Why homeschool? Less screen time, more book time!

From Our House to Yours

Why homeschool?  Less screen time, more book time!

One of the biggest battles we will fight for our children in this day and age is too much screen time. We see children using smartphones or tablets, playing video games, working on computers, watching television, etc., day in, day out. As parents, the allure of less expensive books, easily and readily available on media devices is strong. We see brick and mortar schools facing this same allure of a lower budget when choosing media resources. Real books cost more money, plain and simple. We see the results of the bottom dollar. More often than not, schools are investing in media devices rather than books. I believe Charlotte Mason would be appalled.

If all of our children’s ‘books’ are digital, what does the rest of their day look like?

If our children spend all day on media devices for the reading of books or literature, what does the rest of their day look like? This is a battle. We all know too much screen time is not good – it’s not good for us as adults. It is all the more not good for our children, whose brains and bodies are still developing. Too much screen time has been linked to numerous harmful side effects such as obesity, sleep deprivation, vision problems, problems in school, loss of social skills, and increased aggression. As parents, we know our children will have future careers that require knowledge and expertise in communicating and working with media. However, we also see the detriments of them having way too much screen time. What is a parent to do?

In homeschooling, we can choose printed books and resources as the primary source of education materials.

In homeschooling, we have the opportunity to choose printed books and resources as the primary source of our education materials. Simply by choosing printed resources, we can decrease our children’s daily screen time. We can also choose to use media resources only when they truly are the best choice. Furthermore, we can choose these resources in a more controlled and easily monitored way, so our children don’t fall victim to less than desirable websites or links.

In Heart of Dakota, children learn to love to read real books, while still learning to use media resources in a balanced, monitored way.

In Heart of Dakota, we have children use audio CDs, instructional DVDs, online encyclopedias, and interactive websites. However, these are used in a very balanced, monitored sort of way that is cognizant of children’s age and maturity. Whenever possible, real books are used and options are given. Children are encouraged to use print materials, to often write instead of type, and to respond to what they are reading with all types of assessments, including hands-on. So when you are weary as a parent at the end of your homeschool day and your child wants to watch a movie, play a short online game, watch a television show, chat with someone online, or hop on the computer, you can say ‘yes’ to what you are comfortable with, knowing at least for the rest of their day, they weren’t doing the exact same thing.

In Christ,

Julie

Know What Drains You and Know What Fills You Up

A Heart of Dakota Life

Know What Drains You and Know What Fills You Up

There are only 24 hours in a day, and there are only 7 days in a week. How do you spend your time? Each day has tasks we must do, but each day also has open time to do with it as we choose. We might not think of our days this way, but much time truly is at our discretion. Blessedly, we don’t all have to spend our time the same way. God did not design us all to be exactly alike. He made us each unique, with different interests, gifts, talents, and purposes. One key to unlocking the joy and peace that can simplify your life is to know what drains you and what fills you up.

What drains you?

I am not a night owl. As the day turns to night, I grow more and more weary. I used to try to work, homeschool, or exercise at night. But it simply drains me! I go to bed most nights by 10 PM, and I avoid one of my ‘drains.’ I dislike overflowing trash cans, dirty dishes, and unmade beds. The sight of them drains me. So, we clean up the best we can after supper, but first thing in the morning, we take out the trash, unload the dishwasher/wash any big pans in the sink, and make our beds. Another drain avoided. Too many errands, appointments, or activities in the day drain me. So, I do errands on Saturdays. I schedule only one appointment a week if possible. I also limit our activities during the morning and early afternoon, so we are home to homeschool. In doing so, I avoid one of my ‘drains.’ What drains you? How can you avoid your ‘drains?’

What fills you up?

I love coffee, first thing in the morning and lots of it. I’ve given up pop, sugary snacks, and too many carbs, but plain black coffee I will not give up. It simply fills me up too much! I love doing my devotion first thing in the morning all by myself. Right after my devotions, I love spending 1:1 time with each of my children. In our pajamas, with my steaming coffee, I meet first with Wyatt, then Emmett, then Riley. We discuss their Heart of Dakota Bible, any work they’ve done, and the day ahead. Hot bubble baths, Christian praise music, a new recipe to try, a date with my husband, a long run in the country, a pretty sunrise, family meals, hugs, a roaring fireplace, and my list of what fills me up goes on. What fills you up? How can you make time for these?

What drains one person may fill another person up!

Many people have lovely gardens. They enjoy spending hours tending to it. I love to cook, so I thought I’d love to garden. One day as I was enjoying my morning coffee, my morning devotion reiterated we are all unique with different God-given purposes. The words ‘stop doing what you are not good at’ jumped out on the page at me. I began to laugh out loud, and I have a feeling God was laughing with me. I knew exactly what I needed to stop doing: gardening. Truly, I am not gifted at it. Anything that grew in that garden was a gift from God. In fact, all we kept were the raspberries. They grow completely on their own. Are you finding yourself drained by doing something that fills someone else up? Maybe it’s time to stop.

What does this have to do with simplifying and loving your homeschooling?

If you fill your time with things that drain you, you will not have much peace, joy, and contentment to bring to your home and your homeschooling. Taking time to do what fills you up helps you in turn be a happier, more joyful, less stressed, more patient homeschool teacher and mom. Our children should not only be aware of what drains us as moms. They should also be aware of what fills us up. My children often bring me a cup of coffee, give me hug, turn on the fireplace for our Storytime reading, start my favorite Christian praise song, show me a pretty sunrise, or ask me all about a new recipe I made. They know what fills me up, and they like me better ‘filled up’ than ‘drained.’ I like that me better too.

Simplify and love your homeschool life by eliminating ‘drains’ and adding things that ‘fill you up!’

Short-tempered, cranky, rude mothers don’t produce happy, peaceful homes or children. Do yourself, your children, and your husband a favor, and eliminate the ‘drains’ you can. Then, plan some things each day that fill you up. There’s only one you, so don’t try to be someone else. Just because someone else enjoys tending a lovely garden, that doesn’t mean you too were born to be a gardener. We don’t have to be good at everything.  But we do have to be responsible for how we behave. Take real time to stop your ‘drains’ and plan for simple daily ways to ‘fill you up.’  I bet you will love the new you, and your children and husband will too!

In Christ,

Julie

Why homeschool? House rules can change!

From Our House to Yours

Why homeschool? House rules can change!

Having homeschooled for 17 years with Heart of Dakota, I have found many worthwhile reasons to do so! In this From Our House to Yours series, we are exploring reasons to homeschool. My sons and I came up with our own list of reasons, just for fun one day. I left a piece of paper on the counter, and throughout the day, we all added reasons to homeschool. The list grew and grew!  I am sharing some of our family’s reasons to homeschool here each week, in no particular order. Some of these reasons come from my own experience teaching in brick and mortar schools prior to homeschooling my children. This week’s reason is kind of an eclectic grouping of reasons that I will call “House Rules Can Change.”

No Gum Rule

A few students in every brick and mortar school always seemed to ruin it for everyone. Basically, they would not chew gum or dispose of it properly. In other words, they’d blow big bubbles loudly. They’d stick their gum in each other’s hair. Or, they’d stick their gum to the bottom of their desks… repeatedly. Many children chewed gum quietly and responsibly. However, since a few students could not do so, the “No Gum Rule” was established. In homeschooling, my children can chew gum if they can do so responsibly. As long as they chew it quietly so as not to bother others, as long as they dispose of it properly, and as long as they don’t chew gum when talking, I am fine with it! Our house rule can change for one child only if needed (like for the child who stuck gum on his end table). When that child turned a year older, he had another chance at chewing gum. So far, so good.

No Snacks Rule

A few students in every brick and mortar school always seemed to ruin it for everyone. Basically, they would take snacks that were outrageous. In other words, they would take King-sized candy bars, leftover pizza, or a six-pack of Coke. Or, the reverse would be true. Some students simply had no snacks, and others could not share their snacks (another school rule due to allergies). Many children took responsible, reasonable snacks to school. However, since a few students could not do so, the “No Snacks Rule” was established. In homeschooling, my children can have a morning snack or an afternoon snack whenever they are hungry. I have a list they can choose from, but they can come up with their own snacks within reason. Our house rule can change for one child only if needed (like for the child who thought a cup of chocolate chips would be reasonable). When that child had a week  with no snacks, he had another chance at snacking. So far, so good.

No More Than 2 Books from the Library Rule

A few students in every brick and mortar school always seemed to ruin it for everyone. Basically, they would be irresponsible with their library books. In other words, they would check out 30 books and return none… ever. Or, the reverse would be true. Some students simply checked out no books, and others could not share their books because the books were their responsibility (another rule). Many children checked out the number of books they could actually read and return within a week. However, since a few students could not do so, the “No More Than 2 Books from the Library Rule” was established. In homeschooling, my children can have as many books in their possession as we own, and we encourage them to share. Our house rule can change for one child only if needed (like for the child who thought he could take his brother’s books and lose them). When that child returned the books, he had another chance at borrowing brother’s books. So far, so good… I think.

In Closing

In closing, one reason why it is a good idea to homeschool is you can make and change rules on a case by case basis. A rule that once made sense may not anymore. Or, a rule that makes sense for one child may not for another. In homeschooling, we can make sensible rules that are subject to change. So, why homeschool? House rules can change!

In Christ,

Julie

P.S. One ‘teacher rule’ I don’t miss is the NO COFFEE RULE!  That was nearly the death of me. Come to my house anytime! We will have a cup (or two or three or four) of coffee together, as fellow homeschool moms. At least until noon. That’s my coffee rule for now at least, but it may be subject to change.

Be in constant prayer and keep a prayer journal to simplify and love homeschooling!

A Heart of Dakota Life

#5 – Be in constant prayer and keep a prayer journal to simplify and love your homeschool life!

We use  Heart of Dakota to homeschool, and we find that already goes a long way to help our family simplify and love our homeschool life! However, big and little things can still undermine our homeschooling success. So, in this “A Heart of Dakota Life” series, we’re exploring ways to simplify and love our homeschool life. First, we learned the importance of not ‘going it alone.’ Next, we recognized how important it is to enlist help. Then, we planned how we could  homeschool so we fully enjoy the comforts of our home. Finally, we talked about mindfully setting aside a balanced amount of time to teach. This brings us to our fifth way to simplify and love our homeschool life, and that is to be in constant prayer and to keep a prayer journal.

Homeschooling is a blessing, but there still will be times your emotions threaten to get the best of you.

Homeschooling is a blessing! But, there still will be times when your emotions threaten to get the best of you. This may or may not have anything to do with homeschooling. Just this past week when my nephew went to Mayo Clinic, I felt anguish. As my husband drove in blizzard conditions, I felt fear. When my son could not locate his Storytime cards again, I felt frustration. As my son took his college final worth 85% of his grade, I felt anxious. When I learned a homeschool mom’s baby would likely pass away soon, I felt deep sorrow. As I watched my Mom drive away alone on icy roads without my Dad (who passed away), I felt bitter. When my cell phone rang with another fake message, I was angry. Take inventory of your emotions this past week. I bet you’ve had your share too!

One of the best ways to combat runaway emotions is to pray.

We live in a world that says it’s okay to let our emotions run wild. But, that is not really what God says. When we feel runaway emotions, we should recognize we’ve stepped onto a potential battlefield, and our best defense is to talk to God. We don’t have to wait until ‘prayer time.’ Rather, we can immediately pray for help! I have found that simply stopping, praying to ask for help, and then choosing to mindfully leave it in God’s hands helps me go on. God does not desire for us to be out of control or to be burdened and unable to go on. However, He does want us to talk to Him, to have a relationship with Him, and to trust Him. Praying, preferably sooner rather than later, is one of the best ways to combat potential runaway emotions.

One of the best ways to combat recurring emotional hardships is to keep a prayer journal. 

We all have hardships in life, and some of them are recurring or ongoing. I have found one of the best ways to combat these hardships is to keep a prayer journal. Now, my prayer journal is very pretty on the outside, but I don’t have rules of perfection for the inside. Sometimes I write in long-flowing lovely cursive, and other times I write in largely illegible writing. It doesn’t matter. God knows what it says. My prayer journal is eclectic. I write Scripture, quiet time notes, and prayers. Many times, my prayers are just a list of people and phrases of concerns. However you choose to keep a prayer journal, it is one of the best ways to combat recurring hardships. You will see God’s hand over time and grow to trust and love Him more and more.

George Muller’s Constant Prayers and Prayer Journal

George Muller was a Christian who devoted himself to prayer. He had a constant conversation with God through prayer. His life’s work with children in orphanages is a reflection of how prayer helped him through hardships. George kept a prayer journal as well, and he found it to be an incredible blessing to him throughout his life…

I have found it a great blessing to treasure up in the memory, the answers God graciously gives me in answer to prayer. I’ve always kept a record to strengthen the memory. I advise the keeping of a little memorandum book. On one side – say the left-hand side – put down the petition, and the date when you began to offer it. Let the opposite page be left blank to put down the answer in each case, and you will soon find how many answers you get, and thus you will be encouraged more and more, your faith will be strengthened; and especially you will see what a lovely, bountiful and gracious Being God is; your heart will go out more and more in love to God, and you will say – it is my Heavenly Father Who has been so kind, I will trust in Him, I will confide in Him through His Son.

I draw inspiration from reading George Muller’s quotes about prayer. I will share some of my favorites of his below…

The first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day is to have my soul happy in the Lord. 

All believers are called upon, in the simple confidence of faith, to cast all their burdens upon him, to trust in him for everything, and not only to make everything a subject of prayer, but to expect answers to their petitions which they have asked according to his will, and in the name of the Lord Jesus.

I believe God has heard my prayers. He will make it manifest in His own good time that He has heard me. I have recorded my petitions that when God has answered them, His name will be glorified.

On the ground of our own goodness we cannot expect to have our prayers answered. But Jesus is worthy, and for His sake, we may have our prayers answered. There is nothing too choice, too costly, or too great for God to give Him. He is worthy. He is the spotless , holy Child, who under all circumstances acted according to the mind of God. And if we trust in Him, if we hide in Him, if we put Him forward and ourselves in the background, depend on Him and plead His name, we may expect to have our prayers answered.

The greater the difficulty to be overcome, the more will it be seen to the glory of God how much can be done by prayer and faith.

I live in the spirit of prayer. I pray as I walk about, when I lie down and when I rise up. And the answers are always coming. 

Never give up praying until the answer comes.

When negative thoughts or emotions threaten to get the best of you, recognize homeschooling is probably not at the root of them, and have a plan of attack at the ready!

Whether you see yourself as an emotional person or not, difficulties within a plan to include Christ in your life will arise. In fact, it will be more likely to arise when you teach your children to love the Lord. God desires our lives to be full of joy, and He does not want our focus to be emotional or constantly negative.  In contrast, we can have a plan in place before hardships arise. We can plan to pray, and we can have a prayer journal to remind us of God’s faithfulness. When negative thoughts or emotions threaten to get the best of you during homeschooling, have a plan of attack ready!  The best battle plan includes constant daily prayer or conversation with God. The best long term plan includes recognizing God’s faithful answering of your prayers, and a prayer journal is one way to record that.

In Christ,
Julie

Philippians 4:6: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Colossians 4:2: Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

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,
Julie