Short on time? In a pinch, try these time saving tips!

From Our House to Yours

Short on time? Try these time saving tips!

Sometimes errands, appointments, and activities can make a day short on time. Or, even just an unexpected event (like the cleanup of an overturned lidless jelly jar dripping jelly down the entire back of the fridge). (BTW, I’d like to know who didn’t put the lid back on the jar?!? I have an idea.) Well, whatever the reason, if you find yourself short on time in your Heart of Dakota homeschool day, try these time saving tips!

Time Saving Tip #1 – Record Oral Narrations

If I am short on time, I have my children record their oral narrations. I find this works especially well if I have an appointment that is just for me. After they record their oral narrations, they text them to me. Then, I can listen to them as I am driving. Sometimes, I think they try even harder when recording themselves. They hear how they sound and want to do their best!  However, oral narrations usually are meant to have a (live) audience. So, I don’t make a habit of this, but if I’m short on time, it works great!

Time Saving Tip #2 – Do Grammar Orally

I love R & S English for its thorough and solid treatment of grammar! Really, I have seen the results, and it is so worth the time. However, when I am short on time, I do grammar orally instead. For diagramming, I quickly sketch the diagrams on a markerboard. To diagram orally, I have my kiddos just point to where they’d diagram each word as they say it. At one point, I was teaching 3 different grammar lessons a day. So, this was a real time saver if I was short on time!

Time Saving Tip #3 – Have Older Children Help

Each child has gifts from the Lord. If I am short on time, I call upon my older children’s gifts and talents! For example, my oldest son loves math. So, if I am short on time, I have him pop in and teach a lesson to one of my two other sons. He’s good at it, the children love it, and it saves me time! Likewise, if I am short on time, I have my middle son pop in to oversee a science experiment or to read aloud for Storytime. He enjoys helping in both of these ways, and he is good at it. I figure this is good training should they have their own homeschooled children someday. I think their wives might appreciate the help now and then!

Time Saving Tip #4 – Move Dictation or DITHOR

Dictation is planned 3 of the 4 days of the week. If I am short on time and it is a day dictation is planned, I move it to the day it’s not planned.  This way, we are still doing dictation 3 days a week, but it’s on a day I have more time. Drawn into the Heart of Reading (DITHOR) is also planned just 3 of the 4 days of the week (other than in Beyond and Bigger). So, DITHOR is another thing that can be moved to the day it’s not planned. Of course, the day I move it to will be longer then! However, I find that it is worth it to help on a day I’m truly short on time.

Time Saving Tip #5 – Make a Pile and Correct Work Later

I like to correct work that is completed right away if possible. This immediate feedback is good for kiddos, so I have what I call ‘margin‘ in our schedule for correcting. ‘Margin’ is just really extra time planned for each block of teaching/meeting time. If I am short on time and in a hurry, I drop the ‘margin’ time from our schedule. Instead, I have the kiddos make a pile on the kitchen counter of what needs to be corrected. I ask them to have the work open to the page that needs correcting, along with the guide on top. Each child creates his own pile. So, when I get home, I can quickly correct each pile.

Time Saving Tip #6 – Use a Markerboard

I love the questions that are planned in the guides. One of my favorite ways to assess how my kiddos are doing is simply to enjoy the discussion questions that are planned. However, if I am short on time, I have my kiddos answer the questions by jotting short phrases on a markerboard. Then, I either quickly ask them the questions, having them refer to their markerboards as they answer, or I just have them leave their markerboards out for me to skim their answers later.

Time Saving Tip #7 – Have a Go-To Meal Kiddos Can Fix

Many times I can get my teaching done, but I have to leave for an appointment around lunch. Teaching my kiddos to fix at least one meal on their own really helps! My go-to meal when the kiddos were little was simply cereal with milk and toast. As they got older, my go-to meal was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with applesauce cups. Now that they are much older, they can fix many meals. However, my go-to meal is frozen pizza in our toaster oven. The oven shuts off on its own, so I don’t have to worry about them accidentally leaving it on. This time saving tip gets me out the door and to my appointment on time!

In Christ,




How to Make ‘Plans’ to Enjoy Your Homeschool Life – Right Now

From Our House to Yours

How to Make ‘Plans’ to Enjoy Your Homeschool Life – Right Now

Making plans to enjoy your homeschool life might sound silly. Especially if you equate ‘fun’ with ‘sporadic’ and ‘unplanned,’ this concept of making plans to have fun might seem depressing. However, as busy as life is for most homeschool moms, I think making ‘plans’ to enjoy your homeschool life might be the only way you really DO enjoy it! The first part of making plans to enjoy my homeschool life is picking a curriculum I enjoy. Heart of Dakota takes care of that! Another part of enjoying my homeschool life is just making sure I have time to homeschool. However, what I do within that set aside time is a big part of enjoying my days as well. Likewise, taking time off to have breaks in homeschooling is yet another big part of enjoying my overall homeschool life. If you are not enjoying your homeschool life, the good news is, you can – and right now! But, how?

How to Make Plans to Enjoy Your Homeschool Days

Each homeschool day has Heart of Dakota plans to complete, and I enjoy my days most when we successfully finish those plans. However, how we go about completing those plans makes a big difference in how much I enjoy our days! To enjoy my days, I had to first think about what my children and I really enjoy. For example, to finish my plans and to be to work on time, I need to plan to start my day early. However, to plan to enjoy starting my day early, I plan to first make my favorite hazelnut cup of coffee and take it up to my room. I also plan to teach in my room in my pj’s while drinking that coffee. I love this relaxed start to my day, so I can actually enjoy starting at 6:15 AM (first with my Bible Quiet Time, and then with my children arriving one at a time in segments from 6:50 to 7:50 AM). My kids love this start too!

How to Plan for Small Vignettes of ‘Fun’ to Enjoy Throughout Your Day

So, I already shared my first ‘vignette of fun’ involving coffee and pj’s. My second vignette of fun I plan for is our break at 8:45 AM. I love listening to Christian praise music! I also love hearing my sons sing, hum, or whistle along! Cooking/baking is another thing I love! So, this second vignette of fun for me is turning on Christian music while I make breakfast and drink favorite coffee #2. My sons love music while they do their chores and love eating homemade breakfasts, so this is fun for them too! A third vignette of fun for me is simply reading aloud HOD materials on the couch. I turn on the fireplace, we grab fuzzy blankets, and I’m usually drinking favorite coffee #3 at this time.

My third vignette of fun is just a break alone for me and for my sons. Emmett, my youngest son, loves to make homemade hot cocoa. So, around 11 AM, he takes a break to make hot cocoa with whipped cream, marshmallows, and even sprinkles sometimes. He puts them all on a tray and takes them to our addition. They’ve kind of turned this into a ‘boys’ club‘ meeting, no mom allowed time. Fine with me. I am having a break of my own! No plans. Just a break for whatever. No more coffee though (I had you worried, didn’t I?!?). My fourth vignette of fun is exercise. I know, not everyone thinks of exercise as fun, but I do! So, from around noon to 12:30 or so, I exercise while my sons work on independent work.

How to Make ‘Plans’ to Enjoy ‘Unplanned’ Days

I sometimes equate ‘fun’ with sporadic and unplanned. However, taking off unplanned days often means we don’t finish our school year on time. So, my way around this is to make ‘plans’ to enjoy ‘unplanned days.’ I do this by adding about 7 or more extra days before the end date we want for our school year. That way, I know I have at least 7 days throughout the year that I can just take off at any time. Sometimes I surprise the boys and say, “We’re taking today off! What should we do?!?  Where should we go?!?”  Other days, I surprise them the night before, letting them know we’re sleeping in and taking a lazy day off at home tomorrow, to do ‘whatever’ anyone wants to do. Finally, I make ‘plans’ to enjoy ‘unplanned days’ for each of our birthdays, Valentine’s Day, days around Christmas, fishing/hunting days, etc. We have no set plans on these days, other than we are taking them off.

Life is meant to be enjoyed – today!

Jesus said, …I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)  Life is meant to be enjoyed – today! It will not do to tell yourself you will enjoy your life when                        (fill in the blank – i.e. when the kids are older, when we move, when there is a job change, when my youngest graduates, when we don’t have so many little ones, when I’m not pregnant, when I’m done homeschooling, when my husband retires, when I’m healthier). Jesus does not intend for us to put enjoying our life on hold. He came that we may have life, to the fullest, today! If you are downtrodden, if you find yourself complaining about your life, make a change! Or, make lots of changes! Even my Dad, with pancreatic cancer, tried very hard to enjoy his life. This was not possible every day. However, he did enjoy most days! People visited him and left happier than they came.

What can you do to enjoy your homeschool life, right now?

So, let’s brainstorm! What can you do to enjoy your homeschool life, right now? We often think we need big changes, but in reality, little changes pack a big punch! I know a homeschool mom of 6 who plans to run down her country road. She loves it! She ‘plans’ for this every day, even though she has always had a baby in the mix. This is her vignette of fun! Another mom I know sleeps in while her husband teaches math. He loves math! She loves sleeping in! It works. When I had many littles, I loved to take walks with the stroller. I had picnics on blankets on the living room floor. Sometimes just a planned nap (for me) was heavenly! Moving my teaching time around and having my oldest play with my middle son while my baby napped made this possible! Don’t wait to enjoy your homeschooling. Or you may not be doing it next year. Enjoy your life – now! A happier mom makes a happier home. So, please! Make plans to enjoy your homeschool life – today!

In Christ,

A Charlotte Mason Reading Guideline for Children Ages 9 and on Up

More Than Charlotte Mason Moment

Children Ages 9 and Older Should Read Their Own Books

Charlotte Mason said children ages 9 and on up, who were able to read their own books, should do so. At Heart of Dakota, we follow this Charlotte Mason guideline, with the exception of Storytime. Charlotte Mason recognized not all 9 year-old children would be ready to read their own material. At Heart of Dakota, we recognize this too! This is why our placement chart includes age ranges. It is also why 9 year-old children might place in Bigger Hearts, Preparing Hearts, or Creation to Christ. Preparing Hearts is the first time “I” independent readings are assigned for science and part of history. These independent readings are fitting for this age, and the number of pages read are kept short. This helps children successfully take on reading their own books. Of course there are exceptions to this (for children who have special learning challenges), but this is a general guideline.

To understand this better, let’s imagine we are attending a class together!

To understand this Charlotte Mason guideline better, let’s imagine you and I are attending a class together today. As the class begins, the teacher holds up a book. He tells us this is the first of a handful of books we will read in class. We will be expected to share what we have learned each day from the readings in this book. Some days we will be expected to share what we remember orally. Other days we will be expected to share what we remember in written form. These oral and written responses will determine whether we pass or fail the class. Now imagine the teacher sitting down on a chair to begin to read aloud the book to us. A collective gasp goes through the class. One brave soul raises her hand and asks, But where is my book? Don’t I get to read my own book?!? 

Why should children, who are able, read their own books at age 9?

The panic most of us would feel rising if we attended a class such as this is the very reason it is so important our children begin to read their own materials. We just remember what we read ourselves better. Not only that, we remember how to spell words better. Imagine the book our teacher read aloud to us was about Charlemagne. When asked to give a written response, who will spell ‘Charlemagne’ right? The person who read it themselves, looking at the word ‘Charlemagne’ over and over? Or, the person who heard someone else reading it aloud? Even for the child gifted in auditory learning, how practical is it to think everything will be read aloud to him/her? This is why Charlotte Mason believed in having children read their own materials as soon as they were able, with a guideline of beginning at age 9.

But, what about the value of reading aloud?

As homeschool moms, we often especially enjoy reading aloud to our children, and there is real value in doing so! However, once children can read their own materials, our reading role changes. The Storytime read-alouds are usually a grade level or two above the target age range. This is because read-alouds are meant to be a higher reading level with more difficult vocabulary. So, these books can be read aloud all the way through 8th grade, if we as moms (and our children) so desire! Likewise, books that focus on more mature concepts, such as devotionals, Biblical worldview topics, etc., work well to read aloud. I have to say, it has been refreshing that my reading aloud has kind of ‘grown-up’ right along with my kids!

What is the big deal if children don’t read their own materials?

It actually is a pretty big deal if children don’t begin to read their own materials, but why? The reason (other than those shared already) is fairly simple. It really is just a matter of time. Children will eventually have to read their own materials. Certainly by middle school and high school. The amount of time it would take to read aloud all that material (if it was truly grade appropriate) would be all day! For this same reason, having a child read aloud the material is no better (not to mention the child has to think about his fluency/pacing/tone, rather than just focusing on comprehending what he reads in his head). By following Charlotte Mason’s guideline of having children read their own materials, they can slowly learn to do so successfully – so much better than just handing it all over to them in high school!

In Closing

In closing, there will always be exceptions to the ‘rule.’ If a child has special needs and is unable to read his own materials, then a parent reading aloud with the child following along in the book is very appropriate. Using audio book options, as long as the child is still following along in a book, is very appropriate in this situation as well. This More Than a Charlotte Mason post is meant to explain the reasons behind her guideline of having children at the age of 9, if able, read their own materials. I hope this helps explain her guideline, and I also hope you enjoy how Heart of Dakota has planned to gradually help this transition be successful – for both child and mother!

In Christ,


A Quick List to Check Chores, Personal Health, and Rooms

From Our House to Yours

A Quick List to Check Chores, Personal Health, and Rooms

I find the biggest obstacles to beginning our Heart of Dakota school day on time often have nothing to do with homeschooling. If the dishwasher is full, the trash is overflowing, or the dogs still need to be fed, I just can’t teach. Likewise, I find it difficult to homeschool if our sons haven’t had time to groom properly. Finally, I find if we don’t have our bedrooms in order fairly early in the day, they may never right themselves. Using a ‘quick list’ is an effective way to check chores, personal health habits, and rooms. I will be sharing how to make a quick list in this blog. Once this quick list is made, I hang one on the fridge, set another copy on the kitchen table, and give another copy to any child who wants one.

A Quick List to Check Chores

There are some chores that truly need to be done early in the day. This is either because they need to be done first thing or because they need to be done so I can stay sane.  I think what these chores may be varies from home to home, so my list might not be your list. However, if you want to know what chores matter in your home, just pay attention. What chores do you find yourself doing or telling your children to do each morning? Or, what things do your eyes light upon that weigh you down the most? These are the things that need to make it on your chores’ list. On my quick chore list, each son has assigned chores each day. I make sure to take time to train each of them to do their chores well, and then they are responsible for doing them.

A Quick List to Check Personal Health Habits

I have found there are some personal health habits that truly need to be done early in the day. This is either because timing-wise they need to be done first thing or because they need to be done so I can stay sane. For example, I find our tweens/teens need to have enough time to shower, shave, etc. Likewise, I want each of them to have a Bible Quiet Time (which is part of their HOD guides anyway), to use the traction bar/wobble cushion for healthy spines, and to try to drink water throughout the day. I think what these personal habits may be varies from home to home, but just pay attention to what you find yourself (in frustration) reminding your children to do each day. These are the things that need to make it on your personal health habits’ quick list.

A Quick List to Check Rooms

I have found there are some basic guidelines that truly need to be followed each day to keep our bedrooms picked up. If we don’t do these fairly early in the day, they just don’t ever seem to get done. I want there to be a balance of enjoying using our rooms throughout the day and of keeping them fairly neat. Rather than a spotless room, I like to aim for a picked up room. Actual cleaning (i.e. dusting, vacuuming, etc.) of our rooms takes place on the weekends as we are able. I only put things on the quick list for checking rooms that visually help the room look fairly neat and put together. They are not all that complicated, but they matter to me in the overall visual look of the room, as I walk by the rooms throughout the homeschool day.

So, what makes the quick list so effective?

Three things help make the quick list effective. First, the list needs to fit on one paper. If the list is several pages long, it can’t be seen at-a-glance. It also takes too long to get done efficiently prior to homeschooling. Second, the list needs to be read aloud and checked each weekday. I do this simply by taking the list and reading aloud each thing, asking if they did them. For the room checks, I go upstairs and glance in their rooms as I ask them. If something isn’t done, they do it right away. Third, there needs to be some incentive. I give them a small allowance each week they can spend on anything (i.e. $3, $2, and $1 each respectively, from oldest to youngest). I hope this gives you some ideas about how you can create and customize your own habits’ quick lists!

In Christ,




Wanted: Homeschool Teacher

From Our House to Yours

Wanted: Homeschool Teacher

Being a homeschool teacher is one of the most fulfilling things in my life. It is also one of the most demanding things in my life. I think the role of a homeschool teacher is misunderstood by many. In addition to the usual tasks of being a mother, being a homeschool teacher adds many more responsibilities. Rather than just being responsible for the mothering of our children, we are responsible for the education of our children. This is no small matter! Whether our children are or are not well educated – heart, soul, and mind – depends on us. There are many blessings to homeschooling, but there are also many responsibilities. I wonder how a job description “WANTED: HOMESCHOOL TEACHER” ad in the newspaper would read?

Hypothetical Job Description of a Homeschool Teacher

WANTED: HOMESCHOOL TEACHER:  Seeking homeschool teacher. Hours: Begin when first child awakes. End when last child sleeps. Duties: Provide all educational curricula, snacks/meals, and school supplies. Plan and teach all subject areas to all ages of children. Expect varied teaching time based on ages of children. Be cheerful, innovative, intelligent, patient, loving, and motivated. High stress tolerance – thrive in a high-pressure environment. Clean entire facility. Must meet all state requirements. Commit to full school year. Pay: None.

Benefits of Being a Homeschool Teacher

WHEW!  From that job description, who would accept the job offer of being a homeschool teacher?!? However, I think the reason we DO accept this job  has more to do with the benefits than with the job description. Benefits for being a homeschool teacher might read like this: Choose your own hours to work. Set your own schedule. Take vacation and field trips when you want. Take unlimited sick days. Choose your own curricula. Work at your own pace. Pursue personal interests. Wear what you want. Eat and drink what you want. Take breaks any time. Use the bathroom or get up and move at will. Hug and kiss children any time. Use your Bible and pray any time. Share your faith freely.

Benefits make the homeschool teacher job the best paying job in the world!

The benefits of being a homeschool teacher far outweigh the duties. The benefits make the job of a homeschool teacher the best paying job in the world! Each day I remind myself what a blessing it is to be my children’s homeschool teacher. I take my job seriously. At the start of the year, I try to make the best schedule possible. In the morning, I try to be punctual. During my teaching, I try to be focused. During the school day, I aim to give it my best. I work to be patient, cheerful, and timely. When I finish a Heart of Dakota box of plans, I check it off with satisfaction. I attempt to expect the best from me and from my children. I make Jesus a part of our every day, which is good, because I often need His grace when I don’t do my ‘job’ as well as I should.

Your ‘Job’ As a Homeschool Teacher 

As you take on your ‘job’ as a homeschool teacher this year, remember, you are WANTED.  You are NEEDED. What you are doing is an incredibly important job, and it has many benefits! It is worthy of doing to the best of your ability, and it is deserving of grace when days don’t go as well as you hoped. This year, I encourage you to be the best homeschool teacher you can be! Dig in, roll up your sleeves, and let’s get to doing this job to the very best of our ability!  2019-2020 school year, here we come!!! Look out – we homeschool teachers are on our way!

But Jesus called the children to Him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Luke 18:16

In Christ,