The World Religions and Cultures study is our favorite part of the guide. We saw great growth in our children's hearts for the Lord and for people from other religions. The way that it is designed is such that you read about a religion's basic viewpoints and then you read a true story (autobiography or biography) about someone who left that religion and came to Christ. Each story is truly inspiring and faith-building. I read them all myself and even recommended them to others after I finished because they are so good! My own faith was greatly challenged as I saw the courage and the faith that each one of these individuals displayed as they left their false religion behind to follow Christ, many times in the face of great danger and even death. This study is not meant to be an in-depth study of each of these false religions, but an introduction into their beliefs. The point of the study is for children to learn that each false religion does not lead to God and will not satisfy or provide salvation. To read real stories brings this fact to life in a life-altering, memorable way. I still draw on these stories for inspiration and encouragement.

I feel the need to comment on a previous review that was very critical of this study. Some quotes were taken out of a book that is used about Jesus and His Jewishness. The quotes were taken completely out of context. For instance, this quote from the reviewer:

"That Jesus expected the hearers to be a sieve opposed to a sponge that would soak up everything he taught to (a sieve) filtering to remove the dross of what he said to take ONLY the treasures of his teaching. They claim our call is not to be "parrots" unquestionably repeating everything we learn from our favourite teacher, but to "Explore and experience" to be able to extract the treasure from the dross in His teachings. (Being Jesus) (Excerpt from Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus)".

In actuality, that quote is referring to people who had listened to a rabbi's teaching - not Jesus' teaching. And it is saying that no Christian teacher's words should be accepted without comparing them to the Word of God. In no way does the book suggest that Jesus' teaching is not absolutely infallible and completely true. And I would say this is right on - only God's words are to be taken as 100% true and everything else needs to be compared to the Word of God.

The curriculum always points everything back to the Word of God and has many, many Scripture references throughout that always point the student to God's Word to see what it says about a particular subject. This is something that I especially appreciate about HOD.

The previous review also states that HOD (or books that HOD uses) teaches there is more than one way to heaven. Again, nothing could be further than the truth. HOD consistently points to Jesus as the only way to heaven. In fact, that is the whole point of the World Religions and Cultures study. I believe the reviewer was referring to a particular book that had a controversial statement in it. It was noted in the guide and the students were told to compare it to Scripture and discuss with their parents. We will not always agree with every author and it is a wonderful skill for our kids to use to go to Scripture immediately when they sense that an author is saying something contrary to the truth. The book as a whole was a very helpful book that taught us a lot.

What I appreciate about this study the most is that it was written to prepare our kids for all the religious viewpoints out there that they will come across and that they can be assured that there is only one true religion - only one way to God and to heaven - and that is through Jesus Christ alone!

OK, enough about that! We have many favorites with this guide. The Literature study is fabulous! It takes BJU Lit and intertwines it with truly great novels. For us, it was the perfect balance and kept things mixed up enough that the kids really have enjoyed seeing what reading is coming next. I read them all and I really loved it!

The Logic study is a great mix of two interesting resources. My kiddos have definitely grown in seeing the fallacies in the world all around them by using these books.

I have also found the Bible study to be a great tool in developing their faith. It is not fluff at all and has led to great discussions about some topics that often are not really covered unless we make time for them. This is something that I would not expect your kids to do just on their own. The discussion time with them is really valuable. And the way that they pray for a people group around the world each week really ties into the Geography focus.

All in all, the World Geography Guide is very balanced and covers all needed topics and then some. I felt very reassured that my children were getting everything they need for high school and becoming prepared for college, if they so choose. The best part is the way that it is all planned out for me and that I do not have to do any scheduling work. It all flows so nicely and each day has a good mix up of readings and assignments so that you don't get into a rut. I am so thankful for HOD and the way that it has made homeschooling possible for us over the years. It is a truly Christ-centered, academically rigorous, living book-filled, balanced, doable(!) curriculum!


  • Reviewed on Tuesday, September 16, 2014
  • Grades Used: 9th
  • Dates used: 2013-2014
I really enjoyed Heart of Dakota World Geography for my ds first year of high school. I did not have to plan a curriculum, schedule his school day or search for books. That was all done for me. Even how to grade the different subjects and the credits were included. All I had to do was teach and have a wonderful year. The living books were amazing. We are looking forward to next year with World History.