Finding Joy in the Journey

From Our House to Yours

Finding Joy in the Journey

About two decades ago, I began my homeschool journey. My nephew, Cole, was actually my first homeschool ‘student.’ Several days a week, Cole would come to “Aunt Julie’s” house while my little son, Wyatt, was napping. Oh the fun Cole and I had! His bright little eyes were full of wonder, and he was just so excited to learn! I looked forward to those times so much. There was much joy in the start of my homeschool journey.

Finding Joy in the Journey with My Own Little One

Fast forward a few years later, and I began homeschooling my own son, Wyatt. He was full of energy and smart as a whip! I loved homeschooling him! The only difference was, well, I was harder on him. We’d have such fun doing Heart of Dakota‘s Little Hands to Heaven together. There was joy in that part of the journey. But, the rest? Well, I just made it way too hard for my little guy. If we went on a nature walk, I wanted to ‘help’ him draw a perfect replica of the flower or frog we’d found. When he learned his letter sounds, I made him write all the letters – every time. I had him sing the alphabet pointing to the alphabet mat. If he forgot one, we started over! Oh my. Poor child!

Losing the Joy in the Journey

Fast forward several more years, and Wyatt was on to Bigger Hearts for His Glory. Riley was doing Little Hands to Heaven, and Emmett was a baby. One day, Wyatt began dragging his feet, doing his lessons super slowly. The day was getting long, and I couldn’t figure out what was happening. In exasperation, I asked him why he was taking so long. What he said I still remember to this day… “Mom, if I finish early, you just give me more work. So, I figure, why work quickly? I just get more work, so I’m just going to take my time – no reason to hurry – just makes my day longer.” Oooh, that hurt. But he was right. Where had my joy in the journey gone? I told him from then on, we’d enjoy Bigger Hearts, and when that was done, we’d be done. Totally. He was all smiles!

Be careful of joy stealers!

There is much joy to be had in homeschooling, but there is also much that can steal that joy. Be careful of joy stealers! Adding, adding, adding more to the homeschool day is a joy stealer. There is much joy for both child and parent in knowing that when the plans in the HOD guide are done, the homeschool day is done. Rushing, rushing, rushing from one outside activity/errand/appointment/co-op to another, so that there is really no time to be home and homeschool is a joy stealer. There is much joy in having the time needed to truly do school happily each day. Questioning, quizzing, and searching to see if kiddos really ‘learned’ the lessons by asking incessant questions and requiring more and more ‘proof’ learning occurred is a joy stealer. There is much joy knowing the work children do in each guide is ‘proof’ enough they ‘got it.’

Back on the Road to Finding Joy in the Journey

Today I am back on the road to finding joy in the journey. I’d love to say that moment with Wyatt so many years ago was the only joy stealer I’ve had. But, that wouldn’t be true. The difference is I’m on guard for joy stealers, and I put an end to them when I discover them. The other day I found Wyatt’s first nature journal. I saw a frog I’d drawn perfectly with labeled body parts spelled perfectly. I also saw his little frog erased in the background. And his big letters erased and written over with little letters I’d written and had him trace. There were only a few journal entries and then a lot of blank pages. It made me cry. Definitely a joy stealer. Praise God He showed me it was time to change!

Are you a joy stealer? Take heart. Today can be the day you put joy back in the journey! Change is always possible. There’s no need to add, add, add. Heart of Dakota is enough. There’s no need to rush, rush, rush. Each day can have time enough for homeschooling if you make it a priority. There’s no need to quiz, quiz, quiz. The follow-ups in the plans are enough. Let us find joy in the journey! It is well within our reach.

In Christ,


April Library Builder: Save 10% on both variants of the Drawn into the Heart Level 7/8 Book Pack!

Library Builder

Use coupon code APRIL-LIBRARY for 10% off both variants of the Level 7/8 Book Pack for Drawn into the Heart of Reading!

We are excited to continue our Heart of Dakota Library Builder book set promotion! On the 1st Wednesday of each month we will be promoting one of our book sets with a 10% coupon code. For this month’s special, use coupon code APRIL-LIBRARY on our website for the entire month of April to save 10% on both variants of the Drawn into the Heart of Reading Level 7/8 book pack. To view all of the books in this set, just click here!

How are the Level 7/8 Book Packs used in Drawn into the Heart of Reading?

(From the package description in our online store):

These optional book packs are for use with Level 6/7/8 of Drawn into the Heart of Reading. In these levels, your child will read the chosen books independently for a total of 15 days for each genre. Each book on the list below has an approximate reading level noting the grade and month next to it.

Use this information to choose the set that best suits your child’s reading level. If these books seem too difficult, we also have book packs for Level 5/6 Girl Interest and Level 5/6 Boy Interest and Level 6/7. You may also choose your own books, or off our Sample Book Ideas List.

Please keep in mind, these specific titles are not needed, but each book was very carefully chosen as an excellent reading selection for the noted reading level. Our book sets were created to save you time and to help you find quality books at the right reading level. This is one of the keys to a successful reading experience for your child. You are welcome to use your own book selections if you prefer. Drawn into the Heart of Reading truly works with any books you choose.

Use coupon code APRIL-LIBRARY to save!

To apply this month’s savings, just enter coupon code APRIL-LIBRARY on our website when you check out! We hope these books will be as treasured to you as they are to us!

Have a great rest of the week!
Heart of Dakota

PS: If you’d like a more in-depth look at what using Drawn into the Heart of Reading looks like in your home, have a look at this article!

Does your child get off track? Here’s a game plan for getting back on!

Dear Carrie

What can I do when my son gets off track and drags out his day?

We figured out a schedule for our school days last week that worked really well! (Thanks Heart of Dakota – great idea!) We did our son’s English/DITHOR mostly orally and had set blocks of time for work. I thought we’d solved the main issue, which was my oldest dragging out his day and getting off track by complaining and not doing his writing. Today was going really well until he didn’t get his cursive done. He said he would do it during his free time. I said okay, not thinking it would be a big deal. Then, we got to science, which was a notebooking assignment. He had to copy a kind of long Bible verse. But, he had not been required to do much writing at all today. I mean, is that really asking too much?!?

He has good handwriting. I think he just doesn’t want to do it. He has cried, complained, said he was too tired (so I had him go to bed for a bit to rest, which got him further off track). Now, he has lost outside time. He said he didn’t want to go out today anyway (so not true – he loves to be outside). Now, I’m taking away his tv time (sometimes they can watch one show after nap). How do I fix this? I like to get school done, but he is again getting off track and dragging things out. I would appreciate any suggestions! He is such a good boy and very bright, usually obedient. It just seems he doesn’t want to do any amount of writing. How can I keep my son on track and happily moving on through his school day?


“Ms. Please Help My Son Stop Getting Off Track and Dragging Out His School Day”

Dear “Ms. Please Help My Son Stop Getting Off Track and Dragging Out His School Day,”

With my boys, once we began implementing a schedule, I looked at the times on the schedule as a general rule of thumb rather than legalistic times. So, for instance if something on the schedule is meant to take 15 minutes, as long as the child is working, I allow a bit more time if needed (like 5-15 extra minutes). Once I can see we are stretching beyond that and are headed toward getting far enough off track that we soon can’t recover, I jump in and help the child recover if at all possible.

Getting Back on Track and Happily Moving Through the Day

To get back on track, I might do all of an English lesson orally, assigning none to be done on paper. Or, I may write out the math problems from the textbook to help the child move more quickly. I might downsize a math assignment a bit if needed. Or, I might put away or set out a child’s materials open to the needed pages to move him along. I may write a younger child’s answers to DITHOR, while he dictates them to me to save time.

Or, I might sit right by a child pointing out text or redirecting while he works to keep him on task. I might read directions aloud from an older child’s guide while he follows them. Or, I might send the kiddos for a much needed break, while I quickly check their work to see why they might have gotten off track. Anyway, these are just a few ideas of how you can partner with your kiddos to keep them on track and happily moving through their day.

Fixing an Off-Track School Day with a “Finish School” Time

Next, I’ll share that I have a “finish school” time in the afternoon for my third son. This is a 45 minute block of time that is a part of his schedule (after his lunch, recess, and work in the warehouse break). This is a time where he returns to his schoolwork and finishes anything he did not finish earlier during the school day. This works well for him right now! He has learned he prefers to get it done then rather than have it left in the evening. However, when we were training him in diligent work habits when he was younger, we had a work time in the evening after supper when he worked with his Dad on anything he had not finished during the school day with me. This worked well, as it was Dad who enforced the finishing rather than me!

Getting Your Son’s Handwriting Back on Track

In your son’s case, when he begins melting down over the handwriting, I would jump in to stem the tide right away. You can say something like… “Alright, I can see that you are overwhelmed with the amount of copy work today! You will have to work up to doing all of it eventually. However, to help you today, since it is a longer passage, I will write the first sentence (or two) to get you started. Then, you need to dry your eyes and get going with the rest. Let’s see how much you can get done then in 10 minutes if you work hard the whole time.” Often, once kiddos see the length reducing before they begin, they feel more able to do it. This is true of any assignment they find overwhelming!

Encourage diligent work, but still require the work to be done.

Then, head away to do something else after setting the 10 minute timer. Be sure he knows he doesn’t have to finish in that amount of time. He just needs to work diligently. If you return and he has shown progress, he can either finish (if he’s close to done) or set it aside to do the rest later. If he has chosen not to progress in the 10 minutes, simply let him know this means he’ll have to finish it later. Then, set the work aside to be done at the later time you’ve designated for leftover work (either in the evening with Dad or in the late afternoon).

Partner with your child, but if a consequence is still needed, award it only one time in the day.

If he does not work hard during the leftover work time, then you award the consequence at that time. This means you are giving the child every chance to succeed without drawing battle lines all throughout the day. You’ll only have one time that you award the consequence. You want your child to see you are partnering with them to get their work done instead of lying in wait to take away privileges. (Even though you really aren’t, they see it that way!)

Also, if the child ends up with quite a pile of work to finish during the “leftover work” time, both you and your husband (and your child) will be able to see that the day wasn’t very productive. You can discuss ways to do better the next day then. But again, you are partnering with the child to help them be successful. Anyway, these are just some thoughts you can ponder to see what might work in your family when your son gets off track.



Quick Tricks to Work on Common Problem Areas

From Our House to Yours

Quick Tricks to Work on Common Problem Areas

Have you discovered a problem area you want to work on with your child? Maybe you’ve realized your child struggles with spelling? Or, maybe your child just can’t seem to progress to the next reading level? Maybe you’ve discovered your child doesn’t have his/her math facts down? Or, maybe your child just can’t write or read cursive and ought to be able to by now? Well, here are some quick tricks to work on these common problem areas that will keep your child progressing normally within Heart of Dakota’s guides!

Quick Trick #1: Solving Spelling Struggles

Young children are often not the greatest of spellers. Copywork alongside the spelling lists and exercises assigned in the younger guides often iron this problem area out. However, if you have on older child using Bigger Hearts for His Glory or above, dictation is truly your best ally to improve spelling. So, what’s the quick trick? Well, dictation is only assigned 3 days a week. So, to improve spelling simply do dictation daily, either 4 or 5 times a week!  We did this with one of my sons who struggled with spelling, and little by little he improved until one day I realized he rarely made spelling mistakes at all anymore!  Did this happen overnight? No, but it was super easy to do, it took little to no time, and it kept us moving forward nicely in the guides. If you have a struggling speller, give this quick trick a try!

Quick Trick #2: Getting Over the Hump of Being Stuck at a Certain Reading Level 

Young children progress at different reading paces – that is just normal! However, if you have a beginning reader doing the Emerging Reader’s Set (ERS) that seems to just be unable to read the next book, this quick trick is for you! Carrie has extra supplemental books noted for every unit in the ERS schedule. These supplemental books are at the same approximate reading level as the ERS book scheduled in that same unit. So, for example, if your reader gets stuck on the reading level of Unit 15, simply go to the library to check out the supplemental books from Units 1-15. Read through them slowly, and before you know it, this quick trick will have your kiddo over the hump and onto the next ERS book!

Quick Trick #3: Helping Older Children Who Learned to Read on Their Own Progress to the Next Reading Level

Sometimes younger children just seem to learn to read on their own. Phonics didn’t seem necessary. They just knew how to read naturally! The only problem is, now that they are reading chapter books, they are stuck. They come to harder words, and they have no idea how to sound them out. You try to coach them on word attack skills, but they have none. Why? Well, often these smart little cookies are excellent memorizers. You read a book once or twice to them when they were little, and voila! They could read the book on their own! Or, these little smarties are excellent guessers. They looked at the pictures, followed the storyline, and guessed quite well earlier on in those easier, predictable books. But now, the books are harder, the words are longer, the storylines are less predictable, and they’re stuck. What to do? Well, just take a break and do Sound Bytes Reading. This more grown-up take on phonics is just the quick trick they need!

Quick Trick #4: Helping an Older Child Learn Their Math Facts or Cursive

Maybe you have an older child who just can’t do large number multiplication or long division. Often times, the root of this problem is the child just really still doesn’t know his/her facts. A quick trick to help is to slow their daily math program to half-speed and add some skip counting math songs to it! Try doing the 6’s on Mondays, the 7’s on Tuesdays, the 8’s on Wednesdays, the 9’s on Thursdays, and whatever the hardest facts are for them on Fridays. Soon, they will be on their way to having these tough facts memorized! Or, maybe you have an older child who just can’t read or write anything in cursive. No worries! Have that child print everything assigned in the HOD guide, but do one page of Italic D or Cheerful Cursive each day. One year later, this quick trick will have your kiddo writing cursive fairly well and reading it too!

In Christ,