My “Go-To Recipe” for Homeschool Success

From Our House to Yours

My “Go-To Recipe” for Homeschool Success

Do you have a “Go-To Recipe” you use again and again? A “Go-to recipe” is a recipe you pull out for meals again and again. A go-to recipe is a favorite because of its simplicity and its success rate. It is tried and true, and it always works. Well, just like my cooking binder has some well-loved go-to recipes, so does my homeschool binder. The formula is basic, but it always works. So, here is my go-to recipe for homeschool success!

Go-To Recipe for Homeschool Success

Set a start time and stick to it.

Alternate teaching times with independent times.

Set times to meet with each student and stick to them.

During teaching times correct work competed, teach teacher-directed boxes, and end with giving directions for semi-independent or independent work.

Mix in joint playtimes for youngers, add snack breaks, and season with love!

Oh, and make sure everyone has their own copy of your ‘Go-To Recipe’ for homeschooling!

Now, that’s a recipe for success!

Sample Go-To Recipe for Three Children Ranging Ages 4 to 10

Let’s just say you have a 4 year-old doing Little Hands to Heaven (LHTH), a 7 year-old doing Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory (Beyond), and a 10 year-old doing Creation to Christ (CTC). Here’s a sample go-to recipe:

Start time: 8:30 AM

8:30 to 9:30 AM:  Teaching time with 10 yo CTC student; Playtime together for 4 yo LHTH student and 7 yo Beyond student.

9:30 to 10 AM: Breakfast and Chores

10 -11 AM: Teaching time with 7 yo Beyond student. Independent work time for 10 yo CTC student. Independent playtime 30 minutes and audio book 30 minutes for 4 yo LHTH student.

10 to 10:30 AM: Teaching time with 10 yo CTC student with snack; 7 yo Beyond student helps 4 yo pick up from playtime then they have a snack together at kitchen table.

10:30 to 11:15 AM: Teaching time with 7 yo Beyond student; Independent work time for 10 yo CTC student; Independent playtime of learning stations for 4 yo LHTH student.

11:15 to 11:45 AM:  Teaching time with 4 yo LHTH student; Independent work time for 10 yo CTC student; Independent work time for 7 yo Beyond student (playtime if independent work is done before time is up).

11:45 – 12:15 PM: Teaching time with 7 yo Beyond student; Playtime together for 4 yo LHTH and 10 yo CTC students. (Tip: If running behind, have 10 yo finish LHTH with 4 yo.)  At this point, 4 yo LHTH student and 7 yo Beyond student are done with school.

12:15 – 1 PM: Teaching time and final correcting time with 10 yo CTC student. Exercise video or playtime with toys together for 4 yo LHTH student and 7 yo Beyond student.

DONE! 1 PM Lunch and then Free Time! A recipe for success!

In Christ,


Face to Face Communication with Eye Contact

From Our House to Yours

Face to Face Communication with Eye Contact

My husband and I go on a date each week, and we usually end up at a restaurant. Socially distanced, we were still close enough to a young couple to realize they were on their first date. They had some awkward moments, which one can expect on a first date. However, what made things really awkward was their devout attention to their phones. For the entire date, they were talking, texting, and watching YouTube on their phones, separately. They almost missed the waitress stopping by to take their order. The whole date, they looked down… at their phones, at their food, at their napkins on their laps. The only time they made eye contact was when the waitress brought the bill. Both glanced up from their phones and quickly settled the bill. Awkward. Face to face communication with eye contact cannot be overrated.

Using Face to Face Communication with Eye Contact in Homeschooling

I recently was visiting with another homeschool mom who said her son disliked “Talking Points” oral narrations. When I asked why, her answer surprised me! She said he disliked looking at her. In World History the Talking Points directions say to Meet with an adult to share your talking points. Sit facing the adult and informally share your points. The adult should actively listen and withhold questions and comments until the end. Her son didn’t want to sit facing her. In fact, he preferred looking down and sitting far apart. This student had no special needs, but rather just disliked communicating face to face. She blamed gaming, and I agreed. However, we also both agreed her son would need to acquire these skills, and she made a great plan to help him start doing so the very next Talking Points narration. I can’t wait to hear about his progress!

Taking Advantage of Face to Face Communication with Eye Contact Opportunities in Heart of Dakota

Heart of Dakota offers ample opportunities for students to use face to face communication with eye contact. Oral narrations begin in Little Hearts for His Glory and continue all the way through high school’s U.S. History II. Younger children or older children who are new to narrating may need more practice before making eye contact. However, the more children narrate, the more comfortable they should become at making eye contact. Eye contact need not be constant, but it should be a natural part of narrating. Likewise, Socratic Worthy Words discussions, DITHOR project presentations, Speech presentations, parent/student discussions, etc. all offer opportunities for students to hone their face to face communication skills. As homeschool parents, we can help by actively listening, by not interrupting, and by being encouraging. We can also help simply by expecting them to work on this skill.

Using Face to Face Communication with Eye Contact at Restaurants

Once or twice a month, we try to treat our sons to a meal out. We have done this from the time our children were little. Through the past 20 years, we have noticed a change in the children we see eating out at restaurants. There is less and less face to face communication. In fact, many children’s eyes are glued to their media devices the entire time. Parents even order their food for them. I am not passing judgment on children who use media devices nor on parents who allow them to! Rather, I am saying that there are times outside of homeschooling I believe our children need to be expected to use face to face communication. This is just practicing good manners.

When waitresses come to our table, we tell our sons to look them in the eye and speak clearly. They are responsible for ordering their own meals and for making their own requests. We also tell them to be polite – to say “please” and “thank you.” We expect them to talk face to face with one another and with us. If they do pull out their phones, it is just to show something quickly to each other. We then expect them to put their phones away.

We’ve come a long way in being successful with making eye contact and using face to face communication!

Today, our sons readily make eye contact and use face to face communication inside and outside of homeschooling. I remember talking with each of our sons about the importance of eye contact. Likewise, I remember fledgling, hesitant oral narrations that have now blossomed into purposeful, confident oral narrations. We’ve come a long way!

I remember my husband telling my sons when they were little that one of them would have to ask the waitress for the free refill the restaurant provided of cotton candy. None of our sons would ask. They begged us to ask. We wouldn’t. Near the end of the meal, one of them worked up the courage to ask. Boy was he the hero!

Last month, due to social distancing, our sons had to sit separately from us at a restaurant. As my husband and I were paying the bill, the waitress told us how nice it was to wait on our sons’ table. She couldn’t believe they looked her in the eye, used their manners, and stayed off their phones – all without us as parents even being at the table with them. Yes, we’ve come a long way! Praise God for progress!

In Closing

My husband’s employer was recently conducting interviews. He told my husband he chose to hire the person who dared to look him in the eye! The other interviewers stared down at their hands, off out the windows, or even worse – they actually answered texts on their phones – during the interview! Oh my. Dare to be different! I want to encourage you to expect your children to develop skills in face to face communication and in making eye contact. Just by using Heart of Dakota’s plans, your children will be well on their way to success! This is not a homeschool problem; this is a problem all children are facing today. The extinction of face to face communication skills is at hand. Let’s do our part to ensure they live on – at least in our own children!

In Christ,

Keeping Balance in Homeschooling

From Our House to Yours

Keeping Balance in Homeschooling

We all recognize keeping balance in life is just a good way to try to be healthy. Things taken to the extreme are apt to become unhealthy over time. Just because you love chocolate, that doesn’t mean you can eat it throughout the entire day. Or, just because you love that show on Netflix, that doesn’t mean you can watch it most the day. Or, just because you love to drink coffee – ooh, this one is tough for me – that doesn’t mean you can drink it all day. (Noon. That has to be my cutoff, or I won’t sleep a wink!) Well, homeschooling is the same way. When something is out of balance and taken to the extreme, it can become unhealthy – even if it was initially a good thing!  Keeping balance in homeschooling keeps your homeschooling ‘healthy!’ Let’s see how!

Balance in Subjects

I once received a phone call from a mom who was using Saxon math with her four children. She said she needed help picking a new math program. When I asked what she didn’t like about Saxon, she told me she loved it! Really loved it! In fact, she was having a hard time giving it up. However, she said she was teaching 4 different Saxon math levels. Each lesson was taking her over an hour, and that was with skipping some things and only doing the odds and evens. She said she’d told her husband that if she didn’t make a change, her children were only going to remember her as the math teacher. All she did was teach math! There was no time for anything else. Maintaining balance in subjects, for both mom and children, is important. Keeping balance in subjects keeps your homeschooling ‘healthy!’

Balance in Time

I once talked with a mom whose daughter loved drawing. Any history project, science lab form, poetry assignment, timeline entry, geography map, or independent history activity that involved drawing was d-r-a-w-n out. In fact, her daughter drew out these assignments so much that she didn’t have time for grammar, math, and dictation. Furthermore, her homeschool day was incredibly d-r-a-w-n out too. She often schooled from morning to evening, yet still was unable to complete all her school subjects. Though both daughter and mother loved the beautiful drawings, both were weary and irritable at the end of most days. At the end of our conversation, they’d made a plan they were both excited to try! They simply scheduled an extra 45 minutes of ‘creative drawing time’ in the school day. During this time, daughter could d-r-a-w out any part of her HOD day’s work that inspired her. Balance in time was restored, and everyone was happier!

Balance in the Day

A few years ago I spoke with a homeschool mom in tears who told me she’d made a mess of things. When I asked what had happened, she said she’d let her daughter just pick whatever she felt like doing in the guide. At first it was great! Her daughter loved history, so she forged ahead in the Reading About History and Storytime. She also loved the Nature Journal. Even though this was planned 2 days a week, she’d done it every day. She loved the Hymn Study part of the Bible Quiet Time and had memorized almost half of them already. The President Study was another favorite. History projects were fun at the start, but harder to finish. Science experiments were hit and miss. Math and dictation were not favorites. The mom had sticky note bookmarks all over her Heart of Dakota guide. It was a mess!

Fixing the Mess 

Well, blessedly her daughter was only about 8 weeks into her homeschool year. Together we made a plan for her daughter each day to do two days’ worth of lessons of her most behind subjects, one day’s worth of her lesser behind subjects, and none of her far ahead subjects. She would do school for the same amount of hours they’d planned until all the sticky notes caught up to the farthest ahead one (which was Reading About History and Storytime). I told her to call me when all her sticky notes ‘met!’ She called me in about a month. Both daughter and mother were ecstatic! They were thrilled to be doing a day of plans within a day. Balance turned out to be more fun than they thought it would be!

I recently talked with this same mom. She asked me if I remembered helping her out of her ‘sticky note mess.’ I did, and I asked her how things were going. She laughed and said, “Well, we only need ONE sticky note for our daily plans now. And trust me, we will never go back to that mess again!”

So, every once and awhile, do a mental check! Is there balance in your homeschooling? In your subjects, your time, your day? If not, try restoring balance, and see if your homeschooling feels ‘healthier!’ Finding balance is worth it.

In Christ,


Teach with Dependable Expectations

From Our House to Yours

Teach with Dependable Expectations

Have you ever worked for an employer whose expectations changed daily? Yesterday, you did one thing, and your boss thought it was great! But today, you did the same thing, and it was clear your boss didn’t think it was so great anymore. Each day you walk into work wondering how it will go. You feel like you never quite know how to hit the mark and be successful because your employer’s expectations are an ever-moving target. He says one thing but really means another.

You try to make mental notes on how to meet his expectations, but he changes his mind so much you might as well throw your mental notes out the window the very next day. If this goes on long enough, you give up trying. You even quit caring. Why try to meet the expectations of someone who is not dependable? Success is unattainable anyway, so it is just not worth the effort. If we don’t teach our children with dependable expectations, this could be their story too!

How Undependable Expectations Hurt

When our children cannot depend on our expectations of them in homeschooling, the quality of their work suffers. How would this look in your day-to-day teaching? Well, perhaps one week you said it was just fine to skip singing the hymn for Bible Study. Fast forward a month and you find your children have not sung the hymn since. You are upset, but they don’t understand why. It was fine last month. What changed?

Or, perhaps  for a few weeks you said it was just fine to write super short narrations of just a sentence or two. Fast forward a month and you realize your children have been writing extremely short narrations ever since. You are upset, but they don’t understand why. It was fine before. What changed? Or, perhaps for awhile you skipped DITHOR projects, made grammar totally oral, accepted one shoddily-done vocabulary card, omitted copywork, shortened writing assignments, or accepted totally illegible misspelled writing. Now you realize this is not good. Skills are being lost, work is sub-par. You see the need for change, but your children do not. They might not even care anymore. More than likely, they will argue and bicker with you. Undependable expectations hurt everyone.

How Dependable Expectations Help

On the other hand, when our children can depend on our expectations of them in homeschooling, the quality of their work is better. There is also less bickering about what is expected. How would this look in your day-to-day teaching? Well, perhaps one day your children skipped singing their hymn. You are upset and point to the guide’s directions to sing the hymn, and then you sing it with them. Fast forward to the next day, your children contemplate skipping singing their hymn. However, they remember your response yesterday and decide to sing it instead.

Or, perhaps one day your children write a super short narration of just a sentence or two. You are upset and point to the guide’s directions to write 5-7 sentences, and you make sure they do it. Fast forward to the next week, your children contemplate writing a super short narration. However, they remember your earlier response and decide to write 5 sentences instead. You count the sentences as they read their narration aloud and compliment them on a job well done. They feel good about their work! They might even attempt 6 sentences next time.

Or, perhaps you consistently hold them accountable to complete their DITHOR projects; to write at least a portion of their grammar answers; to complete at least the minimum of the assigned vocabulary, copywork, and writing assignments; and to write legibly. You even expect good spelling and help them fix their errors. Now they realize you have dependable expectations. In fact, those expectations are so dependable they can be found right in the Heart of Dakota guide. Their work is good and getting better every day. Skills are being gained; progress is being made. You care enough to have dependable expectations, and therefore they care too. Dependable expectations help everyone.

But, what do you do when you’re running behind schedule?

But, what about those days when you get behind and need to catch up? Maybe you DID need to skip the hymn singing one day, or you wouldn’t have gotten your child with a fever to the doctor. Or, maybe you DID need to have your child do grammar orally one day, or you wouldn’t have been able to help your mom contact the credit card company about her lost credit card. Maybe you DID need to shorten a writing assignment one day, or you wouldn’t have been able to help your husband drop off his car to be fixed.

These one-off things do happen, and then it does make sense to partner with your children to help them still finish school within a reasonable amount of time. However, the difference is these changes in expectations are rare. They happen on the one-off day rather than on every day. Children know the difference. So, I just want to encourage you to make your average homeschool days be ones filled with dependable expectations. Let the Heart of Dakota guide be your partner in this! All of the dependable expectations are right there for both you and your children to see. They are my best ally for a successful homeschool day; they can be yours too!

In Christ,



Project Management Skills are a natural part of DITHOR projects!

From Our House to Yours

How DITHOR Teaches Project Management Skills

Wyatt, my oldest son, is now a junior in college earning a Business Finance degree. Riley, my middle son, is now a senior in high school finishing out his Heart of Dakota USII guide. We’ve been looking at various college majors for Riley, and Business Project Management is one he is considering. Ironically, we are also in the middle of one of our Drawn into the Heart of Reading (DITHOR) projects with my youngest son, Emmett. His project is a radio drama for his mystery book Caught in the Act. Though Riley is in high school, he and Emmett still enjoy doing DITHOR projects together from time to time. As I’ve watched the 5-day project unfold, I’ve been amazed at how many skills the boys are using that match basic project management skills!

DITHOR’s Project Management Skills

DITHOR’s genre group projects include many Project Management Skills.  For Riley and Emmett’s Radio Drama, they began by choosing one short, exciting scene from the book Caught in the Act. Then, they created plans using DITHOR’s Radio Drama Planning Sheet. These plans had a deadline of five days. Each day included short-term plans with target goals to be met. The boys delegated tasks on the project, deciding who would introduce the drama, who would be the broadcaster, who would play each character. They also decided who would choose the sound effects and clips. Much planning went into the radio drama before it ever even began!

Project Management Skills in the Making of the Radio Drama

As the boys put together their plans for their radio drama, they called upon many project management skills. They identified their initial plans included multiple radio drama segments that could prove to be a liability. Realizing a project of this scope and sequence had the potential risk of them exceeding their five-day deadline, they shortened their radio drama to one scene as this better fit their project scope and goals. Each agreed to practice for a time each day.

First, they practiced using just their photocopied parts of the scene. Then, they chose appropriate sound effects and where to and when to include them. They used their afternoon “playtime” together as a point of contact to ensure they were both on point. Each day, they communicated to me (their executive) their progress. As the five days were coming to an end, they decided to alter their voices based on their characters. They also decided to practice where they were going to perform the radio drama, basing this decision on acoustics and on where they could pile their sound effect things. The best place for this was our basement. Riley was the point of contact, and Emmett was the motivator. They made a great team!

Performing the Radio Drama

Riley and Emmett had to adjust their schedule for the radio drama, as I was not available the time we had initially planned. Before giving the radio drama, they recorded the first part of it on a phone to do a sound check and perform quality control on their radio drama. They wanted to be sure to maintain the standards their executive expected, as I told them I’d like to share their recording with all of you lovely ladies here! I totally enjoyed listening to their radio drama. I hope you do too, and I also hope you enjoy all of the project management skills being taught through DITHOR’s projects!

Click on the arrow below to listen to the Radio Drama (it is about 2 1/2 minutes long):

In Christ,