‘Living Over All Your Memories’ with Photo Books

From Our House to Yours

Memories That We Made

Each year I make a photo book and give it to my husband for Christmas. I began this tradition in 2008. Starting with January, I make my annual Shutterfly photo book, working my way through the year using the pictures we took. I love to look back on the year and reflect on all of the memories that we made. It truly is amazing to see all that can happen in one year! On the cover of each photo book is our family Christmas picture, which we take right where we live. I set these photo books out on our buffet. At Christmas, I put them in a basket on the dining room table with a note that says ‘Please have fun looking through the family memories we have made!’ I often see our sons or visiting family and friends with various photo books in their hands, happily reminiscing.

Take time to enjoy the homeschool journey, and take pictures along the way!

My homeschool journey began when Wyatt was 2 years old. He is now 20 years old! I am not sure where the time has gone, but I know it has gone fast. How I wish I had started making photo books sooner! Pictures of our homeschooling days with Heart of Dakota are always a special part of each photo book. The other day I sat down and paged through our photo books. I was lost down memory lane. Each page brought back precious memories, and each photo book showed our journey through this life we’ve built together. What a blessing! I began to think how different our life would be had we not homeschooled. How many memories would we have missed! Our 3 sons, each other’s best friends. Our very own home and God’s beautiful creation just outside, ours to explore. What a precious life!

There are still memories to be made.

Sometimes things feel heavy. It seems there are no small decisions to be made anymore. People freely (and often not very politely) question our decision to homeschool through high school. They question our decision to have our son continue to live at home and do online college. Homeschooling is not for the faint of heart. One must know why one is doing it. We believe the heart of the family is the home, and in that home there are still memories to be made. Our children are thriving. They are happy. Their hearts are full of love for each other and for the Lord. I love the memories we are making… still.

The Joy of “Living Over All Your Memories”

I can relate to Abbie Deal, from A Lantern in Her Hand, in so many ways. One of my favorite parts is when, at Abbie’s funeral, all of the family is talking about her. During this conversation, little 12 year-old granddaughter Laura Deal had this to say about her dear old Grandma Abbie:  One time Grandma told me she was the very happiest when she was living over all her memories. Maybe… she hesitated, a little shy at expressing the thought in her heart, Maybe, she was doing that… then.”  I do believe Abbie and I (and many homeschool mothers with children who are growing up way too fast and with years passing by way too quickly) are kindred spirits. Photo books are one way I live over all my memories. The ‘living over them’ is almost as good as the making them.

In Christ,


P.S. One more wonderful thing about making annual photo books is you can set them out as table decorations at your children’s high school graduation open house!


Editing Using the Marker Board Method

From Our House to Yours

Editing Using the Marker Board Method

In last week’s From Our House to Yours post, I shared the ‘sticky note method of editing.’ I like to use the sticky note method of editing written narrations before using the marker board method of editing. The sticky note method works well because errors can be noted directly next to the line in which they occur. Using the sticky note method also helps me train our kiddos to follow basic proofreading marks to make corrections. Finally, the sticky note method makes it easy to see if needed corrections have been made. I just look at the sticky note to check if each correction has been made within each noted line of the narration. I love using the sticky note method of editing! However, I also enjoy using what I’ll call the ‘marker board method of editing.’

Try the marker board method of editing with children who are older, who make fewer mistakes, and who write longer narrations.

The marker board method of editing works well with children who are older, who make fewer mistakes, and who are writing longer narrations. As my children grow, so do their narrations! The longer and longer their narrations grow, the smaller and smaller their writing gets. I love Heart of Dakota‘s recommendation to have students read aloud their written narrations with pencil in hand. As they read, students make any corrections they realize they need to make. This encourages self editing, which is one of the end goals of writing as students mature! It also encourages legibility. If they can’t read their own writing, they immediately realize they need to correct it without me even having to say it!

There is one drawback to using the sticky note method of editing that causes me to switch to the marker board method of editing.

As my children’s written narrations get longer and their writing gets smaller, I find one drawback to using the sticky note method. I find I want to edit as they read aloud their narration. However, this is not possible with the sticky note method, as it is cumbersome to keep stopping them for me to lean in and jot the errors on the sticky note. I also find it difficult to edit directly within the written narrations in the notebook. As children mature, their fine motor skills improve, which means their writing (as it should) naturally shrinks. They write so small there just isn’t space for proofreading marks. So, because I wanted to edit as they read aloud rather than me having to reread the written narrations to edit them later, I began using the ‘marker board method of editing.’

How to Use the Marker Board Method of Editing

To use the marker board method of editing, I put small pencil marks along the left margin of their written narration. Directly on the notebooking page’s box, I put a small mark/dot dividing the box into fourths. This sections the narration into 4 parts. Then, I use my dry erase marker to divide a handheld marker board into 4 parts. As my children read aloud their narrations, I either sit next to them or peer over their shoulder, so I can clearly see their written narration at they read it. Then, as they read, I jot the needed changes in the right section of the marker board. I use the same basic proofreading marks from the sticky note method.

For example, let’s say they need to capitalize ‘Federalist Papers’ in the first 1/4 section of the written narration. As they are reading, in the first 1/4 section of my marker board, I write Federalist Papers with a capital ‘F’ and ‘P’ with 3 lines under the letters. Or, let’s say they misspelled ‘campaign’ in the next 1/4 section. In the next 1/4 section on my marker board, I write ‘campaign’ spelled properly with a circled ‘sp’ next to it. Or, let’s say in the bottom 1/4 of the written narration they missed a comma before the conjunction ‘and.’ On the bottom 1/4 of my marker board, I write a comma with a circle around it and a carot mark under it with the word ‘and’ after it. Then, after sharing what I loved about their narration, they use the marker board to make corrections.

Phasing Out the Marker Board Method of Editing

As my children become better and better writers and make fewer and fewer mistakes, I divide the written narration and the marker board into just 2 sections. So, there is just a top half and bottom half. As there are fewer errors, it is easier for them to find them in bigger sections. Then, after awhile, I don’t divide the written narration or marker board at all, so they are each just one big section. Finally, I move to just editing directly in the written narration. If a word is misspelled, I just underline it. It is now their job to look it up and fix it using the (history, science, etc.) book they read for help. If a punctuation mark is missing, I just put a carot with the mark. This is easy, as there are only a few mistakes!

In Closing

So, in closing, editing written narrations can be done in many different ways. When children are young and are writing short narrations, it is easiest just to edit directly within the written narration. However, as children grow older, write longer narrations, and write smaller, you may want to try either the sticky note method or the marker board method of editing.  See if you like either one or even both! Then, editing can come full circle, and you can return to just editing directly in your high school student’s written narration again!

In Christ,



How Heart of Dakota Teaches Practical Life Application Skills

From Our House to Yours

How Heart of Dakota Teaches Practical Life Application Skills 

I’d like to rewind the clock and revisit the past today! Looking back, I found a post I wrote about practical life application skills. A  young mother asked how Heart of Dakota teaches practical life application skills. She shared the reason for her question was that she had not learned these types of skills herself. She said she led a very sheltered life and her mother had done everything for her. So, when she got married herself, she had no idea how to follow a recipe, have a Bible Quiet Time, put together a bookshelf, or mop a floor . This made her realize how lacking she was in what she called “present in this day-and-age-type life application skills.” It also made her realize she didn’t want to repeat this cycle of “a lack of common sense with her own children.” I’ve shared my response below (sorry in advance for the length)!

Parents can have excellent habits that their children may not necessarily just pick up on their own!

I remember first getting married and hearing ladies at my church discussing their Bible quiet time. I thought, “I should be doing that… but what is it?” Looking back, I realized my parents had their own Bible Quiet Times, but we never talked about it. I knew my parents each had their own Bibles, loved reading them, and knew a lot about the Bible. But, I didn’t know about their Bible quiet times, therefore, I never had one until later in life. This is just one example of how our parents can have excellent habits we may not necessarily pick up on or learn on our own. It is a good reminder of how important it is to teach my children the habits I want them to have, while also making sure I have those habits myself. So, I 100% join you in your desire to teach children practical life application skills!

Learning Practical Life Application Skills by First Reading About Others Who Model Them

When you say “present in this day-and-age life application skills,” I think HOD has this to the “nth” degree. However, to apply something, you must first see how others applied it, made it their own, learned from it, and then turn around and apply it to your own life. HOD chooses amazing people for our children to learn from, and then carefully plans discussions, activities, and follow-up assignments to further help our children apply what they’ve read to their own lives. We are doing Bigger Hearts and RTR right now, so I’ll try to point out some examples from these guides, as they are fresh in my mind.

How the Bible Study in Bigger Hearts Teaches Life Application Skills

In Bigger Hearts, the Bible Study box focuses Godly character traits along with memorization of Proverbs. Day 2 has personal application of that Godly character quality. Next, Day 3 has a devotional reading that corresponds to that quality. Then, Day 4 has a practical application of that quality. Finally, Day 5 focuses on a Biblical passages showing that quality. The plans are very specific in asking children to apply what has been learned in the here and now. Guiding questions ask them to apply the Godly character trait to their own lives. Activities ask them to specifically plan how they will model that trait “today.”

Just yesterday, this was my son’s present application for this… “Choose one way that you can be more honest and delight God. Make sure to do it today.” My son chose to be honest about what board game he had really played with his little brother. (He’d tearfully confessed he’d lied to me about this before.) But, he decided to fess up after we had studied the Godly character trait of “honesty” in Bigger Hearts. He told me he wanted to be honest, and he felt a huge weight had been lifted. I felt glad he’d changed his heart (a.k.a. transferring practical life application skills of what he’d learned to this present day-and-age).

How the Storytime Plans in Bigger Hearts Teach Life Application Skills

In the Bigger Hearts Storytime box, he has to compare the book characters to a Biblical person with a Godly character quality in mind. The quality we just studied was “joy.” We talked about troubles he has had, and what he could do in times of trouble to still be joyful about the faith he has in Christ. He came up with pray, sing happy praise music, and whistle. I heard him whistling the other day when he accidentally dumped the dustbuster contents all over the floor. He winked and said, “I’m just finding some joy, Mom!”   Personal life application skills strike again.

How the History in Bigger Hearts Teaches Life Application Skills

In history, we talked about soldiers and how they gave so much for this country. He said to me the other day, “Mom, American soldiers give up so much for our freedom, still today, don’t they?” I said tearfully, “Yes, they do, and so do their wives and their children. They are not only incredibly brave men; they are incredibly brave families.” When my husband came home from work, my son hugged him and thanked him for previously serving our country in the Navy. We loved seeing our son display some heartfelt this “present day life application skills!”

How Drawn into the Heart of Reading Teaches Life Application Skills

In Drawn into the Heart of Reading, we’ve been studying the genre humor. When the boys were watching Lion King 1 1/2, they both decided that while it was pretty funny, the body noises parts were probably ill humor for real life. In DITHOR, we’d just talked about how burping loudly was ill humor, and humor not appreciated by any mature person within hearing distance. Thank you DITHOR for helping me teach this particular life application skill so well!!!

How RTR’s Science Teaches Life Application Skills

We are doing Resurrection to Reformation with our oldest son. The practical application is HUGE at this stage of learning. I am finding the more my children age and move through HOD guides, the more their learning just becomes a natural part of their life. For example, Wyatt just built a glider for science. He showed Bernoulli’s principle by adjusting the fuselage, as well as changing air flow patterns by altering curved and flat surfaces to gain more lift. Riley came over and they were deep in conversation about what alterations to make. Riley shared what he knew about planes/air flow from what he’d read about the Wright Brothers, and Wyatt said, “Oh yeah, I remember that, let’s give that a try, buddy.”

How RTR’s Bible Quiet Time and Devotional Time Teach Life Application Skills

The present application of Boyhood and Beyond is so plentiful, I hardly know where to begin. One example – Bob Schultz told a story about Mr. Slothful and Mr. Industry. When Wyatt was working hard on cleaning his room, he said, “Just call me Mr. Industry, Mom! Mr. Slothful moved out and isn’t welcome back!”

He just finished his RTR guide as of today, and he is choosing to have a Bible Quiet Time each morning still (a mixture of application from Boyhood and Beyond and RTR’s Bible Quiet Time box’s influence).

When watching a movie, Wyatt came out and said, “I think there’s a better use for this time for me, Mom. I think I’m going to work on a project I’ve got going instead.” (Life application of making good use of your time, a lesson we had in HOD.)

How RTR’s Poetry Teaches Life Application Skills

The other day Wyatt quoted Emily Dickinson’s poetry out of the blue. He seemed to think the book fairs were full of people who actually knew me personally. I had said something to the effect, “Oh honey, no one even knows who I am. I’m just a homeschool mom helping other homeschool moms.”

He said, “Well, then, mom, I’m nobody. Who are you? Are you nobody too? Well then there’s a pair of us – don’t tell. They’d banish us, you know. Don’t worry though mom, it’s dreary to be somebody. Sort of like a frog talking all day to a bog.”

I laughed and hugged him and told him, “Well, yes, a happy pair of nobodies we are then my dear, in good company with Miss Emily Dickinson.”

How the Hymn Study and History Projects Teach Life Application Skills

In church, we sang a hymn by Isaac Watts. Wyatt whispered to me, “Did you know Watts wrote over 600 hymns during his life?”

Today, Wyatt told me he is going to copy the recipes he made out of RTR this year, so he can add to his collection of recipes. (He already copied the Egyptian pastries and a bread recipe from CTC from last year.) On his deer hunting trip this year, he baked bread for everyone that was going, and that was his contribution to the meals.

Wyatt pulls out the directions for everything we buy him and follows them to a tee with no problem. We got the boys Rokenbok for their b-days, and within an hour they had all of it set up and running perfectly. Wyatt has built shoe racks, toys, and home project type things for me, all due to the skills he learned in the History Project boxes of HOD.

Practical life application skills still going strong at bedtime!

Well, it’s getting late, but here’s a funny grand finale to this practical application post. It’s bedtime, and Emmett is sleeping. Wyatt and Riley are having their quiet time together. Riley just now, this very instance, came down and showed me a page that says “Kon-keree! Kon-keree!” in his Rascal book. He said, “Mom, I think this is the bird call we heard last night at the fire pit. I know what bird it is now – it was a red-winged blackbird.” We had heard a strange bird call last night while sitting outside, and guess what I saw on the lawn today – 2 red-winged blackbirds. How’s that for some practical application?

Heart of Dakota’s plans encourage life practical application skills in the here and now!

I hope this has helped you see how HOD is extremely adept at encouraging practical application in the here and now. It becomes more and more evident as children grow and mature, but rest assured, it’s there. Hats off to you to recognize you wish you’d had more practical application of life skills growing up, and now want to be amply sure you give your children those skills! Often times, the things we wish we’d been taught as a child but weren’t, are the very things we become passionate about teaching to our own children. I think you have a very wise wish for your children here – HOD will be your partner and best advocate in accomplishing that goal.

In Christ,


Short on time? In a pinch, try these time saving tips!

From Our House to Yours

Short on time? Try these time saving tips!

Sometimes errands, appointments, and activities can make a day short on time. Or, even just an unexpected event (like the cleanup of an overturned lidless jelly jar dripping jelly down the entire back of the fridge). (BTW, I’d like to know who didn’t put the lid back on the jar?!? I have an idea.) Well, whatever the reason, if you find yourself short on time in your Heart of Dakota homeschool day, try these time saving tips!

Time Saving Tip #1 – Record Oral Narrations

If I am short on time, I have my children record their oral narrations. I find this works especially well if I have an appointment that is just for me. After they record their oral narrations, they text them to me. Then, I can listen to them as I am driving. Sometimes, I think they try even harder when recording themselves. They hear how they sound and want to do their best!  However, oral narrations usually are meant to have a (live) audience. So, I don’t make a habit of this, but if I’m short on time, it works great!

Time Saving Tip #2 – Do Grammar Orally

I love R & S English for its thorough and solid treatment of grammar! Really, I have seen the results, and it is so worth the time. However, when I am short on time, I do grammar orally instead. For diagramming, I quickly sketch the diagrams on a markerboard. To diagram orally, I have my kiddos just point to where they’d diagram each word as they say it. At one point, I was teaching 3 different grammar lessons a day. So, this was a real time saver if I was short on time!

Time Saving Tip #3 – Have Older Children Help

Each child has gifts from the Lord. If I am short on time, I call upon my older children’s gifts and talents! For example, my oldest son loves math. So, if I am short on time, I have him pop in and teach a lesson to one of my two other sons. He’s good at it, the children love it, and it saves me time! Likewise, if I am short on time, I have my middle son pop in to oversee a science experiment or to read aloud for Storytime. He enjoys helping in both of these ways, and he is good at it. I figure this is good training should they have their own homeschooled children someday. I think their wives might appreciate the help now and then!

Time Saving Tip #4 – Move Dictation or DITHOR

Dictation is planned 3 of the 4 days of the week. If I am short on time and it is a day dictation is planned, I move it to the day it’s not planned.  This way, we are still doing dictation 3 days a week, but it’s on a day I have more time. Drawn into the Heart of Reading (DITHOR) is also planned just 3 of the 4 days of the week (other than in Beyond and Bigger). So, DITHOR is another thing that can be moved to the day it’s not planned. Of course, the day I move it to will be longer then! However, I find that it is worth it to help on a day I’m truly short on time.

Time Saving Tip #5 – Make a Pile and Correct Work Later

I like to correct work that is completed right away if possible. This immediate feedback is good for kiddos, so I have what I call ‘margin‘ in our schedule for correcting. ‘Margin’ is just really extra time planned for each block of teaching/meeting time. If I am short on time and in a hurry, I drop the ‘margin’ time from our schedule. Instead, I have the kiddos make a pile on the kitchen counter of what needs to be corrected. I ask them to have the work open to the page that needs correcting, along with the guide on top. Each child creates his own pile. So, when I get home, I can quickly correct each pile.

Time Saving Tip #6 – Use a Markerboard

I love the questions that are planned in the guides. One of my favorite ways to assess how my kiddos are doing is simply to enjoy the discussion questions that are planned. However, if I am short on time, I have my kiddos answer the questions by jotting short phrases on a markerboard. Then, I either quickly ask them the questions, having them refer to their markerboards as they answer, or I just have them leave their markerboards out for me to skim their answers later.

Time Saving Tip #7 – Have a Go-To Meal Kiddos Can Fix

Many times I can get my teaching done, but I have to leave for an appointment around lunch. Teaching my kiddos to fix at least one meal on their own really helps! My go-to meal when the kiddos were little was simply cereal with milk and toast. As they got older, my go-to meal was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with applesauce cups. Now that they are much older, they can fix many meals. However, my go-to meal is frozen pizza in our toaster oven. The oven shuts off on its own, so I don’t have to worry about them accidentally leaving it on. This time saving tip gets me out the door and to my appointment on time!

In Christ,




How to Make ‘Plans’ to Enjoy Your Homeschool Life – Right Now

From Our House to Yours

How to Make ‘Plans’ to Enjoy Your Homeschool Life – Right Now

Making plans to enjoy your homeschool life might sound silly. Especially if you equate ‘fun’ with ‘sporadic’ and ‘unplanned,’ this concept of making plans to have fun might seem depressing. However, as busy as life is for most homeschool moms, I think making ‘plans’ to enjoy your homeschool life might be the only way you really DO enjoy it! The first part of making plans to enjoy my homeschool life is picking a curriculum I enjoy. Heart of Dakota takes care of that! Another part of enjoying my homeschool life is just making sure I have time to homeschool. However, what I do within that set aside time is a big part of enjoying my days as well. Likewise, taking time off to have breaks in homeschooling is yet another big part of enjoying my overall homeschool life. If you are not enjoying your homeschool life, the good news is, you can – and right now! But, how?

How to Make Plans to Enjoy Your Homeschool Days

Each homeschool day has Heart of Dakota plans to complete, and I enjoy my days most when we successfully finish those plans. However, how we go about completing those plans makes a big difference in how much I enjoy our days! To enjoy my days, I had to first think about what my children and I really enjoy. For example, to finish my plans and to be to work on time, I need to plan to start my day early. However, to plan to enjoy starting my day early, I plan to first make my favorite hazelnut cup of coffee and take it up to my room. I also plan to teach in my room in my pj’s while drinking that coffee. I love this relaxed start to my day, so I can actually enjoy starting at 6:15 AM (first with my Bible Quiet Time, and then with my children arriving one at a time in segments from 6:50 to 7:50 AM). My kids love this start too!

How to Plan for Small Vignettes of ‘Fun’ to Enjoy Throughout Your Day

So, I already shared my first ‘vignette of fun’ involving coffee and pj’s. My second vignette of fun I plan for is our break at 8:45 AM. I love listening to Christian praise music! I also love hearing my sons sing, hum, or whistle along! Cooking/baking is another thing I love! So, this second vignette of fun for me is turning on Christian music while I make breakfast and drink favorite coffee #2. My sons love music while they do their chores and love eating homemade breakfasts, so this is fun for them too! A third vignette of fun for me is simply reading aloud HOD materials on the couch. I turn on the fireplace, we grab fuzzy blankets, and I’m usually drinking favorite coffee #3 at this time.

My third vignette of fun is just a break alone for me and for my sons. Emmett, my youngest son, loves to make homemade hot cocoa. So, around 11 AM, he takes a break to make hot cocoa with whipped cream, marshmallows, and even sprinkles sometimes. He puts them all on a tray and takes them to our addition. They’ve kind of turned this into a ‘boys’ club‘ meeting, no mom allowed time. Fine with me. I am having a break of my own! No plans. Just a break for whatever. No more coffee though (I had you worried, didn’t I?!?). My fourth vignette of fun is exercise. I know, not everyone thinks of exercise as fun, but I do! So, from around noon to 12:30 or so, I exercise while my sons work on independent work.

How to Make ‘Plans’ to Enjoy ‘Unplanned’ Days

I sometimes equate ‘fun’ with sporadic and unplanned. However, taking off unplanned days often means we don’t finish our school year on time. So, my way around this is to make ‘plans’ to enjoy ‘unplanned days.’ I do this by adding about 7 or more extra days before the end date we want for our school year. That way, I know I have at least 7 days throughout the year that I can just take off at any time. Sometimes I surprise the boys and say, “We’re taking today off! What should we do?!?  Where should we go?!?”  Other days, I surprise them the night before, letting them know we’re sleeping in and taking a lazy day off at home tomorrow, to do ‘whatever’ anyone wants to do. Finally, I make ‘plans’ to enjoy ‘unplanned days’ for each of our birthdays, Valentine’s Day, days around Christmas, fishing/hunting days, etc. We have no set plans on these days, other than we are taking them off.

Life is meant to be enjoyed – today!

Jesus said, …I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)  Life is meant to be enjoyed – today! It will not do to tell yourself you will enjoy your life when                        (fill in the blank – i.e. when the kids are older, when we move, when there is a job change, when my youngest graduates, when we don’t have so many little ones, when I’m not pregnant, when I’m done homeschooling, when my husband retires, when I’m healthier). Jesus does not intend for us to put enjoying our life on hold. He came that we may have life, to the fullest, today! If you are downtrodden, if you find yourself complaining about your life, make a change! Or, make lots of changes! Even my Dad, with pancreatic cancer, tried very hard to enjoy his life. This was not possible every day. However, he did enjoy most days! People visited him and left happier than they came.

What can you do to enjoy your homeschool life, right now?

So, let’s brainstorm! What can you do to enjoy your homeschool life, right now? We often think we need big changes, but in reality, little changes pack a big punch! I know a homeschool mom of 6 who plans to run down her country road. She loves it! She ‘plans’ for this every day, even though she has always had a baby in the mix. This is her vignette of fun! Another mom I know sleeps in while her husband teaches math. He loves math! She loves sleeping in! It works. When I had many littles, I loved to take walks with the stroller. I had picnics on blankets on the living room floor. Sometimes just a planned nap (for me) was heavenly! Moving my teaching time around and having my oldest play with my middle son while my baby napped made this possible! Don’t wait to enjoy your homeschooling. Or you may not be doing it next year. Enjoy your life – now! A happier mom makes a happier home. So, please! Make plans to enjoy your homeschool life – today!

In Christ,