Four fun ways to encourage summer reading!

A Heart of Dakota Life

Four fun ways to encourage summer reading!

Summer is fast approaching, and we have found this is a wonderful time to read!  I like to encourage keeping up the habit of reading in the summer, but I also like to keep it fairly simple. Below I will share four fun ideas we have incorporated to encourage summer reading.

Tap into your Heart of Dakota personal library this summer!

One thing you will accumulate by homeschooling with Heart of Dakota is excellent literature.  Carrie has carefully chosen Charlotte Mason style living books for every subject area. Just as we like to reread favorite books as adults, I have found my children do as well. When my children were little, I only owned 3 or 4 Heart of Dakota guides and their accompanying books. So when the summer began, I set out all of the books we’d previously used. Then, I let them choose one by one any books they wanted to reread for fun. Of course, they could only read books from guides they’d already completed. We can’t spoil the next guide, can we?!? Once my children were older and I owned too many books to set out, we made a trip to our basement library shelves of HOD books.

Order from Heart of Dakota the Extension Package for the guide you just completed!

When we have just finished studying a time period together, I have found it such fun to order the Extension Package for the guide we just completed! If my children are mature enough and good enough readers to enjoy the Extension Package, I love for them to read them. I make sure not to expect any follow-up assignments to be done because it IS summer. However, I do find I still hear many impromptu oral narrations anyway! I like to put them in a basket in each child’s room. Then, they can read them at their leisure. For my children who are more sequential, I might give them a copy of the Extension Package books printed from the Internet or copied from the Heart of Dakota Catalog. Then, they can read them in the order they are listed, which is the chronological order they are planned in the guide.

Check out from the library the Emerging Reader’s Set supplemental titles!

If you have a child that just completed the Emerging Reader’s Set, why not check out from the library the supplemental titles? Carrie painstakingly chose supplemental titles of comparable reading levels and listed them by unit in your Emerging Reader’s Set schedule. These supplemental titles are a super way to keep the ball rolling for brand new readers! When we take a break from reading with newly independent readers, I find they often backtrack. This is why it is a great idea to enjoy the supplemental titles for the Emerging Reader’s Set!  Yes, the first ones will be easy, but that’s alright! Though we can read at a college level as adults, that doesn’t mean we want to read at that level for fun all the time! Our children enjoy reading at different levels other than their highest level too.

Get ahead in Drawn into the Heart of Reading by doing a few genres in the summer!

If there is one thing I love, it is that feeling of ‘getting ahead’ somehow! That is why I have often enjoyed doing 1-2 genres of Drawn into the Heart of Reading in the summer. I remember one summer in particular. Looking at the genres, I decided Adventure would be a wonderful genre for the summer!  For each of my sons, I chose a different Adventure book from their upcoming homeschool year of DITHOR books. Then, we did the kickoff up really big! I had the time!  Likewise, we did the final project up really big!  Again, why not? I had the time!  I remember actually burying pirate hats, pirate eye patches, and pirate swords in a tote in our garden. At the end of their treasure hunt, they got to dig up the tote. We even invited the cousins to be a part of it all!

I hope this gives you some ideas of how you can encourage your children to read this summer!  Give us a call at Heart of Dakota if you need help choosing a book pack to order – we love to help! We also love to think of children reading for the pure joy of it in the summer!

In Christ,


Talking with God Throughout the Homeschool Day

A Heart of Dakota Life

Talking with God Throughout the Homeschool Day

Heart of Dakota already makes life better with easy-to-use plans. However, homeschooling can still have challenges, which is why this series includes ways to simplify and love your homeschool life. Our first three posts were Don’t Go It Alone, Enlisting Help, and Enjoying the Comfort of Your Home. Our next three posts were Set Aside a Balanced Amount of Time to Teach, Be in Constant Prayer and Keep a Prayer Journal, and Know What Drains You and What Fills You Up. Today’s post is about how talking with God throughout the day can help your homeschooling go more smoothly. You might wonder how this is different than being in constant prayer. Good question! The reason it is different is because it is simply talking with God, alone or with others, in unplanned ways.

#7 – Talk with God Constantly Throughout the Homeschool Day

“Don’t ever hesitate to take to God whatever is on your heart. He already knows it anyway, but He doesn’t want you to bear its pain or celebrate its joy alone.” – Billy Graham

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

“Don’t worry about having the right words; worry more about having the right heart. It’s not eloquence He seeks, just honesty.” – Max Lucado

The Lord says, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.” (Isaiah 29:13)

Talking with God Alone

As our children begin their own personal Bible Quiet Time in HOD, they follow the ACTS model of prayer. The ACTS model is based on Jesus’ prayer example in the Lord’s Prayer. The “A” stands for adoration, “C” for confession, “T” for thanksgiving, and “S” for supplication. The more I homeschool, the more I find myself constantly talking with God. These talks I have with God are different than my morning Bible quiet time prayers. They are informal, unplanned, short, and conversational. They are based on moments. While they don’t follow the order of A-C-T-S, they do often fall into those categories.

The ACTS Model of Prayer When Talking with God Alone

When I look out my kitchen window and see a breathtaking sunrise, I talk with Him about it! I get tingles, goosebumps, and sometimes even teary-eyed. Oh how beautiful, Lord! And you made this all! For ME… for me to see this very homeschool morning! (adoration) As the homeschool morning proceeds, I am upset to hear my nephew is going to Mayo Clinic. Why, Lord? Oh, why must he bear this? Why can’t You just take it away?  Then…  I am sorry, Lord. I know You know best!  It’s just so hard sometimes! (confession) As I snuggle under a blanket to read aloud Storytime, I think how blessed I am to homeschool. Thank you, Lord, for letting me homeschool my sons!  I am so blessed! (thanksgiving) As I begin to teach my math lesson, I think Oh Lord! Give me patience! You know I’m not patient with this! (supplication)

The ACTS Model of Prayer When Talking with Others

When I see my kids making progress in homeschooling, I talk with God about it! Can you believe that narration, Lord?  Oh my!  He’s come so far! (thanksgiving) I talk with my son about it too, letting him know how proud I am of him. As the homeschool day progresses, I become upset my son cannot find his key word outline. I say cross words, in a not-so-nice voice. I shouldn’t have done that, Lord!  Forgive me! (confession) Then, I talk with my son about it. We both say we are sorry and pray about it. In Total Health, we read about the precise way our bodies are made. Lord, how amazing You created our bodies this way! My son and I both marvel at God’s handiwork. (adoration) As our day comes to a close, I think Lord, what would you have my son do for a job? He only has 2 years left. (supplication)

In Closing

One of the best ways to simplify and love your homeschooling is to talk with God throughout the homeschool day. Whether you are talking with Him alone or with others, the conversation is always good. It is always worthwhile. Remember, when you feel alone in homeschooling, you really aren’t. While many schools do not invite the Lord inside, you do. By using Heart of Dakota, He is a part of every day. One tangible way to remember that is to talk with Him freely throughout the day. He is always available. He never sleeps. Furthermore, He loves you and wants a relationship with you and your children. Try talking with Him daily in informal, unplanned, short, and conversational ways. Invite your children to do the same. It is life changing!

In Christ,


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,


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,

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,