Add Margin to Your Day to Receive New Mercy

A Heart of Dakota Life

Add Margin to Receive New Mercy 

Lamentations 3:22-24: It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him.

Does your homeschool day have margin? If something doesn’t go just right, does your routine or schedule allow for that? Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer in having a plan for my homeschooling. Especially once I began homeschooling more than one child, a plan was simply a necessity.  However, my earlier homeschool schedules lacked margin. I found out the hard way, a schedule lacking margin lacks mercy. And if there is one thing we all need, it is mercy!

Add Margin to Receive New Mercy When Something Unexpected Happens

Have you ever spilled an entire cup of coffee all over your Heart of Dakota guide? Or have you ever had a contractor stop by with about a million questions about how you want to renovate your bathroom? Has your husband ever called for a model number he needs off your broken dishwasher? Have you ever had a child throw up in the middle of your homeschool day? Life is full of unexpected surprises – every day. In fact, it is the rarer thing to have a day with no surprises at all. By adding margin to your homeschool routine or schedule, you are planning for the unexpected. So when the unexpected happens, you are ready!  You have the margin to receive mercy in the event of an unexpected surprise.

Add Margin to Receive New Mercy When Correcting School Work

Do you have time planned to correct your children’s school work? When you look at Carrie’s suggested time allotments for each box of plans, do you add time to correct work? Even “I” independent boxes of plans require our attention as homeschool moms. By adding margin for correcting school work by making it a part of your overall plan for your day, you avoid having a pile up of correcting. So when your children finish their work, you are ready! You have the margin to receive mercy in the task of correcting your children’s work.

Add Margin to Receive New Mercy When You Have Appointments, Activities, or Errands

Do you have margin planned in your week for doctor appointments? How about margin for activities you plan to attend? Or how about margin for something you didn’t plan to attend but now want to? By adding margin for appointments, errands, and activities, you avoid getting behind in your schooling. So when your child has a cavity to be filled, your sister calls you for a play date with her kids, or you have to get groceries because there is nothing for dinner, you are ready!  You have the margin to receive mercy in the time it takes for appointments, errands, and activities.

So how do you plan for margin, so you can receive new mercy each day?

To plan margin when something unexpected happens, I add some cushion of time. So, for example, I might have my ‘teacher-directed’ block of time include ‘semi-independent’ work too. That way, I have extra time to walk away and deal with the unexpected. To plan margin when correcting school work, I add extra time throughout the day. By starting my teaching time by quickly correcting what’s already been completed, I plan margin for correcting. To plan margin for appointments, I set aside one afternoon each week. So, every Wed. afternoon, I know that is the day I will make appointments. Likewise, I plan for Saturdays to be my errand day. Every other Tuesday, I plan to have our children get together with my sister’s children. Finally, I plan for at least 2-3 weeks off each year for anything unplanned! Try planning for margin to receive new mercies this school year!  I think you may like it!

In Christ,

Say “No,” So You Can Say “Yes”

A Heart of Dakota Life

Say “No,” So You Can Say “Yes”

As homeschool moms, we have so many ways to use our time. With all of the activities, events, groups, field trips, and educational opportunities we have available, we can easily fill up every minute of every day. The problem with this is we really do need time to homeschool our children. When every minute is spoken for, little time is left to actually homeschool. This is why it is so important to know when to say ‘no’ to something, so you can say ‘yes’ to homeschooling.

What Was Once Good May Not Be Any Longer

As a mom of one son, I started a women’s Bible study. I dove into each weekly lesson with delight, taking long notes in my leader’s guide and carefully planning each lesson. What prop would I share? Which Christian music would I play as ladies arrived? What special homemade treat could I take? Which Little Hands to Heaven lesson would I plan for the children’s leader? I loved leading that women’s Bible study with all my heart. Beginning with 7 women, within several years, the Bible study grew to 50+ women. One class became 5 classes, and as the number of attendees and leaders grew, so did my family. Adding a baby changed things. Gone was the time to lovingly plan and prepare each lesson, and left was one exhausted mama. I woke up one day realizing that which was once a good thing, was not any longer.

Do Fewer Things, Better

I learned so much from leading that women’s Bible study! First, I learned how much I loved delving into God’s Word. Second, I learned how much I loved children learning about God with Little Hands to Heaven. Third, I learned I loved encouraging fellow Christian women. But fourth, I learned the importance of doing fewer things, better. The women’s Bible study was only one of many things I’d piled on my plate that year. I had 150+ students’ work I corrected online for a Christian curriculum company. Twice each week, my sister and I took turns watching each other’s children. Every spare minute, my husband and I worked on renovating our 100+ year old house. My son had speech therapy. My baby had reflux. Hubby took a traveling sales job. My plate wasn’t just full; it was overflowing.

If you say ‘no,’ life will go on!

What’s on your plate? Have you piled on too much? Are you exhausted and running on empty? Do you know something has to change, but worry what will happen if it does? Well, I am here to say that if you say ‘no’ and start to ‘unpile your plate,’ life will go on! How I agonized over saying I could not lead the Bible study and oversee the program anymore!!! Countless sleepless nights. When I did say ‘no,’ it was after much prayer, and it was hard – very hard. Not everything went smoothly, and there was a lot of guilt involved. But, you know what? Life went on, and so did the Bible study. Other ladies stepped up to the plate to lead, and do you know what? They dove into each weekly lesson with delight and planned each session with care. I am sure they loved leading that women’s Bible study.

The Powerful Act of ‘Unpiling Your Plate’

That year I ‘unpiled my plate.’ I took off the teaching and leading of the Bible study. Next, I took off the 150+ students whose work I was correcting online each day by quitting that job. Then, I took off the speech therapy sessions – my son was doing just fine. Last, I slowed down the renovating of our home; it could wait. I kept on my plate that which I’d learned I truly loved! Delving into God’s Word stayed on the plate; it just became something I did on my own each morning. Teaching children about the Lord with Little Hands to Heaven stayed on the plate; it just became something I did with only my own sons. Encouraging fellow Christian women stayed on the plate; it just became something I did through my work with  Heart of Dakota. Playing with the cousins stayed; it just changed to once a week.

What’s on your plate?

So, what’s on your plate? Take a moment to just imagine actually putting each thing you have chosen to do in your life on a dinner ‘plate.’ Make sure you envision portion sizes that equal the amount of time you devote to each. What does your plate look like? Do you have a manageable amount on it, or is it piled high to the point of overflowing?  Do you need a platter instead of a plate?!? That summer so many years back I learned the power of being mindful of picking carefully what I put on my plate.

Fully enjoy your homeschooling by always having a section on your ‘plate’ reserved for it!

Ever since that summer, I have always kept a part of my ‘plate’ just for homeschooling. Just like those heavy duty styrofoam dinner plates that have sections to separate your food, my ‘plate’ has a section always reserved for homeschooling. True, I’ve had to pass up on some things – maybe even some good things – on the buffet, but it has always been a more pleasing plate to me in the end. I find when I have set aside enough time in my life to teach, I truly love my homeschooling. It is not always easy to do, but it is always worthwhile. So, what’s on your plate? Choose only the best, reserve a section for homeschooling, and ‘unpile’ if you need to – what you are left with will be well worth it!

In Christ,

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,