Bigger Hearts for His Glory – My Second Graders

Here we are with only six weeks left of our homeschool year, and I am now just sitting down to let you all now how it is going for my precious second graders. {We’re not even going to think about the fact that this also means that in six weeks I will technically have two third graders in my home. Ah!} Many of you have asked if we are still using and loving Heart of Dakota” (the homeschool curriculum we fell in love with four years ago now). Hopefully this answers some of your questions. And for you non-homeschooling families, it will just give you a glimpse into one family that schools at home. :) ~Jessica

Schooling at home.

So much like other motherhood feats.

There’s having everyone in the house all day long. With piles of books stacked high in the way of dinner. And little ones under foot while attempting a Science experiment. And an English book that needs to be shared two ways and everyone running in to dance to the music.

Bigger Hearts for His Glory

There’s reading stories of America’s heroes and learning the loops of each cursive letter. With snuggles on couches and taking a deep breath when hearing the fifth incorrect word in the first sentence of reading. And broken pencils and no erasers and a wrinkled brow trying to figure out that math problem.

There’s paint in a whirl and glue on the table and maps to be drawn and hymns to be learned from. There’s Scripture to be memorized and poetry to hear. Push-ups to struggle through and sisters and brothers that can’t seem to be quiet. There’s frustration loud and joy so beautiful. There’s wondering if I can keep doing this. And thanksgiving that there are so many things I won’t miss.

But above all – there’s finding God’s hand in it all. Minds and hearts finding what it means to know God and to walk in His ways {even during schooling… and even for this momma}. And trusting that as God has called our family to teach these precious ones at home, He will continue to equip us.

second graders

Alyssa and Elliana’s second grade year has truly been such a blessing!

There is so much packed into this Bigger Hearts for His Glorycurriculum that we are finishing, that at the beginning of the year I wondered if it would just be too much. But these now eight year-olds have risen to the challenge and done simply beautifully (and have brought much excitement and a confidence for me to go through this guide in the same way again next year with my soon to be seven-year old, Kayla).

Elliana's cursive

We’ve really enjoyed seeing God’s hand in the history of our nation, and really appreciated the storytelling style of the books we’ve been reading. We found ourselves celebrating along with many of the courageous, hard-working, faith-filled heroes of American history. And we’ve loved reenacting historical events along the way. The other history connections (from geography to timelines to narration retellings to notebooking to poetry, even to baking, etc.) have really helped to teach important skills while digging deeper into the main themes. Alyssa loves (I mean LOVES!) the related vocabulary each week. And the art projects continue to be a highlight of our weeks. And the Biblical emphasis woven throughout is simply beautiful.



From language arts to math to science to music to reading– we’ve been so very pleased! I love how quick but impactful the language arts lessons are (as we do most of them orally). Math is coming along sure and steady – we always love when there’s a treat involved in our learning. The Science experiments Elliana asks to do every day. Hymn’s for a Kid’s Heart is probably my favorite (I love, love, love the stories behind these classic hymns!). Another favorite is all of the storytime books. All the girls beg me to just keep reading! :)


I still LOVE how everything in the guide is laid out, organized, and easy to use! It uses items we already have on hand, and is very well-balanced, so that we are not spending way too much time on any one subject. It teaches our kids what they need to know, while bringing me confidence along the way. And continually pointing to Jesus!

Elliana and Alyssa baking

Not everything is perfect – some things we struggle through, some days we have bad attitudes, some concepts are confusing.

A First Book in American History, I haven’t really cared for, but it tells the stories well, we’ve learned so much, and my girls seem to like it. The Story of the Wright Brothers and Their Sister, we are reading right now, and that is everyone’s favorite! None of us want to put it down! :)

For some reason I struggled through the first Science book (One Small Square – Seashore). Maybe because we were just getting used to doing Science each day, maybe because we don’t live near the seashore… I’m not sure because we really liked the other One Small Square book. But, it did seem to be a bit over my girls’ heads. After that, however, we’ve really enjoyed the rest of the Science. (I share this because, if you are just starting, don’t give up, I think you will be blessed by persevering.)


Elliana's Bible verse

If a perfectly good day is going to go sour, it often happens while doing math. I really, really like the Singapore math that we are doing, and I love the activities that are written right into “Bigger Hearts for His Glory,” and how together they encourage active thinking instead of just route memorization. I want my children to understand why 4×5=20 instead of simply spouting out the answer, and this math program does that. And, honestly, our girls do very well and are “getting it.” But, for some reason when one or the other pulls out their book and opens to the page, they all of a sudden think they can’t do it. I think part may be a little “competition” between the two or a bit of “perfectionism” – and maybe I’ll have to start doing math separately. Maybe add in a little of the memorization to get them more confident. Maybe switch to another time in the day. For now, this is something I just want to keep watching. ;)

Many of you know I was a bit hesitant to know what to do for reading. I ended up following another HOD mom’s suggestion and had my girls read the Level 2 books that “Heart of Dakota” offers, but instead of using DITHOR (as that was super overwhelming to me, and I thought a bit much for second graders… although we’re looking forward to using it for third grade)- we used the daily storytime activities along with the books they read to me, and it’s working perfectly! They’re still getting many of the same concepts, but it’s easier on me. :)

Alyssa and Elliana

Overall, we’ve LOVED, LOVED, LOVED using Bigger Hearts for His Glory this year, and I’m certain our last six-weeks will be just as impactful. Through piles of books and strokes of a pencil – I wish I could capture the learning that is reaching both the minds and hearts of these two precious girls!

Do you have any more questions for me?


  1. DiTHOR is overwhelming to me and continues to be. I have used it loosely the past couple of years with my two boys. We’ve been reading the genres of literature and using some of the workbook pages and some narration. I continue to have a hard time implementing the program exactly as I should.
    I started Bigger this year with my 8 year old and this was my 2nd time using it. (quietly admitting that Bigger is my least favorite HOD guide) Having said that, I noticed with my oldest child how essential that Bigger was once we entered Preparing and he was so solid on all the concepts that he needed to be.
    However, my 2nd child is a completely different child with different needs and I have discovered that Bigger does not challenge him. So, I skipped ahead with him and combined him with my oldest child in Creation to Christ. All the skills that need to be built by using Bigger he already had. (naturally) So, from here on out my oldest two will be combined. It’s actually a huge relief to me.
    I’m a little bit sad that my 2nd child will be missing Preparing. YOU ARE GOING TO LOVE IT! Preparing Hearts is AMAZING! My one consolation to not taking my 2nd child through it is that I get to do it again with my youngers!

    I’m happy to hear that you are enjoying Bigger! I agree that you need to persevere through it – the skills are there – and it’s worth it to make it to the next guide!!

    Also – about Singapore… my two boys do not struggle so much with math as they just don’t like it very much. Each year I’ve entertained dropping Singapore for another math. Every year I decide to stick it out…and I am so glad that I did! My oldest son’s math scores for standardized testing were not even on grade level last year – so at that point, I took him back to the beginning of 4A and started it over, so that he would be solid in the skills he needed to keep moving forward. Best thing I ever did! He scored way above grade level this year and I am so glad I stuck it out – he has such a strong understanding now of the math concepts. I agree that I want my children to understand the why. I know I never did and I always had a sense of not quite getting it. Not a fun place to be at all!

    • I’m always so blessed by what you share, Larissa, since you’re those couple steps ahead of me!! Thank you for sharing your wisdom and for encouraging me. I can definitely see how well Bigger is preparing my girls to do Preparing next year. :) I can hardly wait. Every time I look over the materials for next year- I get giddy. :)
      I look forward to hearing how it goes for your boys being combined.

  2. I just wanted to comment and tell you what a blessing your blog has been to me the past few weeks. I stumbled upon your blog through an Easter pin on Pinterest. Once I saw you had 6 kids so close in age, twin girls to start off, were a homeschooling mom and husband in ministry…I KNEW I wanted to read more and more. I have 4 kids, twin girls to start, husband in ministry and I am homeschooling. I was so thrilled to hear your love for the Lord and your desire to impact your children’s hearts for His name above all else, including schooling. I too was a former public and private school teacher who never intended to homeschool. Once you have your own kids your perspective really does begin to change right!:):)
    I’ve been doing my own thing for curriculum for Kindergarten this year but have been actively researching and looking for a good fit for next year. When I came across your blog I literally read almost every post of yours in one night. I was so intrigued by HOD and SO thankful for your detailed posts about using it with your family. My kids are all very close in age, 6,6,4,3 so busy and loud and distracting are all terms we use a lot here. Seeing how much time i’ve spend planning, preparing and making sure I”m covering all that I should has lead me to want a very simple approach for next year. I of course want to train up their little hearts for righteousness and from what I read it seems HOD does just that weaving through the subjects.
    I just went to a Homeschool Expo last night and couldn’t find one singe curriculum that compared to HOD. However HOD was not there and I’ve yet to be able to see it first hand. I am praying diligently about this decision as I do not want to spend money and not be able to follow through with the program.
    I also LOVE your chore necklaces and after reading how you made them, I went out and made a very similar version the next week. We are only one week in and so far it is working far better than our previous chore system and that alone is progress to me! THank you:)!
    I love your blog for the encouragement it brings me as a homeschooling mom, wanting to bring Glory to the ONE who deserves it and nurture our children’s hearts along the way.
    Thank you again!
    Shelly Hunter

    • Shelly, I can’t begin to tell you what an encouragement your words are to me. Thank you for taking the time to bless my heart. How fun to meet you and to hear a bit of your family and the similarities between ours. I love how God works that way- letting us meet one another from afar and encourage one another along. I look forward to getting to know you and your sweet family even more. And I’m praying for you and your decision over using HOD! I’m not sure if you’ve had a chance, but the HOD website has the introduction along with the first week of each guide on their site for you to view… although it’s much better in person, it does give you a good idea of what it is like. I know I didn’t want to dish out all the money either if we weren’t going to like it. I’m so glad that we did… but know that every family is different. Praying God makes His way clear for you, and look forward to hearing where He leads. (And please feel free to ask any questions you may have, and I’ll do my best to answer.)
      Have a wonderful night!
      Many blessings, Jessica

  3. I had just been wishing you would do a post about school again! :) Our first HOD books came on Thurs and we are so excited! We were out of electricity from Fri morning until almost noon today (Mon), due to an ice storm, so I spent a lot of time looking through the books since I couldn’t go about my work like usual. We did some school today and the boys were THRILLED! :) I’ll probably just go slow with it for now and pick up speed in the fall again, unless they beg to do more schoolwork all the time! ;)
    Your girls are getting to be young ladies :)

    • Hooray! :) I always LOVE looking through the books- so fun! :) (Although I’m sorry for your ice storm and lack of electricity.)
      The years go so fast- don’t they!?
      Hugs, Jessica

  4. Jeanine says:

    I got the books from the library to preview before choosing to do HOD next year for my 2nd graders. I loved it this year and assumed next year would be the same. I do have 2 issues: 1– Singapore math is not my favorite. I am switching to teaching textbooks 3 for my advances son and probably doing saxon 1st for my struggling daughter. Not sure how much more difficult it will make it to follow plan. 2– The first part of “journey’s in time” really disturbed me. (where it talked of the native American spiritual beliefs) do they use that part or just skip it?

    • Hi Jeanine!I just checked and those first two pages about the Native American beliefs are not read to the kiddos – in fact, I didn’t even notice they were there because I was just following the guide. ;) Hope that helps a little. Please don’t hesitate to ask more questions!!!
      Blessings, Jessica

  5. I JUST ordered my Bigger books today, and I’m scared! It looks overwhelming, especially when there are other little ones to care for (I have a 7, 5, 3 1/2, 1 1/2, and number 5 on the way this winter). Do you feel like you have time for your other children? I think it would be easier in some ways if all my kids were in school.
    Did you complete pretty much everything in Bigger? I”m just not sure I can do it. I know some HOD friends suggested going half speed in the Science and History and maybe reading. How do you keep it all together? Impressive. I love your blogs, they inspire and encourage me. Thank you.

    • Oh Heidi, How exciting and nerve-racking at the same time! :)
      Is this your first time using “Heart of Dakota”? If it is, give yourself some extra grace… once you start, you’ll get into a rhythm and will understand how it all flows together. We never needed to go half pace, but looking at everything throughout the summer, I remember thinking there’s no way we’re going to get through all this, maybe we should school four days a week so that we’re not as overwhelmed!? But, having used Beyond the year before, my girls did great- they were really ready for the work in Bigger and once we were actually doing it (not just me looking at it and fretting) I realized that it really wasn’t very much more work than the year before. We did complete everything (except a couple times when we didn’t have the needed Science experiment materials, and then we just talked about them. – Oh, and we didn’t use DITHOR, but you probably read that in the post. :) It took us no more than 2 hours a day to get through everything with the exception of reading… I read the storytime books to them during lunch, and they read to me usually as I was getting dinner ready. Each year, I look at the next year completely overwhelmed and uncertain of how we’re going to get it done, but then somehow it all flows together, and I’m learning to at least try not to panic about the next year. ;) But, I don’t keep it all together all the time… some days are miserable… some days are wonderful… most days are just plain normal.
      Also know that Bigger is the most teacher-intensive guide… so many skills are being taught, and while they can finish things off independently, most things need the “teacher’s attention”… which can be hard with lots of other little ones. I tried my best to have time for all my children and not just the ones doing school. So, as my older school-age girls got chores done, I was spending time with my three youngest… by the time the older girls were ready for school, my youngest were ready to play on their own or take a nap. And then the time between lunch and nap-time I would make sure to focus on those little ones too. And, I made sure that each week each child had a “special-time” with me… where it’s just me and that one child playing a game or having a tea party, etc.
      Praying for you today, and would love to keep encouraging you!! You CAN do it!

  6. Hi Jessica! I so love that you still love HOD! I do have a question for you! I see that both Beyond and Bigger both cover American History. Why two years covering the same material? Do you think they can be combined to be done at the same time? (for a 7 and 9 year old?) Or would it be better to skip one?

    Thanks so much for your help!

    • Hi Michelle! So fun to hear from you. And, yes, we are still loving HOD. Both Beyond and Bigger do cover American History, but they have completely different feels in their approaches. Beyond is more chronological and Bigger is biographical. They didn’t feel repetitive to us at all (even last year when I was doing them both at the same time with different kids). You have some tough questions. :) If you mean combining them to do all the material from both at the same time- I’m not sure that would work. There’s a lot that’s different between the two, and I think that would get confusing. (Although if you thrive on doing stuff like that- well then it might be fun.) But if you’re thinking of taking some parts from one and other parts from the other – that would work. But, honestly, that could end up being more work and might take away the beauty of having it all laid out for you. So… I’d probably recommend skipping one. And with the age of your boys, Bigger would probably work better (although you would know where they’re at!), for if you wanted and needed to, you could add on the extension books. I hate to say that because we LOVED Beyond! And if I’m honest as much as we loved Bigger- it’s been my least favorite HOD guide. (My girls have all loved it though!!) But now, having moved to the next guide, I can see the incredible ways that Bigger has prepared them for Preparing, and it’s not a guide I would ever want to skip because of the beautiful way it does that (and it helps that we still liked it, even though it wasn’t my personal favorite). Is that helpful at all? What other questions do you have?
      Feel free to email me too if that’s easier. ourfamilyforhisglory at gmail dot com :)

  7. Hi Jessica,
    I’m considering a switch to HOD for my 7 and 8 year old kids for the 2014-2015 school year. We currently use a wide variety of resources and teach utilizing the Charlotte Mason style. We originally used Abeka and LOVE our switch to this teaching style. I think my kids would place well together into Bigger Hearts for His Glory. My concern is that we have used a biographical approach to American History THIS year using Truthquest. My kids would not enjoy repeating historical areas next year with BIGGER. From what I have gathered, the HOD guides weave similar biblical messages throughout the subjects and if I attempt to substitute the history portion of BIGGER (by finishing up where we left off in Truthquest; as we likely won’t finish this level this year) I am afraid it will “ruin” the intent of weaving it all together and the lessons will be disjointed in some way. Can I get your opinion on what you think of that approach. I’m also considering waiting until 2015-2016 and starting with PREPARING at that time. My other hesitation is the approach to science in HOD. We have used Apologia (Botany & Astronomy) and might prefer to continue in that vein. Do you find the HOD science to be challenging and interesting for your kids? Or, is it just MORE reading in what seems to be a curriculum that is heavy on reading and not so much on DOING? Lastly, we use Math-in-Focus, a Singapore Math product which I think will fit in well. Thank you for your time.

  8. Renee Harrell says:

    Hi! I found your blog today. I really want to use HOD next year and am thinking about using Bigger Hearts. I have 6 and 9 y/o boys who will be 1st and 4th graders next year. The 9 y/o reading skills are at more of a 2nd grade level and the 6 y/o is beginning to read sight readers. I did look at the level below Bigger and it seemed to be well below the 9 y/o. Do you think I could make Bigger work for the 6 y/o by helping him with the harder assignments? I will be using a different Math/Lang Arts/ and Spelling program than the ones HOD uses. This year I have “Planned” myself to death trying to do so many different things with both of them! Thanks!