Set aside a balanced amount of time to teach to simplify your homeschooling!

A Heart of Dakota Life

#4 – Set Aside A Balanced Amount of Time to Teach

Using Heart of Dakota is already a wonderful way you can simplify and love your homeschool life! However, it is often the everyday things that can make or break our homeschooling success, especially long-term. In this “A Heart of Dakota Life” series, we’re exploring ways to simplify and love our homeschool life. We’ve learned the importance of not ‘going it alone,’ of enlisting help, and of enjoying the comfort of our home.  This brings us to our fourth way to simplify and love our homeschool life, and that is to make sure to set aside a balanced amount of time to teach.

Homeschooling won’t just happen – we have to make time for it!

Setting aside time to teach may seem like such an obvious thing to do to successfully homeschool. However, since we can homeschool anytime, it is tempting to think we don’t really need to set aside time to make it happen.  We have all day, all week, all year to homeschool, so what’s the big deal about mindfully setting aside time to teach? Well, the big deal is homeschooling won’t just happen. In fact, days go by faster than you think, weeks quicker than you can blink, and – before you know it – yet another year has passed.

Be informed about how much time you need to be able to teach!

Before you can set aside time to teach, it helps to know how much time you need to set aside. Heart of Dakota makes that easy, as Carrie writes plans in a very consistent way. Each guide has daily plans that take relatively the same amount of time each day. Likewise, each type of assignment takes about the same amount of time to do. Furthermore, Carrie has even given suggested time allotments for each box of plans on this blog and on our message board. Finally, starting with Preparing Hearts, Carrie notes whether assignments are “T” teacher-directed, “S” semi-independent, or “I” independent. Heart of Dakota is complete, so you don’t really need to add anything to it. However, if you are adding things to HOD that require teaching, of course you’ll want to plan for more time to teach. The same holds true if you are substituting things that require more teaching.

Avoid multi-tasking, media monitoring, and mega expectations!

To truly enjoy your teaching in homeschooling, it is important to be as focused as possible when you are teaching. Women are wonderful at multi-tasking! I often dry my hair with one hand while putting on my makeup with the other hand while marching in place to try to hit my steps’ goal on my Fitbit. I used to employ this strategy while teaching. I’d fold laundry while I listened to an oral narration, make lunch while touting a book in another hand and reading aloud, even brush my teeth while listening to my children say their Bible verses. I don’t recommend this. Multi-tasking is no friend to teaching well. Likewise, monitoring my media (like email, FB, voicemail) during teaching isn’t helpful. Finally, having mega expectations for my children to turn out 100% perfect work steals my joy and just adds time to my teaching.

The Flip Side – Planning too much time to teach!

I’ve met homeschool moms who are teaching all day, all week, and sometimes even all year! They often are weary, stressed, and ready to put their children in public school. Their husbands feel the same. Their children feel the same. Homeschooling is meant to be a part of our lives, not all of it.  I love coffee, and lots of it, but at 1 PM, no matter what, I’m all done drinking coffee. If all I drank was coffee, I’d actually begin to dislike it. Likewise, planning too much time to teach can make both parents and children begin to dislike homeschooling. Maintaining a balance in life is important.  There is a point in which we call it ‘good enough’ and move on to other interests in life.

Take Action

How do you feel about the amount of time you are teaching each of your children right now? Are you frazzled because you don’t have enough time to teach? If so, what can you take off your plate to make more time? Are you attending too many activities? Consider dropping some and enjoying fewer activities more fully. Are you checking your FB every minute or two? Consider docking your phone and setting a few times to check it more mindfully. Are you getting to bed too late binge watching Netflix? Consider enjoying one episode and getting to bed earlier so you can get up to teach on time. Are you volunteering for too many things? Consider volunteering for one thing and doing it more wholeheartedly. Are you serving perfectly healthy meals all made from scratch? Consider adding in a few ready-made quick-to-the-table meals.

Or, on the flip side, are you weary because all you do is teach? If so, what can you take off your plate to make more time for things other than teaching? For example, are you doing 2 spelling programs because your child is a poor speller? Consider choosing one and doing it well. Are you having your children write their narrations twice, so they are perfect on their notebooking pages? Consider having them write them once in pencil; then hop in and help them quickly fix any errors. Are you teaching multiple classes at a co-op and finding you have no time to teach at home? Consider teaching one class only, or take a break from co-op for awhile. Are you hovering over your older children as they do their independent work? Consider walking away and checking back with them at a set time. Are you reading aloud books your children are assigned to read independently? Consider only reading aloud the books assigned to be, and take your time to truly enjoy the reading!

Mindfully planning when you will teach can keep homeschooling in balance with the rest of your life! 

One of the best ways to simplify and love our homeschooling is to mindfully plan when we will teach. This can keep homeschooling in balance with the rest of our life. If you find you are off balance, why not take some real time to fix it? Don’t be too hard on yourself. None of us are perfect. And try not to over-correct! You’ll just throw your teaching off-balance in the other direction. Rather shoot for the middle and make what progress toward balance you can each day. Go forward in confidence, rather than wistfully looking back. Life will never be perfect, and we will never be perfect at keeping everything in balance. But, when it comes to homeschooling, taking time to truly plan for teaching – in as balanced of a way as possible – is one of the best ways to simplify and love our homeschooling life!

In Christ,



Simplify Your Homeschool Life by Enjoying the Comfort of Home

A Heart of Dakota Life

Simplify (and Love) Your Homeschool Life by Enjoying the Comfort of Home!

Using Heart of Dakota is already a wonderful way you can simplify and love your homeschool life!  However, homeschooling is different than other schooling options because it primarily takes place in the home. That can be such a blessing if you let it be. As homeschool moms, we sometimes try to recreate a public school setting in our own homes. This is really not necessary nor advisable! While children in public, private, charter, and magnet schools alike are often confined to individual desks in one fairly cold and aesthetic classroom for most of their school day, homeschool children need not be. We, as homeschool moms, need not be either. Instead we can fully take advantage of the comfort of home by enjoying each part of it.

#3: Enjoy the Comfort of Your Home

There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.  (Jane Austen)

By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures. (Proverbs 24:3-4)

How do you feel about your home? Do you enjoy being there? Is it a place you find real comfort? Do you laugh in your home? When you look around, do you see things that bring you joy?  Have you made special memories in your home that you treasure? I remember reading Charlotte Mason’s quote that “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.”  I took that to heart. My husband and I decided that if we were going to homeschool, we were going to make our home a place we really wanted to be. In turn, we hoped this would make our home a place our children really wanted to be. Well, after 17 years of homeschooling, I daresay mission accomplished. Each one of our children truly loves not only being homeschooled in our home, but really, just being home. My husband and I love it too!

Rare and Beautiful Treasures

Our homes can be filled with rare and beautiful treasures, and these treasures need not cost a lot of money. First, I simply just love to see my children becoming wise, understanding more and more, and building their knowledge through homeschooling with Heart of Dakota. I love this not only because of the strong academics but also because of the Christ-centered focus of the guides. I see the first part of creating an atmosphere for education in our home as just making sure we invite the Lord to be a real part of it, every day.

Read in the Comfort of Your Home

Where do you like to read a book? I love to read a book cuddled up with a fuzzy blanket on the couch in my living room, preferably with the fireplace on and a steaming cup of coffee on the end table next to me. Why can’t our children enjoy reading books like this? Mine do. Each has his own place he likes to read, with his favorite blanket, and with his favorite snack or beverage. Heart of Dakota adds living books that often become favorites to this ‘comfort at home’ picture, and voila! You have yourself an atmosphere for education in the comfort of your home that makes you and your children really enjoy being there!

Write in the Comfort of Your Home

Where do you like to write a letter, a card, or take notes on something? I love to write in a well-lighted area, on a sturdy surface at my kitchen table, with a pencil or a gel pen of a color of my choice, with the perfect paper for the task. Why can’t our children enjoy writing like this? Mine do. Each has his own place he likes to write, with his favorite pencil or coloring utensil, and Heart of Dakota takes care of the proper paper for the task.

Meet with the Lord in the Comfort of Your Home

Where do you like to do your Bible quiet time? I love to do my Bible quiet time in my cozy bed, under my warm covers, first thing in the morning, in my pj’s, with my glasses on, with just my lamp on, with my door shut, with my favorite devotional and pretty journal and a steaming cup of hazelnut coffee on my bedstand that I stumbled downstairs to hastily make.  Why can’t our children enjoy doing their Bible quiet time like this? Mine do. Each does his own Heart of Dakota Bible time in his room in his cozy bed, under his warm covers, first thing in the morning, in his pj’s, with his lamp on, with his door shut, with his HOD Bible time and special Common Place Book, and tea or granola or a twilight turtle on his bedstand.

Take Action

I want to encourage you to simplify and love your homeschool life by taking advantage of the comfort of home!  What can you do today to fully enjoy teaching your children in your home?  Likewise, what can you do today to fully help your children enjoy being homeschooled in the comfort of your home? There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort, so why not start creating this atmosphere of education today?

In Christ,


Simplify and Love Your Homeschool Life by Enlisting Help

A Heart of Dakota Life

Simplify (and Love) Your Homeschool Life by Enlisting Help

Using Heart of Dakota is already a great way to enlist help to simplify and love your homeschool life! However, as a homeschool mom, you have probably already discovered, homeschooling is not for the faint of heart. It takes real dedication, hard work, and a team effort. In the last “A Heart of Dakota Life” post we learned how important it is that we #1: Don’t Go It Alone! We can do this by first turning to the Lord as our source of strength.  This week, we continue with our second way to simplify and love our homeschool life by enlisting help from those around us!

#2 – Help Is All Around You

“What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and the work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow.”  – Martin Luther

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in various forms.  – 1 Peter 4:10

What we do in our house as homeschool moms can sometimes feel insignificant. Loads of laundry, dirty dishes, meal after meal to make, and in the middle of it all – homeschooling to accomplish. If we are not careful, we can begin to think of our position as being lowly. This is simply not true!  What we do in our house is worth so much! Our position and our work are sacred, and as such, pleasing to God. This is not because of the position we hold, but on account of the obedience from which our work flows. When we choose to homeschool our children in a Christian way, we are serving the Lord.

Though homeschooling is definitely a daunting task, the Lord did give us help! Each person in our family has gifts that God gave to be used to serve. Encouraging each member of our family to be faithful stewards of these gifts can show us, help is truly all around!

What are you doing that someone else could do?

Think of how many tasks you do each day as a homeschool mom!  If you were to write down every little thing you did each day, the list would be quite long, I am sure. One day when I was feeling overwhelmed I did just that. I pulled out a piece of paper and set it on the counter. Every time I did something, I wrote it down. Yes. My day went long with all that writing, but at the end of the day, I realized how many things I was doing that someone else could just as easily do. By trying to do everything, I was not letting my family do hardly anything. One person doing all of the serving all of the time doesn’t work. It creates one exhausted, somewhat bitter person serving, and the rest of the people not learning to serve – even if they want to.

Take inventory of the help.

So, I encourage you to set a piece of paper out on your counter and jot down all you are doing throughout the day. This doesn’t have to be an ‘everything every day’ list. Just do it fairly quickly, mindfully throughout one day – I want you to get to the ‘help’ fairly quickly!!!  Once you have made your list, it is time to take inventory of the help! One easy way to do this is to begin by circling the tasks only you can do. Be careful here! Just because you can do it better, it doesn’t mean you are the only one who can do the task. Yes, you probably are the neatest at folding washcloths. However, folding the washcloths is something even small children can do. So, don’t circle that one as a ‘mom only’ task.

Divvy tasks by having the youngest child who can do the task do it.

Once you have circled the tasks only you can truly do, look at the remaining tasks with your youngest child in mind (not including the baby). Put your youngest child’s name next to every task he/she can do. Then, move on to your next oldest child and do the same. Continue until you are out of children. This way, you can begin to divvy out tasks by having the youngest child who can do the task do it.

Fine tune your list by considering gifts, talents, and preferred ways to serve.

Finally, fine tune your list by considering each person’s gifts, talents, and preferred ways to serve.  Keep in mind there are tasks no one may love. That’s ok – that’s part of serving, and they still have to be done. However, surprisingly, a task one person dislikes may be another person’s preferred way to serve. For example, my oldest son loves all things outdoors. My middle son does not. So, my oldest son enjoys scooping the snow, getting the mail, and feeding our pets. My middle son, on the contrary, prefers making our smoothies, bringing me coffee, and consolidating the trash. Our youngest son loves listening to music. So, he starts our Christian music, unloads the dishwasher, and sets the table. These are just examples of how our children are serving in our home in the morning.

Take Action

So, today, why not set out a piece of paper and jot down what you are doing? Why not be mindful of you serving well by doing only the heavy thinking, grown up, tougher tasks as a homeschool mom no one else but you can do? Why not begin to encourage your children to serve in your home? Even if you just assign and teach each child one or two tasks – those are one or two tasks multiplied by however many children you have that you won’t be doing anymore! Serve, but serve wisely, and encourage your children to do the same by mindfully planning for ways for each person to serve. Help is all around you! Enlist it and get to enjoying a simpler, happier homeschool life!

In Christ,


P. S. To find out more about Heart of Dakota in general, click here!

Ways to Simplify (and Love) Your Homeschool Life

A Heart of Dakota Life

A Series on 50 Ways to Simplify (and Love) Your Homeschool Life

Heart of Dakota already makes homeschool life so much easier! With 2-page plans, open-and-go guides, supplies you’re likely to have on hand, and all subjects planned in a balanced way, Heart of Dakota’s guides go a long way to help you simplify and love your homeschool life!  However, one thing I’ve found through the past 17 years of homeschooling is that it is often ‘the rest of life’ that makes homeschool life a challenge.  First of all, we are just in our homes more.  That means more meals, more housecleaning, more chores, and more messes to clean up. Fortunately, it also means more time to talk, more time to pray, more time to spend with family, and more time to mold and shape our children’s hearts, souls, and minds.  So, this series is dedicated to finding balance in life with “50 Ways to Simplify (and Love) Your Homeschool Life!”

#1: Don’t Go It Alone

“We can be tired, weary and emotionally distraught, but after spending time alone with God, we find that He injects into our bodies energy, power, and strength.”  – Charles Stanley

…crowds of people came to hear Him and be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.  – Luke 5:15b-16

Homeschooling can feel lonely sometimes!  There are many tasks to be done and many decisions to be made. It can be overwhelming, and sometimes we just feel so alone in it all. As I type this I am certain somewhere in the world there is one tired homeschool mom nursing a baby in the middle of the night, one weary homeschool mom nursing a sick child, and one emotionally distraught homeschool mom nursing an elderly parent.  No matter what stage of life you are in as a homeschool mom, I have good news!  You don’t have to go it alone.

God wants to be your source of strength.

God does not intend for you to face life’s challenges alone.  He wants to be your source of strength, and He loves spending time with you. He never gets tired of talking to you, He is available all of the time, and He loves you – always!  Just think how much you love your children because you are their mother.  Well, God loves us as His children even more deeply because He is our heavenly Father! We can see this in action because of Jesus’ own example as God’s Son.  When continually pressed with crowds of people who needed His time, His teaching, and His healing, what did Jesus do? He withdrew – often – to lonely places and prayed. Why? Because He needed to spend time with God to talk to Him, to sort things out, and to draw strength and direction from Him.  We can do the same!

Make Time to Be Alone with God

As busy homeschool moms, time alone with God won’t happen unless you plan for it to be a part of your day. First thing in the morning is best, but if you can’t do that, He has openings all day.  His schedule is never booked. Try to think of your time alone with God as an appointment you have scheduled at a place you love.  Plan it in your day, look forward to it, and make every attempt not to have to reschedule it – but if you do, reschedule it and look forward to it then. Try not to get hung up on the time of day you do it, the length of time you do it, or what exactly you ‘accomplish’ while you do it.  But, do make God’s Word and conversation with God a part of it somehow!

Take Action

Try planning a time in your homeschool day to be alone with God, to talk to Him and to read His Word. I like to do it first thing in the morning right before I begin homeschooling.  My alarm rings, I stumble downstairs to make a cup of strong coffee, head back upstairs, and open my devotional or Bible. I read and annotate my devotional or Bible, just like our kiddos read and annotate in Heart of Dakota!  I star things, underline things, and jot notes in the margin. Then, I jot my thoughts in a journal and pray. To choose what to read, I go to a Christian bookstore and make a big pile of Bibles and devotionals.  After reading through portions of all of them, I choose my favorite one(s) to buy.

No matter what I am reading, I’ve grown to love my time alone with God!  When I am tired, weary, or emotionally distraught, He injects into my body energy, power, and strength. He loves me enough to not leave me alone in this homeschool journey.  He loves you like that too!  So, the first way to simplify your homeschool life is simply – don’t go it alone!  Invite God into your homeschool life, and He will be the source of your strength. He will love you through it.

Seven Things to Consider When Choosing a Start and End Date for Homeschooling

A Heart of Dakota Life

Scheduling Your Homeschooling Year with a Calendar

With Heart of Dakota, you can begin homeschooling at any time! Heart of Dakota does not link its plans to seasons, months, or days of the week.  So, your ‘start’ and ‘end’ of your homeschool year might be different than the more traditional mid-August to May school year. Our ‘start’ is usually in September after Labor Day. Usually our ‘end’ is at the end of May at the latest.  Whenever your ‘start’ and ‘end’ of the year may be, scheduling your homeschooling year with a calendar can help you keep the big picture in mind.

An overall pacing goal is to complete a Heart of Dakota guide each year. 

In general, an overall pacing goal can be to complete one Heart of Dakota each year. This keeps students steadily progressing in their homeschooling.  Taking calendar in hand and mapping out when approximately homeschooling will be done usually ensures we get it done.  I also take great satisfaction in knowing we are on track and steadily moving toward our finish date!  Or, if we are getting off-track, I can see our year will go longer, and that usually motivates me to get back on track.  It motivates my kiddos to stay on track too!  We love our homeschooling, but we love our summers off too!

You can use a calendar-at-a-glance when scheduling your homeschool year.

Although we don’t follow our public school’s schedule for homeschooling, I do like to use their calendar.  It fits on one piece of paper, and it has holidays noted (though not always by the name I call them as a Christian).  I print off the calendar and use a pencil to circle whatever I know we need to take off for the year.  This helps me map out the year in general, which gives me a better idea of when I need to start so I end when I want to end!

Seven Things to Consider When Choosing a Start and End Date for Homeschooling

There are seven things I think are helpful to consider when choosing a start and an end date for a homeschooling year.  I’m sure there are more!  But, at least for me, these are the biggies!

First, consider state standards for homeschooling.

It is always best to make sure you are meeting state standards when choosing your start and end date for homeschooling. You may need to do standardized testing at certain grade levels and times of the year, so this may impact your start and end date. It may be necessary to ‘report’ your homeschooling progress each year to a principal, an assigned mentor/teacher, or an umbrella school. You can check current state standards at HSLDA’s website.

Second, it is a good idea to consider your weather.

Weather can play a big role in when it is best to homeschool! Winters in South Dakota are lovely to see, but often it is best to view them from inside a warm home looking out a window!  So, we homeschool ‘hard’ through the winters.  Even if we are on ‘4 day a week guides,’ for example, we complete 5 days’ worth of plans during most of the winter. If you live in Florida or in Arizona, you might homeschool ‘hard’ through the hot, hot summers.

Third, jobs may impact homeschooling.

Jobs can really impact homeschooling.  Maybe your husband is in the military, maybe your husband travels, or maybe you have a part-time job as well. My husband travels a lot and is especially busy through pheasant hunting season, as he also guides.  I also travel to book fairs for my work at Heart of Dakota, so this is something to consider as well.

Fourth, travel plans effect homeschooling.

When you travel can really impact when you are able to homeschool. Though some homeschool families travel all the time and make it work very well, for many families travel happens more occasionally, which means ‘normal’ homeschooling is harder to do. Vacations, weddings, graduations, holidays, and business trips all should be part of the overall plan for homeschooling.  We often plan these things ahead of time, so adding them to the overall plan for the year just makes sense.

Fifth, sick days should be added.

Hopefully not many sick days will be needed, but planning ahead for them helps it not be such a surprise should you need them! Unplanned outings, such as my husband’s taking the boys fishing or hunting when the weather or his schedule cooperates are part of this as well.  I usually plan a cushion of 2 weeks for unexpected days we need to take off, and that has usually been enough.

Sixth, you might want to spread out your first week of plans over 2 weeks.

If you are new to Heart of Dakota and beginning multiple guides or upper guides, you might want to spread out your first week of plans. This can be as simple as taking 2 weeks to do 1 week’s worth of plans.  Yes, this will add a week to your homeschool year, but solid training of how to do the guide properly at the start helps your student get the most out of the guide for the entire year.

Seventh, pacing can be slowed to half-speed at the start if need be.

Especially if your child is on the youngest side of the target age range of a guide, if you start to find he/she needs more time to grow into it, you can always change to half-speed for awhile.  You would still homeschool on the days you’d planned to on your general calendar.  However, you’d just do the guide half-speed for awhile.  This can look many ways, but in general, half-speed just means taking 1 day’s worth of plans and spreading the boxes over 2 days.  Half-speed for awhile can be a nice “Plan B” pacing option.

Circle any dates on your year-at-a-glance calendar that fit the above 7 Biggies.

Once I’ve met with my husband, called my extended family, chatted with our kiddos, and considered my thoughts on the matter too, I pull out my calendar. I circle any dates I know we need or want to take off. From this, I could determine when we needed to start, so we could finish when I wanted to finish. For example, here are some dates I circled that we planned to take off this past homeschool year…

  • Aug. 30 – Sept. 3: family vacation
  • Dec. 8:  b-day for son
  • Nov. 13-17: boys deer hunt with Dad
  • Nov. 23: Thanksgiving hosted at my house
  • Dec. 15 and Dec. 22:  Fridays to Christmas shop and bake goodies
  • Dec. 25-28: Christmas vacation
  • Dec. 29-Jan. 2: travel to wedding in TX
  • Feb. 14:  Valentine’s Day
  • Mar. 8: b-day for son
  • Mar. 9: fishing with Dad while I’m at book fair
  • Mar. 26: b-day for son
  • Mar. 30: fishing with Dad
  • Mar. 13: fishing with Dad while I’m at book fair
  • May: overflow sick days as needed
In closing, I realize that life often does not always go according to plan.

Life does not always go according to plan, and I realize the best laid plans of man are not always the best plans.  Truly only God makes the ‘best’ plans.  However, we do have an orderly God, Who loves to make good plans for us. I have always found it best to try to display this character trait of His in my life by planning ahead the best I can for my homeschooling.  If it doesn’t go according to my plan, then His plan took over, and that’s all the better!  However, with a plan in hand, I can make homeschooling my children in a Godly way a priority, and I’ve always found He seems to honor that.  Happy planning, ladies!

In Christ,