Loving Our Schedule This Year… A Look at Scheduling Older Students’ Days

From Our House to Yours

Loving Our Schedule This Year… A Look at Scheduling Older Students’ Days

We are loving our homeschool schedule this year! Wyatt is a junior in college, and he is earning his Business Finance degree from Liberty University Online. Riley is a 12th grader, and he is using Heart of Dakota’s USII guide. Emmett is an 8th grader, and he is using Heart of Dakota’s Missions to Modern Marvels. We are one week into our schedule, and we are truly loving it!  I can see us sticking with this schedule all year long, so I thought I’d share it here!

Starting with the Time Allotments and Meeting with Each Student

I always like to start my schedule by jotting down each guide’s suggested time allotments. (Click here for the suggested time allotments.) Then, I pull out my HOD guides and jot down about how much time I think my part will be for each box of plans.

Next, I meet with each of my sons separately. I show them the times for each box of plans. They give me their opinion about when they want to wake up and get started, what order they want to do their boxes, what they want to do for ‘homework’ the afternoon/night before, when they want to be done, and when they could use a break. Of course, they know the final schedule may or may not end up to be that exactly. However, they appreciate being a part of the process! I can also tell what they each feel they will need my help with the most, and that helps me make those things a priority.

Considering What I Need and Want in the Schedule for Me

At this point, I consider what I need and what I want in the schedule for me. This is important too! When we as moms love our homeschool days, our children pick up on that attitude and in turn enjoy their days more too. Needs come first. I need to have time to make breakfast, lunch, and prep for supper. Also, I need to be to work in the afternoon on time. I need time to teach my “T” boxes. Also, I need time to shower, get ready for the day, and do some daily household chores.

Wants come next. I want to do my Bible Quiet Time first thing in the morning. (This is actually more of a need than a want, but I list it as a want as there have been times in life when I’ve had to move this to the day/night – uhh, like when I’ve just had a baby.) I want to exercise. Also, I want time to make bake/cook fun things for the boys. Then, I put that all together and type a schedule with everyone in mind, including my college student who wants to be part of meals, breaks, and gathering times too. Everyone unanimously loves this schedule this year!

Emmett’s MTMM Schedule

6:00-6:10     Wake up

6:10-6:45     Bible (30-35 min.)

6:45-7:20     Science/Lab (30-35 min.)

7:20-7:45     History Project (20-25 min.)

7:45-8:10     Rotating History (20-25 min.)

8:10-8:30     Independent History (15-20 min.)

8:30-9:00     Shower/grooming, chores, room (30 min.)

9:00-9:30     Reading About History (30 min.)

9:30-9:45     Breakfast (15 min.)

9:45-10:05   Meet with Mom. Narrations. Correct work. (20 min.)

10:05-10:15 Who Am I?/Nature Journal mom’s part only (10 min.)

10:15-10:35 Finish Who Am I?/Nature Journal your part on own (20 min.)

10:35-10:45 Read grammar (10 min.)

10:45-11:05 With Mom for grammar – oral and 1 written part (20 min.)

11:05-11:15 With Mom for dictation (10 min.)

11:15-11:25 Make hot cocoa; put away finished school (10 min.)

11:25-11:45 Cocoa break (20 min.)

11:45-12:15 With Mom for math (30 min.)

12:15-12:45 With Mom for WWTB and/or mom’s part of DITHOR (30 min.)

12:45-1:00   Finish WWTB; read/finish your part of DITHOR (15 min.)

1:00-1:30     Lunch and cleanup (30 min.)

*Afternoon homework, before supper:  Storytime (20 min.);  President/State Study (25 min.)

Put away school neatly

2:20        Leave for work

Riley’s USII Schedule

6:15-6:50     Reading About History (35 min.)

6:50-7:30     Literature (40 min.)

7:30-8:00     Economics (30 min.)

8:00-8:30     Living Library (30 min.)

8:30-9:00     Chores, grooming, room (30 min.)

9:00-9:30     With Mom. Narrations. Correct work. Discuss Economics. (30 min.)

9:30-9:45     Breakfast (15 min.)

9:45-10:15   Clean up breakfast. Open time. Get math ready. (30 min.)

10:15-10:45 With Mom for math. (30 min.)

10:45-11:00 Finish math on own. (15 min.)

11:00-11:25 History Activity (20-25 min.)

11:25-11:45 Cocoa break (20 min.)

11:45-12:15 Finance (30 min.)

12:15-12:50 Speech/Grammar (35 min.)

*mom will check in with you sometime here for finance questions, work on counter, etc.

12:50-1:00   Make lunch (10 min.)

1:00-1:30     Lunch and cleanup (30 min.)

After lunch and before supper: Science/Lab (45 min.)

Put away school neatly.

2:20        Leave for work

*Before 9:45 PM Bible (40 min.) and Latin (20 min.)

Wyatt’s College Schedule

Wyatt’s College Schedule:

6:15-8:30    Bible Quiet Time/College (2 hours 15 min.)

8:30-9:00    Shower/grooming, chores, room (30 min.)

9:00-9:30    Open time

9:30-9:45    Breakfast

9:45-10:15  Clean up breakfast; open time (30 min.)

10:15-11:25 College (1 hour 10 min.)

11:25-11:45 Cocoa break (20 min.)

11:45-1:00   College (1 hour 15 min.)

1:00-1:30     Lunch and cleanup (30 min.)

1:30-2:20     College/open time (50 min.)

*Put away school neatly.

2:20        Leave for work

Key Times for All Sons to Make a Priority

8:30-9:00 Shower/grooming, chores, room (30 min.)

9:30-9:45 Breakfast (15 min.)

11:25-11:45 Cocoa break (20 min.)

1:00-1:30 Lunch and cleanup (30 min.)

2:20 Leave for work

My Schedule

7:00-7:30  Bible (30 min.)

7:30-8:30  Exercise (1 hour)

8:30-8:45  Shower (15 min.)

8:45-9:00  Make breakfast (15 min.)

9:00-9:30  With Riley for narrations, correct work, Economics questions (30 min.)

9:30-9:45   Breakfast (15 min.)

9:45-10:05 With Emmett for narrations, correct work (20 min.)

10:05-10:15 With Emmett Who Am I? / Nature Journal, my part (10 min.)

10:15-10:45  With Riley for math (30 min.)

10:45-11:05  With Emmett for oral and 1 written part (20 min.)

11:05-11:15  With Emmett for dictation

11:15-11:45  Get ready, pack lunch, supper prep

11:45-12:15  With Emmett for math

12:15-12:45  With Emmett for mom’s part of WWTB/DITHOR

12:45-1:00 Check in with Riley. Finance questions, correct work on counter

1:00-1:20  Finish supper prep

1:20  Leave for work

We are loving our Heart of Dakota life with this schedule!  I hope this encourages you to make a plan with a schedule that helps you love your homeschool days with your older students too!

In Christ,


Be careful of being too busy to enjoy your homeschool life!

From Our House to Yours

Be careful of being too busy to enjoy your homeschool life!

Are you busy? I can relate. Homeschool moms are some of the busiest people I know. I talk on the Heart of Dakota phone lines with moms whose lives are jam-packed. Emails arrive from moms who are pushing themselves to the max. Posts on FB, on blogs, and on our message board show homeschool moms are busier than ever. When someone asks how our day, our week, our month, or our year is going, we often say, “Busy!” But, what are we busy about?

I began to ask myself this question 6 1/2 years ago when my Dad died of pancreatic cancer. We are only promised today, so asking ourselves from time to time what we are busy about is a pretty important question to ask. So, if you summed up your day, your week, your month, your year for me, what are you busy doing? We women are born to be multi-taskers, but from one homeschool mom to another, be careful of being too busy to enjoy your homeschool life.

Love your year, but love your days too!

Not too long ago, I was sitting outside in our backyard at our patio table. I’d made my school calendar of the days we’ll be homeschooling this year, and I was really happy with it! I’d chosen my start date as Tuesday, September 1, with Friday of that week and Monday (Labor Day) taken off for vacation. I’ve found doing school three days a week at the start is perfect for us! We can try out our schedule, make any needed adjustments, and gather anything we missed gathering.

My calendar was just right. I loved my start and end dates. We had just the right days marked off for vacation, for birthdays, for holidays, and just for fun. I’d planned for sick days and for end-of-the-year testing days. From this past homeschool year, I could tell I would love this calendar! The year was going to be great! So, why was I worried? Well, it had nothing to do with the year; it was the ‘days’ I was worried about.

Some Wise Advice from My Son

My son noticed me looking stressed; every mother deserves a son like Riley. He can talk me off the ledge. He popped out to the patio table and pulled up a chair. What’s wrong, Mom? he asked. I explained I REALLY wanted to spend a lot of time with him this year because it was his senior year. He told me we spend nearly all of our time together. I tried to explain I wanted to spend LOTS of time homeschooling him though. How much time, Mom? he asked. Let’s just say my answer scared him, especially when I told how much time I thought I should also spend with both of his brothers. That’s crazy busy, Mom. It was. Riley told me that part of the reason we love our life is because homeschooling gives us the kind of life we love. A slower pace. A less busy pace. He said I deserved that too. Hmm, pretty wise advice. Thank you, son!

Mapping Out Our Days to Be Less Busy

Six and half years ago when my Dad died I made a lot of changes. I cut things out of my life that were busy but not worth the busy-ness. My years became less busy, and I began to love my life more and more. However, the days ARE busy as homeschool moms. There is no daily plan that will totally take away the ‘busy.’ It is the stage we are in, and it goes on for awhile. It’s best to recognize that. We are ‘busy’ because we have important work to do; however, we need not push ourselves to the point of exhaustion or depression. Riley helped me see that. Together, we worked at mapping out our days to be less busy. I made time for God, time to walk, time to make breakfast, time to teach, and time to work. Ideally, I’d have given more time to all of these things, but that would have made me “crazy busy,” as Riley puts it. And “crazy busy” is never a good thing.

What are you busy about?

So, now I ask you, what are you busy about? Are you ‘crazy busy’? Don’t be. You don’t have to be and that is no way to love your days! It is no way to love your life. Start with the easy things. What is not worth the busy-ness? Stop doing those things. I don’t keep a garden anymore. I’m not good at it, and I don’t really enjoy it. I don’t have rummage sales anymore. We live in the country, and no one comes. I don’t plant flowers anymore. Hanging flower pots do me just fine. I don’t make lunch anymore. Breakfast and supper I knock out of the park! But lunch? Riley makes that – it’s easy, it’s fast, and he likes it. Thank you, son. I don’t check my FB, email, or Instagram incessantly. Just here and there when I have time – that is enough.

I am busy about my teaching. Homeschooling well is important to me, but I don’t expect perfection – from me or my children. I am busy talking to my Mom and my sisters. They are my best friends; they are worth my time. I am busy dating my husband. He is my best friend too, and I love him. I am busy exercising, but I don’t always drive to exercise at the gym. My country road is a pretty place to exercise too. I am busy spending time with God each morning, but I don’t time myself as if an exact time is what He desires. So, what are you busy about? Be careful of being too busy to enjoy your homeschool life. It goes fast. If you are ‘crazy busy,’ look in the mirror for the person making you so – and make some changes! Loving your life is worth it.

In Christ,


Share what is best about your homeschooling days with your husband!

From Our House to Yours

Share what is best about your homeschooling days with your husband!

So you’ve decided to homeschool, and you’re starting your first year! Congratulations – how exciting! Though there are many feelings surrounding embarking on this homeschool journey, often times, we as moms might be more excited about homeschooling than our husbands. Sometimes the opposite is true, but more often than not, we as moms can be more sure of homeschooling at the start than our husbands.  I think our husbands are worried about either our children or about us. They can feel like our children might not get the education they need, or they can feel like we might stop giving our husbands the attention they need. Both our valid concerns! Likewise, we can feel like we have to prove to our husbands that homeschooling is a success. So, what’s the answer? Well, it’s simple! You can start by sharing what is best about your day with your husband!

Your husband’s view of how your homeschooling days are going is based on what you share!

All your husband knows is what you tell him. If you are trying to show homeschooling is a positive thing in your home, be sure to share what is positive about it! If your husband comes home from work and the first thing you do is share the negatives about the day, he will assume your entire homeschool day was probably negative. In contrast, if your husband comes home from work and the first thing you do is share the positives of the day, he will assume your homeschool day was probably positive. Every homeschool day will have positives and negatives. Being mothers of children, we know every day has positives and negatives – regardless if we homeschool or not. However, your husband’s view of how your homeschooling days are going will be a direct result of what you share. So, be sure to share wisely!

Look to the Bible for inspiration!

As the Bible says in Philippians 4:8, Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

When we dwell or think on what is positive, we naturally share what is positive with others. In contrast, when we dwell or think on what is negative, we naturally share what is negative with others. It is impossible to be a positive person if all we have is negative thoughts. So, the simple answer to helping our husbands see that homeschooling is truly amazing is to share what was positive about our day! Maybe Johnny spilled red juice on the carpet, but maybe Johnny also spelled all of his spelling words right too.  Maybe Amy mixed up her math facts, but maybe Amy also made a beautiful history project! Every day has positives and negatives. We need not paint a perfect picture for our husbands, but we also need not be Debbie Downers. If you want your husband to think homeschooling is a positive thing in your life – be positive! Look in the mirror – you are the greatest influence on your husband’s impression of homeschooling! So, take care to share the positives!

In Christ,


How to Sort and Organize Your Heart of Dakota Things

From Our House to Yours

How to Sort and Organize Your Heart of Dakota Things

You ordered your Heart of Dakota things, and they have now arrived! As you unwrap your box our sons and nephews have carefully packed, you begin to see your books pile up. As a fellow book lover, I imagine Charlotte Mason would be feeling your same delight! Each book cover and title adds to the excitement as you begin to picture your homeschool year enjoying all of those amazing books! However, as the brown wrapping paper and Heart of Dakota box make their exit, you are left with everything you will need for the entire school year. This adds up to a lot of books and resources! Well, never fear! This blog is here to help! Let’s see how to easily sort and organize your Heart of Dakota things!

A quick read through the Introduction, first week of plans, and Appendix will help you better sort and organize your things!

A quick read through each Heart of Dakota guide’s Introduction gives a good overview of the resources. Resources are listed under headings like history, science, etc. The daily plans in your guide have stars/checkmarks next to most resources as well. The Appendix also lists resources used for Storytime, Extension Packages, etc. So, just looking over the Introduction, the first week of plans, and the Appendix will help you see how and where your resources are used. This in turn will help you better sort and organize them.

Use your Heart of Dakota invoice, catalog, and/or website to easily sort and organize your things!

When you open your Heart of Dakota box, you will find your invoice at the top. Your invoice will be very helpful as you sort and organize your things! Resources are listed in packages on your invoice. They are also listed in the order they are used. So, for example, all of your science resources are listed in the ‘science package,’ and the first resource on the list is the first science book you will need in the plans. This ordering system is used in the Heart of Dakota catalog as well as on the Heart of Dakota website. Of course, there are some books that are used all year long (i.e. Draw and Write Through History books). But, in general, this tip should easily help you organize your things.

Now, you can sort your books/resources into piles of packages.

Next, you can sort your books/resources into piles of packages. This is where the catalog and website come in handy! With pictures of the covers of the books/resources, it is easy to find them. My children even help with this sometimes, though I better enjoy doing it myself to be honest. I guess I like to be the organizer! Not to mention, my children can get ‘off track’ getting excited to read this book or that book. However, it can be fun to include them if they can stay focused and be trusted not to wander off to read a book or two! Either way, I like to pile my books in the order they are used from the top down (i.e. the first book in the package on top of the pile, the second book under it, etc.).

Once you’ve piled your books, you can open your Heart of Dakota guide and pull the books needed for the first week or month of plans. The stars/checkmarks in the guide will help. Set these books aside, so they are all ready for you to use. I like to put them in a separate plastic tote or canvas cube. This keeps them sorted separately and makes them mobile!

Finally, you can organize your books for the year!

Now that you have made piles of the packages of your resources, you want to keep them sorted that way if possible! Putting them on a bookshelf, in a pie safe, in a cupboard, or in a large plastic tote is a good idea. I even like to put address labels on the books’ spines with the names of the packages on them. However, this is not necessary if you’d rather not do that! Simply attempting to keep the books grouped by packages in the order they are used will make finding them easier.

When you are done with a book, you can put it at the bottom or at the end of its pile and grab the next book from the top or the beginning of its pile. Voila! Your books are organized for the whole year! Oh, and one more tip! At the end of the year, put them in storage the same way. That way, they will be ready and organized for the next child! Hope this helps as you sort and organize your Heart of Dakota things!

In Christ,


Need help with math placement? Give Singapore’s math placement tests!

From Our House to Yours

Need help with math placement? Give Singapore’s math placement tests!

Children vary greatly in math skills and abilities, especially as they get older. Heart of Dakota understands age is only one piece of the math placement puzzle. This is why every Heart of Dakota guide includes multiple math levels of instruction. One child might be advanced in math, one more average, and one struggling. Heart of Dakota has plans for all types of math students. Proper math placement is important. By matching children to their current math skills, all children can move forward and improve. If math placement is off, children and parents alike are frustrated. It is impossible to move forward in math skills if you start with a math placement that is too hard or to easy. So, how can you choose the proper math placement for each child? Well, that’s what this blog post is all about!

A Brief Explanation of Singapore Math and the Placement Tests

Heart of Dakota’s guides include multiple levels of instruction for Singapore Primary Mathematics. Our guides also include hands-on activities for teaching Singapore’s Math’s Kindergarten Essentials A and B, Primary Mathematics 1A and 1B, and Primary Mathematics 2A and 2B. To see why Heart of Dakota chose Singapore Primary Mathematics, click here! For the most accurate placement in Singapore Math, it is best to give the placement test. But before getting into the placement test, I need to explain a little about Singapore Math’s levels!

Some Basic Information About Singapore Math’s Levels

Singapore Math is considered at least one year advanced. For example, an average fifth grade math student would probably place in Singapore 4A/4B.  A struggling fifth grade math student might place in 3A/3B or 3B/4A, while an advanced fifth grade math student might place in 5A/5B, 5B/6A, or 6A/6B. Level “A” is a semester, and level “B” is a semester. If students take the math placement test and place in a level “B” first (i.e. level 4B), students can start the year with level B and end the year with level “A” (i.e. 4B first semester, 5A second semester). So, how do you know which Singapore Math level to begin with when giving the placement test? Well, let’s see!

Choosing Which Singapore Math Level to Begin With

The best way to determine where to start in Singapore Math is to give the free placement test(s). (Keep in mind there is no kindergarten math placement test. Children in kindergarten should begin with K Essentials A and B, unless you feel they are advanced. If they are advanced, you can begin testing with level 1A). For children in first through seventh grade, in general, you can start testing one grade level behind the child’s current grade level (i.e. fifth graders can start with 4A). However, you can move the level you start testing with up or down based on whether your child struggles or excels with math. To start, just click here for the math placement tests. Be sure you choose the Primary Mathematics version of the math placement test – NOT the Dimensions version. Click on the level you want to start with and print the test. (The answers are at the end, so be sure you don’t give your child that page.)

Scoring the Test and Moving Up or Down Levels to Find Math Placement

Try not to help with the test, as this inflates scores. If children receive 80% or higher, they have adequately passed that test, and they move on to the next test (i.e. 80% or higher on 4A, try moving on to 4B). If children receive a very low score, they move down to the previous test (i.e. 30% or lower on 4A, try moving down to 3B). This is a general rule of thumb, and you can take into account other factors (i.e. how quickly they’d catch on with a little help, if they’ve been on summer break and just need a few reminders to catch on, etc.). Children may need a break in between tests for accurate results. Children may need to take several levels of tests before arriving at a math placement best for them. Wherever children place, even if it is lower than you anticipated, start there. If they tested into a “B” book, just begin with that. It will be fine!

What to Do Once You’ve Scored Your Children’s Math Placement Tests

Once you have scored your children’s math placement tests, if you know what level to start with, simply order from Heart of Dakota an “A” and a “B” level for the year. You may also want to order from Heart of Dakota a Singapore Math Answer Key. I found the keys with the answers only to be enough up through about 4B or 5A. I enjoyed having the line by line solutions in the Home Instructors guides starting at 5A or 5B and moving up through 6A and 6B. You can order those here by clicking and scrolling to the math sections: 1A-3B Answers Only Key, 4A-6B Answers Only Key, 5A/5B and 6A/6B Home Instructor’s Guides with line by line solutions.

If you have scored your children’s math placement tests, and are still confused about which level to start with, simply give Heart of Dakota a call or an email.  Explain what you learned from the math placement tests, how they went overall, and what scores your children made on the math placement tests you gave. We can figure it out together!

Finally, if you are ordering math alongside a younger guide (Little Hearts, Beyond Little Hearts, or Bigger Hearts), the math is included within a package. If you need a “B” and then an “A” instead, just note this as a substitution in the notes/ordering instructions box when ordering from Heart of Dakota online. That way, you can still receive your package savings, and get exactly the math levels your children need!

What if your children scored lower on the math placement tests?

If your children scored lower on the math placement tests, do not be dismayed! We take children where they are in math and steadily move them forward. To move children more quickly through math levels, never double up math lessons in one day. Rather, do one math lesson each day, but do math more days. One easy way to do this is to do five days of math lessons even when using four-day-a-week Heart of Dakota guides. Or, do one extra math lesson on Saturdays.  Or, do three or four extra math lessons three or four days a week during a summer break. Little by little, children will catch up!

Often times, especially for children in third through sixth grade, math scores are lower if children don’t have their math facts memorized. If that is the case, click here and here to see what to do! If your children test out of Singapore Math 6B, I’ll have another post coming to help with that!  Finally, if you decide Singapore Math is not for you, simply choose another math program! Any math works with Heart of Dakota.

In Christ,